Book Plunge: Jesus and The Remains Of His Day

What do I think of Craig Evans’s latest book published by Hendrickson Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the latest ETS meeting, with a little bit of spending money my in-laws gave me as an early Christian gift, I was quite excited to go to the bookstore and while in that area, where books are sold for discount prices before the rest of the public gets them, I found Craig Evans’s newest book. Naturally, that was one that jumped immediately to the top of my list. Evans is an awesome scholar and anything that he writes is worth reading about. This book in particular is about archaeological discoveries and the impact they have on our understanding of Jesus and like his others, it does not disappoint.

This is a book that could take you about a week to finish, but it will be time well spent. The material is thoroughly researched with a plethora of footnotes. It’s also highly readable. You don’t need to be too familiar with archaeology or the Greek language to understand what’s going on. Right now, if there was one book I would recommend someone read on the topic of Jesus and archaeology, it would be this one.

Evans also starts off saying that archaeology does not prove or disprove. You cannot go to an archaeological finding and say “Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead”, but you can certainly use it as information in your case. It’s simply amazing how much out there exists in the field of Biblical archaeology and how much we can learn about the life of Jesus based on what is being dug up in the Middle East. This is something that really separates the Old and the New Testaments from so many of the other holy books out there. So what all is covered?

The first chapter is about Bethsaida and Magdala and what we can learn from these cities. Helpful in this chapter also will be the critique of the idea that synagogues did not exist in the time of Jesus, which is a growing idea on the internet, but not so much a growing idea among actual scholars in the field. Knowing about Bethsaida will also give us more information about Peter, Andrew, and Philip, which Magdala naturally gives us a little bit of information about Mary Magdalene.

Chapter 2 deals with the Jesus boat and the supposed house of Peter. These provide us information about the base of operations that Jesus likely worked from in His ministry as well as the kind of boat that Jesus would have been on with His disciples in the storm. While it’s doubtful that this is the exact same boat, there’s no reason to think that Jesus was not on a boat much like this one. Finally, there’s an interesting piece in this chapter on the James ossuary which has been debated back and forth and Evans presents the latest evidence on it for the interested reader.

Chapter three looks at the evidence for Caiaphas, Pilate, and Simon. We have in fact found the ossuary for Caiaphas. Meanwhile, Bruno Bauer, the first one to largely present the idea that Jesus never existed was also skeptical that Pilate existed. Now we have found evidence for Pilate in the form of a stone slab. It’s worth noting also (though I don’t think Evans mentions this) that those who are skeptical of Jesus when going to Tacitus might be surprised to learn that the only place Tacitus mentions Pilate is also the only place where he mentions Jesus. Evans also in this chapter looks at what we can find out about Simon, the man who carried the cross of Christ.

In Chapter four, Evans looks at literacy in the ancient world and gives his case that Jesus was someone who was capable of reading. Jesus being a good rabbi and able to interact with scribes and producing a movement that had people who could read and write well would quite likely himself have been one such individual. He also points out how while literacy might have been lower in the rest of the world, that we could expect matters to be different in the area of Israel since these were people that did bind their religious identity, which was central to them, around written words.

I found chapter five particularly interesting where Evans talks about Psalm 91 and how it was seen by the Jews at the time of Jesus. Many of us are familiar with the idea of the Psalms as a spiritual medicine cabinet and if you’re in some sort of danger, well go to Psalm 91. Apparently, we’re not the only ones. Psalm 91 was seen at the time of Jesus as an exorcism song and it was meant to keep away demonic powers. Jesus Himself is also said to be an exorcist and have exceptional skill at casting out demons and this without using any magic, drugs, or artifacts that existed in His day.

Chapter six concerns the idea of hanging and crucifixion in Second Temple Israel. What did it mean to have someone be crucified? How did that relate to the notion of hanging on a tree? Evans looks at symbols found in catacombs as well as the writings of the DSS to show what the view was on crucifixion at the time. He looks at skeletal remains that we have of crucifixion as well as looking at writings and artwork outside of the Jewish culture to show that this was seen as a curse.

In Chapter seven, Evans looks at burial in the ancient world. This will be an incredibly important chapter nowadays with Bart Ehrman recently taking his strange position on the burial of Jesus. The whole point of this chapter is asking how families handled death together in burial. Could we expect that even those who were buried would be buried in family tombs? Those who are interested in the recent case of Ehrman should read this chapter.

Chapter eight begins with a line that should be written in gold for all the people online who think mythicism is just the latest thing and that scholars aren’t even sure if Jesus existed. On page 147, we read:

“No serious historian, of any religious or nonreligious stripe, doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea and Samaria.

From there we go to various claims in the Gospels themselves about the burial of Jesus. Would Jesus have been buried? Why should we think that? What about the idea that Pilate would release a prisoner on Passover? Isn’t that just a fiction? He also looks at the question of if Jesus anticipated his own death. The interested reader will also find information on the relationship of Annas and Caiaphas to the high priesthood and how this all played out in history.

Chapter nine looks at the old idea of the Talpoit tomb as the supposed burial place of Jesus. Of course, having someone like Craig Evans going after this is kind of like using a bazooka to kill a fly in your house, but he does of course effectively get the job done.

Chapter ten wraps it up by looking at views in the world at the time of Jesus on the question of the afterlife. Many of us today have the idea that the message of the resurrection would have been welcomed by so many because, hey, who wouldn’t want to live again? Well maybe it’s not that simple. Evans takes us across the spectrum and he looks at how Christians looked at the topic of death seriously.

This book is a tour de force. It is simple to read and I found it one that I did not want to put down. If you want to say anything about archaeology and the life of Jesus, you must get your hands on this book. Pick up a copy today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/28/2015: Phillip Wiebe

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast on 11/28/2015? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s a universal agreement among New Testament scholars that the disciples and others were convinced that they had seen the risen Jesus, but what was the nature of these appearances? Are we dealing with something like Jedi Jesus where Luke Skywalker sees old mentors of his around a fireplace but he can see right through them? Are we dealing with something being just in the head like a hallucination? Are we talking about something that is an altered state of consciousness? In order to address this, I’m having on the show Dr. Phillip Wiebe, author of the book Visions of Jesus. So who is he?


Here is some biographical information on Dr. Wiebe as well.

He is married to Shirley and they are parents of two children and grandchildren of four. He got a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Adelaide in South Australia in 1973. Starting in 1972 he was a philosophy professor at various universities in Manitoba and ending in 1978. From there, he went on to Trinity Western University in Langley, BC. He is not only the author of the above-mentioned book but also of God and other Spirits, and Intuitive Knowing As Spiritual Experience. He has also spoken on this topic in Oxford, Harvard, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Eugene (Oregon), Tacoma (Washington), Burlington (Vermont), Lublin Catholic University (Poland), and Leeds (UK). He has also given more than 55 lectures on the Shroud of Turin and is a member of the Vancouver Shroud Association. He is a member of the Ascension Anglican Church in Langley, BC.

In Wiebe’s research, he compared the resurrection appearances of Jesus to those that take place in altered states of consciousness and found that they did not match. We’ll be talking with him about this claim and the implications that follow from it. How is it that these appearances are so different from the visions that people see in altered states of consciousness? What about the possibility of something like cognitive dissonance going on? What about the group appearances and what about the appearances to people like James and Paul who were skeptical of the Christian movement?

If these were not hallucinations then, what are we left with? Does this mean that the apostles and others necessarily did see the bodily risen Jesus or could it have been something else? How can we best use this information when we make our case for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Could we say that perhaps these appearances would have turned out differently if the people back then had known about modern science?

As listeners of the show and readers of the podcast known, the resurrection of Jesus is one of my favorite areas to talk about and I’m certainly looking forward to this conversation on the appearances of the risen savior. Again, I will just be getting back from out of town so please excuse if there are any delays in getting this podcast out to you. I will be trying to do my best.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/21/2015: J. Warner Wallace

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast on November 21st? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I said yesterday, we are doing this early due to my being out of town so don’t worry if you don’t see the blog updating. On the weekend of the 21st, I will be doing a one-hour interview on the book God’s Crime Scene with J. Warner Wallace. In this, Wallace looks mainly at the scientific data for the existence of God to determine if the universe and what is in it is best explained by what’s inside the room or something outside of the room.

So who is J. Warner Wallace?


J. Warner Wallace is a cold case homicide detective, adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, popular national speaker, and author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene and ALIVE. His professional investigative work has been featured repeatedly on Dateline, FOX News, and Court TV. J. Warner’s professional investigative work has received national recognition; he’s been awarded the Police and Fire Medal of Valor “Sustained Superiority” Award, and the 2015 California Peace Officers Association COPSWEST Award for Cold-Case Investigation of the Year. J. Warner also continues to appear as an expert in a number of crime-based television series and is featured in God’s Not Dead 2. He’s part of a three-generation law enforcement family and has a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Jim wasn’t raised as a Christian. In fact, he was a conscientious and vocal atheist until he was 35 years old and always considered himself to be an “evidentialist”. His experience in law enforcement only served to strengthen his conviction that truth was tied directly to evidence. But J. Warner eventually took a serious and expansive look at the evidence for the Christian Worldview and determined that Christianity was true. J. Warner eventually served as a Youth Pastor for several years and planted a church in 2006. Along the way, he created and built the website as a place to post and talk about what he discovered related to the evidence supporting Christianity.

Jim speaks at churches, retreats and camps as he seeks to help people become “Christian Case Makers.” J. Warner’s work is focused on the historicity and deity of Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, the evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Christian worldview.

J. Warner’s first book, Cold-Case Christianity, provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts. Jim’s second book, God’s Crime Scene, examines eight pieces of evidence in the universe as it makes the case for God’s existence. Relying on over two decades of investigative experience, J. Warner’s books provide his readers with the tools they will need to investigate the claims of Christianity and make a convincing case for the truth of the Christian worldview.

Jim is married to Susie (the love of his life since 1979) and has four children. He lives in Southern California where he enjoys running on the beach and the trails and walking his trusty Corgi, Bailey.

Join is for a good hour talking about the boook. Again, I might not get this into your ITunes feed immediately, but I will try!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/14/2015: YEC vs. OEC

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

This week, I’m going to be putting announcements up early for the podcast. Why? Because I’m visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving and going early so that we can go to ETS/EPS together so if you’re there and you want to find me, let me know. We’ll see what we can do. Since I will be out, I do not plan on blogging and I cannot guarantee I’ll get the show in your ITunes feed ASAP, but I’m going to try! Today, I’ll be writing about what’s coming up Saturday and then tomorrow, who will be on on the 21st, and then the next day my guest for the 28th.

Christians are not without their share of disagreements. One that often raises its head up today is the age of the Earth. What does the Bible teach? Is it in accord with what we know from science? Does science tell us that the Earth is young or old? What does that say about questions like animal death before the fall? Would God have created a good creation that had predatory activity in it?

A few months ago I was contacted by Jay Hall who wanted to come on my show to promote his book on YEC. Now I do not hold to YEC so I laid a condition. I could have him come on if he would be willing to debate an OEC. He agreed and when I sent out a call for one, Ben Smith answered the call. Books have been exchanged and I’ve read both of theirs. Now we prepare for the second debate we’ve had on Deeper Waters. Also, while I am OEC, I will do my best to avoid any bias and it will be up to you and my guests to decide if I did a good job.

Our first debater to enter the ring in this next episode is Jay Hall. Who is he?

Jay Hall_pic

According to his bio:

Jay Hall is Assistant Mathematics Professor at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas. He has a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Oklahoma. Hall has 53 credit hours of Science courses in various disciplines. He has taught at the High School, Technical School and Community College levels. He also has experience in the actuarial field for a number of insurance and consulting organizations. Hall has previously published the Math textbook Calculus is Easy and has a paper on MathWorld. (One-Seventh Ellipse) He is also a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. You may contact Jay Hall at, his website is – go here to find the YES-YoungEarthScience YouTube page and connect on the various social media platforms.

As you’ve probably guessed, Jay will be arguing for YEC.

Our second contender in the ring is Ben Smith. Who is he?

Ben Smith current photo

According to his bio:

Ben Smith has been studying and teaching theology and apologetics for 30 years since becoming a Christian while attending Ga. Tech. He is the author of the book Genesis, Science, and the Beginning available now on Amazon and Kindle. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Worldview and Apologetics from Luther Rice College and Seminary. He is the Ratio Christi Chapter Director at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton GA, teaches apologetics at Christ Fellowship Church, and is a regular speaker at the Atlanta chapter of Reasons To Believe ministries which meets at Johnson’s Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, GA. He is president of Discovering the Truth Ministries.

We’ll be discussing the issues of science and Scripture both on this show. I hope to have a fair debate and I hope to have you listening.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Coffee Cup Insanity

Are Christians really embarrassing themselves? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Being someone who lives in the south, I resonate with what Jeff Foxworthy once said in that the problem with being in the south is that we can’t keep the most ignorant among us off of the TV screen. Inevitably, when a disaster happens in the south, the worst representative of us is chosen to give the rest of the world a crazy picture of what we’re really like down here. The same problem often happens with Christianity. We have more than enough loudmouths out there who for some reason gather an audience even though they don’t really do anything worthwhile for the body and provide a good dose of entertainment for those outside who say “Yep. That’s what Christians are really like.”

Take Joshua Feuerstein for instance.

This is a guy who goes into a Starbucks and decides that since their cups are totally red aside from the Starbucks logo that Starbucks has declared a war on Christmas. He also has this notion that Starbucks employees are not allowed to say Merry Christmas. (Maybe they’re not saying it yet because we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet?) This despite the fact that Starbucks employees have said they can most definitely say Merry Christmas and despite the fact that plenty of Christians have posted who aren’t Starbucks employees but have said that their baristas have wished them a Merry Christmas.

Feuerstein’s idea then is to stick it to the man by telling the barista every time that his name is Merry Christmas. That way when they call out an order, they will have to say Merry Christmas.

It’s as if Feuerstein thinks that getting a barista at Starbucks to say Merry Christmas is like getting a vampire near garlic or Superman near green kryptonite.

So you see, Feuerstein is teaching Starbucks a lesson. He’s making sure that they wish everyone a Merry Christmas and he is forcing them to write Merry Christmas on the cups. If that isn’t enough, he wants you to join in and has a hashtag devoted to this. Yep. Gentlemen, start your engines! The revolution has begun!

There’s no nice way to say my thoughts on this.

This is stupid.

Let’s start by looking at the story that has been set up by his group themselves, the radicals.

When you look at the way the cups used to be, which while it’s hard for me to say I suspect they had more secular messages about reindeer and Santa than about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Of course, for the radicals, this is enough evidence that Starbucks is trying to remove Christ from Christmas. Fortunately, their own Josh Feuerstein has started a worldwide movement based on his idea. Gotta love the humility there. Not only is it there, but their own link on Facebook has the story that says a man has a genius idea and describes it as an epic win. As Feuerstein himself says

Its ok that some of you don’t agree with my methods. I still love you. Obviously at nearly 8 million views in 48 hours .. its connecting with the sentiments of a lot of others too!!!!

Yes. Because a lot of people are viewing this, that must mean it’s connecting with the sentiments of others.

I suppose that’s the same reason everyone stares at a car crash as they drive by it. It’s connecting with their sentiments. Because something goes viral does not mean that it’s a good idea that is connecting. Do we need to be reminded that we say the word viral and the word that it comes from is virus? I suspect most people are watching this not because they agree, but because they think this is incredibly ridiculous. (btw, why is it that Feuerstein is wearing a red cap that doesn’t have a Christmas message on it? Is he declaring war on Christmas?)

So to get back to the article, the idea is to go in, say your name is Merry Christmas, and force the barista to say it (Because you know they all hate that) and then take a selfie with it.

Again, stupid.

In fact, for wanting to teach Starbucks a lesson, if I was the CEO of Starbucks, I would be thrilled that this was going on. You see, either way, people would be coming into my stores and they would be buying my drinks and they would be taking pictures of my drinks and sharing them everywhere and this kind of talk only gets people talking about Starbucks all the more. I say this as someone who doesn’t even go to Starbucks. Whenever I am in one, I don’t care for coffee at all and instead choose to go with tea. I don’t see this to defend Starbucks or promote them as there are several other grounds that one could go against Starbucks on, but this is not one of them.

You see, let’s suppose you go and buy a drink from Starbucks and then take a video of yourself pouring it down the drain to show Starbucks how little you care about them. Well guess what? Starbucks got your money any way and frankly, they don’t care what you do with their drink afterwards. It’s the same thing with people who would buy copies of the Harry Potter book just to burn them. The publisher got your money anyway. They don’t really care what you do with the book after you buy it. In fact, I would think at this rate Starbucks would say next year they might not even have holiday colors on their cups to see if they can get even more people talking about them.

And let’s take a look at what is going on in the world around us. For instance, ISIS is busy killing off Christians in the Middle East. It would be interesting to see what they think about the cups, but I doubt they really have an opinion.

Starbucks Coffee Cups

You see, while Feuerstein is whining about coffee cups at Starbucks, there are real battles going on. There are real Christians that are being put to death under ISIS. There are real Christians being killed in China for their faith. Christians all over the world are suffering at the hands of real persecution. Every time you make an issue like this a war against Christians, you demean everything that those Christians are going through.

You don’t even have to go overseas. Look what’s going on in America. Christians are abandoning Christianity rapidly and one of the reasons is unanswered questions and that usually gets paired with the idea that Christians lack critical thinking skills. Guess what kind of feeds into that mentality? Not only do we have that, we have a culture that has justified anything in the area of sexuality saying that everything is okay as long as it’s love. So we have all of this going on and the war that we need to be fighting is that Starbucks doesn’t have coffee cups the way that we want them.

I don’t say this to defend Starbucks nor do I say that we should not question them on other grounds, but this is a ridiculous one and Feuerstein is just helping to increase their coverage. Anytime anyone talks about this, Starbucks gets free advertising. (I happen to think the big compromise is that they sell coffee which we know was created by the devil to lead us away from tea.) Not only that, Feuerstein is lowering the sacrifice of real Christians and making us all look like idiots out there. (I can also say real Christians since it’s been pointed out to me by my friend Marcia Montenegro of CANA that Feuerstein is actually a Oneness Pentecostal, a heretical sect that denies the Trinity.)

You might think that by having the barista shout out Merry Christmas, you’ll get people talking about Christmas. Um. No. First off, as it gets closer to Christmastime, you might be surprised but people talk about Christmas anyway. It’s kind of like the closer we get to Super Bowl Sunday, the more people talk about the Super Bowl. It’s just so amazing how it works like that. If they do talk about it, what might be said most is “Wow. Look at those dumb Christians whining about a war on Christmas. No wonder we shouldn’t take them seriously.” All it will ultimately do is make you look dumb, and you’ve already got Josh Feuerstein to do that for you. You don’t need to make it easier.

Furthermore, I’m going to go a step further. Let’s suppose Starbucks didn’t want to do anything for Christmas. Well that would be foolish I think, but that’s their right. That’s what freedom is in America. They don’t have to do anything. Starbucks, believe it or not, is not a church. They are not in the business of evangelism. Instead of whining about Starbucks not sharing Jesus this Christmas, maybe Christians should go out there and, I don’t know, share Jesus this Christmas? If Starbucks doesn’t want to, they don’t have to. That’s their right and that right will be defended.

Also, please do not speak about this as the “Coffee Cup Controversy.” There is no controversy going on. Give it a more fitting name. Call it the Coffee Cup idiocy or hoopla or nonsense, but certainly nothing that gives it the idea that there is really some merit to anything this guy is saying.

Go out and fight the real battles Christians and please don’t give people like Feuerstein a microphone. It will only be used to embarrass you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Unanswered

What do I think of Jeremiah Johnston’s book published by Whitaker House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Garth Brooks may be able to thank God for unanswered prayers, but unanswered questions are another matter. Unanswered questions can lead to people abandoning a Christian walk, such as what happened with Steve Jobs when he was just 13. In this book, Dr. Johnston sets out to answer some of the questions that are not normally answered. To be fair, he does answer some that are answered elsewhere often, such as the question of if Jesus rose from the dead and the last chapter is a chapter on the problem of evil, though it’s different from others in that it deals with the way Christians often think about evil instead of just “Why does a good God allow evil?”

Johnston’s book is engaging and easy to read. I have studied apologetics for years and there are many books that I frankly get bored during because I’ve read so much of it before, but not so with Johnston’s book. Johnston moves in between the intellectual and the personal in that he has not only a philosopher’s mind for what he does but he has the heart of a true pastor. This is also tied in with a thorough Biblical knowledge. Johnston not only wants to give the answers but he cares about the people to whom the answers will be given and this care is abundantly shown throughout the book.

Johnston starts his main arguments with having a faith centered on the resurrection. It’s a shame in our day and age that so many Christians know so much about the “end times” supposedly and how and when Jesus will return, but know next to nothing about the resurrection of Jesus. Plenty of people knew all about the Harbinger and about the blood moons and were watching those speakers on those topics, but how many of them are listening to Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, and William Lane Craig? How many of them even know who these people are? Christians get caught up in the sensational and ignore the essential.

Also, Johnston ends this section as all others with a rule of engagement on how to go and engage with those who disagree with the Christian faith. Each of these sections is a gift in itself.

The next chapter could be one of the most important ones Christians need to hear today and that’s the chapter on mental illness. As I have said before, mental illness is a serious problem in the church today and few know how to respond in love to silent sufferers. If we have someone come to the church in a wheelchair, few of us will shun such a person and hopefully no one would challenge him to a footrace. The tragedy with mental conditions is that you cannot see them for the most part. My wife and I both have Aspergers for instance and this is usually something we tell people because they can’t see it apparently. Some might guess, but it’s not as apparent as a wheelchair. How many people however fail to grasp how different the life is of someone with a mental condition and respond to them? Not only that, but we are often cruel to people who are suicidal, depressed, struggle with cutting, etc. by just telling them that they need to have more faith.

This has to stop.

If I keep going on that point, it will be a soapbox, so let’s get to the next one and that’s dealing with the paranormal, something not covered today. I did wonder sometimes where the line would be drawn in this one as I am a fantasy buff and I love worlds of mystery and magic. Still, the church is not doing a lot to address claims that are paranormal when in some ways, this is a gold mine that we could be jumping on. This tells us that people are open to a world that lies beyond simply matter. Why should the occult and New Age movement fill this vacuum? Why not let the church do that?

Next we come to Bible-ish Christianity. This is where Christians don’t really know their Bible as they should. They just have a simple knowledge and maybe not even from reading all the way through. I think this also happens too often when we get people to become Christians and immediately have them out doing evangelism before we seriously disciple them. (I could go a step more and say that I really don’t think we should even be focusing on conversions. Disciple someone first and make sure that they know what they’re getting into before they’re ready to say Jesus is Lord.) It would be wonderful if more of us could spend more time learning about what we claim to be the most important aspect of our lives. I’m not saying have no other interests. We all do. (We’ll pray for Dr. Johnston with his football interest) I’m saying that if you can devote time to your favorite TV show, you surely can to knowing Jesus.

Finally, Johnston has a section on suffering and a part he wants to hit at is how me-centric we are in our Christianity today. Everything is all about me and somehow we can know the will of God in our lives by looking at our experiences. It is a shame that too many people get their theology today from feelings and experiences instead of interacting with Scripture and with wise Christians past and present. Some might say that they are not trying to do theology, but everyone inevitably does theology. You just do good theology or you do bad theology, but there is no avoiding doing theology.

In conclusion, this is the kind of book that we need today. If I was a youth pastor at a church, I would be arranging a book study on this book right now! Young Christians will be better served studying this than by having endless pizza parties. Jeremiah Johnston has given the church a gift in this and we need to accept it and put it to use.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Mental Illness

Is there an elephant in the room? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What kinds of questions would an apologist most want to answer? Wouldn’t it be the questions that people are asking the most? Who wants to bother answering a question no one is answering? That makes sense, so why are we not answering the questions people are asking the most? What questions are those? Is it the question of creation vs. evolution? No. Is it the question of if the Bible is reliable? No. It is the question of did Jesus rise from the dead? No. Is it the question of just evil in general and why a good God allows that? No. If Jeremiah Johnston’s ministry is any gauge of questions, the #1 area of questioning that comes into his ministry of the Christian Thinkers Society is the question about mental illness and all that it entails. He has some fascinating information this in his book Unanswered.

And do you remember the last time you heard a sermon from the pulpit about reaching and helping those with mental illnesses and understanding them?

I can’t either.

It’s really quite sad how we treat these kinds of conditions. If we learn that brother Jim has come down with cancer, we’ll have the church put him on our prayer chain and we’ll bring some food over to his house so his wife doesn’t have to do all the cooking and we’ll visit him in the hospital and we’ll remind him that God is with him no matter what. If brother Jim instead had depression, we’d be more prone to tell him that he should just be reading his Bible more and to have a bit more faith and oh yeah, he also doesn’t need to worry about taking any of those strange medications for depression. He just needs to rely on Jesus. (I know that not all Christians would take this approach, but too many would)

There’s a reason that mental illness isn’t talked about much in the church and that’s one of them.

I am also in a unique position to write about this. Johnston in his book writes that most people you meet with mental illness will look and seem to act just like you. I know this well because I am one of them. Mental illness does not mean you’re stupid. Many of us can be very bright. It does not mean you don’t love Jesus. Many of us have a great love of Jesus. It does not mean you lack faith. Many of us strive to walk a life of faith just like the rest of you do. It just means we have something different in our brains that affects how we act much like someone with a physical disorder has something different in their body. You would not tell someone in a wheelchair that they have a lack of faith. (Okay. Again some would, but I hope most of you wouldn’t.) They just have something in some part of their body that prevents them from moving like normal. Why say the same to someone with a mental illness?

For those who haven’t been around my blog enough, the mental condition I have as well as my wife is Aspergers, which is a form of autism. It’s my understanding that the term Aspergers is being cycled out now, but I still prefer to use it. Force of habit maybe. What does it mean to be an “Aspie” as we call ourselves and not a “neurotypical” as we call you? Well we’re all quite different, but there are a number on the spectrum who are non-verbal and incapable of speaking much if any. That’s not my wife and I. It does mean we don’t understand social situations well and can have difficulty with eye contact and we can have fixations and get obsessed with matters easily. We do not have a mild interest in anything. We usually have an all-out interest in it. When you speak to us, chances are, we will not look you in the eye. I have found for me that if my schoolwork does not have some order or structure to it, I find it difficult to do it. We are also quite prone to taking terms literally when we shouldn’t. (Amusing since I am an orthodox Preterist who does not take many passages of the Bible in the “wooden literal” sense.)

What are the statistics on this? According to the CDC:

About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. [Read summary] [Read article]
ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. [Read summary] [Read article]
ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189). [Read article]
Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. A study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%. [Data table] [Read article]
About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. [Read summary]

Chances are someone in your church is on the spectrum and in fact, while I would consider myself a Christian speaker who is on the spectrum and someone with some degree of authority in the field, I am not the only one. My friend Stephen Bedard announced that he was recently diagnosed with autism here. He has a number of books available on Amazon including one he wrote with Stanley Porter. He and I discussed how to make a church more autism friendly on my show here.

Another prominent figure who is on the spectrum is in fact Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. Dr. Ross has an incredibly encyclopedic memory of the things that he has read, which is something a number of people on the spectrum have and has been an advocate for awareness of autism. He also came on my show during Autism Awareness Month to talk about his life with autism and that can be found in the second hour of my interview with him here.

Of course, autism isn’t the only disorder, but before I move on to another one, I want to say something. Many times when I read someone saying something about me, they will say that I suffer with Autism or Aspergers. This is inaccurate. I live with a condition. I have some extra burdens from the condition from time to time. I do not suffer because suffering is a choice. I in fact choose to thrive with my condition and I like some of the advantages I think my different brain wiring gives me. Frankly, if there came out a cure for autism disorders tomorrow and I could be given it for free, I doubt that I would take it. This does not mean that some people do not suffer, but it does mean that suffering is not a term that should be put on someone immediately.

How about depression? We can often think that this is surely a spiritual malady. After all, aren’t we to have joy in all things? Indeed, we are, and to be fair, there are a number of things someone with depression can do to improve their mood, but at the same time, there are medications that can help as well. We could tell someone recovering from a surgery that they need to do some exercises in order to get their body back into good condition again, but that does not mean we won’t give them pain medication. I have been in the hospital before for scoliosis surgery, which means I have a degree of curvature to my spine. It was corrected by strapping a steel rod onto my spine. (I tell Allie she’s married to the man of steel.) When I got out of the hospital, I was increasingly given limited exercises to do to learn how to simply walk again, but I was also given medication because I was in a heck of a lot of pain. Why should my back condition be seen as something it’s okay to take medication for and yet depression isn’t?

So let’s get some facts clear of some things to NOT say to a depressed person.

Do NOT say anything to increase their guilt, such as saying “If you loved Jesus more, you’d feel better.” “If you prayed more, God would deliver you.” “If you read your Bible more, you’d get over this.” Now I do think all of those are good but the reality is we can ALL improve on them. I think if we love Jesus more we will do better in life. If we pray more and read our Bibles more, we will be stronger in life, but that does not mean that we will have deliverance from depression. Am I saying God cannot heal? No. Am I saying miracles cannot happen? No. I am saying that we are not guaranteed these things and it could be sometimes God does not do a miracle because He wants to show the world what He can do through flawed creatures, like we all are.

Also, do not please say such nonsense as casting a demon out of someone who has depression. It’s very easy to blame a lot of problems on demons. If all of our sin was due to demonic activity, that would mean we are not responsible for any of it. We often talk in the church about how the devil is tempting us to do XYZ. Frankly friends, the devil doesn’t have to do anything to have me be tempted to sin. It’s pretty easy to find temptation all on my own. This is indeed an area where we all, depressed or not, have to learn to practice the spiritual disciplines. That is also a battle that ultimately never ends because we are all always continuing in sanctification.

And also, do not try to help the person seriously if you are not trained in doing so. The reality is those who try to “fix” someone with a mental condition can be more prone to doing a whole lot more harm than good, despite what their intentions may be. Of course, you should seek to help someone who is struggling with this and one of the best ways that you can do this is in fact by listening to such a person. You don’t necessarily have to offer advice. If the person is okay with it, you can give them a hug or something and you can offer to pray with them. Many of these people would just like someone to listen to them and they can know they’re not alone. They don’t have to carry the burden alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7% of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder. Women are 70 % more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. Non-Hispanic blacks are 40% less likely than non-Hispanic whites to experience depression during their lifetime. The average age of onset is 32 years old. Additionally, 3.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder.

Depression is much more common than you realize and with it we could include other conditions like bipolar disorder. Having depression or a condition like it does not mean you are a bad Christian. It does not mean God is angry with you. It does not mean that God is punishing you. We would not say this is the case immediately if someone had cancer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with evaluating your life when pain strikes and seeing if there is anything you need to work on, but that does not mean we should jump to the idea that all suffering you have is because God does not care about you or is actively angry with you.

If you want to help someone like this, be in it for the long haul. There are no quick fixes save a miracle of God and you cannot bring that about on your own. Be prepared to walk and talk with the person who is suffering from depression and mainly be a friend and just listen to them. Of course, you can give advice from time to time, but make sure the person is really open to the advice. Fortunately, more churches are starting to open up to this kind of thing. This is especially the case since so many churches have groups now such as Celebrate Recovery to help people overcome any problems that they have.

Also, people might not necessarily get over something like this. It can be a lifelong battle. One time I took my wife to a Weight Watchers meeting to help her in her dieting. I know about the organization that everyone who is a teacher in the program or a leader in some capacity has been through the program. Many of them you would never guess by looking at them and I asked a lady at the counter “So you all struggled with weight loss?” She immediately corrected me “struggle with weight loss.” This is why you don’t go to an AA meeting and hear someone say “I used to be an alcoholic.” Instead, they say “I have been sober for X years.”

With this, we must go down a darker path still and realize that many times, someone with depression will be prone to committing suicide. Let’s not hold back at one area here. Suicide is a sin. It is wrong and it is condemned by Scripture since Scripture prohibits murder. Still, there is no Scripture that says suicide is the unpardonable sin. There is no Scripture that says that if you commit suicide, you are bound for Hell. That does not at all mean that we should take suicide lightly. We should realize that like any other sin, we should seek to prevent it from taking place and the reality is, we can do that.

For those struggling with this, this is never the answer. In fact, someone who sees a loved one commit suicide never fully recovers. Most of us remember the news about Robin Williams committing suicide. When my wife and I were dating, I brought over the movie Patch Adams for us to watch and laugh over together. Now we suspect we will never be able to watch it again. Closer to the Christian community was the fact that a couple of years ago Pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide. Some of you may disagree with Rick Warren on some theological issues but this is not the place to discuss those. Rick and Kay Warren wrote about their struggles here and there is a fund to help fight mental illness here.

The effects of suicide never go away. I heard of a man in his 60’s whose Dad died by suicide when he was 8 and to that day, the man still asked everyday why his Dad did that. He didn’t understand. Why did his Dad not want to be a part of his life? You can learn to go on living after a loved one commits suicide, but you never really get over it. In fact, if a person commits suicide, they will increase the chances that a loved one of theirs will commit suicide. Please. If you are struggling with this, contact a health care professional immediately or call the National Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Please go and like their page. They somehow use Facebook to pinpoint locations to better help people. Their page can be found here.

Also included in this could be cutters. These are people who struggle with depression and relieve it by giving themselves bodily injury with things like knives, scissors, etc. This is also something that we should not accept in the church. Still, while we do not approve of the action, we should have compassion on those who struggle. Some of you might be hearing about cutting and think that that doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t have to make sense to you. It is just the way that it is.

When American Sniper came out, PTSD became a major topic. It’s a shame that so many people who go and fight for our country come home and do not get the treatment they need when they start having flashbacks of a war they fought in. They can have night terrors where they wake up screaming and could even in a moment of panic hurt someone around them. This isn’t just veterans. Anyone who goes through a major trauma of some sorts could come down with PTSD. There can also be a localized PTSD. As a small child I went to the beach with my parents and while out in the ocean, suddenly found myself underwater thanks to the undertow. To this day, I am terrified of water, much to my wife’s chagrin, and as logical as I try to be elsewhere, I start screaming and panicking in a swimming pool. One time she asked me to walk from one end of the pool to the other with her and even near the edge. The greatest depth I’d get to was about 5 feet. I’m about 5 foot 7. Three times on the walk down there I asked her if she’d taken out a life insurance policy on me recently. Is it embarrassing? Yep. Do I look forward to a day when I can enjoy the water with my wife? Yep. It’s a localized PTSD I have though where I panic about drowning. It was only a few years ago I was able to wash my face in the shower. That’s how severe it is.

I can only imagine it’s worse for far more traumatic events, such as being a child and witnessing a school shooting, or being a soldier and watching your buddies die in a horrible event. This kind of situation can be treated. Of course, barring a miracle, it will take time and it does not mean a person will ever be completely over it.

The great tragedy in all of this is that the church is not seen as a place where people with mental illness feel safe. In fact, the church can shun people who have a mental illness and when we do that, we cut away from the body some of the people who can best show us the power of Christ. Many of us think it can be hard to face reality when we have bills to pay, unemployment, health problems, etc. Imagine facing reality where your own brain many times can be your enemy and you live with that constant enemy. People who are able to keep fighting on in the midst of this should be our heroes and receive our support.

This is especially worse since we are supposed to be Jesus to everyone and in no way can I picture Jesus shunning someone because they have a mental illness. How can we truly show the love of Christ if we are shunning someone for something they cannot help? Now of course, we can certainly agree they can do something about their problems, such as learning a good coping skill, but that does not mean we blame them for their problems or tell them they have a lack of faith. Maybe, just maybe, if the church can start being the church we can end the stigma against mental illness and give the people of the world a safe place that they can go to.

Please consider helping those with mental illness today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/7/2015: Slow To Judge

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

Wisdom. It’s a word many of us would love to use but we find it hard to come by. In fact, many of us are like Adam and Eve in the garden and want to get the fruit to make us wise, but we want to on our terms and to do it immediately. We don’t want to work for wisdom. Have we really learned the value of wisdom and how to live a wise life? Is there a way to help us on the path of wisdom and see how we can go about it? Fortunately, that there is, and that guide comes from Dr. David Capes with his book Slow To Judge. Even more fortunate, he’s going to be passing on the wisdom by being my guest on the show this Saturday.

So who is he?


According to his bio:

David B. Capes is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor in the School of Theology at Houston Baptist University.

Before coming to academic life, David served churches in various roles in Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. He graduated from Mercer University (BA 1978) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv 1982; PhD 1990). He has done additional work at Baylor University and was twice named a Visiting Fellow at the University of Edinburgh (2000 and 2009). He has authored, co-authored, and edited a dozen books and numerous articles on early Christianity, culture, and Scripture.

For over 20 years he has been active in interfaith dialogue with Jews and Muslims around the world. In 1996 he began a radio show in Houston which addresses current events and cultural questions through the lens of faith. “A Show of Faith” airs weekly on 1070 KNTH.

In 2004 David became the lead scholar on The Voice, a dynamic translation of the Bible into English. He has served as one of the main writers, reviewers, and editors on the project. As an award-winning teacher and popular speaker, he has been delighted to team up with Ecclesia Bible Society and Thomas Nelson Publishers to help believers, young and old, step into the story of Scripture.

We’ll be talking then about this book and how he has lived it out, especially since he has been one of the main speakers on a radio show in Houston where he has had to spend time with other beliefs since he did it with a rabbi and a Catholic priest. (We have not yet received word as to if they ever walked into a bar after a show.) Capes hasn’t just written about wisdom but he has had to live it out and when he’s asked about the book, we can be sure that we’ll get to see how we can find that wisdom that we need and apply it to our own lives.

I hope you’ll be listening then to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast as we seek to discuss a book that is not so much about getting apologetics answer but rather how one should do apologetics. How ought one to interact with those who don’t believe and how should one approach difficult questions and situations? Tune in and we’ll talk about it!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Contrast On Suffering

If you’re suffering, is God angry with you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday a friend shared something on my timeline with a pastor speaking about how much money he had and why some people were still poor in the audience. Contrast this with what I was reading in Jeremiah Johnston’s Unanswered about the church in China. For them, the book of Acts is a living reality as miracles are taking place. Not only are miracles taking place, so is persecution. Christians are targeted and killed for being Christians. That is also in the book of Acts. It’s really fascinating when you consider hearing about both of these accounts on the same day. One of them is honoring of the Gospel. One of them is a mockery of it.

It’s strange that we look at the suffering in our lives and think that that means something is wrong. When we start to undergo suffering, we look back and see if there is some hidden sin in our past that we need to repent of and God is waiting until we find that sin and when we do, God will restore us. Many of us will turn to the book of Job in this, not realizing that Job in fact has Job suffering not because of any sin and the very idea that all suffering is a result of our individual sin is in fact denied in that book. It’s really more about will you continue to serve God even when life is hard.

If we live in a place like America in the West, we treat our own lives as the norm. This is the way Christianity is supposed to be and has been and when persecution comes, (Which we really haven’t seen yet) we treat it as something foreign to us. We have this idea that everything is supposed to go well and then there’s a lost job or a fallen marriage or a death in the family or cancer strikes and we figure God must be judging us somehow. We pray and we don’t hear anything from God and we think that He must be mad at us. (It doesn’t help that unfortunately, the church is loaded with pastors who talk about how God speaks to them and how God communicates with them and calls them and where God is leading them to go.) We think that if we aren’t hearing from God or experiencing a miracle (Yes. I’m talking to you preachers on TBN who seem to expect miracles-on-demand) then there’s something wrong with us.

Have we considered that there are Christians all around the world who are dying and suffering in prisons for their faith and not getting miracles to get out and not hearing from God and even more amazing, they probably have more joy in their lives than we do?

Why is that so?

Because we have ultimately become ungrateful people.

We have got so used to our standard of living that we think it’s practically owed to us. Christian. God does not owe you a single thing. The only thing He guarantees you is that which He has already promised you. God will keep His covenant. The question is will you keep yours? Will you honor Him always? If you will not come to Him and worship and praise just because your life is hard, then are you really worshiping Him for who He is instead of what He does for you? Now this does not mean there’s no place for questioning and doubt and even complaint and anger. Go read the Psalms. They’re loaded with those. It’s quite fine to have that. What it means is that you still don’t withhold from God even when life is hard. Anyone can be faithful when life is going good. The question is are you going to be faithful when life is hard.

Maybe when we get to this point where we’ll realize God never promised us safety and doesn’t owe us anything, then we will realize that all that He has given us is a gift of grace. Maybe instead of then looking at all that’s wrong in our lives, we’ll look at all that is good in our lives regardless. We’ll be more like martyrs in China and elsewhere when we do that. As it stands, if we are here in America and whining because life doesn’t go the way we want it to go, we are not ready to be martyrs and we will not be ready for whatever comes down our way. If we want to thrive and make a difference for Christ, we must change our attitudes. He promised He would walk with us, but He never promised He’d remove every burden from us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus and the Jihadis

What do I think of Craig Evans and Jeremiah Johnston’s book published by Destiny Image? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

ISIS. Go back in time a few years ago and the most any of us would think of would likely be that Isis was the name of that Egyptian deity. Now ISIS is a household name, but we’re not thinking about an Egyptian deity. We’re thinking about an Islamic one. ISIS represents the Islamic State declaring war on the rest of the world with the desire to turn the world over to Islam. They are ready to die for Islam and not only that, but they are ready to see to it that you die for Islam as well. They are a group bent on your destruction and the sad reality is you probably don’t really realize how much of a threat they are.

Is this just a radical offshoot of Islam out of step with historical Islam? According to Evans and Johnston, no. In fact, if Muhammad were alive today, he would not only join ISIS, but he would in fact lead it. To show this, the authors go back in time and give a brief history of the origins of Judaism and Christianity and then compare that to Islam. On this journey, you will learn a good deal about the historical Jesus and especially the way that archaeology has impacted our understanding of the New Testament. This is important because the constant contrast in the book will be the person of Jesus with that of Muhammad and then the contrast of YHWH and Allah, the Bible and the Koran, etc.

The writers also give plenty of frightening statistics about the way that ISIS is growing. These people have a lot of money and they know how to use social media well. You no longer have to leave the comfort of your own home for ISIS to train you. Nope. You can live a normal life here in America and be training secretly in the comfort of your own home to be a Jihadist. This makes it extremely difficult to find out who is and who isn’t a threat to our security in America. Jihadists show no signs of stopping and indeed, they won’t stop until all the world is converted to Islam and as many of us have seen on the news, they don’t have any hesitation to kill you if they think you stand in their way.

This book has a fitting section also about Luther’s Koran at the end. Martin Luther in fact supported the man who wanted to print a copy of the Koran in the Latin of the people because Luther thought that every Christian needed to learn the Koran so they could know how to answer Islam. Luther said this even though he himself had never encountered a Muslim. If it was needed then, it is needed all the more today. One of the reasons Islam is spreading so much is that Muslims are more than willing to die for their faith. If only the day will come when Christians are as willing to live for Jesus as Muslims are willing to die for Allah.

I found this book to be extremely eye-opening and I hesitate to say more because you quite frankly need to read it yourself. We live in a culture where Christians are at war and most of us are walking around like it’s 9/10/2001.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Addendum: I was given a free copy of this book by Jeremiah Johnston for the purposes of review.