Friendship And Pleasure

Do friends make everything better? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I still remember reading about Double Dragon II coming out on the Nintendo. It had this new innovation in it in that two players could play simultaneously. In the past, when you played a game, you each had to take your turn. Now you could both go at the same time. How incredible was that?

After all, playing a game can be a lot of fun, but it’s even better when someone does it with you. If I play a game by myself at home, that can be fun, but it’s really more enjoyable if Allie is right there with me even if she’s just watching. Many of us know this about our friendships. Things are just more fun if you do them with friends.

It’s okay to watch your favorite show. It’s even better when you watch it with friends or at least discuss it with them, like when my friend Chris and I used to get together every week to watch the new episode of Smallville. Going to a sporting event or a concert isn’t my cup of tea, but some people enjoy it, and I suspect they enjoy it even more with friends.

With friendship, you not only get the enjoyment of what you’re doing, but the enjoyment of doing it with someone else and seeing how they respond to it. Get more people together and it can be even more enjoyable. My bachelor party back in 2010 had to be one of the most tame bachelor parties of all by comparison. I got together with several of my friends at a place with a big screen and we just played Super Smash Brothers Brawl all night long.

Many friends also have inside jokes. There are things that they share that they share with no one else. A simple word or phrase or gesture can bring out uproarious laughter from the group.

These times can also lead to other connections. This can lead to sharing of things as you build a bond of trust with the friend and the friendship can move beyond just one of pleasure together, but it can also be one of a sort of intimacy together. In our culture, we often refer to intimacy and think it just refers to the sexual act. There are plenty of other ways of being intimate.

It’s odd how it works. When suffering enters, pain is divided. You don’t have to carry it as much because someone else is sharing it with you. Yet when it comes to pleasure, pleasure is not divided but rather it is multiplied. Your having pleasure at the same activity as me does not diminish my pleasure. Instead, it increases it.

So why not go and see a friend today? Take their pain for them and let them have less. Give them some pleasure and let them have more. Be a friend.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheist Manifesto Part 1

What do I think of Michel Onfray’s book published by Arcade Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ever since the new atheists, atheism has been going downhill. It looks like each time someone has to write to try to come up with something even more ridiculous than the last guy. On the internet, one deals with the internet atheist, a special breed of atheist that seems to believe anything provided it argues against Christianity. For those who call themselves, free-thinkers, they all seem to think alike. Well free-thinker, you get what you pay for.

Popular also among internet atheists is the meme. Now I enjoy a meme as a humorous illustration of an argument, but sometimes they are meant to convey something so profound, and it kind of is. It’s profoundly dumb. Such is the case when I saw shared a meme quoting a book that has to be one of the most ridiculous quotes I have ever read.

Yes. I find this hilarious as a man who makes it a point to use reason everyday and tries to be as sound in my thinking as possible and a lover of the mind sitting among books aplenty. I am a great lover of freedom and as for a hatred of sexuality, women, and pleasure, well, I am a happily married man so go ahead and draw out your own conclusions.

I could go through the meme more and more but you get the idea. Onfray is someone who has not really interacted with great Christian thinkers. I got his book and sadly, the quote is indeed very real. As I started going through it, I figured I’d check the bibliography to see what works he cited.

Problem there.

He has none.

Oh he will mention books throughout his own book, but he won’t give page numbers or anything like that. He will make claims just floating in the air. The vast majority of them are completely bogus. The book really reads as if it’s a childish rant.

So let’s look some at part 1. We’re going to start near the end because if everything was documented, the response would be as long as the book itself. I’d like to highlight a few areas.

Let’s go to page 50.

Onfray says we would not consider locking someone up who has a brain tumor, which is no more of a choice than a pedophilic fixation. One can dispute that pedophilia is a fixation that one has no choice over, but let’s suppose for the sake of argument that it is. If I know someone who has a brain tumor and that brain tumor causes them to act violently toward people around them, then yes, I think they need to be locked up in some way.

In the same sense, someone who is a pedophile and is going to actively be a threat to small children needs to be dealt with in a way that he won’t harm people around them. It is amazing that Onfray treats this as if it is something just as innocuous as a brain tumor. Perhaps he should speak to many of the people who have been damaged by pedophiles. (And we can expect he will make no remark about Catholics either!)

On 52-53, Onfray speaks about the ignorance of many Christians. While this is true, it says nothing about the truth of Christianity. He says believers will listen to Saint Paul but have never heard of Gregory of Nazianze. Well, strike one here. He says they set up the infant creche, but they know nothing of the founding quarrels of Arianism or the council on iconophila. Strike Two. He talks about communion, but papal infallability is unheard of. Strike three. I do know about these, so what then?

Onfray goes on to get worse. He says that believers attend Christmas mass but don’t know that the church picked this date to coincide with the winter solstice and Sol Invictus. No source is given for this claim. The winter solstice would have never fallen on December 25th anyway. He also says death by stoning was the standard punishment for what Jesus was charged with. Stoning, however, was not really to be done by the Jewish populace at the time and crucifixion was done to shame the person more. Jesus was meant to be a public example.

He then says you can talk to a Christian about the neglect of the work of taking care of the poor. The Christian will ask about liberation theology. Not this one. This one will accept that the church is not perfect and will point to ways we need to improve but will still show that Christians are giving more to the poor and doing more charity work. I have no wish to endorse liberation theology.

He goes on to say that Paul decries the pleasures of the flesh and despises women. Onfray thinks you will hear that mystical ecstasy is a higher pleasure. No. Hear you will be told what passages you have in mind and then let’s discuss them.

He then says that if you mention the massacre of indians you will be told about Bartolome de Las Casas. Again, not here. I will ask for your historical sources and if the Christians are in the wrong, that’s something horrible and we need to own up to it, but it doesn’t change that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s a shame that Onfray did not go out and dialogue with real Christians or look at real Christian writings on the topic.

On page 60, we get much of what is predicted. He has earlier said in the book that there is no evidence Jesus existed and now we can know when he was forged with certainty. You have to wonder what’s with all these people thinking like this? Creationists are often mocked for going against the overwhelming consensus in science, and perhaps rightly so, but atheists definitely go against it.

By the way, he also talks some about the tree of knowledge in the book. The idea is apparently that Christians hate knowledge and the great sin was getting knowledge. No. The sin was the knowledge of good and evil in which what is really meant was trying to usurp divine wisdom. It was trying to rule on one’s own what they had really been given to rule. It was a defiance.

When we return, we will look at what he has to say about monotheisms.

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

5 Reasons Christians Should Celebrate Sex

Do we have a gift from God worth celebrating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my friend Sean McDowell wrote an excellent article on why our culture is so obsessed with sex. I have no dispute with it, but at the same time I thought it needed a contrast. After all, Chesterton said long ago that when a man knocks on the door of a brothel, he’s looking for God. The search for sex is often a search for transcendence. It’s amazing that in all the things we have made for pleasure since the dawn of civilization, that somehow God’s creation of sex is still our great obsession. We just can’t seem to beat that.

When we come to sex, there is a sense in which we are drawn out of ourselves. The most rational among us can become creatures of strong passion at that moment. Many men are willing to do most anything for sex. We could condemn this, or we could see it as a clue to reality.

Christians have a tendency to move in the opposite direction always of society and especially with sex. We’re the ones who often treat it as shameful and dirty. It’s instead sacred and beautiful. This is something God made. Let’s treat it that way. Thus, I have in contrast five reasons why we should celebrate sex.

#1, We should celebrate sex because we honor God.

Sex isn’t like a video game or a TV show we made up. It’s something that God created. It was His idea. He put all the joy into it for us. He designed it to be pleasurable. He designed it to unify a husband and wife in matrimony. Of course, He put barriers around it, but He did it not because it is dirty, but because it is sacred. If you have something like a safety-deposit box, you don’t put junk in it. You put valuables in it you want to keep safe. I often say sex is like nuclear energy. It works great if you handle it the right way and has wonderful effects. It’s powerfully explosive if you use it in the wrong way and has devastating effects.

God is not anti-sex. There’s a whole book of the Bible celebrating it, the Song of Songs. Christians don’t need to be either. We need to show the world that we are the ones who are doing it, pardon the pun, right. You won’t find joy in sex in just random encounters. The best way to find that joy is in a covenant relationship where the love grows and grows and grows.

#2. We believe in Immortality.

We believe that the body is a good thing. We believe that it is such a good thing, that God made it to last forever. God is going to recreate our bodies. We are not Gnostics. Our bodies are not shameful. They are gifts. They are temples. We need to treat them properly.

Thus, we have no need to exclude ourselves from the joys of the body necessarily. We can in the sense of a sacrifice, but not because we think they are wrong. I have a lifelong vow about drinking alcohol. I do not think it is wrong. If you drink a beer or wine in front of me, I do not think you are doing anything wrong. Of course, alcohol can be misused and abused and that is wrong, but it is no sin to drink and control your drinking. If you abstain from sex for reasons of focus and such, go ahead, but don’t look down on those who marry. After all, Paul said it is better to marry than to burn.

If we are going to be in our bodies forever, why not celebrate and rejoice in them? Sex is one way we do that. We honor the person with their bodies and soul. Some marriage traditions in other cultures have marriage vows that say “With my body, I thee worship.” The giving of the body is the giving of something sacred, and that sacredness of the body extends into eternity.

#3. We believe in the sacredness of sex.

This goes with the others. Sex is not just a pastime that we do together like playing video games, watching a movie, going to a concert, or playing a sport. We know this because many people will see something greater in having sex with someone else instead of going to the movies with someone else. Something about sex seems different. Sex does change everything in a relationship and even for couples who aren’t married, the idea is still that sex with anyone else is cheating.

Sex is holy and good because God made it for us. He wanted us to enjoy it. As I said, we have a whole book of the Bible for this. This is a lesson especially women need to hear. Too many women grow up being told that sex is just for men. It’s not. Bluntly speaking, God gave women a clitoris and as far as I know, the only purpose of this is so that you can enjoy sex.

Instead, we often say women are pure and pristine creatures who will never think about sex, and guys are these dirty ravenous animals who only think about sex and are just a big bundle of hormones. Both of us have hormones. Both of us have desires. We may experience them in different ways and to different degrees, but they are there. They are not shameful. Like any desire, they must be controlled and used at the proper time, but there is no sin in enjoying sex.

#4. We are made in the image of God.

One of the fascinating things that is said in the Bible right after man and woman are made in the image of God is to go forth and fill the Earth. Be fruitful and multiply. In other words, for us at the beginning, sex was part of the divine mandate. (Doesn’t that sound like a great job guys? God commands us to have sex, not like we really need the motivation.)

Of course, couples decide when they want to have children, but we are not opposed to them. This is one way we in fact spread the Kingdom. It’s no secret that one of the reasons Islam grows is fertility rates. The same can happen with Christianity.

Since we are in the image of God, we can celebrate that part of that is that we are to fill the Earth and subdue it. Naturally, this doesn’t mean everyone does it. Someone who doesn’t marry is not being disobedient to God, but humanity as a whole is supposed to do this.

#5. Because we love pleasure.

Yes. Christians are to love pleasure. There is nothing wrong with fun. Fun is God’s idea. We often picture holiness as something boring. Do we want to say that God is boring? God who created a world of variety and wonder is boring? Perish the thought!

I’ve been a gamer all my life. I remember back when the Super Nintendo was coming out, that the ads said it would have 32,000 colors. That’s quite a lot, and all of them are a gift from God. God did not make a world of black and white. God made us to need food. He did not have to make it taste good. He made us to need drink. He did not need to make it refreshing. He made us to reproduce. He did not need to make it an awesome time.

Sex is not just something we do for fun. It’s something we do also to unify a commitment between husband and wife. Can I stress this to you wives especially? You can do EVERYTHING ELSE in the world for your husbands, but if you neglect this area, it won’t matter. This is the area that for your man will scream love the loudest. This is the area where you can highly highly empower your husband. In fact, Scripture commands husbands to delight in and find joy in their wives. It’s hard for them to do this if their wives say no. It’s also to be remembered that this goes both ways. We are not to withhold our bodies from one another. There’s an old joke where a man says he’s been given many reasons by his wife to not have sex. Prayer and fasting have never been one of them.

Sex is fun. It is sacred. It is good. It is a gift from God. It is a shame that our culture acts like they are the ones that know how to have a good time. Every act of sex should be a sacred act. It is ideally a mutual giving between a man and a woman in a covenant who give freely of themselves and hold nothing back from the other. Both should treat one another as sacred beings in the image of God.

I look forward to a day when our culture turns to us on the issue of sex. I hope we do not turn and run from the topic. Sex is God’s idea. It is not the enemy. It is the gift.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

It Is Okay To Enjoy Your Life

Can enjoyment help spread the Kingdom? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I did my senior sermon in Bible College, I chose to talk about the theme of wonder. Why is it that we don’t seem to have wonder in anything? Christian philosopher once said the great tragedy for the ancients was that they worshiped the sun, moon, and stars. Our great tragedy is we’re not even tempted to.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not opposed to the scientific enterprise, but we’ve reached a point where if we think we can explain anything scientifically, it loses its fascination with us many times. Dan Barker relates an experience in Godless where he is riding with a relative who is trying to convince him of God and points to the beauty of the mountains. Barker responds by giving a scientific explanation of how mountains are formed. The relative takes this as a defeater. Why should it be? Cannot the mountains be the beautiful work of God that hold us in wonder and still be the result of a scientific process?

When I preached the above sermon, someone beforehand hearing about what I was speaking on had told me about a then recent cover of Moody magazine with the question “Is it right to enjoy my life?” Yes. Someone had to honestly ask that and someone had to honestly write an article saying it is no sin to enjoy your life.

Of course, this doesn’t equal traditional hedonism. Don’t go and do something just because it’s fun. At the same time, don’t think something is sinful just because it’s fun. Dare I say it, but one of the great slams you could give to the evil one would be to rightfully enjoy your life?

Why? Because we believe every good and perfect gift comes from God. That means that we ought to enjoy these things. 1 Tim. 6:17 even says this explicitly. God supplies us with all things richly for our enjoyment. This applies to the natural world that we see, but it also implies to the things that we create. We can enjoy a good movie, book, TV show, artwork, hobby, etc.

When we enjoy them, we are delighting in the gifts of God. There is so much around us every day and we are showing the proper gratitude for them. Boredom is not the idea of God. Boredom is more the idea of the evil one. It is the idea of saying that there is nothing here worth being excited about.

It’s odd because we think the devil is behind pleasure. He’s not. Pleasure is a tool for the enemy only if it will keep us from the greatest pleasure, knowing God. This is because we usually see God as a killjoy who is opposed to our fun. If there’s any area of life where this is shown clearest, it’s in sexuality.

Something about sex is that while it has many purposes, one such purpose is pleasure. Sex was meant to be enjoyable for a man and a woman. A woman even has a clitoris just for the purpose that she can enjoy sex. I remember hearing years ago the saying that the devil will do anything he can to make a couple have sex before they’re married, and after they’re married he’ll do anything he can to keep them from having sex. Loving sex in a committed marital union that binds the man and the woman together is something that builds up trust and intimacy and something the evil one would not want. One of the best gifts you could give the Kingdom of God if you’re married is a happy and thriving marriage.

Sadly, Christians have earned the reputation of being opposed to anything enjoyable. How many of us have heard this kind of testimony? “Well, I used to go out and party, get drunk, hang out with beautiful women and have a lot of sex, but now I am a Christian and I don’t do any of that stuff.” A lot of non-Christians in the audience would be saying “Sounds like you lost out.” They’re not right, but can we understand how when we phrase it that way, that they could have a point?

To this day, I can remember being in a Sunday School class with a friend of mine and hearing the teacher say with a finger pointing and in the most monotone way that I can imitate to this day “The Christian life should be the most exciting life of all.” He was right in what he said, but horribly wrong in how he said it. There was nothing exciting about it. The dry tone made us think that he couldn’t have been listening to himself.

I’m not at all advocating a materialistic hedonism or anything like that, but I am saying we Christians need to do some serious thinking about the role of pleasure in our lives. It is no sin to enjoy the world God created. It is no sin to delight in the things He has made. We could say if anything is sin, it is the opposite. It is sin to not appreciate and delight in what He has made.

So for me, I want to make it that part of my witness to the world is that I enjoy being a Christian and I delight in it. I love what I do, including being in the field of Christian apologetics, and I love that I’m married to the woman that I love. These give me enough reason to wake up and be thankful every day. My life has meaning because I am part of the grand story that God is creating and my life is not a punishment. It is a gift.

I think I’ll treat it like one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Care About Christianity?

Is Christianity really a driving passion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I talked about this topic and it is one that leads to soul-searching. I am a Christian apologist. My whole life is built around Christianity. Everything I do (Or at least I hope everything I do) is informed by my Christian worldview, yet do I really care that much about the Christian worldview?

Some might think an apologist would, but remember C.S. Lewis warned years ago about some people who were so eager to show that God exists that they didn’t have anything better for Him to do than exist. Sometimes we could be so intent on proving Jesus rose that we do nothing more with that than show Christianity is true. It’s like something I’ve said about the Trinity. It’s often this nice little doctrine we keep to the side and we pull it out whenever we have to beat up visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What I want to ask myself regularly and I do ask myself is if I really have a passion for Christianity. Do I get excited? Now to be fair, different things will reach different people. When I hear sermons that are just largely application with no historical foundation or anything like that, then yeah, I find it easy to zone out quickly. When I’m at a church service, I often wish we could rush through the music part because many times the songs are often just so shallow and self-focused. I also think that sometimes when they’re not if we paid attention to the words we say, we’d find that we’re really lying. We talk about how much we are in love with Jesus and how much joy He brings and then go home and find joy in everything else but Jesus.

I’d like to tell you I’m a great prayer warrior and someone who read plenty of the Bible every day. I’m not. I read a chapter of the Old Testament and of the New Testament every morning and a verse at night before I go to bed to give me something to think about as well as the reading of a few verses with the Mrs. If I told you that every day of reading the Bible is exciting and I learn something, I’d be lying. For prayer, I have a mentor to help me with this, but it can still be a struggle.

Years ago I remember in preparing to marry Allie, I remember someone telling me that they saw me as a great lover of God when I spoke. It wasn’t just an intellectual thing for me. It was something real. When I hear that, I get amazed. I am the last one who would describe myself as a great lover of God.

The odd thing is, it’s so easy to get excited about nearly everything else. It’s easy to get excited about a new episode of a TV show coming out that we enjoy. It’s easy to be looking forward to that movie. It’s easy to look forward to a time of romance with my wife. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look forward to these things. God gave us plenty of good things for us to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17.) Many of you will have your own interests.

You can say you find it hard to really learn the things of God, but how many of you know the statistics of your favorite sports team by heart? How many of you could practically write the strategy guide to your favorite video game? How many of you know all the intricacies of your favorite TV show? It’s honestly not that it’s hard, it’s just that we’re not interested.

I think one reason for this is we’ve grown up so much with Christianity that it’s become familiar. We can often wonder how skeptics don’t see the truth of Christianity, but there is something that they do see that we could bear to see. They see that it’s a radical difference from the main view of the world. We actually believe in a God who works and does miracles and that the second person of the Trinity lived among us, died, and rose again.

Let’s be honest. A lot of stuff we believe is indeed bizarre to think about. We definitely do need good evidence and while I do think we have it, let’s not lose sight of how incredible it is.

There are an endless number of truths that could get us excited every day and reveal the grace of God in our lives. We could think about the wonders of the universe and how God made this grand cosmos so we could have one planet to live on. We could go inward and think about the wonder of our own bodies and how even a tiny cell in our bodies is a living factory. We could also turn and look at our neighbor and realize that our fellow man is always a fascinating story. I have said before that a good producer could take the life story of any living human being and turn it into a highly popular major motion picture. Why? Because people are interesting.

Wonder is just something that we’ve lost. We’ve lost it because we take everything for granted. It’s become a truism for us that Christianity is true and we don’t often look at just how radical it is that Christianity is true. Do we really consider what that means?

Let’s also talk about forgiveness. Think about it. You will never face eternal judgment for all the things you’ve done wrong and you rightly deserve that eternal judgment. God is not going to give you what you deserve. Instead, more often than not, we’re whining because God doesn’t give us something that we want. It has been a great help in my life to realize that God doesn’t owe me a thing unless He’s promised it to me. That makes me more prone to view everything I have as a gift.

When I spoke about Bible reading, we take it for granted. How many of us have Bibles just sitting on our shelves? Do we not realize how many people in persecuted countries would love to have a Bible? If they have just a page of the Bible, they study that constantly hanging on to every word. We treat it like it’s a book just like any other book. We don’t realize what a privilege we have that we can read the Bible.

It is a privilege that you can go to church freely and worship. We in the West often whine about persecution. We really don’t have a clue what real persecution is like. The day that your life is in danger because you go to church because someone wants to kill you for that, I will say you know what persecution is.

I just have to pause and ask myself why is it that I don’t really take the time to appreciate and celebrate the good things that I have. As an apologist, am I more interested in showing Christianity is true than also learning what a difference it makes? I need both. Some of us have strived to be so sure that our doctrine is right that we haven’t bothered to see if our Christian walk is right.

I also don’t want to be legalistic in this. My wife and I still joke about hearing a Christian conspiracy theorist talk about the Pokemon Go game and saying that while some of you are out there playing that, you could be doing evangelism. Of course, that can lead to any number of bizarre ideas. You could take your wife out on a date which is really helpful to your marriage, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to sleep, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to church and worship, but you could be doing evangelism. I am not at all saying we are to be machines doing evangelism and nothing else at all.

I am just saying that I want to watch myself and I suspect a lot of you want to watch yourself. I am honestly hopeful that some of you are reading this and saying “I hear you. I could bear to get some joy over Christianity.” I want it to be that when people look at my life, they know that Christ is a passion for me.

If anything else seems like a greater passion, the goal is not to love that less. Not at all. C.S. Lewis said it’s always the goal to love Christ more. What sense does it make to say “I’m going to love X less so that it gets below my love for Christ.”? Why not raise your love for Christ?

I do think apologetics is greatly important for this. It shows us that Christianity is true and not just an idea. Once we know it is true, the onus is on us. What are we going to be doing with that? If we do not let it change the way we live our lives, do we really believe it? Maybe we do, but has it really sunk in?

Our lives are gifts, and God gave us many things that we can enjoy. There are many other gods vying for our attention. Sex, money, food, pleasure, popularity, etc. None of these are evils in themselves. All of them we can enjoy when we do so rightly, but let us never look at any of these as our ultimate. None of them can deliver for all time like Christ did. They are fine when enjoyed as Christ would have us enjoy them, but not when they become gods themselves.

Do I plan on improving myself? Yes. As an apologist it is something I have to do. There are many times our actions speak so loudly our words can’t be heard. How can I convey the importance Christ has in my life if people look at my life and don’t see that importance? (This is in fact one reason I am so pro-marriage. We Christians should be living marriage out the best so that the world will know the fake interpretation of it and think that Christians have the best marriages of all.)

I hope you’ll join me on this quest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/27/2016: Holly Ordway

What’s coming up on this week’s Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and fall out.

Christ and culture. How do the two interact? This has long been a subject of rigorous debate. There are some who want to think that we should isolate ourselves and have nothing to do with a wicked and sinful culture around us. There are some who think we should dive in full throttle and many times like to Christianize everything and before too long our bookstores are filled with what is called “Jesus junk.”

Not only those situations, but how do we interact with cultures outside of our own? While in the past, you had to leave the country, nowadays, you can just go to a different part of town with a different ethnicity that lives there and find yourself in a different culture. Here in Atlanta, I’ve seen a number of Korean churches for instance, which are no doubt a different culture. How do we interact with these?

To discuss these questions, I decided to have someone come on who is well read in the area of literature and has in fact spoken on my show on literary apologetics. She’s a Catholic Professor over at HBU and always a fascinating person to talk to. That guest is Dr. Holly Ordway. Who is she?

Ordway photo

According to her bio:

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the MA in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014); her work focuses on imaginative apologetics and on the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, and she is the Charles Williams Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (Kent State University Press, 2019).

We’ll be discussing how Christians should interact with the culture around them. Many of us would hesitate to say that we should not have any interactions, but at the same time we can see people who can go too far in their interactions. What is the path of wisdom in these situations?

I’d also like to discuss about what aspects of the culture we can enjoy as well. Does everything have to be 100% pure? Is it wrong for a Christian to read a novel by a non-Christian and enjoy it? What about watching shows and movies that are by secularists and others? Is this a case of Romans 14 or not? How does a Christian also interact with just pleasure itself? Is it wrong to take the time to read a fantasy novel or watch a TV show or movie when we could be doing things for the Kingdom?

I hope you’ll be here this Saturday. For those wondering also, we haven’t recorded in the past few weeks since Larry Hurtado due to my being out of town for the funeral of a friend. Hopefully nothing will happen this time. Please also go to our ITunes page and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I love to see them.

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

Genesis and Antis

Is the Christian worldview a discouraging one? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I was at our local Reasonable Faith meeting where we are getting ready to do a study through Genesis. In the midst of our discussion on it, I started pointing out that Genesis if we understand it in the way I believe that we ought, it really does dispel many of the myths that we have today. Some could argue that the Bible later on upholds these myths, but I’d like to go to the world when it was not fallen and see what we have. We’ll do this by looking at the claims of how Christianity is opposed to something good.

Christianity is anti-human.

Some of you might have seen this meme.

whichisdamaging

Yes. So is this what Christianity really says? Let’s look at Genesis 1:26-27.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Now in the account, everything else has been made and the final aspect is humanity. Only humanity is said to be in the image of God and only humanity involves dialogue in the divine council. The creation of humanity is described in poetic terms as well. If we go with John Walton’s idea from the Lost World of Genesis One, humanity is there in order to be God’s representative and to have dominion. We are to rule on His behalf. True, we are fallen later on, but we still are meant to be what we were in the garden, and even better.

But that ruling over the creation? That could lead to another charge.

Christianity is anti-environment!

I oppose the New Age movement naturally and think they can go too far with environmentalism, but many of us don’t go far enough. Christians sadly do have a reputation of wanting to destroy the environment. A lot of this has to do with some ideas that can be around that this world is not our home and we’re just passing through so why be so focused on it? God’s going to destroy this world anyway.

This is not a view I hold. I prefer the old hymn “This is my Father’s world.”

The Genesis account says in 1:28.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number;fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

We are told to rule, but we also know in Genesis 2 man is placed in a garden and given the task of controlling it and caring for it. Still, man is to recognize his place in the environment. He is not just one of the animals. Whether we came from the animals would be for the scientists to answer. The point is that we are unique in our capacities and our nature and if we hold to Christianity, we hold a special place. If you want to find a good Christian group to help you care for creation, I recommend the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

So what’s next?

Christianity is misogynistic! 

When we get to the second chapter of Genesis, we read this:

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

 Keep in mind that in the first chapter, the man and woman are both equally in the image of God. While we know that they are distinct, there is no ranking there as if one is superior to the other. A lot of people make the mistake that saying because men and women are different, that that means one is inferior to the other and the other is naturally superior. This does not follow.

“But woman is described as a helper!”

Yes. The same term is used to describe God Himself in relation to man. The woman is a helper and in fact, she is just the very helper that Adam needs. Also, the language of describing creation means that it is not just good, but it is beautiful. The woman is the last one created and as such, I interpret her to be the jewel of creation and the best representative of the beauty of God on Earth.

As we men definitely know, nothing beats the beauty of the woman. You can go to the Zoo and see several animals. You can find beautiful mountain ranges. You can find waterfalls that will hold you captive. You can watch a sunset going down in the evening. In all of this, you will not find anything that is more beautiful than the human female form. As I have told my own wife, “You are the most beautiful thing my eyes can see until I see Jesus one day.”

Woman is to be celebrated and any man who is dating or married should be treating his woman as a princess. She is to be honored. But talking about the woman leads to the next step.

Christianity is anti-sex!

Really? Seriously?

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

I know several married men. I do not know any that are anti-sex. I have heard men give sermons on sex before. They want to make it very clear they are not opposed to it and it is always hysterical when they do. They are so emphatic that the congregation definitely gets the message. Of course, we place sex within one context, that of a man and a woman united in marriage, but that is because we are pro-sex, not anti.

A man and a woman’s body are not to be viewed as cheap. They are not shared with just anyone. They are shared with people who are worthy. Putting sex in one environment is the way of honoring it by saying that you have to make a real commitment to be ready to handle it. Sex is like nuclear energy. If you use it properly and with the right procedures, you get a great result. If you misuse it, you can get Chernobyl.

So let’s lead that into the final one.

Christianity is anti-pleasure.

With all of these, we should know Christianity is not opposed to pleasure. We are opposed to some things deemed as pleasures and we are opposed to pleasure that can be good but not in the proper place, but God made us to enjoy what we do. Look at it this way. As OT scholar David Lamb has said, in the creation account, the commands given to man were simple. Eat a lot of food. Have a lot of sex. All he had to do was tend the garden and he would be cared for and there was only one tree he could not eat of.

Christianity is not a religion meant to kill one’s joy and frankly, we need to hear more about that. Sometimes we hear so much about the work that we have to do that we hear nothing about the pleasure we were meant for. When was the last time you heard a sermon about play for instance? Even a great theologian like Thomas Aquinas said play is essential so that we can recharge our minds.

In all of this, we must realize that if we have these ideas that Christianity is opposed to these things, we have a false idea. Unfortunately, we might need to watch ourselves to see if we are in fact giving out that viewpoint. Too many times, we’ve done things that fit with this stereotype. If we’re Christians, let’s seek to be living in a way where we are embracing the good things in this life, remembering another passage. This time from James 1:17.

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Crazy Busy

What do I think of Kevin DeYoung’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

CrazyBusy

My pastor is wanting to do a series on this book so he gave me a copy so I could write out some lessons on it. Fortunately, it was Super Bowl Sunday and since I don’t give a rip about sports, that left me with plenty of time to watch while my wife and another couple we were with were all watching the game. Because, you see, had it been any other time, it might have taken longer to go through.

Because I am Crazy Busy.

It’s true. As an apologist with my own ministry and one who works closely with two other ministries, my to-do list never seems to end. I have people coming to me constantly with questions. I am asked numerous times to help out in debates on Facebook and other places. I have a to-read list from publishers that keeps growing and growing. I have a Master’s degree that I am working on. I have a podcast that I produce every Saturday that is two hours long. I have numerous places to go around here and most of them at least 20 minutes away. I am trying to be a good husband all the while and still make time for some down time so I can recharge. I try to help take care of the house around here. I have to drive my wife to many places since she can’t drive. (Not complaining about it. Just stating it.) I also try to get in a good prayer life and then when that’s all done, try to sleep and think about the next day.

Yes. We are all Crazy Busy.

In fact, most of us had this idea that technology would help make things easier for us. In fact, it has made things even busier in many ways. Many of us have a hard time unplugging from the world around us, including our phones and tablets. DeYoung in the book says for some of us, one of the times we’re happiest is when we unplug from things and just get away. The last time I did this seriously (And I mean as an intentional desire to put things away seeing as the last time I spent away from technology was when I had the flu and was too sick to do anything and no, that was not a nice technology break) was when I went on my honeymoon in 2010. The only book I brought with me was my Bible and I had my phone as a GPS and to find places to go for us together and such, but I did not check any emails. I did not do any Facebook. I did not do any debating or answering questions. It was me and my new bride and that was where my focus was. I even especially told my parents and hers to not contact us that week unless it was an emergency. For the time being, it was the two of us. Some of you will think it was a really happy time for obvious reasons, but i would say a large part was it was just good to get away for a bit. For awhile, I did not need to do anything at all.

Of course, we can’t stay that way. We’d love it if we could be on an endless honeymoon, but we know that there is real work to do and as soon as we return, we find that that work is there for us.

So what are some of DeYoung’s recommendations?

First, watch for pride. Many times, we don’t say no to someone because of pride. We don’t want to look bad or some other reason like that. When we are given a chance to serve, it is okay to say no, but if we say yes, let us examine to see why it is that we say yes.

Second is that we cannot do everything. Each of us in ministry really tends to stress the importance of what we do. I’m no exception. I do apologetics and I find this extremely important and neglected in the church today. Yet it is not the only field (Though it does touch on others), Some people have a great passion for missions. Some have it for youth ministry. Some have it for music ministry. There are many such fields out there.

In fact, DeYoung also says we don’t have to be greatly moved for all these fields. We can care about the persecuted church or people who don’t know Jesus overseas, but not all of us will be going to our prayer closets weeping for them. Note that we all care does not mean we all have to do something specifically in each field. None of us could. We would just wear ourselves out. I found this to be important seeing as we need to learn to rely on each other in ministry and use each other’s gifts well. I’m thankful I’m at a church where while my pastor is not gung-ho for apologetics like I am, he realizes my gift and great focus in my life and has chosen to find a way to let me serve to be best of my ability in the church.

Third is priorities. We just need to keep first things first. One aspect of this I’ve always stressed is that whatever I do in ministry, my wife comes first. Paul tells us that a good church leader must be able to manage his own household. There are many people out there who can do apologetics ministry successfully. There is only one person who can be a husband to my wife and that is me. If I fail at the task of being a husband, it really doesn’t matter how I do in apologetics. I’ve failed to love my wife as Christ loves the church. If ministry gets in the way of family, something is wrong.

I thought the fourth chapter on children would not be really relevant to me. After all, my wife and I don’t have any yet. Instead, I found it quite relevant. It really brought a lot to the nature/nurture debate and gave me some thoughts for if that time does come, particularly that the greatest influence can often be what is thought about politics and what is thought about religion.

I also found it great when DeYoung said that our society doesn’t really care what you do as an adult, but if you’re a kid, they’ll count the number of calories in your school lunch. Maybe if we were often as serious about what our children do with their sex lives as we are about what it is that they’re eating we’d be better off. You could also say the same about if we taught them good thinking as much as we try to teach healthy living.

The next chapter is about our internet struggles. I was pleased to see some discussion about how Google is affecting the way we think and DeYoung is open that it could be making us dumber. Sometimes, we might actually need to do something like get a book to get an answer to a question instead of thinking a few seconds on Google will do it. DeYoung is not saying remove technology altogether, but make sure it is a tool and not a master.

The following chapter is about rest. This is a principle I try to apply in my own life. It is why on Sunday, I make it a point to not do any debate on Facebook or anywhere else. I need a day to break and recharge. When we miss sleep, we are simply borrowing time, We will have to take that time later and it could be that in the meanwhile, we are more prone to have a car accident or snap at a loved one.

Finally, the last danger he mentions is that we should expect some busyness. We will be busy and we should be busy and it is not a foreign state. Even in the Garden of Eden, there was work to be done. What needs to be done then is just to follow the previous steps to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed. Jesus was a busy guy in His ministry after all, and still He did everything God had for Him to do.

But what is the one thing we must do? That’s the last chapter and that’s setting aside time for God. We need to have a prayer time and DeYoung also recommends a devotional time. So having said all that, let me get into some things I think could be improvements.

I would like to see some more on time management instead of saying we need to manage our time. Is it proper for me while busy to take that down time to do something fun and entertaining just for me? How about those date nights with my spouse? I find it concerning that Christians emphasize so much on the work we are to do for God, but we rarely seem to take time to realize the importance of play.

In fact, let’s consider 1 Cor. 7 in this regard. Paul says to not deprive one another of the gift of sexual relations except for an agreed time and then come quickly together. It looks like Paul is saying it’s important for husbands and wives to have intimate time together and while sex is the way of making babies, I have a suspicion that he has more in mind than simply making babies. He knows husbands and wives need to have this intimate time together in order to build up their marriages.

Second, I understand the importance of prayer, but this can be difficult for a lot of us. I have a mentor who helps with me, but that extended time can be difficult and I really think it difficult when people talk about hearing the voice of God since I don’t see this as normative in Scripture anywhere. At this point, a small section of recommended reading would have helped. I do have Tim Keller’s book on prayer though I have not got to it yet. Why?

Because I’m Crazy Busy of course.

With devotions, I have to say I don’t really do this one either. I don’t because so many devotionals I come across are just so fluffy and light. I really have a hard time focusing on the supposed lesson because I realize that the text that is being used is being ripped totally out of its context. I have not found a devotional yet that works for someone of my kind of mindset.

Still, DeYoung’s book is a good one and it is short so that those of you who are Crazy Busy can indeed find the time to read it. I think this could be a good one for discussion in the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters