Another Rant About Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or is it?

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reclaim America And Bad Research

How should we look at claims about our enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Politically, I am a conservative. I have always been one. Despite that, I have also tried to be as honest as I could. My own father had a problem in the past of sending out an email blast to a bunch of people or sharing something on Facebook about Obama and I would do five minutes of checking and find out that it wasn’t true. My stance was always we should aim to defeat our political opponents, but we must always do so in truth. This thread is not about politics though.

What I am doing I would hope anyone would do. If you are a Trump supporter for instance, do what I do and check claims on people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and also check positive stuff about Trump before sharing it. If you are of the liberal persuasion. Check the reverse. Make sure that negative story about Trump is true.

I find this interesting also in light of going through Abdu Murray’s Saving Truth now where he talks about a post-truth society. In this society, we will share something even if it isn’t true and even if we know it isn’t true because it goes against our opponents. For those of us who are Christians, this should never be the case.

So there is a page called Reclaim America on Facebook. Sadly, I have written about them before with bad research. I wasn’t surprised to see that there was more of the same. The about of the Facebook page says this about them.

“Our mission is to speak truth to the lies of the Progressive Liberal Agenda! This page is kept current with information by the team of administrators that run it. God Bless the USA & those that seek to defend her!”

Fair enough. If you think liberals are spreading lies, then you should want to combat them. However, if you think lying is a problem, shouldn’t you make sure what you share is true?

So yesterday, I am surfing Facebook and I see this picture. I want to say upfront that I do not like profanity and the only reason I share this is because I want to be as accurate as I can. Anyway, this is what was shared.

Now immediately, several people are posting about what an awful woman Hillary is. As a conservative, I am no fan of Hillary and I do understand some things. First off, Hillary does have a reputation of being foul-mouthed, including around the Secret Service from when she was in the White House. Second, we do know that there were leaked emails. On the face of it, this could be plausible then.

But darn it, I have this tendency. I want to check up on things. There’s a date to this email and there’s a specific quote. It should be easy to find.

Except it isn’t. In fact, I find an incident from September 7 that matches it. This is one where Hillary said the exact same thing out loud at a Matt Lauer interview.

There is also another source out there that is doing the same thing. I found this video doing my search. For them, they had an email from someone with a Comcast email address. The original page I linked to about the incident had an NBC associate producer as the source. None of this is backed by anyone else. No specific names are given. Nothing.

So we have a claim with different dates and different sources and different forums. It leads me to think that this whole thing is bogus. Now keep in mind, a lack of evidence does not mean that it is necessarily false. Perhaps something like this did happen and no one reported it except a few isolated individuals, but I’m skeptical.

Even if it’s not necessarily false, there’s still no positive evidence that it is true. Now someone did point out emails went through Bleach Bit. Okay, but if that’s true, then how did we get those emails so we can know what is in them? Furthermore, if you point a specific date and no one can find an email on this date that has this, what are we to think?

Now if Reclaim America or anyone else can find this email, I will gladly retract this and issue an apology. Until then, I am skeptical of this whole thing. For those of us wanting to be people of truth, it doesn’t help our cause if we spread things so easily that anyone can see is not necessarily true.

As a conservative, this bothers me, but as a Christian, it does so even more. If you have no reason to believe something I share based on five minutes of checking, why should you believe it when I tell you that the Son of God came and rose from the dead which will take much more time to research and study? I have already damaged my witness by that.

It’s my hope that not only Reclaim America but anyone involved in debate will learn even more to check claims. Whatever side we want to serve in a debate, let’s try to serve it truthfully. If we don’t want false claims shared about our side or unprovable claims to be shared, let’s make sure we do the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Piety and Rationality

Can two normally good things be used in a very bad way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Spend any time dialoguing on sites like Facebook and such in debate threads and you’ll find out that people often have very strong opinions on matters. Not only do they have strong opinions, they also many times do not have a good basis for those strong opinions. It’s not a Christian or an atheist problem, but it is instead a human problem. Everyone is prone to this.

Last night, this came up in a discussion thread. Someone remarked that while atheists and Christians can both be prone to not doing real research and studying and have an anti-intellectualism, atheists seem to do so while proclaiming themselves the rational ones. It was said that one does not see Christians doing this sort of thing.

If he means Christians normally proclaiming themselves champions of reason, that is often true, but Christians do something similar. For them, it’s more often related to holiness and piety. When a Christian is in a debate with another Christian, and sometimes even a non-Christian, they will fall back on their piety in defense of what they believe.

Francis Beckwith once said that if a Christian can’t beat you with logic, they will trump you with spirituality. If you present a point in a debate that can’t be refuted, you can expect to hear something like this. “Oh. Well, you just need to pray more.” “You just need to ask the Holy Spirit to show you.” “You really need to listen to the voice of God on this matter.” “You must not study your Bible well.”

Now it could be the other person needs to pray more and study their Bible better, but it doesn’t show that they are wrong. The way you show someone wrong is not by saying something about your character or their character (With some granted exceptions of course), but by actually looking at the argument. What data has been presented that is false or misunderstood or what steps in logic are being done wrong?

With atheists, it’s often what I have called atheistic presuppositionalism. An atheist is rational by virtue of being an atheist. They don’t believe in the silly myths that everyone else thinks. If they’re a rational person, their arguments must be rational and their conclusions must be as well. Is it a shock that so many atheists think that they’re brilliant researchers by being in the know on Jesus mythicism? (This is comparable to how Christians think they really know what is going on with the Illuminati and the New World Order and other such things.)

What both sides really need is some intellectual humility. It’s nigh impossible for them to just say that they could be wrong. It’s actually worse than that. It’s nigh impossible to admit that the other side could have a point. Many times, one wants to commit ritual suicide practically before granting that the other person may have a point.

The solution in both cases is the same. Humility. Stop and realize what the other person is really saying. Then go and look at their argument. If they have a flaw that you can see, point it out. If not, then maybe look at yours and see if you have a problem. If you’re unsure, just think about it. It’s okay to leave the conversation and come back later. Be willing to do the research and read both sides. The sad aspect is that both Christians and atheists doing this are both fostering an anti-intellectualism. (And let’s be clear, anti-intellectualism has absolutely no place in a Christian worldview)

I look forward to a day when research is done better on both sides. It’s probably a pipe dream, but maybe it will happen. If you are regularly debating and have never changed your mind on any case and had significant changes to your worldview, you’re not really doing research and study. You’re just setting yourself up as infallible.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Redemption Of The Pagan

Should we be concerned if something has a pagan origin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s that time of year again. Halloween is going to be here in a few weeks and what’s being said about that? Pagan. Just yesterday a friend shared with me that a well-known Christian apologist is sharing a bogus meme from Anton Lavey that I wrote about last year. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence we’ve seen that the quote comes from LaVey, but oh well.

Before too long, it will be Christmas. What will people be saying about that in Christian circles? That’s right. Pagan.

You know, for people who seem to want to be wary of anything that has to do with magic, pagan is thrown around like it’s a magic word to get people to have nothing to do with whatever is in question.

A lot of people do this with the devil as well. Feeling tempted? There’s one reason. Satan! The devil is going after you! The problem with this is that it assumes unknowingly that if the devil was removed from the picture, that you would not have a sinful human nature that would be tempted. You would live your life sin-free if only the devil wasn’t constantly on your shoulder. It’s also interesting that it’s always the devil. It’s never a low-ranking demon or something like that. We practically treat the devil as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent when we do this.

Many of us know enough of our own nature. If we were absolutely convinced the devil or demons were not tempting us, we would still be tempted. If we want to know why we’re tempted to sin, the devil isn’t the problem. We are the problem. We have a sinful nature.

Let’s start talking though about this problem with paganism. One aspect of Christianity is that God did not come into this world to save sinners, although He certainly did that. He came into this world to save the world. He wanted to redeem everything. The world is His creation. He wants to save it and rule it all.

That includes every day of the calendar. That includes every culture. There is nothing in this world that God does not intend to rule. When we go into a pagan culture, we seek to redeem everything then. As the hymn says, this is our Father’s world.

In fact, if you think that you should avoid anything that has the taint of evil on it supposedly, then look in the mirror. Your origins Biblically aren’t the best. We were once slaves to sin and death reigned over us. Think you can get much better than that? We are now a new creation in Christ.

Redeeming a culture is child’s play to what it took to redeem us. It took the death of the Son of God. When we act like something is irredeemable because of its origins, then we have a hard time with ourselves. Ultimately, I don’t care what a pagan intended to do with XYZ. I care about why I do it.

Christians. Please stop living in fear. Just stop it. Christ came so that you could be victorious. There’s no need to be cowering. Don’t give the devil more power than he has. Christ defeated Him 2,000 years ago. Start living in victory today.

And once again, if you must share something, please check up on it. In fact, just now, my friend Jeff Harshbarger commented on this story. What he did was something odd. He actually sought out the source material himself. (Yeah. Bizarre thought. Who knew?) Here’s the result.

Re: Contact Form Submission from the Church of Satan Website

Administration <administration@churchofsatan.com>
To
far468@bellsouth.net
Today at 1:43 PM
No. Since Satanism is not devil worship, LaVey would not say such a thing.

On 10/8/17, 12:21 PM, “Church of Satan” <administration@churchofsatan.com> wrote:

Name: Jeff Harshbarger

Email: far468@bellsouth.net

Comments: Did Dr. LaVey actually make this statement? I’m glad that
Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one
night out of the year.

Please be living in truth people. Do that, and you have no need to fear. Yes. It’s something we all still have to work on. Check your history when making a historical claim and remember, if God can redeem you, who knows what else He can redeem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Use Your Library

How does one go about doing research? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’d like to give a tip to my fellow apologists and those starting out in the field. If you’re in this field, you’re not in it for the money. I live on a budget like many of you do and I have to make every penny count. It’s not a secret really that many of the books I get for my podcast are review copies sent to me for that purpose, but that’s not everything. What’s a guy to do?

If you have a Kindle, one thing you can do is subscribe to groups and newsletters that let you know about free and discount books. This can be a great gift to help you out. A Kindle or a Kindle App is a wonderful tool. My wife likes to go to bed early so I will stay there with her so she can feel safe and read my Kindle usually for a couple of hours before I’m ready to go to sleep. Many Kindles have an option that you can check out a book for a short time.

One other great suggestion is for you to learn to use your local library. Too many people forget this. You might not have the money to read that book, but your library has the book for free. You just have to read it in time and be able to return it in good condition.

If you use the library, it’s tempting to look on the catalog there and see if the book is there and if it isn’t, to just give up. Don’t. Many libraries have a way that you can search through interlibrary loan. When you do this, you access all libraries in the network, including ones at universities, and you can order books that will come. Normally, these books cannot be renewed, but that’s okay if you’re an avid student. You can read it in time.

Many times if I’m in a Facebook discussion and a skeptic recommends a book for me to read, I go to the library immediately and look and see if I can find it. There are some of you that don’t want to give money to atheists and others by buying their books. For my part, I consider the amount I give them worth it in exchange for what I’m able to do with the information. (I have in fact known some Christians who have donated to Richard Carrier because he’s doing so much damage to atheism and doesn’t even realize it!)

If you don’t want to buy it permanently, interlibrary loan is the way to go. This way you can read the book for a short time. I do recommend that you write up something about the book afterward so that you should never have to reinvent the wheel and get it again.

Also, if you can find a college or university library near you, this is even better. It can work great if this is a Seminary or Bible College. In our field, they will often have the books that you are wanting. This is also a far better option than the one many internet atheists are taking and that’s just to Google.

Of course, you will need to learn how to pick out good books in research. I have written some on this and it’s relation to being a thinking Christian, and I could consider writing more in the future, but get books by publishing houses that have a good record for the most part. They have a reputation to uphold and don’t want to publish books that will damage that reputation.

Make sure the Ph.D., if you read a book by someone with one, is relevant in the field as well. Dawkins does have a Ph.D. in an area related to evolution, but that doesn’t carry over to writing about theology or philosophy or Biblical interpretation. A New Testament scholar like Mike Licona or N.T. Wright has a Ph.D. in New Testament, but that doesn’t make them an authority on evolution.

If all of this still seems difficult or intimidating, just go and ask your librarian for help. Many of them know just what you need and are equipped to help you. Librarians many times, especially at theological libraries, are often very well-read individuals and can point you in the right direction.

And of course, enjoy the journey!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Let Me Google That For You

Do we live in an age of upcoming geniuses or fools? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This past week, I heard different people saying the same thing. Young people in school are no longer answering “I don’t know” to something. Instead, the response is being “Let me google that for you.” Now of course, in some areas, this is fine. If you want to know the weather or the location of a good restaurant or who won the World Series in 1962, this is okay. The problem is that this is increasingly becoming our way of knowing.

Except we have to ask are we really knowing? Think about when you were in school and you spent that time cramming before that big final. You might have done really well on the final and passed, you might have even aced it, but how many of you really recall what you studied then? You learned it for the time being and then threw it out. It was knowledge only needed for the moment.

This is what our Google age is doing. People are going to Google and thinking that by being capable of looking up an answer, they are capable of understanding an answer. This doesn’t follow. Using Google, you can find any argument you want for any position and if you do not know how the field of the question works. You can look up an answer on evolution, but if you don’t understand science, you will only further your ignorance if you argue from that. You can look up a question on the historical Jesus or the Crusades, but it won’t help you if you don’t know how history works. You can look up a question about ontology, but it won’t matter if you don’t understand how philosophy works.

How do you learn how these fields work? You go and read the books. You can find good material online, no doubt, but books are still the best place to go. Most scholars in the field don’t put up their material for free online. (One possible exception is my podcast where you can hear interviews from them online.) If you can’t afford books, no biggie. Go to the library. Use an interlibrary loan and order books from other libraries. Right now, I’m reading a book ordered from the Georgia State University and I didn’t have to drive all the way over there.

“But this is hard work!” Yes. Yes, it is. You actually have to read and you can’t expect to be an expert in a field if you’re not willing to study it. If you’re not willing to study it, then sit down and be quiet. You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. By all means, ask questions, but don’t speak as if you’re someone who should be taken seriously. You’re not.

Unfortunately, if people do not read then they will not be able to speak on these issues. This is why we have a generation that has more access to knowledge than ever before but is incapable of thinking for itself. We feel more than we think. People do not know how to follow an argument to its conclusion or how to analyze one. This is why we have so many conspiracy theories out there.

Please also don’t tell me that this is just one side. Atheists and Christians and others both have this problem. Atheists will buy into any argument often that makes Christianity look bad, be it that Jesus never existed or the Middle Ages were the Dark Ages or anything else. Christians meanwhile, will also do the same thing. Christians can also add in in Illuminati conspiracy theories and ideas based on a futurist eschatology.

I have also regularly stated this happens on Facebook. People see stories all the time and they don’t check up on the sources and hit share anyway. It’s horrible to have someone do this. It’s far worse when a follower of Jesus Christ does this. Why? Because if they can see you wrong on something they can check up on within minutes, why should they invest so much time in studying the resurrection of Jesus?

Google is also often repeatedly killing our attention spans. If we watch or read something, it has less and less time to get our attention. If we read something online, we often don’t read the whole thing much anymore. We just skim. We are trying to find shortcuts to being an expert, but there are no shortcuts. One must work. You cannot cheat and cut corners or else when push comes to shove, you will really see that you don’t have a clue and so will everyone else.

What’s the solution? Parents will need to get their kids off of the internet and into books some more. Make sure it’s an area they really enjoy. If your child enjoys dinosaurs, get the best books you can on dinosaurs. If your child enjoys space, get the best books on space. If they want to learn about World War II or chemistry or anything else, get the best books on the topic that you can.

We will also need to teach by example. Be the student you want your own children to be. Always be learning the best you can. Get the books and read them and you will be better informed and better able to talk to other people. You can know what you’re talking about instead of having to rely on whatever is being popular at the time.

Of course, if our young people or we ourselves have an allergy to work, then we will have to suffer the consequences. It will make it harder and harder to do evangelism if people can just find a quick answer that agrees with them, and anyone can do that. The benefit for us is that if we are the ones doing the hard study, then in the future we can corner the market in that area.

If you’re a youth minister or Sunday School teacher, especially get your young people reading. There is a time for fun and games of course and such, but they need to be an informed populace in order to function in our society. If we look at our world today, we have to say that a lot of people, especially in America, are not really capable of the kind of thinking needed to make things go smoothly in society.

An informed populace starts with you and me.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Halloween Research: A Case Study

How can we research claims? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Around Halloween, I always find myself debating with people who want to claim that Halloween is pagan and I’m compromising with the devil by celebrating the day. Of course, I’ve been accused of compromising in so many areas that it doesn’t really affect me anymore. Many times, I’m told that what is being taught is common knowledge.

You know, like the fact that the Council of Nicea determined the New Testament canon, or that the ancients all believed the Earth was flat until Columbus sailed, or that the Dark Ages were a time where the church ruled the world and scientists were oppressed. These are claims that everyone knows. No need to back them.

Except these claims that everyone knows are just false.

Excuse me then if I grow skeptical, especially after finding out that such claims took for granted are just myths. If you want to tell me that a day is pagan, you’d better make a case. For anyone wanting to make this case about Halloween or Christmas or Easter or any other day, I have some rules for you to follow.

First off, find good sources. I’m sure your favorite pastor on television is a great guy and unless you’re watching Word of Faith teachers, they probably really love Jesus. Unfortunately, they can also be wrong. Pastors can be just as credulous as anyone else can be.

For instance, recently a picture has been going around Facebook that has even been shared by a well-known Christian apologist. This is the image that is going around.

laveyquoteonhalloween

Your average Christian reading this will be shocked by this. “My children are worshipping the devil?” Unfortunately, people on Facebook will take such a quote and run with it without bothering to answer some questions first. Here are some problems I notice with this meme.

Where did LaVey say this? There isn’t a quote. There isn’t a reference. There’s nothing. Now at this point, what you can do is take some of it and put it in quotes in a search engine and see if anything comes up. When I did this, I got nothing. Therefore, until someone shows otherwise, I do not give the benefit of the doubt to a random quote on the internet. I need to see the evidence.

Second, why should I care? Seriously. LaVey thinks children are worshipping the devil. Well, what makes him right? Is he infallible in this area? Could it be that children are just playing games and eating candy? Even if the quote is an authentic quote, why should I believe it?

These questions weren’t answered. Instead, the meme was just shared and a debate ensues immediately. Now notice in all of this that I have not claimed definitively yet that Halloween is not a pagan holiday. I have said that the claim has not been backed. So how can it be backed better?

I already spoke about preachers. If your preacher makes a claim like this, feel free to email him and ask him what his source for this claim is. Go and check that source. Look up what it says. What you especially want are historical sources close to the events under question. If you read about the Crusades, for instance, it would be better to have accounts from the time of the Crusades. An account 500 years later won’t have information in it nearly as good. If you read scholars today on the Crusades, make sure they cite those earliest sources.

Maybe you have a website. Good for you. Unfortunately, websites can make bogus claims. If you want to say Halloween is stolen from the pagans because you found it on a website, then brace yourself. I can show you several websites that claim the idea of Jesus dying and rising again was stolen from the pagans and by your standards, you would have to believe it.

If you have a website source, you need to see who wrote the article and how knowledgeable are they on the subject in question. Anyone today can set up a website. That doesn’t mean they are right.

“Hey Nick. You have a website as well. Do you want me to be suspicious of your claims?”

By all means be suspicious. Check out what I say. I am also not infallible. I can make mistakes. (Ask my wife. She’ll be more than happy to testify.) Check what I say with the scholars in the field.

If your website has links, check those links out. I am a political conservative, but unfortunately, I have found that many conservative websites just link to other sites saying the same claim without any primary source being cited or without specifically named individuals being cited. I refuse to share such stories then. Sadly, I find many of my fellow conservatives don’t think the same way that I do.

So let’s suppose then that you’ve found the proof that Halloween or any other holiday was originally a pagan holiday. Wonderful. Is your work done? Not a bit. You have to show me why it matters today. That’s an even more difficult argument to make.

The example I always use is wedding rings. Let’s suppose you convinced me that wedding rings were pagan in origin. Am I taking mine off? Not a chance. Mine is a reminder constantly of the covenant relationship I made with my wife years ago. It is a covenant made with her before God and man. It was not done to honor any pagan deity. You need to show that my actions are intentional wrongdoing. Showing that people did something wrong years ago is not enough to show I am doing such today.

Also, just saying that you will not have anything to do with the works of darkness or anything like that doesn’t work. That begs the question. Holiness, believe it or not, is not an argument. Because you think you are being holy in a position does not mean that you are being right. Just look at the Pharisees. These people were the ones who weren’t hanging out with “sinners” like Jesus was because they were too holy for that. We all know which side was right in this case.

Be careful on the internet friends. If you’re making truth claims, be ready to back them. This is especially so if you’re one in the public eye. People will take your claims far more seriously. Test everything. Hold to that which is true.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Resurrections on the Internet

What happens to bad ideas when the internet comes around? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christian Vision For Men (CVM) has a video up today on the idea that Jesus is copied from dying and rising gods of the time. The concept isn’t taken seriously by scholars, but you go on the internet and you will find this touted around like it’s an obvious fact. I just did a quick search in fact and didn’t take long to find an example of an image that goes around with this.

Copycat Jesus

This is just one of many.

Will you find scholarly support for this idea? Nope. Well not unless you redefine scholar to mean something like anyone who can write a blog and put forward an argument. If you’re talking about people in the field with actual Ph.D.’s, good luck. I’ve in fact done a show on this topic interviewing Joe Mulvihill. Of course, right along with this goes the idea that Jesus never existed. Frankly, if any atheist wants to say young-earth creationism should be rejected because it goes so against the grain of the scientific community (And I am not a YEC), then they have no grounds for using the Christ Myth theory because it goes even more against the grain of scholarship in the field.

All this goes to demonstrate is that resurrection is certainly a reality on the internet, because ideas that have no basis in reality come up time and time again and they are believed and embraced because, hey, they argue against Christianity.

It’s really hard to take internet atheism seriously when I see the same canards thrown out time and time again.

“The church was anti-science in the Dark Ages!”

“Christians used to believe the Earth was flat!”

“There are X number of denominations out there!” (X has to be used because the number changes in range from 22,000 to 42,000)

“Look at all these writers of the time who never mentioned Jesus!”

“The New Testament was formed at the Council of Nicea!”

These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure many more could be added. Even sadder is the idea that every time statements like this are made up, it’s as if no Christian has ever thought about them before and we’ve never heard of them. At this rate, we could easily make an internet atheist drinking game.

Now let’s be fair also. Christians can be just as gullible sadly. I’ve written on this before with internet quotes and such. I hate to do that because most of my Facebook friends are Christians and sadly, they’re the ones that I usually see spreading misinformation. My own wife could tell you that if she reads something on the internet that I haven’t heard, the first reply I always give is “Source?” Most of us don’t bother to check because the claim goes with what we already believe so surely it must be true.

Debates will be going on and on until the return of Christ I am sure, but we can all seek to do what we can to improve the quality of the debates. One such way is by checking the claims that we come across. If we are not sure of a claim, we dare not share it as fact. This is especially so for Christians who are called to be people of the truth. After all, if people cannot trust us with the mundane things they can easily check, why should they believe us on grander claims, like the resurrection?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Elements of Biblical Exegesis

What do I think of Michael Gorman’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Elements of Biblical Exegesis is meant to be a guide for students who are writing exegetical papers, and indeed it will be a helpful one. Gorman works with writers on all levels, including those who know the Biblical languages well and those who have no real knowledge of them. The rules listed in this book can help you if you’re writing an exegetical paper, but they can just as much help you out if you are sitting in a Sunday School class or small group meeting and you’re discussing a passage of Scripture and people are sitting together all talking about what the passage “means to them.”

Of interest from an apologetic nature is the discussion on textual criticism as well as the listing of Bible translations and dealing with the hermeneutic of suspicion where the text is seen as guilty until proven innocent. In fact, Gorman rightly says we should read from all perspectives, not just our own. After all, it is the critics of our position that can often open our eyes the most to the problems that we need to answer for our position. Gorman regularly says that all such reading is going to be beneficial. (Even reading mythicist material as that shows you just how crazy you can go when you don’t really know how to do history.)

Of course, internet atheists I regularly encounter will want nothing to do with a work like this, and sadly too many Christians won’t either who just have this idea that the text should be plain and clear to them. One of the great problems we have in the church is that people no longer work at the text. We go to seminars to learn how to improve our marriage and work at that, and we should! We go to seminars to learn how to be better parents and work on that, and we should! We go to seminars to learn how to better manage our money and work on that, and we should! We go to all of these and while we think we should work at every other area of our life, when it comes to understanding what we say is the greatest facet of our lives (Or we should say it is), we think all the answers should be handed to us.

Also, towards the end of the book, Gorman gives a long list of recommended resources. I am sure that the list is helpful, but if you go straight through a book like I do, then it can be a bit tedious in reading. Still, if you just pop open the book and want to know if a resource is a good one, then that is a helpful tool to have.

Finally, the book concludes with three exegetical papers, two on a NT passage and one on an OT passage. These are helpful examples to have nearby and the reader of the book will be pleased with how simple the final product looks and even without thorough knowledge of the original languages.

This will be a helpful guide to those who really do want to study the text for all that it’s worth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Really Know More?

In the age of the Internet, it’s easy to say we have more access to knowledge than anyone else today, but does that mean we’re smarter?

I’d like you to imagine you live in the ancient world. In fact, you live next to a great bastion of learning, the Library of Alexandria. Within walking distance from where you are is a great collection of knowledge from all over that you can read when you want to. Here is the question then. Does that mean that you automatically know better than anyone else out there?

No. No you don’t. You might have more access to information than the average person, but it doesn’t mean you know better. One person who could make it to the library perhaps once a year, but knows how better to sift through information, will be more informed on topics than you will be. This person will know what books they need to read, how to read them, and how best to process new information when they get it in.

Today, we live in the age of the Internet. Most everyone can have access to the knowledge of the world immediately. It is sitting right at our fingertips. (Though often we miss it while looking at pictures of cats and debating what color a dress is.) There is no doubt that the Internet is a vast reservoir of knowledge overflowing and that a person can give themselves a decent education on a topic by doing some good looking on the net.

And yet, therein lies the danger.

Many of us remember seeing this commercial:

Funny? Indeed. We all laugh at the gullibility of the girl. How could someone possibly believe anything that they read on the Internet? We laugh, but don’t realize that too often, that describes many of us. In the age of the net, it’s easy to have anyone set up a blog or a web site or a podcast or anything of that sort and be seen as an authority. Many of us can self-publish EBooks and have us look like people who know what they’re talking about.

At this point, an obvious rejoinder comes up. “Well you’re not a scholar in the field and you have a blog and web site and podcast! Why should we listen to you? Couldn’t you be wrong?”

I absolutely could be wrong. I would hope you would listen because I do think I read profusely and seek to find out whatever I can in my field. Plus, when I interview someone, they are usually a scholar in the field and that means they are definitely worth listening to. When it comes to my own opinions on here, I will admit it’s really awesome to have so many people respecting and liking what I have to say, but I am not Scripture. I am not infallible at all. I would not want you to believe something just because I say it. Please feel free to research what I say. Even N.T. Wright has said that he can be sure 1/3 of the stuff he teaches is wrong. I would be quite the anomaly if I had everything that I taught be correct.

Too often on the net, people just hear what they want to hear and there is always a voice speaking loud enough on this. Recently for instance, I reviewed David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity. Quite simply, this is a terrible book, but if you go to his Facebook page, his followers, and it looks like there’s a lot of them for some strange reason, are just so impressed by what is being said. All I conclude is that people hear what they want to hear. The claims are not questioned. Rarely can you expect the other side to be read.

Christ mythicism is another example of this. While this position is a joke in the world of NT scholarship, it is seen as if it’s a hotly debated theory on the Internet. See for instance this quote by McAfee as well concerning John 14:6.

“This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head”

The tragedy in the atheist community is that this is fallen for hook, line, and sinker. It’s quite interesting that so many people who claim to be freethinkers tend to think exactly alike. Of course, there are exceptions to this. Many of you out there know who you are. For too many atheists, it is as if anything in the Bible is shown to be true, then at this point, one must commit ritual suicide. It cannot be allowed that a worldview like Christianity got anything historically accurate.

Okay. Someone might say I’m picking on the atheists. Christians do the same thing.

Yes. The sad thing is that too many atheists who tend to be all about the evidence will often believe something despite the evidence for it being flimsy and the scholars in the field rejecting it. Too many Christians meanwhile who claim to follow the one who said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and who are told to be on their guard against false doctrine, will too often not bother to do any of the research either. They will believe something just because it already fits in with what they already believe.

To an extent, that does make sense. The problem is our worldview is just often not informed enough to see if we have any reason to believe what we come to the data believing. So you’re a Christian who has grown up all your life believing Jesus is the Son of God and the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant word. You have not really looked at the evidence, but you believe it. So you have someone email you a story about how NASA scientists had their calculations wrong until someone on a team told a story about Joshua’s missing day. Wow! How incredible! This just confirms what you believe! Unfortunately, that story if you believed it, is bogus.

If you don’t know how to process the information you have already, then any discovery that comes along that fits in with what you already believe will be believed by you. On the Internet, this is especially so if it comes in a nice-looking package, such as a well-designed web site. It can also happen if a speaker knows how to speak persuasively even if his points are nonsense. This is in fact one reason I consider debate helpful. If both participants are well-informed, you can get to hear the views all critiqued. It’s also way counterpoint books can be so fascinating to read.

If what I’m saying is accurate, then having knowledge there to us will not helpful to us if we don’t know how to process it and question it. This is one reason especially churches need to be encouraging their members to ask questions and they need to discuss those questions openly. People who are not questioning what they believe and asking about it quite frankly are not growing as disciples of Christ.

For my non-Christian readers, while you might deplore Christians sitting and just believing everything their pastor says, something I also deplore, make sure you’re not doing the same thing. Have you set your own authorities up as people who are going to be correct on whatever they say? Too often from our perspective, it looks like that is exactly what is happening. There’s a great danger I see, especially in the atheist community, where it is assumed that if you are an atheist, you are a person of reason and evidence. If someone is a Christian, they are a person of faith. Why should anyone listen to faith and why should anyone go against reason and evidence? Therefore, anyone who is rational will be an atheist. I refer to this as presuppositional atheism.

The best antidote to this is to learn how to interact with the opposite viewpoints and check up on the claims. You read something on the net? Go and check and see if it is true first. Don’t just believe something. In all honesty, if my own wife tells me about a story she’s read, I always ask what the source of that story is first.  When I have seen people post interesting stories on the Internet, I have often been the bearer of bad news by saying “It’s a good story. Unfortunately, it’s false.”

For Christians, this is especially the case. We claim to be followers of Christ. If people cannot trust what we say on mundane ordinary matters that could be shown to be false by five minutes of research, why should they trust us on ultimate life-changing issues that five minutes worth of research would not be sufficient for?

(btw, along those lines, Christian issues such as the resurrection are deep issues. I do not trust anyone who thinks that a major decision like this can be decided after a brief time of research. There are Ph.D.’s who study these subject in depth and simplistic answers will just not work. This is also why I oppose using memes as arguments. Memes can be humorous illustrations of arguments, but they should not be the arguments themselves.)

It’s easy to pride ourselves as thinking we possess knowledge in the age of the Internet, but let’s be careful about it. We could very well fulfill the Scripture where it says that proclaiming ourselves to be wise, we became fools. Rest assured, every side does have fine and intelligent minds on it, but every side also has their share of fools. Be sure to investigate what you believe. We should not desire to be fools.

In Christ,
Nick Peters