Once Again, Please Christians Check Your Sources

How can we expect people to believe us on major claims if they can’t believe us on minor claims? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So yesterday, a news story is going around all over Facebook. Now this is in light of my writing about the scandals caused by the blood moon hysteria so this is just more of the same. This time, it’s a claim that Facebook is about to charge for something and this was on the news so now it’s official. This was being shared by so many people and it was a cut and paste job regularly. Sadly, a lot of people I knew who were sharing it were Christians. I have written about such things before, but I always get concerned when this happens because it has a direct impact on how the body of Christ is seen in the world.

If you’re not in the field of apologetics like I am, you might not be aware that to the world of unbelievers, we’re a bunch of gullible and superstitious morons who believe something bizarre just because we read it in a book. Now unfortunately, there are too many Christians who will believe something just because they read it in a book or they heard it from their pastor. Of course, on the other hand, there are a lot of atheists who will believe something because they read it on the internet as well. People going with something because it fits with what they already believe is nothing new and it happens on both ends.

And to be fair, if you’re not a Christian, what we believe can easily strike the world as odd. In fact, it is. We believe something simply incredible and we hold this up as the greatest fact of all. Do you want a claim like that to have credibility? People you are telling this to, and that includes people on Facebook, can’t jump in a time machine and go back to the tomb and watch Jesus come out and say “Yep. He really rose again.” Here’s what they can do. They can look at that post that you just put up on Facebook and see that you didn’t bother doing any checking on it whatsoever and then decide that if you are that gullible, they don’t really need to pay attention to your major claims such as that Jesus rose from the dead.

Can you blame them? If you can’t be trusted on something that can be checked on in a couple of minutes, why should you be trusted on something that requires months and years of research?

This also includes when we spread information about those who we see as our opposition even on the religious front or the political front or both. Many of you know I am a conservative in politics. I have seen people spread claims about Obama, who I do not care for, that are simply false and I always have to point them out and say “Don’t spread these claims.” Why? Because even if someone is my opponent, I want to take them down honestly. If I think someone is a threat to the greater good, then I should be able to demonstrate that by using honest material and not fake material. Again, this isn’t just a Christian thing as all sides do this, but Christians are supposed to be people who claim to care about truth and walk in the truth and serve Christ who said He is the truth. If truth is not a priority to us, why should we be taken seriously?

Now of course, if you want to share something and you haven’t found any verification and you just want to ask if it’s true or get thoughts, then go right on ahead, but if something could possibly be shown to be demonstrably false, then please do not just blindly share it. Take the time to check the claims. If the world cannot believe you on earthly things, why should they believe you when you speak on heavenly things?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

End Times Laziness

Does speaking about the end times spark laziness in Christians? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I put my post from yesterday in the comments section on a few posts on Facebook yesterday on the page of John Hagee Ministries. Interestingly, last I checked I have not been blocked. Of course, there has been no public statement of appearance and the fact that absolutely nothing happened doesn’t seem to be a concern to fans of Hagee. This is one time where I do think cognitive dissonance does indeed play a factor. The more I have thought about this, the more I have been concerned about why we have this obsession with end times. Too often in fact, it has sparked laziness.

This is something I have written on before on a post about the escapist mentality. This mentality was shown best by a lady I saw in a small group once who said “I’m saved and my children are saved so we just sit back and wait for Jesus to come.” I was just stunned that a Christian would say something like that. I was immediately thinking that first off, keep that up and your children could fall away from the faith before too long, especially when they get to college. Second, good that you’re all “saved” but what about your neighbors and their children. Do they not matter?

It’s such a strange belief that we have today. We have people who are Christians who say that the commands of Jesus are of utmost importance. When it comes to what marriage is, we sure say we want to defend that. (Although, we seem to only want to defend it when it comes to our right to eat chicken sandwiches or it infringes with a favorite television show.) When it comes to defending marriage by, you know, actually studying the purpose of marriage and why it is the way it is, or an even more bizarre way, and yes please forgive how bizarre this idea is, actually living out the way marriage was meant to be by God, we’re not as interested. While I agree with the research of Shaunti Feldhahn that divorce is not as prevalent among Christians as believed, it is still all too prevalent.

The commands of Jesus are of selective importance. They are important when they involve what we want, but if they involve any work or sacrifice on our part, well we must just be misunderstanding them. Yet Jesus calls us to die and there is no reason to think He is not serious in what He says.

So here then we have a group of people who say the commands of Jesus matter the most to them and who also especially want to have a focus on reminding everyone that Jesus is God in good Christian fashion. So now they are told repeatedly that they are the last generation and they believe it. They are convinced Jesus is coming back at any moment and what are they doing?

They’re reading books about how He’s coming back at any moment and watching TV shows about how He’s coming back at any moment and attending seminars about how He’s coming back at any moment.

Question. How many of these people are out supporting missionaries overseas? After all, if Jesus is coming back any moment, don’t we want to have as many people ready to go with Him? (While I do not hold to a pre-trib paradigm, I am speaking this group of people and they do hold to it and I’m asking for consistency. Of course, this does not mean that all pre-tribbers are like this. Many are just as incensed at Hagee as I am and many of them are just as concerned about the matters I’m writing about as I am.) How many of us are watching our behavior and how we’re living because who wants to have the King come back and be caught unawares? How many of us are honoring our spouses or raising our children properly and showing them extra love? After all, if you think Jesus is coming back, don’t you want to enjoy the time with your family now as well instead of spending it doing something that won’t benefit the Kingdom? (This is not to say of course there is no time for play, but there is more to life than play.)

This also raises the concern of if we suddenly decide to shape up, are we doing so not because it’s required but because we want to look good when Jesus returns? That should be our focus every day. We shouldn’t have to wait until the signs start coming. Frankly, the signs really shouldn’t change how we live. My friend Dr. Randy Richards has a post about doing the right thing wrong that I think is excellent. Richards argues that we should be looking for Christ’s return, which is right, but if we do so because of blood moons, we do so for the wrong reason. I think the same applies here.

Let’s consider an analogy in marriage. It is good for a husband to love his wife. No doubt. But now let’s suppose that we realize the sweet loving husband does something only because he wants his wife to give him a good time in the bedroom. There is nothing wrong of course with wanting that and a husband should want it, but if all you want from your wife is the reward at the end of the day (Or any other time of day for that matter), then you’re essentially using her. Now let’s reverse that. Let’s suppose a wife wants to please her husband and knows that sex is a great way to make him happy. However, she does this saying “I hope he’ll take me out to eat at that fancy restaurant soon.” She’s also using her husband. Now of course, it’s fine if a husband or wife want to show appreciation. Still, we should also always be watching our motives. For those who might be overly sensitive in this area like I am, I always tell people that when you think you might be tempted with wrong motives, you are still to do the right thing and ask God to work on your heart.

We end up then with end times madness doing the right thing wrong in one area, but in another, we don’t even do the right thing. Where is the great transformation of our world from people who are sure the King is coming? Could it be we don’t see it because we think the King is in fact coming? After all, the King will clear up this mess when He gets here. We don’t need to worry about that. Sorry, but I just don’t see that in the Bible. If you worked for a company and you were told the president of the company was coming to pay a visit, you would be working as hard as you could to get ready. When you’re dating and know your date is coming by, you work to make yourself the best you can be. Now we live in a culture where we think Jesus, our God, is supposed to be back any minute, and what are we doing?

It is a shame that all the time spent chasing after blood moons and any other end times event could have been spent far better. Our end times obsession has often ended up being something to stroke our own egos and make us think we are special, instead of doing something for the world around us so they will know how special we think they are, and how awesome we think Jesus is. What Jesus has said He will do, He will do and you trust Him on it. The question is are we going to do what He told us to do?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Anybody Catch That Last Apocalypse?

How was the latest global event for you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So another blood moon has come and gone and how is the world radically different? Well, not too much. Of course, don’t leave it to people like John Hagee to be deterred by this. As he says on the Facebook page of his ministry:

Thank you Joe Pags for participating in our “Four Blood Moons” projects, and for helping us to share this great message that something is about to change! God is sending a message that (even though no man knows the day nor the hour) we need to prepare for Jesus’ return. We need to live a righteous life as unto the Lord.

One would think the Almighty would have planned these kinds of events better and would have also thought that an event like the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or the Holocaust would be worth something, but alas, apparently not. We can be confident that two people will not be bothered by nothing happening with the blood moons. The first will be John Hagee himself. The second will be his followers. Even today if you go to the page, you can see plenty of them. The fact that this caused so much excitement in the Christian church really shows that we have a great case of Biblical illiteracy going on.

While I certainly agree with Hagee that we need to be living righteous lives, part of that righteousness would be owning up to the mistakes that you make and especially so if you have a loudspeaker to what you say and proclaim yourself to speak what you think Scripture says. Events like this only give further credibility to the idea that Christians are gullible and will believe anything that comes along and if we give that kind of impression to people, why on Earth should we think that they will treat the Gospel of Christ seriously? Of course you believe that story! You also believed in blood moons because someone on TV said it.

So here’s my bizarre pipe dream.

I have this hope that Christians will really drop their end times madness. I get tired of hearing constantly that we all know we’re living in the last days and that the end of the world is coming and we are that generation. Every other generation has been wrong, but we are the exception! The good thing is these end times people can be disproven pretty quickly as they don’t usually make predictions about events hundreds of years from now, but rather events due to happen soon. The bad part is that when they are disproven, no one calls them to repentance and they keep going. I have said before it must be nice to be a prophecy expert. You can write whatever you want and just say it’s in the Bible by whatever bizarre hermeneutic you want, you can be taken as a serious authority, sell books all around the world and be a bestseller, be absolutely wrong in all you say, and yet you still qualify as an expert.

Second, I have a dream of Christians being experts in other areas. I meet so many Christians who say they want to study end times prophecy and know all about that. How rarely do I meet Christians who want to say “I want to learn all I can about the Trinity.” One reason is end times prophecy is often about us and we love ourselves. We love thinking that we are so special as a chosen generation. The Trinity is not about ourselves. Oh it has implications for us of course, but it is largely about God. Of course, if one wants to study end times prophecy, go ahead, but please make sure it does not take the place of more important doctrines. If you know all about end times prophecy and have your charts and graphs of Revelation and Daniel all filled out, but you have no clue how to argue Jesus rose from the dead, there’s a problem.

Third, let’s hold our leaders accountable. We would want them to be held accountable if they spent money we donated in tithes in a wrong way. We would want them to be accountable if they were caught in sexual misconduct. Yet people spread untruths about Scripture on a serious level that produces embarrassment for the church as a whole and we don’t want to do anything? Hagee’s book has the subtitle of “Something’s About To Change.” What that something should include is the fact that he is still broadcast on television and that he still has a leadership position in the body of Christ.

As many of us predicted, nothing happened with the latest fit of end times madness, except for the usual. Christians ended up looking foolish to the rest of the world. Let’s start holding up our speakers and leaders as accountable and even making sure we’re careful about who we choose to have those positions. The credibility of the Gospel is at stake.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Christianity As Therapy

Have we lost the focus in our Christianity today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christianity. What’s it about? Well let’s look at the name. In it, we see the name “Christ”, so that could perhaps tell us that Christianity is about Christ, but there are too many times you can go to a church service or listen to Christian music and very little of it is about Jesus. Most of our sermons have turned immediately to application and much of our music is not really to enter us into the throne room of God, but rather to get us feeling good about ourselves. In fact, we could even say that some songs that are being sung on Christian stations today are explicitly being sung to the audience instead of to God.

Now of course, this is not to say that application in sermons is unimportant. Every good sermon should have application, but that application should come after telling us what the text means, what it tells us about God and what it tells us about Jesus, and what it meant to the people back then, and then we see how it applies to ourselves. It’s fine to have songs to remind us of who we are in Christ, but we should always have it that the song is mainly about Jesus and our reply can only be awe, but too often, our Christianity has turned into therapy. Instead of equipping us for war, we are being told to feel good about ourselves, as if that is the goal of the Christian life and if we don’t feel good about ourselves, then there’s something wrong.

Good Christian. If you are walking in the path well, there will be many times you feel miserable about yourself and that’s a good thing. You will feel miserable because you know you serve a holy God and you fall short. In fact, it is only by the feeling miserable part that you can come to appreciate the good part. We can often have two extremes. We can seek to have an emotional high with no connection to reality other than that we are supposed to feel this way as good Christians supposedly, or we can have a part where we tear ourselves to shreds regularly and feel miserable while forgetting that the word “Gospel” refers to good news. Christianity should be news that gives us hope. We thus either live in la la land unaware of the pains of the world and acting as if they should be foreign, or we live in the pains and just say “Well someday I will be in Heaven but I must trudge through Hell for now.” Neither of these are Biblical.

Of course, in all of this, I want to be clear that I am not disparaging therapy. Therapy is essential for many Christians, and there are reasons to have therapy. It could be because of a valid mental or psychological condition. It could be because of a trauma one has gone through. It could be because of an addiction one is struggling with. It could be for advice on dealing with someone else, such as a loved one, having such a problem. All of these are valid and thank God we have therapists who can help, but the goal of therapy should not be to help us to feel good about ourselves, though that does not mean it is bad if that happens, but the goal of therapy should be that we are to be holy.

And isn’t that what we’ve lost so much of? We’ve lost holiness. We have forgotten that Christ in our lives and the work of the Holy Spirit is to make us more like Jesus. It’s not just to make us mentally or psychologically fit. We are to be holy and that holiness means that we are to die to ourselves every day. I suspect much of the problem in our psychology is really that we don’t think about sin as much any more. We ask God to take away wrong desires, but we don’t ask God to make us holy. We don’t strive for holiness. We want God to allow us to stay in our comfort zone. If you want to be holy, you are going to have to be uncomfortable because holiness is not the natural state of fallen man and God will have to do some serious renovations on you to get you to be holy.

When we take this approach, we also lose the grandeur of God. We get so caught up in ourselves and our feelings and our world and what we’re going through that everything else seems distant. I’d like to say that I’m immune to this, but I know I am not. With my personality, empathy is very hard for me. My wife is the one who constantly has to remind me when we pray about the other people on our list and I have no doubt that her heart beats more for them than my does. My struggles seem larger than life, but everyone else’s just so often don’t really matter. So yes, what I say to you I also say to myself. I often wonder why it is that I don’t think about God as much as I do? Again, my wife puts me to shame in this area as if she thinks God seems absent to her, it absolutely kills her and she hates the loneliness. At the same time, we must always remember we are to seek God not to feel good about ourselves, but because we know that He is good in Himself and we owe everything to Him.

The worldview that we follow is Christianity. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about Him. Are we applying the proper focus today?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Good Theology Is Essential

Is theology only for nerdy intellectuals? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Theology is often seen as a difficult topic, and indeed it is. Not many people are really interested in trudging deep into the world of theology. After all, God is such a hard topic to understand and you can never really wrap your head entirely around Him and will it really help my Christian life to be able to know that God is simple or to be able to have a working definition of omnipotence? Don’t I just need to know Jesus? These can be common concerns, especially for the layman, but could it be that these concerns are really keeping people from a treasure trove of knowledge that could greatly benefit them?

Some of you might think theology is too difficult to do, but the reality is you are already doing theology. Theology is any study of God and if you have any idea of God whatsoever, then that is your theology. Even atheists have a theology. They have an idea of the deity that they don’t believe in. (And if your idea of God can be compared to a flying spaghetti monster, you are missing the point big time.) The question then is not if you are going to do theology. You are. The question is if you are going to do it well or not.

Of course, depending on your intellectual abilities, you might have some limitations to how well you can do theology, and that is understandable. God did not call you to become a Ph.D. in theology necessarily, but He does ask that you know Him. If you’re content with saying that you would prefer to just sit in a church service and feel good about the worship services, then you’re in a sense using God. It’s like a man saying that he doesn’t really want to know his wife better than he does, but he sure wants to have access to the sex. Well he could get the sex from a number of women. In the same way, you can get good feelings from a number of different sources besides worship. (Including sex itself of course) Would it not be better to have the emotions that come from worship be informed by what makes those truths you’re hearing so glorious?

It also depends on where you’re going to go to get your information about God. Many of you reading this will say “The Bible” and I certainly agree that the Bible is a great place to go to get information about God, but it is not the only place. I think if you want to use the Bible, you should also have at least a basic apologetic as to why you think Christianity is true and why you think the Bible is at least reliable. If you claim that that book is different from every other book, you need to have a reason why you think that book is different from any other book and it needs to be one that Muslims and Mormons could not give about their book or books.

A dangerous way to get your theology is going primarily on your feelings and experiences, and yet this is where we go the most today. How many times do you hear in a church service to do as you feel led, which automatically assumes that God is going to tell you what He wants you to do by your feelings. There are plenty of ministers who have affairs and scandalize the church and I can assure you one reason that they do so is that they have some really good feelings in them telling them to go forward. In no other area of life that I can think of would we tell people to live by their feelings, but here in what is supposed to be the most important area of life, we tell people to do just that.

Does that mean your feelings and experiences are useless? Not necessarily. I would try to point to feelings that have a more Biblical basis, such as joy. If you are feeling hate towards your neighbor in your heart, you need to ask why. You could also consider keeping a prayer journal. For my part, I have a Kindle Fire and use the Mobile Knee App. When you see prayer requests being answered, make a note of it. That way you can look back on past experiences you’ve had and see that God has brought you through hard times. You can also hear testimonies of other people who have walked through the valley of suffering and came out the other end just fine.

If you want to be a really heady individual, you can go to reason and see what you can get by metaphysical thinking alone. For that, you could go straight to Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, but you might be better off served by reading someone who summarizes the Summa such as Peter Kreeft. At any rate, I would definitely say you should be reading other people. Too many of us have so much pride that we think we alone are the ones who have studied the Bible and there’s no need to learn from those around us and those who have gone before us. If you really want to learn about God, you need to learn from people who have walked the road before you and are walking it around you.

Of course, I pointed to the Bible earlier but even here, there are difficulties. Are you going by what the passage means to you or really trying to figure out what it means? If you think you don’t need any help with studying the Bible, there’s no reason to even really go to church on Sunday. After all, who cares what a preacher is saying from the pulpit? He has no more skill than you do! Your preacher every Sunday is basically trying to give you a commentary on the text that is being talked about and largely focusing on the application of that text to your own life today.

Again, you have help here. There are plenty of resources available. We have a plethora of commentaries today that you can look at and you can find many great books at your local library. If you aren’t interested in an apologetics debate, try to get material from good evangelical publishers like Zondervan or IVP. If you were a woman and you received a love letter from a man you were interested in, most likely you would go over that letter with a fine-tooth comb and try to find the meaning in any little nuance that you could. Should you not treat what you call the Word of God so much more seriously?

Bart Ehrman, not a friend of Christianity, has talked about asking students who come into his class these questions.

“How many of you think the Bible is the Word of God?”

Several hands go up.

“How many of you have read the Harry Potter series?”

Several hands go up.

“How many of you have read the whole Bible?”

Few hands go up.

Ehrman’s point that he concludes from this is indeed valid. He can understand wanting to read the Harry Potter series and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that of course, but if you think a book that you have is a message from God Himself, shouldn’t you really want to read that book and understand it? If we don’t want to do that, perhaps we might want to take a look at ourselves and ask if we are taking God as seriously as we could.

The best place to go however is to look to Jesus. Jesus is said to be the one who shows us the Father. I like to describe Jesus as “God with skin on.” If you want to know what God is like, just look to Jesus. We should seek to know Jesus, but we know Jesus so we can know God. Jesus came to give not a revelation of Himself but rather to give one of the Father. It is because of Jesus that we can know God. This is something that needs to be kept in mind by those of us in apologetics who get a lot of our theology from good metaphysics but can rarely stop to ask how it is that Jesus informs our theology other than telling us about the Trinity.

I contend that if you do this, you will have a better rock when it comes to hard times. You will have something you can stand on. Your knowledge of God is only as reliable as the foundation that you build it on. If you build it on your feelings and experiences, then when those change, so will your knowledge of God. If you build it on a more reliable source, such as good metaphysics, Scripture, or Jesus, you will have much more you can go on. Also, this will inform your worship more. It will not detract from the joy you experience in worship to know more about the God you are worshiping. How could it? That would be like saying you don’t want to get married because why on Earth would you want to get to know someone and spend the rest of your life with them when you could just be having sex with them?

If you also take this route, one other idea you might be wanting to consider is getting a mentor. I suggest men get men for mentors and women get women. I myself in fact have a mentor. I have several men who are mentors to me, but one in particular who I email every night to help me on the path of spiritual development. Find someone you think would be capable of being your mentor and ask them if they are willing to guide you on that road. If they say yes, you can have a trusted friend who will share the journey with you.

Knowledge of God is not an add-on to the Christian life. It is an essential. If you don’t want to learn about the God you claim to be the greatest good in your life, maybe you should ask if He is really the greatest good in your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Talking Doctrine

What do I think of this book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Talking Doctrine is a book about Mormons and evangelicals in conversation. On the face of it, I have no problem with that. In fact, I think it’s a wonderful idea and it would be fascinating to extend it to other groups if they were willing. Still, as I kept going through this book, I found it in many ways quite disturbing. I am not opposed to friendship with people who are Mormons. Not for a moment. I am not opposed to dialogue with them. We should have that. I am not opposed to having conversations where we can each understand the position of the other all the more. What I am concerned about is that it looked like too often both sides were wanting to say “We’re really not as different as we thought”, but it’s more the evangelicals that are bending instead of the Mormons.

Many important issues are talked about, like the doctrine of divine exaltation, but many are not talked about. Polygamy is talked about some, but there is little discussion of what it means that Joseph Smith had multiple wives. Nothing is really said about Joseph Smith’s reputation and use of a seer stone. Nothing is said about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I understand wanting to avoid polemics, but sometimes those who are polemical could actually be right about something. One concerning chapter is Sarah Taylor’s about being an evangelical at BYU and talking to her friend Billy about if God could have sinned. One can easily imagine what the early church would have said about that and how hard they would have fought for it. Billy instead says the atonement would cover that which Taylor took to mean he was taking the atonement more seriously. She then writes:

All at once, it hit me that Billy—Mormon, God-may-have-sinned Billy—was a Christian. Whenever he talked about Jesus, he talked like a man in love, and that was just it for me.

So here apparently is the criteria for telling if someone is a Christian. It is not if they call Jesus Lord and savior and believe in his resurrection (Although to be fair, Mormons all claim that). It is to look and see if they talk like they love Jesus. We can be sure that the early Gnostics could have talked the exact same way showing a great love for Jesus, but the early church would not have budged an inch. The Jesus was different and indeed, the Jesus of Mormonism is different from the Jesus of Christianity.

While I would hope to have more dialogue, at the same time, it looks like many hard issues are being brushed away. Mormons set out at the beginning saying all the other churches were an abomination and now they’re wanting to be included in the fold and say they’re one of us. Color me suspicious of all of this. I can say that Mormons tend to be some of the nicest people you meet, which should put Christians to shame. I can say that they share the same values many of us who are Christians share and were quite helpful with Prop 8 in California. I can say that I would not mind having Mormon friends. I cannot say that we worship the same God and many times that it looked like evangelicals and Mormons were worshiping together in the book I found quite concerning.

I am for dialogue, but I am not for conceding truth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Affirm The Virgin Birth

Are there good reasons to affirm Jesus was born of a virgin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few months ago I was on the Unbelievable? forum and someone was there speaking about the “mysterious silence of Paul” as it’s often thought to be. You would think that if there was such a reality as the virgin birth, that Paul would have mentioned it. A friend of mine and I pointed out that this is not so. After all, just because you believe in something does not mean you have to affirm it everywhere you go. I’ve written many blog posts that do not mention the virgin birth. I’ve interviewed many scholars and nowhere in our conversations do we mention it many times. I’ve heard many sermons that never mention the virgin birth.

Of course, this doesn’t say why Paul wouldn’t mention it. Aside from some times in Acts, we do not get much of the oral tradition of Paul, except for when he is quoting creeds. Paul no doubt had a strong oral tradition and preached for years in the areas he visited. It would be foolish to think that everything he taught could be found in the letters. In Paul’s world, he lived in a high-context society, which meant a strong background knowledge was assumed. There was no need to repeat in a letter much information that had already been shared save to make a rhetorical point, and Paul apparently never saw the need to repeat in a letter that Jesus was virgin born.

But we still need more.

Okay. Well one point worth mentioning is how radically different Matthew and Luke are in their birth narratives. This does not mean they can’t be harmonized, but it does present an interesting scenario. If Luke was just copying Matthew, why would he differ so radically from him? If Luke is not using Matthew, then we have the case that we have two independent accounts. Having independent accounts definitely helps out a historical claim.

Of course, we still need more.

The virgin birth would also just reek of paganism. Now I don’t think the pagans had stories of virgin births really, but they did have stories of unusual births. They did have accounts that certainly showed Zeus to be a player who wanted to have sex with every attractive female he saw. Christianity however did have its roots in Judaism, at least at the start, and Matthew is the most Jewish of the accounts. If Matthew is wanting to present the Gospel to Jews, he’s certainly not going to give something to them that they would think was borrowed from the pagans. That’s the last thing that would convince them.

In fact, Matthew would likely not want to mention this as at all much like Mark and John didn’t.

So why didn’t they?

Well John has an even more exalted beginning, but let’s look at Mark. Mark is supposed to be the account of Peter told through Mark. If so, Peter was not there at the birth of Jesus. Peter is giving an account of the ministry of Jesus and not giving a life story. Matthew and Luke are giving a little bit more. Still, this doesn’t answer why Matthew would not want to mention the virgin birth.

Probably because it would give shame to Jesus.

Yes. Seriously.

To say this would give credence to the charge that Jesus was illegitimate and that there was something odd about his birth. In a Jewish culture, this could be taken care of by stoning the woman. Mary would have been better going with most any other story. It would have been more believable to say she got raped by a Roman soldier or to say that she and Joseph just couldn’t wait until the wedding. Instead, she gives an account that she was pregnant by the divine action of YHWH. Now if you’re pregnant out of wedlock and you’re a Jew, the last thing you want to do is to instigate God in the action.

And yet this is the story that was presented.

Also, some people might argue that today, we happen to know that virgins don’t give birth. Well check this out. They knew that back then today. There has not been a time since the supposed rise of science that we have made the new discovery that it takes sex to make a baby. This is nothing new. Everyone knew it. Jewish parents would just as much talk about the birds and the bees as any other parents would today. We can say that the account is miraculous, but let us not say that it was based on ignorance and today we know better. The ancients knew quite a bit about sex and its connection with babies.

If the virgin birth was not true, then we would have an account that would be shameful and would be seen as a direct affront on YHWH Himself. Why is it the account is in there? I think David Instone-Brewer sums it up well in The Jesus Scandals. It’s in there because it’s true and something had to be said to answer charges of illegitimacy.

In the end, I conclude that the virgin birth is a true account and matches with the life of Jesus. This is why I affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Serving God in the Valley

Is the Christian life all sunshine and rainbows? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You know what? Sometimes being a Christian is miserable. We have often had this bizarre idea given to us that the Christian life is just full of joy constantly and it’s a wonderful life. Now I agree that it is to be a life of joy, but joy does not mean always a feeling of happiness. Sometimes, you can have joy and have sorrow too. How? Because you can be going through a time of pain and have an intense struggle with it, but you can somewhere know this is not how it’s supposed to be and that things will get better. As Paul said concerning those who had died already, we mourn, but we don’t mourn like those who have no hope.

Sometimes in struggles, it’s possible to wonder if God is really good. This is definitely a problem. There can be a harder struggle. It can be even harder if you absolutely know God is good. I won’t go into the metaphysical arguments for this, though they can be found in a book like Aquinas, but I can say that I know that God is good, and sometimes that can be horrible. If you know what you need to know about God, you know that He’s working things for your good. C.S. Lewis once said we don’t often fear the best, but we just fear how painful the best will be.

Unfortunately, when the suffering comes, many of us can think that getting angry with God is the answer. Now in a sense, I’m not going to ban you from getting angry with God. It’s understandable at times and I have had my times of arguments with the Almighty as well. If you read the Psalms, this was a common theme. The trouble is that when we get angry with God, we often pull a sort of avoidance tactic. It’s kind of like we think we can blackmail God or twist His arm emotionally. It’s saying that if we get angry and go away from God, that He’s obviously going to want to come after us. After all, we are so important. Now sometimes He does, but many times, He doesn’t.

God is not like that. God is not dependent on us. We are dependent on Him and when we run from Him, we only hurt ourselves. It’s so saddening that we don’t truly turn to God in the midst of our suffering. We want God to take away the pain, but we don’t often want Him to take away the sinful desires we often have that lead to the pain. I heard a story recently about a pastor who had an affair with a woman and he had kept praying that God would remove his contact with her so he wouldn’t stumble. Unfortunately, he too late realized he did not pray for God to take away his sinful desires and to give him a greater desire for his spouse. I cannot tell you how the story ended unfortunately, but I think it was ended tragically.

Many times, we suffer not because of the circumstances, but because of the condition of our hearts, and much of our worst suffering is because of this. Your attitude towards suffering makes all the difference in the world. In any hospital in this country, you can find people with very similar diagnoses of conditions like cancer. What makes the difference many times? It’s the attitude people approach it with. Even if it’s incurable and the person will die, many of them can approach death with happiness not because they necessarily want to be free from suffering, though that’s part of it, but because they’ve lived their lives well and can look back with joy and have embraced every day and if they’re Christians, are looking forward to more.

When my wife and I were apartment hunting once, we found an apartment with a stray cat who had been abandoned by his owners and was scrounging around the complex looking for anything it could to eat, but unfortunately, people who lived there were starting to complain. My wife really had a heart for this cat and wanted it. We decided to acquire the cat, but that meant catching it first. As you can imagine, the cat happily went to the people who wanted to give him to us and leaped right into our arms ready to go to a nice home. No. Of course he didn’t. The cat ran away and we had to catch it. To make matters worse, our first stop was the vet. I’m sure this cat was thrilled that just as we got him, we took him to see a strange person who touched him, explored his mouth and such, and stuck needles in him. Much of the time he spent in a kitty carrier as well.

This cat was not happy. These people were taking him away somewhere he didn’t want to go and even when we got home, he ran under our bed. I told my wife we just needed to go to sleep. He’ll let us know when he’s ready. Sure enough, around 2:20 in the morning, I heard the meowing and being the ever loving and caring husband I said “Honey. Wake up. The baby needs you.” Well we both got up and we fed him and little by little, he started trusting us. For awhile, he wouldn’t even eat unless my wife was watching him. What’s the result today? Before he goes to bed every night, he comes on my wife’s side of the bed and snuggles up with her and gives what we call “kitty kisses.”

How many of us are just like that?

How many of us run from the good that is waiting us because we think it’s harmful?

Or how many of us run to lesser goods? Think about the man who is running to pornography instead of having a fulfilling sexual relationship with his own wife. Think about the tendency many of us have to avoid the pain of healthy living because it will hurt, all the while not realizing what we’re doing is hurting us long-term. Think about how many of us don’t read and study when we should because it’ll be boring, when we forget that learning about God can often be an act of service to Him and others to enable us to better live the Christian life. We put our own lives on hold for all these lesser goods when the greater good awaits us. As C.S. Lewis said, we are far too easily pleased. In reality, the way of God is the path to greater joy.

Let’s consider some examples.

We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. You know how hard it can be to hate your neighbor? I understand having to remove yourself from some people at times. There are relationships I’ve had to end, but I have to work to avoid the active hatred sometimes. How about forgiveness? Do we really think we’re better when we don’t forgive someone, including ourselves? We go around holding on to pain and misery because we refuse to either receive grace or give grace. How many sexual problems in our marriages could be avoided if husbands and wives would both learn to lovingly give themselves to one another instead of using sex as a weapon regularly? As some marriage experts I was listening to lately said, the Bible doesn’t really say as much as we might think to married people, but one thing it speaks about is having sex regularly.

God’s way actually does bring joy when you follow it. Sure, it’s hard and can have it’s own suffering on the way, but in the long run, it works.

Is it hard to do? Sure it is.

And you know what? Many times it will not be sunshine and rainbows. It will require that you die to yourself.

But it will be worth it.

Today, let’s try to stop running from the good things and start running to them, and let’s not settle for the lesser joys when the greater joys of God await.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Will justice ever come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Justice is something interesting. Many of us are great advocates of justice. We talk about social justice and the justice of equal rights and if a war is just or if a punishment fits the crime which is also a question of justice. For the Christian, we also want justice. Let’s face it. People often do wrong to us in this life and we want some justice. The Psalmist can relate to us, or rather we can relate to him, in saying that we can go and ask how long. How long will this go on?

I thought about this last night. Justice is odd in that it’s something that we greatly desire, except we desire it for everyone else. Of course, in some ways, that’s so with the other virtues. We want others to be patient with us, but we’re not so quick to ask to be patient with others. We want others to forgive us, but we don’t look to see if we’re forgiving others. We want others to love us, but we don’t often strive to love others. We want others to listen to and understand us, but we don’t often seek to listen to and understand others.

Imagine how it would be if you prayed to God for justice and you heard the voice from Heaven speaking to you and saying “Yes. Justice. Very well. I shall dispense it now. I will start with you.” Most of us would not be too crazy about that prayer. Justice is great as long as it starts with everyone else, and yet 1 Peter 4 emphasizes starting with the household of God. When we think about justice, we often do so without realizing the gravity of our own sins. Now of course we should think about justice and we should desire justice and we should seek to bring about justice in this world, but we should do so in humility knowing that we deserve justice too and in fact, we will get justice.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But let’s also have a basic argument for justice.

The greatest good of all in this world on Christian theism is God Himself. God seeks His glory the most as that is the greatest good. Any sin is an affront to the glory of God. It matters not how big or how small. Of course, there are degrees of crime, but all will be dealt with. If God ignores any of them, then He is ignoring an affront to His glory, and He would only do so because He considers something greater than His own glory, but there can be nothing greater than God. Therefore, God will make sure justice comes some day.

Now does that include even for forgiven sinners? Yes. Oh we’ll spend eternity with God, but we can determine the kind of eternity we’ll have by how we live in this life. We will all give an account for how we handled this life. (This is something I stress to husbands especially since you are to give an account for how your families turned out and what kind of husband and father you were. Serious charge!) If we do not take that seriously, it is because we are not taking God seriously. If we are not taking our own sin seriously, we are not taking God seriously. This is something that we see happen. We usually ask God to remove the source of temptation from outside of us, such as food, drugs, alcohol, a person of the opposite sex, etc. We do not ask Him to deal with the problem in us that causes us to be tempted to that degree in the first place. The problem is with us for the most part.

Justice delayed is also not justice denied. Anyone who works a cold case can tell you this. These cases don’t often come to trial for decades. Still, justice is given. Sometimes, crimes will escape an earthly tribunal. While this is a tragedy, no one gets away free. There is a heavenly tribunal and there is no partiality and favoritism there. There is no fooling the judge who knows all.

And I hope that just put the fear of God in you to an extent.

Pray for justice and long for it, but remember you will be judged just as much. Pray that you will stand and seek to live a holy life so you can all the while relying on the grace of God in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/19/2015: Rob Bowman

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s a nice Saturday morning and you’re sitting at home when you hear the doorbell ring. You go and open the door to find two men dressed in nice black pants and white shirts and with black name badges saying that they are elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Who are these people? They are awfully nice to most of us, but are they really Christians? They’re normally known as Mormons and much of their history has had an air of mystery all around it.

Some of that mystery has recently been unveiled. The Mormon church has released photos of the seer stone used by Joseph Smith in supposedly translating the Book of Mormon. What does this mean for Mormonism today? What do Christians need to know about it? What do Christians need to know about Mormons overall? While I have had an interest in Mormonism before, being in Charlotte and being regularly visited by them and debating them on TheologyWeb, it’s not the area I focus on, so why not bring on someone who knows more about Mormons? That someone is someone who was on the show early on and is coming back for his second visit. That is Rob Bowman.

So who is Rob Bowman?

Rob Bowman

And according to his bio:

Robert M. Bowman Jr. is the executive director at the Institute for Religious Research in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The organization’s website is IRR.org. Rob has lectured on biblical studies, religion, and apologetics at Biola University, Cornerstone University, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of about over sixty articles and the author or co-author of thirteen books including Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ and Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. He holds the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and South African Theological Seminary.

The story of the stone is really big news coming from the Mormon church and this gives us a good chance to discuss this movement. We will talk about the history of Mormonism from this point. We could get into discussions on the nature of the golden plates. After all, many critics of Christianity say that the golden plates were seen by eyewitnesses just like the risen Christ was said to do and these eyewitnesses supposedly did not recant their testimony. Is that accurate? What are the likely ramifications of the Mormon church for this? What do we see happening in the future of Mormonism and how can Christians best answer and prepare to answer the Mormons who come to their door?

I hope you’ll be tuning in to this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast as we talk about Mormonism and what the latest news means for Christians and for Mormons alike. Rob Bowman is a highly diligent researcher in every topic he discusses and you won’t be disappointed hearing him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters