Deeper Waters Podcast 8/1/2020

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

Throughout history, the Jewish people really haven’t seemed to care much for Jesus. He’s been branded as a traitor in their history and many ancient writings from Jewish circles about Jesus were far from friendly. Jesus could be depicted as suffering in the very worst circles of hell.

Then later on you have strong streams of anti-Semitism, sadly even including Martin Luther. The Jews are often so disregarded that in the last century, you had the holocaust take place. That really opened our eyes to how we need to get at the Jewishness of the New Testament and that of Jesus as well.

And the interesting thing is that the Jews are actually joining in this search. There is a resurgence of scholarship that is coming from a Jewish perspective and looking at the New Testament. It also isn’t an entirely antagonistic look either. For many Jews, Jesus is now seen as a respected and admired figure, even if they’re not Messianic Jews who do hold that Jesus is the Messiah.

What about a question like the resurrection? In this area, it is quite interesting that we have scholarship on the Jewish side that not only studies the resurrection of Jesus, but also affirms it, and even non-Messianic. Pinchas Lapides was a Jewish scholar who came to the conclusion that Jesus was raised from the dead even though he never became a Christian.

Where have other Jews come down on this question? For that, we’ll be discussing with my guest this Saturday. We will be discussing this question and also looking into the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Not only that, we’ll also be talking about the Israel College of the Bible. So who is this guest? He is a Messianic Jew himself named David Mishkin.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

David Mishkin holds degrees from Northeastern Bible College, Fuller Theological seminary, and the University of Pretoria. He has authored three books (including Jewish Scholarship on the Resurrection of Jesus), and with Craig Evans he co-edited A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. He has served on the faculty of Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel for over a dozen years.

We’re still working on getting caught up on past shows, but I hope you’ll be watching for this one. Please also consider supporting us on our journey. Deeper Waters works thanks to people like you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Tips On Research

How can you better do research? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So in the discussion portion of my blog on research recently came a discussion on what to do about it. There really is no easy answer. This is especially so since it requires the masses do research and most people can’t maintain focus for less than a minute on something. That’s why so many shows have soundbites instead so you can get a quick grab.

For those of us who do care, here are some tips I recommend.

First, always if possible go with books. Now note that this is talking about serious topics and not entertainment topics. I like to watch YouTube videos about video games and pop culture. If you were doing an academic study of pop culture, that wouldn’t work, but for popular interest, going to popular sources is fine.

However, if you want to learn about a topic in-depth, unless you know the source very well and know them to be accurate, do not go to YouTube videos. Naturally, if it’s the author of a book himself talking or something of that sort, that’s fine, but don’t go with the YouTube expert. They might know what they’re talking about or it might be a bunch of bunk. You don’t know.

Second, even with a book, you need to get the information that is from a good source. With Kindle, many people can self-publish easily. You can get some good material, but like with YouTube, you can also get garbage. You need to consider the source. However, publishing houses don’t want to publish books they think they will lose on and if a book doesn’t look good, it won’t be published. (Consider all the publishing houses kicking themselves who got the first Harry Potter novel and never published it.)

So, when you’re looking for a book, go with the publishing house you think has the best credentials as well. The more academic the better. Now let’s talk about the author some.

For the author, go with someone who has a degree, preferably a doctorate, in a field related to the topic. Richard Dawkins is just fine if you want to do zoology and biology. He is not fine when he stumbles into philosophy or history or Biblical studies. Thus, you can read a book like The Blind Watchmaker and learn stuff about biology and evolution, but when he pulls it over into philosophy in the book even if it is subtle, Dawkins is then speaking out of his area of expertise.

Meanwhile, take someone like N.T. Wright. N.T. Wright is just fine if you’re talking about religion, the Bible, church history, New Testament, that sort of thing. However, he is not an expert on scientific matters and is not the person to consult on evolution. If you meet someone who thinks they know something on everything, they don’t.

This is also something important to do period. So many people come to me and think that since I’m an apologist, I must know something about everything and will ask me questions about science. Sorry. I don’t answer those. I will gladly point you to friends who do, but I am not an authority in those areas.

Another tip to follow is when it comes to recent discoveries in something like science or archaeology, don’t jump on a bandwagon immediately. For me, it mostly happens in archaeology. I have many friends who will jump on the latest finding that supports Scripture. I get it. It makes sense. However, I recommend that you wait until the material gets peer-reviewed and then share it. This could take a couple of years, but it beats going out triumphant only to have a flaw with the data be shown. The same can apply to scientific findings.

This also goes for atheists. Don’t be so quick to jump on something because you think it’s a disproof of the Bible or something like that. Give these discoveries time.

Also, please don’t go with those people who are sensationalist and go to the press before going to the scholars. This happened with Joseph Atwill who many reporters claimed was a Bible scholar when he just had Jesus mythicist garbage. No. He wasn’t a scholar. He never went to the scholars because none of them would have taken him seriously.

This is also a problem with conspiracy theories. If you think you alone know something that all the experts out there think there is zero evidence of, then you are likely wrong. If you hear a strange story you can honestly wonder why no one in the news has covered it. This can range all the way from conservative news sources to liberal news sources. If no one is covering it, there’s probably a reason for that. Keep in mind also, there are crackpots on all sides.

For atheists, it’s often Jesus mythicism. So many atheists have fooled themselves into thinking they’re in the know on this great secret scholars have missed. I still laugh thinking about someone saying to me in a debate on the Facebook page of a local news channel when I lived in Knoxville that scholars don’t even know if Jesus existed. Yeah. They do. Mythicism seems to come with a bit of arrogance. I personally have a mathematical theory that the arrogance of many internet atheists is in direct proportion to their ignorance.

For Christians, it can more often be arguing against evolution. Now readers know I don’t say yea or nay on evolution because I am not a scientist, but I have a problem with Christians who go out and argue against evolution and yet have never read a scientific book in their life. If you do that, you will get embarrassed, but more than that, you will make Jesus look like an embarrassment.

By the way, this is also an important point. Read both sides as much as possible. Naturally, you can’t read everything, but I have found in the past few years an interesting question to ask people is “When was the last time you read something academic that disagreed with you?” Very few people seem to answer this question. I am sure there’s a reason for that.

Also, realize the other side can always teach you something. If you are an atheist and read William Lane Craig or Edward Feser and learn nothing, you are not paying attention. If you are a Christian and read Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins and get nothing out of it, you learn nothing. For me, Ehrman has sometimes given me interesting ideas on how to read a passage that have been enlightening. With Dawkins, while the guy knows nothing about areas outside of his expertise, when he writes about animals and nature, it is simply beautiful and amazing.

Of course, also learn good logical reasoning. Learn how to make a syllogism and logical fallacies. Learn what it takes to demonstrate a point or at least provide good evidence as not all cases can be demonstrated. They can just have really good evidence. It’s a mistake today to insist on “proof.” In many cases, it doesn’t exist.

Those are some of my recommendations and naturally, it will just depend on us. What people have to ask themselves is if they want to be informed or not. Even if you disagree, try to have an informed disagreement. If you don’t, then those who do know something will look at you like you don’t know what you’re talking about, and rightly so.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
And I affirm the virgin birth.

You Are Not Safe

Can you avoid suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of us have been shocked recently to hear about the news of the death of Mike Adams. It gets even more saddening when the reports indicate that it looks like a suicide. When I first heard he had died, I was suspecting foul play. After all, Adams is a warrior type and he really enjoys being in the heat of controversy.

If there was ever a time I would have hoped that I was right….

As I thought about that, I thought about what my friend Clay Jones says about evil and suffering. You are not safe. This morning, I remembered what he has said before that in your life, you will see everyone around you die of murder, accident, or disease. There is one thing aside from the return of Christ that can prevent you from seeing this. That is your own death from murder, accident, or disease.

Years ago, we also saw Nabeel Qureshi pass away. He was just 34 and had stomach cancer strike him. Many of us around the world were praying for him and were confident God would not let this one pass away. This would be a miracle for the world. It was not to be.

You are not safe.

We have this strange idea that we are to avoid suffering and evil. When it hits us in our lives, we act like we have been dealt an unfair hand. Why should we be the ones who receive this? The real question to ask is why should we receive anything different?

We often want to act like life is great for us. Most of us on Facebook want to put on a happy face and act like everything is okay. Many of us thought the same thing about Mike Adams, and yet apparently underneath that warrior spirit, there was a deeply hurting individual and it really hadn’t been seen.

I have seen people I respect greatly go through sudden crises in their personal lives that come out of nowhere. I then wonder “Why didn’t they ask for help?” Then I think, “The same reason I normally don’t.” I want to be a man in part and say “I can handle this.” There’s also great pride in admitting many struggles one has.

I’m not saying be an open book entirely on a place like Facebook and share everything, but I am saying to be willing to be open to a certain group of people and tell them what’s going on. I have a personal mentor I email every night who knows a lot about what’s going on in my own world. I am sure if many of you saw the correspondences over the years, you would be stunned.

Churches sadly are not the best place because many churches have it that you show up and put on your Christian face that life is great. My wife and I were at a small group years ago at a church we definitely no longer attend when Allie talked about how she was struggling with doubt in prayer request time. She was actually told that they don’t talk about that there. Yep, church. That’s how you help the wounded.

You all know I’m not going to back down on Christian morals, but we can hold to Christian morals in the right attitude such that someone living a lifestyle they know we see as sin will not be afraid to come to us. How is that possible? Well, they weren’t afraid to come to Jesus. If they are afraid to come to us and not to Jesus, we are doing something wrong.

We need to be there because after all, no one is safe. Years ago a book was written about Jim Morrison called “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” That’s a description of us too. We don’t like to think about that, but unless Christ returns first, it’s true.

That event could happen for you even today, even if you’re in perfect health. You could die in a crime or a car accident. Remember the story of Ghost Rider where the main character’s Dad has a disease and he makes a deal with the devil to heal him? The deal is set so the Dad will live a long life. Right? No. He is healed, but the next day he dies in an accident.

It could happen at any time.

Suffering is inevitable for all of us and that’s why as Christians, we need the message of hope, but not just the message of hope, but the living of hope. We need to come alongside and help one another out as best we can. It means so much to still get a kind message from someone out of the blue offering prayers or encouragement or to get a gift in the regular mail or email from someone just because.

I remember years ago after Allie and I were married, we were in financial straits, which we are still in. I remember praying and asking God to please send a little bit to help us. Shortly after I went to the mail and a friend from California had mailed us $100 saying she had just been thinking about us.

Friends. You have no idea how much hope something like that gives. It’s a way of getting the message of “You matter to us.” That’s something we all need to hear. We all want to matter. We all want to know we’re important to someone.

There are too many people in this world who have gone the way of Mike Adams and will go that same way. It is a tragedy every single time. Please get help. Don’t be ashamed to see a therapist. For many of my own struggles, I also see a therapist. There is no shame in it. Please also reach out to the suicide prevent hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Something I enjoy doing is watching YouTube videos about gaming. One video I watched recently was something along the lines of dumb ways to die in video games. The video was humorous and out of the blue, at the end the speaker says “While we’ve all wasted our lives this way in games, there’s no need to waste your own life.” He then goes to give a positive message about the dangers of suicide and about the good in the world and to please get help if you’re struggling.

It was great to see that message. We need to hear it more often. Maybe you should tell it to someone today.

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

Another Rant About Research

Should you share that claim so quickly? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christians are supposed to be people of truth. Some claims, of course, cannot be verified easily. They also cannot be falsified easily. Some are very controversial and have intelligent people on both sides. However, some claims are just bogus or at least highly insufficient. Sadly, too often I see these and get incredibly frustrated.

This is the internet. Imagine if you woke up one day and saw a story being shared on Facebook that you were a pedophile. You go about and refute the charges the best you can and most people believe you, but some do not. Stories are shared all over the Facebook and your reputation can be destroyed just like that.

That might be extreme, but consider whenever you spread false information about another person on the internet, you are doing just that. This is especially worse if you’re a Christian since you claim to be a person of truth. You are doing what James said not to do and using your tongue, or in this case, your keyboard, to destroy.

Not only that, you want people to believe you when you tell them Jesus rose from the dead. Right? Even if all you have is your personal testimony, you want people to believe that. Why on Earth should anyone believe you on stuff that can’t be studied in five minutes, if they cannot believe you in what could have been easily checked with an internet search?

So let’s look at some claims this weekend that I came across.

You know that Trump was supposed to hold the Republican convention in Florida? He was, but he cancelled. What was the reason? Well, believe it or not, it was because Black Lives Matter had a bunch of buses lined up ready to get protesters and rioters to the meeting and make a scene.

I also want to say that I do say this as someone who voted for Trump and who does not support the movement Black Lives Matter. Of course, black lives matter, but the organization itself stands for a number of issues that I cannot support. Therefore, in saying what I am saying, I am actually calling out a fellow conservative who shared false information.

So the claim was Trump cancelled this because of the protesters. What was the evidence? Pictures of the buses lined up. Let’s take a look at these.

In the first picture, the buses could hypothetically say Black Lives Matter, but you can’t tell for sure. It could say Black Ladies Aboard. It could say Black Looks Beautiful. There’s any number of things it could say. The second picture has a bunch of buses that say absolutely nothing like that.

Doing my own research on the picture, the nearest I can figure is that the top buses do say Black Lives Matter, but that they were also from the Toronto Raptors who were in Florida. Even if that wasn’t the case, let’s consider something else. Whether you love Trump or hate him, does anyone think he shies away from confrontation and/or a fight? I found it amusing that I, as a conservative, was questioned because I dared to ask questions about the evidence, but alas, the evidence for this one is lacking.

Sometimes people send me YouTube videos that are really conspiracy theories. Please don’t. I hardly watch two minutes of these things if that much before I know they’re absolute nonsense. Last night, I got sent one that said that anything in history before the 1600’s is highly questionable.

Please don’t bother sending me stuff like this. I really find it highly embarrassing to see this stuff and to see Christians spreading it. On that, let’s give a brief caveat.

I have said something about conservatives and Christians and I am both, but this is not a conservative or a Christian problem. This is a human problem. We are all inclined to believe things that tend to go with our biases at the time. Liberals spread conspiracy theories. Atheists spread conspiracy theories. (Yes. Jesus mythicism I count as a conspiracy theory for atheists) Let’s not go on about how one group is so stupid. It’s all of us.

Also, for many atheists, it’s really hard for me to take you seriously as a person of reason and evidence when I see you blindly believing something about Christianity. Many Christians are skeptical of evolution. That cannot be studied in five minutes, and yet they see you sharing Jesus mythicism stuff and you expect them to take you seriously on this topic?

So let’s go with a final one. Someone shared this and I went directly to the source material which apparently was another Facebook page. So what’s the claim? Apparently, Lady Gaga has a new album called Chromatica where she celebrates extracting blood from the pineal glands of traumatized children. Here, you can see a picture of her covered with blood and her children drinking blood.

Wow. That’s pretty serious isn’t it? Look at Gaga covered in that blood and those children with zombie stares on their faces drinking blood. That’s pretty serious.

Or is it?

If you saw the real picture, it would say Entertainment Weekly on the bottom left. Why would that be the case? Because this is a picture of Lady Gaga on the set of American Horror Story where she played a character called the Countess.

This is probably the worst offender on this list today because this is an accusation of moral turpitude. None of us would like to be accused of this. It doesn’t matter what you think of Lady Gaga. I don’t particularly care for her stuff, but it’s wrong to share this information about her. I have my opponents on political issues, for example, but if you want to say something against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, you’d better make sure it’s true or at least has darn good evidence for it. I only want my opponents taken down in truth.

Christians. Please be better about sharing things like this. Please do your own research independently. It’s too easy to hit that “share” button on Facebook and share it immediately. You are damaging your reputation though if it’s false and someone else’s reputation as well.

I would just advise you to avoid conspiracy theories altogether. The best conspiracy to pull off, as J. Warner Wallace has said, is two guys working to commit a crime and at the end one of them shoots the other one. Please don’t jump on board with these things immediately. Do your homework. Do your research.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Ten

What’s going on today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters.

Ten is tin. That might sound like a weird playing of the English language, but it’s actually an accurate statement. I looked it up not too long ago. A marriage anniversary for 50 years is the golden one and 25 is the silver. Ten is the, well, tin.

Today marks ten years with the love of my life. It’s been an interesting ten years. Those years have had good times and bad times. We’ve had romantic times and hard arguments. We’ve had love and hostilities at times. In other words, our marriage has been much like anyone else’s in so many ways.

Marriage changes you. You learn about love and sacrifice. You learn what it means to give and what it means to receive. You learn in many ways also what you are really like. Someone said years ago that when you marry, God holds a big mirror right up in front of you and says “This is what you’re really like!”

And in some ways, I have seen what I am like. When I am upset with Allie over something she has done to me or something else in her life, I am reminded before too long “And how are you any different?”

You learn a lot about beauty as well. For me, for several years, I have been a big fan of natural beauty. I still am. I never understood make-up. I never cared for it. Now I’m married to a woman who after marrying decides she wants to study cosmetology. What have I found? I have grown to appreciate what she does with make-up. Why? Because that is her and she is working on bringing out her beauty. I always stress that make-up can never make her beautiful. It just brings out the beauty that is already there.

I have also realized what it means to truly be captivated by a woman’s beauty. A few years ago we were in a Wal-Mart and Allie saw an inexpensive dress and wanted to try it on. I had no objections! I love a woman in a dress and I hadn’t seen Allie in one in years. I’m waiting outside the dressing room and when she comes out, my jaw drops. I can hardly believe that this is my wife.

She still stuns me. We recently got a romper for her and she’s stunning in it. She also recently got this shirt that has a nice lace pattern on the top of it and I just look at her so many times and wonder what on Earth I did to get such a beautiful woman in my life.

That can also bring us to intimate matters. Some guys have the idea that sex is better than intimacy. This is false. You can have sex conceivably with someone and have it just be a physical action and not intimate at all. I have come to see sex as a gateway to intimacy or a result of the intimacy we already have. I have learned to see what it means to respect and treasure a woman’s body. It is always a gift. Anytime I get with Allie is always brand new and I am always amazed by her.

Let’s also talk about our faith in this. Allie has recently been exploring Eastern Orthodoxy. At first, I was not a fan of the idea. Now, my attitude has softened. I’ve come to know her priest well and there is a great mutual respect between the two of us. One thing I like is that he was hesitant about receiving her into the church because he didn’t want to come between our covenant. She’s still not received, but I appreciated that. I consider her priest a friend. I disagree with the Orthodox community still in many ways, but I also see them as my people. I can go to the church and get along and enjoy communicating with the people. They can know I’m the token Protestant and that’s okay.

My wife’s spirituality is something I admire. Lately, she has been reading more of the Bible and I have heard her reading it out loud as she does. This is a new approach to me and I get something out of it. I admire her willingness to set aside this time.

Generally when we pray at night, I lead it, but I really love it when she prays out loud. I’m sure if she’s reading this she’s feeling embarrassed now, but her approach to God is just so real. My temptation is always to talk like a theologian and bring in my theology. She really approaches God like a child.

When God seems absent in her life, she really feels it. When things seem wrong and she’s angry with God, she’s really angry. I get jealous of that sometimes. In either case, she is taking her relationship with God super seriously and I really admire it.

Allie is also a great listener. One of our friends back in Knoxville once said to us together, “Nick. I love you man and you’re a great guy, but if I need an ear I’m going to talk to your wife first because she’s so much better at that.” She is. I don’t dispute that. I say that in our marriage, I’m the head and she’s the heart.” If you need an answer to your problem and want advice, come to me. If you want an ear, come to her.

This isn’t just with her friends. If someone hurts Allie, I’m usually ready to dispense with them and I’m tempted to plan out how my revenge will be. Allie isn’t like that. Recently, someone at our apartment complex hurt her greatly, but I know that if this person called and was in a crisis state, Allie would drop everything she was doing and rush over there and help.

By the way people, with that, if you have a prayer request also, present it to her before me. She will remember it better than I will and when we pray she will remind me of it. She will also take it much more seriously. Allie does have much more of a heart for the hurting than I do.

Many of you know about our cat, Shiro. The reason we have him is her. She had that great compassion on him and wanted to give him a home. So far we have also provided one home to a stray cat here by finding someone at my church who took him in. Allie has a great love for animals.

She’s also been getting into cooking. This is something I need to work on because I have a food phobia honestly, which can happen on the spectrum. Therefore, I don’t eat much of what she cooks, again, what I need to work on, but what I need is great. Allie makes the best pizza I know of hands-down. She makes breadsticks that give Olive Garden a run for her money. She’s recently got into fixing grilled cheese sandwiches again and now they have become a staple of my diet. I haven’t had it, but her mentor told her on her first attempt at making chicken alfredo that she had never had some that was as good as what Allie made.

Let’s return to that thing about make-up and talk about her heart there. What’s one of the goals she has with make-up? She wants to be able to go to the hospital to children who have burns or other conditions like that and be able to make them feel beautiful for a day. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought about something like that. I suspect there are many people in the field of cosmetology who haven’t considered that. For Allie, it’s one of her very first considerations.

So today marks ten years with a woman who is still amazing me after all this time together. I anticipate she’s not done yet. Everything we have gone through has been worth it. Just yesterday I went to the mailbox and saw an anniversary card from my parents addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Nick Peters. It’s a reality. This woman shares my name.

And today, she has shared it for ten years.

Happy Anniversary, Princess! You are the most beautiful woman I know inside and out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Did Constantine Change The New Testament?

Is the favorite bad boy of ancient history at it again?

When talking about Christian history, it seems like every vile and evil thing in church history goes back to Constantine. Before too long, I’m anticipating I will hear that Constantine was responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials. Most people have no real historical idea of what Constantine did and just know what they have read about him in popular media.

Yesterday I was talking to an atheist on Facebook who gave me the line of “Who knows what Constantine took out of the New Testament?” Well, anyone who knows anything about church history and textual criticism knows the answer to that question. Nothing.

You don’t have to take my word. Listen to what Bart Ehrman says on his blog.

One of the reasons I’m excited about doing my new course for the Teaching Company (a.k.a. The Great Courses) is that I’ll be able to devote three lectures to the Arian Controversy, the Conversion of the emperor Constantine, and the Council of Nicea (in 325 CE). It seems to me that a lot more people know about the Council of Nicea today than 20 years ago – i.e., they know that there *was* such a thing – and at the same time they know so little about it. Or rather, what they think they know about it is WRONG.

I suppose we have no one more to blame for this than Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code, where, among other things, we are told that Constantine called the Council in order to “decide” on whether Jesus was divine or not, and that they took a vote on whether he was human or “the Son of God.” And, according to Dan Brown’s lead character (his expert on all things Christian), Lee Teabing, “it was a close vote at that.”

That is so wrong.

There are also a lot of people who think (I base this on the number of times I hear this or am asked about it) that it was at the Council of Nicea that the canon of the New Testament was decided. That is, this is when Christian leaders allegedly decided which books would be accepted into the New Testament and which ones would be left out.

That too is wrong.

So here’s the deal. First, the canon of the New Tesatment was not a topic of discussion at the Council of Nicea. It was not talked about. It was not debated. It was not decided. Period. The formation of the canon was a long drawn-out process, with different church leaders having different views about which books should be in and which should be out. I can devote some posts to the question if anyone is interested (I would need to look back to see if I’ve done that already!).

https://ehrmanblog.org/widespread-misconceptions-council-nicea-members/

For Constantine to do this, he would really have to know more about the New Testament than we do today. He would have to know where every copy of every New Testament manuscript could be found and then he would have to have soldiers or other servants who could go and track down all those copies and somehow either destroy them or edit them so that no hint of them was left behind. It they were destroyed, then there could be no evidence that this happened since we cannot point to evidence that was destroyed.

People who say this really demonstrate that they don’t know what they’re talking about and play their hand. It was kind of ironic since this was in a conversation where I said too many atheists online refuse to read what disagrees with them. I stand by that. This is not to say that none of them do, but when I meet an atheist who actually engages, it’s a refreshing exception.

So what evidence is there Constantine edited the New Testament? Really, none. It’s a popular myth in the world of internet atheism and really, internet atheism does itself no service as saying it is a position of reason and evidence. To paraphrase Jesus, these people honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it. If you are such a person, you owe it to yourself to read contrary thought and see where you might be wrong.

And if you don’t, you don’t have a commitment to reason and evidence. You have a commitment to your own personal faith.

No. Constantine did not edit the New Testament. He did not determine the vote at Nicea. He did not pick the NT canon. None of those are true. If you are an atheist who wants to go about eliminating what you see as myths, start with your own house first.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Alcohol

Should we or should we not drink? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I was doing a survey online and questions about alcoholic beverages came up. Now I am someone who has never drank alcohol in my life and in two months I turn 40 and I have no intention of changing that. However, I went to my Facebook to find out how many people are like me and have never drank alcohol.

I want to be clear at the start that I do not abstain from alcohol because alcohol is a sin. I don’t think that’s a biblically sustainable position. I avoid for personal health reasons. I am an underweight man and I realize it would not take a lot to get me drunk. My fear is I would lose control and hurt someone I love someway.

So let’s consider some data about it.

First off, I don’t know the alcohol content in the past such as in the times of the Bible, but I do know that it was enough for people to get drunk and for Solomon to warn against that in Proverbs. It’s tempting for some people to say that it was just grape juice that was drank in those days, but I don’t think there’s a basis for that. It was real alcohol.

We also know the first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine. Now some could say that wine had no alcoholic content, but I think that that is something the writer would somehow point out. Either way, it’s an argument from silence. When the text says wine, we should assume that it was wine.

We also know that Paul encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine instead of just water to help with his stomach and frequent illnesses. The book of Psalms tells us that God gives wine to gladden. However, not all of us have illnesses that require wine. As for wine to gladden, that is true, but it is also said that a man is to delight in the wife of his youth and may her breasts satisfy him always. Because that is part of the purpose of the wife of one’s youth, it does not follow that everyone ought to have a wife and if someone is not, they are sinning. Someone can be celibate for their whole lives and still be in the will of God.

That means Scripture doesn’t forbid us to drink, but at the same time, it doesn’t command us to drink. That means then that we go with the path of wisdom. So what are some dictates that we are to follow?

Personal health has to be a big factor. If your doctor tells you to not drink alcohol, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol. My wife doesn’t mind a drink when we’re out at a restaurant, but now she’s on medication that forbids it. Because of that, she doesn’t drink.

There is also the point of causing needless offense. If you are around someone who has struggled with alcoholism or has lost someone to alcohol and you are aware of this, then it is probably best to abstain for the sake of not offending that person. You may do what you will in the privacy of your own home, but outside of that, it’s best to be sensitive to those around you so that you don’t cause someone to stumble.

There is also your personal health to consider. Do you have an addictive personality? You should probably abstain then. Perhaps you’re like me and don’t want to risk getting drunk because you’re a smaller person. Then you can seriously consider abstaining. However, if you think you can control your alcohol, you have freedom to do so. This comes with the caveat that if experience starts to show you can’t, then you should abstain.

If alcohol is becoming a problem in your life, I recommend you join a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery. If you have a loved one struggling, there’s also Al-Anon and Alateen.

Interestingly, Welch’s grape juice was made to help deal with alcoholism. Welch knew someone who struggled with alcohol and did so again after a Communion service. The grape juice was made so that something could be served at Communion services for those who can’t drink alcohol and for my own personal tastes, I have never took Communion where real alcohol was used.

So this comes down to personal wisdom. If you want to drink, then be sure to practice self-control and if you cannot, then get help. If you don’t want to drink, that’s fine too. Don’t automatically condemn everyone who uses their Christian freedom to responsibly enjoy alcohol.

But as always, I look forward to your thoughts on this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Your Will Be Done

What does it mean to do God’s will? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So many Christians today want to find God’s will for their lives.

Should I get married? Who should I marry? What job should I take? Should I go to college and if so, what should I major in? So many decisions are about finding the will of God.

Is this what the Bible means when it speaks about the will of God?

No. This is a highly personalized idea. Let’s consider the first one about marriage. Assuming marriage is even for you, the Bible in a book like Proverbs lays out criteria. Since one should marry in the Lord, a Christian should marry a Christian. When speaking of a wife, the book mentions the kinds of qualities to look for. Don’t marry a nagging wife is one example. Marry a woman who fears the Lord. (Or a man if you are a woman)

Somehow, we got this strange idea that when we got to the New Testament, God decided to jettison wisdom and was going to tell us all what to do and we needed to find a way to get these secret messages from God. We are to look for clues, often ones that reside in our feelings and emotions, and from there try to determine what God is telling us. Scripture may be used, but apparently, it’s not as reliable as those feelings and emotions.

As you can imagine, I think this is a bunch of bunk. I see nothing in Scripture about it and it only showed up in our time of individualism. This kind of thinking really makes us very self-centered Christians.

Not only that, if God has a specific will for our lives like that, we’ve already screwed it up definitely. Also, if any one other person has screwed up their lives, they’ve ultimately done it for everyone. If you are to marry one specific person, then that means that if you marry the wrong one, both of your intended spouses have to marry the wrong one and then all their intended spouses have to marry the wrong one and on and on it goes.

It also causes the wrong focus. What we should be looking at the most is what kind of spouse we are going to be. What kind of employee are we going to be? What kind of student are we going to be?

“But how will I know what God wants for my life?”

It’s very easy. I can tell you definitely what God’s will is for your life and I have no hesitation in doing so. God’s will is to conform you to the likeness of Christ. The best thing to do when examining an action and if you should do it is to ask if it will conform you to the likeness of Christ.

When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are not praying that we will find some specific individualized will, or at least we shouldn’t pray that. We are praying that God will make the universe the way He wants it to be. How He wants us to be is to be conformed to the image of Christ. He wants us to be like Jesus.

You have plenty on that in Scripture.

Go try following that instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Your Kingdom Come

What does it mean to want the Kingdom to come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do we really want the Kingdom to come?

I mean, let’s think about it. If we’re Christians, we know the right answer we’re supposed to say is yes. We want God to rule this Earth. We want Him to be the one in charge. We want Jesus to be acknowledged as king. We say we want that.

Do we really?

To pray for His kingdom to come also means something else. Ours doesn’t. Most of us struggle with an inflated view of ourselves and that can be even if we’re really negative. We are often not just moderately dumb or ugly or unlikable or anything like that. No. We are the worst of the worst. If anything goes wrong in our lives, it’s our fault.

When we pray this prayer though, we are supposed to be willing to forsake our own little kingdoms. This is God’s kingdom. We don’t want to be the ones in charge of our lives anymore. We want God to be in charge.

That also means we have to be willing to get rid of the sin in our lives. We have to drop that pornography habit. We have to stop that overeating. We have to be willing to give up gossiping about our neighbors. We can’t keep on thinking about that woman who isn’t our wife.

Do we really want that?

The truth is, our actions will answer for us. If we really want the kingdom to come, we will be willing to sacrifice those actions that we know are opposed to the kingdom. If we do not want the kingdom to come, we will keep acting like we are the ones who determine right and wrong and we are the ones who will see our own will be done.

This also is not a Democracy or a Republic coming our way. This is a monarchy. This is not something that we will vote on or campaign for. Jesus is a king and what the king says goes. It is absolute.

Today, our every action will show in some way what we want. Do we think our way is best or do we think the way of Christ is the best? We can say with our lips the right answer all we want, but actions do speak louder. I hope mine will show I want the Kingdom the most, but I fear too often they will show the other way. Perhaps that is where we need to encourage one another.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Heaven and Hell

What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s latest published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Generally, I have enjoyed reading through Bart Ehrman books. I thoroughly disagree, but I like the books. However, when I read the one before this, The Triumph of Christianity, I found myself walking away disappointed. There just didn’t seem to be anything there like the last ones. I started reading Heaven and Hell when it came out, got caught up in other books, and it was just awhile before I came back. Perhaps it seems more like Ehrman is moving away from Jesus to an extent and going to other areas in history and philosophy and there just doesn’t seem to be as much there. I can’t say entirely.

This book is a look at the formation of the doctrine of the after-death, as I prefer to call it, in Christian thought. Ehrman starts with the way the pagans in the world viewed death. From there, he goes to the Old Testament and then to Jesus and on to Paul and looks as well at Revelation. From then on, he looks at the church throughout history and then gives some concluding remarks on how he views heaven and hell.

This also leads to questions of the nature of heaven and hell. Again, these are more theological and philosophical questions so it could be that this just isn’t Ehrman’s area and so it seems more like just personal opinion at that point. However, there are some interesting points worth noting in the book.

Ehrman does show that in the pagan world, generally speaking, resurrection was not a good thing. The body was a prison to be escaped. Thus, resurrection in the Jewish or Christian sense also did not fit in.

For many skeptics who think that resurrection was the Jews copying from Zoroastrianism, which shows up on the net at times, Ehrman cannot agree, which is refreshing. As he says:

More recently scholars have questioned a Persian derivation for the Jewish doctrine because of certain problems of dating.1 Some experts have undercut the entire thesis by pointing out that we actually do not have any Zoroastrian texts that support the idea of resurrection prior to its appearance in early Jewish writings. It is not clear who influenced whom. Even more significant, the timing does not make sense: Judah emerged from Persian rule in the fourth century BCE, when Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) swept through the eastern Mediterranean and defeated the Persian Empire. But the idea of bodily resurrection does not appear in Jewish texts for well over a century after that.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (pp. 104-105). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Also, on a humorous note, he gives the story of how in an account Jesus said people would hang by their teeth in Hell over fires. Some disciples asked “What if someone has no teeth?” Jesus would then reply, “The teeth will be provided!” This was a joke done by a professor not to be taken seriously.

Also, for those discounting the Gospels as sources for Jesus, Ehrman has the following:

Even the most critical scholars of the New Testament agree that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are by far our best sources of information for knowing about the historical Jesus.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 150). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately though, at times he lapses back into his more fundamentalist days of reading the text. As commenting about Mark 9:1 where Jesus says some standing here would not taste death before they saw the Kingdom of God come in power:

Jesus is not saying that people will go to heaven. He is saying that some of his disciples will still be alive when the end comes and God’s utopian kingdom arrives on earth. Or, as he says elsewhere, when his disciples asked when the end of the world would come: “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place” (Mark 13:30, emphasis added).

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 154). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

As I have argued, Jesus nowhere says when the Kingdom comes, it will be a utopia immediately. Jesus does not speak of the end of the world either, but of the end of the age. As an Orthodox Preterist, I’m convinced Jesus’s prediction was stunningly accurate.

Interesting also is what Ehrman says about 1 Cor. 15.

And so, for Paul, there will indeed be a resurrection. It will be bodily. But the human body will be transformed into an immortal, incorruptible, perfect, glorious entity no longer made of coarse stuff that can become sick, get injured, suffer in any way, or die. It will be a spiritual body, a perfect dwelling for life everlasting. It is in that context that one of the most misunderstood verses of Paul’s entire corpus occurs, a verse completely bungled not just by many modern readers but throughout the history of Christianity. That is when Paul insists: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). These words are often taken—precisely against Paul’s meaning—to suggest that eternal life will not be lived in the body. Wrong, wrong, wrong. For Paul it will be lived in a body—but in a body that has been glorified.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 182). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Ehrman also thinks the beast in Revelation 17 is the same as the beast that came out of the sea in Revelation 13. I disagree with this. Looking at the passage, it talks about a great harlot and the beast himself actually attacks this harlot after a time. Who is the harlot? Look at your Old Testament. One nation is repeatedly referred to as a harlot and that’s Israel. Israel would work with the Beast for a time, (Being Nero) in killing Christians, but in turn, the Roman Empire would eventually turn on the harlot, as Israel was destroyed in 70 A.D.

Yet at the end of this look on Revelation, Ehrman gives a paragraph that aside from the opening remark could easily be said in any evangelical church. As many preachers I know would say, “That’ll preach!”

Even if parts of the vision are difficult to unpack and explain and others simply do not cohere, the author’s main points are clear. His overarching message is that God is ultimately sovereign over this world, even if it doesn’t seem like it. We may live in a cesspool of misery and suffering, and things may be getting progressively worse. But God is in charge, and it is all going according to plan. Before the end, all hell will indeed break loose, but then God will intervene to restore all that has become corrupt, to make right all that is wrong. Good will ultimately prevail.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 230). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

In the end, where does Ehrman fall? While he rightly tells us to try to avoid emotional reasoning, it’s hard to not see this in his response.

Even though I have an instinctual fear of torment after death—as the view drilled into me from the time I could think about such things—I simply don’t believe it. Is it truly rational to think, as in the age-old Christian doctrine, that there is a divine being who created this world, loves all who are in it, and wants the very best for them, yet who has designed reality in such a way that if people make mistakes in life or do not believe the right things, they will die and be subjected to indescribable torments, not for the length of the time they committed their “offenses,” but for trillions of years—and that only as the beginning? Are we really to think that God is some kind of transcendent sadist intent on torturing people (or at least willing to allow them to be tortured) for all eternity, a divine being infinitely more vengeful than the worst monster who has ever existed? I just don’t believe it. Even if I instinctually fear it, I don’t believe it.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (pp. 293-294). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Of course, this would all depend on how you view heaven and hell. I have written about my views elsewhere. Ehrman does say he doesn’t think this is what God is like. While I don’t think it’s accurate to say God is actively torturing people or even allowing it, seeing as I think torture and torment are two different things, I have to wonder that it’s incredible that Ehrman is willing to take the risk. Seriously, if Heaven is possibly there to gain and Hell is possibly there to avoid, I think it behooves anyone to seriously consider the question and when you decide, it needs to be more than “I just believe it” or “I just don’t believe it.” Some might think Christians should then read other religions as well. I have personally read the Mormon Scriptures and other of their books, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, and the Analects of Confucius.

Overall, there is some good stuff in the book, but there seems to be something missing. I can’t help but see an Ehrman who I think after all these years is still searching. Perhaps a book on the afterdeath is coming as Ehrman is seeing himself getting older and thinking about these questions a lot more. I still hold out hope that one day he will return to the Christ he has since rejected. I am pleased when in the end he says three of his great heroes are Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jesus. He would love to get to meet them in an afterdeath.

I am sure Jesus would love to meet Ehrman also.

Hopefully, it will happen, and on good terms.

In Christ,
Nick Peters