Our Need For Stories

What in us drives us to create stories? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have my own section at TheologyWeb.com and I invite you to check it out. A few days ago, I made a post about the problem of good vampires. What I am finding amazing about this is that there is a real discussion going on. Sometimes, it’s incredible to see what people comment on.

Just now I was watching The Big Bang Theory with one character asking about zombies. What happens if they don’t get human flesh to eat? They can’t starve to death because they’re already dead. I’m also going through Smallville again. This is my favorite series and started with two guys saying “Let’s tell an origins story of Superman.”

Comic books are well-known for creating massive universes as well and how many times have we had movies about the origin of Batman? These stories have so many installments to them that fans debate amongst themselves for each franchise what is and isn’t canon. You can have contradictory things happen in the stories so much so that DC created the Multiverse which led to several of its own problems.

In the gaming world, I am listening to the audiobook The Greatest Stories Every Played. Talk to some of my fellow gamers and what do we remember about a lot of our favorite games? The story behind them. Would that I could have my memory wiped and go through Final Fantasy IV again for the first time.

Why do we do this? Why do we debate about things that we all know don’t exist? People debating the Legend of Zelda franchise or Marvel comics or vampires aren’t doing so because they believe these exist. Despite that, they debate them and the debates can get awfully heated. Philosophy papers can easily be written on these topics. Indeed, if you want to see some of this, just go to Amazon and type in Pop Culture and Philosophy and see all the books that come up.

As far as I am aware, we are the only species that creates stories. Do we really do that for survival? Doubtful. It is possible to survive without stories, though most of us would consider that an impoverished life. You don’t need to read fiction, but many of us spend our time investing in a world of fiction. How many people can tell you every facet of The Lord of the Rings, for instance?

Lord of the Rings also led to popular role-playing games, including Dungeons and Dragons. Why do we play these? Because we like to use our imaginations and tell stories, but not only that, we want to be in on the story ourselves sometimes. We want to think about what we would do if we were in that situation. It’s easy to watch a movie or TV show or read a book and say to the character from the comfort of our homes, “Don’t go there! Don’t open that door! Don’t trust that guy!” Role-playing games can sometimes be the closest we get to making the choice ourselves and in the case of a game like D&D, if we’re playing with friends and not an electronic version, we can’t think of what we did the last time we played the game. Every time is new.

Today, I was telling another student about my research into video games and Christianity and how I think I am going to focus on stories and quests. Most people who are gamers like myself, we enjoy our hobby, but we also want more. We want real-life adventures more. I suspect this is why men watch the movies we do. We want to be the Avengers or we want to be James Bond.

Here’s another reason I suspect we make stories, which have been going on as long as we know of. Deep down, I think we all know that there is more than just this world. We do make some stories to explain reality, like the Just So stories, but we also make stories to tell for a longing that we have that reality is greater than what we see. A materialistic world is boring. We want a world of life.

I wonder if this could be behind the end-times hysteria many people have. Could it be we so much want to be a part of a greater story that we are convinced we are living in the last generation, even though numerous generations before us said that? Surely we must play a part in this? Could it also be why the belief is so prevalent that God speaks to us individually regularly? Surely I must play a part in all of this! Surely God has something for me and I need to find out what it is.

We can say social media contributes to this by making so many of us narcissists, but social media doesn’t create the idea. It just gives it a place to shine more prevalently. Social media too often just reveals who we really already are. Why do many of us do and say things that we wouldn’t do in person? Because on social media, it’s easy to put on a mask.

Everyone already has a story. I have said before that I think you could make a major motion picture of anyone’s life, and if you have a good director and cast, it would be a major hit. It’s incredible to think how much we are spending every year making games and movies and TV shows all because people love stories!

So I will be watching the debate on vampires and the discussion back and forth and enjoying it. I will continue playing some great new stories waiting to see what happens. However, I hope to continue living out my story and remembering that the story is not about me. It’s really His story. I just play a small part in His story, but I hope it’s a contribution that will make it better.

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

Paul’s Appearance and Muhammad’s Night Flight

How do the two compare? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been going through the Hadiths of Al-Bukhari lately where he narrates what people said about the life of Muhammand, the prophet of Islam. Tonight, I read about the Night Flight, which is the time that Muhammad says that he went to heaven. I have already written about that in comparison to the resurrection. Now I would like to compare it to the accounts of Paul’s Damascus Road experience.

“Sure. I can easily open up the Bible online, but where am I suppose to find the account of the journey in the night? No problem. I already did it for you. The Biblical references we are using meanwhile are in Acts 9, 22, and 26.

Let’s start by first comparing where these two people were socially. Paul was on the up and up. He was trained by the best of his time, was a Roman citizen, highly knowledgeable in Judaism and the pagan thought of his day, and would have been on the path to more and more greatness in his field.

Muhammad was a merchant. Nothing against merchants, but most of them don’t reach fame and glory as merchants.

What Paul got for his accounts is told in 2 Cor. 11. The list is not a good one to go through. What did Muhammad get? He fought in a lot of battles, received honor as being called Allah’s apostle, got a lot of booty in the form of wealth, and we can say he got a lot in another way in having multiple wives.

Paul went from being a somebody recognized by the leading officials of his day, a place of honor, to being an outcast and tying himself to one of the most despised if not the most despised movement of his day, never received great wealth or women, and was beheaded in prison.

From a purely social perspective, one of these men benefitted a lot more than the other.

Looking at the accounts of Paul, the first one in Acts 9 has it being said about him how much he must suffer for the name of Jesus. He is rendered blind and has to be led by the hand by those he formerly persecuted. These accounts do not really glorify Paul. From 2 Cor. 12, we also know Paul didn’t glorify himself. When he gave an account of what happened to him, he didn’t even say it was him directly and he says to avoid arrogance, he was given a thorn in the flesh and pleaded for it to be taken from him three times. This was done to make sure Paul would be humble.

Meanwhile, in Muhammad’s account, he is personally guided by the angel Gabriel, and at every step on the journey he is told how excellent his visit is and he gets to meet the who’s who of prophetic history and get the right hand of fellowship. He then becomes the advocate before Allah pleading for his people. Who does he go back and report to in this but Moses over and over.

One of these accounts has the main person looking awfully good.

Both accounts are subjective, but to be fair, there are some aspects of Paul’s account said to be objective, such as what his companions could have said or his being rendered blind. His change from persecutor to preacher is much better known. We don’t have this for Muhammad. All we have is his word.

So in the end, even if we can’t demonstrate one of them is definitely historical, I have to say the odds seem more in Paul’s favor. He would gain nothing from a worldly perspective and he was incredibly humbled in the accounts. From Muhammad, we have the opposite.

Make your choice which one you think is more likely to be true.

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

What Can Be Proven?

Is Philosophy a weaker form of argumentation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I asked the atheist on the page why Aristotle should be rejected. Well, he wrote over 2,000 years ago and we have learned a lot since then. Surely we have, but what have we learned that disproved his arguments? In response to that, his arguments are philosophical and cannot be proven.

This is a rather strange argument. For one thing, it’s a philosophical argument (Which means by its own standards it’s unproven) that says that we shouldn’t accept a philosophical argument that can’t be proven. Second, it is quite likely that this is a person who would choose to trust in science. Nothing against science, but proof doesn’t not exist in science. Instead, there is extremely high probability. There are some matters that we could say are practically certain, but today’s reigning science could be tomorrow’s junk science.

By the way, that also applies to history, a subject I prefer much more to talk about. In history, our knowledge is inductive as well. There are some matters that are so probable that we say they are practically certain. One such example in my field is that Jesus died by crucifixion.

Actually, if we only believed things in our lives that we could prove, we would believe very little. I don’t know how I could begin to prove to you what I had for breakfast this morning. Now we are getting to the point where you could start wondering if a blog is by me or an AI. How could I prove either one?

There are plenty of things out there that we cannot prove, but we would be crazy to even question those things. I have never been to London, but my Dad has and I know people at the Seminary who have. Now I could say that there are people involved in a grand conspiracy, including the media, to get me to believe that a place called London exists, but that would be crazy. (Although to be fair, the media being involved in a conspiracy in itself is not necessarily crazy.)

Some of you are waiting for me to get to the areas where there is proof. Those areas are logic and mathematics. Actually, both of them are highly philosophical in dealing with abstract objects and things that don’t depend on material reality for their being. Perhaps there is something to that, but that is something to ponder for another blog.

Let’s consider the classic syllogism.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal.

If the premises are true, and they are, and the form is valid, and it is, then the conclusion follows with certainty. There is no getting around it. Consider this.

All cats have six legs.
Scooby-Doo is a cat.
Scooby-Doo has six legs.

In this case, the premises are wrong, but the form is valid. If the premises are true, the conclusion would be.

All men are rational.
Linda is rational.
Linda is a man.

In this case, both premises are true, but unless someone has an odd name for a guy, Linda is not a man. Linda is a woman. The form in this case is not valid. There are invalid and valid syllogisms. The point is simply that if we have good data and good form, we can have conclusions.

Then there is Math. It could be something as simple as 2 + 2 = 4 or Fermat’s Last Theorem. Either way, these are things that can be proven or in some cases, disproven.

Once again, I find it odd the way atheists online interact in talking about proof and neglecting the best areas of proof and placing greatest trust in the areas where there is no proof.

Maybe all men are not rational….

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

Disvaluing The Elderly

Do we really care about them anymore? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was reading a Carl Trueman essay yesterday about a dangerous gift for his wife. In this case, it was some anti-aging material. As he writes about it, which he did wind up buying anyway, he does say our culture seems to want to live in a denial of our age. Youth is glorified. The elderly are cast aside.

If you read the book of Job, you will find Eliphaz at one point making an interesting statement. He tells Job that men with grey hair are on his side and that they are older than Job’s father.” If it was said today, it would be seen as an extremely weak point. What do they know?

Working at a seminary, there are many students here that are twenty years or more younger than I am. Something I notice about many of them is that they are not aware of events that took place before their time. I still remember working at the Wal-Mart in Tennessee and having to explain to one of the younger people there who the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man was.

Okay. There aren’t many major consequences from not knowing pop culture references, but too many times our young people don’t even really know about history before our time. Events like Challenger and 9-11 were the defining moments for my generation, but I knew about past events such as the assassination of Kennedy that also defined a generation.

Part of this goes with the denial of death that I wrote about yesterday. Youth is seen as the glorious time. We even think our youth at even extremely young ages can truly say that they know that they are the wrong gender. A teenage girl is supposed to decide that she can’t handle a baby in her womb when she has a hard enough time deciding what to wear in the morning.

And what do we do with our elderly? Well, we put them in nursing homes and other places and in many cases, they struggle with loneliness. My parents, being elderly now, tell me of many friends they have where their own children don’t even bother interacting with them anymore. The elderly are a goldmine of wisdom and great experiences of the past if we will but listen to them.

I don’t claim to be the best at this either. Could it be we don’t like to be around the elderly many times because it reminds us that one day, we will be them? Sure, grandpa might not understand how to work an iPhone and your great aunt Susie might post a personal post to you on your Facebook wall instead of sending it through a private message, but could it be that maybe one day, you will be the one not understanding the new technology someday?

Contrast this with the ancient societies. When we read about Jesus in the Gospels, many people often ask why so little was said about His childhood. These are people who have never read any other ancient biographies. Hardly anything was said about childhood. No one cared. It was the elderly that were the most respected.

Now I am not at all suggesting childhood doesn’t matter. It is important to recognize that youth is a gift from God just as much as old age is. It should be treasured. However, old age should be honored as well. The extremes of denying childhood any validity and treating old age like a disease to avoid are both wrong.

By the way to those of you out there who are elderly, here’s something I want to share as an idea. Start an online blog. What will you write about? Yourself. Write about you and your life and leave it for your future descendants who you will never see. You can also record online videos on YouTube. One of your children will likely be glad to show you how to do it. Leave a video diary for them. Talk about even the most mundane things going on in your day. What music are you listening to? What movies are you watching? If you play games, and some elderly people do play video games, what games are they? What did you do when you were their age?

By the way, if you have your children and grandchildren help you with this, that will be time you spend with them as well and they can hear about it from you. It’s a win-win. Give it a try.

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

Death Denial

Do we act like it’s no longer real? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Several years ago, a man named John Boswell wrote a book on Christianity, tolerance, and homosexuality. His thesis was that in Christian history, homosexuality really wasn’t viewed as that big of a deal and that Scripture could not be used to make a case against it. Boswell was himself a homosexual and claimed Roman Catholic (I say claimed since many Roman Catholics would not really accept someone approving of and practicing same-sex sexual relationships). There was certainly a lot of information put in the book and I thought I remembered him being on Unbelievable? one time to debate it.

So I looked it up and found out that since Boswell died in 1994, that I was probably wrong. However, I have to say I was not surprised that he died of AIDS. It’s my understanding that we have better treatments for AIDS now, but when it came out, it was a killer in the community of the same-sex attracted. It was originally even known as GRID for Gay-Related Immuno Deficiency.

That got me thinking about how this man spent so much of his life defending a practice that led to his death and not only his death, but the deaths of many others. For a look at how this can happen, look at And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. Shilts was himself someone with same-sex attraction who died of AIDS.

It’s part of our culture that we always think that this won’t happen to us. Many of us remember growing up and thinking somehow we would escape death. Some potion of immortality or something would be found in our lifetime. I somewhere suspect that many Christians think that we are “The generation” because surely their time won’t come. Surely God won’t allow us to suffer.

We all do this. We know it because we do many things that are unhealthy every day. This is especially prevalent in our sex culture. People sleep around as if the action won’t have any consequences, and when they come, such as pregnancy, STDS, failed relationships, guilt, etc., they’re shocked. Our age is an age that thinks somehow we can shun personal responsibility and not suffer consequences. Watch a sitcom or a movie. No one gets an STD. I used to tell men about to marry that when they were preparing for sex for the first time, to think about everything they had seen in movies and TV and then throw it out because it’s completely unrealistic.

Death comes in like something of a shock to us even though it has been a companion with us for the longest time. One can play a game where the character gets several extra lives, and indeed, we need to have that suspended disbelief because frankly, none of us would play many games where if you died, that was it and you had to start all the way from the beginning.

My ex-wife and I used to know someone named Steve. Steve was a big and tough biker type dude, but someone as gentle as can be. You could see a picture of him cuddling a kitten. He got esophageal cancer and he was shriveled up in the end. How much so? I would look tougher than he did at that point. I hate saying it, but such was the case.

When he died, I remember being at the funeral home. I remember walking around at one point while others were socializing and I went to the room where the casket was and I was thinking this had to be a mistake. Death came for the wrong man. In a gaming mindset, part of me wished I could have had an RPG battle with death then and get my friend back. Completely unrealistic to think about? Yep. I think we can all relate somehow though.

We often react to not just death, but any suffering, as if there is something unusual in the world. Shouldn’t our lives be happy and joyous always? If anything, the level of freedom that we can have in this country (Living in America) would be astounding to our ancestors of the past. As I write this, I think that I do have scoliosis. Today, I walk straight because I was treated with the unbelievable treatment of a steel rod on my spine. Who would have thought of such a thing in the past, and yet here it is a reality. Me 100 years ago would be walking like Quasimodo instead.

Our challenge is not to defeat death. We can’t. Not only that, we don’t need to. It’s already been done. Christ conquered it on the cross. We can realize it as an intruder still, but we also need to learn to accept it as real. Denying death won’t make it go away. We can try to fight against reality all we want, but in the end, reality will always win.

However, once again, as Christians, that’s a good thing. Reality is Jesus Christ conquered death and rose again. I remember years ago working with a friend who is a devout Christian now, but was severely doubting and sometimes it was exhausting. One day I went to my emails and saw one from him with the subject line “Jesus of Nazareth.” I braced myself for an onslaught of questions.

Instead, I saw this.

“He really did walk out of that grave, didn’t He?”

I still smile even as I think about that and write it out.

Yes, He did.

In a temporal sense, sometimes we hate reality.

But in the end, the real God revealed in the real Jesus who walked out of that real grave will give us a reality we can all enjoy and love.

I look forward to it.

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

The Problem of Good Vampires

Is it a concern when vampires become good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m going through a fantasy series right now and in the last book, the main character is up against a contingent of vampires. I am quite enjoying the series and eager to see how it turns out. Vampires happen to be quite popular in our culture and Halloween time seems like a good time to talk about them.

Many of my generation know about vampires from playing the Castlevania games. Had Emil Hamilton not jumped in, they would have been called “Dracula Satanic Castle”, which means most of us would have never played them because our parents would have never bought such a game for us. Definitely a wise move since it has been a staple series.

The game traditionally involves a member of the Belmont clan who has a whip and sets out on a journey to slay Dracula. Later games didn’t always follow this rule, but at the start, this happened. In the third game, you could also switch between other characters, one of whom was Alucard, the son of Dracula. (Read his name backwards.) Alucard was also a vampire, but didn’t care for Dear Old Dad’s ways.

We can think of many other vampires in popular culture today. The Blade movies come to mind. There are a number of animes that have characters that are vampires. Then, there is obviously the Twilight saga.

An interesting concept to be sure to have a redeemed vampire, but could that also be a problem? Years ago, my ex-wife and I tried going through a book together that we never got around to finishing, but I really enjoyed. I don’t know where it is now or if I even still have it, but it’s called The Vampire Defanged by Susannah Clements.

From what I remember, the thesis was that originally, the vampire was an embodiment of sin. If you wanted to know what evil was, look at Dracula. As the book I am reading says now about the main vampire villain, he is the antithesis of life itself. He is an undead creature that chooses to live despite that he should be dead. He does not give life, but he takes it and spreads his death by turning the living into vampires. He cannot live in the light. He can bend others to his will and has no morals at all.

This is an evil indeed.

There is a benefit to evil being seen as truly evil. We need to see the vampire in these stories as the epitome of darkness. In Stoker’s work, he would be one that would be a fulfillment of the seven deadly sins. He would also not be defeated just by someone who was really tough and capable. They would have to be holy as well and have equipment that was holy. It wasn’t power that defeated the vampire so much as holiness.

Clements’s main thesis as I remember it was that the more we took sin seriously, the more the vampire was truly evil. The less we take sin seriously, the more we tame the vampire. Eventually, sunlight just makes them sparkle and they drink animal blood only to survive.

There is something cool about vampires being redeemed and becoming forces for good, but I can’t help but be concerned. Have we lost sight of evil? We could say that we are having true redemption, but perhaps we should consider.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

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

Book Plunge: Why Christians Are Wrong About Jesus — The Self-Appointed Apostle

Did Paul appoint himself as apostle? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am returning to this one again to continue looking at the question of Paul. Campbell considers it dubious since Paul is the only one privy to his vision and we have no one else outside of Luke referring to Paul as an apostle. However, if Paul really believed he had this encounter with Jesus, rightly or wrongly, then it’s hard to see how he is self-appointed. In his mind, he is, rightly or wrongly, following the orders of a higher authority.

However, Campbell goes on to list this as self-serving. How, he never explains. What benefits did Paul gain from the Jesus movement? If he was wrong, he had forfeited an incredible position and career in Judaism, taken a position that would be blasphemous to YHWH if Jesus did not rise from the dead, and took on a position that resulted in the many trials that he underwent as described in 2 Cor. 11. The benefits certainly do not weigh out the costs, unless, of course, Christianity is true.

He also tells us Jesus only chose as apostles those who had been with him from the beginning, heard his teachings, witnessed his miracles, and been with him through his trials. He stresses that it was very important to Jesus that His disciples meet this criteria since they would be passing along His teachings.

Never mind that the first apostles Jesus chose hadn’t had any of these experiences at all. Never mind also that we only see these criteria being used in Acts 1 and we never see a divine word choosing another apostle. I am not saying they were wrong to do so, but this is never something that is said to be spelled out by Jesus. The requirements for being an apostle are simply being sent by Jesus and if Paul’s encounter is true, then Paul is an apostle. Also, there were others called apostles, such as Junia and her husband in Romans 16.

Campbell also says that when the eleven chose a replacement for Jesus, they pointedly did not choose Paul. Geez. Why could that be? Could it be because Paul was not a part of the Jesus movement then and it would be ridiculous to choose an outsider who had not embraced the message? Of course, if Jesus wants to do this, He can do so. Campbell acts like this was a deliberate rejection on the part of the apostles when it was that Paul wasn’t in the running at the time. Somehow, this translates to later times as if to show that the apostles were always suspicious of Paul.

Much of the material from here on is the same kind of material that you can find in a lot of anti-Paul materials that assumes an intense warfare going on between Paul and the apostles, something never mentioned by them or their own students, the early church fathers. (If 2 Peter is authentic, Peter did accept Paul, but of course, Campbell never bothers to look at this question.)

We will continue next time.

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

Prophets On Eternal Progression

What do Mormon Prophets say? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

By prophets, I don’t mean biblical prophets. I mean Mormon prophets. These are the people that speak authoritatively for the church and give the new revelation that is coming down.  Many people might not know that Mormons have a doctrine called eternal progression. In the words of one of their presidents, Lorenzo Snow

“As man is, God once was.
As God is, man may become.”

This isn’t like the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis, which even Protestants can accept. This is saying something that would be blasphemous to the position of theosis. This is one of the great exaltations of man and one of the great lowerings of God. It means that God literally was once just an ordinary man and He progressed to Godhood and now we are His creation and one day we will progress to His level. Not only that, He is still progressing.

The source of these quotes is a book by a Mormon named Daniel Ludlow. The book is called Latter-Day Prophets Speak, which is a great source of Mormon claims. Let’s take a look at a small sample of some of these claims.

If I improve upon what the Lord has given me , and continue to improve , I shall become like those who have gone before me ; I shall be exalted in the celestial kingdom and be filled to overflowing with all the power I can wield ; and all the keys of knowledge I can manage will be committed unto me . What do we want more ? I shall be just like every other man – have all that I can , in my capacity , comprehend and manage . – Brigham Young , Journal of Discourses 6 : 276 , August 28 , 1852
We understand that we are to be made kings and priests unto God ; now if I be made the king and lawgiver to my family , and if I have many sons , I shall become the father of ready fathers , for they will have sons , and their sons will have sons , and so on , from generation to generation , and , in this way , I may become the father of many fathers , or the king of ready kings . This will constitute every man a prince , king , lord , or whatever the Father sees fit to confer upon us.In this way we can become King of kings , the Lord of lords , or , Father of fathers , or Prince of princes , and this is the only course , for another man is not going to raise up a kingdom for you . – Brigham Young , Journal of Discourses 8 : 265 – 266 , July 14 , 1855 76
MEN , AS GODS , SHALL ORGANIZE NEW WORLDSI expect , if … faithful , … that we shah see the time … that we shall know how to prepare to organize an earth like this – know how to prepare that earth , how to redeem it , how to sanctify it , and how to glorify it , with those who live upon it who hearken to our counsels.The Father and the Son have attained to this point already ; I am on the way , and so are you , and every faithful servant Of God … After men have got their exaltations and their crowns – have become Gods , even the sons of God – are made Kings of kings and Lords of lords , they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit ; and that is the first of their operations with regard to organizing a world . Power is then given to them to organize the elements , and then commence the organization of tabernacles . How can they do it ? Have they to go to that earth ? Yes , an Adam will have to go there , and he cannot do without Eve ; he must have Eve to commence the work of generation , and they will go into the garden , and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporeal world , until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies to enable them , according to the established laws , to produce mortal tabernacles for their spiritual children.This is the key for you . The faithful will become Gods , even the sons of God . – Brigham Young , Journal of Discourses 6 : 274 – 275 , August 28 , 1852
We shall go on from one step to another , reaching forth into the eternities until we become like the Gods , and shall be able to frame for ourselves , by the behest and command of the Almighty . All those who are counted worthy to be exalted and to become Gods , even the sons of God , will go forth and have earths and worlds like those who framed this and millions on millions of others . – Brigham Young , Journal of Discourses 17 : 143 , July 19 , 1874
If there was a point where man in his progression could not proceed any further , the very idea would throw a gloom over every intelligent and reflecting mind . God Himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge , power , and dominion , and will do so , worlds without end . It is just so with us . – Wilford Woodruff , Journal of Discourses 6 : 120 , December 6 , 1857
I will fully grant that Mormons are good and kind people when they come to your door. They are delightful. Many of you would love to have Mormons for neighbors. However, there is still the reality that our righteousness is as filthy rags.
Honestly, it could be that many missionaries that come to your door might not know this. I’m not sure. Don’t presume that they do. However, this is the same lie that comes in the Garden of Eden that led to the fall of man. It’s philosophically incoherent and impossible, but anti-biblical and theologically corrupt.
I knew about this doctrine already and I knew the defenses for it, but when I read these quotes, I realized I was reading something truly evil. Again, none of this is said to disparage the Mormons as people. I love them greatly and I want to see them come to the true gospel where God is infinitely greater than you are and you will never be as He is. Still, this God far greater than you reaches down in love to you and seeks to make you holy and pure. He wants to make you a reflection of Him in some sense still.
I definitely thus far recommend this book to people who want to reach Mormons. Since they came to see me even while living on a seminary campus and visiting the seminary, I have been even more regularly reading material on Mormonism. It is a fascinating belief system in so many ways and it’s a shame to see so many Mormons falling for a false Jesus.
Let’s give them the real one.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

How Do Miserable Christians Worship?

Is the average worship service the balm of Gilead?

I’m reading through Carl Trueman’s Minority Report which is a series of essays he has written. If you have not read Trueman, you need to read Trueman. He is one of the most brilliant writers of our age I have read. Anyway, today’s essay was about authenticity and he talked about it being based on one he wrote called “What Do Miserable Christians Sing?” and it has been his most appreciated piece ever judging by the replies he has got.

After all, if you go to your modern worship service, the majority of worship songs are happy songs. They’re meant to invite you into the joy of the Lord. I’m not saying that’s always wrong, but let’s remember some people are coming to church and they’re not happy. They’re actually miserable.

For me, being a divorced Christian in the modern church setting is hard. It’s hard to be in the community of believers when your personal community was torn to shreds. It’s hard when you hear people who are supposed to be in your age group or even younger talking about everything going on with their children and their spouses and you think about what you have lost.

Then you go into a worship service and the songs are all about how thankful you are and the joy you have in Jesus. It’s really hard to sing those songs and be authentic. You would really like to experience that, but you can’t. Not right now at least.

Are there songs for miserable Christians?

Yes. They’re called the Psalms.

By all means, not all of them are, but a number of them are lament Psalms and they were just as much part of worship as praise ones. They are no less part of Scripture than worship Psalms. God wanted them to be in the Bible just like He wanted joyous Psalms to be in there.

God wants us to have hymns of misery.

The Bible assumes sometimes we will be miserable. This isn’t just in the Old Testament. It’s in the New. Jesus is the man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. Paul says about death that we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. He also says to mourn with those who mourn.

By the way, sometimes, that is extremely helpful.

We can fault Job’s friends for what they did, and we should, but they did one thing right definitely. What was that? For the first part of their visit with him, they sat with him. They were silent. They were just there.

Sometimes, you may think you need to cheer up someone who is miserable, but sometimes, what they really want is not so much to be cheered up. They just want to be heard. They want to be understood. They don’t want a solution. They just want a friend.

I still remember one of the best sayings I got in my divorce. I was told, “Today sucks. Tomorrow will also suck, but it will suck a little bit less.” Of course, that moves in fluctuations. Sometimes, it hurts more than it did yesterday, but the general principle is sound.

Sometimes you will come to church miserable, and that is fine. Sometimes you will leave that way, and that is fine. If anything, we need to give a place for people to express misery at church. Those who are miserable can push the community away while at the same time wanting the community.

God gave Scripture to express negative emotions just as much as happy ones, and there’s a place for both in worship. Let us remember that God’s goal is not to give us temporary happiness. His ultimate goal is our holiness, and we will pass through some unhappiness in that.

Sing a song of misery if you need to.

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

No. I Don’t Care About Pagan Origins.

Does where it came from really matter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“But Halloween is from paganism and is rooted in Samhain.”

So this the kind of conversation I had yesterday. First off, I said that point is highly debatable. The reality is that there have been more scholarly works written about Buffy The Vampire Slayer than about Halloween. Unfortunately, much of what you see on the internet is just nonsense. I really recommend the book Unmasking Halloween which is the best book I have read on this topic thus far.

So the first point I made was to dispute the Samhain connection. Well, that wasn’t going well as they didn’t want to hear any of it, so I tried another technique which I still stand by, but as expected, didn’t go well. I said that for the sake of argument, I am going to grant everything said about Halloween.

Then here’s what I say even if we grant that it fully came from the pagans and they did evil practices on this day.

So what?

I mean that. Who cares?

Let’s use one example I have heard used before. Wedding rings. There have been some claims I have heard that these are pagan in origin. Now let’s suppose I was married again and you were able to convince me that the rings that we exchange at our wedding are entirely rooted in paganism.

What would I do in response?

Absolutely nothing.

Why? Because when I put a wedding ring on a woman’s finger, I am not doing it to honor a pagan deity. I am doing it to honor my God and my wife. I am doing it as a symbol of my love for her and as a sign to the rest of the world that we are husband and wife.

I happen to believe in a God who redeems not just people, but redeems all of reality. This God could take something that was a symbol rooted in pagan tradition and change it so it becomes a symbol of His holiness and covenant and a representation of Christian teachings. God is in the business of transforming everything.

So what about Halloween? No one is worshiping the devil when they put on a costume and go door-to-door or take their children door-to-door and ask for candy. If anything, this would be seen as a victory. We took a day allegedly intended for evil, and we turned it into a day where kids travel the streets and get candy.

Not only this, but not everything in paganism was wicked and evil. We get our intellectual ways of thinking from the Greeks. We get our legal system from the Romans. We got Algebra from the Muslims. It would be a great loss to lose everything that came to us from the pagans.

Christians. Don’t be scared when someone says something is pagan in origin. First, you can investigate and see if it’s true. Odds are, it really isn’t. Second, even if it isn’t, so what? Do you do it to honor a pagan deity? No. You do it to honor Jesus. The one who honors a day does so to the Lord as Paul says.

Happy Halloween!

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