Book Plunge: Humans 2.0

What do I think of Fazale Rana and Ken Samples’s newest book published by RTB? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“What hath God wrought?” Such was the question asked at the invention of the telegraph. We have updated our technology more and more so that when we watch shows such as Stranger Things and see the technology of the 80’s, we see it as primitive. When my wife and I go walking in the morning, we see students waiting for the school bus. I think they are likely some of our first digital citizens and will always grow up in a world with smartphones, the internet everywhere, and 9/11 being always a part of their lives.

Comic books showed us a world that fifty years ago we could only dream of. Now, some of those dreams are becoming reality. Unfortunately, when dreams do come true, it is not always a good thing. We could inadvertently create a nightmare by the actions that we do. Our intentions might be good at the start, but there are always people that will take good things and use them for nefarious means.

So it is with the idea known as transhumanism. It is through technological advances and gene therapies and ideas like that that we hope to push the limits of human potential. Many of us live with some such enhancements. I sit at my desk and from the outside, I look like an average person, although a bit underweight and thus small, but internally on my spine right now is a steel rod meant to keep me straight physically and control my scoliosis.

When I read a book like this one then, I find myself getting excited and concerned both. I like the idea of extending human lifespans so that 90 will be seen as what 50 is today. I like the idea of heightened intelligence and memory. I also have to wonder whose job it was to read Iron Man comics since there’s a story from them at the start of every chapter. That must have been enjoyable research.

But as a person with a disability, I have my concerns. Will I be seen as a defective human being and people like me need to be removed from the gene pool? Who will determine who gets enhancements and who doesn’t? Are we close to playing God in a way that we shouldn’t?

Rana and Samples have written this book to first off introduce us to the idea. They are not ones who are totally saying we have to scrap all these ideas. There are some good things coming. If we can take some steps to avoid suffering, is that not a good thing?

Their main concern is who is it we are going to end up being at the end? Will we still be humans? At this, this is probably my biggest criticism of the book is I don’t think humans are truly defined. If we say the image of God, we need to say what that image is exactly. Is the image something of the kind that technological advances can remove it? That doesn’t sound much like the image of God.

The writers explain much of the technology and science behind the ideas. If you’re like me, your eyes will, unfortunately, kind of glaze over these sections. They’re great while you read them, but afterward, you’re not sure what you read. On the plus side, they tell you where to skip ahead to in the book if you don’t want to read those.

There’s also philosophical and theological looks at the topics going into ethics. What is the right thing to do in this situation? How should Christians respond to technology in general? I personally think these advancements are inevitable, so what will we do when they come?

There’s also sections on how DNA works, the question of artificial intelligence, and even artificial wombs. People very much into science and technology will likely get a great deal out of this. I was a bit surprised that I don’t remember anything from the Matrix being mentioned in these kinds of sections, but that could be a sign of how even something like that is in our past.

Transhumanism is something that we as Christians will have to think about and it is becoming more of a reality every day. We have technology today we could only dream of when we were younger. How will it be in the future? Only time will tell. Let us hope that we are ready to let this genie out of the bottle properly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/31/2019

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

Miracles. We have all heard of them, but few of us have taken the real time to investigate them. Sure, we have Craig Keener’s book, but how many among us are really going to pick up and read a two-volume work that contains over 1,000 pages? If only there was a more accessible work out there that was an investigative look.

If we talk about that, aren’t journalists supposed to be good at investigating? Aren’t they supposed to be able to dig deep into a news story and pick out the information that is there? Aren’t they supposed to dig and get to the bottom of the case? Why yes, yes they are. Wouldn’t it be great if a journalist decided to investigate miracles?

As it turns out, one has. This is one who has investigated several cases in Christianity. He is a former atheist who nows teaches apologetics and has even recently opened up a center for applied apologetics. By now, many of you know who I’m talking about. He’s Lee Strobel, my guest on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty books. He is a former Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University and serves as a Teaching Pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas. 

Lee was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism degree) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law degree). He was a journalist for fourteen years at The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, winning Illinois’ highest honor for public service journalism from United Press International. He also led a team that won UPI’s top award for investigative reporting in Illinois.

After investigating the evidence for Jesus, Lee became a Christian in 1981. He subsequently became a teaching pastor at two of America’s most influential churches and hosted the national network TV program Faith Under Fire. In addition, he taught First Amendment law at Roosevelt University.

In 2017, Lee’s spiritual journey was depicted in a major motion picture, The Case for Christ, which was the #3 faith-based movie of the year at the boxoffice. Lee has won national awards for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. In all, his books have sold in excess of 14 million copies.

Lee was described in the Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists.” The Christian Post named Lee one of the top seven evangelical leaders who made an impact in 2017.

Lee and Leslie have been married for forty-five years and near Houston, Texas. Their daughter, Alison, is the author of five novels. Their son, Kyle, is a professor of spiritual theology at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

We’ll be talking with Lee about his book The Case For Miracles and seeing what evidence he found for miracles. We’ll also talk briefly about his new school that has opened up. He’s a guest that I have wanted to have on for some time and I hope you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did. (We just recorded this morning in a rare Thursday interview) Please also leave a positive review on iTunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chris Sabat and Autistic Fans

How should the term autistic be used? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife has always been a big fan of anime. I watched a few growing up. Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon some, and Cardcaptors. Those are the only ones I can recall at the time. Her favorite series was one called Dragonball and one of the voice actors on there was Christopher Sabat who voiced the character Vegeta.

He has also been a part of a lawsuit against another voice actor named Vic Mignogna, a devout Christian with a large fan base. Vic is alleged to be a sexual predator. For those wanting the reply to this, I recommend the videos at Unreal Network.

Apparently a fan asked Sabat if he was going somewhere a convention. Sabat said he doesn’t want to make any announcements because Vic’s autistic fans are slandering the cast of Dragonball and want to watch the world burn instead of admitting Vic is a jerk. (He said something else allegedly, but I don’t speak that way.) A tweet about this appears to have been deleted, but there doesn’t seem to be denial that this happened.

My wife and I hold to the innocence of Vic, but that is neither here nor there at this point. Vic could be what his opponents think him to be and that would not change this post. I want to write about the idea instead of how the term autistic is used.

Faithful readers know that my wife and I are both on the spectrum. Because of that, I take claims like this seriously. At the same time, I want to stress that I am not offended. I think it’s cheap and despicable, but I don’t get angry about it really. It takes a lot to get me riled up.

To refer to autism as an insult really is a negative way of speaking of a wonderful community of people. There are all degrees of autism. There are people out there who are pretty much non-verbal, except for perhaps with animals. Then, there are people like myself who are public speakers and debaters.

It is true that we are not always aware of what is going on around us socially, but that does not mean we are stupid in any sense of the word. Our condition should not be used as an insult. To use it that way is not just to insult Vic’s fans, but to insult people who have no connection whatsoever to Vic and to paint a stigma on autistic people.

This is also in a day and age where mental illness has a stigma attached to it. Turn on the news and hear about a mass shooting. What’s one of the first targets immediately? Mental illness. It never can be that people are just evil and do evil things. No. The only way someone does such great evil is they have to be mentally ill.

For my own wife and I, if you came into our home, you might never know you’re in the home of two people on the spectrum. She would say I am further along on the spectrum than she is in that I have more characteristics. That’s probably true. I also don’t mind it. I like being on the spectrum. I enjoy the way my mind works. I think it gives me advantages.

So if Chris Sabat wants to continue his little crusade against Vic, well it’s a free country. He can do that. I can freely respond as I see fit. If he wants to insult people on the spectrum, he can also do that, but I would encourage him to keep in mind that there are several of us out here leading happy lives and are thankful to be alive. Maybe he should go out and meet some of us and see what we’re like before using our condition as a term of slander against other people.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 9

What more awaits in Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the first points today will be five questions to ask your pastor. Let’s go through them!

“If our religion is the one true religion, and the majority of the world population does not believe as we do, how can God say he ‘does not want anyone to perish’ but yet he is going to burn at least 70% of his children for eternity? ● “According to the New Testament, judgment day was supposed to have happened a long time ago. It’s been two thousand years, what is God waiting on?” ● “Was it ever moral to kill babies, own another human being or commit rape? If not, is God a good role model for us?” ● “We are taught that salvation is through faith alone. Are we supposed to ignore the parts of the Bible that tell us salvation is also through works?” ● “If God is perfect, he does not need anything. Why did he make us? He was around for an infinite number years before us, then at some point he decided to make humans for a blip of time in eternity, why?”

Of course, we need to remember Jimmy has likely never bothered to try to find answers to these questions. Nope. That would require research and study and well, we can’t have that now can we?

First one is that first off, if someone isn’t one of God’s, they’re not His child. Second, many Christians like myself hold to a sort of inclusivism whereby many will be saved who never knew the name of Jesus. This is not to say that there is more than one way, but it is to say that God has great mercy on those who never heard through no fault of their own. Finally, people don’t “burn” in hell.

The second depends on what Judgment Day is. I recommend anyone interested look at my writings on Orthodox Preterism such as this one. Please understand that if Jimmy read this, he might get cognitive dissonance. He has an allergy to contrary thought after all.

For the third, rape is never approved of by God in the Bible. For the other point, I don’t see God as a moral agent, but as a good agent. God also has right over life and if He wants to take a life, He can take it. He owes no one else life. We do not have that same right.

For the fourth, it depends on the passage in question. The main one is James. In James, this is not about justification before God, but before men. Also, in my way of thinking, a true salvation by faith will not be without works. Eventually, the tree that is a true tree does produce true fruit.

Finally, God created no one out of need. He created out of abundance. The ancient Celtics said that the Trinity existed in a dance of love for all eternity and mankind was created to join in the dance. It is the same reason many parents have children today. Not because of need, but because of love.

Next we have five more signs you might be brainwashed.

You laugh at people that have more than one god, but you have no problem believing in a Trinity. ● You don’t trust the people in lab coats that devote their lives to following the evidence, no matter where it leads them, but you unquestioningly believe those people rolling around on your church floor speaking in tongues. ● You don’t bat an eyelash when I talk about all the violence God condones in the Bible, but why is it haram to criticize the violence that was committed in Allah’s name in the Qur’an? ● You mock the eastern religions and ancient Greeks because they claimed that gods had sex with mortals, yet you have no problem with the idea that Yahweh impregnated Mary? ● You think a loving god would allow 21,000 people per day to die of hunger?

No Jimmy. I don’t laugh at people who have more than one god. I debate them. I present evidence against people I disagree with. (You should try it sometime. This book is evidence you don’t care much for real research.) Furthermore, the Trinity isn’t polytheism. It’s hard to understand, but hey, so is light being a particle and a wave both.

For number two, wrong on both counts. I’m quite skeptical of many Christian claims and I have no problem with claims of science. Anything that can be established well in science I think should be believed.

Depends on the context again. If I thought Islam was the true religion, then it would be just for God to order something as He can take life when He wants to. My problem with Islam is that I don’t think it’s a true religion and the violence is not limited to a specific time and place and context.

God didn’t have sex with Mary to bring about the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

God is under no obligation to do the work that we should be doing. It could just as easily be said the effort Hall spent writing this book could have gone to feeding those 21,000 children. He also might want to note that the majority of organizations feeding those children are Christian ones and consider reading something on the problem of evil. Oh, wait. Contrary thought. Jimmy is scared of it.

Oh boy! Five more questions to ask your minister! Jimmy must be running out of “facts” so he’s just having to make up questions.

“Why did God wait over 5000 years after the rise of civilization before he delivered the rules we are supposed to live by?” ● “When the kangaroos got off the ark, how did they get all the way back to Australia? How did the sloths get back to South America?” ● “If god loved Abel’s cooked meat sacrifice more than Cain’s vegetable sacrifice, does he think less of me because I’m a vegetarian?” ● “Why do bad things happen to good people? You’ve probably been asked that a million times before, but this time, can you give me an answer that isn’t complete horseshit?” ● “Why did Herod send astrologers to find the baby Jesus instead of Roman troops? Wouldn’t that have prevented having to slaughter a town full of male infants later?”

Oh, Jimmy never gets old.

No Jimmy. The Law of God was not a new revelation of morality. That’s built into the creation. Again, try studying some Christian ethics.

Kangaroos and sloths weren’t on the ark. The flood was a local one. This is a common position in evangelicalism, but I don’t expect Jimmy to know that.

The love of the offering had nothing to do with the nature of the offering, but with the nature of the heart. Abel had a better heart towards God. Cain was never criticized for what he offered.

Again on evil, just read something on the problem of evil some time and really interact with it. It’s getting tiresome for you to ask the same objection just a different way over and over.

Last I checked, Roman troops were probably not the best at astrology and following stars. The wise men knew this one the best.

Let’s move to the next fact.

Did you know that the “Jesus fish” on the bumper of your car is a pagan astrological symbol? Before the Christians pilfered it, the symbol was used by the Syrians and Romans to represent Ichthys, the child of the mermaid-like Atargatis, the pagan goddess of fertility and well-being. The symbol also plays an important role in other tales. For example, as the Fish of the Nile, Ichthys swallowed Osiris’ penis after Isis had finished having sex with Osiris’ corpse.

Let’s suppose that this is all true. So what? Christians were forbidden to use fish as symbols? What Hall would need to show is that the Christians went out and deliberately found the pagans using this and stole the symbol. Noteworthy of course that he has no citation whatsoever here.

Next, he has a list of people who never mentioned Jesus. Let’s go through this one.

Aulus Perseus — First off, it’s Aulus Persius Flaccus. He was a Roman poet and satirist. He wrote satire of Etruscan religion. Why would he want to mention Jesus?

Plutarch — Plutarch is understandable to some extent, but he wrote about Greek and Roman lives and a man who was Jewish and seen as a crucified criminal would not have been of interest to Plutarch.

Columella — He wrote about agricultural issues and trees. Why would he mention Jesus?

Pomponius — This one is likely Pomponius Mela who wrote about geography. Why mention Jesus?

Dio Chrysostom — He wrote on literature, philosophy, and politics. Why should he mention Jesus?

Quintilian — He wrote about Greco-Roman rhetoric. This is not what Jesus did and furthermore, even if He had, there would be no reason for Quintilian to include someone his audience wouldn’t care for.

Justus of Tiberius — We don’t even have his works, but he wrote on kings of the Jews. If he did not see Jesus as the king of the Jews, why mention Him?

Quintus Curtius Rufus — His only work we have is a book on the history of Alexander the Great. Why mention Jesus?

Livy — Not only did he write on Roman history, he died before JESUS EVEN BEGAN HIS MINISTRY!

Note. Why does Jimmy not know this? Because he never bothered to look it up. He just heard it and vomited it back out.

Seneca — He could have included Jesus, but in his writings on ethical issues, he had enough material to work with and would have no need to refer to a shameful crucified Messiah figure.

Lucanus — He was Seneca’s nephew. All we have from him is a pem. He also wrote on the civil war between Pompey and Caesar. Why mention Jesus?

Silius Italicus — He wrote about the second Punic War. Why mention Jesus?

Lucius Florus — He wrote about events prior to the birth of Jesus. No need to mention Jesus.

Statius — He wrote poems and histories, mainly pertaining to Greek myths. No need to mention Jesus.

Caecilius — All I can find here is a banker who did in the eruption of Vesuvius. Not only do I not know if he wrote anything or not, why mention Jesus?

Petronius — He wrote vulgar satire. Why mention Jesus?

Theon of Smyrna — He studied math and astronomy and wrote a handbook for students on such subjects. Why mention Jesus?

Phaedrus — He wrote fables. Why mention Jesus?

Valerius Flaccus — He wrote a poem about Jason and the quest for the golden fleece. Why mention Jesus?

Philo Judaeus — I wrote about him in a prior post reviewing this book.

Valerius Maximus — He wrote a book of anecdotes. Why mention Jesus?

Phlegon — Phlegon actually did write about the eclipse at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion.

Pliny the Elder — He could have mentioned Jesus, but why would he? He didn’t mention a number of great Jewish moral teachers if any.

I also recommend Hall look at this work which is even by an atheist sympathetic to mythicism.

He quotes Deuteronomy 25:11-12 about two men fighting and a woman grabbing the testicles of one of them. She is to be shown no mercy and have her hand cut off. First off, some translations say she is to have her own pubic hair shaved as a shaming. Second, grabbing a man’s testicles was not only inflicting physical harm, but seeking to destroy his future by eradicating his ability to reproduce and destroying his manhood.

He also has the claim about Christians being atheists to many gods. He just goes one god further. I can imagine what Jim would say if a defense lawyer said this in court.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. We all agree that many people in this courtroom did not commit the murder. They are all innocent. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further.”

No juror would buy this defense and no lawyer would be stupid enough to use it, but apparently, it works for internet atheism.

Joy! Five more questions for your minister!

“Why aren’t there faith healers working in hospitals?” ● “If the Lord’s word is so powerful and inspirational, why does he need us walking around knocking on people’s doors?” ● “If I thank God for sparing my house when that tornado hit, aren’t I really just thanking him for destroying someone else’s house instead? When I thank God for the food I am about to eat, aren’t I basically just thanking him for choosing someone else to starve instead of me? ● “Why do you support the use of gay conversion therapy for the homosexual members of your congregation, when the American Psychiatric Association and every major national health organization on the planet have announced that there is no scientific demonstration of conversion therapy’s efficacy?”● “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? And if not, did belly buttons ‘evolve’ later?”

#1. I think because they’re frauds.

#2. Because the Bible can’t move on its own and I don’t think that’s a proper way to view it anyway. It’s like treating the Bible like a magic book.

#3. No. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Because someone doesn’t have something, should I refuse to enjoy it myself. Will Hall refuse to enjoy the love of his wife because many men are single?

#4. I think there was a lot of political work going into what happened with homosexuality being removed. I also have interviewed people on my podcast who used to be homosexual. They no longer are.

#5. Who cares?

He says that the Bible says morality is written on our hearts, but many animals display moral behavior. Supposing that’s true, what of it? That shows morality is not written on our hearts how?

He cites the case of Alex Malarkey who made up a story of visiting Heaven. Yes. That demonstrates that all such stories are made up. Hall is right that death is peer-reviewed in journals, but he misses that such studies exist of NDEs as well. They are not denied across the board at all.

He then has four reasons religion is all made up. The first is that none of them agree. So what? Neither do all scientific theories. Why should we expect all religions to?

Second is the geography as they all center around one area. An omnipotent deity would not let boundaries stop him. Keep in mind that Jim Hall says this in a nation where he is surrounded by Christians and that nation happens to be a few thousand miles away from Jerusalem.

The third is death. Religions are made to deal with death. No evidence is given of this.

The final is divine hiddenness. God apparently wants to remain hidden. He’s not doing a good job. Billions of people have found Him. Don’t expect Hall to do anything like look at Blake Giunta’s work on this topic.

Now for another set of questions.

If you’re so sure of your religion, why do you care so much that others doubt it? Why do you cry at funerals? Why don’t you question it critically? Why is your religion the exact same as your parents, and their parents?

For the first, because I care about their eternal salvation. For the second, I am sad that I have to for the time being cut ties with this person. Am I not allowed to miss someone? For the third, I do question it critically, much more so than you question my position. Fourth, I found out it was true, but what about so many people who come from Muslim, Mormon, or atheist households and become Christians?

He also says religion has answers that may never be questioned and science has questions that may never be answered. It’s a cute saying for atheists, but hardly applicable. I wish more people would question their religion. I wish more atheists would bother to ask questions about religion and find answers. For many atheists, if you ask a question about a religion and don’t know the answer, it means there isn’t one. Don’t bother going to find one.

That brings us through 421-480. We’ll go through more next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 8

What new nonsense does Hall have? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Oh, joy! We return to Hall’s book and what do we have but famous quotes from Popes! These are real delights! Let’s start with one of the most famous ones of all!

“How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us and our predecessors.”

Yes. He actually has that one in there. This one has been shown to be bogus numerous times. Here’s one such excellent takedown of it even mentioning the source that Hall has of Bembo.

He also has this one:

“Jesus was no other than the sun, adored in its Mithraic sect, and Jupiter represented in the paganism in the shape of a ram and of a lamb… there is no valid document to demonstrate the existence of Christ.” – Pope John III

Hall provides no citation. A search of mine couldn’t even find this one on atheist cites. I guess Hall wants us to take it on faith.

Well, here are some choice Jim Hall quotes.

“I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to do research and validate source claims.” — Jim Hall.

“I don’t bother to check an argument, but I just see if it argues against Christianity and then I assume it must be true.” — Jim Hall.

“I experience great cognitive dissonance when I see someone use fake quotes the same way that I use them on myself.” — Jim Hall.

The next one he has is on where Mary and Joseph went after the birth of Jesus. To the temple or to Egypt? Simple answer. They went to the temple and then later on when Jesus was still an infant they went to Egypt.

He then says

“If you tell a non-believer that she is intellectually bankrupt and cannot have a moral framework because morality is objective and based on God’s law, don’t be offended when she tells you that your moral framework is based on intolerance and hate.”

Don’t worry, Jim. I’m not offended. For one thing, I would never say the former since I don’t believe you need the Law of God to know morality. Second, I don’t make a big deal out of offense like that. I leave that for atheists like yourself.

He says theists like to say something comes from nothing, but then says Scripture says otherwise since Hebrews says God made the universe from nothing. Little difference there, Jimmy. God does not need raw material to make something. He can create something by fiat. Please let me know what causal power your nothing has like that.

He says Babel took place not because God was condemning their pride, but because He thought they might pull it off. Nothing in the text says otherwise and the text indicates God is actually mocking them. The tower is to reach to the heavens and yet God says “We need to go down to see what they are doing.” In other words, God is saying He is up there in Heaven and He can’t see the tower.

He says Mary was not a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (And I do affirm the virgin birth) since the word almah is used. Actually, in the New Testament the word Parthenos is used. That word means virgin. Hall is going by Isaiah 7:14 instead and even then, that word can refer to a virgin as well.

He says that if you climb a tall enough mountain in the Middle East you can see China and the Incan civilization. The reference is Matthew 4:8 since Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of the world. I think the mountain was likely a move to show a place of high honor and all the kingdoms could be shown in a visionary way or else it could refer to the kingdoms of Israel and Jesus being the Messiah of Israel.

Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist. If the contemporaries can be fooled, what does that say about the resurrection tale? You tell me, Hall. Let’s compare the data we have agreed to by critical scholars on the resurrection event and you give me your explanation for it.

Hall says that before the Gospels, it was clear Jesus was just a man. Not at all. He was a man, but Romans 9:5 refers to Him as God above all. 1 Cor. 8:4-6 includes Him in the Shema of Israel. Philippians 2:6-11 has Him given the name above all other names. You could go and pick out verses that refer to Him as a man and point out His humanity, but one must give both sides of the equation. Again, don’t expect Hall to interact with the scholars in the Early High Christology Club. He can’t take cognitive dissonance.

He says Philo says nothing about Jesus or Christianity. Why should he? Philo wasn’t even in Jerusalem and Jesus was a flash in the pan who was crucified and Christianity was a shameful sect that no one wanted to regard. This kind of argument only works on people who really don’t know a thing about history, such as Jim Hall and his followers.

He says that Paul said anyone who disagreed with his teachings was to be cursed, even an angel from heaven. No. Paul actually said anyone who teaches a different gospel than the one the Galatians were taught and at the start, he refers to a plurality of people with him.

Hall then lists signs that you might be brainwashed.

● You vigorously deny the existence of hundreds of other gods but get outraged when someone denies the one you believe in. ● You can’t even entertain the possibility that you might be wrong. ● You think you know more about your holy book than the average atheist. ● You think humans came from dirt and ribs, and you get angry when the public school tries to teach your kid that we evolved from simpler life forms. ● You only remember the few times prayer worked for you, and you conveniently forget the many times it didn’t.

Let’s look at these.

For the first, I don’t get outraged. You avoid that Jim when you’re secure in your beliefs intellectually. Quite different from your refusal to interact with my reviews of your literature.

I can fully entertain the possibility that I might be wrong. I just think Hall can’t due to his refusal to interact with contrary thought. If Hall thinks I am wrong, let him make a case. Note: Two books of bogus claims are not convincing.

Yes, Jim. I do think I know my holy book better than the average atheist. That’s because I study books by leading scholars and read books that disagree with me.

I don’t hold necessarily to that interpretation of Genesis 2, but I have no problem with evolution being taught. I am sympathetic to the idea of evolution being true. Another swing and a miss.

I can tell you many times prayer didn’t “work” for me and thank God it didn’t. If I had got everything I wanted I would be in trouble. So on this list, Hall misses everything entirely.

We will continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 7

What more is there in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the first new facts of Hall’s is about the incident in 1 Samuel with 50,070 people dying for looking in the Ark. He pictures people lining up and all dying when they look or an event like a football stadium and everyone dying at once. Funny. I picture someone who doesn’t bother reading scholarship and now agrees that the text should more accurately read 70. Of course, Hall has never been one for reading contrary thought. He has to avoid that cognitive dissonance after all.

There is something in there about an iron axe head floating. Again, this is called a miracle. I really don’t understand this technique of atheists. “Look! Your account contains miracles!” Yeah. It does. That’s only ipso facto stupid if it is shown there is no God, which is really what is the question under dispute. This makes as much sense as me going to atheists and saying “Look! Your account requires naturalistic evolution!”

He then goes to Jesus’s command that if you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already done it in your heart and since adultery is punishable by death, everyone should die multiple times over. First off, yes. Everyone deserves judgment for their sins. Second, Jesus is telling to stop the problem in the heart, but there is definitely a difference between real adultery and desire to commit adultery. One cannot be punished for a thought like that in the court of man at least.

He then looks at the Exodus. First off, he says the population would be about 2,000,000 Hebrews not counting women and children. On this, he’s unaware that even that is disputed in evangelical scholarship where it’s asked if it means that many people or a large number of chiefs. He says there is nothing recording the death of the firstborn in Egypt, but why would there be? Most cultures didn’t record what could be perceived as failures of their gods.

As for lack of evidence of slaves wandering the area in the wilderness, the Scythians were a large group and wandered much longer. What did we find of them? The tombs of their kings. In other words, we only found the stuff that they built to last. The Hebrews didn’t build any such things to last in the wilderness.

He then goes to a list of ways to identify a false religion.

● Its deity never appears in person ● Its claims are unverifiable ● No documented physical evidence ● Praying to its deity has no measurable real-world effect ● Rewards are promised for belief; punishments are threatened for unbelief ● Regular group-think meetings are held to reinforce the belief ● Believers never ask critical questions

Let’s go through this list.

Yes. Our deity did appear in person. He was crucified.

Our claims can be verified using philosophical methodology for the question of God and as verifiable as you can get using historical methodology.

We have plenty of archaeological and documentary evidence for Biblical events.

Hall will not interacted with the research of Craig Keener on mracles of Candy Gunther Brown on prayer studies.

People are not punished for unbelief. People are punished for their sins. Trust in Jesus is not just mere intellectual assent. It’s a lifetime of treating Jesus as Lord.

Church is not meant to be a group-think situation but a time to worship. All people to some extent tend to like to hang out with like-minded people. I have no problem with atheists coming together to meet.

And Hall, I have no problem with critical questions. If you don’t, then by all means maybe you should respond to my review of your past book or this current review. Could it be you don’t like being challenged?

He wonders why Mary was confused by Jesus being in the temple when He was 12 years old. Mary likely still had in mind the traditional views in Judaism of the Messiah. The plan was not spelled out for her.

He says the Israelites used to be polytheists. Wow. Really? I mean, don’t we know in the Old Testament that they were perfect holders of monotheism who never ever once deviated in worship from YHWH?

Hey everyone! Cool scientific fact! This morning, the sun rose in the East.

He has also the usual God doesn’t heal amputees and says this never happens. How does he know? There was controversy on the Unbelievable? page a few years ago when someone contacted the radio show about praying for someone and they had an eye regrow back. Now Hall can say that this never happens, but it will become circular.

“Prayer never causes an eye to grow back.”

“But this person says it happened.”

“It didn’t happen.”

“How do you know?”

“Because that never happens!”

He then says it was common knowledge to the early Christians that Jesus was a copy and paste job from other deities. After all, Justin Martyr said to the emperor that the Christians didn’t believe anything different from their pagan neighbors. Here’s the problem. Justin is trying to show that Christianity is not shameful and if Christianity is persecuted, then other beliefs should be persecuted. It is not saying the Christians copied. This is an idea that has been dropped by scholarship for about a century.

He points to Romulus as a copy. He says he was a son of God, preached to followers on a hill, corpse went missing, returned from the dead in an immortal body, witnesses were frightened, appeared to one follower in a spiritual form in a bright light on a road into the city.

Not a single source is given for any of this. I challenge Hall to find the source and demonstrate his claims. I also want to know how close the claims are to the original events. I think Hall will be disappointed, but he won’t look. Hall can’t take the cognitive dissonance.

He also says if you have enough faith, you can literally move a mountain. Hall doesn’t realize ancient Israelites spoke in topographical language about political events. Of course, God could move a mountain, but rearranging topography is not in mind. More likely, Herod is in mind.

He also says,

“Philosophical arguments don’t win debates; evidence wins debates. Moreover, gods who exist don’t leave their existence open to debate.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing in here that is evidential and it is really philosophical. He also says gods who exist don’t leave their existence open to debate. Does he have any evidence for this? It will have to be philosophical argumentation, but for him, that doesn’t count as evidence, so he has a belief without evidence.

Lesson for you Hall. Any time you disparage philosophy, you will wind up hoisting yourself on your own petard.

He also has something about Attis who was supposedly around in 1250 BC. He was born on December 25th (Which by the way, is nowhere in the New Testament about Jesus), had names like the only begotten son, savior of mankind, most high god, and the logos. He was the son and the father, crucified on a Friday and rose from the dead three days later, and eaten as bread by his followers.

Again, I defy Hall to come here and source any of these claims from primary sources.

He tells about the story of the woman caught in adultery and says this isn’t found in the original manuscripts. The same with the ending of Mark. Well, yes. This has been known even in the times of the Church Fathers. Hall then wants to know what more could be suspect. How about we see what Bart Ehrman says?

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco.

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

“The manuscripts of the New Testament do indeed have large numbers of variations in them: alternative ways of reading a verse in a passage; omissions of words or sentences; additional insertions of words and sentences here and there. But the problem is not of such a scope as to make it impossible to have any idea what these ancient Christian authors wrote. If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, this objection might carry more weight. But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. And I don’t know even of any mythicist who is willing to make this claim. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute. And where it is, it rarely has anything at all to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.” -Did Jesus Exist, p. 181

Again, I’m not covering everything, but there is more than enough evidence thus far even that Hall doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We’ll continue perhaps more next week.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/24/2019

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

The past is a funny place. They do things differently there. In an age where we have popular preachers that make most of us shake our heads in disbelief if we’re paying attention, it’s hard to imagine a time when the preachers were celebrities not because of their appearances or their megachurches, but because they were good expositors of Scripture. Truly, though they rest, their works do follow. Their commentaries and writings are still read today. Just a few days ago, I got on Kindle a book for my wife about Spurgeon and his writings on sorrow and depression.

They also had their issues in their days with skeptics of the Christian faith. These men often had to have some knowledge in Christian apologetics if they were going to make it. Some of them certainly did and just as we can learn from their exposition of Scripture and their sermons on daily living, so we can learn from how they did apologetics back in their own day.

Fortunately, I had someone get in touch with me who had discovered my podcast and thought this would be a great topic to discuss. He also has his own show and was interested in letting people know about the work that he was doing. I was happy to comply as I thought that it was a great topic to discuss and I know my friend Tim McGrew has regularly shared with me the wisdom of reading old books, something I still need to pay more attention to.

My guest’s name is Troy Frasier. He runs the Revived Thoughts podcast focusing on bringing back thoughts from preachers of the past. We will be discussing on my show this weekend what we can learn from those great minds.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Troy Frasier graduated from Bible College in 2015. Since then he’s worked with at risk youth, lived and taught in China for two years, and taught at a school in the heart of Miami. He is now serving at Northside Christian Church. He is also a co-host on the Revived Thoughts Podcast. The show was created by Troy Frasier and Joel Bourdess to bring the great sermons of history back to life! They have been able to bring unique voices to over 15 sermons so far by people like John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

I hope you’ll be listening to the next episode. I am working on getting the old episodes up slowly but surely. Give it time and they will be there. Thanks for being a fan and supporter of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 6

What more is in Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Hall has Jesus appearing to the twelve disciples, but thankfully, Hall is there to point out an error no one noticed. There weren’t twelve! Judas had already killed himself! We should all appreciate Hall is here to give us his brilliant wisdom and point out something no one has ever noticed or written about.

The restaurant Five Guys was originally based on a husband and his four sons (His wife was there, but the guys were given prominence). A couple of years after that, a fifth son was born. Did anyone note the name being changed to Six Guys? Nope. If two of them died, would it be Four Guys? The name is still the same, just like the Big Ten Conference no longer has ten. The name, the Twelve, just came to refer to the circle of Jesus’s own direct apostles.

Hall also tells us that civilizations have been around for 14,000 years. Granting that, how is it that they thrived without Moses telling them murder was wrong? If that wasn’t the point, why the Ten Commandments?

Yes. This is apparently where popular atheistic thinking is today.

The Ten Commandments did not reveal new moral principles. They were already known. They were just founding wisdom for guiding a people, not necessarily on moral issues, though that would be included. These were a sort of agreement the people would live by. It wasn’t that the morality was new and even in the New Testament, such as in Romans 2, it’s known that you don’t need the Law to know right from wrong.

He uses Zechariah 14:12 to say any nation that attacks Jerusalem will face drought and its people will become zombies. It’s certainly a bizarre interpretation, but it doesn’t fit. It’s an apocalyptic message using rich symbolic imagery and it refers to a specific people at a specific time in a specific situation and not for all time.

He then has something to say about substitutionary atonement. This is the most immoral and wicked doctrine to think that someone else can pay for the sins of another. It’s more than just paying sins, but taking on the shame and facing the shame. It strikes me that if God did nothing, He would be condemned for not dealing with the problem. Now He deals with the problem, but it’s just not liked how He did it. How horrible that someone takes on a punishment for us so we don’t have to! Wicked!

Also, it’s said that God shouldn’t have waited 200,000 years. Apparently, Hall has this idea that the atonement only applies to people afterward. Again, this is how little Hall has really studied Christianity.

Hall also looks at the story in Ezekiel 23 of the two sisters. He knows it’s an allegory, but he thinks it’s a pretty disgusting story. Okay. And? Is the Bible supposed to meet Hall’s personal sensitivities? Saying you’re offended by a passage says nothing about if that passage should be there or not.

He says Lot’s daughters got him drunk so they could rape him and have sons. Yes. They did. And? The Bible records how depraved they were and how two of Israel’s future opponents came about. The point?

Hall says that miracles also ceased once the camera came around and yet they became more common when photoshop came about. No data is given to support this. No interaction is given with Keener’s work, especially since his miracles take place in areas where cameras and photoshop aren’t as common.

He asks if you could stop someone from raping someone, would you? If so, you are more moral than God. This is just the problem of evil. Does Hall want Jesus to be Johnny on the Spot stopping every single instance of evil whatsoever? Don’t expect Hall to again heed any philosophy on the problem of evil.

He says Rome did not allow the bodies of the crucified to be removed. This is true, except in Palestine. Why? Romans were sensitive to Jewish purity laws and that would include the treatment of the dead, even the crucified dead. He says only one crucified corpse has been found. Granted that, lo and behold, it was in the Palestine area. When peacetime was going on between Rome and Jerusalem, Jerusalem was allowed to observe its laws.

Hall tells us that Mark was the first one written and the others copied Mark after that and the resurrection was hearsay and the last twelve verses were added a century later. Again, Hall does not read scholarship. He only needed to consult the agnostic Bart Ehrman on this one. This is from Jesus Before The Gospels. Ehrman says this in the endnotes on 280, but the link is to p. 226.

It is sometimes said that Mark does not have a resurrection narrative since the final twelve verses (16:9–20) are lacking in our best and earliest manuscripts. It is true that Mark appears to have ended his Gospel with what is now 16:8, but that does not mean that he lacks an account of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus is indeed raised from the dead in Mark’s Gospel, as the women visiting the tomb learn. What Mark lacks is any account of Jesus appearing to his disciples afterward; in this, it is quite different from the other three canonical Gospels.

He also says Jesus said He came to bring fire to the Earth in Luke 12 and how He wishes it was kindle. No doubt, Hall reads this as a literalist thinking Jesus wanted to have an actual flamethrower or nuke the planet. This is more likely speaking in terms of revolution and bringing about the Kingdom of God. There’s no reason to really think it’s about torching the planet.

He has a question about how many of the Biblical writers met Jesus face to face. The options are zero, 4, at least 12, or at least 40. His answer is in the notes to that question.

(A) Zero. Remember that cognitive dissonance I was talking about? Yeah, you’re probably feeling it right now. Time to fact-check me.

Yeah. It is, because Hall provides no source whatsoever for that one. How about talking to Richard Bauckham of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses? I personally went to Emory University once looking through commentaries on Mark. Most scholars agree that Mark is the testimony of Peter who, check me if I’m wrong, but I think Peter knew Jesus face to face. The author of John also likely was an eyewitness or used an eyewitness. Perhaps we could also ask how many people Plutarch wrote about did he meet face to face?

It’s interesting that the next item he gives is about how the writers were anonymous. So were the writings of Plutarch. The point? As E.P. Sanders says about it,

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

Don’t expect Hall to acknowledge this. It would have required he actually research something. He says the vast majority of scholars say Mark did not write Mark. My personal research disagreed. I would like very much to see what scholars he consulted since so far, his work indicates the number is likely zero.

He also gives a personal favorite of mine saying Jesus would return within a lifetime and He didn’t. The citation is in Matthew 24 with the this generation passage. Sorry Hall, but Jesus said nothing about a return. He was talking about His coming and He referenced Daniel. Daniel has the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days. He’s going up, not down. This is about Jesus’s coming meaning His coming to take His throne. The disciples would not have asked about His return since they had no concept of that. They didn’t think He was going to die in Jerusalem let alone rise again, leave, and then return. Jesus’s prophecy, which included the destruction of the temple, happened exactly as He said it would.

His next objection is

Religion is based on supernatural phenomena, beings, forces and miracles. The supernatural cannot be scientifically scrutinized because if science could detect it, it would cease to be supernatural and instead become natural. Unfortunately for science, religion can never be verified. Fortunately for theists, religion can never be falsified.

This is really an odd paragraph. For one thing, supernatural is never defined, which is another reason it’s a term I don’t use. He also has an implicit scientism here that unless something is scientific, it cannot be shown to be verifiable. This isn’t the case at all. Scientific truth is reached inductively. It goes by probabilities and the science we have today could be junk tomorrow. Some things are much more likely than others. One could say science can’t be falsified because for many claims, there are variables one could cite that explain why this just isn’t so.

Next he quotes Bart Ehrman to say Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman or Greek Non-Biblical source (I wasn’t aware there were Greek and Roman Biblical sources) until 80 years after His death.

“In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription. It is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero, Zip references.”

You really wish these guys would go to the original source. Prior to that, he tells us that there’s no doubt the historical Jesus is the most important person in the history of western civilization. There is no doubt of that at all in his opinion. Why does Hall leave this out?

He gives us Justin Martyr’s idea of diabolical mimicry wanting the reader to ask if the devil reading the prophecies about Jesus and attempting to fulfill them in false religions is a reliable argument. No. It’s not. The irony though is that Justin is not trying to explain away similarities. He’s doing the opposite! He’s trying to point them out and say to his audience, “We don’t believe shameful things because you believe similar.” Why are they similar? Because of the attempt by the devil to mimic. Again, not persuasive, but it’s not said for the reasons Hall thinks.

He then tells us about how vast the universe is and asks “Do you really think it was done with your insignificant self in mind?” Well, no. I think it was done with the glory of God in mind. We still needed a place to live in it. Whether it’s necessary or not scientifically, I leave that to the scientists. Again though, I suspect we have a case where Hall would claim victory in anything. If we had a universe teeming with life, the argument would be “See? There’s life everywhere. We’re not special.” Since we have the opposite as far as we know it is “See? We’re it. That argues against theism.” It’s a bad argument when you could make a case either way for you to win.

He brings up Jesus saying His disciples didn’t wash their hands. Couldn’t Jesus have mentioned basic sanitation? Um, Hall, The water likely back then wasn’t really pure and pristine. They didn’t have our soap and dishwashing detergent like we do today. Why should Jesus bring up something like this that would only apply thousands of years in the future?

He cites 2 John 9-11 to say you are not allowed to invite atheists into your house. Again, Hall does no study. The passage then is about a house church and how you shouldn’t allow a non-believer to be given a teaching position in your house church. It says nothing about having friends come over who are non-believers.

He cites Leviticus 21 saying handicapped people aren’t allowed in the assembly of the Lord. This is about the temple. Also, no non-Levites were allowed to enter and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only once a year. Why? Because this was supposed to image Jesus, the perfect lamb of God. Those with disabilities could freely eat of the offerings given though. This means they, like all others, can partake of the blessings of God.

He goes to Deuteronomy 22:23-29 about a woman marrying her rapist. Even another atheist has taken this one to task. Again, don’t expect Hall to have studied the text. That requires too much work. Outrage works so much better.

We’ll continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 5

What else can we find in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return again to Hall’s treasury of comedy, for lack of a better word, to see what arguments he has. Getting back into the matters, one of the first is the problem of evil. This is about how 25,000 children are dying everyday in fear, pain, and hunger. We are to remember this when we win some money in a scratch-off lottery ticket and give thanks or on Thanksgiving dinner.

We could just as easily ask Hall what great atheist organizations are doing to help combat the evil. Christians are normally right there on the front lines whenever disaster strikes and we are the ones that run the organizations helping children in need. Not all of it is Christian, but a large portion of it is.

Hall has nothing here on interacting with any scholarship on the problem of evil. Nothing about Clay Jones or Peter Kreeft or Alvin Plantinga or anyone like that. It’s simply the emotional appeal. While one would hope there is genuine concern for children, it looks more often like these children are trotted out to score personal points against theism.

He also says God violently drowned the world because they were too violent. This is supposed to be irony. What’s ironic is I went to Biblehub to do a search of the main passage, Genesis 6:5, and not one of them mentioned violence. Instead, it referred to man having a continual inclination towards evil. That could include violence, but it would not be limited to it.

Furthermore, God is the judge and ower of life and has the right to end the life He created. We do not have such a right. Hall just has a bad case of theistic personalism going on here. He views God as a big man just like the rest of us and under the same moral rules. God is good, but He is not a moral agent since there is nothing that He ought to do.

While I’m not Catholic, I find it amazing to hear him say Catholics practice cannibalism with transubstantiation. Hall is going back to older claims about eating the body and blood of Christ that Christianity’s first opponents used. Some arguments just never die.

He asks about how many pairs of animals Noah brought onto the ark. Was it two or seven? It’s amazing such a weak challenge is taken seriously. The clean animals would be extra for sacrifice and the number refers to how they were to enter the ark.

He quotes Matthew 6 to say Jesus was against public prayer. No. Jesus was against prayer to be seen. Pharisees would let it be known to everyone that they were praying so they could get the honor for it. Jesus Himself prayed in public, such as at the tomb of Lazarus.

He has that a 90 year-old woman gave birth. News flash to Hall, but everyone at the time also knew that this was generally impossible even without knowing why. That’s why it was called a miracle. I still do not understand how it is supposed to disprove a claim to someone that believes miracles are possible to show that a miracle occurred.

He also says one man circumcised 300 of his slaves in a day. As if to say that because the text says Abraham did this, he had to do it all directly. You might as well say that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged, that Pilate did it directly. What is it with fundamentalist atheists and literalism?

He tells us the oldest bit of text we have from the New Testament is P52 and it is about the size of a credit card and dated to about 225 CE. Not sure where he’s getting the date at. Most sources I read say mid-second century. Furthermore, there is really no reason to call the text of the NT into question. We don’t have any original manuscripts of any ancient work and the NT is far and above better with dating and manuscript number than any other ancient work. Hall cites no scholars for his claim. For my position on the NT text, I will.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco.

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

“The manuscripts of the New Testament do indeed have large numbers of variations in them: alternative ways of reading a verse in a passage; omissions of words or sentences; additional insertions of words and sentences here and there. But the problem is not of such a scope as to make it impossible to have any idea what these ancient Christian authors wrote. If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, this objection might carry more weight. But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. And I don’t know even of any mythicist who is willing to make this claim. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute. And where it is, it rarely has anything at all to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.” -Did Jesus Exist, p. 181

He also says that insects have four legs according to Leviticus. Keep in mind these were people who regularly hate these insects and knew how to count. What’s going on? Simple. The back legs are not counted as regular legs like the others.

He says that God cursed humanity with multiple languages for trying to build a tower to Heaven. Why isn’t NASA judged yet? Because the tower was built after the flood when mankind was supposed to disperse throughout the Earth and instead they were acting in pride to build a tower to keep themselves safe in defiance of the flood in their recent history.

“The gospels were not written by simple, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking fishermen and peasants who knew Jesus, but were written decades later by literate, educated writers who wrote in Greek and were, incidentally, rather hazy about the Jewish landscape” – Kenneth Humphreys

Yep. Ken Humphreys, owner of Jesus Never Existed. We are getting into some first-rate scholarship here, folks. First off, in the ancient world, most works of history were written decades later. Actually, that’s not really accurate. Many times it was at least a century later. Hall and Humphreys obviously hope their audience is as ignorant as they are.

Second, most everyone who could write back then even used a secretary when writing. That the apostles might have still been illiterate is irrelevant. Literate people used secretaries.

As for errors in the Jewish landscape, none are given. I guess Hall just wants us to take it on faith.

Hall lists a variety of seafood that you are forbidden to eat citing Leviticus 11. Well, maybe if you’re observant of Jewish law and kosher practice, but not necessarily if you’re a New Testament Christian who is not under the Law. Again, Hall takes a simplistic approach to a complex topic. It’s alright. We wouldn’t want him to actually work and study a topic.

He shares the story of Jacob working seven years to get Rachel and not noticing that he got Leah instead and how he worked another seven years. What’s the problem here? For one thing, how could he not notice? A number of reasons. One is he could have been likely drunk which would happen at weddings. Another is the woman wore a veil often and he might not have even seen her face until the next day and keep in mind, no lighting really at night unless you used a candle or something of that sort.

There are some accounts in the New Testament that Hall questions how the writer could have known about them. The first is the voice of Heaven at Jesus’s baptism. Yes. It’s a wonder how the author could have access to a public declaration done at the baptism of Jesus. Some such events are conversations with the priests and what they were thinking. Considering Acts 6 says some priests became followers of Jesus, it’s not too hard to figure out how that could have come about. What about Jesus praying alone? The word indicates that Jesus was a short distance away. This could have been easily heard. Pilate and Jesus’s private conversation. Doubtful that when it says they talked together, they were alone. A governor would not be without his aides especially when interviewing someone thought to be a criminal. Another humorous one is Joseph of Arimathea asking for Jesus’s corpse. Well, since Joseph was a follower of Jesus, maybe, and I realize this is stretching, but maybe he told other followers of Jesus what happened.

Could be.

He says that denying a gay customer a wedding cake because of your religious beliefs is the same as a Catholic refusing to sell condoms, a Muslim refusing to sell bacon, someone refusing to sell you cookies because you’re on a diet, someone refusing you a fishing license because they became vegan, and a Jew refusing to sell Christmas cookies.

Again, a simplistic approach to matters. To begin with, I think anyone who has a good or service has a right to refuse that since you do not have a right to anyone else’s goods or services. Second, to supply actual artwork for an event as is often asked is to be forcing someone to endorse that event since their artistic labors are part of their free speech. Would Hall be fine with forcing Jewish bakers to paint a pro-Nazi cake?

He says bats are birds and not mammals. This is going by modern taxonomy. In the Biblical case, the word for bird referred not to a taxonomy class, but a winged creature. Last I checked, bats have wings.

He says Judas refers to a Jew and thus the betrayal of Jesus is obvious fiction since Judah in the Old Testament sold his brother for 20 pieces of silver and Judas in the New Testament sells Jesus for 30. Never mind that Richard Bauckham points out that Judas was the fourth most popular name for Jewish boys in Palestine. Could it be that maybe Judas was the name because that was a common name and not because of some conspiracy theory? We’ll wait to see if Hall takes off his tin foil hat for this one.

We’ll continue another time. Only so much nonsense in a day after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Demons and Spirits In Biblical Theology

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

A few months ago John Walton and his son released this book. It’s a bit different from their usual work seeing as there’s not a list of propositions being affirmed and that it doesn’t just focus on the Old Testament, but it also focuses on the New Testament. The work is meant to examine what the Bible means when it talks about demons and spirits.

This book is sure to cause some controversy if it hasn’t already. Walton and Walton think that a lot of what we believe about demons is wrong. The Bible is not meant to teach us any kind of demonology as the beliefs about the demons came from the culture much like one could talk about geological beliefs about the shape of the Earth and the nature of creation without having that be meant to give us scientific details.

This involves looking at the systems of thought that existed in Biblical times. This also means looking at what is going on when gods are invoked or prayed to in other cultures. Some texts of the Old Testament indicate that these could be to demons. Is that really the case?

There’s also a lot of talk about spiritual warfare. What is really going on in that? We have a look at the Daniel 10 passage where Michael says he was upheld by the Prince of Persia. It’s an odd passage in many ways and one frequently cited. I don’t want to tell the look the Waltons give of this. You need to read it for yourself.

They also look at the Serpent in the Old Testament. Is this really the devil? There could possibly be references in the book of Revelation that indicate that, but the creature doesn’t seem to be mentioned anymore in the Old Testament text. This will also include examinations of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book I found was when they talked about the problem of evil. While Christians of the past did have something to say about evil, it wasn’t really considered a major issue like it is today until the time of the Enlightenment. This is very similar to something David Wood said to me when I interviewed him for the first time on my show.

What changed? The Enlightenment sent us the message that human happiness was the greatest good. This doesn’t mean that human happiness doesn’t matter to God, but is it on the same level we would put it on? The problem for us is we think if God is doing what He “ought” to be doing, then we shouldn’t be seeing this evil. God actually becomes a means to our happiness and we judge His commitment to us by how our lives are going. That’s why some people walk away from their faith at this point which is, in essence, firing God. They get something out of it that they don’t think they get in Christianity.

The Waltons also say this doesn’t serve the cause of what they call conflict theology, where God is fighting against the ways of the devil as classically understood, in a good light. Too often, it is easy to say that people do great evil because of demonic inspiration. I’m not one to say demons aren’t always involved, but enough times the old adage is true. Lead me not into temptation, I can find it on my own. We’re good enough at finding evil ourselves.

There’s another concern with this also. It’s this idea that if we just removed demons from the scene, none of us would really choose to do evil. I find the same thing happening when we have a mass shooting and we talk about mental health. If we can just remove the mental health, well then everything will work out perfectly and no evil will take place.

There’s a lot to think about here. I’m not convinced on every point just yet, but there is stuff to think about. I look forward to seeing what other scholars say in response to this important work and dialogue starting about the topic of the devil and demons.

If there’s something else I would have liked more on, I would have liked something on the holy angels, seeing as those I think would be included as spirits. Maybe that will be in another work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters