Joy in God’s Absence

Can someone be happy when giving up on God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I continue looking at the news of Tyler, one aspect of it that didn’t surprise me was when he talked about being in a good mood even after abandoning God, not in the sense of going atheist, but in the sense of abandoning Christianity. This sounds like a shock to many people. I get that. After all, if God is the greatest source of joy in your life, then surely losing that would be misery wouldn’t it?

But notice the conditional statement.

If God is the greatest source of joy in your life.

What if He isn’t?

What if He’s a misery, actually?

What if you think God is someone who doesn’t care about you, doesn’t want to help you, and refuses to be there in your suffering? If your idea of God is of a God who is cruel and uncaring, what if you lost that idea? What if that idea was gone from your mind? It could be relieving. You no longer have to work to please this tyrant then.

I contend that when people turn their back on God or refuse to believe in Him, they often have an extremely negative view of Him. N.T. Wright has talked about new students entering a university when he was on duty as a chaplain there and when asked about their religion that they didn’t believe in God. He would say “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.” Sometimes, they would smile thinking that they had heard many of the clergy there were secretly atheists.

So if you tell me that there is a god who stands absent in your suffering and doesn’t care about your pain at all, then I will say, “Yes. I don’t believe in that god either.” My concern at this point is the idea that when you answer the question of God differently, how your worldview changes is a result of what place you gave Him in your worldview. Consider a parallel.

I live in New Orleans. This is a city that has a problem of crime. I could watch the local news tonight and hear hypothetically about a resident of the city who was murdered and think “Well that sucks”, but I won’t stay awake at night thinking about them. Now if it turned out that someone I know well here on the campus was murdered and I would never see them again, that would hit me very differently.

We are all like that. If we weren’t, there are people dying every day everywhere and somehow many of us can have joy and sleep peacefully at night. What hits us hard is based on how close someone was to us. We can hear about thousands dying in a disaster somewhere and it is saddening, but when we hear about the death of one person close to us that we know, that is far harder for us to take.

If you remove God from your worldview and it doesn’t change, then that is an indicator of what place He played in your worldview. If God was mainly there for emotional support, well you can get that in several other places. If God is just there to fill in the gaps in scientific thinking, then that means the study of science leads to that kind of atheism.

Yet what if God is the foundation for everything? I find it fascinating so many atheists question if God exists, but they don’t stop to think about what it means to exist. It sounds like a simple question, but it isn’t. This is a gift that Classical Theism brings to the table.

To get back to the joy of the absence, it makes sense that if someone you perceive as a negative influence in your life is gone, there can be joy. That shouldn’t be surprising. The concern is that if we look at the emotions as the guide, they are always temporary. They will fade. What then? Also, what if the emotions guide the worldview? What if we say “I feel this, so now I must fit my idea of God to correspond with this emotion.”?

When I get in the point of wondering if God cares for me, I have to go back to what I know. Does God exist? Yes. There are too many good arguments I know of. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes. I know no other way to explain the data and the person of Jesus is hard to explain outside of Christianity. Then I have to interpret everything in light of that.

I also know if you go the way of skepticism, you eventually have to lower Jesus. It’s the question of if someone is willing to do that or not. Time will tell.

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

Thankfulness And Silence

Are we to have a Happy Thanksgiving? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been writing this week in response to the news of Tyler Vela about divorce and silence. Today, being Thanksgiving, I don’t have to work and there are no classes. Naturally, I turn off the alarm and choose to sleep in as long as I can.

Yet early in the morning when I start to wake up, who is right there waiting for me but Shiro. So what do I do? Stay in bed for just a little bit to hold him and pet him and get some kitty kisses from him. Starting Thanksgiving with my little kitty is certainly a great way to begin the day with thankfulness.

Honestly, Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday of all. I’m not one for meal situations and I don’t like a lot of traditional Thanksgiving foods. The only exception for me is pumpkin pie. I am fine with not going to Thanksgiving meals at all. (Although I’m sure Shiro would be thrilled if anyone wanted to bring by a bite of turkey for him.)

Today, I was intending to just write about Thanksgiving, but as I thought about it, I realized this has relevance to the silence of God. Years ago, I read something from Tim Keller about thankfulness. It was a portion of Scripture that I had read several times and yet, a few key words in that Scripture I had never taken the time to consider.

Let’s look at Romans 1.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

We can get caught up in so many debates about this passage. It can be classical apologetics vs. presuppositionalism. It can be about the nature of design arguments. It can be questions of if someone can truly be an atheist or not.

Fine questions and worth discussion, but did you notice that part at the end? This is about people who the text says know God and they didn’t glorify Him, but also, they didn’t give thanks. They were not appreciative of God. They didn’t show gratitude.

If you don’t appreciate something and you’re not thankful for it, it can lead to a resentment or it can lead to an entitlement attitude. Here in America, if you live here, you are generally a rich person. You might think you’re poor, but compared to the majority of the world, you are rich. What do we want? More. We mourn about how little we have so often.

I also think this does contribute to divorce. Where does this idea come from that the grass is greener on the other side? As a nerd, I was amazed most every day that I was actually married and I do long for that again. If you think something is owed to you, you will not be grateful for it. There’s a reason the entitlement mindset is causing so much damage in our country.

So what about the silence of God?

Too often, it’s likely that God has already spoken and we have not appreciated what has been said. Skepticism is one thing and if it’s purely intellectual, that can be worked on, but if emotion is driving it, the most powerful intellectual arguments won’t do a thing. Why do you think I get concerned with so many of our younger generation demanding more and more and more?

However, what if we are really saying to God, “What you have done is not good enough?” If we do not appreciate the ways God has spoken, should He really say anymore? If we do not appreciate whatever God has given us, why would He bother giving us more?

The Jews have a Passover song called Dayenu. The lyrics are much longer and interspersed with a chorus, but they go as follows talking about the Passover.

Had we been taken out of Egypt and not had judgment executed upon the Egyptians, it would’ve been enough. Had judgment been executed upon the Egyptians and not upon their idols, it would’ve been enough. Had judgment been executed upon their idols, and not their firstborn, it would’ve been enough. Had judgment been executed upon their firstborn, and we had not received their wealth, it would’ve been enough. Had we received their wealth, and not had the sea split for us, it would’ve been enough. Had the sea been split the sea for us, and we had not been led through it to dry land, it would’ve been enough. Had we been led to dry land, and our enemies not drowned in the sea behind us, it would’ve been enough for us. Had our enemies drowned, and our needs not have been provided for in the desert for 40 years, it would’ve been enough. Had we been supported in the desert and not been given bread, it would have been enough. Had we been given bread and not been given the Sabbath, it would have been enough. Had we been given the Sabbath and not been brought to Mount Sinai, it would have been enough. Had we been brought to Mount Sinai and not been sent the Torah, it would have been enough. Had we been sent the Torah and not been brought to Israel, it would have been enough. Had we been brought to Israel and not been built the Holy Temple, it would have been enough.

What this is saying is that every step would have been enough. God owed nothing more. God owes us nothing more. The only thing He has to give is what He promised. It’s often asked about the problem of evil, “Why did God kill so many?” It’s never considered how many He let live. He had no obligation. It’s as if we are saying “God owes us life.” No. He doesn’t.

If you are owed nothing, and you are given everything, what is that? It’s not payment for something. It’s not God is in debt to you. It is all a gift. All is grace.

I am thankful for many things today. My family and my friends are high up there. I am thankful to be in the city of New Orleans, a city I have come to love, and working on my education at a school I love with a job that I thoroughly enjoy and meeting new people. I am thankful I can rebuild my life and remarry someday. I am thankful that I have got to be a person of influence somehow through the internet. I am thankful I am making it through my divorce bit by bit. I am thankful for the people who have donated to me through Patreon or Risen Jesus to show their support for me. I am thankful for a cute little kitty currently sleeping on my bed. I am thankful I have so many books and games here to keep my mind active. All is grace.

And I’m definitely thankful for grace. It would have been enough, but the one who said it wasn’t enough was God Himself. He looked at all the ways He had loved us so far and said “It’s not enough.” Ephesians 2 even says it’s still not enough. He will spend all of eternity showing us how much He loves us.

I don’t deserve it. Neither do you. It’s all a gift. It’s all grace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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

Near To The Brokenhearted

Is God there in suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m still looking at my discussion with the Mentionables about Tyler Vela. I want to emphasize in this that none of this is meant as an attack. It’s meant to speak to those like Tyler who are suffering in divorce and wondering where God is in the suffering. It’s a common question and as one who has gone through that suffering and is going through it, I get it.

We often have an idea that God is to be near when we are suffering. David’s Psalm of repentance says that a broken and contrite heart will not be despised. He is supposed to be near to the brokenhearted. How can this be true when the heavens seem to be silent?

It makes sense to us. What do we want when we’re in pain most often? Comfort. We want something to either stop the pain or guide us through it. We are in a society where we are quite often addicted to comfort. We do not often know how to handle pain and deal with it.

I can speak as someone who has gone through all kinds of pain. I have had major back surgery, my gallbladder removed after that put me through intense pain, intense toothaches, panic attacks, major depression, a marriage where numerous difficulties happened for me, followed by the painful rejection of divorce.

I’m not a stranger to pain.

In all of these, I am sure God has been with me, but I cannot say I have had major signs of His presence or anything of that sort. I actually consider that a good thing. Now when my back surgery took place, I had no crisis of faith. If anything, the chaplain in the hospital was impressed with the way I handled things.

My panic attack stage was different. This makes sense really. i suspect we often hate emotional pain far more than we do physical pain. This was a time of years where I spent crying out to God in agony, even when I went to Bible College. What brought me out of that? The study of apologetics. It was learning about what I believe and why and coming to some real ideas of who God is.

In all my tears, I did not have an unusual experience of any sort.

Thank God.

If I had, I might never have embarked on the path I was in. I would never have been in the walk of a greater walk that I am in now. I would never be getting to live out these truths and share them to others and help them in their distress.

That is one advantage of being divorced. I can help others who have gone through it. It is definitely a blessing that I get to help others and it means so much that my writings help other people out who are struggling. That is one reason I am writing this. It might not help Tyler, but it can help someone else, it is worth it.

How is God near to us? It’s not necessarily in feelings. It could just mean He is there. You might not experience Him, but He’s there. Just because He is there, it doesn’t mean He has to make His presence manifestly known. You have to be told you are not alone. If anything, we could say you have to be told that because you are NOT experiencing anything. Why would anyone need to say God is near to the brokenhearted if every person who was brokenhearted was convinced He’s obviously there?

That’s really hard to trust, but it needs to be accepted. It’s easy to be angry with God for not giving something that He never promised. Many of our disappointments with God are based on false ideas of what we expect and especially what we would do if we were God.

Those times of supposed silence can lead us into something deeper. That’s what happened for me, and it is better to have that than to have an experience that will not last. This is not to say that experience is never valid, but that experience needs to be rooted in something more certain. Every experience is interpreted. How do you know that emotion is from God? It feels good. Why not be a Mormon? They think that feeling is really good. A lot of Ex-Mormons still hold the burning in the bosom is a real sensation and a great one.

What does one do then when God seems silent? Trust. Trust what He said and the promises He made. Some could say that this is circular, but it isn’t. It’s an internal test for consistency.

Suffering is hard. I’m thankful I also had several friends with me who helped me with the grief too. I have my hobbies also. I also could rely on thinking about the empty tomb and the resurrection and the reasons I know God is real. This is not something that makes the pain go away. It can make it bearable, but that largely depends on how you handle it.

It’s also important to not pursue a feeling. Our Christianity is not based on a feeling. It’s based on holiness and trust.

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

Can I Have Some Bread?

What kind of father doesn’t give his son bread? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m continuing my look at what Tyler Vela has shown and commenting from my view as a divorced man as well. This time, we’re going to look at Matthew 7. In this passage, Jesus asks that if your son asks for bread, will you give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If a wicked father gives good things to his children, how much more will your good Father give good gifts?

To start with this, I want you to know that your Bible has a major difference from the originals. There is something that they have that was not written in the original documents. At this, I wonder if any atheists could be booting up their blogs and their video equipment so they can write and make YouTube videos and podcasts about this. An apologist is going to admit a major problem with the Bible!

You’re going to be disappointed.

I am simply talking about chapters and verses. Matthew did not start out and write “Chapter 1, verse 1.” Those numbers weren’t added until later. They do have a benefit in some ways in that it’s easier to find one isolated statement. There is a downside in that we can read chapters and not connect them to earlier chapters.

In Matthew 6, Jesus has been talking about being provided for and that includes basic staples. Food, water, and clothing. He does not mention luxury goods. I don’t see any reason to think that that changes after Matthew 6.

There are plenty of reasons to not give some good gifts. Something could be good in and of itself, but bad for a child. A lollipop could be fine for many children, but not for a child who is diabetic. Some good things could be too expensive. Sometimes a parent might want a child to learn some discipline and self-control and save a good gift for when something good has been done, such as not giving money until chores are done.

Yet Tyler is asking about something simpler. Can God show me that He loves me?

That is a real and noble desire. Yet as I see it, God has already done that. The question is “Why is He not believed on the basis of the cross and the resurrection?” I understand doubt. Doubt is real, yet is God obligated to give us extra special revelation if one is not accepting what He has already said? As Jesus said, if they do not believe the Scriptures, they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.”

What is most important to ask about this is “Why is this doubted?” I can’t claim to know the answer, but let’s consider a guess. What if you think “If my wife didn’t really love me and could betray me so quickly, why should God be different?” That is something that needs to be worked on and therapy can be a great way. However, it also has to be asked “Why is she being given that power that her voice speaks louder than God’s on an authority basis?”

Let’s suppose it was because of a wrong done on your part that led to the divorce? I say this to cover both ends. If you are the wronged party, you can wonder if you are lovable. If you are the party that did the wrong, you can wonder if God could love and forgive you. Again, Scripture says if you have repented, He has. You have to figure out why you feel otherwise.

One problem if God does do something special and exceptional for you alone to show He loves you is that if you have an underlying issue, it can be a temporary fix. If that happens, then you would need an experience over and over again. This can get the idea of being hooked on a feeling or hooked on an experience.

What also has to be asked is why we have the standard often that if God doesn’t do what I think He should, then He doesn’t love me? Those kinds of conditions for love are dangerous put on anyone. That can also lead to the dissolving of a lot of marriages. A husband can say, “Well if my wife really cared about me, she would do XYZ.” It could be sex, letting him watch sports on the weekend or go fishing with friends or buy a new video game. A wife could say if her husband cared about her, he would help with the chores or assist with the kids or bring home flowers or know what she really wanted for Christmas. Both partners could even be right, but the conditional is a killer.

Keep in mind, none of this is meant to be a cure-all. Issues about struggling with the love of God, or anyone else for that matter, cannot be answered by a simple blog post. However, I do hope this can be a key that could lead someone to understand what is going on with them and come to conclusions.

I also want to stress that I can understand this concern that God doesn’t love you. I have gone through it. I suspect most every Christian who takes his Christianity seriously has gone through this as well. This is another way the church needs to talk about this issue. Maybe more people could be helped if they saw they weren’t unusual.

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

Silence In Divorce

Is anybody there? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I did a discussion with the Mentionables over the situation involving Tyler Vela. This involves an apologist having a deconversion of sorts. I really wanted to speak on this because something that Tyler and I also have in common is that we’ve both gone through divorce.

Something Tyler wrote on his Facebook about this was talking about the silence of God. Now in all of this, he was praying and memorizing Scripture and doing things like that all the more. Those are good things, but I don’t think that addresses really the so-called silence of God.

I saw so-called because a major error of our Christian culture today is the idea that God is always speaking to us on an individualistic basis. Usually, this is said to be done through our emotions. Don’t believe me? Just see how many times you hear in a church service talk about being felt led to do something. Now who is leading you in this idea? God. How? Through how you feel.

Does that sound like a recipe for chaos?

How do you know God is leading you somewhere? You feel Him leading you. We also take it further. How do you know the favor of God on your life? You feel it. How do you know God loves you? You have those feelings also.

If we applied this to any other area in our life, it would lead to chaos.

What is one reason we have a major increase in divorce? Because we base our marriages more on feeling in love than on love itself. If you had to divorce your spouse every time you didn’t feel love, you would divorce a lot. It’s not just there either. I’m sure a mother having to get up at 3 AM for a fussy baby to change a diaper and everything else and knowing she has to be up again in a few hours is not overflowing with love at the thought. Some of you might be, but I’m quite certain you’re the exception.

No relationship should be based on your emotions, not even your one with God.

This is not to deny there can be emotions in these relationships, but one should not make a diet out of them. One should enjoy the good ones and work through and understand the sad ones. Every life has its ups and downs. Not even our Lord could escape sadness on this Earth and we have intense pride if we think we are the exception still.

That still doesn’t address the problem about the silence. However, we have to start at the beginning and say it cannot be based on your emotions. Otherwise, if you feel the love of God, well God loves you. If you feel that God is distant and not there, well you have to deny that feeling. It becomes an exercise in question-begging. Bad emotions? Not good. Good emotions. Good.

Consider it like the test the Mormon missionaries give you. Do you feel the burning in the bosom? Good emotion. God. Do you not feel it? Then the problem is you.

If we seek that feeling more, then we can be in the case of not that we are seeking God, though we think we could be, and maybe to some degree we are, but we’re really seeking a feeling. The confirmation we have found God is that a feeling occurs or something similar. If God doesn’t give us that feeling, then He just doesn’t care about us.

Let’s be clear. Even though I don’t think God is obligated to speak to us or to give us feelings, that quiet is still painful. It is hard to feel like even God has rejected you.

In divorce, you are rejected in every way. The biggest analogy I can come up with to a guy feeling rejection in marriage is the way a wife can say “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.” Divorce is a way of not just that rejection one time, but that and every other rejection for life permanently. In every way as a man, you are not the man. You are rejected.

You lose your best friend. You lose your love. You could lose your kids if you have those. You lose your relationships as they were. Sadly, too many times if your friends were other couples, it’s hard to have that now.

Loneliness is a major problem. When you go to bed at night, you sleep alone. When you go to a church service, it’s other couples that you see and people talk about their families and every instance of seeing that is a little stab to the heart reminding you that you’re alone.

The church can be one of the most painful places to go and the worst part is the church is often not very therapeutic. People want to cure your negative feelings instead of just listening to you about them and working through them with you. Everyone at church is expected to be happy and joyful. People often treat Christianity like a neverending adventure of joy.

We also put on our spiritual faces in church. You hear of people who pray for hours and get endless joy from reading their Bible as they learn something new every day. People talk about how God is speaking to them and answering all of their prayers so very specifically.

If you don’t have those experiences, well, you’re just not a very good Christian.

Also, add in that if you’re divorced, too often you are really looked down on. I am thankful I have not experienced this from churches for the most part, but I know I am an exception based on what I hear from others. Even if it was a sin of yours that ended your marriage, you are still in pain. There are many churches that will not let a divorced man in the pulpit. Never mind that a large portion of the New Testament was written by a guy who was a murderer.

Now you get the silence of God on top of that.

No wonder it hurts!

Still, turn back to Scripture. Is God speaking the norm? No. Abraham, the friend of God, had the heavens silent for well over a decade and he’s even an exceptional case in God speaking. Those times that God speaks are recorded not because they are normative, but because they are exceptional.

Look at the Israelites with Moses. They actually beg Moses to have God NOT speak to them, and when He spoke, it was not a feeling in their hearts, but a booming voice from the mountain. Moses was the one exception.

If people were really experiencing this regularly, they would not need the prophets. What about the New Testament? We could say the same. What did they need the epistles or apostles for if they had the Holy Spirit just telling them everything? We have taken something exceptional and made it normative because we’re just so special.

The idea of the silence of God is the result.

My idea of the love of God for me is not based on my feelings, but based on what He has said in Scripture. The cross and the resurrection tell me God loves me. How do I know I am one of His? Because I am trusting Him and seeking to live a holy life.

These truths are what kept me going in my divorce and still keep me going, even when temptation comes to give up. I’m still battling and I have been told that it could be the only real end of the battle this side of eternity could be remarriage. That’s why I’m in therapy over here as well to learn social skills and even the dreaded small talk. I really want to get remarried again and I know I have to work for that.

If you are struggling and experiencing so-called silence, it doesn’t mean God is not there. Now I do realize there are some Scripture passages that people use. Isn’t God near to the brokenhearted? Doesn’t God say if a boy asks for a fish he will get it? God willing, I plan to handle this next time.

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

 

Jesus and Moral Issues

Can you separate Jesus from morality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I said yesterday, I have been reading Machen lately and something he said in a work of his was about how we have pulled away from what he calls the “supernatural Jesus.” Now I have said before about my beef with the term “supernatural“. However, I do know what he’s saying. This is a Jesus who is seen as more or less just a great moral teacher, perhaps highly enlightened, but He certainly wasn’t divine in any way and definitely didn’t rise from the dead.

However, as we have moved away from this kind of Jesus, so with that has gone much of our moral standards in society. Many people even today do not want to speak ill of Jesus. Of course, some people do, but Jesus is still by and large a respected figure in our history. (Setting aside the crackpot position that says Jesus never even existed.) Few would want to ascribe malicious intent to Jesus.

A lot of people do like the morality of Jesus to some extent, which is quite odd when one thinks about it since really, His morality is often quite difficult. I would find it easy to go through life and not commit adultery with a woman. I find it extremely difficult to go through life without looking at another woman with lust. It would be easy to go through life without murdering a brother of mine. It is far harder to go through life without anger toward him.

Jesus did change this and so you had a society soon that was changing rapidly with a people who were practicing sexual chastity, love for their fellow man, and tremendous self-sacrifice. When a plague came through the Roman Empire, the physicians fled, but the Christians stayed and tended to the sick. The Christians didn’t have the science to know how a plague worked, but they were unintentionally giving themselves some immunity to the sickness by staying and facing it to help the sick.

We have been trying an experiment to take the teachings of Jesus and somehow exclude the man of Jesus from them. Yes. This teaching is quite quaint and we like it, but we don’t need that extra baggage with it. We don’t need all this nonsense of miracles and resurrections obviously. Let’s just go with the teachings and live by them.

This experiment has been a failure.

Inevitably, Jesus’s teachings are bound up with His person, authority, and character. It’s not just that Jesus taught great truths, but He also lived them and lived them perfectly. Jesus didn’t teach these as great suggestions either. He taught them as commands and He insisted that it was only by His power that one could live them out.

Naturally, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Some of us could be very generous by nature and yet struggle with a temper. A man could be extremely peaceful and wouldn’t hurt a fly, but he struggles with the sight of the beautiful women who he passes by regularly. In our society, we have often said that we like the idea of tolerance and non-judgmentalism, which are really not the message of Jesus, but we don’t really care for messages on sexual chastity. (Isn’t it funny how those two go together also?)

However, virtue is not a buffett where you take what you want and reject the rest. You have to take all of it. Try to separate one part of Jesus’s teachings from the whole and you have the overemphasis of one trait with the neglect of another. Part of this is because of the separation of Jesus from His lifestyle as if Jesus is just incidental to His teachings.

Perhaps we can’t dispense with the miraculous Jesus after all.

Now if you have a resurrected Jesus who speaks with authority and can forgive one’s own sins so one can live out love and forgiveness in others, the system works a lot better. Jesus did not come just to teach us all how to get along. Yes. He wants us to live well and have life, but He wants us to be forgiven and free as well.

Ultimately, you have to accept the bad news of Jesus, you are a sinner in need of salvation, before you can truly live out the teachings. If you do not realize how much you are forgiven, you will be incapable of loving the way He wants you to. This can be a struggle for many of us. I see myself as the guy who grew up avoiding pornography, drugs, alcohol, staying chaste until I was married, etc. It is easy to look and say “I’ve lived a good life and don’t really have major sins to deal with”, but I need to realize that in many cases, I struggle with pride and other inner sins that could be far worse in a sense and yet, I am forgiven.

Every sin after all is ultimately divine treason. It is denying one or more attributes of God and saying that you should be on the throne. I am one who has excessive worrying and anxiety and it’s tempting to want to be in control of my own life and panic about even seemingly minor decisions. If I am guilty of divine treason, which I am and which you are as well, isn’t it a wonder we are forgiven? What person says to someone else “I forgive you for wanting me dead and acting on it.”?

If we don’t go by the strength of Christ and the Holy Spirit, then we have to do that from within. Now this does not mean that non-Christians cannot be loving people. They can be. It means that this is a struggle for all of us because our natural tendency is to love ourselves more than others. Even the suicide loves themselves more despite their thinking of how awful they are. They seek their good above that of others though trying to tell themselves everyone else will be better off without them.

The early Christians were able to love greatly because they knew that they had been loved greatly. Take that away and it all falls apart. They knew they were loved greatly not because Jesus was some nice man who was really enlightened and said they were special. It was because Jesus was the divine man who had risen from the dead and had the authority to forgive them for all they had done.

Christianity cannot be reduced to just a set of ethics. It is an entire worldview. Removing the miraculous Jesus removes the batteries and the system doesn’t work.

If our culture is to recover, the only way to do that is to return to the original system which worked fine. That is the real miracle-working Jesus who rose from the dead and forgives sins. Any other Jesus won’t do.

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

The Pastor As Scholar

What is the link between the academy and the pulpit? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been reading the works of J. Gresham Machen for a class and last night, I was reading some of his sermons and was noticing how in-depth they were. He comes from a Calvinistic perspective so I didn’t agree with everything, but I knew he was working to substantiate his points. The sermon was rigorous and yet Machen spoke with a pastor’s heart.

I went to bed that night wondering why that was and I decided ultimately that there is a need for pastors to be scholars. If not a scholar, at least training in higher education to give the best of your mind to the church. Many people think that all that is needed to be an effective pastor is to just have a lot of passion for the things of God.

However, Scripture tells us in the epistles especially about the qualifications of a pastor. A pastor must be equipped in sound doctrine and be able to refute those who contradict. While some of these are said for deacons and elders, surely if they apply to the lesser offices of the church, they apply to the greater.

If you don’t have a strong background of information, you will more often than not draw from your own experiences and your own life to preach a sermon. How many times can a sermon end and you know a lot about the life of the person behind the pulpit, but you don’t know as much about Jesus? That doesn’t mean that you can never talk about your life experience, but it shouldn’t be your main source.

After all, if you have to speak sometime, you will draw out of whatever you have. If all you have is yourself, then you are going to have a shallow sermon. If you have a deep reservoir of theology, Christology, apologetics, church history, philosophy, Scripture, etc. then you will have plenty to draw from.

Years ago I attended a church where we had the educational hour before the sermon, which was like our version of Sunday School. There was more than one Sunday when two minutes or so before class began, no exaggeration, they didn’t have a teacher, and they would ask me to get up and suddenly speak on something, for an hour. No problem. I remember one Sunday I said, “Not a problem. We’ll talk about the five ways of Aquinas.”

If you have this kind of background, you can do this kind of thing. Whatever you think of Tim Keller, and I don’t say this as endorsement or condemnation, he did say something once that someone knew when he hadn’t prepared a lot for his sermon because he would talk a lot more about C.S. Lewis. That is an example of what is being talked about here. Many a pastor could have talked about himself and his own life, but Keller saw himself as well enough acquainted with Lewis, and he might be, that he could speak about him instead.

Every pastor in church needs to have either gone to seminary and got an education or is going to seminary. We are training up our people to fight a war and we don’t need just people who feel good. We need people who know what they’re fighting for and why. We need pastors who are scholars to equip laymen to be warriors.

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

I Was Not Assigned

What is at stake with our words? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, there was an announcement made at the chapel service here at NOBTS about free flu shots being given out for students. All we had to do was go to the student center and there would be some nurses there ready to give us our shots. Being one without health insurance now (Financial realities of being a seminary student), I decided to go and get one.

Now this was a Christian hospital organization that was giving out the shots and so they had to ask me several questions, which I understand. I get the legal requirements. I don’t blame them and I realize the sad reality of what many businesses are going through, but as an individual, I did take a firm stand.

So in the middle of the usual questions that I expect, I get the one of “What is your gender identity?” I consider this to really be a nonsense question. Identity has no purpose here. How I feel about myself does not affect what I am at all. I can feel like I’m a cat and it’s not going to change I’m a human. For a more realistic example, as one going through a divorce, I can feel numerous negative things many times. Those things are not true. Many Christians can struggle with feeling God doesn’t love them. Doesn’t make it true. The reason many people commit suicide is often connected with a negative feeling about them or their future that just isn’t true.

I am a man. That is it. I can take a look at my body and the way that I came out and realize that yes, I am a man.

My next question I was asked was “Were you assigned that at birth?”

At this I think my eyes glare, not in anger at the nurses. They have to do their job. It’s in anger that this question is on here. I gave a direct answer. “No. I was born a man.” I realize we could say I was born a boy who grew into a man, but the sex that I was born as was not something that was just decided. It was known when I was born.

I also realize some people can bring up people who are intersex, but intersex and transgender are two very different things. One is a very physical condition and we have never sought to change our laws and society based on this condition. The other, transgenderism, is a psychological delusion and we are changing our society and laws to play along and real people are being the victims.

Friends. This is a hill we cannot budge any on. This is about a battle for reality itself. I consider the far-left movement in our society to be in a war against reality and trying to eliminate any idea of male and female. It’s as if we are being pushed into a political monism.

The biggest aspect of this battle to watch is our words. I will use longer and clunkier terminology to avoid granting any grounds to the other side. I will not speak of a “same-sex marriage.” A marriage by definition is the unity of a man and a woman. No. Something like polygamy doesn’t change this, though it is wrong, as it is just one man with several women, but the man-woman aspect is there. The same would be for one woman with many men.

When you say “same-sex marriage” you are speaking of a contradiction. You are speaking of a man-woman unit that is not man-woman. If we also make the definition of marriage fluid, we can make it to mean anything and then it means nothing. Why limit it to two people? Why make it consensual? Why make it lifelong? The word marriage has to mean something specific.

I prefer to not even speak of a homosexual anymore. It makes homosexual more often an aspect of the person’s identity and surely that won’t change. It becomes something innate. I will easily instead speak of a person with same-sex attraction. What is central here is that this is a person.

We must absolutely watch people who want to control our words and tell us there are things we cannot say. We have seen part of this when any monitoring is done of questions about vaccines or the 2020 election. Even if you think both of those are crazy conspiracy theories, it would be better to have them talked about and the ideas discussed. Shutting down discussion on any topic convinces more often people who think there is a cover-up.

Keep in mind that in 1984, the goal of the editing of the language was not to come up with new words. It was to eliminate as many words as possible. Control the words people say and you can control the ideas that they are allowed to think about.

The language war is essential.

No. I was not assigned male at birth. I was born that way. I could jack up my body with as many hormones as doctors say and mutilate it with surgical procedures, and I will look like I am playing a part, but it won’t change reality. Barring the return of Jesus Christ, I will die a male. Nothing will change that.

There is too much at stake. Whenever you encounter language that is meant to shape what you think, do not give an inch to it. If you have to use long and clunkier phrases, that’s fine. I would rather do that and be minorly inconvenienced than give in to fake reality and be majorly inconvenienced.

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

 

To A Friend Struggling With Faith

What do you do when you want to throw it all away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

People on Facebook have been talking about someone who has said they just can’t believe in Christianity anymore even after years of being in apologetics and producing media on this. Now a number of people are coming out with their own views on the matter, which I understand and I don’t condemn. Some are blaming Calvinism, which I don’t care for, or presuppositionalism, which I also don’t care for, but i think there is something else going on here.

Now with so many people entering into this discussion, why am I jumping in? Do I think I have something to contribute that others do not? Indeed, I do, and this is not because of anything arrogant, but it is because of similar life circumstances. I can contribute that I have been through divorce as this person has.

Divorce is betrayal and rejection through and through. It is a pain that stabs at me every day still. Imagine what it is to think someone loves you so much that they want to share every aspect of themselves, nay, their very lives with you, and then in the end they reject you. You, the totality of you, all that is you, has been cast aside. You have been declared no longer worth it.

Now we all know theoretically that our identities should not be determined by other people, but you are a fool if you think that this doesn’t hurt. This leads to pain. Intense pain. I have said before there were times I would be ready to go to bed at night and see a bottle of Benadryl and briefly think, “You could.” I never came close, but it was there. There were some times I did think maybe I should check myself into a hospital for a few days. Again, never did.

I can say on my end, that I have a hard time today trusting people. I can say my thinking gets caught up in difficulties from time to time. I plan to date other women, but I also worry about self-control now seeing as I have been there before and as a divorced friend told me, “It’s easy to move on auto-pilot.” This is all real.  I also realize some people will look at me with a scarlet letter.

I fully understand if at those times it feels like God has abandoned you.

My friend wrote also about the Christian subculture and this is something I have the biggest problem with. People treat prayer like they can pray for an hour and it just comes so easily. People treat Scripture as a magic book and it’s such a joy to read every day and you learn something new. People talk about how you are supposed to feel as a Christian and that you are supposed to hear from God regularly and speak as if you have some secret hotline to God.

It’s individualism, and it’s a cancer in the church.

When people talk like this and suffering comes, they don’t know what to do then. After all, if your Christianity has been based on your emotions before, what happens when those emotions turn negative? When you don’t have them, what do you want? Do you want the emotions, or do you want what the emotions signify?

When I was married, there were times I had a deep feeling of love for my wife. There were also times that I did not. However, I always had a deep love for her. Today, I still want the best for her. The feeling was nice when it was there, but it wasn’t part of my diet to be expected.

What happens though if I focus more on the pointer instead of the reality the pointer pointed to? I am pursuing a feeling. It is like an addiction. If I have that feeling, then I love her. If I don’t, then I don’t. That leads to chaos. Would I want my love for my ex-wife to be based on a feeling?

The same can happen when we look at it in reverse. How do I know God loves me? If I base it on a feeling, what happens when that feeling goes away? Does God no longer love me? In the end, am I pursuing a feeling as a way of certainty?

I understand when my friend spoke about how if his son wanted comfort and to know that his Dad loved him, he would give it in a moment. I get that. It makes sense to us. It is easy to look at Matthew 7 and see about a son asking for bread or a fish. Doesn’t that apply here?

No. In Matthew 6, Jesus had been talking about food and clothing. The same is still going on in Matthew 7. Jesus is talking about provision for daily staples. This is not to say that God cannot give other things and that He doesn’t, but those are not promised.

So what if God did do what we ask and provided for us an experience of His love every time? Could we not get caught up in ourselves more? Could we not get caught up in experiences? What happens when that experience fades into the past? Do you need another hit.

The thing is, if I want to know if God loves me, and I understand that struggle, I need to trust what He has already said. It is written large in Scripture. How do I know I am one of His? Because I am trusting Him. I am not perfect, but I am striving.

What about pain? Pain can be the crucible that gets us more like Jesus. I can say that every pain I went through was horrible, when I was going through it. Years later, I look back and I am thankful I went through it. I suspect some time in the future, I will say “That divorce was horrible when I went through it, but I am a better and more holy man for it.” Hopefully, that will be when I am married to someone else. Maybe I will even have some of my own children with her.

I do want to say though that I get the silence of God. The problem is not really God, but it is a Christian subculture that is rooted in experience. Let’s also point to another sad reality about divorced people. We are quickly often isolated.

You used to do things with other people as a couple. It wasn’t you got together with your friends so much as you and your spouse got together with other couples. Those couples can like to hang out with you then, but, and I’m not saying everyone did this, when you become single, those couples can go away. Christians can also look at you in church as a lesser Christian.

Not only that, you have to explain your divorce so often to everyone. Divorce is treated like it’s the unpardonable sin and every time you have to repeat it, you live it all over again. The church is too often ready with condemnation instead of consolation. We are to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep and when you are going through divorce or suffering with it, you are mourning and weeping. I am thankful some people did just that. I am thankful that I found DivorceCare. I am thankful I had people who had been divorced who walked with me through it and I hope someday I can do the same for someone else walking through divorce.

To my friend, I hope I got a lot of what is going on correct, not because I want to be right, although I do, but because I want you to understand that I can relate. I also see you are asking the question about Jesus and who He is and I think that is a great place to go. It’s really hard to say anything negative about Jesus and I think really looking at who He is is the way to go.

I also encourage you to not believe anything just to believe it. I have not done that with my Christianity. For every position I have a strong stance on, I have a litany of reasons for why I embrace it. There are some issues I don’t argue and I just don’t care about. (Calvinism vs. Arminianism being one of them.) Don’t believe anything just to be consistent or to fit in with the people or look good in popular culture.

Be real. If things suck, say they suck. If you are angry with God, be angry. No sense hiding it. If you want to cry, then cry. Mourn. I had a friend come by on my next to last day in Georgia who was in the area when I found out I had to clear out because of the divorce and he saw me bawling my eyes out and never thought less of me for it.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out and talk if you need it, and I encourage this to everyone else. Before trying to win someone back to Christianity, just be a friend. Listen. Care. Besides, I suspect if you do this right, the Christianity will fall back into place anyway.

I understand the crickets, but I am also thankful for them. They have caused me often to go back to what is more foundational and not transitory. They have pointed me to what I really believe and what it is rooted in and not being based on feelings means I have a firmer foundation I can rely on when things get hard, and they do.

Here for you, if you need me.

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

Book Plunge for Fun: Mollie McQueen Is Not Having A Baby

What do I think of Lacey London’s second novel in this series? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The first book in this series I found intriguing enough that I wanted to go on and see where the author would go from there. Not only was the story good, but the characters were written in such a way that there seemed to be a personal investment on my part in them. In the first book, I was sure it would end positively, but I wanted to make sure the main character of Mollie saw what a disaster a divorce would be and there were a lot of good lessons about marriage along the way.

Now with this second book, many of the same characters are brought back. The investments go deeper and many loose strings are tied together. I wonder how much of this so far the author had in mind from the start.

Not only that, but with the return of the therapist figure of Evangelina Hamilton, there was also the return of a course for one of Mollie’s single friends with the goal being to find the one. I am quite certain if this course existed here and it was ran the same way, I would try to do whatever I could to sign up. Just now thinking about it, I consider it interesting the first step in the course was to get a new wardrobe, just after I went to the free Swap Shop here on campus with some friends to update my wardrobe and yes, for the same reason, to meet women.

Of course, there was material about how to behave on a date and two very opposite men doing the dating. How that turns out is going to be left for interesting readers to discover. There are a number of twists and turns one would not expect, but that make the story interesting.

The main theme though throughout is that Mollie thinks she might be pregnant and this while her husband is away on a business trip and she doesn’t want to take a pregnancy test to confirm or disprove until he returns. At the same time, she has a DIY project to do on her house and she gets the help of her brother-in-law who is trying to win the heart of her sister. How these work out is again something else I won’t spoil.

What is confusing about the main theme is that it doesn’t really read like the main theme. It’s there in the background and it looks like the main focus is on the dating course as Mollie helps one of the guys in it as his friend and sponsor. I found this story much more interesting than the baby story.

From a Christian perspective, there is a lot of good advice in here for relationships again, but Mollie does have a belief throughout about the way the universe is working things out. I often find this way of thinking so many people have odd, as if the universe, a non-personal entity, is intervening personally in the lives of people. One can say theism is nonsense if they want, but one can at least understand how a theist can see a personal deity intervening in the lives of people in the universe.

At any rate, I have started the third of five books now. I look forward to seeing what is in this one.

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

%d bloggers like this: