Book Plunge: The World Turned Upside Down. Finding The Gospel In Stranger Things.

What do I think about Michael Heiser’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I are fans of Stranger Things, the hit show on Netflix. (It’s one reason we want to get back someday our subscription to Netflix.) We’re not the only ones. Stranger Things has become the hit sensation that has got a huge fan following. The Duffer Brothers, the minds behind it, have hit upon something in our culture.

If you haven’t seen it, the show is set in the 80’s in a small county. Some pre-teen boys regularly play Dungeons and Dragons together and one night, things get real as in conjunction with some work in a science lab in the town, a monster takes one of the boys hostage when he’s alone and takes him to a parallel dimension known as the Upside Down to the people who know about it.

The boys also encounter a girl with psychic powers who was also being experimented on known only as Eleven. The series then involves the adventures of this party and others involved in their own families and anyone else in the town they involve trying to make sense of what’s happening. I really don’t want to say much more than that, but if you watch it, there’s a reason why it’s such an engrossing series.

Dr. Michael Heiser also agrees. He describes it as the series of his childhood, because it fits the time that he lived when he was growing up. He does not think for a moment that the Duffer brothers have in mind telling a Christian story, but in many of our stories there are things that do jive well with a Christian worldview. In this case, one of the big lessons in the series is that there are other powers in this world and we are not alone.

While much of Stranger Things involves science, a lot doesn’t fit with a scientific worldview. There are powers that the creatures and Eleven have that go beyond what we see science often showing. In the same way, we live in a world where there is much that is not known by science and cannot be known. This is not to mock science, but to say science has its limits.

There’s also the concept of a party. The boys form a small group of adventurers that do all that they can together to fight against an oppressive government agency and a monster from another world. They have divisions among themselves, but they ultimately stick together. Other people wind up joining in the adventure and so far in the seasons, what you see is, in the end, several differing quests come together and reach a conclusion.

Many of these center around family. When the young boy goes missing, his mother never gives up hope, even when his body is presented. That body is not her son’s. She’s right. Mothers somehow know. The bonds of family often run deep in Stranger Things.

Love is also a constant reality. Naturally, you have stories of teenage love and as the boys are coming of age, they are forming their own love relationships. Sometimes, these relationships hurt. Some people are scared to open up. Sadly, sometimes, some of the people die in the relationships due to the interactions of the monsters. There’s no guarantee that the story will have rainbows and puppies all throughout.

This book features on the first two seasons. I do hope a sequel will come out of the book when the series is done to give overall thoughts. Stranger Things I think hits on our culture because we all know there is something more. We don’t have to believe in an Upside Down, but we can believe there is another world beyond ours. We can believe there are greater powers. We can believe in good vs evil. We can believe in love and family.

Whatever you think of the series, you probably know someone who likes it. Why not give them this book if they are a non-Christian? Actually, why not if they are a Christian since they can think about it all the more? I highly endorse this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Gift Of Punishments

Is a punishment from God a gift? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Tolkien lived a rough life I understand. I heard a video yesterday my wife played talking about it and how someone wrote Tolkien about how he viewed death. Tolkien responded with “What punishments of God are not gifts?” Now, this is not to say that every time a death occurs, it is a direct punishment from God, or any suffering for that matter, but it is a good perspective on it.

If we are Christians who believe that everything passes through God’s hand and that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, then every trial and temptation that comes our way is a gift to help shape us into Christlikeness. Perhaps someone might say, “I don’t see how God can use this.” That does not mean that he cannot. This is the true biblical definition of faith. It is trust in the sovereign Lord even when one does not know what He is doing because of who He is.

It doesn’t mean one enjoys the time of suffering. We normally do not. Few of us wake up and embrace suffering in the morning and give thanks for it. We are not good at doing what James says at counting it joy when trials come upon us at all times.

But that is what we are told to do.

I am a part of Celebrate Recovery here. Let’s suppose that I have a man I talk to who is addicted to porn. Is it good that he is? No. Can it be used for good? Absolutely. God has allowed him to see a weakness in his character that can be removed so that he can be more like Jesus. Through his current real lack of love for women, he can grow into a deep love for them and perhaps his own current or future wife. (Yes. Pornography is a lack of love of women. It is simply treating them as bodies.)

Not all suffering comes through moral failings on our part. I think I remember Tolkien’s parents dying at a young age and him being raised by a priest. We are not people who hold to the “Law of Attraction” that says what happens to you is what you attract. Sometimes it can be. Lie down with dogs and you can get fleas. Make foolish and prideful decisions and you can expect consequences.

Still, even with that suffering, one can grow into a deeper trust in Christ in those times. If we refuse to accept these times as good, then we are doing what Job said not to do. We are saying we want to accept good things when they come from God, but if it’s anything we don’t like, we don’t want to accept it. Isn’t it quite incredible that when God gives us goods that we don’t deserve, even as simple as rain and sunshine, we don’t complain, but when God allows any kind of suffering in our lives, and we all deserve that biblically, then we start to complain?

Hebrews also tells us that if we are disciplined, then that means we are sons. What this tells us is that if suffering isn’t part of our lives, we might be doing something wrong. God disciplines all of His sons and daughters. Our refusal to accept it only makes it harder. Imagine if the stone moved every time the sculptor came with the chisel and resisted it. The work would either not get done or come out horribly.

If something comes into our lives, it is something God can use for our good. Our problem is we don’t turn to Him when that happens. Instead, we often get angry with Him and act like He is in the wrong. I am not saying that all such anger is wrong. It happens. The Psalms are full of it. The good for them is that the Psalmist still trusts God with His anger. Be honest with your emotions with God, but trust Him anyway.

Again, as Job says, we ought to accept trouble from God and not just good. It does not mean that God is against us or He doesn’t love us. Maybe it’s just, and I know this is a bizarre thought but I will share it anyway, maybe an omniscient being actually knows some things that we don’t know. Maybe we should be humble and ask for the faith to submit to God in trust when things are rough knowing more of who He is. If we struggle there, maybe we need to change our theology.

Whatever happens to you today, if you love the Lord, it will be used for your good. How can you lose?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Self-Contradictory Moral Relativists

How do moral relativists contradict themselves? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is not a blog against moral relativism so much as against moral relativists. I will in this blog accept that hypothetically moral relativism could be true. It could be true that there is nothing good or evil but thinking makes it so. It could be that good and evil are just subejctive ideas we have with no real grounding in reality.

I think that’s all nonsense, but I’m not arguing against that here.

What I am arguing against is the position of many people who espouse moral relativism. What I’m discussing happens on a regular basis and they never seem to see the contradiction. The people I know that espouse moral relativism the most often turn and post about all the evil things they think God does or God allows.

What will happen is you’ll have a thread on Facebook or some place like that and you will see someone say that the God of the Old Testament is an evil villain for putting people to death. Okay. They’re allowed to have that opinion. That’s a separate piece to argue against, but that is not the point here. Then in the replies to their claim, they will go and espouse moral relativism and say that there is no good or evil.

So let’s make this clear.

If you are a moral relativist, it is inconsistent to speak about something being good or evil and at the same time say that there is no good or evil. What you’re really saying ultimately is that God doesn’t exist because He does things you don’t like. In other words, the only God you’ll agree exists is one that agrees entirely with you. I would hope most of us would realize that if God exists, odds are we have a lot of claims wrong about reality and He knows better.

Now you could hypothetically say that if moral realism is true, then Christianity has a problem with the problem of evil. I don’t think we do, but at least you’re being consistent then and saying “On your view of moral realism, this is a problem.” Despite that, I wonder how it is that you can recognize the evil that you complain about anyway.

Let’s also be clear on something else. When we say that God is needed to know what the good is, that does not mean you need explicit knowledge of God in some way to know what goodness is. Goodness is part of general revelation and is there for everyone to know about. You need God to ground the good, but you do not need God to know the good.

If you want to be a moral relativist, that is your choice, but please do not be inconsistent and talk about the problem of evil or the evil things God does or anything like that. At the same time, be consistent and say that there is nothing truly good either. Good luck also living that worldview consistently. I don’t think it’s possible and every time I see a moral relativist complain about evil, I take it as further confirmation that it’s not tenable.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Does It Matter If The Resurrection Is A Metaphor?

Does it matter if the resurrection was literal? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Wednesday night, I was at the debate between my father-in-law, Mike Licona, and John Dominic Crossan about who the historical Jesus was and how he saw himself. I hate to say it, but it really wasn’t much of a debate because I don’t think anyone really understood what Crossan was arguing. Crossan was putting practically everything into the world of metaphor and saying that the message was a metaphor and that he would die for a metaphor and if the resurrection is literal, what difference would it make? The real question is are we living resurrected lives.

When I got up to ask a question, I said my wife and I enjoy being married. Still, we wonder what will happen when our time comes. Will we be together forever? I replied that a literal resurrection can assure us that we will be. What hope can a metaphor give us?

The reply was something along the lines of how the message was not the resurrection of individuals but that the human race would overcome. The violence of Rome would be overthrown by non-violence. This is supposedly the good news of Jesus.

There are a number of things I wonder about this, such as how this Jesus got crucified. Despite that, there is one thing I want to focus on. The resurrection. Does it make a difference if it’s a metaphor or literal?

I’m not going to go into making a whole case for the resurrection. That has been done plenty of times elsewhere. I am going to be emphasizing the difference it makes and to be fair, it is easy to miss this many times.

One big difference is that we live in a world where death is a reality. We see it all around us. We know that when the game over comes for someone, it really is game over barring a miracle. It’s a sad reality. When we bury a loved one, they are dead, and the relationship is not the same.

Will it ever be? Is that it?

We live in a world of injustice. Recently here in Atlanta, we had a police officer shot who died from that and his killer was found within 48 hours and also died when he pulled out a weapon on police officers. There are many crimes that take place and sadly, the culprit is never found. Some people seem to go free.

Will there ever be justice?

Sometimes people die from disease. Our friend, Nabeel Qureshi, died from stomach cancer at an extremely young age. Just today in my Facebook memories I saw something about a friend who passed away last year. She was an older lady, but it’s still hard to see.

Will this ever be righted?

What about our universe itself? Some of you out there I am sure believe we are responsible for some climate change. We live in a world there does seem to be a lot of destruction. We want to colonize other planets, but even if we do, the universe is destined to die a cold death and take us with it.

Is there any point?

What about our bodies themselves? Do they matter? Are human beings just objects. Does it matter what I do with my body? Does it matter how I behave sexually or how my diet is?

What difference does it make?

This is why the resurrection matters? Will we live again and see each other again? Yes. Will evil be judged and good rewarded? Yes. Will lives be redeemed that died from tragic disease? Yes. Will the Earth and the universe be renewed and made eternal paradises? Yes. Do our bodies matter and how we treat them? Yes.

The resurrection matters.

It matters that it’s literal.

I think I’ll stick with the literal resurrection. That’s the good news that overcame the Earth. Christianity isn’t just a nice story. It’s a reality about the world and everything in it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Those interested in the debate can listen to it here.

Christianity As An Adventure

What is really going on in the Christian life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We have a modded Wii now that comes with thousands of retro games. This has allowed me to play several games from my childhood that I haven’t played for years. RPGs are generally my favorite. I often think about how the hero or heroes grow from this small force that eventually goes and conquers the greatest evil out there.

When we watch movies, many men like to watch superhero movies or James Bond movies or some action flicks like that. Why is that? Most likely for the same reason many women watch romance movies and chick flicks. They want their lives to be like that. Now many men realize the adventures in some of their movies are impossible, but they like the concept anyway.

Take a look at the word adventure. How does it start? Advent. Advent marked the coming of the Christ into the world, a marvel that none could have expected. Adventure includes that with an element of risk and danger. When Christ came into this world, He really came into enemy territory. He marched straight into the place where the evil one was in charge and took him on.

And guys, let’s not forget one common aspect of the adventure films we watch. There is usually a damsel in distress, a woman that the main man wishes to save. We could just as easily say that Jesus came for His bride, the church. Jesus came to fight for the one that He loves.

What happened after that? We were given the responsibility. We were told to go through with the Great Commission. We were to march into the world into places we are not wanted and present the Good News. We are to put ourselves at risk. The marching orders will not be identical for every Christian in how they’re lived out, but they are the same.

When Final Fantasy XV came out, I wrote about how I was getting a view of how the world is from playing it. Here you have an empire that is taking over a land, and yet most of the people are going about their lives oblivious to what is going on. The only resistance one really sees is the main heroes that the player controls.

Such it is today. So many of us are just living our lives and not doing anything for the Kingdom. Believe it or not, just going to church and singing a few songs every Sunday and listening to a sermon is not the same as making an impact for the Kingdom. To do that, one will have to enter the territory of risk to some degree. One will have to be willing to sacrifice for the Gospel, and that sacrifice could be safety and/or personal reputation.

Yet for men like myself especially, this should be something exciting. We have been called to embark on the greatest mission we could ever be called to for the honor of God Himself. We are called to advance the Kingdom of God. We are called in the greatest battle of good vs. evil that could ever be.

As I said, when a man plays a game that has adventure or watches a movie like that, he is most often enjoying it because that is a concept he wants to enjoy more in his own life. If he wants to enjoy it, then go and enjoy it. The world is waiting and it is waiting for heroes to rise up for the Kingdom of God. We are to walk in the footsteps of Christ entering enemy territory for the church that Christ loves.

In gaming terms, this is the most dangerous one of all. There is no reset button. There are no cheat codes. Still, while that is a challenge, I hear the bonus level at the end and the reward for finishing the game are awesome.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Celebrating Goodness

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

If you do Christian apologetics for any time, you will come across the problem of evil. If there is really a good God who made this world, why is there so much evil? This is a good question to ask, but I wish to focus on one Chesterton would have said back. If there is no God, why is so much that is in this world good?

We could understand how our bodies need food. We would not understand why it is it would taste good. We understand we need to drink. Why did it have to be refreshing? Why do there have to be so many colors in the world? The human species has to reproduce to survive. That does not explain why sex has to be so awesome and fun.

Why are there good things? Most of us do share some broad agreement as to what is good. This does not mean that all good things are good all the time. This is the problem of addiction. There is nothing in themselves wrong with food, sex, or alcohol. There is something wrong when these are made the ultimate.

Pleasure is not the idea of the devil. It’s the idea of God. 1 Tim. 6:17 tells us God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment. When I did my senior sermon at my Bible College, I did it on wonder and someone suggested I use a Moody Magazine story that was a cover story called “Is It Right To Enjoy My Life?” What a shame when we think Christianity teaches that one should not enjoy life.

I encourage you also to take a look at simple pleasures in your life today and give thanks for them. I thought about this last night when I was going to bed and getting some water that I keep by my side. Water is something good and refreshing and we are fortunate today that for us, it’s so free and accessible.

I have a library all around me that many people in the ancient world would have loved to have had. I can access still more books at the local library and can carry around several on a Kindle. I have food in the cabinets. I can do evangelism by blog, podcats, Facebook, etc. in ways that St. Paul could have only dreamed of.

You all know I won’t forget I have a beautiful wife who loves me and who I get to love. That is a truly unique treasure. It is the great one that I celebrate regularly.

And of course, there is salvation in Jesus Christ. I am forgiven. God is with me in life and death.

When we go to small group at our church, we meet at the house of one of the couples and there is something in their bathroom that says “Believe there is good in the world.” There is. When you believe that, you ultimately have to come to God and thank Him for His goodness. Every good thing you have, it is a gift. You did not earn it. You do not deserve it. You could not do anything for God that He would be obligated to give it to you. It is all a gift.

Live as if you are blessed, because you are.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why God Is Not The Definition

If we say that God’s nature is good or love, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a friend of mine post a poem that was saying what love is not, and for the most part, I agreed with it. It ended with the poet saying that God’s nature is love. If you want to know what love is, look to God. That is where I begin to have disagreements.

If you wanted to say that God is the one who acts out what love is, then that is one thing, but too often when we have conversations about goodness and love, we just refer to God’s nature. What is the good? The good is God’s nature. I agree that God’s nature is to be good, but there is a problem with this approach.

You see, when we speak of this, first off, we normally mean only moral goodness, but there are other types of goodness. If my wife fixes a pizza for us for dinner and I say “My, this is a good pizza.” I am not saying anything about morality there. I am saying something about the quality of the pizza. If I read a book, I can say that it is a good book, but I am not saying it is a moral book.

If I am someone who does not know what good is, how does pointing me to God tell me what it is? What am I to think of that? This is a godlike book? This is a godlike pizza? If I do not know the nature of God, how am I going to know the nature of goodness by pointing to something that I don’t know?

Many atheists also tie this in with the Euthyphro dilemma. The Liconas and Habermases regularly get together for Labor Day, so while over there yesterday, Gary and I watched Mike debate Larry Shapiro and it was quite frankly a massacre. Shapiro just did not know the subject matter at hand well enough.

In the talk, he presented the dilemma. Is something good because God says it is or does God say it is good because it is good? He said that no one had ever answered this question. Of course, this problem could be turned back onto whatever Shapiro thinks is good. Does society say something is good because it is, or is something good because society says it is?

Sadly, Shapiro doesn’t realize that Plato’s own student Aristotle answered the dilemma. He did it in a simple way. He defined goodness. That’s what we need to do. Aristotle started it simply by saying the good is that at which all things aim. There’s much more to it, but it is a definition.

That is the proper way to answer the dilemma also. Tell what love is. Tell what goodness is. Pointing to God does nothing to those who don’t know God and even if you do, it doesn’t help. After all, how does knowing God’s nature tell you what is meant by a good pizza?

We should all strive to know God’s nature, but let’s also make sure we’re conveying an accurate message. While I agree goodness and love can’t exist without God, one doesn’t need to know God to know what those are. We find out what they are and then that helps us understand God better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Could God Be Evil?

How do we know the ultimate is really good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, someone contacted me wanting to look at a claim about gnostic gods including the idea that YHWH is really the evil god of the Old Testament. This was a popular idea at the start when Christianity was on the rise. As I thought about it, I do plan on writing more about that tomorrow, but I think it’s important to start by going to our time for some good metaphysics. Philosopher Stephen Law has what he calls the Evil God Challenge.

It’s interesting to point out that the Evil God Challenge doesn’t rebut theism. Theism would still be true. The question to ask is how do you know that this ultimate being isn’t evil? Have you just assumed that He is good?

For some philosophical schools, this could be a problem. For someone who comes from a Thomist tradition, it is not. Often times many people have this idea about goodness that God is the standard of goodness and that the good is whatever corresponds to the nature of God or His will. The problem is if you don’t know what goodness itself is, then you’re just replacing an unknown with another unknown.

It also doesn’t make much sense. “This is a good pizza.” What does that mean? This is a pizza that matches God’s nature or will? What about a good book or action? The idea just doesn’t seem to fit.

If you’re a Thomist, you get your idea of goodness from Aristotle. The good is that at which all things aim. (By the way, this is also something that can be said back to the Euthyphro dilemma. It’s amazing that that dilemma was answered just a generation after Plato and so many skeptics still throw it out like nothing has been said about it.) Aquinas would take this a step further and say that all things aim for perfection. They aim to be. This is called actualization.

You see, for Aquinas, all created things have potential and actuality. Potential is some capacity for change. Actuality is when they do change and describes how they are now. I am sitting as I write this. I have the potential to stand. If I stand, I actualize that potential.

For Aquinas then, goodness is being. Insofar as something is, it is good. We are good when we act according to the nature God meant for us to have. That is why an evil act is considered inhuman. It is the misuse of good that results in evil. This would apply even to the devil for Aquinas. He has being, intelligence, and will. These are good things. The devil is said to be evil, and rightly so, because of how he uses them.

So what about God? God is being without limits. He describes Himself as “I AM.” If you want to know what it means to be, you look at God. He has no potential for change. He is pure being. Everything else is dependent on Him. Even an eternal universe would be dependent on Him.

If you want to know how this makes sense, picture how it would be if you had an eternal existence. Now you also have an eternal existence in front of a mirror that is eternally existence. You have been living for all eternity in front of this eternal mirror. Does the image in the mirror exist eternally because of you or would it exist there if you moved away?

This also means that ultimately, God is good since He doesn’t possess any lacking in His nature. If He does, then He is not God and whatever does possess that is God. The bottom line is that when you reach the end of the chain of being, well you find God right there.

This is why the Evil God Challenge doesn’t make much sense to me. I’ve only given a brief snapshot of this of course. For those interested in more, I recommend reading a more sophisticated Thomist like Edward Feser’s Aquinas.

Tomorrow, we’ll see how this works with Gnosticism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Everybody Is Wrong About God?

What do I think of James Lindsay’s book published by Pitchstone Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember the old days when Peter Boghossian was heavily pushing the idea of street epistemology? Good times. Good times. Well now his main fan James Lindsay has decided to follow in his footsteps. Lindsay’s book even has a foreword by Boghossian as well (And I did review Boghossian’s book here.). Unfortunately, Lindsay’s book falls drastically short of Boghossian’s, which is saying a lot since Boghossian’s was a train wreck to begin with.

Lindsay’s main idea is that everyone is wrong about God because we’re talking as if theism even makes any sense whatsoever and that we know what we’re talking about when we talk about God. Of course, one would expect at this point to see interaction with sophisticated systematic theologies such as those in the past of people like Augustine and Aquinas, or even today people like Erickson or Grudem or McGrath. If you are expecting that, you are going to be disappointed. Actually, if you’re expecting any engagement with contrary opinion, you are going to be disappointed.

The laugh riots really begin on page 17. What we are told there is that the New Atheists succeeded in their quest. It defeated theism at the level of ideas and destroyed the taboo of atheism. At this, we can see that James Lindsay is in fact the Baghdad Bob of atheism. The new atheists can’t hold a candle to the old atheists of the past. All we got from the new atheists was a rant largely about topics they did not understand, much like people who critique evolution without bothering to read the best works in science.

Of course, in all of this, don’t expect Lindsay to do anything like, you know, actually interact with the arguments for theism. If you expect to see the ways of Thomas Aquinas interacted with or a refutation of Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument or a response to the twenty ways listed in Kreeft and Tacelli, you will be disappointed. For new atheists, it’s enough to declare victory and then stand up and have the celebration.

From this point on, rather than actually engage in arguments and evidence, which like many atheists I encounter Lindsay doesn’t seem to care for, it’s best to jump straight to psychology. Why do we believe in something that’s so utterly obviously false? (A step forward I suppose. Boghossian wanted us to be listed as having a mental illness.) The problem here is you can psychologize anything. We could come up with psychological reasons for atheism, and they could apply to some people, but that does not refute atheism any more than psychological reasons for theism refutes theism.

Well let’s try to find some interesting parts and see what can be said about them.

On p. 60, we are told that many theologians and apologists will argue that theism has evidence, but that is false. There is a note here and one would expect to see some reply to some arguments or perhaps at least a book dealing with these arguments. Well, one would expect that were we dealing with a real sophisticated argument for a position. Considering we’re dealing with a fan of Boghossian, we’re not surprised to find another assertion.

Lindsay’s main argument is that we might have some arguments for theism and even if we did succeed at that, how do we get to what religion is true? Yes. You read it. That’s his argument.

Of course, Maimonides, Aquinas, and Avicenna would have all used the same arguments for general theism. That’s because theism itself is a metaphysical and philosophical claim so metaphysics and philosophy work there. First point to establish is that if theism is established, then atheism is false. Even if we could go no further, we would still have refuted atheism.

Second point is that Lindsay’s argument is just weak. Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas could all then point to historical reasons for their faiths since all of them claim that events happened in history. I as a Christian would face my “All but impossible” task, in Lindsay’s words, by pointing to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. A Muslim could point to why he thinks the Koran is the Word of God and a Jew could point to the Torah while showing problems with the New Testament. It could be that any of the arguments would work, but it shows that it is not all but impossible.

Again, if we were dealing with a real case, we would see some interaction. We are not, so we do not. High schoolers just starting apologetics study could have answered the question of Lindsay.

On p. 70, Lindsay says we have a right to shoot bull wherever we see it. Indeed we do. I make it a habit of doing such and I make it a point to shoot it down from atheists as well as theists. That’s one reason I’m doing this review. There’s a whole lot to shoot at.

On the very next page, he writes about a debate Sean Carroll had with William Lane Craig. This is a debate that I really didn’t care for. For one thing, as a non-scientist, I suspect most people in the audience spent a lot of time during the debate saying “What the heck are they talking about?” Lindsay is convinced Carroll won. Maybe he did. For Lindsay, this is a huge victory.

Well, let’s go to another debate. This is the one that took place between Peter Boghossian and Tim McGrew. In fact, someone with an interesting opinion on that was James Lindsay himself. What does he say?

“I also won’t comment about winners because I think the idea of winning a conversation is stupid to the point of being embarrassing for people that we make a sport of it.”

Well Unbelievable? is a debate show with a moderator so apparently, it’s stupid when we talk about a victory on Unbelievable? It’s not when we talk about it between Carroll and Craig. Got it.

“(Full disclosure: I think the debate was a draw because the substantive point of the matter could not be settled because the relevant data concerning how Christians and other religious believers use the word “faith” is not available.)”

It certainly is available. You just have to be able to, you know, go out and research and study it. Unfortunately, Boghossian did not do that. He had anecdotal evidence. McGrew actually went to scholarly sources. We’re sorry to hear that Lindsay does not consider that good enough.

“McGrew, the far more experienced debater, came off tighter in what he had to say and hid his weaknesses well, better than did Boghossian.”

And Tim McGrew’s other debates prior to this that we have are…

ummmm….

errrr…..

uhhhh…..

I think he told me he did some debating in high school. I suppose that counts in Lindsay’s book. Obviously, McGrew had to have more experience. I mean, how else can we explain what happened? It couldn’t be that (SHOCK!) McGrew actually had better arguments and Boghossian was uninformed? Nah! Can’t be that! Let’s look for an excuse!

The comments section, which I participated in, is immense damage control. If I think a theist lost a debate, and I think they do sometimes, I can admit it. It doesn’t change the truth of theism. It just means we had a bad debater at that point.

On page 87, Lindsay refers to Harris’s work of The Moral Landscape. The book is hardly what Lindsay thinks it is. All of my reviews can be found here. Michael Ruse, who I consider to be a much better thinker, trashes the book as well here. Strange also that considering how Lindsay wanted to show a debate earlier, he said nothing about Craig’s debate with Harris.

Naturally, we soon come to faith. Ah yes. The favorite weapon of the new atheist. Just pick your bogus definition that you have no evidence for other than anecdotal experience and run with it! A real researcher would go to the Lexicons and the study of the Greek language and see what the New Testament writers meant by faith. Lindsay does no such thing. Lindsay has studied the meaning of faith in the New Testament about as much as I have studied Brazilian soccer matches. For my take on faith, go here.

On p. 100, Lindsay talks about Poseidon falling away as we gained more knowledge of how the world works. Well this is odd. I thought science didn’t really get started supposedly until we got out of those horrible dark ages. (That is in fact false. Go here.) Is it really scientific knowledge that destroyed Poseidon?

No. What actually destroyed it was Christianity. As Larry Hurtado shows us in Destroyer of the Gods (For my interview with him, go here.), the reason we speak about asking if you believe God exists and not the gods is because of Christianity. Christianity became a dominant worldview and with it monotheism. When monotheism dominated, Poseidon died out. It was known then that the true God was in charge of this and science started to take off as we sought to understand how God works in the world.

This helps deal with a common misnomer. Skeptics like Lindsay think that Christianity is in danger the more gaps science fills in. The early Christian scientists saw no such danger. They thought they were establishing theism more by filling in the gaps. They sought to know how God did His work. Lindsay will need to search the medieval literature to see where a gap exists and they just plugged in “Goddidit” for an answer. One could say their answers were bad and wrong as science was just getting started, but they were still trying to be scientific.

One such case of this is with evolution on p. 118. Lindsay is convinced that if you establish evolution, well you destroy Adam and Eve and you destroy original sin and then everything else falls apart. Sadly, Lindsay is just as fundamentalist as the fundamentalists he wants to argue against. The ludicrousness of this can be shown in that I can have a case for the resurrection of Jesus and be told “Well, that can’t be true because of evolution.” How does that explain the data? It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, I and many other Christians have no problem whatsoever if evolution is true. I don’t argue for it or against it. I just don’t care either way. It doesn’t mean that Adam and Eve were unreal figures and the fall never happened. If I am wrong on Adam and Eve, then oh well. At the most, I only lose inerrancy. I still have the resurrection of Jesus and my Christianity is just fine. That’s the benefit of not being an all-or-nothing thinker, like Lindsay is.

p. 120 tells us that Jefferson in his writings referred to Nature’s God and the Creator and not to YHWH or Jesus or something specific. Of course. Jefferson was a deist and he was not wanting to establish a theocracy. That doesn’t mean that God was seen as an add-on. God was essential. Jefferson himself even held worship services in the White House.

On p. 122 we start to explain concepts like goodness finally. Interestingly, Lindsay points to how we feel about these things, almost as if they’re intuitive to us. Perhaps they are, but absent in any of this is even if they are, why should we think those feelings explain reality? Some people strongly feel God, and yet Lindsay would disagree that they are feeling God. If the God feeling is a falsehood of sorts, why not the feeling of goodness?

The real question one should ask at this point is “What is goodness?” Here, we come up empty again. Lindsay doesn’t begin to answer the question. If there is goodness, how do we know it? No answer once more. Even stranger, in an atheistic universe where we just have matter in motion, why should there be such a thing as goodness to begin with? If Lindsay praises the new atheists, why not go with Richard Dawkins in River Out Of Eden?

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

After all, as Dawkins goes on to say, our DNA neither knows nor cares. It just is and we dance to its music. If it doesn’t know or care, why should we?

These are the kinds of questions one would want to have answered, but Lindsay comes nowhere close. If he wants to accuse theists of jumping too quickly to “Goddidit” (And no doubt some do), then we can say he jumps too quickly to “Goddidn’tdoit). The evidence does not matter. There has to be an explanation without theism.

On p. 156 he defines a delusion as “a belief held with strong convictions despite superior evidence to the contrary.” This is quite fitting because on p. 154, he talks about the problem of evil and says “no amount of theological mental gymnastics has or ever can satisfactorily surmount the problem of evil.” It’s bad enough to say that it has not been surmounted. Most atheistic philosophers would even concede that the logical problem of evil has been defeated. It’s even stranger to say that it never can. Where did Lindsay get this exhaustive knowledge? Never mind the question of not being able to define good and evil which is still another hurdle. It would be nice to see if Lindsay has responses to people like Clay Jones or Alvin Plantinga or any other works on the problem of evil. He doesn’t.  Sadly, this doesn’t shock me any more. I’ve reached the point where I expect atheist works to not interact with their opposition. Lindsay does not disappoint.

On p. 180, Lindsay wants to point to the historical record of what religion has done. Absent is any mention of what atheism did in the 20th century. One supposes that Lindsay just wants us to have faith that atheism if established today would be different. All of a sudden, we would all unite in love and harmony and be singing Kum-Bu-Yah.

On p. 181, he tells us that the responses from the peanut gallery that say that faith means something more akin to trust is irrelevant. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s certainly not because of interaction. It’s certainly not because of researching the evidence. Lindsay just wants us to take him on faith that this is so. It’s a shame he provides no evidence. Could we just say this is what Boghossian would call “a deepity”?

On p. 184, we get to something that could be considered an argument. This is that the Bible lists bats as birds. That’s nice. It would be also nicer if Lindsay looked up the words. We translate it as birds often today, but the word really refers to a winged creature. There was not a modern taxonomical idea of bird then. There were just creatures that were not insects but had wings. Last I checked, bats had wings. Now maybe Lindsay has come across some scientific research that shows bats don’t have wings. Still, by the ancient standards, we are just fine. If they were just referring not to a modern idea of taxonomy but to the ancient definition of a creature with wings, then bats qualify.

At 185, Lindsay says street epistemology is for inducing doubt to foster intellectual honesty. Those of us who are apologists are not doing the same thing. We create doubt to manufacture vulnerability and perhaps fear to lead to a conclusion. Nice that Lindsay believes in mind reading. I in fact want to encourage better thinking as well. I just think better thinking leads to Christianity, but hey, apparently Lindsay believes in mind reading. Who knew?

If street epistemology wasn’t bad enough to promote, Lindsay also promotes John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.” Lindsay says no sources have passed this test. His note reference for this? Just do a google search. None of them are worth citing. Well there you have it! Lindsay has spoken. The case is closed! Of course, he could have interacted with a case, such as the book by David Marshall directly written on this. My interview with Marshall can be found here.

It’s also amusing to find that on p. 198-99 that the Inquisition and radical Islam are put right in line with Stalin and Mao. One would hope for historical sources, but alas, there are none. He could find one such source here. Of course, Islam is central to radical Islam and I would argue a consistent outworking of it. What about Stalin and Mao? Does Lindsay just consider atheism incidental to them? Hard to think that since they were on a warpath against religion entirely.

On p. 210, he points to the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences. After all, very few are theists. Unfortunately, Rob Bowman responded to Victor Stenger on this point here. I will quote a relevant part.

Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.

In conclusion, Boghossian’s book at least had something redeemable in it about political correctness, which I agreed with. Lindsay’s book has no such feature. The main benefit we get from it is that we see further the bankruptcy of the new atheists. Apparently, it is a mark of pride to not interact with your opponents and not treat their arguments seriously. Lindsay can keep up his position. I hope he does. It’ll just further dumb down the atheist community while theists in the academy will be doing our further research and strengthening our position. With the idea of movements like Jesus mythicism and such being jumped on by atheists on the internet, I would not be surprised to see them intellectually bankrupt in a generation or two.

Thanks for helping the cause Lindsay.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Will You Live For?

Is there something out there worth living for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes, I encounter people who will make a big deal about how they have enough commitment to die for Christ. Now that is a good thing. I am not knocking that for a moment. I would even hope that I could do that. I am not making a guarantee because I remember Peter in the Bible talked big and then he cowered, and this was a man who had walked with Jesus for years and seen him do miracles. Still, as impressive as it is to die for Christ, there is something even more impressive.

To live for Him.

Instead, we often chase after so many other things. My wife even wrote on this topic just today. Do we really consider Christ worth living for? Well let me try to see by comparing Christ with other things. These things can be good in themselves, but they are not the good.

Wealth

By wealth, I don’t just mean money, but material goods. Again, there’s nothing wrong with material goods and if you have a lot of wealth, you are not an evil person. It could be you are a person God has blessed. If you have a gift of being able to make money, you should enjoy that gift. You should be willing to give to those who are less fortunate, but also you should be able to enjoy what your money can afford. Want to take the wife to Paris for a romantic weekend? Go ahead. Want to get a new Mercedes? Go ahead. It is not a sin to enjoy money if you happen to have it, though again, you should be generous with what you have. God loves a cheerful giver.

But in the end, that money will fade. The Great Depression taught us that money can vanish in an instant. You will not be treasured in the future because you have a lot of money and if you are, it could be that you are being treasured by the wrong people who want you more for your money than they do for you. As the old saying goes, you can’t take it with you. As another one goes, he who dies with the most toys, still dies.

Knowledge

You know, this is a big one with me. I like to go to bed having read something during the day and increased my knowledge. I love learning. I really do. Smart people can also be very liked. You can really impress someone if you know a lot of stuff. Yet Paul did rightly say that knowledge puffs up. All knowledge without love to it is a problem. We are not meant to be robots. If we are working on gaining knowledge, we are often gaining that knowledge towards another end. We want to apply that knowledge somehow in the world to make the world a better place. We dare not do it just for ourselves, which can bring us to another option.

Fame

It’s really nice to see a piece that you wrote be shared in the world. It’s nice to see people quoting you as an authority. It’s good to be liked and admired. There is no wrong in this and I think if people praise you for something legitimate and good, you should be able to delight in that, but you must remember as J.P. Moreland has said, that you’re here to serve a name and not to make one. Now of course, in many ways you do have to sell yourself to serve that name. Still, it is not about you.

Pride is something that I struggle with, though having a wife has certainly helped with that! She doesn’t want a prideful man. What I used to do as an activity to deal with it was to go into my room when I was single and close the door and get on my bed and pray. I would thank God for all He had done for me. I would thank Him that He had given me so many books and a mind capable of handling knowledge and the respect of so many people in the field. I would think of all the things I thought I had done well in my life and give Him thanks. Then after all of this, where I purposely built myself up, I would then say “And who am I to deserve this for it all comes from you?” It would take all the good things that I had going on then and then remind me that everything is really from God. It’s not because I’m so special, but it’s because He’s so special. I felt humbled every time as I remembered that as James says, every good gift comes from the Father above. I am a servant in His Kingdom.

Family

Okay. This is a big one. There is definitely nothing wrong with a family. Family is one of the great goods God has provided and as I have said before, it’s the building block of civilization. You should love your family, yet we know in Scripture that family is to play a subservient role to Christ. If it comes to Christ or our families, we are to choose Christ. Your family is important, but they fallible people and they will let you down. They could also be taken from you at any moment. Sometimes the tragedy of death strikes without warning to people. If you ever put all your hope on one other person, even your own spouse, then you are going to be disappointed. Every person you meet is a finite person who can only do so much.

Sex

If anything is a god in American culture today, it’s sex. Internet pornography is rampant and look at so many of the great debates we have going on in America. They often involve sex in some way. Now I and most married men can understand this idea of living for sex. Hardly anything turns our heads the way the thought of sex does. How many of us men have done stupid stupid things all because we were trying to get the attentions of a girl? Of course, this is not to say women don’t desire sex as well and yes, women will often do stupid things just for a chance to have sex, but men are much more noted for this.

So yeah, sex is great of course, but what if this bizarre thought is true? What if that sex is a pointer to something else? What if the unity with nothing hidden between a man and a woman is meant to point to a unity with nothing hidden with God? In fact, that unity with God is capable of producing new life in us as God gives us His life.

Sex can be a great way to love other people, but if done wrong, it is a great way to use other people. Even if we’re married men and women, we must remember every act of sex is supposed to be a way to say “I love you” to your spouse. In fact, for many men, sex is the loudest way that their wives tell them that they love them. That’s the danger for both sexes. A man can easily say “If I give my wife what she wants, then I can get sex.” A wife can easily say “If I give my husband sex, then I can get what I want.” Both are wrong uses. Sex is supposed to be selfless and total giving with no strings attached.

Pleasure

Along with sex goes pleasure. Now I think play should be an important part of everyone’s life. Believe it or not, there are times I have been reading for awhile and I will stop and just pick up a game and say “I have to have some down time and play.” It’s necessary. Even Ecclesiastes tells us that of writing books there is no end and too much study will make you tired. There are many avenues of pleasure out there and not just sex. There’s sports. There’s food. There’s television. There’s gaming. There are many good things and the reality is these things have been made for us to enjoy.

At the same time, these do follow the law of diminished returns. If you become addicted to these things, it will take more to fill you as the old will not be enough. Get addicted to television and you will need to watch more. Get addicted to food and it will take more food to satisfy you every time. This is also the danger with pornography as it will take more and more to satisfy you. When these things in your life become tyrants, they are horrible tyrants. The only way to break free from them is to stop listening to their demands and to find a new master, but hopefully not one like these.

Pleasure is good, but if you’re just living for that high, it will require more and more. Now this might work if you find something high enough. More on that later.

Morality

Sometimes in the Christian church, we can often have an idea that we are to be good people and that is the point of Christianity. Christians should be good people, but that is not the point. We are good for the honor of God. Meanwhile, our atheist friends will tell us that you don’t need to believe in God to be good. They’re absolutely right. You don’t. The problem is they are also assuming the point of life is to be good. For what end? If you are good and in the end we all die in the cold death of a universe that fizzles out of energy, then what? Of course, there is no knocking being good as we should be. The building up of character however is meant for something beyond us. What does it mean to be good for goodness sake after all?

Love

Love is certainly esteemed as a good today as many things that happen today are said to be okay because of love. Love unfortunately is often confused with sentiment instead of an active seeking of the good of the other for the sake of the other. We are all self-centered in our society so let’s not dare think that somehow we are easily moving past this. If you think love is a feeling, you are going to ruin yourself. Love can produce good feelings, but it is not a feeling. It is an active commitment to the good of another for the sake of that other and there are degrees of love. I love my wife. I love my parents. I love my sister and brothers-in-law. I love my in-laws. I love my friends. I love my extended family. I do not love those all the same way.

Love is good, but again, just like with pleasure, it is only when you find a higher source of love that you find something truly worth living for.

God

Now we come to the big one. At last we have something worth living for. How do we know this? Because God is infinite by definition and therefore, there is no limit to what He can do for us. He is good in nature. He is constant and unchanging so He will always be good. He will always be loving. He will always bring joy ultimately for He is the source of all joy. He alone can carry all of our burdens and He is the one who knows our hearts and He is the only one who can deal with the problem of evil in us that is truly keeping us away from the joy that we do desire.

You see, the reason we chase after these other things is because of the evil in us. These other things can be good, but if we turn them into the greatest good, they become evils for us. All of these things we should enjoy, but let us not lose sight of God.

And could it be we do not delight in God as much because we have made Him so abstract as to be unknowable or made Him so much of our buddy buddy or “Jesus is my boyfriend” kind of thing that we no longer see Him as a sovereign Lord we serve in awe?

And if we want to know who God truly is, well we have to look at Jesus. Philosophy can tell us many things about God and we should use it, but Jesus reveals God to us personally. All good theology must be informed by the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In the end, with God, we will have something worth living for and if we do not see Him as worth living for, we need to seek to know Him better then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters