Should Kids Be Taught Religion?

If we avoid talk of sex with our children, should we do the same with religion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Earlier this week, I blogged about the problem of stealing our childhood from our kids. I was asked by a commenter if that would include religion since we don’t want to introduce kids to the world of sex early. Let them be kids before they get involved in a religious debate they don’t understand. Right?

I figured this would come up. Now to be sure, when I say don’t introduce kids to sex, I mean the actual graphic real sex. At the same time, sex is in a sense unavoidable. Girls should be raised to be girls and boys should be raised to be boys. Girls and boys should both be taught basics on how their bodies work and when they have questions and “explore” we should be willing to answer. I have heard it recommended that we don’t come up with nicknames for body parts. Call them what they are.

As for religion, I am not saying we need to get children involved in debates on the age of the Earth or about the rapture or if they should speak in tongues. At the same time, this should be age appropriate. You don’t need to show a teenager a porn video to explain sex to them, but you also aren’t going to talk to them the way you would talk to a five year-old.

Religion is often a family affair so parents will likely bring their children to church and thus to Sunday School. The kids should be allowed to ask questions about any subject matter brought up in class. My Dad and I both share a love of the Fox Trot comic strip and writing this brought to mind this.

Personally, if I was in Jason’s Sunday School class, I would be glad to see that he was thinking this way and not giving any look. This would be a student trying to grasp the idea. Now as someone who is not a Star Wars fan really, I can’t tell how accurate the description is, but if a student is asking, we should celebrate that.

And just as we teach a student in elementary school elementary math and we increase it as the kid grows older, so we should do with religion. When they start entering the teenage area, we need more than just Bible drills. We need them to be having an informed worldview about why they believe what they believe.

Also, this same route would go with politics. Let’s face it. When six year-olds write letters to the president and include statements about the economy and foreign policy, those are the overwhelming majority of the time coming from the parents and not the children. We can raise children with our ideas and we inevitably will, but we should not ban them from asking any question that they want.

As children grow older with the topic of sex and especially getting into puberty, we definitely need to be answering more questions and explaining more material. Girls need to learn what it means to be a woman and boys need to learn what it means to be a man. However, that is for that case.

When children are young and in Elementary school, we don’t need to be rushing them to be adults. We are preparing them for that, but they are also still kids and they only get to be kids once. Sex is often considered an adult topic for a reason. We can refer to a child’s innocence being taken from them.

There is no hard and fast rule, but do things in proper moderation and in proportion to the child’s skills. Many children should be taught math on their age level. For me, my parents knew I was advanced in math early on and I was treated accordingly. If a child seems to be a political prodigy or a religious one, then treat that properly too. However, sex is in the issue of morality and thus makes it different. Also, it’s done with other people and we don’t want small children engaging yet.

But please, don’t use children as pawns in political and religious debates. Let them be kids. They have plenty of years in adulthood to argue with the rest of us on Facebook. Let them enjoy being kids for now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Why The Genetic Fallacy Matters

Does where that idea came from matter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

On Facebook in the span of 24 hours, I have seen two posts arguing against evolution making the exact same mistake. The first one was claiming that Darwin was a member of a Masonic lodge and was involved with Luciferian practices. The other one was claiming that evolution was used in the history of racism. Now you should know that my stance is to neither argue for or against evolution. I’m not a scientist. However, I am opposed to bad arguments. That includes bad arguments against positions I oppose, such as when I have worked to take to task conservative memes against liberals here that are based on falsehoods.

This is simply called the genetic fallacy. It says nothing about the position itself. Let’s suppose that Adam Smith, who is considered the father of capitalism, was a colossal jerk to everyone he met. That would not change anything about capitalism whatsoever. I have a friend who considers Marx the most wicked man who ever lived. Even if that is true, that says nothing about Communism being true or false.

Now with the claims we have here, I am extremely skeptical of the former claim, but I am open to the latter. I have seen some writings that lead me to think that there was some racism involved in Darwin. There are some people who also think this was involved in the holocaust of Hitler. That is a question for historians of science and World War II to discuss. For the worst case scenario, I will grant that these claims are true.

None of this says anything about evolution being true or false. It makes no difference. If you are a Christian sharing these arguments, you are not doing our side any favors whatsoever. If anything, you are further embarrassing us. I don’t doubt you mean well. I don’t doubt you do this out of zeal for Christ. However, Paul warned us in Romans about a zeal that is not in accordance with knowledge.

If you want to argue against evolution, and I have no problem if you do because if it can be shown to be bad science, we should reject it, then you are going to have to argue against it on scientific grounds. Let’s consider some parallels in our own field of interest.

I am not a KJV-onlyist, but I have heard claims before that King James who was behind the KJV was a homosexual known as a flaming queen. Let’s suppose that was true. What does that say about evolution? Absolutely nothing. The KJV will have to be critiqued on the grounds of the translation.

Recently, we have had the Ravi Zacharias scandal break out. I understand people not wanting to use Ravi’s material and books anymore. That is a matter of wisdom. That being said, let’s consider the arguments. Are they false because Ravi turned out to be a pervert? Not at all.

I consider myself to be a Thomist and a Protestant. Are you going to refute Thomism by telling me that he was a Roman Catholic? Not a bit. Is Aristotle disproven just because he didn’t use the Bible? Not at all.

Mark is portrayed in Acts as a Momma’s Boy who left the team of Paul and Barnabas early and caused a division between the church’s two first great missionaries. Does this mean his Gospel is not reliable? Not a bit.

The only time pointing to the character of the person matters is if the claim is centered around the reputation of the person involved. If a person is testifying to something in a court of law that they have seen and it can be shown that the person is a compulsive liar, for example, then you have grounds to doubt their testimony. Outside of that, none whatsoever.

As I said each time this came up, let’s suppose Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, was a complete jerk. Let’s suppose he was a satanist who molested children and ate cats for breakfast. None of this is true, of course. However, if it was, it would not make a difference to the residents of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The bombs still worked regardless of his character.

Please don’t make embarrassing arguments. They’re not worthy of Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Forgive Them

Who is it that you are to forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness can be very hard. I remember several years ago when I was employed at Wal-Mart that a girl came up to me who worked there and said something along the lines of, “Nick. You seem like a really wise person. I’m struggling with forgiving someone. Can you tell me how to do it?” I immediately asked “What’s his name?”

“How did you know?”

“It’s always a guy.”

It was a safe bet that I made that turned out to be right. Forgiveness is hard, but it is really the way of Christ. We could say if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not. It’s extremely difficult. However, if we withhold forgiveness from someone, we are not really hurting them as much as we are hurting ourselves. If someone wrongs you, that reveals something about them. If you refuse to forgive, that reveals a lot more about you.

Now that doesn’t mean as I said that it will be easy. Sometimes, it will take work to forgive and you might have to do it again and again and again. I also want to stress that I am not saying to go to the other person and say “I forgive you.” Of course, in some cases, such as if the person is dead or it could be harmful to you to encounter the person, this is impossible. If at all possible, let them come to you. However, you should be in a position where you are in an attitude of forgiveness and ready to forgive.

Years ago, I wrote a post about “Will your murderer be in Heaven?” There are several great stories of forgiveness in there. I urge you to go there and check it out as there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel here. People have forgiven those who have done great wrong to them.

Yet you could be thinking, “Yes, but this person intentionally did something to me incredibly hurtful. How do I forgive them?” We do that by looking at our example of Jesus. Look at what happens on the cross. You hear Jesus saying “Father. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Now we know that they didn’t understand that Jesus was God’s Messiah and actually YHWH with skin on. However, what is understood? Whatever their reasons for doing it, they were intentionally doing it. They weren’t doing it in the sense of saying “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” This wasn’t done accidentally. This was done intentionally and with forethought to it. This was an evil act of malice.

Holding to the deity of Christ also doesn’t mean that you think He knew everything about everything in His incarnation, but being omniscient isn’t necessary to see that this was an act of evil. Christ knew that, and yet what did He do? He sought their forgiveness. He did not forgive them from the cross since they had not repented and forgiveness requires that, but He sought their forgiveness.

When He died on the cross, He died as much for them as He did for anyone else. (I realize many Calvinist readers will disagree with me. I am not interested in that debate, but if you hold to the L in the Tulip, consider that any that were Elect He died for just as much as any others.) He doesn’t love you or I any more than He loves them. That’s a love that’s hard for us to comprehend.

That’s the first point to consider, but then realize what you have done. Whatever someone else has done to you, you have done worse to Jesus Christ. You have rejected Him who has done so much for you. Years ago, a friend said something in reply to the idea that if you were the only one to save, Jesus would have come for you. He replied that if that were the case, you would have killed Him also.

I often tell people to do an exercise. Think of the person who has wronged you. Then think about standing before Jesus and telling Him what this other person has done to you. Oh wait. It’s not just that. Think about standing before Jesus on the cross and telling Him as He is being crucified what this other person has done to you.

Does that make it seem ridiculous to complain about that then? This is not to downplay what you have gone through, but to show that what you have done to Jesus is actually worse than that. This is the King of the universe here and sin is saying “I want to take your place.” We have all knowingly or unknowingly made a claim to want to be God. We have all done directly ourselves the sin that took place in the Garden.

Again, this does not mean it will be easy, but it is possible and not only that, required. Jesus says if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven, and as C.S. Lewis says, there’s no indication He doesn’t mean what He says. This could require a good therapist and/or pastor to work with you on this. That’s fine too. As long as you’re working on forgiving, I think Christ sees that.

There are evil people out there, and it’s easy to look at the evil in them. It’s far more beneficial to look at the evil in us. That’s the one evil that we can directly do something about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Veils of Distortion

What do I think of John Zada’s book published by Terra Incognita? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Zada is a journalist writing about how media distorts the news for all of us. Right now, my conservative readers are thinking, “Yep. We know we can’t trust the media. You tell them.” My liberal friends are probably thinking, “This is just going to be a cry of celebration for Trump and Fox News.”

Both of them are wrong.

There are statements in here both sides will not be happy with, which means it’s great reading for both sides. Instead, it’s a general warning about how the media functions today. In many ways, the media does control the culture and what they say does stick. This book is also recently published which means you can find news about Trump and about the Coronavirus.

Let’s start with the latter as an example of how news is shaped. Consider that the virus is called a “deadly virus.” Left out is that normally 98% of people who get the virus survive just fine. So why report it this way? Because deadly is a way that can make news. Also, we regularly report only the exceptional negative news. For a counterexample, you won’t turn on the news and hear “Millions of Americans get flu vaccine and nothing bad happens.” If however, some people die from it, which happens every year, that will make the news.

Part of the problem also is like most things journalists report on, they are not experts on the subject. Someone could be a journalist who reports on issues of national security all his life. However, he still will not have a job where he works directly in national security and so that will always be a blind spot for him.

News outlets also try to get news out there as fast as possible which means that they don’t have the time to fact check. In the past, they had to compete against only other journalists and news stations. Now who do they have to compete against? Everyone with a smartphone. How many of our news stories now are based on captured smartphone video?

Thus, the media rushes right out the gate without all the information and can often make snap judgments. Fact-checkers don’t always have the time to do proper fact-checking and can be just as unreliable as anyone else is. The best way for us to handle topics is to try to do our own fact-checking.

Sometimes, as a sad commentary, the media practically hopes for a disaster to take place. Zada even reports of a time where there was a standoff somewhere and someone in the newsroom actually said, “I wish some fighting would break out between these two so that we could have something to report.” After all, the same news doesn’t sell. If you have a story where a plane crashes, that will make the news. You will never turn on the news and hear, “Hundreds of planes flew across America today without a single crash.”

We must remember the media is driven by one thing ultimately. Money. They want ratings and that can lead to sloppiness as they try to get the best stuff out there as quickly as they can. The news will stay in the air for a bit and then when it no longer brings in the ratings, the media will go on to another story.

Also, whatever you think of Trump, he knows how to play the media well, and that is part of the reason he won in 2016. He knew what to do to get the media reporting on him which meant free coverage. The media had a love/hate relationship with him. They hated him politically, but they loved that he was a ratings grab which means in an ironic sense, they helped him become president with all the coverage.

What can we do?

For one thing, we need to inform ourselves. Watch the news from both sides and watch agencies that watch the media as well. You could even try investing in slow journalism. I have heard that Dan Bongino, for example, tries to wait 72 hours before taking a side on an issue that breaks out. Since he has a national radio show now, I don’t know if that can be done as easily, but whether you like him or not, I think that’s an admirable stance.

In my own field, I know that often a discovery is made in archaeology and Christians and atheists both rush out to share it thinking it will either confirm or disprove the Bible. I always say the same thing to them. Wait. Let the scholars look at the issue. Many people like to rush their stories to the media in this area instead of going through the scholarly review part. Always be wary of those.

Try also to read a story or hear it from the other perspective. If the situation was reversed, what would that mean? What data is being left out? We can hear how many people die from Coronavirus. How many people don’t?

I urge liberals and conservatives both to read this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Letting Kids Be Kids

Are we robbing children of their childhood? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Over the weekend, I went to visit a friend for some dinner and gaming together. My friend’s wife was away for her job and one of his daughters was home with him who is ten years old. As we are having dinner, I don’t remember what led to it, but somehow, she started talking about pride month. She excused herself for some reason and I turned to him and said “I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a thing about homosexuality when I was ten years old.” Heck. Most of us were just then starting to learn the facts of life when I was that old. Today, I suspect many kindergarteners already know.

When I was ten, my great thought I had when coming home was what video game am I going to be going through today. Today, if kids need to be making difficult choices at all, it really should be something like “Which Pokemon is going to be my starter Pokemon?” Of course, some of us still ask that question today.

Kids are being raised now to take a side on certain issues when they don’t know enough about the sides to make an informed decision. A child’s youth should be spent on playing games and having fun and getting to enjoy being a kid, something that they can only do once. Why should we steal that from them?

Let’s be fair. It’s also not just pride month that is doing this. Heterosexuals are doing the same thing. What does it do when we see ads with women pretty much in their underwear on TV during shows that kids could be watching with parents? Imagine a kid riding with his parents in the car hearing radio ads and saying “Mom. What’s erectile dysfunction?”

C.S. Lewis once wrote about a book called The Green Book by him in his book The Abolition of Man. His first chapter in it was called Men Without Chests. No. He is not referring to guys like myself who are physically small. He has something different in mind.

Lewis wrote about a boy and his dad walking together and seeing a beautiful waterfall and the boy saying it was sublime. The authors want it to be known that there is no such thing as a sublime waterfall. Instead, the boy feels small compared to the waterfall and says it’s sublime, but he is really making a statement about his personal feelings and not about the waterfall.

Lewis said the boy learned very little English that day, but he learned a lot of philosophy. He was drafted to take a side in a war he didn’t even know was going on. If we extend this further, it will be a world where we all go by feelings alone and those feelings are really just glands secreting juices in us and there’s no ultimate reality out there to them. It would lead to moral relativity eventually. The result then would be a generation of men without chests, no heart.

Now we have gone a different route where we listen to our feelings on everything and children are told to trust their feelings. Hardly good advice. Now instead of a generation of men without chests, we have a generation of women without chests where women are having top surgery to remove their breasts not because there is something unhealthy about them, but because they want to think they’re really men. That is not a decision that can really be reversed. Oh you can make something with plastic surgery, but it’s not the same as the real thing with several intricate nerves.

Kids are being told to try to find their gender identity and being enlisted in the battle the adults are having. None of us need to really be doing this. If we have to teach them ideas, teach them on a child’s level. A child in Sunday School does not need to be learning adult lessons on sexuality. Start off with basic truths that you want to teach them and then proportion it as they get older. The number one thing we need to teach any child though in all of this is how to think. We spend too much time teaching them what to think instead.

While many of us in debates on Facebook and other places will have our sides and debate them vigorously, I hope we can agree that we really should be keeping the children out of it. Let them grow up and make their decisions in the proper time, but let’s not steal their childhood from them to meet our own desires. Children only have one shot at being children. Let them have that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: A Change of Affection

What do I think of Becket Cook’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Change can happen in strange ways.

One day, Becket Cook is sitting outside at a coffee shop when someone comes in with a Bible. Wow. Cook and his friend sit outside making fun of a group apparently sitting around and talking with this man. After the group left, one straggler is left behind. Cook and his friend decide to go up and start asking the guy question.

Here’s a real shock. The guy is ready for them. I don’t know the answers given, but they were enough to leave Cook wanting to engage. At the end of the questioning, Cook decided to drop the hammer. As a man who is primarily attracted to men he asked, what about homosexuality?

The man actually gave a listening and kind answer. Cook was then invited to his church and he thought, “Why not?” If anything, it could be a good social experiment. It wasn’t an easy decision though as it was done with much debate. Many of his friends would not like to see him in a church or hear he had been to one.

Cook was there Sunday. He had grown up in a conservative Christian home, but he was the prodigal son. He knew the story about Christianity. He knew why it was nonsense.

Or so he thought.

As the pastor begins talking about the gospel, Cook is caught off guard. He hadn’t heard it this way before. He realized he was actually agreeing with a lot of what the pastor said. As he tells it, Cook knew then the conviction that he had. Homosexuality wasn’t an issue anymore. He came forward to pray and before too long, he became a Christian.

This is ultimately how the first part of the book starts as the first part is basically Cook’s story. It is about how he came to embrace a lifestyle of homosexuality and what all led to that. He’s very clear to state that he doesn’t know what is the ultimate cause of anything. He also ponders on many ways God could have been working in His life up to that point.

The second part is answering questions. Cook finds it sad that most of them have to do with sex. According to him, he would much rather talk about the resurrection and how to know it’s real, but no. People want to ask him about sex. He understands that and he does answer the questions.

Cook acknowledges that he still wrestles with temptation and has a heart for those who do. He still tries to find his heart fulfilled most of all in God. It is a sacrifice to him, but it is a worthwhile sacrifice as in his mind, he gains something far greater than his other intimate relationships could have given him.

So the positives of the book.

Cook’s story is very exciting to read. It’s a difficult book to put down as you wonder what will happen to him next and Cook has led an exciting life. He is a gifted storyteller as he brings the past to life and goes step by step in what all his experiences were. At the same time, it’s actually family friendly to read for the most part. There is nothing explicit described.

Second, Cook writes with a heart as well. You can tell he has a great concern for the people that he writes to. He is concerned about how our culture is so focused on sexuality above all else. Sex has become our great idol in our culture as we think that it’s impossible for a homosexual to be happy unless he or she is having sex. Actually, we think the same thing about heterosexuals and any of the other 2,489 sexualities we have today.

There is one big negative I have in that I would like to have seen more said about why he is a Christian today. I think too many will read his book who are skeptics of Christianity and say “Yeah. He went to a church and got caught up in an altered state of consciousness and abandoned all his reason at that point over an emotional experience.” I don’t think that is what happened, but I can understand that some would think that.

Cook does talk once about how he’d like to be asked about the resurrection, but I would prefer he just tell us. I understand that might not fit in with the story entirely, so why not add in an appendix? He can talk about how after his conversion, he did check to make sure he hadn’t been tricked and found a whole lot of data to support what he believed now. I’m not saying that’s how it happened to him, but if it is, I would like to know about it.

After all, Cook’s experience is great, but he can’t share that experience with others in the same way. No one else can enter a Matrix kind of world where they will experience what he experienced. They can hear his story and perhaps with an appendix like this hear something that could give them pause.

People interested in this kind of area need to read Cook’s book. It is readable and not too long as well. I hope you enjoy the story like I did.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Jesus Shock

What do we do with the words of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In all frankness right at the start, the title of this comes from Peter Kreeft. I can just think of no better way to describe this than he did, though he was taking a different approach. I started thinking about this one recently when talking with some skeptics on Facebook. Usually, we see the same verses pop up that we already know are being misunderstood.

Let’s consider Luke 14:26.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Such a statement is Jewish hyperbole and leave it to so many today to read it literalistically. The problem for those of us in the apologetics field is that we can be so easy responding to the misinterpretation that we miss the real interpretation. No. Jesus does not want us to literally hate our parents or ourselves, but He is calling us to literally do something.

So guys. If you’re married, how many of you men out there love your wives? How many women love your husbands? How much are you to love Jesus? You are to love Jesus so much that by comparison, your love for those people would seem like hatred. They can’t even be remotely in the same league as Jesus. Jesus doesn’t tell you to give up your family, but you would need to be willing to if need be.

Really. He said that.

Note that not only did He say this, but He made it about Himself. It’s not just that you need to do this to be a servant in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps that could be more understandable. No. Jesus made it about Himself. You need to be willing to eliminate these from your life if you are going to be a disciple of Jesus. Other great rabbis would speak about God. Jesus spoke about Himself.

What does that tell you about how He saw Himself?

Consider also another favorite one that is used. Jesus says that a man should not go and bury his father first. He needs to let the dead bury their own dead. Now the reality is the man’s father was likely still very much alive. The man was just saying he needed to fulfill his familial obligations first and then he could fulfill his obligation to Jesus.

Jesus won’t have it.

Yes. He actually says this.

Really. Let it sink in.

Are you ready to make that kind of commitment to Jesus?

Do you make this commitment to Him?

The problem for so many of us is that we have heard these kinds of sayings so much that we just tend to gloss over them. They no longer really surprise us. I have heard that when king Clovis II was told first about the crucifixion of Jesus, he immediately reached for his sword and said, “They wouldn’t have done that if I had been there.” We know that it was necessary that He be crucified, but we need to let the surprise of it sink in. This really happened. He really did this for us. Odds are if we had been there, we would have also been crying out to God to not let this happen.

Kind of like we do with much of our own suffering.

And God did let it happen.

Much like He lets our suffering happen.

And Jesus’s suffering ended in far greater good.

So……

Usually, many of my fellow apologists agree that Jesus Mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed, is thoroughly stupid. This is another reason for it. If Jesus never existed, I don’t think we would be capable of creating a figure like Him. I realize that’s not the same kind of argument that you can normally put forward in historical studies, but it is one. We could point to characters later on like Aslan, but that’s after we have the model of Jesus to look to.

For those of us in apologetics, let’s make sure we don’t spend so much time on misinterpretation that we ignore real interpretation. Jesus said the things He said and as has been said, they were the most incredible things ever said by human lips. We need to really take them seriously.

If it leaves you nervous, you’re not the only one. If it doesn’t, then really check yourself. It should. Jesus is calling for a radical commitment. Would you be willing to forsake all others for Jesus?

Note of course that I am not telling you to not love your family. You should. However, if Jesus asked you to give them up for Him, would you be willing to do that? We can look in amazement at the story of Abraham, but Jesus is asking us for similar here. No. We aren’t being told to literally offer them up as a sacrifice, but we are told to perform an Abrahamic sacrifice in that we are willing to give them up for Jesus.

This is also looking at just two passages. There are many many more. Jesus calls us to not even hate our neighbor in our hearts because that is the first step to murdering them. That’s a hard one.

How about lust? Look at the way our society is today with sex selling everything and we are told to not look at that woman with the idea of wanting to use her for sex or else we are on the way to adultery. We have already had the willingness to do so in our hearts after all.

Do you like that commandment? I don’t. It’s a difficult one to follow. I can’t help but think about what Mark Twain is alleged to have said at this point. It’s not the statements in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the ones that I do understand.

Jesus was the most radical figure who ever lived. We need to let ourselves be shocked by Him. Let’s not be so busy defending His words that we ignore them ourselves. Honestly to skeptics out there, I would encourage you to also really think about this figure. Mythicism is just ridiculous, but once you accept He lived, what do you do with Him? If you think someone made this all up, who was that amazing person or group of persons? Color me skeptical that such a thing could be done. If it wasn’t done, then we have to ask the question he asked.

“Who do you say that I am?”

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Should Revelation Be Scary?

How do we approach this book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about my mother’s concerns with weather all over the world. I asked her then if she was basing this on Revelation and she told me she had only read it once when she was a child and it scared her greatly. I can understand a child being scared by the book of Revelation, much like how on the other end the rabbis wanted a Jewish boy to wait until he was old enough before he read the Song of Songs.

Yet as adults, should we be scared of the book? In all fairness, there are some surprising aspects of this book. Years ago I read a book that asked at one point what would we know about Jesus if the only thing we had about Him was the book of Revelation? We certainly wouldn’t know about any “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.”

Years ago, Weird Al had a movie called UHF where he took over a TV station and brought it back from the brink with some awesome shows. One show that he had was Gandhi II. In this one, Gandhi came back and was not Mr. passive-resistance. He was a rough and tough fighter with beautiful ladies by his side toting a machine gun. Aside from the ladies, we can see Jesus being presented in such a different way in Revelation. He opens seals that bring about destruction on Earth and He comes back riding on a horse to judge and make war.

We all say to some extent we want justice. That even applies to today’s social justice warriors. What is in their name but justice? While I think it is a perverted sense of justice, they still want what they see as justice. Justice is good, but justice can also be scary. Something worth pointing out also is we constantly want mercy for ourselves and justice for our enemies. We very rarely reverse those. Perhaps we should.

Now some people reading this believe in a rapture and that Revelation describes what happens when the church is gone. That I find puzzling since why spend so much time talking about an event we won’t see? Still, if you believe that, this shouldn’t scare you because you’re not going to experience it.

I take the Orthodox Preterist approach and see the book as describing events largely happening in the first century, though some is future and one event, Revelation 12, is even a Cosmic Christmas story. These events do show justice. God takes sin seriously. The reason everything happens in Revelation in judgment is because people sin. There is a way in which justice is scary.

If we stay there, Revelation will not help us. It is not meant to just scare us. It is meant to give us hope. When Christians go through sufferings and trials, even the worst of all, God is still in charge. No matter what the Beast does in the book, it’s clear throughout who is in charge.

Often in the church today we make too big an emphasis on the devil. When it comes to what’s going on in our lives that is suffering, we blame it on the devil over and over. Whenever we are tempted to sin, it is because of the devil. After all, it can’t be that that’s our natural tendency. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need the devil to tempt me into sin. I’m quite proficient at being tempted on my own.

This fear is understood since in Revelation sealing the devil takes an army of angels to…wait….what? What did you say? The text doesn’t say that? It says one angel does it?

Huh. Imagine that.

It takes one angel to deal with the devil. Don’t practically make him the counterpart of God.

Finally, I remember several years ago being on TheologyWeb when in our chat feature on the site called the Shoutbox, someone was posting “Saints Win! Saints Win! Saints Win!” I humorously remarked that he must have just finished reading the book of Revelation. It’s a joke, but we should all really shout with joy at times. After all, the saints really do win.

In the end then, Revelation should be a comfort. Whatever the judgment that comes, God does it for the people He loves and how does it end? It ends with a wedding. It is the ultimate marriage of Heaven and Earth. It is the consummation of what has been longed for. God is with His people as He intended and all those who want to sit at the table can do so.

Come.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Whether Weather Means Something

What are we to make of bad storms? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am interrupting work on theology to talk about something since it was something my own mother asked me about yesterday and well, her concerns rank up there as pretty important to me. Yesterday, she asked me if I thought bad storms around the world meant anything. Now I was pretty sure I knew where she was going with this, but I decided to probe by asking her what countries she was talking about.

I remember hearing Russia, China, Taiwan, Brazil, and Spain. Now whether that list is accurate or not, I cannot attest. I am just stating what she told me. At that point, I pointed out that there are around 190 or so countries in the world. I have been given a list of five countries so that’s hardly impressive. Then I was told it’s happening in Colorado or Texas. Again, two states out of fifty. Hardly impressive.

Couldn’t God be trying to wake up the world? I question that since normally such judgments in biblical times came with actual prophets speaking the message. I am very suspicious of many prophecy claims today since they happen to be wrong so often and the track record for Scripture is 100%. Too many books that are sold as prophecy books are now gathering dust in the storerooms of Christian bookstores as their predictions have been shown to be false.

In Luke 13, Jesus is told about circumstances of His time and He replies that the people in those were not worse sinners than anyone else, but you need to repent. It wouldn’t matter who Jesus was speaking to. He would tell them to repent. We are all in need of repentance and repentance should be a constant refrain in the Christian life.

Of course, that doesn’t mean when we experience something painful, we don’t spend any time in self-examination. We should. Pain is often God’s megaphone to a deaf world, but normally, the problem is we don’t pay much attention. Remember when 9/11 happened? Here in America, shortly after that, people flocked to the churches. We had a wonderful time of love and unity.

For about a week or two.

We are sadly this kind of people today. There will be a big news story and normally it will be all that everyone is talking about for a few days and it won’t get resolved and everyone will normally just stop talking about it and then move on. I am seeing commercials about the Covid situation and saying how after this we won’t take family for granted and we will appreciate what we have and that this won’t change.

Bull.

But is this happening because the church isn’t being the church? The church in America hasn’t been the church for quite some time. We definitely need to repent and return to preaching the gospel. We’ve instead turned and preached individualistic feel-good stuff. Too often when we talk about the Christian life, the whole goal is to get someone to go to Heaven and who cares about all this stuff in between? Well, we should. God surely does.

Here ultimately is the big problem that I see with this kind of thinking. We have too many people who spend so much time interpreting their personal experience or the daily news to see what the Bible says about them, which to an extent is fine, but they’re not just seeing what the Bible says first. Not only that, they often treat these events as if they all come directly from God and God is causing them to happen. These are Christians who can often keep dream journals where they want to see what God is saying in every dream they have. A dream could be from God, but it could also be because you ate too much pizza last night.

We interpret these as if we are certain they came from God and must be understood that way, but meanwhile we have Scripture which as Christians we know comes from God and we spend far less time interpreting that. If only we would spend as much time interpreting Scripture as we do interpreting the news. Sometimes a storm is just a storm.

We are told to not worry about matters many times. If someone is hurt greatly by inclement weather, then we should do what we can to help them out in Christian charity. However, plenty of people have made predictions in the past based on events going on. Every single one of them was wrong. Thus, when I encounter someone with a new claim, I set the bar extremely high. If every other time a Chicken Little came by, nothing happened, why should I panic when this one comes by?

So people, watch the news, but please do not panic. God is still in control of this world. If you think you need to repent, the answer is yes. What you need to repent of, I cannot tell you, but yes. You need to repent. So do I.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Is Scripture To Be Read Literally?

Do we read the text literally? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we are going through the texts here to discuss the doctrine of God, one statement we will be given is that we are not taking the text literally. This is a favorite hangup of internet atheists. Many fundamentalists have the exact same approach. When I meet someone who says “We just read the Bible and believe what it says” then while I want to commend them for believing Scripture, I know they mean they interpret the text in a way they call literal.

Now you might be shocked to hear I think you should read the text literally. However, by literal, I mean according to the intent of the author, which is the true definition of literal. I call what many people today do reading the text literalistically.

The church fathers when reading the text asked what would be most fitting for the glory of God. Consider in Genesis 3, God walks through the garden in the cool of the day. Does that mean God has a literal body? Hopefully, we know that is not so. God is not limited in space and time. Some people could say this was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. I could accept such a reading as well.

If we went back a little earlier even, we can read in the text that on the seventh day, God rested. Now whether you take the text as referring to a long period of time or 24-hour days or take Augustine’s doctrine of instant creation or idea of John Walton’s reading, all of these sides for the most part agree that God was not tired of creating and just needed to take a breather.

This is especially evident with some passages, especially the Psalms. God is said to be a shield and a rock in those passages. No one takes those passages to read God is literally a shield or literally a rock. The only exception might be Dake in his Dake’s Study Bible. I do not know if he went this far, but he tried to take the text literalistically and he is usually seen as holding heretical ideas.

If we went to Deuteronomy, God is described as a consuming fire. No one thinks God is a cosmic bunsen burner. Note also that none of this requires that you believe the text is true. If I approach the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon, which I do not believe, I should still try to read the text according to the intent of the author. It’s easy to read any text in any work to make something sound ridiculous, but it’s not showing charity to the author regardless, and yes, I don’t think highly of Muhammad or Joseph Smith, but I still want to try to be as charitable to their writings as possible.

Now keep in mind that I understand the followers of Islam and Mormonism respectively think that God is the ultimate author of those books. Christians believe in some way God is behind the text of Scripture, although very few hold to a dictation theory, certainly not in the scholarly world. An atheist reader will not believe that, but they still owe it to themselves to read the text fairly. If you are given a reading of the text that puts it in a bad light, but someone shows you one that puts in a better light, unless you have a strong argument against the latter argument, accept it.

A personal example of this is there is a part in the Qur’an that looks like it denies that Jesus was crucified. I was actually reading a Christian scholar of Islam on the topic once who gave a reading of that text that he thinks indicates that the Qur’an does not really argue that way. Now it would certainly be easy for me to say the Qur’an denies the crucifixion which would be a historical absurdity, but I can’t do that in good conscience. Unless I am shown a clear defeater, I will go with the kinder reading of the text. I would want them to do the same with my book.

This will happen more in the Bible when we get to passages that describe the body of God. If we take all of these in a literalistic way, God becomes quite a weird being. After all, some say if man and woman are in the image of God and that that image is physical, then God becomes a hermaphrodite.

Here’s where some people have problems. A lot of people will say, “Yeah. God doesn’t have a physical body in His nature” and read those texts accordingly, but when it comes to God having emotions, those texts are read to read God has actual emotions. I read those differently. When God is said to be angry, it means that God is acting in a way that we perceive as angry and thus can relate to and understand. I also think my position is more consistent. I don’t read either one literalistically. If you want to say one is and one isn’t, you need to give me a reason. I would actually have more respect for the person who says both are to be read literalistically, though even then I suspect they think they have to pick and choose which ones they read that way.

For atheist readers, I really hope there will be more attempts to read the text fairly. If you take a position out there and make it look absolutely absurd, odds are that you have not understood it. Most arguments against a position that are really simplistic are not well thought out and have been answered time and time again.

I also think I am reading the text fairly with all of this. For the Bible, there have been many different readings throughout history. I am not claiming to be conversant in all of them. I don’t think anyone really could be seeing as we have thousands of years of readings. You have pre-Christian thought like the Dead Sea Scrolls, post-Christian thought like Jewish writings beyond the DSS and the church fathers, medieval writings, Reformation writings, post-Reformation writings, etc., and then there are plenty of different cultures that have read the Bible differently. Still, we should strive to be as fair as we can with any text. It’s easy to go through something like the Book of Mormon and find anachronisms, but when I see something and I wonder if it was there or not in the new world at the time, I should be fair and look it up and if it was there, don’t mention it. It doesn’t mean I think Joseph Smith has an accurate account, but it means I’m being fair.

Keep this in mind as we look at the text. Will I interpret every text “literalistically”? No. Do I strive to be fair? Yes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)