A Response to Seth Dunn of Pulpit and Pen on Nabeel Qureshi

Is Nabeel Qureshi someone that we should avoid? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I found out yesterday that David Wood had made a video about Seth Dunn of Pulpit and Pen doing a hit piece on Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi. I have had my interactions with Dunn in the past. For instance, when the Coptic Christians were murdered by ISIS and I shared that, Dunn considered it a good time to point out that (in his view) that the Coptic Christians weren’t really Christians due to their view on salvation. (Those who can see my Facebook can read it here.)

I have seen N.T. Wright described as an unsound theologian because he’s an egalitarian and he baptizes babies. I have seen it said that William Lane Craig made a point in a debate just because he was trying to win a debate. In fact, he has even gone after myself on my view of Heaven and Hell (Or at least one I am open to) is plainly heretical.

When my wife later (Much later since we didn’t want to make an issue out of it really as I can’t make an issue of everyone who says anything to me on Facebook) confronted him on this, he did back it.

I did say Nick is a heretic. This was on the comment section of his blog, not on FB if memory serves. He’s a universalist, if that’s not heresy then I don’t know what is

This would work if universalism was my view. It is not. Not everyone will be saved. Unfortunately, Dunn still sees Heaven and Hell as they have to be separate locations and pushes that on my what I say. No. My view there was that the same sun that melts wax hardens clay. Those who have lived lives of righteousness will be in the presence of God forever and think this is Heaven because they have loved God and being with the one they love is a delight. Those who have not and have rejected Jesus will live forever there as well and will consider it hell because they have hated God. I do not see any redemption either for them at that point. Heaven and Hell are not defined by a location (Since God is omnipresent) but are defined by relationship to God. Universalism is the view that all will be redeemed. That is not my view.

But hey, why make a big deal out of it? I had seen Dunn write many times on Facebook and every single time it was all about how some group isn’t really Christian or something along those lines. It reminds me of the Christians who want to say that every new game craze or fad that comes out is somehow satanic. After awhile, you just don’t listen any more. There are better usages of time.

Then I saw David Wood came out with that video. I was frankly surprised. Why is David Wood spending so much time on this? In fact, this is a nearly 40-minute video. I hadn’t seen a video that long from David Wood, at least in recent history, aside from something like a debate of course. Why do this?

For one thing, Pulpit and Pen is a prominent blog for some reason. Second, Dunn has actually been nominated for president of the SBC. It looks like this won’t happen at least this time around, but that shows me this is more serious than I thought.

I should also point out that I happen to know David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi personally. At this point, I don’t think I have got to meet David Wood in person yet, though I would be delighted to someday. The same can’t be said for Qureshi. We’ve had a number of interactions together and his character and commitment to Christ has always been an amazement to me. Both of these men have also been on my show.

According to Dunn, one of the first problems with Qureshi is that he spoke at Reset 2016. Of course, Pulpit and Pen did have something else to say. Someone else on the site said that the event was shut down due to intense heat. This was a judgment of God.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

I wish I was, but I am not.

Of course, by these standards, when the Reason Rally is not shut down, does this mean that God is pleased with them? I figured we were supposed to be interpreting the work of God by Scripture.Who knew that we could do it by watching the Weather Channel?

So why is this event so problematic? Because Dunn thinks that there were too many people there who were enemies of the cross. Now do I approve of all the speakers there? No. At the same time, I’m nowhere near as extreme as Dunn is where everyone must have their theology right in every single area or we seriously call them into question. I disagree with Roman Catholics, but I do not think they are all lost. There are lost Roman Catholics just as much as there are lost Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.

Still, Dunn thinks that by speaking here, Qureshi has made himself be seen as questionable. After all, it’s hard to imagine that because Qureshi goes out and speaks about Jesus to a million people that somehow he should be viewed with suspicion. Let’s remember that our Lord was seen as a friend of tax collectors and prostitute and the group of twelve men he surrounded himself with did not include theologians who had all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed.

However, Dunn is not done yet. There is another suspicion brought to light by a Muslim apologist named Yahya Snow. I had not really heard of Snow. Still, I have known that in many cases, Muslim apologetics can be some of the worst apologetics that there is. I would even put it below the new atheists. I have seen some of the most bizarre arguments brought forward, such as the time a Muslim even accused me of thinking that Joseph was 90 when he married Mary. This was news to me since I had never once believed anything like that.

David Wood said that while there are respectable Muslim scholars, such as Shabir Ally, Snow is not one of those. In fact, Snow can be considered the worst of the worst. At least, that was the way it sounded to me when he described someone else as an example of someone who could not be beat for how bad his arguments were until Snow came along.

This guy then, is the one Dunn relies on for his claim. What is the claim? There is a great inconsistency in the story of Nabeel Qureshi of how he became a Christian. You see, Qureshi had dreams that played an instrumental view in his conversion.

Yet here’s the problem. In an interview, Qureshi said that David Wood was sitting at the other end of the doorway. In yet another case, he was standing. There you have it! It’s the smoking gun!

Unfortunately, Wood points out that Qureshi called him and told him about the dream and that Qureshi wrote it down in his dream journal. So did Qureshi slip up? Yes. This can happen. Wood even plays a clip of William Lane Craig saying that 2 + 2 = 5 is a necessary truth. Are we to say that Craig doesn’t know what basic math any more is? No. Sometimes, we can all slip up when we speak. More on this later.

The next point is that Qureshi has questionable credentials as a Muslim. Qureshi was an Ahmedi Muslim. They are often viewed by fellow Muslims as non-Muslims. As Wood points out, the Ahmedi do have some odd beliefs, but Qureshi held to everything you were supposed to believe as a Muslim. Since Dunn in his article refers to James White who he says is a Christian apologist and an expert in Islam agrees on that point, then perhaps he should hear what James White says from the 1:40:00 point on in this video.

White doesn’t deny that Qureshi was a Muslim and in fact he says that while he disagrees with Qureshi’s stances, including on Roman Catholicism, that Qureshi is a gift to the church. He just thinks that Qureshi should describe himself as a devout Ahmedi Muslim. There could be truth to that.

Wood’s video is worth watching in the whole, but it was said last night that Dunn had written a response. I have looked at this response. Now I think it would have been better to accept the correction and move on, but that is not what happened. The counter can be found here.

So what does Dunn say in response?

Wood defends Qureshi’s speaking engagement at Reset 2016, comparing the event to an atheist “reason rally” or a gathering of hostile Muslims. This is an inappropriate comparison. Reset was not the Areopagus. Reset 2016 was advertised by its promoters as a Christian event where “we are gathering as one—lifting a unified sound, asking Jesus to reset our generation.” Reset was not a gathering of hostile atheists or Muslims but (nominal) Christians who came for miles to be unified with one another and pray to Jesus. This was not a Billy Graham crusade designed to see people saved, it was a Christian “unity” event that included the Pope of Rome. It took no Christian boldness to show up to the event and draw applause from the crowd. It would have been bold of Qureshi to separate his Jesus from the indeterminate amount of false Jesuses parading around at this event, rebuking those who followed them, and calling them to repentance and faith.

This might make sense if you’re caught in the idea of discernment ministries where you’re supposed to know who is and isn’t a heretic, but I think Wood’s answer still stands. Qureshi was asked to come and share something about Jesus to a million people. He jumped at the chance. I also suspect, and Qureshi could tell me if I’m wrong, that he would do what any preacher does most every Sunday. A preacher always is aware that there could be non-Christians in his audience. He ends most of his sermons with a call to the Gospel. So again, let’s see. Is Nabeel to be viewed with suspicion because he went and talked to a million people about Jesus? That’s an odd basis for suspicion.

Wood’s video does not accurately represent my view of Qureshi’s Christian faith. I did not assert that Nabeel Qureshi was “apostate”. Nor did I assert the same about Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, or Tim Tebow (who also participated in the Reset 2016 event). If one performed an exhaustive search of all my blogging at this site and my personal site, one would be hard-pressed to find examples of me using the term “apostate”. I intentionally avoid the use of this incendiary term to prevent overly emotional reactions to my writing. Other contributors to this website do frequently use the term. However, none of them have claimed that Qureshi, Zacharias, McDowell, or Tebow were “apostate.”

Maybe not specifically, but one could draw a valid inference. For instance, after Dunn gives a warning in his original article about speakers at a conference and how Christians should be careful, he points to Scripture. What Scripture? This one.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

Yes. This passage about those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. What am I to believe based on that? Dunn goes on to say that

Christians should remember that every brother and sister converted from complete lostness and spiritual deadness.  Rather than judge Christian speakers by their backstories, Christians should judge them by the ongoing demonstration of their faith.  No one’s dream or vision is more trustworthy than gospel presented in Holy Scripture.

Of course, I don’t think Qureshi would disagree with this. He would definitely think the Gospel is more reliable, but that does not mean Qureshi is going to discount his dreams any more than I’m going to discount some of the best scholarship that defends the resurrection of Jesus. Does that mean the scholarship is more reliable than the Gospel? Not at all. Dunn may not use the words, but the idea is there. If you keep crying wolf over and over, people will not listen when real wolves show up.

Wood’s video does not accurately represent my view of Qureshi’s former faith. I did not assert that Nabeel Qureshi was not a Muslim. I asserted that his Islamic credentials were “in question” given that he was of the Ahmadi sect. This is simply a statement of fact, given that there are a number of Muslims who claim that Ahmadi’s are not true Muslims. Given that Islam, on the whole, is a false religion, it’s tough to say exactly what “true” Islam is. One must rely on various opinions. Since I am not an expert on the matter, I cited the opinions of Muslim apologist Yahya Snow and well-respected Christian Apologist James White. David Wood, who is knowledgeable on the subject does not agree with Snow or White. Wood’s assessment is very educational but not terribly relevant to my argument.  My modest assertion that Qureshi’s Islamic credentials are “in question” stands. That Qureshi was raised a devout Ahmadi is not in question, nor did my article indicate that it was.

And Wood accurately answers this. Qureshi held to all the essential beliefs it requires to be a Muslim. Dunn thinks that since Islam is a false religion, it’s difficult to know what a true Muslim is. Why? I think Mormonism is a false religion, but that does not mean that I don’t know that there are beliefs that Mormons see as non-negotiable. The same with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Dunn points to White, but again, White is the one who sees Qureshi as a gift to the church. Perhaps Dunn should send his article to White so that White can see the error of his ways and change his view on Qureshi.

Wood points out that even the best of speakers misspeak. This is true. I have done it numerous times on my own podcast in egregious ways. I’ve never done it on professionally produced and edited television program while telling about a seminal event in my life, however. I’ve also never done it with Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Whatever the case, Wood provides testimony to corroborate Qureshi’s dream story and admits that Qureshi just made a mistake. This is fine and I’m glad the air has been cleared on this issue.

This is the kind of thing that just astounds me. Dunn admits that we all make mistakes, but then he says “I’ve never done it while talking about a seminal event in my life or on the 700 Club.” At this, I just want to say “Good for you.” Unfortunately, others do make mistakes in these arenas for a number of reasons. If Craig can be on stage saying 2 + 2 = 5, then I am much more open to this happening. It would have been better for Dunn to just let this slide instead of still pushing it forward.

Dunn goes on to talk about Ravi Zacharias, whose minsitry Qureshi works for, speaking to Joyce Meyer as a great Bible teacher. I’m not here to defend Zacharias in that. I do not think Meyer is a great Bible teacher at all. Dunn goes on to say that Qureshi had never heard of her. Good for him. Qureshi was able to enter into a dialogue with Seth on the matter. Is Qureshi right in his assessment? I don’t know, but I know this. Qureshi was willing to look.

Of course, things get worse. Qureshi actually said the Roman Catholic Church gets a bad rap from Christians. Dunn is sure many Calvinists would disagree. So am I. There are many of us who disagree with Calvinists as well. Why is it that the Calvinists should be seen as the ones that set the bar?

I certainly don’t want Pulpit & Pen to be an echo chamber but I understand the readership and the theological leanings of the readership of my own blog.  The Pulpit & Pen has a largely Reformed readership.  To our average reader, these statements about brotherhood with Roman Catholics are downright offensive.  As David Wood notes in his video, Qureshi has studied the Christian faith from California to Kentucky and beyond, at the postgraduate level.  How could any educated Protestant theologian not see Roman Catholicism as something to “cut ties” over?  Thank God Luther did. Luther put his life one the line to refute the Pope.  Qureshi speaks with him.  There are almost certainly regenerate Catholics (who have yet to leave the Roman Catholic Church) but official Catholic doctrine (see Galatians 1 and the Council of Trent) is anathema.  Qureshi seems to disagree.

Perhaps we don’t see it that way because we see that we agree on the resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. Do I think RCCs have some wrong views on salvation. Yes. I think in fact a lot of Christians do and God saves them regardless. Dunn says he finds Qureshi’s comments offensive. Well I find it offensive to take someone who White has said is a gift to the church and try to tear them down. Still, there is worse coming along these lines.

Much worse.

As you can see, some of the tweets above are months, even over a year, old.  I did not just happen across a video from a Muslim apologist (one David Wood has a history with) and try to discredit Nabeel Qureshi and write an ill-advised, critical blog based on his assertions.  I’ve observed Qureshi for over a year, as well as his employer RZIM.  To me, he seems more concerned with being a New York Times Bestseller (Roman Catholic buy Christian books, too) than consistently rightly dividing the word of God. The evidence is in print before you.

Now it’s my turn.

I know Qureshi as I said. His character has always struck me as exemplary. Wood pointed out that Qureshi lost his family as a result of his conversion. In Qureshi’s own book, he said he wished he could have died right after converting so his parents would never know about it. I have seen him be asked about how he can talk to Muslims when so many of us get so angry about them based on events like 9/11 and he said that he always tries to remember that anyone of them could be someone like Paul someday.

Every night before I go to bed, I read a verse of Scripture. I let that be something I think about as I go to sleep. Last night, I read Philippians 3:17 as I’m going through Philippians. I got to this verse.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

I thought that was amazing. Paul could tell others “Live like I do. I am your model.” I honestly do not think I am ready to say that about myself yet. I also thought that if anyone was like that, it was Nabeel. This is someone who Wood points out was willing to go to jail with him for preaching the Gospel and continued to do so in prison.

Yet Dunn says Qureshi seems more concerned with writing bestsellers, since Roman Catholics buy those as well, than rightly dividing the Word of God. No. Qureshi is just a good writer and people like his books. For Dunn’s sake, should Qureshi try to make his books be not as good so they won’t sell as much?

I don’t blame David Wood for defending him. They are good friends and he has seen Nabeel witness to people. Good for him. I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear him speak. He’s a book-selling, speaking-tour ecumenist. I don’t know Nabeel Qureshi’s heart but I don’t write blogs or study Apologetics at the masters level to sell books or make money–I do it to edify the church. I think the church would be edified to avoid ecumenists like Nabeel Qureshi, no matter how interesting their backstories are.

It’s nice to know Dunn’s standards and I think in this passage he’s told us a lot more about himself than he does about Qureshi. Well Dunn can stay in his echochamber and refuse to listen to Qureshi and think that gives him bonus points or something, but I consider it a treat to get to hear Qureshi speak. He also says he doesn’t know Qureshi’s heart, which he doesn’t, but somehow he knows that Qureshi writes blogs and studies at the Master’s level to sell books or make money, instead of edifying the church, which is obviously what Dunn does.

Yes. Because back when Qureshi was wishing he was dead after his conversion, he hatched this master plan where he said “Forget my family! I can make a lot of money as a best-selling author! After all, Christian apologetics is where the money is!”

No it isn’t.

I am nowhere near wealthy. In fact, I am at the poverty level. I don’t do what I do to make money. Would I like to have more coming in? Yep. Would I like to have a best seller some day? Who wouldn’t? Still, the recognition I get will be based on the quality of my work and the apologetic material that I produce. If I was just wanting to make money, I would be in a different field altogether. I’m not because frankly, I have a passion for this field. I love the fruit that it produces and what I do gives me great joy.

You see, if you’re going to say you don’t know Qureshi’s heart, stop right there then. Don’t go on to say why he does what he does. You don’t know.

The writing ends with some points including that David Wood can have at it if he wants another round. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. David Wood is a bulldog of sorts and he will definitely stick up for someone like Qureshi. I also plan to be right there as Qureshi is my friend and I think writings like those of Dunn in fact tear down Christians needlessly.

We’ll see what happens after this but Qureshi is a friend of mine and I choose to stand by him. I would uphold him as a fine example of what we should all strive to be. I do not agree with him on everything, but I think his character and commitment are examples to us all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is The Gospel?

When we speak about the Gospel, what are we talking about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, someone alerted me to something that was said on James White’s Facebook page which is the following:

Without using Google, who said the following, providing a classic example of what I call the “Mere Christianity” movement, which defines the faith *apart from* the Gospel itself:

While I’m an evangelical by choice, I recognize one does not need to be an evangelical to be a Christian. If one embraces the essentials of the Christian faith, I’m happy to call that person my brother or sister and work alongside them in ministry, whether they are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or whatever.

For some fun, I sent it to a few people that I know to see what they thought also. One of those people was Mike Licona. He told me that he read the statement and found that he agreed with it.

Which is good since he’s the one who made it.

I, however, will stay that I stand by that statement. There are a number of us who have supported Mike with what he went through with the accusations that he was denying inerrancy. In this number are Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. I have some of each on my Facebook friends list. I would have no problem having guests of either persuasion on my show and in fact I do know I have had Catholics on there before. All of these people I see as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now do I think they’re off on some doctrines? Yep. You bet. You know who else is? Most everyone I know. In fact, I’m off on some doctrines. Why do I hold to them then? Because I don’t know what they are! I just know that the field of Christianity is a complex field and it would be quite arrogant of me to think I’m the one person who got everything right.

But let’s look at this charge. What is this with defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. As I told my wife that evening, I think too often we misunderstand the Gospel. We think the Gospel is justification by faith. It’s not. I do not deny justification by faith, but justification by faith is I think a response to the Gospel and not the Gospel itself.

In a book I recently reviewed called One Gospel For All Nationsbiblical scholar Jackson Wu presents a viewpoint from China on how different cultures see different things in the Bible. Of course, this doesn’t change what the Bible says, but we all have a danger of reading our culture into the Bible. Consider a passage like Romans 7 with the supposed autobiography of Paul. We all read that as if it is Paul describing what we go through, but it isn’t. Most scholars agree this is not autobiographical and is more a speech in character. If we go this route in fact, we could be putting us in that position and making us opposed to the good news in Romans 8 unintentionally.

Wu says that wherever the Gospel is mentioned, you find at least one of these three themes in the text. Those are creation, covenant, and Kingdom. The problem for most of us is we can go straight from Genesis 3 to the Romans Road and think all that stuff isn’t important. I think of what N.T. Wright said when he hears the creed that talks about Jesus “Born of the Virgin Mary”, and then “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Wright says he can picture the four Gospel writers in the background saying “We spent a lot of time on that stuff in the middle and we think it’s important.”

I find it odd then to think about defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. Perhaps we should hear what the Gospel is. Romans 1 for instance begins this way.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Some commentators will think that the Gospel doesn’t really start until later around verse 16 or 17. This is false. It begins right here. What do we have? We have a descendant of David which points back to the covenant made with David. We then have the resurrection of Jesus by which Jesus was declared to the world to be the Son of God. Because of this, we have received grace.

If we make something like justification the Gospel, then really we have to ask “What is the point of Israel?” Does the Bible just have a lot of filler stuff in it? What is the point of Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God? Could it be that maybe He actually meant there was a Kingdom and He was the king?

So what is the purpose of justification then in all of this? It’s realizing that there is indeed a new king in town and He calls for your allegiance. Justification is admitting that God is in the right and you are in the wrong and submitting to the Lordship of Christ. In doing so, God welcomes you to His family. God then looks at you and pronounces you to be in the right.

So let’s look at the above list. Protestants. Catholics. Orthodox. Would these agree that God created the world and yet it fell into sin through our actions? Yep. Would they agree that God made covenants with Abraham, Israel, and David? Yep. Would they agree that God revealed Himself in Christ, the God-man, who physically rose from the dead? Yep. Would they agree that we should all submit to Jesus as Lord? Yep. (And would they all fall short still in that submission. Yep.)

With that, I have no problem calling any of them my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have no problem working alongside them in ministry. If I minister to someone and he comes to Jesus and wants to be Orthodox or Roman Catholic, okay. I don’t have a problem with that. I would hope my Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers would think likewise if he wanted to join the other community or be a Protestant after they evangelized him.

So if Mike Licona is in the wrong for being willing to see Christians outside of evangelicalism and to fellowship with Roman Catholics and Orthodox brothers and sisters, well I guess I’ll be in the wrong too. I just see us all as learning to submit to Jesus as Lord. Do we have some differences and can we discuss them? Yeah. We do and we can, but that should not stop us from doing the real Kingdom work together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to James White On Defining Inerrancy

Has James White’s critique of my position in Defining Inerrancy been accurate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

By now, it should be no secret to readers of Deeper Waters that I am the co-author of the Ebook “Defining Inerrancy“. I thank everyone who has bought a copy and I hope many of you will write positive reviews on Amazon and your own blogs and web sites.

Some of you have also contacted me to tell me that James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has apparently read our book and spoken about it on his latest podcast. I was not surprised to hear that the review was not a positive one, but at the same time, it is good to have press anyway.

So what is being said?

To start off, one line of White’s which I agree with is that of “If I’ve learned one thing from Norm Geisler it’s that I don’t want to be like him.” The more and more I have seen of this, the more and more I have been embarrassed by my former admiration.

In White’s review, he wanted to save most of what he had to say for the final chapter which happened to be written by me. When told about it I was told “Well he certainly got your viewpoint wrong.” Those who I shared it with who I consider mentors all were saying the same thing.

It’s important to point out that White does say he agrees with Geisler on the interpretation of Matthew 27. It should be pointed out that so does my co-author. Holding thinks that this is a real event that happened. What’s my position? The interpretation of Matthew 27 is actually the focus of the Master’s thesis I am working on so at this point, I am claiming agnosticism. It would be foolish to give a public viewpoint before really digging in and doing the research directly.

The final chapter that White wishes to comment on is the chapter I wrote called “Lordship over Scholarship?” In giving a sense of it he says that I am quoting Geisler and says “Geisler says further ‘As evangelicals we must beware of desiring a table at the seat of contemporary scholarship which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.’ “(White agrees 1000%)

White then wants you to hear my response.

“On the contrary, I think we should eagerly be desiring that. How are we supposed to make an impact in the world of scholarship if we don’t want a seat at the table. Imagine what it could mean for Christianity if Christians were seen as trusted authorities in each field. Instead of fearing antagonistic presuppositions, what happened to correcting them with real scholarship?”

White says that paragraph really concerns him and is muddled in an amazing way.

Not a shock that White hones in on presuppositionalism.

Now I am not a presuppositionalist at all, but it does not mean that recognizing presuppositions play no role whatsoever in my thinking. White thinks that to sit at the table of scholarship is to compromise and give in to the presuppositions and to say there is a moral neutral ground. He also says that it is saying we should lay aside our commitment to the absolute Lordship of Christ and to the radical elements of that.

I think those of you who know me well are recognizing that I have no desire to do something like that. White tells us that Geisler recognizes that sitting at the table of scholarship is doing that and then adds “But I don’t know where Nick Peters is coming from.”

At this point, it would have been better off if he didn’t know where I was coming from to try to contact me. I’m not hard to find. My blog is there. My own podcast is there. All of them are ways to contact me. If he has no idea where I’m coming from, all that needed to be done was to ask.

Instead, White will proceed to talk about a position assuming that that is mine even though by his own words, he does not know where I am coming from.

White says he hopes I am saying that we should be seeking to challenge those presuppositions, but that that wasn’t what Geisler was talking about.

It’s a shame White didn’t go with his first inclination of what he hoped I was saying. What he hopes I am saying is in fact what I am really saying in that chapter.

White repeats my saying how are we supposed to have an impact if we don’t sit at the table? White suggests that we do so by showing that the presuppositions that they accept are in fact incoherent and by critiquing their worldview. Now I would not do it in a presuppositional way, but I would in fact challenge them.

White then thinks that my statement about having a Christian be a trusted authority in each field is problematic. Can that be given outside of the worldview?

Sometimes, yeah.

Who is it that heads the Human Genome Project? A Christian like Francis Collins. What I am saying is simply what C.S. Lewis said. Imagine what it would mean if the most learned authority in any particular field was a Christian and that in order to learn about a position, unbelievers HAD to go to Christians because Christians put the best material out there.

“I want to learn law!” “Well read this book by this Christian lawyer.”

“I want to learn botany! “Read this book by a Christian botanist.”

“I want to learn economics!” “Read this book by a Christian economist.”

The Christians should be seeking to dominate academia and be the most learned people that they can be.

White goes on to say that there are many people who are embarrassed by the open confession of the Lordship of Christ over every area of knowledge.

Again, this is the kind of accusation that it would have been good to make absolutely sure of before making a statement about it. This especially since he has no idea where it is that I’m coming from and yet seems to know exactly where I’m coming from.

White has said how Dan Wallace endorses the book. I am sure Wallace would have told him as well that White’s position on me is false. In fact, on the same blog where Wallace reviews our book, he also has a link up to where he was interviewed by me on my show.

What is my position? My position is this. That if Christianity is true, and I am convinced it is, good research will show that it is true. If we are doing our history right, it will line up with Christianity. If we are doing our ethics right, it will line up. If we are doing our philosophy right, it will line up. If we are doing our science right, it will line up. If we are doing our hermeneutics right, it will line up.

Chesterton once said something along the lines that if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If Christianity is true, it is of great importance to everything out there. I agree entirely. Since Christianity is true, it means Christ has something to say about every area of our lives.

Thus, I am not just a husband. I am a Christian husband. I am not just someone who studies history. I am a Christian who studies history. Every facet of my life is to be submitted to Christ entirely. When I study, Christ has something to say. When I take Allie out on a date, Christ has something to say. When I watch TV or a movie, Christ has something to say. When I play, Christ has something to say. When I drive, Christ has something to say. (Probably has a lot to say to me then especially)

What will I do when I approach a non-Christian? I have told people they are allowed to have their own interpretation. Everyone does, and sometimes we’re wrong. What they are not allowed to do is have their own data. You do not get to dismiss data because it goes against your worldview. You do not get to give it a place it should not have because it goes with your worldview.

So what do I do when I come to the table? I talk about the data. Joe Friday is my kind of approach. Just the facts. Then we discuss the facts. This is also why I think it’s important to have a philosophical background so you can properly interpret the data. Suppose someone brings up miracles not happening for instance. I point to research done by Craig Keener in this field and say it does not work to just dismiss them because they disagree with your worldview. I’m not allowed to do that. Why should you be?

And while I am not a presuppositionalist, I spend plenty of time questioning the worldviews of people who I encounter as to why I should take the stance. As an Aspie, I really can’t stand it when I spot something that is an inconsistency and when people treat Scripture by a different standard than they do other historical works, I don’t bend on that.

Now if someone does not come to Christ if the evidence is there, then naturally there is some other reason they are not, be it emotional or volitional, and it would be foolish of anyone to claim emotions play no role in their thinking. We are all whole human beings and unless we have some condition such as being a sociopath, we are all affected by our emotions, though some are more affected than others.

What happens if we retreat from the world of academia? That’s what we did when evolution showed up. We made a knee-jerk reaction and we’re still paying for it today. When liberal scholarship showed up at our Seminaries, instead of facing it head on, we retreated and set up our own new Seminaries. Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries once firmly held by the Christian worldview are now bastions of secular thought.

I wonder how many people have been lost because of that?

Christ told us the gates of Hell would not stand against the church. Gates are defensive measures. We should in fact be the ones on the offensive and putting those who are not Christians on the defensive. To do that, we will have to learn the best ways of doing history, science, literature, philosophy, and any other field. We will have to climb to the top more and more and present the data that if anyone denies it, it is clear that they are someone who refuses to see. (Think of the Christ-mythers who put up the most ridiculous standards of history.)

I’ve told my wife several times that we could reclaim America for Christ easily. What would it take? Christians waking up. Christians getting up and actually doing something instead of secluding themselves from the culture entirely and running into their little safety bubbles. I’ve written about this in this post. When Christians retreat, it’s no shock that the world gains a stronger voice.

And of course, we absolutely don’t surrender in our convictions. Of course, not every hill is worth dying on. If the hill you are willing to die on is pre-tribulationism or the age of the Earth or the usage of tongues in the church today, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Your position in fact is to be fought on the hill that says the triune God revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth and that when Jesus died, the Father raised Him from the dead. Jesus is now king of this world.

We are to follow the Pauline principle of defeating arguments and bringing them under the Lordship of Christ. It’s not a question of Lordship or scholarship. It’s both. Our Lord is not honored by poor scholarship. He is not honored by poor science. He is not honored by poor philosophy. We are to give him the best of our labors and that includes the best of our academic and intellectual endeavors.

I hope this sets the record straight. For those who wish to think I am compromising on Christian principles after listening to White, who has absolutely no idea where I’m coming from, I hope this sets the record straight. I also hope you’ll realize that while I seek to give the best, I will fail repeatedly at this as will all of us and this is where I depend on those inside and even outside the faith to correct me. As Benjamin Franklin said “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.” If an unbeliever can point to a legitimate error in a position I hold, I need to respond to that somehow just as much as if a Christian does it.

After all, if one sits at the table, one had better be prepared to make the case that needs to be made.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Evangelical Jenga

Will the whole building collapse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a friend of mine who is coming out of a period of doubt and has said that part of the problem is what Dan Wallace, noted NT textual critic and conservative Christian, calls “Bibliolatry.” This is where we have put the Bible on a high pedestal so high that we must isolate it from anything that would seem to go against it.

Let’s state something right at the start. I have a great love for the Bible. It is the most important book out there. It is the book that I have spent the past decade defending and showing the reliability of. Yet at the same time, I do not wish to put the Bible in an isolation chamber. I also don’t want to put it on the throne of God. (And I have seen some Christians say the Word in John 1:1 is the Bible. That’s scary.)

The end result of all of this has been a sort of evangelical Jenga.

Most of us have seen or played the game Jenga. You get a tower of small wooden sticks and you have to take one stick out and put it on top without having the whole thing collapse. If you make a mistake and it collapses, then you are the one who loses that game.

There are some beliefs in Christianity that are absolutely 100% non-negotiable such that if they are not true, then Christianity is not true. For instance, if there is no God, there can obviously be no God revealing Himself in Christ. If Jesus is not deity, then we cannot have God among us and if there is no Trinity, then we have a huge problem with who Jesus is. If there is no physical resurrection, then death is not conquered.

Now here are some other areas to consider.

Let’s suppose you hold to a pre-trib dispensational view of Scripture. An honest question to ask yourself. If it turns out that this view is wrong, does that mean Christianity is wrong? If it turns out that orthodox Preterism is wrong, does that mean I have to reject Christianity?

People like Ken Ham have stated that the reason youth are falling away is because they do not understand young-earth creationism. I would contend it’s the opposite. If YEC becomes synonymous with Christianity and that is called into question, then that means that Christianity must fall since the two have to stand.

Question again. If you are a YEC and you find out that it turns out the Earth is really not young but is rather old, does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

In fact, let’s make the question even more pointed than that. Let’s suppose that it turns out that there really was a process of natural selection that took place in an evolutionary history that shows that life is here through a process of evolution. Does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Let’s suppose that it is found that there is a bona fide contradiction within the text of Scripture. Question. Does that convince you that there is no reliable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

For an example of this kind of thinking, take a look at a post by James White with a link below. He is responding to someone on a message board and he is answering about William Lane Craig.

“First, William Lane Craig was not jesting with his atheist opponent. He was being perfectly serious in suggesting that his opponent become a Christian “who simply doesn’t believe in inerrancy.” Can you make heads or tails out of such a suggestion, sir? What was Craig asking him to do? Believe Jesus died and rose from the dead solely on the basis of the “greater probability” of the event from a historical perspective? What if his opponent then asked, “But, even if I believe that, what does it have to do with me…and don’t answer by reference to the Bible, since, of course, I don’t believe it is a divine revelation to begin with.” What then? Given the context of the debate, was it not obvious that having this as the final statement made by Craig that night communicated very clearly that the authority, accuracy, and consistency of the Bible is very low on his list of apologetic priorities? Do you think this was a wise way to end the debate? Do you think it is wrong to point this out and discuss it and point to a better way? Why is it “harsh” of me to do so?”

Actually, I can make heads or tails of becoming a Christian that does not believe in Inerrancy. It simply means someone believes Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but they are not convinced that the Bible is 100% reliable in all that it teaches. Is this a position I agree with? No. Yet I can tell you I would rather have someone come to the resurrected savior with a less than perfect view of Scripture rather than be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would say they believe in Inerrancy but do not have the Jesus of the Bible.

The reliability of the Bible is important to Craig, but apparently more important is getting people to recognize Jesus as Lord. White seems stunned someone would base this belief on a greater probability argument. Well what does he think the early church did that didn’t have a Bible? They had to actually give evidence that Jesus was risen and let the people examine it.

White’s approach is that of bibliolatry. In fact, it is an excellent example since it includes in there the notion of 100% certainty. If you do not have 100% certainty, then you do not have a good foundation. Before moving on to explain this further, let’s ask a couple more questions.

Suppose you become convinced that Luke is actually not the author of Luke. Does this mean that you no longer hold that the gospel of Luke is a reliable source? Let’s suppose you hold that Peter did not write 2 Peter or Paul did not write Colossians. Does this mean you have no reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead?

If having your beliefs above be proven wrong was enough to get you to think Jesus did not rise from the dead, you have a problem.

Let’s go back to White and consider his idea. Most of us make numerous life decisions every day on less than 100% certainty. I don’t have 100% certainty when I go to the store to buy groceries that I will be coming home. I could get in a car accident on the way. I still act and I in fact act with great certainty. I act as if nothing will happen and don’t really take the possibility of the contrary seriously.

Let’s suppose you were someone like White with Inerrancy being such a major factor and then add in the other beliefs. You have to hold to the authorship of this book, have to hold that there are no contradictions, have to hold to a certain doctrine of the end times, and have to hold to a certain view of the age of the Earth.

Do tell me this. How is it going to be possible that you will always have in your memory all the information that you need to deal with every objection?

You won’t.

In fact, you will come to every objection on edge ultimately since if one part of the tower falls, then the whole thing will collapse. Is it any wonder so many people have their faith in shambles? They are walking on a tight rope and are afraid to breathe. They are unable to have their positions examined because if one goes down, the whole edifice will collapse.

Realize this. If you hold any position that is true, research will not change that if it is done properly. There is nothing wrong with your having your presuppositions. We all have them. Just be aware that they are there and don’t let them dominate. You don’t want it to be that the case is decided before you examine the evidence, especially while telling unbelievers to not do the same thing.

What would be a better technique? How about majoring on the essentials instead? Perhaps you cannot give a great answer to an evolutionist if you don’t study science, like I don’t. Still, what if you can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead? Isn’t your case made either way? Perhaps you have to change your view of Genesis. That’s a whole lot better than having to find a new worldview entirely isn’t it?

Maybe you don’t know enough to answer that one potential contradiction in the Bible. Okay. Does that mean the testimony in 1 Cor. 15 of the resurrection of Jesus is automatically wrong then? It sounds like a strange view of Scripture doesn’t it? Either everything is right or everything is wrong? Does that mean if there is one contradiction you have to believe Jesus never existed since the Bible says He does?

Our game of evangelical Jenga is unfortunately burdening us all and making us retreat into nice little bubbles of isolation where we cannot really let our beliefs be challenged and let true investigation take place. I find it ironic that those who seem to want to shout the loudest about how trustworthy the Bible is live in dread of a mistake. I am quite sure of how trustworthy it is which leads me to say to skeptics “Go ahead. Examine my book. Test it. Let’s talk about your findings.”

Let us hope the game of Jenga ends soon, because unfortunately, our youth who apostasize are being the losers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

James White’s entry can be found here

James White on Mike Licona

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. A friend pointed me recently to a Dividing Line broadcast where James White talked about the whole Geisler/Licona debate going on. I have since listened to the podcast and wish to put up some thoughts on the matter.

To White’s credit, he never once does say that I recall that Licona is denying Inerrancy. Nor do we ever hear that ICBI or ETS is being used as a club. Instead, he wishes to focus on the issue of if the event described is historical or not. If only Geisler and Mohler had taken a similar approach.

Let’s look at some points that he does say.

To begin with, on a recent broadcast of Unbelievable?, Licona appeared on there with Ehrman discussing their different faith journeys and the conversation got to Inerrancy. My wife and I thought it was incredibly ironic how that happened as we were listening but the host, Justin Brierley, was discussing if abandoning Inerrancy meant abandoning Christianity. Many people seem to think that when Ehrman abandoned that doctrine, he ceased to be a Christian.

Licona’s position was that that is not the case. You do not have to be an Inerrantist to be a Christian. Does anyone really disagree with that? (I fear some do) Licona is an Inerrantist. So am I. However, it is not an essential to being a Christian as much as it is important. This does not make him a reluctant Inerrantist. This simply means that he is stating the facts.

The next issue is if it is a waste of time to argue with non-Christian scholarship. White later makes the point that Licona isn’t writing a dissertation here, but then says maybe it was his dissertation. That in fact is the case. Of course, he edited it some, but he mainly took the work he did in his dissertation and put it in book format for the audience. In that case, yes, it was essential to interact with non-Christian scholarship.

And to that I wish to say that we must not run in terror from something just because it comes from a liberal viewpoint. Liberals can be right in seeing an insight into the text. They just don’t believe that that is really a true insight. For instance, they can say something about what it means since Paul believes in a physical resurrection of Christ and how the conservative can see that without embracing that position themselves.

My wife and I disagree on some secondary doctrines of Christianity to which when she asks me about a position that I do not hold to, I honestly try to say “Well a person who does hold to position X would likely say.” I don’t try to make it sound bad or refute it. (Well sometimes, I might offer a counterpoint) I want her to just know what the other side believes. In fact, we plan on having lunch with my pastor sometime soon who does hold to a differing viewpoint on a secondary issue that my wife is asking about some because I do want her to get both sides.

This also gets us to the point of asking if we should filter theological sources as White thinks. Do we only want to get what conservatives say? White does mention going to Fuller and being glad he read what he disagreed with and that someone who wants to be educated should do that. That is an attitude to be commended. White’s concern is that the average layman gets a commentary on Matthew, doesn’t know the names in there, and reads a liberal view thinking it’s conservative.

This is a real concern to have, but the answer to this concern is not to dumb down the commentaries, but to beef up the laity. That the laity does not know the debate is in fact the problem. Of course, I don’t expect the layperson to be as proficient in the debate as the scholar is, but the layman should have at least a basic grasp of the issues and be able to tell who is coming from what position or be able to find out somehow.

White does speak of apocalyptic literature and uses terms of natural phenomena to describe it. He says that sure, there have been times where he’s seen the sun go dark. However, that is the very question at issue. Does a text like Acts 2 mean the sun will literally go dark or that the moon will literally be blood? White does say that the writer did not mean the moon would become a glob of plasma, but does he even mean that it will look like it has? This is the issue.

White does agree that apocalyptic literature is definitely used in the Bible and points to Matthew 24 as an example. The problem with what he’s said about the sun however is that he’s taking the apocalyptic literature literally which is exactly what one does not do with apocalyptic literature. The question is “If the sun going dark and the moon being blood does not refer to something happening literally to those bodies, it still means something. What is that?”

That’s not my issue right now, but it is a point to be raised for readers of the blog to come to their own conclusions with for now.

Also, the question at issue despite what White says is not “Is this imagery being used in Matthew 27?” That is a real question to ask, but that is not the question. The question is “Is Licona violating Inerrancy?” To demonstrate that it is historical will give reason for Licona to switch views, but it will not mean that based on his reading, his earlier reading was in violation of inerrancy.

However, as said, to White’s credit, he is using the text and interacting with it and with Licona’s view. He is not raising the challenge of Inerrancy. Once again, would it not have been well on Geisler’s part if he had taken the same approach? Note I do not say this as a fan of White. I’m just giving credit where credit is due.

White does make an issue that Crossan and Borg are sources, but does this mean that we should automatically throw out liberals as having any insight into a text? If one finds a good insight into a liberal do they have to say “Darn it! I need to find that in a conservative somewhere!” (Of course, there will be a problem if every conservative thinks the same thing.)

White also says that he’s just looking at the text and he doesn’t see what Licona sees. I have a problem with this. Let’s look at how it goes.

Geisler, Mohler, and White look at the text and do not see what Licona sees.

Obviously then, it’s not in there.

Licona looks at the text and sees something different.

Licona is out of line with inerrancy.

Licona however does see something and what’s the proper reply then? It should be “We don’t see it, but perhaps we need to read more of the literature and study it and see if we do see it.” The problem is when there is a problem with using extra-biblical material to deal with a text. Why not study the genre of the time to see how something was written. Is it really a reply to say “Well Licona, I know you believe this, but I just don’t see it.” Is Licona to immediately say then “You don’t?! I guess I have to change my view!”?

Wouldn’t it be great if instead we had all taken this as an opportunity to explore the text deeper. (It seems in the major arena, only Licona is interested in doing that.)

Finally, does Licona do this because this text is an embarrassment? No. Why would Licona who has stood before a public audience in a debate talking about modern-day miracles find this embarrassing and thus, well it has to be something different? Let’s even suppose for the sake of argument that he does. So what? That means his interpretation is automatically false? No. It would mean he holds a right view for bad reasons, which is entirely possible.

In conclusion, I honestly have to commend White for not using the same tactics as Geisler and Mohler and it would have been great if they had done otherwise. I think the approach taken is more along the lines of that which will enrich the evangelical community rather than tear it apart.