And The Power

Why do we say God has the power? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Something I found interesting when I went through the first part of Aquinas’s Summa Theologica was that questions were being answered that are really just now becoming major issues. Before the new atheism had hit, most of the arguments were already answered by Aquinas and other medieval theologians. Augustine has a wonderful paragraph on Christians and scientific issues that could have looked like it was written today.

One such question asked is if there is power in God. Then, it was asked if He was omnipotent or not. Aquinas answered the questions and answered all the objections to them. Note that I said objections. The medievals were thinking about these things long before we were.

So what about power? That shows up in the Lord’s prayer. God’s is the Kingdom and the power. Why do we say that?

Because if you’re going to rule a Kingdom, you have to have the power to bring about that Kingdom if it isn’t already there, and you have to have the power to rule it. Only God, and specifically God in Christ, can be the true king because only He is omnipotent and only He is without beginning and without end. He has the power to make what He wants happen and the power to sustain it when it does.

Which should really make us all think seriously about things. If you know the king has the power over everything in your life, how are you going to respond? Are you going to treat Him in a nonchalant way? Are you going to act regularly against His authority and power? If so, then you are a fool.

And by that, we are all fools.

The Lord’s prayer is meant at this point to remind us not to do that. Everything is about God. We ask God to supply our needs because we realize we are dependent on Him. We ask God to forgive us our debts, because we know that He alone can forgive us and we know that He is the one we have wronged. It’s His Kingdom and we are all traitors to the King.

Serious stuff. Do we really think about this when we pray this prayer? Do we consider that He has the power?

If you do something wrong at your job and know that the boss knows about it, you can be in fear since he holds your livelihood. If you have an affair and cheat on your spouse, you can live in fear because if they find out, they can leave. If you are guilty of a crime, you can live in fear of the police lest you be arrested.

Should we not live with an appropriate fear of God? Should we not want to do the same with Him? Should we not want to make it our goal to avoid wronging Him?

It is always tempting to take God lightly and to take prayer lightly. We should do neither. We should realize that we are entering into the presence of the King. Dare we make requests when we have not considered His power and holiness (The prayer reminded us that hallowed be God’s Name)? Yet we do.

Let’s not take the Lord’s Prayer lightly either. God has the power. We need to respect that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Problem With Christian Entertainment

Why do we not impact people in the entertainment industry? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook, and whether it was sarcastic or not, I don’t know, about why Christians shouldn’t watch The Office. Now I have never seen an episode of the show. The most I know about it is I understand a lot of memes on Facebook are from it and I know about the Owlkitty video of it. That’s it.

This led me to thinking about something else. I know we all realize it, but for the most part, Christian entertainment sucks. It’s often just boring and preachy. There are some exceptions, but it’s nothing the world wants to see. I remember when Fifty Shades of Grey came out that the same day, a counterpart movie called Old-Fashioned came out. You might have never even heard of it. There’s no way it could compete with Fifty Shades.

If there is one clear exception to this, it is the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet do you see Christianity explicitly spelled out in that? No. There’s a lot of symbolism in the books of course that points to Christ and so there is also in the rest of Lewis’s fiction, but many atheists can even enjoy reading C.S. Lewis.

Christians don’t have anything in the way of entertainment. We think you have to spell it out explicitly. It’s not fun. If we make something for the purposes of entertaining, our aim should be that the product is actually entertaining. That doesn’t negate we do it for Jesus, but people won’t want to watch Christian entertainment or play Christian video games or read Christian books for fun if they are not, well, fun.

Back in the days of the NES, I remember getting the Bible games from Wisdom Tree. They were alright games, but the only reason I got them was that they were Bible games. That’s it. They honestly hardly even worked on the NES at times. Bible video games are often some of the worst games that they are.

Many of us who are Christians don’t like it when we see a series and the politics is out there in front and everyone knows it. We think we are being preached to, and in essence, we are probably right. I know a lot of people have complained about the newest Star Trek series thinking that it’s going on. They could be right. If we don’t like it, why think unbelievers will like it?

What would be good is if we had a series come out on TV that was actually entertaining or a movie at the theater that was actually entertaining or a book or a video game or whatever it is and people wanted to play it and then find out later on that it was a Christian series. I know some of you will disagree, but on my podcast I have had John Granger on to discuss the Harry Potter series as a Christian series from a Christian viewpoint. Even if you don’t agree with that, if it is true, that is something powerful. That is having it done right.

When we think things have to be explicit, we also assume our audience is stupid. We assume that they have to state it outright or else no one will get it. That insults our audience. No one wants to be assumed to be an idiot.

I don’t know if you should watch the Office or not, but I know the reason we debate this is because we don’t have our own entertainment that’s good. You may enjoy watching Pureflix, but how many people do you know who are non-Christians who are buying it? This is not to knock them at all, but if we are wanting to reach people, it doesn’t help that goal if people aren’t interested in our method of outreach.

God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment as is said in 1 Tim. 6:17. Shouldn’t we do something for the enjoyment of our fellow neighbor? If we want to show Christianity to them in a way that is something they will want, shouldn’t we show them something they would want to have and something they can actually enjoy? This isn’t to say fun is the main goal of the Christian life, but fun is the goal of entertainment. If you sit down to watch the Office, you likely aren’t doing it to study theology or philosophy. Rightly or wrongly, you’re doing it to have fun.

We’re also meant to be creative people in the footsteps of the creator. Our creator created some very fun things for us here. I’ve seen our cat running around here playing some tonight. The animal kingdom is a testimony to the fun of the creator in many ways. Yes, nature is red in tooth and claw at times, but it’s also very fun in many other ways. Shouldn’t we be creative that way? Shouldn’t we make music and TV and movies and video games and books that unbelievers even will want to live?

Let’s do better.

Then maybe we won’t have to debate the Office because not only will we be watching our own great material, but so will everyone else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I Affirm The Virgin Birth.)

For Yours Is The Kingdom

Whose kingdom is it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When we finish the Lord’s prayer, I will point out that not all manuscripts have this final part, but I intend to cover it anyway. In this final section, Jesus tells of three things that belong to God. The first is the Kingdom. What is that about?

We are here to be servants, but many times, we want to build up our own kingdom. J.P. Moreland has said that Christians are here to serve a name and not to make one. Being in ministry, I understand that to succeed you need to get the word out about what you do. You can’t have a light if you’re not being public in some way.

At the same time, it’s important to realize the Kingdom doesn’t stand or fall on my ministry. If my ministry were to go away, the Kingdom of God would still go on. I make the same remark about our own country of America here. America needs the gospel, but the gospel doesn’t need America.

Years ago when I was on PALtalk, I remember a leader of a well-known internet apologetics ministry being on the microphone in the room and I could tell easily he had a bad cold and it was confirmed when he said it. When he got off the microphone I messaged him and told him to go and rest and get off of PALtalk. He said, “Truth must be defended.” I told him that that is so, but he is not the only one defending it.

Thankfully, he got off of PALtalk at that point, but that is the point. None of us is necessary for the Kingdom. That we get to have a part in the Kingdom is a gift and an honor. God has no obligation to give any of us a great ministry. It’s not about what He can do for us. It’s about what we can do for Him.

It’s not our Kingdom. It’s His. Let’s build it up.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I Affirm The Virgin Birth)

A Bad Use of the Dictionary

How do you not use the dictionary? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In 1872, The lyrics to the Christmas Carol were written. We find in those lyrics the verse “Don we now our gay apparel.” What did the author have in mind? Well, let’s turn to the dictionary. What does the Oxford English dictionary have as the first definition of gay?

“(of a person) homosexual (used especially of a man)‘the city’s gay and lesbian people’

And the Cambridge English Dictionary?

sexually attracted to people of the same sex and not to people of the opposite sex:

Collins dictionary?

1. ADJECTIVE [usually ADJECTIVE noun]A gay person is homosexual.…the gay community.


of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to people of one’s same sex

Now later on, these dictionaries do include something about being happy, but imagine not knowing the context of this song. What are you to include? The writer wanted us to dress like homosexuals.

Now if you were to look up a dictionary from the time of 1872, you might find things different. You would find happy being the main meaning of the word. The writer of the song is letting you know that it’s time to put on clothes that symbolize joy and happiness.

In the same way, if you’re studying a word that is in the Bible, an English dictionary is not your source to go to. I recently got in a debate with someone on faith. What did they do? Go to the dictionary.

The dictionary though gives you the popular usage of a word at the time. It is not the meaning for people in all times and all places since language can be fluid. A resource like a Bible dictionary would have been much better at this point.

You can search high and low and you will not find a reference of the Greek word pistis that takes it to mean “Belief without evidence.” It’s quite ironic that the ones presenting this claim that faith is believing something without evidence have no evidence that that’s what pistis means. Unfortunately, too many people have bought into that trope and ran with it.

It’s acceptable and fine to use a dictionary for modern words, but when someone speaks of a word and uses it in a more ancient context, it’s best to see what it meant to the people at the time. To do otherwise is a more postmodern approach to literature where the meaning of the word in the text changes depending on who is reading it.

Do the hard work. Look at what the ancients meant by the term. You’ll be better for it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do You Love Me More Than These?

How much are we willing to give? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know the story of how after Jesus’s resurrection, He appeared to Peter and the other apostles while they were fishing. By a fire, Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” The first time He asks, “Do you love me more than these?”

One of my favorite quotes of philosopher Peter Kreeft is when he says that sometimes he thinks he’s a bigger Red Sox fan than he is a Jesus fan. I can relate to that, though not about the Red Sox. I often think I can get more joy out of many other things in my life besides Jesus and I think “Do I love Jesus more than these?”

Now if you think your love is deficient, the obvious thing to do is to increase your love of Jesus more. By the way, for all Christians, our love of Jesus is deficient. None of us love Him as we ought to.

Sometimes, lack of love shows up in addiction. I have heard several times in Celebrate Recovery when someone talks about being sober from alcohol for years. Then one day they’re at a restaurant and decide that they can handle one drink. Boom. The whole thing starts all over again. It’s really a form of pride. We often like to get so close to temptation and think we can handle it and boom, we can’t.

Sure. You can be friends with that girl at the office. That’s no big deal. Yeah. You’re both going on break. Why not go together? I mean, you both know you’re both married. No big deal. Right? Then after a few conversations you’re making arrangements to meet at a hotel one day. It doesn’t just happen instantly.

Sometimes, you might have to remove some things from your life if they’re hindering your walk with Jesus. Obviously, this can’t always be the case. If you find you love your family more than you love Jesus, you’re not called to divorce your family.

There is a danger though that this could become legalism. Obviously, Jesus gave us things to enjoy and there’s no sin in enjoying them. When the Final Fantasy VII Remake came out, a friend got me a copy of it and for a number of days I spent more hours than usual going through that. After awhile, it toned down and I haven’t really sat down to play in months. That happens. For some guys, when a major sporting event is going on, they might sit down and watch that a lot. It happens.

I also think though about how many of us are willing to give up things definitely sinful. Yesterday, I reviewed Rachel Gilson’s book about how she gave up homosexual practice for Jesus, and she isn’t the only one. Some people will choose to be celibate for the kingdom, which is a big sacrifice.

In her book, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity, Lauren Winner writes about taking a class of church students to see several nuns, I think at the convent, but I don’t remember exactly. One student during a question time bravely asks “What’s the deal about giving up sex?” The nun was glad to be asked and said that she knew it was a real sacrifice she was giving up, but it’s done for Jesus.

While sex properly understood is not sinful, many people go without it all their lives for the sake of the kingdom, including Jesus Himself. Many people will have to give up pornography for the sake of the kingdom. It all comes down to if the kingdom is worth it.

If it isn’t, then we have a deficient view of the kingdom of Christ, and we all do. There’s a saying about theology that whatever your idea of God is, it’s inadequate. Thomas Aquinas was said to have had the beatific vision before he died and said that whatever he wrote, it was like straw to him. His masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, was unfinished when he died.

This is something that convicts me often. I wonder why it is I don’t read as much as I should many times or pray as much as I should. Sometimes, I think it’s a sad familiarity with the story of Jesus. That’s again a deficiency in me. However, I suspect I’m not alone in this. Odds are even if you see yourself as a devout Christian, you are probably similar. How many of us can sit down at Facebook wanting to look for just ten minutes and then spend an hour doing it?

So I come back to the question. Do you love me more than these? What am I to do? Just strive to love Jesus more. What more can I do?

What more can you and I do?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Born Again This Way

What do I think of Rachel Gilson’s book published by the Good Book Company? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know the story. Girl grows up. Girl decides she’s gay. Girl enjoys spending time with her girlfriends. Girl goes off to Yale and meets Jesus and abandons homosexual desires.

Wait. What?

Yeah. Of all places, she found Jesus at Yale and while she at first encountered Christians who told her homosexual behavior was no problem for a Christian, her reading of Scripture told her otherwise. With that, she had to decide what was more important. Following through on her desires for sex and romance that way, or following Jesus.

She chose Jesus.

This book is written for all sorts of people. It is written for those who have same-sex desires and don’t want them and want to follow Jesus instead. This book is written for those who have friends or loved ones, maybe even a spouse, who struggles with same-sex desires. This book is written for those who are just curious about what Rachel’s story is like. This book is written for readers like myself also who think heavily on issues of sexual ethics.

The main theme of the story is unexpected. Rachel keeps having things happen to her that she does not expect to happen. In her study, she comes to a greater discovery of what it means to follow Jesus. What do love and romance and sex really mean?

A lot of this is helpful not just for the Christian with homosexual desires who wishes to honor Jesus and be celibate, but also it would apply for the straight Christian who is single and still wants to honor Jesus despite not finding a spouse. Gilson takes a good and hard look at our modern romance culture and finds it lacking. She encourages us to look at what it really means to marry and to love.

She also says that while some people with same-sex desires, including herself, marry someone of the opposite sex, that doesn’t mean the goal of that marriage is to “cure” homosexual desires. Sometimes, there are people who do overcome such desires and find themselves going the other way. That can happen. It’s not a requirement though and making it a necessity can make focus be where it doesn’t need to be.

Gilson writes with great sympathy for Christians who have this struggle, but assures them life is possible still and there is still joy. It is not for all, but it is possible to marry an opposite-sex partner and still have joy and to love that person and to even have a good sex life together. While her message is great for Christians struggling with homosexual desires, it is also good for those of us who are straight. We can learn something about how marriage and sex is to be seen and done and single straights can learn something about their own desires.

The real great value is to consider how much Jesus is worth. In our culture, sex is often king. It is seen as the true pearl of great price. Gilson’s work reminds us that whatever temptation we face, Jesus is worth it. Jesus is worth forsaking everything. Gilson’s sacrifice is noble and for her, it ended with joy here too. It won’t for everyone, but we have to believe that whatever we sacrifice, that Jesus is worth it.

Gilson’s book is a great read. It’s a relatively short one in comparison to many others and in chapters that are easy to digest and deal with. It’s an amazing story of a woman coming to terms with her own desires and finding joy regardless of not getting what she initially wanted.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The Madness of Crowds

What do I think of Douglas Murray’s book published by Bloomsbury Continuum? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I ordered this book on Interlibrary loan after I saw my wife’s priest recommended it, and I shortly forgot that I had. When I got it, I was thinking “I have so many books to go through already. Do I really want to go through this?” I saw an endorsement from Sam Harris on the back and seeing as I think the new atheist material is just horrible, that got me even more concerned. Do I really want to go through this? Still, I decided to open it up and give it a shot.

Within a few days, I was telling so many people they needed to go through it as well.

This is one of the most important books on our society that I have read. Murray deals with four major areas today and with some smaller areas that have a major impact. He does not write as far as I can tell from a Christian perspective and actually I gather is a homosexual from what I read. I read through though finding extreme agreement with so much that I read.

Let’s start with the first section he has on homosexuality. He talks about a movie being played in a theater in England that a gay publication protested against so much that it had to go to a new venue to play. The story in the film was about people who used to be same-sex attracted and no longer were.

Murray wrote about taking the main man behind it who helps people who want to be rid of same-sex attraction. He says that he never forces anyone and they come to him and how he said we should take him at his word. He’s not out there trying to eliminate homosexuals from society. He’s trying to help people who want to be helped. We could question his methodology, but why assume base motives of him?

He then goes on to say that gay no longer refers to just who you sleep with. Consider Peter Thiel who spoke at the RNC convention in 2016 and made a remark about the great battle of the day in comparison to past generations was what restrooms can we use? That he was truly representative of the homosexual movement was called into question. Ian McClellan made a statement about Brexit that said that if you were a homosexual, it was clear how you were to vote.

Murray also points out that this view of homosexuality only goes one way in the sense that if someone leaves a straight lifestyle to embrace a homosexual one, they are said to have found their true selves. If they go the opposite way, then they are said to be traitors to the cause living in denial. I wish something had been said about how in the first case it can often leave a family behind that doesn’t really want the dynamic to change.

The next major area to be dealt with is the question of women. This has begun with the idea of women being sexualized, and again, there are mixed messages. Consider how when Harvey Weinstein was found to have a casting couch that immediately women jumped up to complain about the treatment.

Mayim Bialik of the Big Bang Theory talked about how she makes it a point to be modest and dress conservatively, except, of course, when she doesn’t. Murray brought up about her being on Piers Morgan’s show and how he was saying there was an event to honor someone who had died and he thought too many women were using the event to show off their cleavage and he didn’t find that appropriate, Bialik, who is on the panel, gets up and turns her back to the crowd and tears her dress to expose herself to Morgan in protest.

Murray writes about how women have complained about being sexualized, all the while while often wanting to be as sexy as possible. Too often, women want men to notice them and yet at the same time not turn them into object. One aspect of this I was surprised was not mentioned were topless marches. Women who complain about objectification aren’t helping themselves by doing this.

He also says the feminist movement has often gone to an extreme of “Kill All Men” which really doesn’t mean to kill all men for some strange reason. It really means that men need to realize how they behave and bring about change. Who knew? Men are vilified for the crime of being men.

If women want a world where men are not going to notice them physically, it’s really a pipe dream. This is especially so since women buy so many items that are designed to highlight their feminine features and be noticed by men. It is human nature for men to notice beautiful women and this is a power that women have in that they can drive men absolutely mad and make them do things they wouldn’t normally do, a power they can use for good or for evil.

As for believe all women, this seems to go one way. When a woman makes a charge about how a man has behaved towards her sexually that is inappropriate, that is to be believed. What happens when it goes the other way? What if a man complains about a woman? The man is part of the patriarchy and must be dealt with!

There is an interlude after this on technology. Social media has its benefits, but it has also been a problem. Now, anything you say can be found and used against you. A tweet made years ago in innocence can ruin your career today. A person could have made a statement back in the early 2000’s that was opposed to redefining marriage, which was the majority opinion then, and be called into question for it today.

Social media means everything you say can be found for all time and there is no distinction anymore between private things and public things being said. Also, many people say things online that they wouldn’t say in person. It’s easy to do that when the person isn’t right in front of you and you are safe that way.

The next major section is race. Here again we see the same kind of scenario that we saw with women. Charges of racism and cultural appropriation can show up anywhere and someone can be turned into the bad guy immediately. Campuses have had riots over a comment that most of us would see as innocent, but was perceived as racist.

Consider the case of a school where one day a year, minority students were expected to stay off of campus by choice to show the contributions that they have made to culture. Whatever one thinks of this, it is an event done voluntarily by a group to themselves. Then one year they decided to reverse this and have a day where no white people were to show up.

The difference is that the whites were not volunteering. It was told they should do this. One professor sent out an email in response saying that this is not proper and goes against our basic freedoms. Before too long, there were riots taking place with even the president of the college being in a kind of hostage situation and the professor who sent the email was being accused of racism and had to quit his job.

As with Peter Thiel also, race has become more of a political stance than a biological one. Kanye West endorses Candace Owens and then goes and meets with Trump. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you think of any of those three people. The point is that after this, Kanye is said to not be truly black.

By contrast, what about Rachel Dolezal who was a chapter president of the NAACP and whoops, she turned out to actually be white. Her parents are both white. What are we told? If she wants to say she’s black, then she’s black. So Kanye who is truly black is not black, but Dolezal, who is truly white, is black.

The next interlude is on forgiveness with some nodding towards the Christian tradition on this. Can there be any forgiveness in our culture? Someone gets appointed to a government position and everyone scours through their past tweets and Facebook posts to find any dirt that can be found whatsoever and ruin their lives.

I have gotten annoyed thoroughly with the apology culture where everyone has to apologize for everything. Just this morning I read about a Padres player who apologized for hitting a grand slam. Apparently, he was supposed to not get one because when your team has a great lead, you shouldn’t pile on the runs. Ridiculous! This guy plays the sport well and has to apologize for it?

Besides that, it’s easier to think today that these aren’t apologies. They’re a way of saying “Please don’t ruin my life.” Unfortunately, the crowds don’t know forgiveness.

The last issue is transgenderism. One theme in the book regularly is that we make a major change in society, such as many people have done on homosexuality, and before the dust can settle and we can see how this will work out, we’re off to the next one. Murray writes about children even as young as eight being given hormone treatment to transition and they’re not required to tell their parents about it, although their parents sure need to get permission if that child needs an aspirin in school. Parents get concerned and they are told, “Get in line or your child will commit suicide!” What’s a parent to do?

Long time feminists who speak out are condemned. This includes those cases where a rapist in a prison identifies as a woman and then goes to a women’s prison and, well, I think we all know what happened. What about men who transition into women and then compete against women in sports? They do have an advantage from their past. The feminist movement must be beside themselves since they have long complained about men being seen as superior. Now, apparently, men are also superior at women’s sports.

Where will this end? It’s hard to say, but the crowd is not getting any better. More and more people are being attacked for perceived wrongs and the worst motives are assumed every time. Discussion is automatically shut down when one person is said to be on the wrong side of history or a racist or a homophobe or transphobe or sexist or whatever. Such people exist, but why assume they are everywhere? Why not have a real dialogue about our differences?

I really encourage everyone to read this book. It’s incredibly eye-opening and very easy to read and shocking to read. Our society has a lot of problems and if we don’t reverse the trend, it will only get worse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Deliver Us From Evil

Why should we be delivered? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There is some debate on if this passage means evil in general or the evil one, meaning the devil, in particular. For our purposes, it really doesn’t matter. That’s a great textual debate I have no wish to dive into. Let’s just sum it up. We are to be delivered in some way.

Note that this comes right after the part about leading us not into temptation. Temptation is always to something that we shouldn’t do. This is why James says that no one should say that God is tempting them. God will test us sometimes, but He does not tempt us.

This is also a reference then to the coming kingdom. We are to long for that time when the Kingdom comes so that evil will be abolished. We are to eagerly anticipate that. We see evil all around us and we want it to be gone. Praying this part of the prayer is asking for that to happen.

Yesterday I saw a little boy with crutches walking because of some condition I couldn’t identify. I immediately thought about what a great day to come when that boy is able to walk normally. I wondered about how it might be difficult in the future to see all the kids running and not be able to yourself. Would he have a problem with getting a girlfriend in the future and marrying and having kids? This isn’t to say a physical disability can’t keep you from that. My friend, J. Parker, wrote something on that yesterday.

Many of you reading this blog disagree with me on various points. Some of you disagree with me on Christianity. What all of us will agree with I am sure is that we all have a problem with the way the world is. We all want something to be different. It could be a minor thing or a major thing. It could be political, religious, spiritual, physical, etc.

When we ask us for us to be delivered, we are asking for rescue. We are asking for salvation. Salvation is about more than just us though. It’s asking for recreation of the whole world. We are not wanting us to just be evacuated from the planet so God can destroy it because “Well, it was a good idea at the time but evil ruined it so let’s go to plan B of Heaven.”

God made this world to be lived on and He hasn’t changed His mind. He made this cosmos for Him to dwell in and He hasn’t changed His mind. The plan has never once been scrapped. If anything, everything is going according to plan. This is God’s story. It’s not ours.

We all long for that world. We long for some sort of perfection. C.S. Lewis said that if I have a desire so strong that nothing in this world can meet it, maybe I was made for another world. That’s true of us. We all seek deliverance from evil. That’s why many of us fight it regularly and why superhero movies are so popular. We all want evil to be stopped.

Yet we can’t do it on our own. It will require God to truly eliminate evil. While we are to do our part, the prayer is asking for God to bring His kingdom so that evil can be finally abolished once and for all. We do not give up or surrender to evil, but we do realize we can’t fight it without God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Interpretation and the Principle of Charity

How should we read another text? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many people like to find contradictions in the Bible and point them out. They also seem to get upset when something is said to be “out of context.” Now if a Christian says out of context and doesn’t explain how, I think that’s appropriate to be upset about that. However, there are plenty of ways to take any text, ancient or modern, out of context and misinterpret it.

Consider how in Luke, Jesus says that if you do not hate your father and mother, you cannot be His disciple. No, internet atheist. Jesus is not telling us to hate our parents. There are a number of atheists that think this is exactly what Jesus is saying. He’s not. Jesus is making a hyperbolic statement. Your devotion to the Kingdom must make all other loyalties fall away if necessary. The Kingdom of Christ comes first.

Now if we are Christians and demanding that, we also need to do the same. Consider that one of the classical arguments against Islam is that Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus. You go to the Koran and you see this yourself. Let’s look at the text.

“That they said [in boast], “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of  Allah,” but they killed him not, nor crucified him.  Only a likeness of that was shown to them.  And those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge.  But  only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not (Surat Al-Nisa 4:157).”

That looks convincing, but I remember reading a book about Islam from a Christian perspective that said no one early on in Islam denied the crucifixion. That came later. Now I haven’t got to research this entirely, but I do know this person is not trying to be liberal in his theology. He’s not a Muslim sympathizer or something like that.

So do I use the point now that the Koran denies the crucifixion of Jesus? No. Do some Muslims use that? Yes. Will I argue against that position? Yes. However, by the principle of charity, if I can interpret the text in such a way that it doesn’t say that, then I will go that way. If you are curious, the interpretation I read also was that the Jews were the ones who thought they killed Jesus, when really Allah is saying they didn’t have that power. The problem is more with the Jews claiming ownership of it.

Let’s suppose I’m reading the Book of Mormon and I see the book talking about something that existed in the ancient world supposedly. If I look it up and I find that yes, that really did exist, that doesn’t mean I believe the Book of Mormon, but it does mean by the principle of charity I don’t use that as an argument. This isn’t about being light. This is about being fair with a text like we want people to be with Scripture.

In the same way, it’s important for skeptics to consider how they are interpreting the text. If there is a way that can put the text in a better light and there is sufficient evidence for it or it’s plausible, should you not be open to that interpretation. If you are not, does that mean you want the text to be false more than you want your reading to be accurate?

Consider it especially if it’s likely the person you’re dealing with knows the text better than you do. I don’t debate Muslims regularly, so I am going to take it that a debater defending Islam knows the Koran better than I do. I will take it the Mormon missionaries know their Scriptures better than I do. Odds are also if you’re the regular internet atheist, that person who reads the Bible every day might know it better than you do. (And I mean a specific type of internet atheist of course. There are plenty of atheists that know the Bible well.)

C.S. Lewis once said years ago if you read something bad in the newspaper about someone you don’t like and think “That doesn’t surprise me” and then later on see a correction, is your tendency to be relieved that at least they weren’t that bad, or is to get upset something was taken from you. We could ask the same about a text. If you are given an explanation of a text that is still plausible even if you’re not familiar with it, are you open to that, or would you prefer the text to just be wrong?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Psychologizing Opponents

What happens when your arguments are not dealt with? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This kind of thing happens way too often. Yesterday, I’m in a group making a post on Orthodox Preterism and my interpretation of Matthew 16:28 and I get told something like, “You just hold that position because you hold to inerrancy and you have to make the Bible fit with that.” This kind of thing happens more often than you realize.

Let’s be fair. It also goes the other way. Plenty of Christians can accuse atheists of unbelief for various reasons as well. Christians can accuse other Christians of levels of some unbelief as well.

This kind of argument really doesn’t work. Let’s go with Richard Carrier for example, and if you don’t know who Richard Carrier is, I mean the unemployed polyamorous prominent internet blogger who’s banned from SkeptiCon. Years ago when he left his wife and embraced a polyamorous lifestyle, many of us were sure we saw the motivation for atheism there.

Amongst ourselves, that could be fine, but no one should have ever approached Carrier with this argument, and I hope they never did. Why? Because while I think Carrier’s theories on the existence of Jesus are completely ridiculous, saying why we think he holds to them doesn’t convince anyone and it doesn’t answer the data.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument Carrier holds to his position because he really doesn’t want to be accountable to a god and he really does want to sleep with a bunch of women. How does that answer his arguments? His claims are not wrong because of illicit motives to hold to them. You have to deal with the arguments themselves.

This also happens in the political sphere. It’s argued that if you don’t support or oppose position X, then you don’t really care about Y. I saw in a thread today someone saying about abortion that some people think it’s wrong in all circumstances. The immediate reply was “Oh? You think women should be considered as property?” Nowhere was that said, but that was jumped on and before too long, the debate becomes not about the subject but about the persons having the debate.

Psychologizing your opponent, as I call it, is a failed tactic every time. It doesn’t deal with the data and tries to bypass it by going after the person instead, a form of ad hominem. Only under very rare circumstances should the reasons why a person holds to a belief be brought up.

This is why my consistent reply to this kind of statement is to not take it seriously. Saying someone is just not as committed to Scripture or needs to listen to God more or someone wants to be godless or someone is committed to Christianity so they can’t conceive anything else doesn’t convince. Even if it is true, it doesn’t deal with the data. That’s always what needs to be dealt with.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)