Deeper Waters Podcast 4/30/2016: Luke Cawley

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

Evangelism is sometimes said to be a lost art among evangelicals. We live in a world where we don’t really interact as much with people and make evangelism the focus. The early Christian church spread in an empire where there was no internet, few people writing apologetics works, and great persecution. We have so much more than they and we do so much less than they did. What can we do to improve our track record? How can we better reach those around us?

In order to discuss that, I have decided to bring onto the show Luke Cawley. Who is he?

me on stage

According to his bio:

I am a writer, speaker, trainer and the director of Chrysolis, an organization I helped start in 2012 with the aim of enabling others to better communicate the Jesus story.

Much of my time is spent in contexts where God is not typically discussed in depth. I love interacting with skeptical audiences in universities, schools, bars, cafes and theaters, and anywhere else I’m invited.

I also enjoy enabling individuals and Christian communities to better engage those around them with the story of Jesus.

I have spent most of my adult life founding and developing (missional) Christian communities on university campuses in Britain and Romania and am a regular speaker at conferences and outreach events in different countries.

I was previously part of the writing team at InterVarsity Evangelism and a columnist at the Church of England Newspaper. My first book, The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians and the Spiritual but not Religious, was published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.

I have an MA in Evangelism & Leadership from Wheaton College and a Certificate in Theological and Pastoral Studies (concentrated in Christian Apologetics) from Oxford University. I’m married to Whitney, a lovely South Carolinian school teacher, and we have three young children.

Luke is the author of The Myth of the Non-ChristianThis book is not about some kind of idea of universalism. No. It’s a book about how to do evangelism and reach three different types of people. Those people are the ones who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, atheists and agnostics, and then nominal Christians.
Cawley’s book is one that certainly got me thinking about evangelism and does so still to this day and with my wife and I having a new church here in the area we’re attending, I’m thinking of implementing some ideas if given the chance. Cawley’s book does have apologetics in it, but those are more resources in the back. Instead, consider it a book to be more like Greg Koukl’s Tactics in that Cawley teaches you more how to do apologetics and it depends on the person that you meet.
We’ll be discussing these kinds of matters. Why is it that some evangelistic encounters can fall so incredibly short? Is there a proper time to answer someone’s questions and a proper time to just cut through the questions? How does apologetics play a role in the process of evangelism? What do you do when you encounter people who say they are Christians but who do not really live lives that seem to match Christianity and you fear that they could be Christians in name only?
I hope you’ll be joining me this Saturday for the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also leave a positive review on ITunes.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

The State Farm Syndrome

Can there be claims on the internet that aren’t true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember this State Farm commercial?

We all laugh at the idea that if you read it on the internet, it must be true. Unfortunately, we also all know of situations that are just like this. We could say that the blessing of April 1st is that at least on that day, most everyone checks everything they read on Facebook before sharing it.

Then every other day, gullibility abounds.

So what do I see yesterday? I see a claim going around that the National Day of Prayer has been cancelled by Obama. Now readers of this blog know that I’m not fan of the Obamas. I am politically very conservative. What I am a fan of however is truth and that includes truth about my ideological opponents.

I really don’t like that regularly when this comes up, I’m forced to defend the Obamas, but I am. The truth matters more. I want to take down our opponents, but we have to do that with truth and not falsehood. So what do we do?

First, ask yourself if the story you’ve seen has appeared on any major news network. If it hasn’t, it probably isn’t true. Nowadays, every controversial decision is blasted from the rooftops. Today, we’d have Clinton and Sanders being asked if they support that decision, Cruz would be decrying it as an example of liberal policies and our turn from God, and we’d know where Trump stands on prayer. Yet despite this supposed event, no one has said a thing about the National Day of Prayer.

Folks. This one is easy really. All you need to do after that step is go to a web search and type in something like “Has the National Day of Prayer 2016 been cancelled?” If it has, you will find out about it. If you think that’s not enough, then you will need to do some more.

There are two more sources to check. The first is a site called Truth Or Fiction. I went there and put in “National Day of Prayer” for a search. It looks like according to them that this is an erumor that has circulated before and it’s really bad that it gets people every year. You can find out about that here.

Another site I go to is Snopes. So what did I do? I went there and posted “National Day of Prayer” again and what do I get? This. Yes. These rumors abound constantly.

Please keep in mind this was not a large and in-depth research project. This would take at the most about five minutes worth of your time. Now if you’re not sure on Facebook if something is true or not, let me give you a good policy to follow. It’s awfully complex, but I think you can grasp it.

DON’T SHARE IT!

In fact, if you want to, put the burden on someone else. If they share it, ask them if they have checked it out. Ask them if they have done any searching to see if the account is true or not. Hopefully, something like this could get them to stop spreading false information.

Keep in mind also when I say false information, I mean something that can be said to be demonstrably false by anyone who just does five minutes worth of research. I do not mean “An opinion that disagrees with yours.” It could be false. It could not be. There are some matters that do take time to determine the truthfulness of them, like scientific and archaeological claims.

Now why on Earth do I harp on this? Well let’s start with Christians. If you’re a Christian, you’re supposed to be a person of truth. You’re supposed to love the truth. When you claim Jesus rose from the dead, you’re not claiming just that you’ve had some sort of personal experience as if you were a Mormon. You’re claiming that this is a real event that happened in history. You’re claiming a dead man went into a tomb and He came out alive again.

Now of course, I hold that’s a true claim, but we should all agree on something. It is a remarkable claim. It is not an everyday claim. It is not a claim that you can do five minutes worth of research and verify or disprove. It is a claim that requires much in-depth study.

You when you say you are a Christian are saying that you hold this claim is true. Your friend who is skeptical is not sure yet. What do they see? They see you sharing a claim they can easily see is false just by a few minutes worth of checking. Why should they bother with the claim that would take much much longer to check? You’ve already shown you’ll believe anything if it goes with what you already believe.

You see, by doing this, you have seriously damaged your reputation. You have shown yourself to be gullible and your non-believing friend will chalk up your Christianity to gullibility. If you have a habit of sharing stories that are false, why should anyone believe you on the grandest story of all that is true?

By the way, a lot of Christians share stuff on Facebook and think that by doing just that, they are doing something. You’re not. If you want to look at how something can be done, consider what homosexual activists did with After The Ball. This was about how America would overcome their “hatred” for homosexuality in the 90’s and come to love the gay movement. It was a brilliant success, and that group is a much smaller number of the population. They turned something most people found repulsive into something that we are now supposed to celebrate with a Gay Pride Month.

They’re actually going out into the world spreading their message. Would that Christians would do the same thing! If Christians took Christ as seriously as the homosexual movement took homosexuality, we could really turn things around in this country. That requires more than just Facebook posting. Of course, what you do on the internet is important, but it goes beyond Facebook.

There are non-Christians of course reading this and you could be feeling pretty good right now about this. After all, here I am, a Christian apologist, going after my fellow Christians on this and saying “Yep. Too many of my fellow Christians are gullible.” Brace yourselves. The group that describes itself as guided by reason and defines themselves by rationality can be just as gullible.

When I see internet memes by atheists making arguments, they are often some of the most ridiculous memes I see. Frankly, you should not make arguments by memes period. Memes can be illustrations or a bit of humor and such, but they are never to be arguments in themselves.

Yet if there is one area where atheists regularly fall prey to this gullibility, it is in the area of the historical Jesus. When I see arguments going around about Jesus being a copy of other pagan deities in the dying and rising gods motif or arguments that Jesus never even existed, I just roll my eyes immediately. These arguments are not taken seriously in the field of academia. This is not an open debate any more than evolution is an open debate with biologists or heliocentrism is an open debate with astronomers.

And yet, despite this, internet atheists share this regularly as if they’ve discovered some great new secret that has escaped notice.

“But Richard Carrier says”

Yes, I know what Carrier says. I also know that many scholars in the world have no idea who he is. The reason he’s so hard for some to answer is the same reason people who say the moon landing was a hoax can be hard to answer. It’s because the claims looked at are claims not paid attention to by scholars as they rely on esoteric theories that just aren’t taken seriously. Carrier regularly goes with the most bizarre reading and most people don’t know how to handle that. Mythicism is not taken seriously in academia and there’s no sign that that’s changing.

Readers of this blog know that I’m not a young-earth creationist (YEC), but if you happen to be a mythicist, you have no place making fun of YECs. There are more academics in the field who question evolution and/or hold to YEC than there are Jesus mythicists. Mythicism should be seen as a conspiracy theory for atheists. If you are a skeptic of Christianity, you owe it to yourself to stop your fellow skeptics who are spreading the idea of mythicism. Most Christians aren’t answering any more not because the arguments are too difficult, but because they’re too ridiculous.

Fact checking is something everyone should do and with any claim you’re wanting to share. For much of what we’re talking about, it only takes a few minutes to check a claim. Is it really worth risking having a bad reputation to avoid five minutes worth of checking? Be a person of truth. Check that claim before you share it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: People To Be Loved

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

Preston Sprinkle has written a unique book on homosexuality where he says it’s not just an issue and frankly raises up a point that we often lose sight of. People are people. Whatever person you’re arguing against, they are a person. This is something both sides need to learn. Traditionalists like myself can often see just the issue and be tempted to think the worst about homosexuals that we meet, when in reality many homosexuals, like many heterosexuals, are wonderful people. Of course, just like heterosexuals, some are jerks. How you view your sexuality is not a determiner of your demeanor.

Meanwhile, those on the left need to realize that the homosexuals are persons as well. In what way do they often act otherwise? It’s too easy to assume that if someone is a homosexual, that that entails their identity so that if you say homosexual practice is wrong, you are treating the person as if they are not a person, and this is simply false.

Sprinkle wrote this book wanting us to see not just the issue but the person. He starts by talking about being on a plane and sharing with some people who ask what project he’s working on and he says it’s a book on homosexuality. The husband shakes his head saying there is no debate and the Bible is very clear. Sprinkle does want to say there is a huge debate in academia, but instead he asks where the Bible is clear. Unfortunately, the man has no idea where the Bible verses are that speak about homosexual practice.

Too many Christians could be like that today.

Sprinkle also does introduce with too many stories of homosexuals who have committed suicide and have been bullied for their being homosexual. Naturally, we should all condemn this sort of behavior. He also writes about those who leave the church. Interestingly, they don’t leave because they’re told same-sex behavior is wrong. They leave because of how they’re treated. The main walk away he wants you to get is that homosexuality is not about an abstract issue. It is about an issue that concerns people to be loved.

In this, many of Sprinkle’s stories hit hard. He does open this by a look at the Scriptures themselves. He comes down on the side of the traditionalists, who he describes as non-affirming. He also addresses many of the issues such as if someone is born with a sexual orientation and if change is possible of an orientation. He points out that too many of us have this idea that if you have to live your life without sex that it is absolutely unlivable.

Sprinkle also wants us to know that homosexuality does not define someone’s life. Still, while I agree that most homosexuals are fine people and there are other sins to focus on, I do think there are some people that while they are still people to be loved, there needs to be more on how to respond to them. Do some people get turned away from the church because there are many Christians who are aggressive and unloving to them? Yes. Of course. There are also homosexuals who are also aggressive and speak about their lifestyles.

What about situations such as the book After The Ball written as a coercive propaganda material to change the hearts and minds of Americans, which was a brilliant success by all standards. There are in fact people who want to be aggressive in their homosexuality and label us as intolerant bigoted homophobes if we disagree. Then there are issues many people have with the transgender talk today about men sharing bathrooms with women.

Do we love those people who are hurting and open to discussions? Of course. We are also to love the aggressive ones, but shouldn’t our approach be different? I did not really find Sprinkle’s book addressing how to deal with this. We could say Christians seem to always be talking about homosexuality, but that’s also because our culture is always talking about homosexuality. We are talking about what everyone is talking about and giving our viewpoints.

While few Christians will ever meet a leader in this movement, they are online and they will meet them and they will meet heterosexual supporters of the homosexual movement who are like them in their responses. There is a problem with Christians of course treating homosexuals horribly, but how are Christians to respond when homosexuals do likewise? While I know Sprinkle is for non-violence, as am I and I do not think this needs to be physical, I don’t think this means we just lie down and let homosexuals walk all over us.

Still, I have to say that Sprinkle’s book is a breath of fresh air. If I could recommend one book on the popular level, it would be this one. Sprinkle gives you good academic research and then he gives an excellent application. Sprinkle reminds us that every time we discuss homosexuality, we are also discussing homosexual persons. These are people to be loved. No. These are people who are loved by Jesus. The question is, are we going to love like Jesus did also? We do not affirm the sin, but we do love the person.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals

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

Many of us like to think of the Bible as the moral guidebook. Now to be sure, there are a lot of good moral lessons in the Bible. Hardly anyone would contend that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a bad idea, but there are some ideas that we just don’t do today. There are some matters explicitly commanded that we don’t do today. There are some commands that we think are even not good for us to do today. How do we differentiate?

William Webb’s book is an excellent reference on this looking at three issues as examples. First is slavery, which is pretty much agreed to that we do not practice. Next is women, and this is an area of some debate as there are complementarians and egalitarians. Finally there’s homosexuality as most evangelicals today still condemn homosexual practice, although that number is starting to change.

So what are we to do? Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but he also told us to wash one another’s feet. We are told in Exodus that we should not murder, but we are also told that we are to keep the Sabbath. Is this just random arbitrariness that is deciding what we do and do not follow?

Naturally, I can’t tell everything Webb says, but his book is a joy to read on this. Webb lays out eighteen different criteria on various themes. He also has what he calls a redemptive hermeneutic. This means that as the story of the Bible progresses, you start to see change. For instance, slavery (While never like Civil War slavery) was a staple at the time and could be called a necessary evil, much like God allowed divorce for the hardness of the peoples’ hearts. They weren’t ready for the advanced lessons yet. Still, even with slavery, the seeds of its destruction were planted early on.

One example is the case of the runaway slave. If a slave ran away from his master, he was supposed to be given safety. He was not to be returned to his master. As we go through the story of the Bible, we see this progressing further with more and more freedom until we get to a book like Philemon where it’s implied in a burning epistle (And yes, Paul is calling out Philemon incredibly in this epistle) that Philemon is to set Onesimus free.

How about women? Women do seem to get a low regard in the Old Testament where they can often be seen as property, but again, the change is right there. You have dynamic women like Deborah, Ruth, Rahab, Huldah, and Esther showing up in the text. When you move to the New Testament, you see more women like the witnesses to the empty tomb who first saw Jesus, Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia, and others.

Now this is one part where I wasn’t as forward as Webb is. I am still more of a complementarian, but I think Webb would likely not have much of a problem with my own style since I think that if a man is the king of his castle, his wife gets treated like a queen.

Finally, you have homosexuals. In the Old Testament, the charges are pretty strict. Leviticus I think is a very clear statement. So is this changed in the New Testament? No. Paul in Romans 1 argues that homosexual practice is a shaming practice that is a horizontal example of what has already happened vertically.

What does this tell us? Some practices move forward redemptively and so we are justified in our lifestyles in moving along that route. The Bible has set the standard for us in itself. Some are more negative, so we ought not switch them because the Bible is consistent throughout with how it deals with them.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into a lot of detail, but this is a book that’s a joy to read to see how the author weaves his way through the texts and deals  with challenges to his position. There’s also a section at the end in humility where Webb answers “What if I’m wrong?” This mainly centers on issues involving 1 Tim. 2 and the section dealing with women there.

I think this book is an excellent read. There are issues on hermeneutics that are extremely necessary. If internet atheists would interact with a book like this, perhaps many of our debates could be better. Perhaps they could be even better still if more Christians interacted with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Answering Jihad

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

I want to be clear at the start. I consider Nabeel Qureshi a friend. I’ve got to meet him in person many times and I highly admire him. I was also given this copy by Zondervan for review purposes. I hope to remove as much bias as possible.

That being said, I do want to say that at the start, Qureshi really does care for the Muslim people. He has told myself and others that for all he knows, there could be one like the Apostle Paul among the Muslims who will go on to become a great missionary so he’s always praying for them. Qureshi is equally against Muslim violence and violence against Muslims.

This is important in our day and age when we can look at a Muslim and immediately think of 9/11. We can give thanks for the Muslims out there that do condemn atrocities like 9/11. At the same time, it’s important to raise the question and ask if this violence is consistent with the history of Islam.

Qureshi covers the issues relating to the nature of Muhammad and the nature of the Koran. The work is quite thorough. If you do not know anything about Islam as you start to read the book, you will be able to still understand what is going on in the world today. Qureshi writes with scholarly rigor and at the same time, combines it with a pastoral heart.

The book is divided into three parts. The first answers questions on the origin of Jihad. What is Islam and what is Sharia and what is meant by Jihad? We also get a brief look at the history of Muhammad.

The next section deals with our own time. What does it mean when we speak today of Radical Islam. What about terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Horam? Is it possible that one day we could see a reformation in Islam that will make it a peaceful religion?

Of course, one could ask the question that was asked by Obama after some Muslim attacks. Don’t Christians have a history of warfare in the Crusades? Don’t they also have a history of warfare in the Old Testament? Do Muslims and Christians really worship the same God?

The book is excellent and each section can be read in a brief time and easily digested. If there was a concern that I did have, it would be that I think that Qureshi does condemn the Crusades too quickly and leans too close to pacifism for my taste. I think the Crusades largely started off as defensive wars for instance to help those in need. Of course, this does not mean that all that was done in the Crusades was right and much is to be condemned, but as it is problematic to say all of it was right, it would be just as much to say that all of it was wrong.

Still, I think this is an excellent book for understanding Islam and if there’s one thing we can all get from this, it would be Qureshi’s heart on the matter. He really does love Muslims. Maybe we could be better at reaching them if we had the same love for our enemies that Qureshi has.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Got Questions On The New Perspective on Paul

Do we have a valid criticism of the New Perspective on Paul? (NPP) Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A reader of the blog wanted to get my thoughts on an article he found online from Got Questions (GQ). He had been searching for information on the New Perspective on Paul and wanted to see what he could find. This one showed up on the first page and when I did my look, I got the same results. So let’s look at what the author of the piece has to say. Those wanting to read it can find it here. The question being asked is if the NPP is Biblical.

Any time a “new perspective” on some biblical doctrine arises, red flags should go off warning Christians of possible danger. In many cases such “new” ideas, teachings, or perspectives are not new at all. Rather, they are the same old lie from the Garden of Eden when Satan first cast doubt on God’s Word: “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1). In that sense, the “New Perspective on Paul” is ancient in that it tries to deny what the Scriptures clearly teach and what has been accepted by Christians for centuries. The “New Perspective on Paul” is not biblical and appears to be an attempt to redefine and even deny key biblical doctrines that are the foundation of the Christian faith.

Way to start off with both guns blazing! GQ didn’t even hesitate to start tying in the NPP with the lies of the devil. Why? Well first off, because it’s new. One can only imagine what they would have thought at the time of the Reformation. Would they have sided with Luther? Even if my readers aren’t Protestant here, it should be realized that GQ is not a Catholic ministry so they must answer this question. Would heliocentrism be considered a new perspective causing doubt on the Word of God? They do believe in the rapture. Are they not aware that historically that is a “new teaching”?

Anyway, to get back to the main point, we have already been told that the NPP is not Biblical and is an attempt to redefine core doctrines of the Christian faith. This is an interesting statement, but there’s one glaring problem. We haven’t even been told what the NPP is. We’re just told that whatever it is, it is like the ancient lie of the devil.

Sadly, however, the teachings propagated by the few who champion the “New Perspective on Paul” are gaining ground, even among evangelical churches, despite the fact that some of its leading proponents are liberal New Testament scholars from secular universities. Most well-known among the “New Perspective on Paul” proponents is N.T. Wright, a noted Bible scholar and Bishop in the Anglican Church, whose books seem to be influencing the spread of this troublesome teaching in evangelical churches.

Some of its proponents are liberal NT scholars who teach at secular universities like…..well…..we’re not told. N.T. Wright is the one mentioned here and he is hardly liberal. Wright wrote one of the leading books arguing that Jesus rose from the dead.

The heart of this teaching is that for hundreds, if not thousands, of years Christians have seriously “misunderstood” the apostle Paul and his teachings—thus the need for a new perspective on Paul. The idea that these latter-day scholars are so wise that they can figure out the correct perspective on Paul, when biblical scholars from the time of Christ on could not, is founded upon audacity and even borderline arrogance. The “New Perspective on Paul” is not unlike the Jesus Seminar group, who several years ago decided they could determine what Jesus actually said and did not say by voting on which words of Christ in the Bible should be attributed to Him and which should not. The implied arrogance of these types of “wiser than everyone else” attitudes should be clear when they claim that Christians for almost 2,000 years have been wrong about Paul.

Um. No. It’s not arrogance at all. It’s simply based on having new information that they did not have, including information found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s also this head in the sand approach that new ideas cannot possibly be true. We are learning more about the world of the Bible regularly. Archaeology and other disciplines are showing us things that had been lost for centuries. This is not arrogance. Arrogance is thinking that we will not uncover anything that could change our minds.

It’s also hideous to say that this is like the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar was a group of leftist NT scholars who approached the text with an assumption that miracles didn’t happen and didn’t consist of anyone from a European school. The NPP is not like that at all. GQ is just engaging in some guilt by association.

There are four basic tenets of “New Perspective on Paul.” First is the belief that Christians misunderstand Judaism of the first century. They say that Paul was not battling against Jews who were promoting a religion of self-righteousness and works-based salvation and that the Pharisees were not legalists. Yet the Bible describes the Pharisees as those who “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness,” “straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel,” and ones who “cleaned up the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:23–25). The view that first-century Pharisees were not legalists and their religion was not one of self-righteousness and works-based salvation directly contradicts Jesus’ own words in this and numerous other passages.

No it doesn’t. The idea is that the Pharisees did not keep the Law in order to attain righteousness. They kept it to demonstrate their righteousness. That can still work with self-righteous. The Pharisees thought they were righteous because they kept the Law, but Christ pointed out that it was all show. It would have been good for GQ to go and get Paul’s own perspective with the Law.

Philippians 3:4b-6.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Paul would have said he kept the law flawlessly. He wasn’t living in a legalistic system where he was hoping everyday he could keep the Law. That’s the idea that has often come to us, but it’s simply a false one. In fact, the Reformers themselves would have been the first to say “Let’s look at this idea!” Their cry was “To the sources!” If this idea could be demonstrated from the sources, then let us go with it.

The second tenet of this false teaching is that Paul really did not have a problem with the doctrine of salvation taught by the Jewish leaders of his day. His disagreement with them was simply over how they treated the Gentiles and not a fundamental difference over how one is saved or justified before a holy God. However, in his letters to the Galatians and the Romans, Paul clearly and solidly condemned the works-based system of righteousness promoted by the Judaizers who were trying to lure the Galatians away from the true gospel message. In fact, he said that anyone who preached a gospel other than the one he preached should be “eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:8–9). Once again, Scripture shows that the “New Perspective on Paul” is not based on the testimony of Scripture but instead is contrary to it, making it an unbiblical teaching with serious consequences for those who follow it and are led astray by it.

No. Once again, GQ is assuming their stance and pushing it onto the Bible. The question of Galatians is “How do you show you are a part of the family of God?” The answer of the Judaizers was “Keeping the Law.” The answer of Paul was “Faith in Christ.” Paul would have indeed said you could not be righteous by keeping the Law. You can only be righteous by having faith in Christ. The NPP would not disagree with that.

The third unbiblical tenet of the “New Perspective on Paul” teaching is that the gospel is about the Lordship of Christ and not a message of personal salvation and individual redemption from the condemnation of sin. Certainly, the Lordship of Christ is an important part of the gospel truth, but, if that is all it is, how is that good news? No one can make Christ Lord of his life without first being cleansed of sin and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can empower us to yield to the lordship of Christ. Clearly the hope of Christians is that Christ is first and foremost a Savior whose atoning sacrifice has personally and completely made atonement for their sins. It is for this reason that the gospel is the good news, because “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

The NPP is right on this and what GQ misses is that salvation is the result of this. Since Christ is Lord, He is able to pronounce forgiveness and judgment. It’s a shame that GQ asks “How is this good news?” How is it not? One does not say “Jesus is Lord and that’s all.” It’s “Jesus is Lord and that changes everything.” The NPP is certainly right that we have individualized the Gospel and started it with ourselves instead of Christ as Lord. Again, nothing else said here about the Holy Spirit would be problematic to the NPP.

This leaves us with the fourth and the most serious unbiblical tenet of the “New Perspective on Paul” teaching—the denial of the doctrine of justification by faith, a central and non-negotiable Christian doctrine. According to proponents of this unbiblical teaching, when Paul wrote about justification, he was not speaking of personal and individual justification whereby a guilty sinner is declared righteous on the basis of his faith in Christ and Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the sinner. Instead, they claim, when Paul wrote about justification, he was speaking of how one could tell if a person was “a member of the covenant family.”

And the problem? One is welcomed into the covenant family on the basis of faith and not the works of the Law. How is that a denial of being justified by faith? Salvation still works out the same way. At this point, I can’t help but think of how someone once asked me to watch a video with Al Mohler hosting a group of Christians, whether scholars or not I couldn’t tell, on N.T. Wright’s view and if he was going against the Reformation. One person actually said “N.T. Wright may think he’s found something new in the Scriptures, but he’s going against the tradition.” I nearly fell out of my chair hearing that.

Wasn’t that kind of what the Reformation was all about? Going against tradition because of something found in the Scriptures? Why would the Reformers be opposed to this then?

According to N.T. Wright, “Justification in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was in fact, a member of his people.” The problem with this tenet of the “New Perspective on Paul” is that it distorts the biblical teaching on justification by faith and instead teaches that Paul’s doctrine of justification was only concerned with the Gentiles’ standing in the covenant community and not at all about a guilty sinner being declared just before a holy and righteous God. Simply put, we cannot disregard or redefine justification and still be considered Christian or biblical. In his writings, N.T. Wright often argues against the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is the heart and soul of the true gospel (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It would have been nice to have seen something from N.T. Wright on this. We have a quote, but who knows where it comes from? Instead, GQ puts up a straw man saying Paul was only concerned about Gentiles. No. Paul was a preacher of one Gospel. After all, Paul counted his keeping of the law rubbish when compared to Christ. It’s a shame also that GQ says Wright argues against the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is the heart and soul of the true gospel.

I could have sworn the heart and soul was Jesus Christ died, buried, and resurrected again. Could it be GQ here is actually demonstrating the point about individualizing the Gospel? They’ve said the start of the Gospel is the news about themselves. It’s not. It’s the news about Jesus.

Just as Satan called into question the Word of God to Eve, the “New Perspective on Paul” calls into question the basic doctrines of the Christian faith as revealed by the Bible and, because of this, the “New Perspective on Paul” should be rejected.

It would have been good to have seen this demonstrated, but instead, we have a head-in-the-sand approach that says “New idea! Must not be investigated!” And apparently, they didn’t. You do not find all these other scholars quoted and only one attempt at a quotation from Wright that does not even have a source. It’s because of this, that I think GQ should be rejected on this. Now it could be the NPP is not true and should be rejected, but it is better to debate a matter without settling it than to settle a matter without debating it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/23/2016: Jackson Wu

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

My wife is a big fan of oriental stuff. She loves nearly everything that is Japanese, aside from the food. It’s my dream that one day I’ll get to take her to Japan. We can love so much about a culture in the Far East, but have we ever wondered what it would be like if we had to share the Gospel with them? These people might be just like us in their biology and such, but their culture is radically different.

For that matter, could the culture of the Bible be radically different? Could it be that when we present the Gospel, we’re presenting it in a Western package? Could that be causing distortions in evangelism? How can we communicate one Gospel in many cultures?

For that, I’m pleased to have on my show the man who wrote One Gospel For All Nations, Dr. Jackson Wu. Who is he?

Bigger Hands Focused JW NAME

Jackson has served Chinese pastors for over a decade. Presently, he is an associate professor International Chinese Theological Seminary, where he teaches theology and missiology. Previously, Jackson was a church planter, English teacher, and youth minister.

During his youth, he grew up in the southern United States. Brought up in a non-religious family, he became a Christ follower at age 15. Jackson attended Texas A&M University, where he studied applied mathematics with a minor emphasis in economics. He also earned a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Texas A&M, writing his thesis on the theology undergirding the thought of Soren Kierkegaard. Later, he gained his MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He published his first book in the Evangelical Missiological Society dissertation series. It is titled Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame. In 2015, William Carey Library published Jackson’s second book, One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. In a forthcoming book with IVP, he will explore how honor-shame influence our understanding of Paul’s letter to the Romans. His articles have appeared in both missiological and theological journals. A few selected titles include “Paul Writes to the Greek First and also to the Jew”, “There are No Church Planting Movements in the Bible”, and “Why has the Church Lost Face?”

Jackson is particularly concerned about theological contextualization. By understanding how the Bible uses honor and shame, he wants to equip the church to contextualize the gospel in a way that is both biblically faithful and culturally meaningful.

He consistently writes on his blog jacksonwu.org. He is a regular blogger for Training Leaders International, and has guest written for Scot McKnight, Ed Stetzer, and the Missio blog. He serves on the steering committee for the Asian-Asian-American Theology Consultation for the Evangelical Theological Society. His also offers Chinese resources for free at wu-rong.org. People can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

We’ll be discussing how people in the Far East see the Gospel and how the Gospel that brings us good news in America and the West can bring good news to those in the Far East. We will discuss cultural differences that can be barriers to evangelism. We’ll also discuss what it means to save God’s face. Are we embarrassing God or what?

I hope you’ll be listening!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sexuality in the New Testament

What do I think of William Loader’s book published by Westminster John Knox Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

William Loader is the scholar in the world who has probably written more on sexuality and the Bible than anyone else. Naturally, the Bible talks a lot about sex. Is it because the Bible is a perverse and dirty book as some would say? No. It’s because people talk about sex a lot and it’s a dominant feature in our society just like it was in the ancient world. Loader aptly gives us a warning on page 5.

“Sometimes wanting to know becomes impatient to the point of jumping too quickly to conclusions or filling in gaps with fantasy instead of coming to terms with the limits of our knowledge. Particularly in dealing with matters of sexuality it is not uncommon for people to become deeply involved emotionally in wanting, indeed, needing texts to say certain things which would reinforce or confirm their own beliefs and attitudes. This can happen from many different angles, both from those wanting to affirm what some might see as conservative positions and those wanting the opposite.”

This is a major point worth stressing. Many of us today want the Bible to side with us. Now we could take a totally foreign approach and say the text has no real meaning, but this is problematic as we should not approach any text this way. Could it be difficult to know what the author meant to say sometimes? Sure. There are matters open to dispute. Sometimes it isn’t and with many of these texts, I think the meaning is clear.

The first place Loader starts with is the texts on homosexuality. Loader looks at the various interpretations of all the texts in the debate and frankly, comes down on a conservative side, and this after looking at what most scholars are saying. This does not mean necessarily he agrees with that. I find it hard to tell frankly, but that’s a strength of Loader’s work. It’s hard to know what bias he himself might bring to the debate and frankly, I can understand much better if I encounter someone who says “Yes. This is what the text means. I just disagree.”

Loader also deals with some of the revisionist ideas such as the idea that the Centurion’s servant is a homosexual lover or that the Beloved Disciple was involved in a homosexual relationship with Jesus. These are times where I really think the homosexual reading is grasping at straws. As Loader indicated above, you can read anything into a text if you want to. We must all be looking to ask “But what does the text mean?”

Loader goes on from there to talk about marriage itself and what the Bible has to say about it. He interacts with ideas of polygyny as well and notes that it was limited, although the Damascus Document was pretty hard on it. Loader thinks this could be a minority position. Of course, polygyny would also be costly so few people would do it. Loader goes on from here to talk about issues of divorce and remarriage and pregnancy and child birth. Naturally, Loader will also touch on the household codes found in Ephesians and Colossians. He rightly states that the way the husband is to act to his wife still is the way Christ does for the church, which is loving and not violent or exploitative.

From there, we move on to adultery in the Bible. Many of the texts are quite clear on this and the idea is that sex is to be between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage. I was pleased also to see a talk about what lust is in the discussion. I do think the command to lust is speaking about another person’s wife, which makes it a form of covenant, but I think it can also mean an excessive desire, a desire that dehumanizes the person and makes them only an object of sex. After all, today if a man and a woman are dating, it is not a problem I think if the man has sexual desire for the woman. He ought to. If he does not desire her, he has problems.

Now some will wonder about spiritual adultery. What does that mean? Looking at another woman with lust. Frankly, I like what Robert Gagnon said at a talk he once gave on a podcast about this where he said “If spiritual adultery is grounds for divorce, every woman could divorce a man on her wedding day.” Lust is something to be avoided to be sure, but let’s not be extreme in saying everything is adultery. Actual physical adultery is worse.

There’s a lot in the book that is covered and yet it is a short read. If you want a good lowdown on what the New Testament says about sexuality and scholars on both sides, you owe yourself to check out Loader’s work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Polygamy Wrong?

Why should a man not have more than one wife? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I had a friend message me wanting to know my stance on polygamy. After all, doesn’t polygamy show up in the Bible? Jesus Himself never condemned polygamy did He? There seem to be times in the Bible when God endorses polygamy. What’s going on with that?

One case where it’s explicitly stated is in 2 Chronicles 24 with the first three verses.

Joash became king of Judah at the age of seven, and he ruled in Jerusalem for forty years. His mother was Zibiah from the city of Beersheba. He did what was pleasing to the Lord as long as Jehoiada the priest was alive. Jehoiada chose two wives for King Joash, and they bore him sons and daughters.

Then of course, many great figures in Israel’s history had multiple wives. Abraham had his wife and he had his concubine. Jacob had his wives and both of their concubines. Of course, King David who was a man after God’s own heart is quite well known for his multiple wives and who could top all the wives that Solomon had? Heck. God allowed this to happen. 2 Samuel 12 seems quite explicit.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

Yes. See? David had all the wives of Saul and God would have given him even more if it had been too little. Surely God is behind this.

And when we get to the New Testament, we don’t see any explicit condemnations of polygamy. We also see the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Why would there be so many virgins directly said to be at a wedding? Are they the ones taking part in it?

Let’s take a look at all of this.

Polygamy is really one of those borderline practices in Old Testament Times. Lamech was the first to take two wives and it was seen as an example of how wrong society had become before the flood. What we see in the Old Testament is not so much eliminating it as regulating it. If this is here for now, here’s what we’re going to do about it. The same can be said for the slavery system.

We also see divorce being permitted, but Jesus himself said in Matthew 19 that Moses did that because hearts were hard, but it was not that way from the beginning. While there was even a time in Israel’s history, namely Ezra 10, where divorce was commanded, we know that ultimately, God hates divorce. Divorce was a sad necessity in Ezra 10 to avoid a greater danger. It’s the same way God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, yet sometimes they die.

Well what about king Joash? The high priest specifically gave him two wives. Why is that?

Let’s keep in mind the entire royal family had just been killed and Joash was the lone survivor. It needed to be built up again and thus two wives were chosen. After all, one could be infertile or the children could die young, which was common back then. I find it amazing that if polygamy was something that was so wonderful and it would help repopulate the royal family, why stop with two wives? Why not have a dozen or so? The royal family would get populated again very quickly.

Okay, well what about King David? Didn’t God tell him that he could have even more wives? Well, not really.

You see, God was also quite clear that the Israelites were to stay in the land of Israel and Judah. When David has a census later on he’s quite likely wanting to expand his territory and that’s why judgment comes. Israel was given a land and they were not to take from others. So when Israel and Judah is given to David, are we to say God was ready to give him Egypt and Assyria? No. What is being said is that everything Saul had, including his harem, went to David and David had everything that represented his kingship. It does not mean God would give more wives any more than that he would give more nations.

What about the New Testament? Having multiple virgins at a wedding does not mean the man was marrying all of them. For one thing, that would be a long long wedding night as after a man has his orgasm, it takes him awhile before he can have another one. Second, the virgins were often there to be given an idea of their own wedding. Why were some locked out? They had shamed the bride.

Today, weddings are still major events in the lives of young women. Imagine you’re a young woman who has a wedding and you invite someone to be a bridesmaid and they don’t adequately prepare. They don’t fix their hair or get a good outfit or anything. This person is treating your special day as if it’s no big deal. So do the foolish virgins in this parable. Preparing by having extra oil was not a major inconvenience.

Now some of you might be thinking I’m going to Jesus’s words next, but no. I’m going to go to Paul first. Let’s look at Romans 7.

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

Now if Paul is saying having relations with another man results in adultery, implicit in that is an understanding that a woman is to have only one husband. Some also see this as a requirement in 1 Tim. 3. That one is much more debated but if it is the idea of one woman for one man in that passage, then we have a statement on how polygamy was viewed.

But now, let’s go to Jesus. The place to go is Matthew 19.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Notice Jesus has two ideas about marriage. First off, he says marriage is male and female. He could have just gone to Genesis 2:24 and said it was a “one flesh” relationship. He doesn’t. He makes sure to include Genesis 1:27 in there and even then only the part about male and female. Then Jesus points to the two becoming one flesh. Once the two are together, the union is complete. There’s no need for more.

A large part of this was a way of stopping a revolving door. You could have a man marry and then divorce his wife and then marry another and then divorce her and then remarry the first. It would be a way of avoiding a restriction on polygamy by using divorce. Fortunately, even OT law dealt with this one.

Jesus even comes down hard. Many times we like to think that the OT God is strict and Jesus is all love. Look at the Sermon on the Mount if you think that. The OT forbade adultery. Jesus says you don’t even look at another man’s wife with lust. Murder was already forbidden. Jesus said don’t hate in your heart. Jesus always raised the moral bar.

Jesus does the same here. Jesus only says divorce is permitted in the case of adultery. We could ask greatly what adultery means. That is for another day, but it’s important to note that even in cases where divorce could be a sad necessity, it is still that. Sad. We should not rejoice that a divorce has taken place even if we think it’s for the best. That means that someone broke a promise along the way to love the other person till death do them part. That’s tragic.

Polygamy could be a real temptation also because, and I’m sure this will be a shock to all the women, men tend to have a really strong desire for sex. (I’m sure every woman reading this is just shocked right now.) Polygamy can devalue women because a man can just say “I’m not getting it from you. I guess I’ll go elsewhere.” It is very easy for women to become objects.

In monogamy, the man and woman have to work together to make sure each person’s needs, including their sexual needs are met. In fact, this isn’t just for the man. In 1 Cor. 7, the man and the woman are both to give each other their conjugal rights. The wife’s body belongs to the man, but the man’s body belongs to the wife.

So what’s the Biblical response? Live your marriage in such a way that extending beyond the borders would be unthinkable. Since the men tend to have the greatest sex drives, I’ll say that for the women, follow the advice one of Allie’s friends told her recently. “You have to keep him interested.” Your man has a desire for you and he wants you. Sex with you is one of the deepest ways that he connects with you and feels accepted and wanted by you.

For the men, control your desires. Don’t treat your wife as an object. Be with her even when it’s not sexual. If you make everything be about sex, then your wife is prone to think that all she’s good for is sex. You didn’t marry an apparatus to give you pleasure, although your wife’s body should definitely give you pleasure. You married a person to be treated like a person.

If a man tends to go beyond the boundaries, it is because of his great appetite and all the women in the world will never be enough. Men instead need to let their desires for their wives be that which is not quenched. Women. Keep in mind that your husband wanting frequent sex is his way of saying “I can’t get enough of you.” There should not be a limit as to how much a man wants his wife and vice-versa. Grow in that love every day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

SNL and God’s Not Gay

What do I think of SNL’s parody? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a society today that wants to talk about being kind and generous to everyone. We don’t want to offend anyone. We want to uphold the basic rights of every person that is out there. We want to celebrate our diversity and be tolerant towards everyone.

Except for those Christians. Yeah. We can mark them off.

You see, SNL has decided it’s time to have some fun at the expense of Christians and show just that they must be ridiculous because they oppose redefining marriage. Thus, they have made a little parody video called “God’s Not Gay” although it ends being called “God is a Boob Man.” It’s this idea that all Christians are doing nowadays is arguing against basic rights for homosexuals. It never seems to occur to people that we talk about this for the same reason a lot of people talk about Donald Trump. That’s the issue being talked about right now.

The premise starts off with a baker who refuses to bake a cake for a homosexual couple. Well, you know, it’s kind of good to see that there’s complaints about people refusing to do business with those who have views they disagree with. Naturally, this means that we can expect to soon see an SNL parody of the stance of Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Cirque Du Soleil, a porn site that blocked traffic to NC, and of course, Michael Moore who is withholding his latest film from NC. (Experts predict that he could have a loss of two tickets being sold.)

MichaelMooreBurned

Now here’s the thing. I happen to think that freedom is a wonderful thing and if these people don’t want to do business in NC, that’s their right. In fact, you could say that what they did is in fact a greater violation than what bakers are doing because these people made a contract that they agreed to and then backed out of it. Sure, people’s money for tickets will be reimbursed to them, but what about travel costs, arranging trips, making hotel stays, etc.? Still, no one has a right to the goods and services of these people. They are not obligated to perform for anyone. That’s freedom.

Most of us just want bakers and florists and photographers to get the same basic right. They produce a good or a service and they have the right to do what they want with that good and service. If they find it morally objectionable for them to do something involving a homosexual ceremony, that is their right. There are numerous other bakers and florists and photographers who will do this. Of course, as I say this, I realize that this is where the great virtue of tolerance we heard so much about goes right out the window.

“Well what if this baker wanted to deny making cases to people who are over 6 feet tall? What would you say then?”

I’d say it’s her business and she can do that if she wants. Do I think that would be a foolish decision? Yep. Do I think it would cost her the business? Sure do. Still, it is her business and she can do that if she wants. If she wants to serve only homosexuals and deny cakes for heterosexual couples, that is also her right. It doesn’t make any sense to say we celebrate freedom of everyone but if you disagree with what we want you to do, we will force the law on you.

In the parody, the lady refuses to do this and instead of having it be about an issue, such as what is the thought of God on homosexual practice, it becomes “Is God gay?” Yes. I understand they want to make a parody, but it’s one that doesn’t even make sense. Of course, SNL will never raise those deeper metaphysical questions and sadly, neither will a lot of people and that includes people on both sides of the debate. Some people will just go with “The Bible says X. I believe it. That settles it.” The other side will just be proclaiming love and tolerance (Until you disagree with them) and automatically paint their side as the positive. (Marriage equality. After all, who wants to oppose equality, although it is never asked if the relationships are really equal or not)

There is a scene also with discussion about problems facing our country including obesity and then this baker comes in and says she wants to deny basic rights to gay people. The man in charge says that that is the #1 priority. Again, the reason Christians are talking about this issue is because this is the issue being talked about. We could just as well ask that if these other causes are so much more important, why is everyone else so caught up in debates over homosexuality?

The film ends with a proclamation from the woman that “God is a boob man.” Yeah. This really makes sense. It’s as if God opposes homosexuality because God is a really big man in the sky who likes the ladies. This is not held to seriously by any Christian theologian but hey, why bother interacting with what your opposition thinks when you can get a laugh instead?

Now if SNL really wants to proclaim themselves as champions of equality and tolerance, I hope they keep going. I really do. After all, there are viewpoints out there that take a far tougher stance on homosexual practice than Christians do. I look forward to SNL making parodies about them. Therefore, I look forward to seeing them do a parody called Allah’s Not Gay or Allah Is A Boob Man. After all, in Muslim countries being a practicing homosexual can get you killed. We are sure that SNL will want to speak out against that intolerance and bigotry soon.

Or is it only Christians who you speak out against because you know Christians will not drop walls on you? Christians will actually give you the freedom to disagree. Do note this. I think SNL’s parody is highly offensive, but I do not think it’s right to go to the law and censor them for it. They have the right to make any parody that they want. I also have the right to respond to it and to do so with what I think is a reasoned argument. Now you can think my argument is a bad argument all you want, but it is an argument still.

In fact, I have not taken a hard line here to say homosexual practice is wrong. You can search on my blog here for other writings I’ve done on homosexual practice. I’m simply wanting to say that I see an inconsistency with Christians being called intolerant for not wanting to give the goods and services they own to someone else while Springsteen, Starr, and others get to do exactly that and they get celebrated as heroes.

Christians are often accused of being hypocrites. No doubt we are to some extent, but those who want to go after hypocrisy need to watch their own. Freedom is a wonderful thing and it works both ways.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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