5,000+ Gods

How do you know you have the right deity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s understandable that when it comes to major issues, many of us have strong opinions. It’s understandable that many of us seek to be informed on those opinions. It’s understandable that many times we will want to talk to others about those opinions who agree and disagree with us and want to either share encouragement or change minds respectively.

It’s not understandable though that people share nonsense all the while thinking that they are sharing a powerful argument. One such case recently happened on the Unbelievable? Facebook page. An atheist, no doubt convinced he had a brilliant argument, shared the following meme and asked what the way is Christians find out of this particular dilemma.

People who post this stuff really don’t bother to understand world religions at all. For instance, consider the Buddha. Many Buddhists in the classical system would be seen as atheistic and not think the Buddha is a deity. The Hindu pantheon has several lesser gods, some more prominent than others, but nothing seen as a sort of ultimate deity. Many would have no problem saying that of course there are 5,000 gods, but could say that all of them are real.

Let’s start with something simple though. All truth claims are exclusive. If I say 2 + 2 = 4, then any person who says an answer that is contrary to 4 is wrong. We could say to people who think I am the husband of Allie Licona Peters that “There are billions of men on this planet who could be her husband, but don’t worry, the claim that Nick Peters is the only right answer.” Of course, it is.

How could this work with atheism? Just replace gods with worldviews. There are almost 5,000 worldviews being believed by humanity. Don’t worry. Yours is right. After all, atheism is just a strong a claim. It’s a strong claim if the meme is true to say that you worship the right God out of 5,000 or so. It’s a strong claim to say that you are right and everyone else is entirely wrong because none of those deities are real.

The meme when looking at the question also assumes that all deities have the same amount of evidence for their existence and all religions do as well. Are we really to think that, for instance, archaeologically, the Book of Mormon can begin to compare with the New Testament, or even the Old Testament for that matter? You could if perhaps you right at the start assume that all of the systems are nonsense, which would just be begging the question.

This is something Matthew McCormick did in his book The Case Against Christ. He made a list of 500 deities that were thought to be ominpotent, omniscient, eternal, etc. He then said that these gods are no longer worshiped this way. Well, I did something rather odd there. I actually went and looked up all of these gods. Any that were seen that way could be counted on one hand. You can see some of my doing this here including his big gaffe.

What needs to happen then is something that should be obvious to the atheists who say they care so much about evidence, but they often forget. That is to look at the evidence. That means when the theist pulls up the evidence for whatever deity they believe in, you actually look at it and consider it.

If you asked me why I believe in the deity I hold to, I would say that it is the most logically consistent for me. It is very similar to the one Aristotle arrived at in his philosophy. I go with the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments. It would be quite long to go into here so that will be for another day.

Then when I look at Christianity, I say the evidence for Jesus is overwhelming. To deny His existence is ridiculous. Other theories I see trying to explain the data surrounding the resurrection I find completely lacking. I say this also by the way as one who has read much on the other side. (I often ask an atheist when the last time they read an academic work that disagreed with them was and I very often get crickets in response.)

There are other points. For instance, the number of other deities is actually much more than 5,000. Also, saying one religion is right does not mean that all religions are entirely wrong in everything that they believe. There are great truths in many of the other world religions.

I am of the firm stance that a meme is not an argument. If you have made your argument, you can illustrate it with a meme, but the meme itself is not the argument. People who think it is I find to generally be shallow thinkers. That includes Christians and non-Christians both. Stupidity can be found among the proponents of any belief system just as intelligence can.

Looking at the thread, I do not see any theist that is concerned about the argument. I’m certainly not, but I figured it would be a good example to post here and one question I’m not sure if I’ve ever tackled on the blog. We can hope that the poster will start citing some academic sources in making his whole argument, but I am skeptical that that will ever happen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Doing A Podcast

What’s it like to do a podcast and what goes into it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Podcasting I think has been one of the best moves I’ve ever made with regards to my career as an apologist. Podcasting has let me get my message out there and got me in touch with some of the best scholars in the field. It gives me a free education most every Saturday and allows me to read some of the best books all the while providing a service to the Christian community.

When I get a show uploaded, you hear two hours worth of an interview normally. That works great, but is that all there is to it? If only there was. Nope. There’s a lot of research that goes on behind the scenes.

To start off with, if you want to interview someone, you should seek to read their material first. (There are some exceptions. I was not going to read all of Craig Keener’s commentary on Acts first for instance.) How do you get to do that? There are a number of ways. For one thing, you can get in touch with some publishing houses. I’m on good terms with several like IVP, B&H, Eerdmans, and Zondervan.

Keep an eye out for people talking about new books that are coming out. Try and get in touch with them. This is how I managed to get an early copy of Larry Hurtado’s latest book and get to an interview with him on the book even before it came out. Many authors are fine with sharing their work. You might need a Kindle for this since many authors have sent me their books in a PDF format and I’ve had to transfer it to my Kindle to read.

Of course, before getting there, you might have to have a podcast up regularly so that the people you are contacting can know what work you have out there. After Brent Sandy sent me a pdf of the book he was working on with John Walton, I got in touch with IVP and told them and lo and behold, they’re sending me books regularly. To get started for you, you might want to go to this sacred place that is here by the grace of God called a library. Sometimes, I still use it to get some books. Make sure to take advantage also of interlibrary loan so you can get books from other libraries.

As you read the book, try to think of good questions. Your interviewee will want to know that you’re prepared. When they speak, do your best to let them finish their thought as much as you can. I try to have a few good opening questions in mind before I go and sometimes some tangents will come forward. That’s fine. I want it to sound like a real discussion when it comes out, because that’s really what it is.

You need good equipment to record. I use a basic Skype connection to get in touch with my guests. From there, I use the Roland Tri-Capture unit and a Rode microphone. I am not sure where that ranks on the high-tech area so you might want to get in touch with someone who is a technical expert. For editing the material, I use Audacity. Unless there’s some big interruption for the most part in an interview, I tend to leave it as is aside from upping the volume.

Get someone good to write a theme and closer for your show if you aren’t able to. Glenn Andrew Peoples of Right Reason did mine. If you’re musically skilled, you can do it yourself. If not, then find someone like him.

For me, the biggest thing is keeping up with my reading. It can be easy to fall behind. I keep telling people that I have the problem of having all these books to read and yet I still order more books. There is obviously only one solution to this problem. I have to learn to sleep less.

Oh. I think you should also have a neat time arrangement. I try to record the same time every week. I also have in mind how my show will go. At the first hour, I make an announcement about who will go on next week. At an hour and twenty minutes in, I make a call for donations. In closing, I ask my guest if they have a blog or a web site or a way people can get in touch with them for more information, I ask for any final thoughts, I thank them for coming on, and then I make a reminder about who will be on next week.

If you want some more inspiration, listen to podcasts that you think are successful. If you think mine is, then watch the things that I do that might be so second nature to me that I don’t notice them. One of my great inspirations in this was Justin Brierley of Unbelievable?

Podcasting is fun and worthwhile, but it is a time consumer so make sure you’re ready for it. Of course, you could do your own monologue and that would work differently, but I find it more engaging to have guests on. Still, both can be done. It’s up to you.

Hopefully, if you want to podcast, this has been helpful to you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

So You Want To Begin

How does one start in the field of apologetics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of teaching youth. Since the talk I gave Sunday at the church was the first instance these kids have of being really introduced to apologetics, I thought “What if some of them do want to study more?” If you do, you’re in luck. In our day and age it’s never been easier to do such, but as I said in the talk, it will require work. There is no such thing as success without the effort put forward. So how do you begin?

If you just have the internet, you could start with apologetics web sites. Naturally, I think my blog is a great place to go to. Of course, I’m not the only site. There are two sites you can go to to get a great look at numerous other apologetics sites. One is the ministry of Brian Auten at Apologetics 315. Another site that you can go to is The Poached Egg. The reason I mention both of these is they are largely compendiums of other sites and resources and you can go and keep looking until your heart’s content.

Naturally, there are other web sites that are wonderful resources. There is Tektonics.org, which is the ministry of my ministry partner, J.P. Holding. My father-in-law, Mike Licona, has an excellent ministry built on defending the resurrection at Risen Jesus. William Lane Craig is known for his ministry of Reasonable Faith. There are many many more that you can find online.

While you’re online, you should probably connect with a group of apologists that you can interact with. One such place to go to is the Christian Apologetics Alliance on Facebook, which I am a member of. You will find people of all levels in apologetics there. You will find professionals who have been doing apologetics for years and you will find people who are just starting to learn the skill, like yourself.

As you browse online also, be skeptical of what you see. There are two great sources of misinformation. The first is YouTube. Unless you know the person who runs the channel well and have good reason to think they’re an authority, do not take them seriously. This includes Christians and non-Christians. The second is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the place a lot of people begin, but I will advise you to avoid it like the plague. You have no idea who has edited that Wikipedia entry. There is no reason to think the gatekeepers at Wikipedia are skilled at all the information that is being put up on the site.

Online, you can also find great debates. One great site to go to for debates is Unbelievable? Justin Brierley does an excellent job of moderating the debates that take place and you can find a debate on most any topic that you’re interested in.

Yet one of the best resources you can find is your local library. Look for books published by good publishing houses. If you want to check on that, just go to the publishing house’s web site and see what they say. Of course, not all material that is good is published there, and I say this as one with some published Ebooks, but all things being equal, go with the works published by excellent firms. Try to look at the information about the author. You want to see if the author has a Ph.D. and in a relevant field.

Of course, there are exceptions to this as well. One such exception is that I’d encourage you to check out the writings of Lee Strobel. Strobel has several excellent “case” books and in these books, Strobel introduces you to the leading scholars in the field who he went out and interviewed for his book. This is popular apologetics done right and the excellent aspect of the books is that they will introduce you to other leading minds in the field so that you will know the next place to go.

Eventually, you’ll want to go out and debate some yourself and the internet is the easiest place to do it. Here’s the warning. As you start, you are going to get your tail kicked numerous times. It will happen. You will have to have others come and help defend you. That’s okay. No one starting out studying something like martial arts can expect to defeat all of their opponents. You are going to get stumped many many times. It will happen. You’re just learning. The goal is to use this to drive you in your studies all the more.

Another resource besides books you can also use is find excellent podcasts. (Again, I’m biased, but I do recommend mine.) ITunes University is a great resource you can go to for podcasts where you can listen to seminary courses online. If you’re out driving, it’s a great way to pass your time, as it can be to find courses at your library on CD such as Portable Professor or Modern Scholar.

One mistake many apologists make is to think they have to be masters in everything. Choose one or two select fields and have an emphasis in those fields. By all means, have some knowledge in others, but realize your limitations. If you try to master everything, you will inevitably master nothing. Some of you might like history. Some might like philosophy. Some might want to deal with cults. Some might want to deal with political issues. You could enjoy answering questions relating to science. There are all manner of fields.

In all of this, don’t lose sight of other areas. Be sure to be studying your Bible for your own personal development and not just to win debates. Be sure to work on having a good prayer life. (Something I struggle with admittedly.) Something that can help you in all of this is to find someone who will be a spiritual mentor to you. I have one and I email my mentor at least once every day barring some emergency times so he can know everything that’s going on in my life and offer me advice. Note I said “He.” If you are a man, let your mentor be a man. If you are a woman, let your mentor be a woman.

As you go in this field, you will find that it is a lot of fun and you will also be hopefully growing as a Christian. Apologetics is one of the most important ministries that is out there. Peter Kreeft has said that apologetics is the closest you get to saving the world. If Christianity is true, and it is, its truth is essential to the functioning of our life on this planet. You are one of the defenders of that truth and you are one of the people standing between the opponents of Christianity and your fellow Christians who are not equipped at all to defend themselves. Fight the battle well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

An Unbelievable? Podcast

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters podcast? Let’s talk about it today on Deeper Waters.

I actually just finished the interview for the Deeper Waters podcast about half an hour or so ago. This time, I interviewed Justin Brierley of Unbelievable? and talked with him about the show Unbelievable? and about the conference of the same name happening annually in the U.K.

Unbelievable? has been one of my favorite shows since I’ve started listening. Justin Brierley is a wonderful host/moderator who brings on excellent guests and who manages to remain quite neutral in his presentation. If you really want to hear both sides of a debate sometime, just turn on Unbelievable? and see what you find. As Justin and I discussed, sometimes the atheist does do better. Sometimes the Christian does better. That is life. For those interested, I have often written into the show and spoken about how badly a Christian has done in debate. In fact, for those even more curious, I was once a guest on the show. (See January of 2010 for my debate there on the problem of evil after the Haiti earthquake.)

Justin and I talk on the show about the state of the church in the U.K. Contrary to what I used to think, it is not a spiritual wasteland over there. There are bright lights that are shining, and I consider Unbelievable? to be one of them. We need to keep in mind that there are strong pillars of Christianity that exist over there, including someone like N.T. Wright.

We also talked about the show and how it has come along and the great guests that have come on. Justin said some guests have been good and some haven’t. Some could be great writers and just not meant to a debate style like that which is done on Unbelievable?. The show has also been an education for him, something I’ve noticed in my brief time hosting a podcast. The show is often a chance for me to get my own education in interviewing guests on so many great topics.

There was also talk about the Unbelievable? conference that takes place annually in the U.K. This year, the conference will be focused highly on C.S. Lewis, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his death. There will be discussions on Lewis and the imagination, Lewis and the problem of pain, and even what would C.S. Lewis say to the new atheists?

I highly encourage my readers to be listening to the Deeper Waters podcast. It’s really exciting to be bringing out the best in Christian apologetics. We plan on having more and more scholars show up. Yet while listening to my show, I also encourage you to listen to the Unbelievable? podcast. It is a podcast that I never miss and if I’m on vacation and have to listen to two podcasts one after the other, well that’s what I do. Unbelievable? is that good.

For those interested, the interview with Justin Brierley can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Determining What’s True

How do we study the Bible historically? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

After my blog post on the problem with fundamenatlism, I was asked on TheologyWeb that if by chance the Bible was not inerrant, how would we know what parts were true and what parts weren’t? This is a good question to ask.

Relatedly, on the latest Unbelievable? a skeptical teenager from Australia was on the line asking about the accounts of Judas’s death in Matthew and Acts. His contention was that if one of these was shown to be unreliable then everything in the Bible was unreliable, and the impression was given that this would go down to the crucifixion itself.

Both of these show a great concern to have. A Christian can be left with the attitude of “The only way I know that Jesus rose from the dead is that the Bible says so!” Meanwhile, the atheist can come with the idea that “If I find one mistake in the Bible, I can’t take any of it as historically reliable.”

This approach is highly problematic especially since one would not use it on any other work of ancient history. If you were reading an account of Plutarch and you found that he made a historical error at one point, you would not say “Oh well. So much for Plutarch!” If we are reading Josephus and we find that he made a historical error at one part, we do not say “So much for Josephus!” If we did this with ancient historians, we would know nothing about ancient history. For that matter, we would know nothing about modern history either since modern historians make mistakes.

Some of you are saying “Surely no one would make a mistake like that!”

Frank Zindler does.

Who is Frank Zindler? Listen to Bob Price’s description of him.

“One of the most effective (not to mention hilarious) speakers for atheism and secular humanism today is Frank Zindler, author, linguist, translator, Bible scholar, and scientist—truly a Renaissance Man.

He is an advocate as well for the much-despised but increasingly hard to ignore Christ Myth hypothesis, which he has ably defended in books such as The Jesus the Jews Never Knew and articles like “Where Jesus Never Walked.” ”

Apparently, the criteria for being a Bible scholar is having an opinion. Zindler is not a Bible scholar. To say the Christ-Myth is hard to ignore is like saying loud music as you get closer to a concert is hard to ignore. Want an example of what Zindler says?

“When the author of Matthew read Mark’s version, he saw the impossibility of Jesus and the gang disembarking at Gerasa (which, by the way, was also in a different country, the so-called Decapolis). Since the only town in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee that he knew of that started with G was Gadara, he changed Gerasa to Gadara. But even Gadara was five miles from the shore – and in a different country. Later copyists of the Greek manuscripts of all three pig-drowning gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) improved Gadara further to Gergesa, a region now thought to have actually formed part of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. So much for the trustworthiness of the biblical tradition.

No ancient historian would take this approach. It is an absurd all-or-nothing approach. We encourage Zindler to do the same with any other work of history and see what he winds up believing about history.

Now someone might say “Well the Bible is supposed to be the Inerrant Word of God!”

Yeah. So what?

How does one get from that to “If there is one mistake, then everything in it is wrong”? If you show an error in the Bible, this is what you demonstrate.

“The Bible has an error.”

You do not demonstrate that everything in the Bible is error by showing one thing is. Let’s do the opposite end. Let’s suppose I demonstrate Jesus was crucified. Would you take that to mean “Now everything in the Bible is true!” No. Not at all. I woul dnot want you to either. That would be dumb.

What do we do then? We do what we are supposed to do. We study the text.

It means we get scholarship on both sides. It means we weigh the issues out. It means we avoid just one approach. It requires we work. We also accept some things can never be proven or disproven. Let’s suppose we read about a skirmish between two individuals in a Roman biography. That could be hard to prove or disprove. Let’s suppose then instead we read about the conquest of a city. That is much easier to prove or disprove. For the former, it could be a position of faith, in that faith will be seen as believing something to be trustworthy and reliable. It is giving the author the benefit of the doubt where we find general reliability.

This is also the method the apostles encouraged. They gave evidence that Jesus had risen. Miracles were one kind of evidence. Eyewitness testimony was another. This was how the Gospels were written as well. Luke explicitly states that he knows of many eyewitnesses and reports and he made a thorough investigation.

Inerrancy is not a position that we assume. It is one we reason to. If the Bible is without error, we should be able to demonstrate that insofar as it is possible. If we truly think it is, we should be more than happy to have it investigated. If we think Jesus rose from the dead, we should be open to historical investigation into that matter.

For our atheist friends, they need to realize that showing one error in the Bible does not show all of it is false or suspect any more than it would for any other work of ancient history. Are they just as willing to examine both sides, such as the evidence that Jesus rose or the evidence that miracles have happened? So far, the number I’ve seen that do that are minimal.

Perhaps that’s because they’re really the ones that are people of faith.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Homophobia Fails

What were my thoughts on the debate on homosexual marriage on Unbelievable? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently on Unbelievable?, host Justin Brierley had a debate on homosexual marriage between Peter Tatchell and Peter D. Williams. Tatchell has been a lifelong advocate of what he prefers to call “gay rights.” Peter D. Williams is an apologist who works with Catholic Voices. There will be a link to the program at the end.

To begin with, this is a debate I thought was an absolute trounce on the part of Williams. Williams knew the material that Tatchell was citing and what the problem was with it. Furthermore, Williams himself never appealed to Scripture to defend his case so it wasn’t just “The Bible says so.” (I have heard some apologists say they think homosexuality is wrong just because the Bible says so. I really don’t think this is the way to go. It’s not that X is true because the Bible says so. The Bible says X because it is true.)

I could tell the way the debate was going to go when right at the start Tatchell started talking about homophobia. Williams was right when he said that this is more often a way of shutting down debate. It becomes more about the motives of the person presenting the argument rather than the argument itself.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Williams really did have a hatred towards homosexuals and homosexuality. Let’s suppose that he was filled with nothing but vitriol towards them and thought that they were less than human in any sense of the word.

Question. Does that make his arguments against homosexual marriage wrong?

No. It just makes him a jerk. He could be entirely right in his opinion and entirely wrong in his attitude. It would not work against his argument to say that he was a jerk. You still have to deal with what is said and the claim about someone being homophobic does not do that.

Furthermore, let’s think about this. What does the term mean? Phobias are not funny things. They’re terrifying things. I have a phobia of water for instance. My wife and I honeymooned at Ocean Isle Beach and it took a lot for her to get me into the water. I got out into the ocean deeper than I ever had before. Most noteworthy was she got me into the pool about 5 feet deep and away from the edge.

There was a part of me that was inside screaming “My wife is trying to kill me!” while I was doing that, but the rational side of me was saying “My wife loves me and if anything does happen, she’s fully capable of saving me.” I did trust her. It took a lot, but I trusted her.

Now let’s suppose someone was walking by who saw this and said “Wow! Look at that! The little wimp is afraid of water!” Now some of you might think that fear is bizarre, but there would not be sympathy for someone who holds that kind of attitude. I can assure them they would need to pray for God to have mercy if my Mrs. had heard that because she sure wouldn’t.

Phobias are not terms you should use to mock or denigrate someone and yet that is exactly what the term homophobia is. It is the idea that the only reason Christians are against homosexuality is because they are afraid of it or homosexuals. Does that mean I have kleptophobia because I’m opposed to theft? Do I have nymphophobia if I am opposed to sex outside of marriage? Do I have homocidophobia if I am opposed to murder? Could it actually be that I might have moral reasons for objecting to homosexuality?

The next term Tatchell used regularly was discrimination. This is playing the victim card because who wants to be on the side of the discriminators. The reality is that we all do discriminate on various topics. We discriminate on who we’re friends with, who we do business with, who we marry, and who we have sit our kids.

The law itself discriminates. You have to be a certain age to drive. You have to be a certain age to vote. You have to be a certain age to drink alcohol. If you want to carry a gun, you have to show that you are qualified to do that. This is discrimination and it is good discrimination.

Williams made the point that Tatchell is not denied any right. He is wanting different rights. He’s correct. No one has the right to marry someone of the same sex. Instead, everyone has the right to marry someone of the opposite sex, and even then there’s some discrimination, such as that you can’t marry a close family member.

Williams is also right when asking “Why not polygamy?” We could go further and ask “Why not NAMBLA?” or “Why not incest?” Now for polygamy Tatchell was of the opinion that no one would want that. He can say that, but I’m pretty sure the Mormon church here in America would certainly get a “new revelation” if polygamy became allowed.

One important aspect of the debate was that marriage sets a normative route for society that shows what is needed for the ideal raising of children. It doesn’t mean that all marriages have children or will have children, but it means that children are ideally raised by a mother and a father both. Of course, there are some tragedies that happen, such as the death of a spouse, that leave some single parents, and these can do very admirable jobs, but I am sure most would say it would be a whole lot easier if the other spouse was around.

The key point was in the idea of which sex it is that is not needed to raise a child. For me, this is the main point. Allowing homosexual marriage will be saying that men and women are really interchangeable. There is no difference between the two. Which sex will be the one to be cast aside? It’s very easy to tell you that. Fathers will be seen as superfluous.

Being a man means something. It matters. Being a woman means something. It matters. I am thankful God made me a man and when the Princess and I have children some day, as we hope to, I will be very pleased that I get to be a father and she gets to be the mother of my children and we will both play our essential roles in their proper raising.

Let’s hope the society in the U.K. recognizes what marriage really is, the union of a man and a woman, and let’s also hope that here in the states we do the same thing. For those of us who are married, let’s start living the joyful life of marriage for a watching world. The reason other people lessen marriage is because we did it ourselves in the first place.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The debate can be found here:

http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={45A7CC8B-2EE9-4394-B030-54C00AA7CA39}

Temple of the Future on Morality

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like today to write on something that Justin Brierley presented on the Unbelievable Facebook page. It’s an article on a site called “Temple of the Future” concerning morality and biblical truth. It can be found here.

Temple starts off with discussing recent programs of Unbelievable. To be fair, I have not got to listen to the most recent one yet on women in ministry. However, does the first one mentioned of a look at Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” really have much to do with morality? It’s quite likely that most evangelicals would agree with Bell on several moral issues. My opinion on “Love Wins” is coming sometime soon, but regardless of whether Bell is right or wrong, the question is not about whether an action is right or wrong. Bell could be a universalist or not be a universalist and still believe murder is wrong.

What of the program on the true face of Islam? It’s a wonder that this is being seen as something on the Bible when this is really something on the Koran if anything. An atheist could have been a guest on the show and could have stated that Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam. If he knew what the teachings were in the Koran or Hadith, then he could have presented what he believed to be an accurate argument for whatever position he held. Again, whether Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam doesn’t matter to me at this point.

The last one is the closest one we have to a moral issue, but is it really so much a moral issue? Does anyone really believe someone would go to Hell, for instance, for having a female minister? Augustine dealt with a question similar to this back with the Donatist teaching. What if someone was baptized by someone who was a heretic? Does that mean their salvation is null and void? Augustine said no.

Temple says it is foolish to let the questions of morality become exercises in literary criticism.

However, what is actually meant by literary criticism? Here are the main issues that we can raise.

Is the text that we have what we had then? This would be textual criticism. Whether what the text says is true or not does not really matter. Even if all that say, Paul wrote in Romans, is wrong, does that mean we don’t have what he originally wrote? All we want to know is if we have what he wrote.

What style is the writing in? Are we going to take Revelation in a literal sense? When Jesus says “Pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” is he to be taken literally? At the same time, when he says “Love your neighbor as yourself” is that to be taken literally, and how do we know when to take the text literally and when not? This is part of hermeneutics, that is, the art of interpretation of a text.

Finally, we come to the questions of “What does the text mean?” and then for our personal application “What does it mean to us personally today?” The first question is the most important one although we usually skip to the second. What does the text mean? This can also be a difficult one, but it’s not just with the biblical text. It’s with any text. We wonder what the text means in Plato, the Upanishads, the Koran, Nietzsche, government laws, or just ordinary conversation. ALL texts must be interpreted and some interpretations are right and some are wrong.

Turning to the program on church leaders, Temple simply says this is a dumb question to be asking. Why? Because it’s not the way most people in the 21st century think. So what? If someone wants to remain faithful to a text, it’s an important question to ask if there’s debate on what the text means. Granted, it’s not the most fascinating topic to the secular man, but again, so what? Are Christians forced to have debates and define debates in the way that the secular person prefers?

Temple sees this as discrimination when we don’t allow women to be in ministry. To begin with, it is discrimination, but that assumes all discrimination is wrong. My work place is discriminatory. They only allow men to go into the men’s room and they only allow women to go into the women’s room.

The Boy scouts are discriminatory. You have to be a boy to participate. Places that give senior citizen discounts are discriminatory as you have to be at least 65 to get one. Restaurants that say kids eat free are discriminatory since you have to be a kid in order to eat for free.

The question is “What is the basis for the discrimination.” Does the Bible say women should not be in ministry because they are inferior? It would be good to see such a text. The closest Temple points to is Ephesians 2:22-24. Nowhere mentioned however is that the man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church which is hardly a dominating theme. As a married man, it calls me to constant self-sacrifice for my wife. Now do some people misuse this text? Of course. People can misuse any text, but does Temple want us to think the text has no meaning and is open to any interpretation. If so, then can he really say that the text teaches the inferiority of women? Can I not say “That’s just your interpretation.”?

Temple writes about two scholars of Shakespeare’s works and how they disagree over the meaning of what Shakespeare said and asks if we could ever come to a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant. Temple tells us that of course we couldn’t. Temple tells us that like any complete text, it’s open to interpretation.

Okay. Agreed. It is open to interpretation.

Then he says multiple valid interpretations.

Is this really the case? He would have to demonstrate this. Is he saying that supposing Paul wrote Ephesians that Paul believed in the inferiority of women and didn’t believe in the inferiority of women both? How could this be? If Paul puts the meaning into the text, then the text can only mean one thing. It could be difficult or even impossible for us to find out what he meant, but that does not mean that there is no meaning.

Furthermore, why should I believe that we could never reach a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant? Who knows what the future will hold. I’m certainly open to the possibility that we could someday. Temple just takes it as a foregone conclusion that we won’t. Where does this knowledge of the future come from?

Temple says to build our morality on the Bible is to be build it on sinking sand.

We’ve seen this song and dance before. One would think that Temple would have some familiarity with Natural Law thinking. Does he not read any Christian ethicists who argue not from Scripture but from the basis of Natural Law? Does he read someone like Budziszewski in a work such as “The Line Through The Heart”?

Of course, in the comments, he does present the Euthyphro dilemma as if this is something embarrassing to Christians. Granted, most don’t know how to answer it, but the answer is to ask what goodness is and if it can be defined apart from God. I believe it can just like Aristotle did and when we define goodness, which is that at which all things aim according to Aristotle, we eventually realize that God is that which is goodness in being being itself. Temple could read Aquinas in the Summa Theologica for information on goodness and the goodness of God.

The point is that this is the same idea we’ve seen over and over. So many today arguing against morality believe that Christians use the Bible and only the Bible, not realizing the Bible itself argues against such a claim in passages like Romans 2. Are we to think when the Israelites got the Ten Commandments that they had no idea murder was wrong before that? Of course not. Moses himself made sure, though not doing a good job of it apparently, to make sure no one was watching when he killed an Egyptian.

Hopefully atheists and others will soon stop making this argument and start actually interacting with Christian positions.

A Response To Paul Baird

Welcome back everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. The time has come for me to address the question that I said earlier that belongs to Paul Baird. Thus far, I have found Baird to be an atheist highly capable of dialogue and when a serious question like the one he has rises up, I wish to deal with it.

Basically, the question concerns the justice of God. Is it the case that Hitler could have prayed a prayer before he died and repented and wound up in Heaven while at the same time a Jew who had simply rejected Christ all his life and died in the gas camps would go to Hell?

How is that just?

It’s a good question and an understandable one, so let’s put into play some parameters for our discussion.

First, biblically, anyone who commits any sin whatsoever knowingly and unknowingly justifiably deserves Hell. Note that I am not saying that Hell is deserved to the same degree. I do believe there are degrees of sins just as there are degrees of acts of grace.

Second, there is no action that one can do that could merit eternal favor with God on one’s own. One has to come to God on God’s terms. You cannot do a good deed in order to cancel out a bad deed.

Third, apart from the saving work of Jesus on the cross, no one past, present, or future from that event would have any chance of salvation.

Is God’s system fair? Well let’s suppose that instead he had a system that was arbitrary clearly. In order to merit eternal life, at the end of your game, you have to have 1,000 points. Bad actions cost points and good ones gain them. Why 1000? Just because. Why how many points each action has? THhat’s just because also. You lose, say, 700 for murder and gain 2 for helping a little old lady across the street. You’d on the other hand gain 700 if you threw yourself on a live grenade to save innocents.

Is such a system fair? Hardly. It’s arbitrary and leaves the person in chaos wondering if they are or are not going to make it. What do we need? We need to get rid of the points system altogether. What if we had more of an all-or-nothing system related to good deeds as well?

Say, what if we had a system that meant one was on the path they needed to be on following as best they could and not rejecting the true path?

I believe this is a closer description. For those outside the body of Christ, I believe it’s best to say that frankly, we don’t know. We do know however that the judge of all the Earth will do right. No one will be able to say on the last day “It wasn’t fair.”

Someone like Hitler also will have a harder time repenting. The further you move from the light, the less likely you are to return to it. For the seeker, the closer you get to the light, the more likely you are to turn to it.

Now this has been an interesting diversion but keep in mind, it is a diversion. The truth of Christianity does not hinge on this. If Christ is not raised, then this is all just speculation that will never matter. Now if Christ has been raised, then this is important thinking on a topic that raises much controversy but is secondary The real question is “Did Jesus rise.” One should not reject God over a secondary question.

So I would put the question in my opponent’s course. What have you done to answer the question of “Did Jesus Rise?”

Presuppositional Apologetics on Unbelievable

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve finished up our study of the Watchtower booklet of “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” so now, I’m going to look at some other topics for the time being before the next big project. One topic I want to look at is the recent usage of presuppositional apologetics.

This was featured recently on Justin Brierley’s incredible program Unbelievable. The debate was between Christian Sye Tenbruggencate and atheist Paul Baird. This was round two of the debate. Now I do think round one that had been recorded last year went to Sye, but this time, I give the win to Paul and I wish now to critique some points from Sye’s presentation. Tomorrow, I could spend the blog answering an objection of Paul’s to Christianity presented on the show.

I have been in interaction with Sye and I have not been impressed by what I have seen. Sye had said on the air that other approaches to apologetics that did not presuppose God’s existence or start with Scripture were sinful. As an apologist using those other methods, I strongly disagree. I find that when the apostles dialogued in the book of Acts with unbelievers, they started with what their opponents knew and accepted as authoritative. If I am a non-Christian, I have no reason to accept Sye’s presuppositions. He needs to argue from the presuppositions of my worldview to convince me.

That having been said, I’m not ready to throw out the window what would be called the argument from reason. I do think there is something to the idea that if we find that our reason is the result of an accident, that there could be some reason to distrust it. We all seem to have this belief that our minds can interact with the world and tell us things about it and this is something fascinating worth studying.

If someone thinks they can use such an argument to demonstrate the existence of God, I say more power to them. It is not one I would use so there do not need to be any responses telling me why I should not accept the argument. I would accept a different form based on Aquinas’s fourth way, but it is not the presuppositional argument.

Looking at the debate, Paul did state to Sye that he was willing to grant theism so can Sye get him to specifically Christian theism? Much of the show was devoted to that and the hope was never delivered. Sye would say a nonsense sentence in response like “Pizza three music lamp green.” Well I’m sure at that that every Muslim out there was ready to repent and come to Jesus.

The argument from reason, like any other theistic argument, cannot get you to the Christian God. They do not rule out the Christian God either. They can get you to theism. This is a criticism many of the new atheists make of theistic arguments and sadly, many strongly Calvinistic Christians do. I have heard some say they dismiss the Five Ways for instance because those don’t get you to the Christian God specifically. Aquinas would say they were never supposed to. This is not to criticize Calvinism however. Someone can be a Calvinist and agree entirely with what I’m saying.

What Sye’s charge is is that people use logic and reason without a basis for the validity of logic and reason and they need God for that. Okay. Let’s suppose I grant that. Christianity is not the only system that can justify logic and reason in that case. Judaism can. Islam can. Deism can. Some cults could make such a claim. Aristotle himself would have had a basis for his logic and reason as well.

Sye’s response would be “But you don’t need a generic god! You need the true God!” I agree in a sense. Only the true God could account for reality. However, Sye’s argument is that it is inconsistent to trust logic without a basis for it. If that’s the case, any of the theistic systems win on the question of consistency. However, while something must not be consistent to be true, it’s being consistent does not mean that it is true. I believe the Bible has no contradictions, but that does not mean that if it had no contradictions it would be ipso facto true. If the Harry Potter series has no contradictions, that does not make it historical.

There has also been the case that man cannot know anything about God apart from the revelation of Scripture. I find it interesting that it seems Romans 1:20 is a verse that is used to defend this position when in fact, I think that it argues just the opposite position. Let’s look at the verse:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

The Apostle Paul is arguing in Romans 1 that God is angry with the Gentiles for how they’ve lived. In Romans 2 however, he argues that the Jews are just as guilty. However, their condemnation is in some ways worse because they have the Scriptures and they still do not live as they ought. Thus, it is implicit in Romans 1 that these are people without the Scripture but only have general revelation.

These people are without excuse. Why? Because they do know there is a call to their lives. After all, Romans 2 makes it clear that the testimony of the law is written on their hearts. They know right and wrong as general revelation. (Another point for the new atheists to learn. You do not need the Bible to know right from wrong and the Bible is not the moral standard) Still, the gentiles are doing what is wrong.

Thus, they are without excuse. They know enough about the true God to know that he could not be contained by idols and such representations, but they do it anyway. Now does this mean this knowledge of the true God is salvific? Not necessarily. There is the question of those who’ve never heard of course and there is debate on that, but just having a right concept of God insofar as it goes is not enough to bring about salvation.

In fact, that’s what we have in other religions. Muslims and Jews both have some right beliefs about God. The arguments for natural theology can be used by the Muslims and Jews just as well as by the Christians. Of course, when it comes to special revelation, this is where they differ. Sye’s argument would say you need a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, immutable, etc. Well Jews and Muslims believe in that kind of God. “But that’s not the true God!” This is where we come to the main point.

There is not a single philosophical argument that can be used to prove Christianity. That does not mean philosophy is useless of course. Philosophy can defend the Trinity once Scripture establishes it. Philosophy can support the belief systems of Christianity. Philosophy can guide our thinking so we think rightly when studying the Scriptures. However, you cannot use just thinking and get to the point of saying “God revealed Himself in Jesus through Jesus’s death and resurrection and I need to believe on Him for eternal life.”

Philosophy can get you to God, but it will not get you to the cross. The cross and the empty tomb are events that take place in space and time and thus, they need the backing of arguments based on space and time. That is, they need history. You need to demonstrate historically that Jesus rose from the dead. Even if you could philosophically disprove other systems, it would not historically demonstrate Christianity, which is a historic faith resting on historical events.

Thus, I consider the argument as used for theism, one that is workable, but to say it works only for Christian theism, I deem it a failure in that sense. Let us not make the mistake of thinking what would not want to be thought, that with our reason alone we can reach a saving knowledge of God. We cannot. We need him to reach down to us and we need to use history to understand how he did so.