Deeper Waters Podcast 11/30/2013: Dr. Paul Maier

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

I am writing this one early because due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I will be out of town, but I want you all to know about what’s coming up this week.

We’re going to be discussing the topic of ancient historiography. How is it that ancient historiography was done and how is it that we can know something is true in the field? Fortunately, we will have a remarkable expert on to discuss that, and that’s Dr. Paul Maier.

The relevance of this topic is that so few people today have any idea how to do this. For instance, we are told that no contemporary historian mentions Jesus supposedly. Yet how many of them talk about Hannibal or about Alexander the Great or how many of them talk about the erupting of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.?

How is it that someone can trust a source that is decades after the event? In the case of people like Hannibal and Alexander the Great, we normally rely on people who write about the event CENTURIES after it took place. If we can trust them then, is there a reason to not trust the gospels?

What are the rules that one uses? Does one accept everything they read uncritically? When does an ancient account get the benefit of the doubt? If we have sources that disagree amongst themselves, what exactly do we do in order to explain that? Can we arrive at the truth or do we throw everything out and give up?

What about the claims of miracles? Do we have any criteria whereby we can examine a claim of an event that could be deemed impossible?? If we were to apply the rules of ancient historiography to the gospels and to the person of Jesus, how would Jesus turn out? How would the gospels turn out?

This is a needed program today as many of us debate atheists on the internet who frankly don’t know the first thing about ancient historiography, and to be fair, too many Christians don’t know the first thing either. This is not just an atheist problem. This is a problem with people in general not knowing how to do history and only being taught facts on history instead of a methodology on history.

This is why it is important to learn from those who are credentialed historians and that is why I am excited to get to have Paul Maier on my show to discuss this. While much of this has been about Jesus, I really plan to discuss ancient historiography in general and then in the end tie it in with Jesus, especially explaining why the Christ-myth theory is not accepted by serious historians.

I hope you’ll be listening in this Saturday from 3-5 PM EST to hear Dr. Paul Maier on the show. The date will be 11/30/2013. The call in number if you want to ask a question is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

Hope you’ll be listening!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Lessons From A Cut

What big lessons can be learned from little annoyances? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A couple of days ago, my wife wasn’t feeling the best and asked me to help prepare her a can of soup. Okay. I can do that. Yet shortly after that was done, I realized I had a cut on one of my fingers that had turned into quite a bit of a bleeding problem. Since it was on my right hand, I asked Allie come and help me bandage it properly. No big deal.

Until the next day it comes loose and we have to do it again as the bleeding starts once more.

Then that evening the bandage is coming loose one more time and so I look and it looks like the cut is healed up as I tend to be a fast healer. No big deal. I just take it off and figure I don’t have to worry about it any more. I can just go on with my dinner.

Until I see that blood on my finger again piling up.

So I go to the bathroom again to wash my hands and put on another bandage. I interrupt my reading of G.K. Chesterton to go and while in there, I notice that a drop of blood has fallen on my shirt. No big deal. I can just go into the bedroom and change. I can do that.

Why yes. Yes I can do that.

Light bulb.

There are times that a simple event happens that opens you up to a great reality you’ve been missing. I don’t doubt that it is largely because I was reading Chesterton that this happened. Chesterton encourages me to look at the world differently.

My insight came that I can go straight into the bedroom and change because Allie does accept me physically entirely. As readers of this blog might know, I am by all physical requirements I could think of, a weakling. I weigh about 120 pounds an I’m extremely skinny. (Although Allie does say I’m building up some muscle thanks to the gym.)

And yet I have no fear of acceptance around my wife. She accepts me as I am. Something I find incredible.

It struck me then what a marvel that we all live with. Bodies are some of the most common sights we see everyday. If you turn on the TV or go to the store or do most anything, you will encounter other humans in some way or another which will often entail seeing other bodies. (Even on social media like Facebook, the most common image you’ll probably see for someone is an image of themselves somehow.)

Those bodies are common, and yet they are sacred. Many people in this area see my wife on a regular basis. However, I am the only one who truly “sees” her in the full sense. Aside from medical professionals under specific circumstances, others do not really get that privilege. There is also the possibility of perhaps women changing with one another at a party at one of their houses or showering at a club like the Y. The general principle is that the whole body is not shared with just anyone and certainly not just anyone of the opposite sex. (Allie would only see a female gynecologist and dermatologist. For a similar treatment by me, I would only go see a guy.)

Our bodies are extremely common, but they’re also sacred and we guard them especially. If any guy tried to see my Princess in a way not allowable I can think that I’d be like the husband in Proverbs who would refuse to take a bribe no matter how great it was. That’s sacred territory meant only for she and I together and no one else has a right to that.

And isn’t that just something fascinating? One of the objects that is most common to us is also the most sacred. It is the human being. It is the image of God in this world. It is the very aspect of reality that was assumed in the incarnation. It was the greatest wonder that the Son of God Himself took on a body and indeed, still has that body. One of the great hopes of the Christian church is the resurrection of the body. We are not gnostics. We firmly hold to material reality and hold that it is good. We are not meant to become angels. We are meant to be humans.

I was also stunned by the fact that yes, I can change in here because I do in fact trust Allie. Why shouldn’t I? She loves me. This I find to be a simply astounding claim. There is actually a female in this world who loves me, desires me, and wants to be with me. She wants all of those so much that she agreed to be with me until death do us part.

I find that utterly amazing and I even told her that last night. She was curious why and I said “Because I know who I am!” What is there about me that Allie should desire me at all? I can think of Boaz who told Ruth that she did not run after the younger men. (As might be known, I am nearly 10 years older than my wife)

This is a claim that is hard to believe and it could be because those of us who are nerds rarely expect something like this to happen. (Women. Please learn this. If you want to get a husband that is totally devoted to you, you cannot go wrong with a nerd. Nerds will spend the rest of their lives in devotion to you generally.)

This claim is hard to believe and why is it? It is not because there is a lack of evidence. Oh one could surely point from time to time to mistakes that we all make and say “See? There is no love here,” yet that is going with the exceptions rather than the rule. If you look on the whole of matters, the evidence is overwhelming on the proposition that my Mrs. deeply loves her husband. (And might I add, respects as well. We are going through “Love and Respect” now after all.)

If the claim is not hard to believe because of lack of evidence, then what could make it hard to believe? The only other aspect left is the nature of the claim seems so out of touch with ordinary every day experience. It has been my common experience to not get this kind of devotion from women. It has been my common experience to think there is nothing special about me in that sense to warrant that kind of devotion. Nevertheless, that devotion is there!

It is just like the case for miracles. I do not think it really is a lack of evidence. There is plenty of evidence for miracles. Just see Keener’s book. If we treated the NT gospels and epistles the same way we treat other ancient works of history, we’d fully accept that Jesus rose from the dead, but these are rejected, and most often not even looked at. I know few people who have really bothered to go through Keener’s book for instance. In fact, some have even said “Well Keener might have some things, but you don’t see someone rising from the dead three days later in an imperishable body.”

So because it doesn’t have the miracle you want to see, no account of a miracle is trustworthy….

The evidence is out there, but the claim is so contrary to what most people experience, and indeed we can all understand that part. Miracles are not part of our every day experience. If they were, we would not call them miracles. They are extraordinary and rare events where God especially breaks into the sphere of our world. I can understand skepticism of such a thing since they are so rare, but skepticism can be unwarranted when it makes demands that are far too high. If I demanded perfection from my own spouse as proof of her love for me, I can rest assured I would never know for sure about it.

And it is an interesting parallel to tie it in with miracles as I can certainly say that the fact that someone such as myself found a spouse who complements me so well and likes all of my little quirks and such that most people find annoying is indeed a miracle. Two people on the spectrum with Asperger’s coming together like this? It reminds me of when I watched Mozart and the Whale at Allie’s house before we got married and while we were engaged. When her folks asked me about it I said I thought it was unrealistic. They were puzzled and asked why. I simply told them it’s a story about two people with Asperger’s getting married. When does something like that ever happen?

This got a laugh from them as it should as that great rarity was about to be lived out right before their eyes. If any event in my life can lead to that great marvel of a public demonstration of God’s grace, it is that of finding Allie.

In fact, as I was telling her last night about all these great insights and how things were coming together so incredibly, she said “Since it started with a drop of blood, you could even tie that into the blood of Christ.”

And indeed, she is right.

Blood itself is common as well, and yet it is sacred. We do not worry if we see sweat on our bodies. We normally expect that. We do wonder what has happened if we see blood and we seek to take care of the problem immediately. We want to wash our hands thoroughly as we don’t want to eat anything with our own blood in it. When it comes to transfusions now, they’re all checked thoroughly because blood could just as easily lead to death.

And yet this common object is the basis of our salvation. When we take Communion, we think about the body and blood of Jesus. (Common objects once again used to express divine truths) Do we really stop to think about what we are doing? We are recognizing the offering of blood for us. Someone poured out their life so that we could live.

Skeptics of the NT will often describe such an event as hideous and disgusting. They’re right! The death of Jesus is a hideous and disgusting event! It is because in fact the sin that led to Jesus being on the cross is hideous and disgusting. What could be more hideous and disgusting than realizing that it is because of human sin that the most righteous one of all chose to face a death that He did not deserve? (In fact, despite what they say about Jesus, I cannot at this moment think of one skeptic who has told me that Jesus deserved to be crucified. Most every religion tries to fit Jesus into itself and even atheists today often look at many of Jesus’s teachings as moral in nature.)

The death of Jesus is ugly because sin is ugly.

Now I am sure I could extend this line of thought further and who knows? Maybe I will someday, but I can say that last night became utterly amazing as one simple little action based on what was an annoyance at first led to a great realization of simple little truths I had overlooked and yet were around me every day.

I hope in turn what I have written has opened you up to such truths as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/23/2013: J.P. Holding

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

If any name makes people think of evil, it is the name of Adolf Hitler. There is even a law of internet debates that the first one to bring up Hitler in a debate loses. If you live in Germany, you cannot order Mein Kampf in German from Amazon. If anyone has been seen as the embodiment of evil, it is Adolf Hitler.

And the cry of so many atheists today is that Hitler was a Christian and spoke highly of Christianity.

Is that true?

My guest this Saturday, J.P. Holding of Tektonics Education and Apologetics Ministry, also my ministry partner, says no. He says in fact that Hitler had a cult group of his own that was called Positive Christianity. It did not originate with Hitler, but it did finds its best fulfillment in the views of Hitler.

In fact, he Wrote a book on this topic called “Hitler’s Christianity.” Holding in this book shows Hitler in fact did not hold to anything that could be remotely considered orthodoxy, like so many other groups today, and that even Marcion would not recognize what Hitler had done with the Bible.

He also answers other charges about the religious beliefs of Hitler. Was Hitler into the occult? Was Hitler an atheist? In doing so, Holding will also point out writers who are not good researchers of Hitler and where they go wrong with their research. There is also for those interested a chapter on which sources that are considered often primary sources are really sources that can be relied upon.

What about those who were by Hitler’s side? Did he surround himself with like-thinking people? Were any of his major leaders devoted to Jesus Christ? Naturally, not everyone on Hitler’s staff would share the exact same views, but what would it mean if someone did in fact hold to orthodox Christianity who was a strong supporter of Hitler so much so that Hitler put him on staff? On the other hand, what would it mean if Hitler surrounded himself with no such people?

What about other charges in relation to Hitler? Didn’t the Nazis have belts that said “God with us.”? Isn’t it true that the Catholic Church never excommunicated Hitler? Aren’t we just using special pleading if we want to say that Hitler wasn’t really a Christian?

And of course, there’s a section on anti-semitism that is supposedly in the Bible. Is the NT an anti-semitic document? What about passages that are often used to show that the work is truly opposed to Judaism?

Of course, anyone interested in seeing about the book is free to go and look at my review that can be found here.

So be listening in this Saturday from 3-5 PM EST to the Deeper Waters Podcast as we talk about Hitler’s Christianity with J.P. Holding of The phone number if you want to be a part of the discussion is 714-242-5180.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Cutting Off Our Branches

Does it become a problem when we undermine judging in the Christian community? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There is a facebook group with the following quotes on it I want to share with you.

“Folks, We have a Person Who Seems To Find It Amusing To Hate, First Off Stay OFF MY Page, You Have Been Reported to Facebook For You Continued Abuse, I Didn’t Appreciate You Trying to Advertise Your Hate the Other Night On MY Fan Page, STAY AWAY, TAKE YOUR HATE AWAY, This Page Is Supportive, and YES I BAN Anyone Who Is Critical Or Hateful Of Our Community, 2600 People Like What I am Doing, and You Have What 14? You Will Be Shut Down Soon, and DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT POST ON OUR PAGE!”

“Reminder For Our New Folks, This Page is For Support, and Education of The practice featured in (X). If you Want to Hate, Or Judge, This Isn’t The Place. I work Very Very Hard for this Page To Remain a Supportive Page, I’ve Had Some People From Dayton Ohio Recently Try to Start Their own Page in Criticism of Mine, and That’s Fine, Hater’s NOT WELCOME HERE!”

“The Name of The Person Who Decided to Start the Hate Page Is
(X) From Dayton Ohio, Please Folks Tell Her To Stay Away, and Keep Her Hate in Ohio.”

The bad grammar and such aside, when you see something like this, it recalls immediately an attitude we see elsewhere. Where is that? It’s in the homosexual community as people who are outside the group are labeled as “haters” and criticism is not allowed. Only those who are supportive of the community are allowed.

The only problem is, these posts do not come from the homosexual community.

These posts I found while researching the snake handling stories. They’re found on the Snake Salvation page. Don’t believe it? Look for yourself.

When I see the Christian community using terminology exactly the same as the homosexual community, that’s quite concerning. In fact, one such post has the name of someone who has dared to criticize. You might as well be saying “Please go and harass this person!”

Hate is a term that is being tossed around so carelessly, including in groups such as We Stop Hate. The problem is that people are not really thinking about what it means to hate something.

In fact, if you love anything, you will HAVE to hate something. It’s not optional. Since I love my wife, I am to hate everything that is harmful to her. Since I love Christ, I am to hate everything that is opposed to Him. Since I love the truth, I am to hate lies. Since I love the good, I am to hate evil.

Would you like it if you met someone who did not hate rape? What about someone who did not hate pedophilia or child abuse? Do you want to meet someone who doesn’t hate cancer or disease? What do you think of someone who doesn’t hate evil?

Instead, many of these groups run on a whole self-esteem idea with a goodness being based on yourself somehow, though it’s not really expressed how. If you want to find your goodness, you are to look within. Now of course, there’s nothing wrong necessarily with thinking good about yourself, though in Scripture we are told to think of ourselves as we ought. We should seek to see ourselves as we really are. Our goodness does not come from us, but it comes from Christ.

If my value relies entirely on me, that is putting a much greater burden on me in fact and pushing me to think I have to be much better. If I place my value in Christ, then I can see that I have worth as long as Christ loves me and since that is something that doesn’t change, my worth never changes. Of course I can grow in Christlikeness, but I have a constant foundation for my goodness.

It is when these ideas of our goodness being rooted in how we feel about ourselves takes hold that our feelings and experiences start to get a divine authority and in fact, everyone else is subject to them. Each one of us becomes a god unto himself. The worst crime you can do against someone becomes offending them.

Yet most of us know that it has been necessary to offend people in the past. We have to tell people cold hard truths a lot of time and they don’t like it. Most of us today really don’t like it, even though we are told in Scripture that to be rebuked by a wise man is a blessing.

But today, all you have to do is tell people that you are offended by something and immediately you become a rallying cry that other people will support. It is not asked “Could the reason for this offense be valid?” It is not even asked “Is this really offensive?” All that matters is that the person finds it offensive.

This has also led to our victimization culture. Consider the campaign against bullying today. Yeah. No one cares for bullies, but the bullying campaign has given them too much credit. Everyone in this world is going to face critics at times. Some will be people who honestly want to help build us up. Others will be people who want nothing more than to tear us down.

You want to limit bullying? The best way to do it is to help the people who are being targeted by teaching them the proper way to think about themselves, especially within the context of Biblical principles. Help them realize where their true worth comes from and that bullies like this are to be ignored. When we were growing up in school, many of us had the rule of “Ignore inappropriate behavior.” Bottom line is that if something someone tells you about yourself is not true, why should you worry about it? (And yes, I’m still learning this one as well) If it is true, then do something to fix it.

Instead, what we do is say that you just can’t judge anyone at all. People are labeled as haters. I have no doubt that soon if not already, groups like “We Stop Hate” will be just as tolerant as the homosexual lobby. By just as tolerant, I of course mean seeking to out everyone that disagrees with them and refusing to return the tolerance that they have been seeking.

Tolerance in these circles is a one-way street.

So what does this have to do with the Snake Salvation page?

When we have groups like this in Christianity saying that haters and such will not be allowed, we are taking the exact same stance as homosexual groups. Now if you want to have a closed group that is there for your mutual edification and such, then do that. That’s fine. However, as soon as you go public with your ideas, then it is only proper to allow them to be publicly criticized and questioned. If you cannot take it, then don’t get it out there.

Question for those of you wanting to promote the gospel. Are you ever going to have to criticize? The answer is yes. You are going to have to judge people. You are going to have to tell them they are on the wrong path. You are going to have to tell them that they are living in rebellion against Jesus Christ, the rightful king of this world.

If you make yourself be above criticism and reproach, how can you possibly be allowed to give someone the gospel? They can use the exact same line back at you. After all, the gospel can be seen as hate speech since it includes in it that people are sinners. It indicts them of crimes against God and tells them they’re worthy of eternal separation from Him.

So many Christians are wanting to say today that they shouldn’t judge and cringe at the thought that they have judged someone. They can’t avoid it really! If you are to call sin sin, you are to make a judgment.

Judging is not a dirty word.

“But didn’t Jesus say judge not”?

Yes. He is talking about hypocritical judging. He tells you in the same passage to not toss pearls to swine or give what is sacred to dogs. You have to know what each of those are to judge. He tells you to look out for false prophets, a judgment. He tells you to choose the narrow way over the wide, a judgment. He never even tells you to not take the speck out of your brother’s eye, but instead to first take the log out of your own.

Either Jesus is not opposed to all judging, or He was a fool who contradicted His own teaching immediately.

I’ll go with the first one. Jesus was no fool.

I cannot help but be concerned when I see the church using the exact same language as the homosexual community. The church must be open to criticism. (And I assure most critics that I have criticized the behavior of the church far more than they have) The church must be open to hearing where we’ve gone wrong. We all must be open to that in our own lives. We must be willing to examine both sides of debates and disagreements and see which one has the stronger case and whichever one does, we must be able to make a case for why it is rather than using intimidation alone to silence the opposition.

The position that should hold sway in the marketplace of ideas is the one that has the better arguments. If your position does not have that, then no amount of intimidation will make up for it. No amount of following the crowd or culture can compensate for a lack of argumentation. It all comes down to the question of “What is truth?”

Which is, again, a judgment.

If we’re sure we’re in the truth, let us be open to the judgment that we are not. If we are in fact, then no harm. We could be even stronger. If we’re not, then thanks to whoever got us out of it for they removed us from a lie.

Making ourselves immune to criticism will not help our stance one iota. We dare not follow the lead of the world. We are to walk in step with Christ instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Nobility Among Us

Is Nobility Among Us fiction worth reading? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I heard news from my friend Ben Zwycky that he had a book that was out. This came as a shock to me as I honestly did not recall hearing anything about him even writing a book. I saw the story as good news for him, but I read plenty of academic books and funds were low so maybe someday I could read his.

Until he contacted me and wanted to send me a copy so I could review it. Seeing as he was a friend, I figured I could.

And I am so thankful that I did!

Zwycky writes a book from a Christian worldview, yet the book is not at any point explicit in it. You will not find Jesus or Christ mentioned one time in the whole book. The story is lively and engaging and it is Christian fiction the way it is meant to be.

The story also has an interesting mix as it starts with a son helping his family hook up a video recorder and then starts talking about behavior at the castle and the nobility. I found this an interesting combination. The time was obviously modern, but the setting had a more medieval feel to it.

In fact, being a gamer, as I was going through the book, I could picture what it would be like to have a Final Fantasy type game based on the book. Were such a game to come out, I would be one wanting to play it. I have hopes along those lines that this book would be picked up by a filmmaker sometime and turned into a movie. I also see that this book could have an excellent prequel and probably a sequel depending on if the author wishes to bless us or not with it.

The main thrust of the story involves the viscount of a kingdom named Marcus who is a follower of the forbidden book. In an effort to change his kingdom, he actually makes a dangerous ruling where he sides against a member of the nobility in favor of one of the lowly citizens. This sets in motion a range of events that goes all throughout the book.

What will happen to the kingdom? What will happen to Marcus and his family? Will justice ever be met? The reader is taken through all the twists and turns in great detail and introduced to characters that are likable and understandable, aside from the villains of course who are understandable but certainly not liked! There are times where the technical jargon describing the equipment can get confusing and the reader can get lost, but this is something that a good reader can tolerate in getting the main thrust of the story.

I do not read much fiction as I have said, but I am thankful that I took the time to read the book of my friend Ben Zwycky. I did not know he had such a great novel in him, and I am most thankful that he got it out of him to share it with the world. Please go to Amazon and order your copy of this great book today!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

More on Snake Handling

Is being forbidden to take up a serpent religious persecution? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Here in TN, some of the big news lately has involved Andrew Hamblin and his snake handling. I have written previously on that here and here. As I live in Knoxville, I see much of this being talked about and frankly, I am concerned.

I am concerned at seeing a church where most people are not learning how to think and the great danger that anyone can say “God moved me” or “God told me” and that justifies anything. This is not to say that God cannot tell people to do things. He’s God. If He wants to, He will, but one needs to have a way in mind to know that it is indeed God speaking. Without that, one has no basis upon which to say someone is being moved by God or instructed by Him and someone else isn’t. We put ourselves in a dangerous position if we seek to put a divine source behind our feelings.

Yet I see people in fact making such a claim. “If God tells someone to take up a serpent, who are we to disagree? Who are we to judge?” One wonders if we can say that if God tells someone to drown their children in a bath tub, who are we to disagree? Who are we to judge? If God tells someone to go on a shooting spree for Allah, who are we to disagree, who are we to judge?

Who we are are rational people that claim to know the God of the universe. The reality is if you are a Christian, you claim to know something about what God is like. You claim to know that God has revealed Himself in Christ and that God also will not contradict His nature. (And if you do not know this, then I urge you to educate yourself on the nature of Christianity. One of the best books you can get and still one for the layman as well can be found here.

If you’re someone who says “I’m not going to judge,” in some ways, you are already judging. Now there is a point to saying “I’m not going to speak yet because I haven’t looked into the issue,” and that’s fine. For me, the issue is clear, but to you if it isn’t, I have no problem with you going out and looking into it and coming back and making a judgment.

The problem comes when you say “I can’t judge and neither should you. No one can speak on this matter.” You’ve already made a statement that maybe this isn’t God at work, but at the same time, this doesn’t contradict the work of God either. What you are claiming is that the behavior is entirely consistent with the nature of God.

That’s quite a judgment isn’t it?

In our world today, the church views judge as a dirty word. It’s not. Matthew 7:1 does not say “Don’t ever judge.” It says to not judge hypocritically. Watch your standard of judgment. That’s what you will be judged by. If your standard of judgment is Scripture, then you must also be held to that same Scripture.

So when it comes to taking up venomous snakes in church, if you say no one can judge, you are in fact saying that this is consistent with God. We have no way of knowing if God is or is not telling people to not take up those kinds of snakes.

In wanting to avoid judging, you make a most severe judgment.

Now another claim being made also is that this is persecution and we need to remember the separation of church and state.

It’s so funny because usually Christians are the ones arguing against separation of church and state. Properly understood, it is a position I hold to. I in no way want to have the state married to Christianity. The problem is this is not a separation of church and state issue.

This is an issue of public safety and the law against holding venomous snakes like that is there for the safety of the public. It is not an arbitrary law without a moral basis. If one thinks it is, they simply need to come up with a reason why first off, the state should not care about people being able to take up venomous snakes, second, why they should drop the old law, and then third why they should in fact promote the churches that want to do this.

Until that is done, this is not the state trying to persecute.

How do I know some of this? Well I did something that I guess shouldn’t be done in finding out such information. I contacted the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) myself. Yeah. I’m sure that’s terribly unorthodox. They could not comment on the case itself, which is understandable, but they could answer my questions on the snakes. In fact, my wife and I went to the free zoo day at the Knoxville Zoo and I spoke to someone in the office of herpetology (Which includes the study of snakes).

Both references showed me the dangers of these serpents. They are class I, the most dangerous class, for a reason. Their bites could lead to amputations by damaging blood cells and nerve cells and in some cases, could lead to death. This would be especially so for the children and for the elderly. To be able to handle these snakes, one must be a trained professional. My own wife as I said would like to have a fox someday, a class III animal, and she would require certification.

In fact, the Knoxville Zoo has even said that there were 53 snakes in Hamblin’s possession and some of them were in bad condition. Having just one snake would be a huge responsibility in itself, but how could one possibly care for 53 snakes? I do not even think I saw 53 snakes that day at the zoo. No doubt, they don’t keep all the snakes out, but if it takes a place like a zoo to care for that many snakes, how can a single church building do it?

If these snakes aren’t being cared for, then who knows what will happen if they get out and are hungry? This includes snakes like boa constrictors. Boa constrictors are indeed capable of killing children and would be more likely to do so I’m sure if especially hungry.

Now some people are comparing this to anointing oil or a King James Bible. If the state makes a law against these without a rational basis, and I contend that there isn’t one, then indeed it is an unjust law and one we are not obligated to obey, but the law against venomous snakes does have a rational basis and if we choose to defy it, we are actually acting out of pride and saying we are above the law.

So on what grounds could we argue against Muslims who want to claim the same in the name of Allah?

As for persecution, this is not persecution. Too often Christians in America are way too quick to scream “Persecution!” If someone dares to insult Christianity, we cry out that persecution has taken place. Being offended is not the same as being persecuted. Being mocked is not the same as being persecuted.

If you want to hear about real persecution, just listen to stories of Christians in Muslim or communist countries. In these places, you can be killed for owning a Bible. To take the name of Christ on your lips is to put yourself in the eye of the government as a target. Don’t count on them to defend you. They are opposed to you. This was in fact the position of the early Christians.

If we look at what we go through and say that it is just what they went through, we are disgracing our brothers and sisters in the world who are undergoing real suffering on behalf of Jesus. We should all be humble in the face of that. Now I am open to the possibility that that persecution will come. I think we’ve opened ourselves up to it by refusing to stand up for Christ. Should my time come, I hope I would be ready to die for Christ. I’d like to say I would do so with certainty, but the example of Peter in Scripture makes me hesitant to do so. It is easy to talk, but when reality comes, let us hope our actions will be in accordance and for readers, pray for me that they would be if the time came.

What we need to ask ourselves in the church is if the taking up of snakes is really what we want to make our rallying case. Do we want to say that God supports or encourages this or sees it as something that should be done? We’re making a statement either way.

If you want to support, do something to support those Christians who are really suffering persecution elsewhere. Do something to support the work of spreading the gospel more and more. Don’t just support prayerfully and financially, but give of yourself in the work. Be willing to put yourself out there where you can.

In the body of Christ, we all have different roles to play. Mine’s that of Christian apologetics. This is what God used to open me up to the reality of who He is after all. It brings me great joy to defend Christianity and to help people who are struggling with their doubts. This happens not only on this blog, but in private emails that come in regularly.

But you know what? Not everyone is meant to do this. Now I think every Christian is to have a basic apologetic. Every Christian should be able to make some case for the resurrection of Jesus. Not every Christian is to be a scholar and that is the difference. We need scholars who are Christians, but we don’t need all Christians to be scholars.

We need Christians who are doctors. We need them who are teachers. We need them who are astronomers and scientists and garbage pick-up men and plumbers and CEO’s and most anything else. We need Christians who can witness to someone on the street and Christians who do so through the means of the computer. We need Christians who work in soup kitchens and with the sick and homeless and those in need and we need Christians who are in the classroom teaching the next generation. We need all of them.

We have to watch ourselves by what we support for that is what the world sees. They need to know that we are devoted to Christ and we take a representation of Him seriously and any attacks that come against him just as seriously and realize that not all battles are divine battles just because they involve a Christian.

Many of you out there are concerned about the state of America. So am I. The reality is we have more means than the early church did, more technology, more ability, in some ways more knowledge (Unfortunately, we don’t have people with firsthand experience of the resurrection of Jesus so much and the culture is different), etc. The church had far far less at the start and overcame the Roman Empire. If we don’t do so much with what we have been given, we will be held accountable to Almighty God.

Let any reader choose the way they will go forward. I’ve already chosen how I’m going to fight this battle. I see the apologetics ministry as absolutely necessary for reclaiming our world for Christ. I do not see snake handling at all that way, and in fact see it as a detriment.

If you want to defend it, by all means go ahead, but you have also in fact made a judgment about God. I just ask that you seek to see if you are right, because the greatest judge of all will not be mocked or fooled.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast: 11/16/2013

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

Readers of this blog know that I’ve always been a big gamer. Sit me down in front of Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy and I’m happy. Whatever I do, I do seriously and so when I play a game, I play to win. The world of fantasy has always been appealing to me.

It’s also known that in the Christian world, there’s much suspicion of many interests. Claims of something being occult or demonic quickly pop up. When the Harry Potter Phenomena started, this turned out to be no exception. Concerned parents did not want their children having any part in the phenomenon.

That included John Granger.

Until his pediatrician gave a copy of the first book to their daughter. Granger said he would read it first to show why that kind of garbage is not allowed in the house.

The next day he went out and bought the next two books in the series.

What caused this kind of book to be such a phenomenon? I had noticed that myself. It wasn’t just watching it, but I went and checked out from the library the books on audio so I could listen to them while I was driving, seeing as I was busy studying most of the time and didn’t have that leisure to read like that. Before too long, I found myself saying “I’ll turn it off after this sentence…after this one…after this one…”

The series is excellent! When the final book came out, I was one of those people waiting in line at the bookstore at midnight to get my copy, and mine was in audio again. (Jim Dale is amazing with the voices.) I spent the next few days sitting at home at any moment listening because I just had to find out how it ended. When I got off of work, I was going to my place to listen to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Today, I own all of the movies and have indeed seen all of them.

John Granger, my guest, now describes himself as Hogwart’s Professor and teaches a class on the series. In fact, he not only denies that it is non-Christian, but sees the series as entirely Christian, just like one would think of the Chronicles of Narnia as being a Christian series. He thinks the series is written from the worldview of a Christian to express timeless Christian truths?

But if that’s the case, then why is it set in the real world with real witches and wizards? Doesn’t the Bible condemn witchcraft? Another objection based on something not covered in the books but revealed later is the homosexuality of Dumbledore. How does this fit?

We can also discuss much deeper questions than this. How should Christians respond to that which is different? How do we examine that which we’re concerned about? How do we honor the imagination as Christians? Do we worry too much about such things? What can be said to those still concerned about the series?

I hope this show will explain one series as an example that will be used to help Christians think through anything else that they interact with and maybe give us a greater appreciation for pop culture and engaging the life of the mind through the imagination.

The show will air from 3-5 PM EST on 11/16/2013. The call-in number if you have a question is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Harry Potter True?

Can one dismiss the gospel accounts by pointing to the boy wizard? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s amazing that the group that likes to call themselves freethinkers all seem to think exactly alike and follow the exact same thought patterns. One idea catches on in the group and those who make the most out of condemning gullibility are immediately shouting it from the rooftops unaware that a few minutes worth of research could have prevented them from making such blunders.

A major one going around today is to say that if you believe the stories of Jesus are true, what about the stories of Harry Potter?

Because we all know there’s just a one-to-one parallel right there.

If we are to say it’s because of fantastical elements, well nearly every ancient writing of the time had some fantastical elements. We would have to throw out all of ancient history by this. Of course, not all did this, but it was something common still.

For instance, biographies of Alexander the Great that we have and even consider authoritative state of him that he was virgin born. Do we throw them out? No. We just look and say “Well this is a late tradition with not much behind it and we should be skeptical.” A mistake many critics make is thinking that history is an all-or-nothing game. An account is totally reliable in everything or it’s totally false in everything.

Unfortunately, many Christians make the same mistake with Scripture.

For the sake of argument Christian, what would it mean to you if you found out that there was one error in the Bible? Would you pack everything up immediately, conclude Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and that you can’t know anything about Him, and then abandon your Christian faith?

If your answer is yes, then you have a problem.

For me, if it was true, I’d still have an incredibly strong case for the resurrection, but I would have to change my views on inspiration and inerrancy. My overall method of historiography however would remain unchanged. I would just say I’d been wrong in some usages of it.

Now the comparison going around the net just doesn’t work. It says that Harry Potter has stories in it that are magical and therefore, it is untrue. The gospels also have stories in them that are magical. If we were being consistent, we’d say the gospels are untrue.

To begin with, the objection assumes that such a thing as magic does not exist. We do not know that for sure. Now is it fine to be skeptical of such a claim. In fact, I encourage skepticism, but if your worldview automatically precludes such a thing, then you are reaching a decision before examining the evidence.

Furthermore, the Harry Potter novels are in fact written to be fiction. No one has any idea that Rowling considered herself to be writing an authentic account of events that were taking place. The gospels by contrast are Greco-Roman biographies. They are not hagiographies, those came later. They must be judged by what was there at the time and at the time, they were written as Greco-Roman Biographies, accounts written to be historical. (The only exception could be Luke which could be a historiography with Acts being part 2 of it.) Those wanting more information on this are encouraged to read Richard Burridge’s “What are the Gospels?”

Now if we are to say that the problem is the gospels contain miracles, we come to the same objection. Has it been shown that miracles cannot happen? In fact, given Craig Keener’s book “Miracles” we can have a strong case that miracles do in fact happen and are still abundantly claimed today.

“Yeah. Well you’ll accept miracles in Christianity, but what about those outside your Christian tradition?”

That’s simple. If you show me a miracle that has good evidence backing it, I will believe it happened. It doesn’t have to be within my Christian tradition at all. If you can show me there’s a strong case that Vespasian healed blind men for instance, I’ll be more than happy to say that he did even if I can’t explain it, but good luck doing that.

Incredulity is not an argument. You may think miracles are ridiculous. Fine. It doesn’t work against my worldview to say that your worldview is different. You will need to give me an argument for your own worldview.

In fact, whenever I see someone use the Harry Potter analogy to explain away the gospels, I already am certain that I am meeting someone who is unfamiliar with historiographical standards at all. To skeptics of the NT, I encourage you to get a better argument. Start by reading good scholarship on both sides. Maybe in the end you’ll still disagree with me, but I hope it will be an informed disagreement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Faith Like Paul

What does it take to live like the apostle Paul? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I heard somewhere someone saying about how great it would be to live like Paul. Paul certainly had a great faith and it really transformed his life. He wrote about joy from a prison cell and he dealt with persecution all his life, until in the end he was beheaded for his faith in Christ.

Now I do want to say that when I speak about faith like Paul, I mean faith in what I take to be the biblical sense. Faith is one of the most misused words today. I have written about a true understanding of faith here. Faith biblically is trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. It does not mean belief in the absence of evidence. It’s quite the opposite in fact. It requires evidence.

It’s important to realize Paul is not traveling around the Roman Empire based on what he thinks is a subjective experience or a hope he wants to see fulfilled alone (Though he has had an experience and he does have hope for the future because of Christ), but it is rather because he is because he has seen something in the world outside of his mind that he thinks changes everything about reality.

Years ago, there was a cartoon I watched and one clip advertising said something like “I watched the TV shows. I used to play the card game. Then I found out, this is real.” Imagine what it would mean if the plot of a favorite cartoon of yours was real. How would it change your life? Imagine if you found out that just one fairy tale or Disney movie was a real historical event. What would it change for you? Would you ever see the world the same way again?

Now for Paul, Paul has been a good Jew all his life and has grown up hearing about the hope of Israel, the Messiah, and as a good Pharisee, he has also believed in the resurrection. He has been holding to the Torah all his life. The Law of God is sacred writ for him. He treasures it. He reads it daresay I far more than we’ve ever read our NT. We would not be surprised if we heard Paul had the whole of it memorized.

What happened?

Paul’s claim is that He saw the risen Christ.

So what did that mean for Paul? “Yay! My sins are forgiven!” No. Paul thought he had a system of forgiveness already that worked quite well. He saw himself as blameless before the law. If you preached Jesus to him because he needed forgiveness, Paul would say “No I don’t! I am a faithful observer of Torah! That reveals that I am justified in the eyes of God!”

Of course, Paul did come to realize and teach that forgiveness is found only in Christ, but that is not why he came to Christ and while that is something that he was teaching an unbelieving world, that was not the main change.

What was it? I’d like for you to think about a work like Craig Keener’s book “Miracles.” Now if you’re the atheist reading this, just take a thought experiment with me. Suppose you undeniably witnessed someone praying in the name of Jesus for someone and then saw right before your eyes that they were instantaneously healed. Let’s suppose it was a condition like blindness or paralysis in fact.

Does your worldview change any at that point?

Now you might not come straight across to Christianity at that point (though I would have no complaints if you did), but I would hope at least you would if you were a committed atheist start thinking “Could I be wrong about something? What would it mean if God has broken in?”

In fact, for those of us who are Christians, we might need to start thinking like atheists more. We need to realize that this is something incredible really. God has broken into our world. There is someone out there in the world and He has spoken. There is more to this universe than meets the eye.

The problem is that we’ve grown up with Christianity so much that its become familiar to us. We know the stories so well that we’ve never found them to be incredible. It can sadly seem natural to us that God took on flesh and that Jesus rose from the dead.

They weren’t natural at all to a first century Jew.

For Paul, to see that Jesus is raised expresses so much that I seriously doubt that I can get it all. It is extremely difficult to begin to think like a 1st century Jew, but to understand Jesus as his contemporaries saw him, we must do this.

For Paul, I can wager some guesses.

First, he sees in Jesus that the promises of God are all yes and amen. God has spoken in Jesus which means that the time of renewal is at hand. The Kingdom of God has begun and it has begun with the reign of King Jesus.

Second, since the kingdom of God has begun its reign, then that means that the eschatological hopes of Israel are being fulfilled. God’s glory is being made known throughout the world. The Kingdoms of this world are to eventually bow the knee to the Kingdom of Christ.

Third, moral renewal will begin. The Law will be written on our hearts and we will follow the moral dictates. Paul is not an antinomian. He holds that there is still a law, but the righteous demands are being made known through the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, salvation has changed entirely. No more does it rely on following the sacrificial system, but it relies on trust in the Messiah of Jesus who occupies the throne of Israel. The Davidic and Abrahamic covenantes both find their fulfillment in Christ.

Fifth, God is in the act of making all things new. This includes even the dietary laws and the sacred days of Israel. Creation is being reborn. The curse is being lifted. Paul would have very well understood the claim of Revelation “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Sixth, in the resurrection of Jesus, we find the death of death itself. Death was the stranger that came into the world and ruined humanity. It has had a hold on most everyone save Enoch and Elijah. As long as death reigns, we have no certainty that justice will be done on this Earth. Since Christ has been raised and is the firstfruits of the resurrection, we have certainty.

Seventh, this means that judgment is coming. God has acted which means he’s not kidding around any more. The time of patience is over. It is now time to repent and get right with God. This motivates Paul even more to preach the gospel.

These are just seven I can think of. I do not doubt for a moment that there are many more, but if these facts haven’t fully gripped you, and to confess they haven’t fully gripped me either, then we will not have the faith of Paul that we so want to have.

Today, I urge you to look at your Christianity differently. Only when you see it as changing the world, can you see it as changing your world.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

When God Does Not Justify Someone

Can God be used as an excuse to violate the law? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, I wrote a post about a snake handler named Andrew Hamblin. Many of you might not know about him although the Huffington Post did write an article on him. Last night while Allie and I were watching CBS here in TN where Hamblin has his church, we were surprised to see this news story about state officials telling Hamblin he will need to appear in court and confiscating the snakes. They’re to be held at the Knoxville Zoo. (And since this is free zoo weekend, we might get to see them.)

Now already several people on Hamblin’s Facebook page are saying that they’re praying for him. That’s fine and understandable. A number of others are saying that they bet this wouldn’t have happened if Hamblin had been a Muslim. Obviously, it’s just Christianity that’s being targeted.

Well, not really.

My wife has an interest in foxes and she would not mind owning a fox someday. Even to do something like that requires proper licensing since a fox is an exotic animal by most standards. If you take a dog or a cat into your home, no big deal. Foxes are a different animal and you need a permit to own a fox and the law stipulates what kinds of foxes you may own.

How much more so for holding a poisonous snake, a snake that if it gets out of control could result in the death of someone, no matter how well-meaning and strong in their “faith” that person might be. There is a reason our state has these laws.

Want to know what they are? Well I found a good look at them here.

Just look under Class I and go down to reptiles. What do you see?

“(ii) Order Serpentes: Snakes – All poisonous species; and”

Yes. Poisonous snakes are included right here in the very first class. If you go down to the end, you’ll see the requirements for having class I animals under your care. They’re quite severe, and for good reason! If you put dangerous animals in the hands of people who don’t know how to handle them, you’re practically asking for pain, and that could be not just your own pain but the pain of others.

Hamblin is set to appear in court next week. I do not know what he will say, but I can say that whatever it is, God is not a valid excuse for breaking the law.

A similar situation is found with the story of the man in Arizona who had a Bible study that was raided by police and took to jail. People immediately cited this as persecution, but you can see even from the Christian Post many details not often told in that story. Those are available here.

Were Arizona, which by the way is a very red state politically, wanting to target Bible studies, we would be hearing many more such stories. It would not be just one person. Yet strangely enough, no doubt hundreds or thousands of Bible studies go on just fine in Arizona without people having any fear whatsoever. What must be asked is “Why is this one case different?” If you can find circumstances that make it different, then you see what is going on. It is not the similarity that matters (All such groups are studying the Bible) but the differences. (Is the one with the leader arrested violation of any laws?)

It would not do for that pastor to say “I’m doing this for God, therefore it’s okay” and it won’t do for Hamblin. Now I personally think that we have no biblical basis to take up snakes the way Hamblin and his church does. If these people want to show their faith and devotion to God, they can start by going over to where real persecution is going on such as in Muslim nations or in China or North Korea and other such places and serve as missionaries. They can also do so with no guarantee whatsoever that God is obligated to protect them. Missionaries can still die in the service after all.

The proper way to show your faith is not to take up serpents. An unbelieving world is not convinced of Christianity by that. Instead, they are sadly convinced of the opposite. They are convinced that Christians are crazy and will believe anything just because they see it in the Bible. It would also be interesting to see if this church kept any poison on the grounds for the people to regularly drink since the same verse says those who took up serpents would also drink poison. We could also point out that Isaiah 43:2 says that when you walk through fire you will not be burned. If they want to be this literal with messages, then set up bonfires and let them start walking and see what happens.

The danger is here that if we say “We are doing this for God, therefore it’s okay” then we make God a justification to forthrightly violate the laws of the land, and where will it end? If I think I have to give the gospel to someone immediately, can I drive down the road at 100 MPH and go around school buses that are stopped all because I’m doing this for God? If I think someone is living a sinful life and if they keep going down that road they will hurt others, am I allowed to kill them because I am doing this for God?

I’ve used a mild example and a serious example both to show the point. Neither one of those work. The law has requirements set on poisonous animals and there’s no place for an ethic that says “Whatever you do, if you do it for God, it is good.” We can be sure Hamblin would not think that the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 was good, though the Jews doing it certainly thought they were doing it for God. Paul himself thought he was serving God when he was persecuting the church.

Now am I saying there is no place for civil disobedience of any sort? No. But there are conditions that must be met!

For instance, there is no explicit command to take up serpents in Scripture. (I do dispute Mark 16:9-20 being authentic and either way, it no more commands us to do this than it commands us to go out and drink poison.) Now there are explicit commands to preach the gospel, such as the Great Commission. Thus, part of being a faithful Christian is the preaching of the gospel. If the authorities try to silence the preaching of the gospel, then in this case we must be faithful because if we will either violate the law of the land or the commands of God, we must choose to honor the commands of God.

Christians today also hold that homosexual behavior is immoral. Therefore, by our own moral standards, we should not be forced to celebrate what we think is immoral. This is why a photographer who does not think she should photograph a lesbian ceremony should not be prosecuted. This is a conscience clause. A Christian photographer should not be forced to do what she considers inherently immoral.

Note with that last one that it could be the Christian is entirely wrong in their opinion for the sake of argument, but the question is should the law be forced to make someone do what they have moral and religious grounds against doing and in a way that is not harmful to others. There are plenty of other photographers that can do the job after all and this kind of activity makes it easy for the homosexual community to simply out those who disagree with them by looking up Christian photographers, know they will refuse, and then take them to court. (A friend and I have wondered what it would mean to go to a homosexual bakery and ask to have a cake with Romans 1:21-27 on it. Could we go to a Muslim deli and force them also to serve pork?)

The greatest tragedy of all is that when people like Hamblin do what they do, they get a spotlight that the media is all too happy to give them. Such a spotlight becomes an embarrassment to the Christian church. Like it or not, it will fit a stereotype that will fall right in line with the new atheist paradigm of Christians.

Insofar as possible, Christians should seek to live under the law of the land. Had Hamblin wanted to own snakes like this properly, there was a right way to do it and he chose not to do it that way. In doing so, he put himself and others at risk. Also, I contend that he violated a commandment of God by putting God to the test. In the end, God will not be mocked. He will not accept being used as an excuse to justify our wrongdoing.

The best thing for Hamblin to do in my opinion now would be to admit that he did violate the law and pay the price. If we make this out to be persecution, we draw attention to those violating the law and unfortunately, draw it away from real persecution that is going on. It is a horrible action to take such an event and call it persecution when we realize Christians are being put to death in other countries simply for owning a Bible. (And by the way, those Christians care a lot more about having a solid Christian foundation and education than most Christians over here do. Mike Licona, for instance, spoke in Indonesia which has the largest percentage of Muslims in the world and could speak for six hours on the resurrection to a crowd eager for it.) If Hamblin wants to have the snake church, then he must try to find a way to do so legally, though I suspect he won’t. If he cannot, then he must find another capacity with which to serve.

Until then, the media will unfortunately be having a heyday with this and statements from a “pastor” will be seen to have great authority, despite Hamblin not really being equipped as a pastor. When the church highlights people like Hamblin, we will get a certain result. Were someone like Licona instead highlighted more often, the church will get a quite different result. The question is which result do we want?

I know where I stand, and it is the stand I am convinced God has honored and will honor.

In Christ,
Nick Peters