Book Plunge: So Far

What do I think of Kelsey Grammer’s autobiography published by Dutton? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This one is definitely not a work on apologetics or Christianity, but when my wife and I moved into the new apartment, we cut the cord and got Hulu and Amazon Prime Video instead. I saw that Hulu had Cheers, a show that my Dad and I had watched when we were growing up. I watched through the whole series in order calling my Dad regularly to tell him about the episodes and we would remember them together.

In looking up information about the show, I saw that Kelsey Grammer had written an autobiography which did have some more in it about being on Cheers. My wife and I had decided to watch Frasier next and he had always been a character I liked on the show so I decided to order it. It recently came in at the library and it’s fairly short, so much so that I finished it in two days.

Grammer’s tale is one that really grips so much so that I found it hard to put it down. He spoke of his faith early on in the book, though for those of us who are Christian, it is Christian scientist of the Mary Baker Eddy variety. He doesn’t hold to all the tenets of it though, as he does believe in doctors and medicine.

It also reminded me that despite the impression often given, people in the world of Hollywood can have their lives marred just as much as anyone else can. Grammer has had two people in his life murdered. I do not want to say who for those who might be interested in reading his book.

Grammer also talked about the hard work that goes into being an actor and the tough living he had at times trying to make ends meet. He ended up not finishing school at Juilliard, but he still never gave up on acting. He accepted bit piece by bit piece until Cheers came along where he got established.

And along the way, there was trouble in the area of love. He had a number of marriages that failed. At the end of his book, at least the edition that I read, he talked about dating a girl named Tammi who would be his wife one day and he knew he was ready for her. Looking ahead later on on IMDB, he wasn’t ready. He never married her and while he’s remarried now, there was one more marriage that ended in divorce before this current one.

Grammer also emphasized the importance of reading. One of the greatest compliments he says he received was after doing a show once someone came up to him and said after seeing him in a Shakespearean play, they started reading Shakespeare. Grammer also talks about reading the works of Auden in the book, though I am sure there are many others he reads.

One particularly sad story he told about was a friend who had a rough go in life and then started turning it around and met a beautiful girl and married her. Two days after the wedding, she died in an accident. Just a few days later, her husband had died, probably a suicidal accident. It’s hard to imagine that a large group of people could gather together to celebrate a lifelong love and then in a week the bride and groom are both dead.

Grammer also says he wrote a theme for his life early on and years later found it in Auden’s writings. That theme was to stagger onward rejoicing. That could be a good theme for most of our own lives as well.

We often look at celebrities on the screen and think they don’t have a clue about the real world. In many ways, maybe some don’t. However, reading about Grammer’s life in his own words, I found someone I could understand to a great degree and also understood how he wanted to be accepted as a person apart from his celebrity status.

Not only that, he’s candid about his own problems. Grammer says in the book regularly that he had to undergo therapy. He talked about having to overcome a cocaine addiction when he was on Cheers. I appreciated both of these statements. Being in Hollywood doesn’t mean you’re necessarily insulated.

I found Grammer to be someone I thought I could talk to about intellectual subjects in literature as well as politics seeing as we are both conservatives. Also though, I got a reminder that those people we see on the screen and sometimes we actually look down on in some ways, they need Jesus just as much. Perhaps while we are busy condemning so many things in Hollywood, we should be praying for the salvation of the people there.

If you’re a fan of Cheers or Frasier, you could probably enjoy this work. The chapters are short enough that you could read one quite easily. The writing is more of a stream of consciousness style that I think works well. It left me thinking perhaps I need to read more biographies.

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

Is Romans 7 About Paul?

Is Romans 7 about Paul’s struggle with sin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about Romans 7 and briefly stated that it’s not autobiographical. To some readers, this was a bit of a surprise. They had always read it as Paul describing his struggle with sin and I have heard more than enough sermons describing it that way. Is it really the case that Paul is not describing himself?

First off, this isn’t a minority view. This is a common view found in scholarship. It was also the view of Origen just a couple of centuries or so after the writing of Romans. What has really got it going more is that we’ve come to realize that in the West, we are very introspective and we often read our culture into the Bible. The people in the Bible were not really introspective and they did not live in our culture.

So let’s start by looking at the passage itself.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment,deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Seems straight forward enough. In fact, one reason we go to it is that so many of us can relate. Many of us know about not doing something that we really know we should and doing something that we know we shouldn’t. It seems common so it’s not a shock that we read this passage and think that Paul is speaking about us and that he went through the same thing.

But let’s go somewhere else. How about Philippians 3. How does Paul describe himself there?

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

We often have this view of Jews wrestling under the Law like it was the Islamic system and just hoping that they were good enough to merit the favor of God. They weren’t. In fact, the larger question for them was not their faithfulness to the covenant, but God’s. After all, they had done what they were to do, and yet here they were in their land which is being dominated by these wicked Gentiles from Rome. It’s too easy to take a Reformation scenario and project it back onto Judaism.

Paul has no wrestling going on in Philippians 3. We don’t see any death when the law comes. In fact, how can we even speak of Paul having life apart from the Law? That would not make sense to a Jew. Your whole life was the Law.

In fact, there’s a great danger that if we identify so much with Romans 7, we will fail to identify with Romans 8, and Romans 8 is all about how we live by the Spirit instead of by the Law. If we are living by the Law, we are not living by the Spirit. If we are not living by the Spirit, then the great promises of Romans 8 won’t apply to us and we can miss out on the victory over sin.

I don’t want to scare anyone though into thinking that I am calling into question your salvation. Not at all. I am calling into question though your identification. Do you identify with Romans 7 or Romans 8, and Romans 8 indicates at the end that we still struggle, but who can bring a charge against us?

So what is going on in Romans 7 if it’s not autobiographical?

There are many ideas, but I think Paul is speaking as Adam who he has mentioned in Romans 5. Ben Witherington in What’s In The Word? points out that for the rabbis, coveting was also the sin in the garden. This would mean that Adam had life, and then came the law and through that he fell into sin and died. Now the question for Paul’s audience is if they identify with Adam or with Christ.

It’s also your question today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Rim of the Sandhills

What do I think of James Sire’s autobiography? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

James Sire has been a name in apologetics for quite a while and was one of the premier apologists in our modern age of apologetics. We all owe a debt to him. This can be especially so due to his work with IVP where he was responsible for providing us with many excellent books to have over the years. As one who reviews books regularly for IVP, I am grateful.

Rim of the Sandhills is about his life growing up where he lived in an area of Nebraska known as the Sandhills. Seeing as I have my mother-in-law being from Nebraska, I did ask her about it and she was familiar with the Sandhills. Sire describes his life there as he grew up on a farm (Not too uncommon I take it in Nebraska) and his education, particularly his love of books.

Of the books that I’ve read by Sire recently, I have to say this was the most enjoyable one. It was easy to picture many of the scenes going on. One in particular describes Sire working at the projection booth of a movie theater and reading at the same time and when something went wrong with the picture they would shout out his name and he’d jump up from his book and have to fix the problem. Anyone who is a reader understands that scene.

Sire also describes how he went through his educational process which was a quite revealing one and probably like many readers of an autobiography, I was noticing places I could connect with. Sire talks about how he changed his dissertation for instance because he didn’t want to have to learn Latin due to his difficulty with learning languages.

There’s a chapter in there about his romantic relationships as well and this is a chapter I would have liked to have seen expounded on some. What was it like for Sire when he was dating? How is it different from today? As one who proposed to my own wife after just a few months (We were married within a year of our meeting), I am always surprised to meet someone who proposed sooner than I did.

The military section describes what is likely the most difficult time period of Sire’s life where he had to work at a job that he hated and where he was ultimately expendable. This is not to say anything negative about the military. I’m sure Sire would agree they supply an invaluable service and we should be thankful for them, but the military is not for everyone.

From there, the book focuses on his career with IVP and how he wanted to keep a toe in academia. A most revealing chapter is when he talks about his experiences in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union where Communism reigned for so long and one authority over there told him that the east was afraid to engage with Christian philosophy because they knew that they could not handle its challenges.

Also important is how Sire presents many of his own failures and challenges in life even on day to day issues that we can all relate to, such as bad grades he got in school or lapses in moral judgment that seem small at the time but are really much greater. Another one was his own struggle with his salvation, something that many a Christian can relate to.

Sire’s autobiography is a look in his own words from one who we owe a debt to in the apologetics community and in fact, something I’ve thought more apologists should be doing. It is a quick read that one will find readily enjoyable.

In Christ,

Nick Peters