Marriage and Consumerism

How do we view the other person? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m downstairs with the family and I multitask. I usually do that as I can pay attention to two things at once. So we’re watching something and I have my Switch with me and I decide which game I want to play on it. Easy. Which one will bring me the most joy at the moment? If I get frustrated or bored with it, I can just switch to another one.

That’s fine.

Suppose we’re watching a show and just lose interest. What do we do? Easy. We switch over and find another one. Easy. It works fine.

Suppose you’re at a restaurant. What do you get? What you can afford, what you want, and possibly what you think is good for you. Don’t like it when it comes? You can just trash it.

Suppose you get married to someone and you love them at first, but then you just lose that spark. You think there are better waters somewhere else. What do you do? Easy. Just leave them and go out and find love somewhere else so you can have happiness.

Yet somehow, I hope you paused at that last one and considered it differently.

There is no commitment to the game, the TV show, or the food at the restaurant. I didn’t make a marital vow to, say, Pokemon Arceus, and therefore I can’t switch over to TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge. I didn’t vow exclusivity to Smallville, therefore I can’t watch the Flash. I didn’t say I will only order Subway sandwiches, therefore I can’t order french fries at another restaurant. None of those things will care either if I switch.

Unfortunately, we treat marriage the same way. Marriage is not about something bigger than ourselves often. It is just about ourselves. It is about what makes us happy and normally, about our feelings at the moment.

The Human League years ago did a song called Fascination where they said to keep feeling fascination, passion burning, love so strong. It’s a nice dream, but any married couple will tell you it’s false. You cannot promise good feelings to each other forever. Feelings come and go for whatever reason.

And too often, our lives are built on trying to get those feelings. Dare I say it, but I suspect our spiritual lives are often the same way. Could we often want joy in the Lord more than the Lord Himself? You could actually be worshiping the Lord properly and not be exuberant with feelings of joy. (How many of our worship songs are really about us and our emotional states instead of about Jesus?)

Marriage has really become a consumer good. Pick someone that makes you happy and brings you joy and when that fades, then go somewhere else. Marriage is about what the other person can do for me.

Now in some sense, you do have to know what the other person can do for you. As one seeking to remarry, I do have to think about what I like in a spouse. What qualities am I looking for? However, I also have to think about who I am good for. This other person could help me greatly, but is it a two-way street? Do I help them as well? If it’s all about what they can do for me, then when it looks like I’m not getting what I want anymore, I can move on after all.

If you are expecting someone to always give you good feelings, they will fail you. If I think I can always give someone good feelings, I will fail them. No one can do that. I cannot possibly go to an altar and promise another woman that I will feel love for her forever.

However, I can promise that I will love and that I will do loving actions. I won’t do them perfectly, but that will be my goal. I have to realize that marriage is bigger than I am. What we are entering into is a microcosm of a demonstration of Christ and the Church.

Suppose you are someone who reads the Song of Songs allegorically. Even if you do that, it has to be accepted that a physical love relationship is the means that the love of God for His people is demonstrated by. I do think the Song can be read as an allegory, but I also stress we should read it first as a love poem celebrating love and marital intimacy. See it as a love song about marriage and then say “And that’s a minor demonstration of how God loves us.”

So what do we do? Get past our consumer good mentality of marriage. We can use consumerism for things of this world often, but people are not just things. We don’t treat people like that. We don’t treat our relationships with them like that. People are greater than that and marriage is greater than that.

If we enter into a marriage expecting it to be all about us, it will end. If we enter a marriage asking what we can do for the greater good, we are far more likely to succeed. Marriage is not our story really. It’s God’s story and He lets us play a part in it.

Let’s play it well.

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

Divorce And Reasons for Marriage

Why should someone get married? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Something I have noticed is a lot of you seem to like it when I write something on divorce. I don’t want to talk about it every day, because frankly it’s still painful for me to talk about, but give the people what they want. If all of this can help prevent someone from going down this path or help to revitalize a struggling marriage, then that will be enough for me.

A major problem is that we don’t take commitment seriously enough and marriage is not just a commitment, but it’s a covenant. Our culture already doesn’t place much on it. Want to have sex? That used to be a big incentive to get a man to be married and to invest in the relationship. No more. Men can easily get sex outside of making an actual commitment to a woman.

Does a woman want to be provided for? Again, not a big issue since the feminist movement. Women nowadays can often work hard and care for themselves financially and usually only need a man around when it’s time to make a baby. Oh wait. Thanks to artificial insemination, now they don’t even need that. Add in also that the government is more than willing to do what they can to provide for mothers who are single and not in a marital relationship and they have even more incentive.

When this happens, the question then becomes why should anyone get married? If we consider the first option with men, women who give in to men before marriage are not really giving any incentive for a man to get married. If he can get it and he doesn’t have to risk any kind of commitment, well why not? He can literally have his cake and eat it too. It happens so much that no one really even bats an eye anymore.

Yet something is wrong with it. The breakdown of the family has led to a lot of social unrest in our society. Gangs are often formed when men have no real male figure around that they can call Dad. There are many single women who for whatever reason, even one like being widowed tragically, are raising single sons alone and doing admirable jobs, but the sons are best raised if they have at least some figure in their lives they can consider a father figure, such as an uncle, a teacher, or a coach.

Women themselves? Many women still do want to get married and have a firm commitment they can count on. Too often they are giving sex thinking it will help them get that commitment, but it isn’t working. Men much more easily bounce from relationship to relationship because it’s easy for them to escape the consequences, which is one reason abortion is seen as so essential for so many people. It’s a way to get to enjoy a sexual relationship without consequences.

So with all of this, some could be asking why someone like me would still want to get married again?

It’s because I consider myself a Christian realist.

I think reality is that sex is meant for a covenant relationship in marriage. I actually think it’s a great evidence of Christianity when I consider its sexual ethic when it’s so counter-cultural in every way, even from Roman times, and yet it’s consistent too. I think a man and a woman go together physiologically and in every other way.

I also think every person is worth a lifetime commitment and to get sex from a woman without making that covenant before God and man with her is to demean her and lower her. She is worth nothing less than that lifetime commitment upfront and then she is the exclusive person to be with. The same applies to men in reverse.

I do think a man should want to provide for a woman, no matter how much the woman can provide for herself. A man will still on some level want to provide and care for someone. A woman meanwhile will often still want to be a mother and still give a good home and raise her children well and bring joy to her husband.

Ultimately, I look at the fruit of the sexual revolution and see that it doesn’t work. Right now, I have high hopes that with abortion being removed, we will hopefully get to a place where we will actually start taking sex seriously and thinking about what it means and what role marriage has in our society. Our culture is not in trouble because we have a high view of sex, but it is because we have a low view of it. We have taken one facet of it, the pleasure of the act, and made that everything.

For the church, if we are to change, it starts with us. Christian marriages have to be stronger than ever. I say this as one who has been badly burned in a marriage, but I still uphold marriage 100% as a good gift from God and to be celebrated.

Those of you who are married right now are the ones who can best demonstrate that this is true. Those of us who are looking for marriage again can meanwhile honor it by how we live. For me, it is still abstinence until I remarry, no matter how painful that is. I trust that assuming I remarry again, God will honor what I have done and make it worthwhile.

If we want to change the culture, it begins with us.

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

 

Book Plunge: Why The Church Needs Apologetics

What do I think of James Rebel Jamias’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jamias is a friend of mine and when he found out I had ordered his book, I found out that he was awfully nervous about my review. Would I like it or would I hate it? Would I be hard or would I be soft?

That being said, it was tempted to start off this review telling you this book was totally awful and not worth reading at all and a sadness to all the trees that had to die. It was tempting to do that and then put out a “just kidding”, but I decided against that. Still, I had to mention the idea just for the comedic effect.

Okay. So let’s talk about the book. By and large, I agreed with much that was in it. Now as a seasoned apologist, I really didn’t find anything new in the book that stood out intensely. That’s okay. The book wasn’t written with someone like myself in mind but more with a person who wasn’t as familiar with apologetics, which could sadly include a lot of pastors.

So let’s go with the positives first.

To start, this book is very accessible. If you don’t have a clue what apologetics is, by the time you pick up and finish this book, you will not only know what it is, but you will also know why it is important. You won’t find apologetic arguments in here, but that’s okay. This book isn’t meant to provide those. This book is meant to show what a difference apologetics makes and why it matters to the church today.

Second, this book is short. Someone without a lot of time they want to invest can read this book. I could see a devoted reader easily reading it in a day. If you have even just fifteen minutes a day to read a book, it shouldn’t take you long.

Third, this book is in short chapters. Benefit of that? Great for small group discussion then. It’s easy to come together and read a chapter and just discuss what was read.

Fourth. Jamias also lists various resources that can be used, including my own podcast that I hope to start up again soon depending on if I get the necessary funding for that or not. Jamias lists them by level and so if you want to get started, this is a place to go. I was pleased to see The Case for Christ, for example, as it was the book that lit my fire.

So now let’s go on to the negatives.

I did talk with Jamias about this and he agreed, but there is a lot of reference to Ravi Zacharias. This book was published just shortly after he died and the news of his lifestyle had not come out. Jamias did personally confirm to me that if he wrote a second edition, references to Ravi would be severely edited. If you are reading this, please keep that in mind.

I do respect William Lane Craig as a great apologist, but I sometimes find there is a constant reference to Craig’s work. I would have liked to have seen more variety in this as there are plenty other great apologists one could go with. I wondered sometimes if I counted all the footnotes to Craig what percentage they would be.

On a smaller matter also, I disagree with Jamias on 1 Peter 3:15. While he thinks we would have the case if this was the only verse we had, I think it is not actually about apologetics. Thankfully, there are plenty of other excellent verses that I think are about apologetics.

Lastly, Jamias does speak about how we present the case and says sometimes we make winning the argument more important than winning the person. I might sound contrary, but yes, I think sometimes the focus is on the argument and should be. Why? Because there are some people who at the time of a public exchange are obviously not interested in Christian truth, but they are more interested in shaming and mocking Christianity. This can especially happen online.

What is the goal then? The goal for me is to shut down opposition and make their side look shameful and build up confidence in the Christians on my side and hopefully let any fence-sitters see what could be a strong and confident case for Christianity. Jamias is right that often the audience is the one to be won in these encounters, so I just take it to the conclusion and say sometimes you should be more interested in shutting down opposition. (Was Paul trying to win Bar-Jesus to the faith when he struck him blind or was he trying to win over the king who was watching?)

Those negatives, however, are miniscule in comparison to the positives of the book. Get this book for yourself and read it. Get this book for your pastor and have him read it. Get this book and share it with a small group leader and make it a group reader. Either way, get this book and read it.

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

What Makes A Movie Bad?

Are our ideas way too simple? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I bought a book on Kindle by Roger Ebert called Your Movie Sucks. In it, he goes through a number of movies he thinks are really bad. I’m on the D section right now, as in alphabetical and not gradewise, and some of these movies I have seen and I disagree with. Some I haven’t seen, but I have heard enough to agree. (Battlefield Earth anyone?)

It’s really got me thinking about what makes a movie good or bad. Sometimes, we can be tempted to just look at the questionable content we could find in a movie. Consider that if you look at Ebert’s list of the best movies where he picks one for each year, one year has an R-rated film.

This film has listed as severe on IMDB, sex and nudity, as plenty of times you will see full frontal nudity. It stays on screen for a long time. There is no hiding. This movie is full of women who are naked.

The same applies for violence and gore. The movie is loaded with it. Again, this is not hidden. It is drawn out and you see it all.

And yes, the same applies to frightening and intense scenes. This movie is full of them. If you want to be comforted, you don’t see this movie.

And many Christians are saying “I would never watch something that had all of that.”

Actually, you would. Odds are you have seen it. Not only have you seen it, you think it’s an awesome movie and everyone should watch it.

This movie is Schindler’s List.

Schindler’s List contains all of this, but yet we know it’s a great movie because we understand the purpose of all of this. Why have nude women? Because that’s what happened in the holocaust when millions of Jews died. Why have violence and gore? Because the holocaust wasn’t pretty. The same applies to frightening and intense scenes. This movie should not leave you comforted or feeling good.

I have definitely seen this movie and I definitely think you should as well.

So if you go and look at just things like sex and nudity, violence and gore, frightening and intense scenes, and just go from that, you will miss out on this movie. There’s so much more to a movie than this. For one thing, let’s consider the lesson of a movie that it is trying to teach.

Christian apologist Greg Koukl has talked about Pleasantville before. This one is PG-13 so many might think it’s okay. However, he points out the lesson is that the society is improved when we break free of repression represented by 1950’s suburbia. There’s no right way to live and we need to live free lives, including full sexual expression.

There’s also worldview for Christians to consider. I have many friends who are big into science fiction and really like Star Wars and Star Trek. They are devout Christians who can discern fantasy from reality, and I am sure they would also say they do not embrace the worldview of these movies. Star Wars is greatly influenced by Eastern thought and Roddenberry of Star Trek was heavily into humanism.

For Christians, this means we need to be better at engaging the media. We need to evaluate movies not by how many times we have to use a bleep button or how many times we see a flash of skin. I am not saying these factors don’t matter and certainly if you struggle with lust or can’t take the sight of blood, there are some movies you shouldn’t see, but we need to see movies and all media as teaching tools as they all are.

When you create some piece of media, you are often trying to teach something as well. You are trying to share a piece of how you see the world. Do this right and you can have a great impact for generations. Lewis and Tolkien have had their books done into movies today even though the authors died decades ago.

Can you think of any Christian writers who are doing the same today?

Note when you watch the media presented by others, they don’t come right out and blast what their worldview is because the audience is too stupid to figure it out. You know who does that? Christians do that. When we make movies, they are usually awful. The only people who really go see Christian movies are for the most part, Christians. One great exception to this is actually The Case for Christ. Even on Rotten Tomatoes the film as of this writing has an audience score of 79% and the Tomatometer is at 61%.

It’s not enough for us to make movies that we like. We have to make movies that other people would like. How many of you would really like to take your non-Christian friends to see some Christian movies that you see? If all we’re doing is preaching to the choir, we’re not reaching anyone.

That means we have to make good material.

Considering television, recently I finished going through The Good Place on Netflix. I found this to be a highly intriguing show and no, I’m not going to tell you much about it aside from the show revolves entirely around moral philosophy. Yes. That can be in a show and it can be a good show. You can present a show that touches deep topics.

No. I’m not going to claim to know entirely what makes a movie bad or what makes a movie good, but reading Ebert’s book, I am thinking we need to make better movies. In the past, you had classics like Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments. We don’t have those today.

I also would like to see this move on to Christian music that secular people would like. Also, good Christian video games. Five Nights At Freddy’s, I understand, is made by a Christian. The Castlevania games got their name because of what a Christian said as the original name was something akin to Dracula Satanic Castle.

Also, these movies and games and anything else don’t have to be delusional and present the world as pretty and nice. We can show real evil in them because there is real evil in the world. We can show real loss because there is real loss in the world. (How many of us 25 years later can still deeply remember the death of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII?) We should be the ones showing real heroes, however. It has been said that whenever you have a hero and a villain, somewhere you have the gospel.

So I don’t close this post with any clear answers. I just know that if I see a Christian movie in this book, I’m not going to be surprised. What I would love to see is a secularist make a list of top movies to see and have Christian movies regularly be up there.

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

 

Preaching on Divorce

How should pastors handle divorce from the pulpit? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my pastor did a sermon on divorce and it got me thinking that I have not written on this facet. If you’re a pastor, how should you preach such a sermon? Our text was mainly Deuteronomy 24 with some of Matthew 19. I want to state also that my pastor did a very good sermon, but since you all likely didn’t hear it for the most part, I have to repeat the things that were right and then offer other aspects I recommend.

First, marriage must absolutely be upheld as a good. This is non-negotiable. Marriage must be seen as a gift from God. That does not mean everyone has to use it, but it does mean all are to respect it. Hebrews says marriage must be honored by all. The author doesn’t limit it to those who are married.

Second, divorce is an evil. This needs some clarification. It doesn’t mean that everyone who divorces or was the recipient of divorce is guilty of an evil in this area. It means that in a non-fallen world, there will be relationships that are meant to last a lifetime that will not last that long. People will betray their vows in a number of ways.

This means that every time a divorce occurs, that means someone has along the way broken their vows. How would this apply to a woman who divorces her husband because he is absuive? Sometime along the way, he also broke a vow to love and to cherish. I can agree that a woman does the right thing in leaving an abusive husband, but it still is a tragedy that someone committed such a great evil that the union has to be dissolved.

Third, if you are the one who initiated a divorce and did so wrongfully, we must always emphasize that there is forgiveness. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin. As one who attends a Southern Baptist Church, sadly, the SBC is usually among the worst in dealing with this. It is easier to let a murderer up in the pulpit than it is to let a divorced person in it, even someone who was wrongfully divorced.

This applies to any sin really. If you preach on the evil of abortion, you must always stress that God loves people who have abortions and is ready to forgive them. If you preach on gluttony or pride or homosexuality or anything else, the same applies. Grace must always be shown from our pulpits.

Fourth, if someone wants to remarry after a divorce, I think it is good to encourage them. It is true that you don’t need marriage to be complete and happy, but there are many things you don’t need that you can want and there is no wrong in wanting them. A couple could pray to God earnestly for a child wanting one. They don’t need one to be happy, but Scripture emphasizes that children are a gift from the Lord.

If someone on the other hand does not want to seek a new marriage, then we should celebrate with them in that decision. We should not treat a single person as an incomplete person nor should we celebrate when a single person gets married if we are saying “Now you are a complete person.” We should celebrate marriage itself, but we should also celebrate singleness for those who don’t desire marriage.

So if you want to remarry, you are not doing anything wrong. Marriage is a good to be celebrated. If you don’t want to, the same applies. You can still serve God as a single person. Some could perhaps serve better. It depends on the person.

Fifth, we always need some teaching on worldviews and that includes a worldview on sex and marriage. If someone wants to not get married, for example, they have to be willing to accept that they will be living a celibate lifestyle. While sex is not the only reason for marriage, it is still a reason for marriage. This is something that separates marriage from other relationships.

For our young people especially, and this I have talked about in many other posts, we need more regular talks about why sex outside of a marital covenant is not only wrong, but will cause more harm. The sexual revolution has not been a friend to society. Honestly pastors, you need to preach on the issues of sex and marriage I would say at least monthly.

Finally, we need to stress how to treat people who are divorced. There can easily be a tendency to look down on people who are divorced. I am thankful that when I went public, people knew me enough that for the most part, they knew that I was someone who always showed great love to my ex-wfe. Even today, when people tell me I loved her dearly, I always make sure they know it’s not past tense. I still want the best for her and pray for her well-being and holiness every night.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still struggles. I can be tempted to think ill of her, but I need to remember to think ill of her actions more than of her and see her as a fallen human being who God loves just as much as He loves me. If anything, this has been a great lesson to me about the grace and forgiveness of God.

In the church, this needs to be the case. A divorced person needs to be able to go to church and find love without people looking down on them or treating them as second-class Christians. Those who have not been divorced do not know how painful this is, and it definitely is. Every day, in some way, I suffer because of the fact that I am divorced.

Just yesterday, when I was working, I had a customer say to me “These ones” about something. It always bothered me when my ex said that because it struck me as a redundancy. Now when I heard it, it was just painful to hear. That’s a tiny example, but a tiny example could best illustrate the point. If a little thing can bring back a painful memory, how much more can bigger things?

Whenever we preach about any sin, we must always assume, and we could be right or wrong, that someone in the audience is struggling with that sin. You could preach on homosexuality, but you must always remember there could be someone in the audience who is struggling with same-sex attraction and doesn’t know what to do. Preach sin as sin, but always preach grace as greater than sin.

And along those lines, don’t make promises that aren’t promised. I saw last night getting set for bed a tract I picked up somewhere asking if you want peace. Now if someone wants peace with God in the sense that God doesn’t hold their sins against them and they are forgiven, that is promised. If someone wants peace in the psychological sense, that is NOT promised. If someone struggles with sin, there is no promise that God will take away that struggle in this lifetime. He might, but He might not. We cannot promise to remove the pain of divorce, but we can promise to be there in it. We should make that promise and keep it.

Divorce is hard. It is hard to teach on. It is hard to preach on. It is hard to go through. I hope these words of wisdom will help those who struggle with this. My pastor did a really good job yesterday with it. If you’re a pastor, I hope you will take this to heart from a divorced person.

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

You Are Ignorant

Did you know you’re ignorant? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You are ignorant.

Yes.

You.

The person reading this.

How can I know this? I don’t even know who you are reading this. I’m not omniscient. Perhaps I am the ignorant one.

I am. I am indeed ignorant.

Yet I still know you are.

How can I know this?

Because I know everyone is.

And what are you ignorant of?

I don’t know that one.

The lesson to be grasped that is easily lost on social media is that we are ignorant. All of us. The problem is that we are all ignorant of different things and too many of the things that we think we are authorities in are things that we are really ignorant in.

For me, let’s start with an easy one. Sports. When I am playing Jeopardy on my Echo Show and I get a question about sports, I just think that this is going to be a miss for me, and normally it is. If I get a question also about food or alcohol or something like that, I usually also miss that. These are areas of knowledge that I am ignorant of.

If I go to get work done on my car, I try to go to a place that I trust or have someone go with me who knows cars. Why? Because I do not know about cars very well. I can drive them and put gas in them.

Many people think that if you’re smart, you automatically know computers well. Not true. I consider myself a highly intelligent person and I do not know computers that well. There are plenty of people who can run circles around me in their understanding of how a computer works.

Now in many areas, we can all bear to improve, but we can’t improve in everything and we can’t learn everything. There will always be something that is not known. In apologetics, for example, when someone asks me a question about science as science, I refer them to someone else. That’s not my area of specialization and I know it.

If you are a scientist, there are areas of science you are ignorant in. You can’t study it all. It might be botany or astronomy or geology. (Oh wait. We all know geology isn’t an actual science. It’s the dirt people after all.) It’s a mistake to think you know it all.

Sadly, on social media, everyone is convinced they are an expert and usually, they convince everyone else of the opposite. This is especially so in politics. Whatever the controversy is of the day, every person on the internet is an expert in that kind of policy. Of course, there’s a line between being an expert and being a complete dunce in an area, but we should be able to admit we can all learn a bit more about everything.

And definitely this happens with the Bible and religion. Too many atheists share ideas that they think are absolutely devastating to Christians and we instead just roll our eyes and think “That old one again?” This is one reason to read the other side. See if the objection you present has already been answered. As I said yesterday, I’m part of an Aquinas study group and it’s amazing how many times Aquinas in the Summa Theologica deals with a kind of objection that sounds like it came right out of the mouth of an internet atheist today who thinks he’s stumped us all.

The good thing is anyone who wants to treat ignorance can. No. You can’t cure it in every subject but you can learn in what you want to know something about. Perhaps if more of us spent as much time understanding the world around us as we do arguing about it, we would all be better off.

It’s worth a shot.

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

The Other Extreme

Is it possible to go too far the other way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lately, a quote has been going around the internet of John MacArthur saying that God has no blood and then talking about salvation and the blood of God. I have Catholic, Orthodox, and indeed fellow Protestant friends who have been pointing out the error in this. Now if this is a right assessment, the problem with what is being said is more akin to the ancient heresy of Nestorianism.

The tragedy is it could be that Nestorianism rose out of a noble concern, which I think honestly most heresies would in wanting to defend something of God. In this, Nestorius could have heard people calling Mary the mother of God. At this, many of my fellow Protestants do get concerned, and to an extent I can understand it. God doesn’t have a mother after all! It could be, Nestorius was concerned.

Now it could be that there is some misunderstanding on what Nestorius taught, as we all know many times someone’s opponents have misrepresented him, but the idea seems to be to separate Christ into two hypostases with one human and the other divine. No doubt, this would be a serious error and the reason for this is similar to the idea of the blood of God. We may never know fully what Nestorius taught, but we know the idea should not be believed.

Now everyone knows that God doesn’t LITERALLY have blood. This in the sense that God is not eternally a flesh and blood human being made of matter that has blood. In the same way, God does not literally have a mother. God never came into being. What is being said by the phrase “Mother of God” is not that Mary brought God into being, but that Mary is the mother of a human being who is fully man and fully God. God chose to dwell in a sense in the womb of Mary, which is something that all Christians should consider incredible.

When we say the blood of God then, we mean that Jesus, a real human being who is also God in nature, saves us by His blood. This does not mean that the Trinity itself has blood. This would apply to a passage like Act 20:28.

So what can happen in this? I understand that too many of my fellow Protestants can see terms like mother of God and see a whole branch of study on the person of Mary and think “Whoa. That’s taking things too far.” However, if we Protestants are right and the others are in error here, it is just as much error to totally ignore Mary and only bring her out around Christmastime. Mary should be able to be used as a constant role model for Christian women especially.

Suppose we think, rightly or wrongly, that Catholics and Orthodox go too far with honoring the saints by praying to them. It is just as much a mistake to say, “Therefore, we will ignore the saints.” We should study the lives of the great men and women of the early church and seek to emulate that which we hold to be in keeping with the character of Christ.

Suppose we think there is too much put in church tradition when many times we don’t know the source of a tradition. That is understandable. It is a mistake to think that Christians should not study the church fathers at all. We should read them and learn from them. They said many things that were admirable. They said many things we will find questionable, but they were the ones who passed down the faith that we eventually inherited.

I’m part of a Thomas Aquinas study group that meets on Thursday nights on Zoom. I don’t always agree with Aquinas’s interpretation of Scripture, but I think much of his philosophy and theology is accurate. There is a lot that can be learned from him.

This also goes the other way. Catholics and Orthodox have a lot to learn from one another, but also a lot to learn from we who are Protestants. I remember my ex-wife and I when we were going to an Orthodox Church for her met a couple from that church at a restaurant and they offered to join us and one thing the husband said is, “Those Protestants do know their Bibles.” We have engaged in much Bible study and research and it would be a great error for others outside of Protestantism to say, “Forget that. I only study from my own tribe.”

I disagree with many of the things that my Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters say, but they are my brothers and sisters and they do say many things that I agree with. I find Catholic moral philosophy to be highly enlightening. I find the Orthodox to have a great grasp on practical day-to-day living and wisdom. When I am with the Aquinas group, I am one of a few Protestants in there, but I do think that my contributions on biblical studies are appreciated. There are plenty of ways I could disagree with them, but as a believer in mere Christianity, I choose to focus on what I agree on.

It just works better that way.

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

Jesus and the Centurion

How did Jesus treat the centurion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had said I would do some talking on Jesus and the crowds. I wish to now speak a little bit more on the story of Jesus and the centurion in Matthew. To begin with, we need to try to see this from the perspective of a Jewish person living in Israel.

This centurion is said to be a good man as he paid for a synagogue for the people, but even today, in a similar situation we would be suspicious. “Of course that politician paid to get a new hospital put up! Look at how much press coverage he gets over it!” This centurion could have very well been noble in what he did, but some people will look with suspicion. Some won’t, but some will.

What was inescapable however was that this centurion is a reminder that the Israelites don’t own their own land. Who provided the synagogue? An outsider. What outsider? One that represents the ruling power in the world that hopefully, the Messiah will deliver us from.

Even if this guy has done a lot of good, Israel would by and large prefer to not have him around. They would prefer to have the land to themselves. They were still waiting on the deliverance of God.

So now here comes Jesus and how many could already be wondering if this guy is the Messiah? If so, well surely He’s going to deal with this centurion. He’s going to tell him he’s an intruder and needs to get off the land. Those who think in such a way will be highly disappointed.

This centurion has a simple request. He wants one servant healed. When he asks, he tells Jesus that Jesus doesn’t even have to enter his house. This centurion, a man or honor and prestige in Rome, is not worthy to have Jesus in his house. All Jesus has to do is say the word. The centurion illustrates this by explaining how he says a word to a servant and they do it.

This centurion is understanding that as he has authority over the realm of his servants, Jesus has authority over the realm of at least sickness. Who knows for sure how far this goes? Keep in mind this is a pagan gentile giving this statement. (He could have been a God-fearer, but we have no explicit data showing otherwise. Either way, he would have been seen as outside of the covenant.)

After the healing, Jesus turns to the crowd of people and what does He do? The exact opposite of I’m sure of what many people were expecting. He tells them He hasn’t seen a faith like this in all of Israel. Sorry guys, but this gentile here has you beat!

Not only this, but he pulls this over to the next world. He says that many will come from all over the world to join the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but many of the Jews themselves in Israel will be cast out and not entering. If you are a Jew in the audience sick of Rome and wanted to see Jesus lay down the law on these guys, you got the exact opposite of what you wanted.

This is not a good day for you.

Something we can think about here is that Jesus did not say something to please the crowd. If anything, He said something extremely offensive to the crowd. Jesus in all His talks never apologizes. He never takes back anything that He says. He says it and it’s out there and that’s it. If you don’t like it, He’s not responsible for your feelings.

I am not saying we need to be needlessly offensive, but if Jesus was not afraid of offending His audience with the truth, why should we? A huge problem in our Western society today is that offensive statements are deemed unallowable because someone’s feelings could be hurt. Everyone’s feelings will get hurt sometime and the more we coddle this, the more we make it that we can’t handle anything. As a pastor I was talking to yesterday said, “The early church was willing to face death for Jesus Christ and we breakdown if our air conditioning goes out.”

Not only this, but Jesus is considered one of the greatest personalities and speakers of all time as well as one of the holiest and best men who ever lived. Now as a Christian, I think he’s the best of all time period, but even non-Christians can praise the life of Jesus in these areas and often do. Aside from the crazy position of mythicism, most everyone would tend to agree that Jesus is a figure that is admirable in many ways.

Jesus did not sway to popular opinion.

Perhaps we should be the same way.

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

A Reply to I.M. Skeptical on Thomism

Are Thomism and science incompatible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone sent me this article about Thomism and science by I.M. Skeptical who I will just call IM from now on. In this, he seeks to show that science is not compatible with Thomism. While he is at least quoting the other side, I do not think he really has the issues understood.

At the start, he says in this article that is a response to Thomistic Scholar that Dr. Dennis Bonnette, that since the original article was written, Thomistic scholars are obviously feeling the heat. This kind of armchair psychologizing I find amusing. If a Christian says nothing in response, he has no answer. If a Christian says something, it is obviously because he is scared of what has been stated. This doesn’t put the article at a good start.

As IM continues, he says that there is disagreement on the issue of God, but this cannot really be considered science vs. Metaphysics. After all, there are plenty of scientists who do believe in God. What ends up usually happening in this post of IM’s is that contradiction is asserted when it does not follow. IM does go on to say this:

Science has nothing to say about God, which is a metaphysical claim, so there is no disagreement there.  But metaphysics goes far beyond the question of God’s existence.  It is concerned with the reality of all kinds of things.  In Thomism, movement is explained in terms of the metaphysical paradigm of act and potency.  In science, it is explained in terms of the paradigm of mass, force, and energy, which is no less a metaphysical concept.  But Thomists disagree with that, because they see metaphysics as being separate and distinct from physical reality.  To them mass, force, and energy are science, but act and potency are metaphysics.

All movement in metaphysics is potentiality and actuality, but that can be brought about in terms of mass, force, and energy. It’s not an either/or. Gravity can cause an apple to fall, but that fall is also a case of actuality and potentiality at work. Thus, I don’t see how we disagree with that. While we could debate what a “law of nature” is, that doesn’t mean we don’t see that what is claimed is brought about by them does happen and there are physical consistencies. Actually, we would see this as part of the fifth way.

He goes on to say the following including a quote from Bonnette:

Bonnette attempts to illustrate his thesis of basic agreement by way of an example involving sensation and cognition.  It is epistemological realism – the philosophical notion that the object of our perception has external reality.  But his example goes off the rails with regard to agreement agreement between science and Thomism.  The scientific view is that sensation of an external object creates a neural pattern in the brain, and subsequent cognitive references to the object actually occur by means of neural activity and connections involving that set of neurons.  And Bonnette calls this an epistemological nightmare.  He insists that knowledge of an external object is “direct”:

While an entire epistemology is not possible here, note that we cannot doubt external reality when it is directly confronted. Doubt arises only when we shift our attention to a judgment about the external object in which what we know is not the object itself. For example, if I close my eyes and wonder whether the lion confronting me is really about to attack me, I am no longer looking at the lion, but at some internal image of it.

IM responds with:

Just to get this straight, as I understand it, the point of agreement here is on an issue of epistemology – namely epistemological realism – not on the science of cognition, which Bonnette apparently holds in disdain.  We don’t “directly confront” external reality at all, but the only image we have is an internal image that exists entirely in the brain.  And to the extent that our senses can be fooled, it is possible for a false image to be formed, and we certainly can doubt that external reality.  How this supports his thesis is a mystery to me.

However, IMs statement would be a science killer if believed. Why not be a solipsist? You could point to the data you get from the world around you, but how do you know that is really from the world around you? Perhaps it is all a hallucination? If the place you start is inside your head, you can never get out. This is why Thomism has been called the common sense philosophy.

Do we know about hallucinations and senses being wrong? Of course, but we start out with the idea that all things being equal, our senses are generally reliable. IMs position is more of a Kantian position which is probably the strongest reply to Aquinas, though I still find it problematic. If IM starts in their head, then all the data that comes in to them supposedly could still just be part of the hallucination. You could never know otherwise.

IM goes on with another quote from Bonnette:

The next area of agreement that he discusses is “metaphysical first principles”, such as the principal of non-contradiction and the principal of sufficient reason.  Again, he gives examples that don’t seem to support his own thesis.  On non-contradiction, he says:

Even the smallest phenomena must be read as what it is and not as its contradictory – otherwise, the reading would be useless. Claims of contradictory phenomena, such as wave-particle duality, rely on such observations. If a subatomic entity appears as a wave, that same exact reading cannot say it is a particle.

He evades the real issue here.  Yes, it’s true that observations of particles only measure one of these properties at a time, but the more fundamental issue is not that these properties are contradictory, but that the subatomic particle is something that exhibits both characteristics.  So rather than clinging to concepts of physical substance that are contradicted by observation, we need a metaphysical concept of substance that agrees with what we observe.

All that is being said is contradictions can’t be true. Again, if it is thought that contradictions can be true, then we can all go home. IM is right and Bonnette is right and I am right and if you disagree you are right. Again, reality will all break down. What about the Principle of Sufficient Reason?

Likewise, on the principal of sufficient reason, he reverts to a theistic definition of causation:

Causes are merely reasons for things that do not explain themselves.

Which is just another way to say that everything has a cause except for God.  And he insists that scientists always have to find causes for everything.  But that’s not really true.  At a macro level, things can be said to have causes (in terms of objects interacting with one another according to Newtonian or relativistic physical laws), but at the quantum level, things happen on a stochastic basis, and there is no notion of causality in quantum physics.  As it happens, this is a major point of disagreement between science and Thomism, despite Bonnette’s denial.

I love that first line of dismissal as if what Bonnette is saying is all about God. No. It’s not. There is no interaction with the four traditional causes of Aristotle. There is also nothing wrong with finding causes for things. Am I to think that scientists look at the quantum level and say to themselves, “Well, that looks uncaused. Let’s go get a drink.” At this point, my thinking is wait and see what will happen in the future in science.

Moving on:

He also takes care to separate the metaphysical principles at the heart of Thomism from science.

Potency and act, matter and form, finality, essence and existence: Most other Thomist principles are so clearly philosophical that natural science properly says little about them. The exceptions would be materialist denials that substantial forms and final causes exist in nature. Still, those are clearly philosophical, not scientific, claims.

He has no choice but to make this separation, because these metaphysical principles are in direct contradiction to modern science.  Act and potency do not explain how things move.  They provide a teleological account of movement that was incorporated into the physics of Aristotle, which was the science of the day, but no longer have any explanatory value.  Essentialism and forms are a reflection of man’s propensity to classify things, but they are purely conceptual, and don’t even stand up to philosophical scrutiny, let alone scientific.  (As modern philosophers note, how many grains of sand can you remove from a dune before it is no longer a dune?  As scientists note, at what point in evolutionary history does an ape give birth to a man?)

I always find it amusing that when science has a question, it’s always “Let’s go and find out the answer!” When the question exists in philosophy, “See? That’s proof that it’s false.” Every position has hard questions to answer. How many grains of sand make a dune? Granting evolution, when does an ape become a man?

These are all great questions worthy of study, but none are a defeater. They’re just reasons to keep studying. The same applies to science. He also says potency and actuality do not explain how things move. No one said that they do.

So why is it that Thomists place metaphysics as primary? IM has the answer!

“There is only one reason Thomists hold metaphysics above and separate from science.  Metaphysics is the thing that stands between science and theism.”

Again, it has to be fear. Right? Nope. Metaphysics is first because it comes first in order of being. Science is second because it covers specific kinds of reality. Note that in the time of Aquinas, science as we know it would be called natural philosophy. Theology would be called a science for Aquinas seeing as it was a body of knowledge, which is essentially what is meant.

Thus, I find IM’s position not strong at all. He has at least interacted some, but the armchair psychology is the problem. I could just as easily turn it on him and say that he wrote a reply because he is feeling the heat of Thomism. That could be true, but it cannot be demonstrated and is only an ad hominem.

Finally, as a Thomist, I have no problem with science. Whatever is true in science we should affirm. Reality does not contradict.

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

Grounding of Abortion Laws

Is an executive order what pro-abortionists should really want? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Right now, abortionists are wanting to pull out all the stops. Biden, a supposedly devout Catholic president, is considering an emergency health crisis in support of abortion. There’s also been an executive order issued. To an abortionist, this might sound really good, but is it really the right way to go.

Roe v. Wade was simply put, poorly based at the start. Ginsburg thought it was. While Alan Dershowitz doesn’t agree with what Dobbs did, he also thought Roe was not done right. Just like I can be a Christian while thinking there are some bad arguments for Christianity, and there are, you can be an abortionist and even think the case in Roe was weak.

An executive order to save the day might seem like a good idea, but is it really? Carl Trueman in his book The Rise and Triumph Of The Modern Self, bases some of his work on Philip Rieff. Rieff argues that with regard to laws, countries are either first, second, or third world. First world countries do have a transcendental basis and it’s usually fate or some other power, It could be the Oracle of Delphi or some other sort of otherworldly source.

Second world is what is in line with monotheistic theism today where the laws are rooted in the character of God. This could apply to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or even Deism. This is why some people like Clarence Thomas use a lot of natural law reasoning.

Third is a secular world. In this world, the laws are rooted in society. Whatever the society says, that is what is good. The problem with this is ultimately that might makes right. It also has the problem that whatever you do, your opponents can do the same thing eventually.

Suppose a liberal president makes an executive order in support of abortion. What is stopping a conservative president from doing the opposite? If the government can give a right, it can take it away too. This is why our government has it in our founding documents not that government gives rights, but rather it recognizes the rights humans have.

This is also why these rights are things that are restrictions on everyone else. The government doesn’t give me ilfe. It is meant to tell everyone else they can’t take away my life. The same applies to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So if you are an abortionist what are you to do? Simple. Come up with better arguments. Look at Roe and see where it was weak and do what you can to improve it. Shows of power will be at best temporary havens of salvation for the side of abortion.

Meanwhile, those of us who are pro-life need to familiarize ourselves more and more with why we are pro-life. At this, I do want to give a plug to my friend Clinton Wilcox, who has recently started a substack on defending life and answering abortionists. If you want a good place to get the information you need, this is a great one and you can see it here.

Also, to those on the left supporting abortion, the reactions are showing many of us what we always thought. Abortion has always been a back-up way to deal with pregnancy and it was never about safe, legal, and rare. People react in proportion to how much a loss effects them and if a loss effects people this much, we need to ask why.

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