Book Plunge: The Culture of Fear

What do I think of Barry Glassner’s book published by Basic Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This was an interesting listen done through Audible as I agreed with the overarching thesis that we live in a culture of fear, but I disagreed with much of the terrible argumentation for it. Glassner can often be incredibly contradictory in how he uses data. He will take anecdotes while condemning anecdotes. He will talk about how the media regularly misuse information to put fear into the populace but balk when Trump says the media is the enemy of the people. He will talk about how crime is down so much in America and then point to one of his favorite issues on how we have to get guns off the streets.

When I read this, I was hoping to get not just information on fake fear that terrorizes people, but why it is people are so easily put into a state of fear and I didn’t get that. My personal philosophy has been to never get caught up in a fear craze. When Covid started, I heard some of the first data about people on the cruise ship and how even without a lot of information on the virus, the majority if not all of them made a full recovery. I resolved to not live my life in fear of this virus.

From the start, I did not approve of the lockdowns and I did not support the wearing of masks. My thinking has been that the more we feed fear, the stronger the hold it will be that it has on us. Looking back now, I do not regret any of those decisions.

There are some aspects of Glassner’s presentation that I agree with. I definitely agree with him when he talks about the fear of flying that we have in our country. Plane crashes are spread all across the news when they happen, but little is said about the multiple car accidents that claim many more lives every day. You are far more likely to die in a car accident than you are in a plane crash.

Unfortunately, while there are a few times Glassner goes after liberals in his talking, most of his time is spent going after conservatives. He definitely pulls out all the guns he can when he goes after Donald Trump later on and it’s all the usual stuff that conservatives have heard for years. Glassner has carefully chosen what it is that we should be afraid of in his mind and what we should not be.

Worried about teenage mothers getting pregnant? Don’t be. Listen to this interview of these two girls who are teenagers and want to be mothers soon on the Ricki Lake show. There. Isn’t that better? Talk about climate change? We’re going to all die in twelve years! (As AOC said) Nope. Not a peep about that being fearmongering.

I hope to find a better work on the fear hysteria that we get caught up in, but until then, take my simple advice. Don’t get caught up in the spirit of the age. If all the media is panicking about something, don’t join in. There were people who died of conditions that were treatable because they were scared to go to the hospital and get treated because of Covid scares. Fear can be helpful sometimes, but in a mass population, it can easily reach hysteria.

Don’t go that route.

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

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 3

Does God deserve to die? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I keep going through this book, Bradley often looks less and less like an academic and more and more like that little fundamentalist boy who is on a rant. He starts off this chapter with a reference from H.L. Mencken on gods who were omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal, and all are dead now. You can see the list here.

It’s important to note that he says that they are theoretically the attributes I listed. In reality, they were not. That’s a big difference. Many of these gods were limited to one people group and were part of a polytheistic system and thus NOT the omni-qualities. Of course, we could replace the idea of gods with scientific theories and I could say “Look how many theories were believed by so many people in the past and today, they’re dead!” Would that be accepted? No, nor should it. What we have to ask is why these deities “died” and why the deities of religions like the big three monotheisms and various polytheisms live.

Bradley goes on to tell us that supernaturalism is dead. Outside of religious belief, it lives only in those who believe in ghosts, poltergeists, and the like. He refers to these people as credulous. Nothing like poisoning the well is there? Supernaturalism isn’t defined to which I refer the reader to my article on that term.

We can at least be relieved to see that he says that atheism is a term used to describe someone who does not believe in a god, any god. Unfortunately, he goes on from there to use the argument of religious believers being atheists with many gods. He just goes one god further.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You all believe there are many people in this courtroom who did not commit the murder. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further!”

He also speaks of a god who tortures non-believers in the fires of Hell. Once again, this is a fundamentalist child on a rant. Most of us trying to take the text as it was intended do not speak of a fiery Hell but rather see that as language of judgment and of shame.

He does say naturalism can be shown to be false. What’s the way to do it? Picture a global apocalypse happening such as how Bradley sees the book of Revelation and that could be evidence. This tells us Bradley is not open to argument demonstrating that theism is true. He will only accept an experience, all the while giving a book of arguments hoping theists will change their mind. Isn’t it interesting? The theist is the one in Bradley’s world who is responsive to evidence and the atheist the one who is responsive to an experience. Who knew?

He asks that if a new problem shows up in the world such as a new virus, where do you put your money? Well, since that is a problem relating to matter specifically and the material world, yes, I look for a scientific solution. What about when it comes to the character of scientists and everyone else for that matter? I look for a theistic solution to that. I see no reason to think science itself has improved our moral character.

It’s not a shock that he brings up the myth of 38,000 denominations in Christianity. Unfortunately, he never really has studied the source for this. Even a Catholic apologist recognizes the problem with it as can be seen here. Bradley is still a fundamentalist who now blindly believes from the other side parallel claims he used to blindly believe as a Christian.

He also says the Bible is supposed to be God’s autobiography. I have no idea where that came from. Was this what he was actually taught?

He naturally talks about literalism and asks that if a passage was meant to be interpreted figuratively, why not put them in an innocuous allegory form in the first place. Yes. It would be absolutely awful to think you have to study the book and actually learn about it. These are the same people that accuse us of wanting easy answers and being anti-intellectual.

He tries to show that the stele referring to David is not what it is thought to be since there are no vowels in the Hebrew script so it might not refer to David, which is very much grasping at straws, and some archaeologists think it’s a forgery. If this is true, he does not tell us who they are. Of course, things get even better when we move to Jesus.

We have the usual questions. Why don’t we know exact dates of events of his life? (Despite us having very good ideas about those claims like we do for many people in the ancient world and of course, it’s ludicrous to think historians of the time would treat a supposedly failed Messiah the way they did the emperor on the throne.) Why didn’t anyone else mention the slaughter of the infants like Josephus? (Why should we think Josephus tells us everything Herod did and a slaughter of a dozen or so infants would be par for the course for Herod.) Why were tales of His life told decades after His death? (Like they were for most everyone else in the ancient world.) Why didn’t He write His own autobiography? (Which hardly anyone did. Most great teachers didn’t even write down their teachings but left it to their students.) Why didn’t any historians of the time write about this God-man? (See my article on why Jesus is not worth talking about here.) Why is He based on so many pagan myths of dying and rising gods? (Because He isn’t as even Bart Ehrman shows in his book Did Jesus Exist?)

He then says he has asked this to several and never got a satisfactory answer. Considering how Bradley acts though, I am not surprised. I consider Jesus Himself could come down from Heaven, smack Bradley in the face, tell him the answers, and Bradley would write it off as a delusion.

He assures us that he is not being eclectic in raising these questions. He then points to his supposed long line of mythicists. I am sure Strauss would be surprised to find himself in that company. He then refers to the prolific D.M. Armstrong Aka Acharya.

Seriously?

Then it ends with a long list of the supposed moral crimes of God in the Bible. If anyone goes through this, just search this blog and you can find many of these addressed. I am more convinced that Bradley does not spend any time really interacting with biblical scholarship. This is a problem. While points Bradley makes in other areas could be valid, I hesitate to trust him because of how shoddy his argumentation is with accepting the great myths of atheism. It should always be remembered that if you want to convince someone, you have to use evidence they will find persuasive and understand that they think their worldview is true. Failing to learn and understand it will only hurt your approach.

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

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 2

Do gods have to compete? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re returning to God’s Gravediggers and looking at chapter 2 on the logical rivalry of the gods. Now Bradley’s main area is philosophy. You would hope that a professor of philosophy would give you something worthwhile. Sadly, that is not the case.

Naturally, you have the whole idea that how can people just believe the religion they were born in happens to be the right one? Well, if a religion is right, then some people will be born into it, and yes, they will be born into the right one. However, you don’t see any interaction with anything like Muslims that are regularly having dreams and visions of Jesus and becoming Christians despite growing up and living in Middle Eastern countries.

There’s also the talk about religion being the cause of war when usually more often, religion becomes an excuse for war. Of course, religion can’t be as peaceful as atheism which never leads to destruction, unless you count Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot. I do not count Hitler as an atheist, but I also don’t think World War II was a religious war as in followers of one religion against another.

There is the mention of Pascal’s Wager which is badly misunderstood. It’s a shame that the wager seems to be about the only thing anyone remembers of Pascal. Pascal is giving an argument along the lines of the person who is sitting on the fence between atheism and Christianity. He’s suggesting you try to live out Christianity and see how it works out for you. He’s not talking about someone who is unsure if any religion is true and wants to investigate several of them.

Now after all of this, he does give an interesting lesson on logic and validity and soundness and other such matters. There is little if anything here that is objectionable. If anything, a number of atheists could be helped by getting a crash course in logic.

Unfortunately, then we get back and we get Hume with his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I will quote the section that Bradley quotes in its totality:

“I may add as a fourth reason, which diminishes the authority of prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have not been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite number of witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other. According to this method of reasoning, when we believe any miracle of Mahomet or his successors, we have for our warrant the testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: And on the other hand, we are to regard the authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Tacitus, and, in short, of all the authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have related any miracle in their particular religion; I say, we are to regard their testimony in the same light as if they had mentioned that Mahometan miracle, and had in express terms contradicted it, with the same certainty as they have for the miracle they relate. This argument may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been committed.”

The whole of this is that every religion seems to have miracles and these miracles contradict one another and thus rule them all out. However, this is simply false. What if I said, “In studying biological evolution on the origin of life, every scientist has a different theory and all these theories are used to argue against the other theories and so no theory is true.” You can be a Christian who fully disbelieves in evolution and still see that as highly invalid.

“Gentlemen of the jury. We have seen many theories put forward today to explain the crime. All of them contradict one another, so there is no reason to believe that my client committed the crime.”

Not only that, but let’s look closer and especially at the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism would certainly want to deny some miracles of Jesus, like the resurrection, if not all miracles, and Islam does acknowledge the miracles of Jesus and many in Judaism, but not the resurrection and sees Muhammad as the final prophet, but Muhammad did no miracles. It is only in the hadiths years later that we have any miracles.

Meanwhile, Christians have no problems with the miracles in the Old Testament and since there are no miracles in Islam in the life of Muhammad, we really have no problem there. We just look at the evidence for Islam and problems in the Qur’an. We also still have the very positive case for the resurrection.

So thus far, color me unpersuaded by Hume’s observations.

Now it should be acknowledged that a general theism can be held by all the religions. In the Middle Ages, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers could all use arguments like Aristotelian ones to argue for the existence of a deity with such and such attributes. Knowing which deity it is would come down to personal revelation. Not a single one of the five ways of Aquinas establishes Christianity, but they do establish theism and thus refute atheism and they are consistent with Christianity, but also with Judaism and Islam. If one faults the argument for not proving Christianity, then one is faulting an argument for not proving what it was never meant to prove.

He then goes on to talk about the resurrection. Please do not be drinking anything as you read this:

“Did the Resurrection occur? Of course, the question itself rests on the presupposition that Jesus actually lived: he can’t have been resurrected unless he’d been alive beforehand. And some might question that. But suppose one grants this contentious presupposition. Then someone intent on exploring the credentials of this belief may be dismayed to find that the four Gospels provide different, and inconsistent, stories of the Resurrection; that those stories were unmentioned by, and apparently unknown to, early Church Fathers until well into the second century A.D.; that there are no independent and well-authenticated records of Jesus ever having lived, let alone having died and having risen from the grave; or, again, that many of the earliest Christians of whom we do have an authentic historical record, the so-called Docetists, whose views held sway from 70 C.E. to 170 C.E., regarded Jesus as having always been nothing but an apparition, a spirit without any physical body that could die or therefore be resurrected.”

Bradley, Raymond. God’s Gravediggers: Why no Deity Exists (pp. 69-70). Ockham Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sorry, but only on the internet is there really any contention that Jesus lived. I am sure Bradley would be horrified if I said about a scientific argument, “This assumes that evolution is true, but suppose one grants this contentious presupposition.” Unfortunately for him, that is the exact way mythicism sounds. Not only this, but he pays no attention to Paul in 1 Corinthians, where most scholars go to today to argue the resurrection, does not look at any Gospel scholarship for those who want to go that route, and gives no indication from the Church Fathers on the beliefs of early Christians that he claims.

He later asks why a resurrection proves that one is divine. Didn’t Lazarus rise in the Gospels and many when Jesus died in Matthew 27? Even accepting both of those for the sake of argument, no one ever said because someone rises from the dead, they are divine. It is first the nature of the resurrection of Jesus, as He rose to never die again, but also that His resurrection was based on the claims that He was making about Himself and who He said He was. The resurrection was God’s vindication of Jesus’s claims about His own identity. It would behoove Bradley to read some N.T. Wright. At least he could be better informed in his disagreement.

Bradley also uses an analogy of a horse race. Suppose you have reason to believe the race has been rigged so that the horse you are betting on will win. Unfortunately, everyone else has that same position and the majority disagree with you, so you’re probably wrong.

If Bradley thinks this is an effective argument, why is he an atheist? After all, the majority of people alive and who have ever lived have not been atheists and so it would seem the preponderance of the evidence is that atheism is false. In reality, we could say easily that most any position on most subjects is wrong. In the ancient world, the majority of people thought there was no problem with slavery. If Bradley traveled back in time to that era, should he just accept he is wrong if he disagrees?

Bradley then asserts that a diligent inquiry into matters will show that the evidence for a religious belief is not valid, but this just reeks of the Mormonism claim to pray the prayer to see if Christianity is true. I have done a diligent search and concluded Christianity is true. Yet by Bradley’s definition, he would say I must not have done that because I did not arrive at the conclusion he did. Now if I did become an atheist, well then, I searched diligently. Anyone who disagrees does not.

Yet Bradley gets even worse in this very section:

“He might go so far as to question, with Albert Schweitzer and others, whether there is good historical evidence for the existence of a Christ Jesus, and end up embracing merely the so-called “ethics” associated with the Jesus myth. He might even come think that there’s good reason to subscribe to the so-called “Mythicist” tradition of those who confidently assert that belief in Jesus has no more warrant than does belief in Santa or Sherlock Holmes.”

There is wiggle room here, but it looks like he’s asserting that Schweitzer was a mythicist. Obviously, there has been a lack of a “diligent inquiry.” Schweitzer was definitely not a mythicist. Mythicism is highly regarded as a joke position today. Unfortunately, Bradley does not know this.

In talking about laws of nature, he says that they are descriptive and not prescriptive. So far, so good. Then he says “Who made them? Who enforces them? How frequently are they broken?” He tells us that these questions do not arise from laws of nature, therefore, there is no reason or experience for thinking someone like a god is behind them.

Sorry, but many people still think that the question of where these laws comes from is a good question and just asserting your position is not a good argument in reply. He also says there is no warrant in reason or experience for thinking they have ever been broken. This is true, granted that you completely ignore the reasons people give and the experiences they do for thinking just that. Nope. No need to give an argument. They’re just wrong. He also says that even if science hasn’t brought about the way for how a phenomenon came about, we can be confident that it will.

Because?

He could be right, but upon what grounds? Even if he is right, how does that rule out theism? It doesn’t.

He then tells us that all miracles done in the name of God or religion have a foundation in illusion or self-delusion.

Isn’t it great to be an atheist and get to make sweeping grand claims without any evidence that people should just take on faith? God forbid he read any of Keener’s books on miracles!

But wait, he does give one! They are impossible because they violate the laws of nature which cannot be broken. Let me spell out the logic for you here.

The laws of nature have never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.
Miracles would be a breaking of a law of nature.
But a law of nature has never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.

The argument is entirely circular. It is only if you know the laws of nature have never been broken can you assert that it is impossible to break them. However, even if we granted they have never been broken, that doesn’t mean they never will be. Hume himself said that if you drop a stone and it falls 1,000 times, that does not prove it will fall the next time you drop it. Why should past experience of consistent laws in a universe that is an accident lead me to think that the future will be the same?

Whew! That’s a lot, and keep in mind this is only covering the highlights of the chapter! Next time we look at this book, we will cover chapter 3.

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

Book Plunge: Pagans and Christians in the City

What do I think of Steven Smith’s book published by Eerdman’s? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know what happened in history. The world was largely pagan and then Christianity showed up and within a few centuries, Christianity became the religion of the West and paganism was defeated. Today, there are people who follow Asatru and other similar belief systems and say they worship pagan deities, but pretty much, Thor has been reduced to a comic book character and superhero in the movies. Paganism is pretty much dead.

But what if it isn’t?

What if it never died?

No. I’m not saying anything about Christians copying the pagans in this like the pagan copycat thesis. Instead, we’re talking about worldviews, not in the sense that it’s a belief about gods, but rather a belief about where the sacred lies. Paganism largely placed the sacred in the world, especially in the area of sexuality.

Christians said there was sacredness in the world, but the source of that sacredness was outside of the world and lies in God Himself. Christians are to agree that there are good things in this world, but the things are not the end in themselves. The greatest joy is to be found in God alone.

Modern people might be puzzled at the way Rome reacted in the past to Christianity. Why were Christians persecuted? What about live and let live? What about freedom of religion? Couldn’t the Romans just accept that the Christians only worshipped their God?

And what about the Christians? Couldn’t they just go along and kind of pay lip service to the idea of the Roman deities? Unfortunately, for both sides, that would have been disloyal. The Christians were not to give any indication that these deities were real. The Romans saw the Christians as dishonoring the gods and thus a threat to the well-being of the state.

Today, we live in a world where it seems to be Christianity vs secularism and so it would strike people odd to hear talk about paganism, but what if secularists were actually modern-day pagans? Not in the sense that they worship other gods, but they place the sacred, or we could say the ultimate, in this world. In a sense, they must. If this world is all there is, then whatever is worth living for must be in this world.

An important part of all of this is the role that symbols play. While this was written before much of the Trump era, many of us were stunned to see the tearing down of statues and other such events. Why were these turned down? The same reason. Symbolism.

For those who wanted them torn down, these statues were symbols in some way of racism and the symbol could not be allowed to continue. It’s possible to debate if a statue really was a symbol, but it seems undeniable that the people wanting them removed saw in them vestiges of racism. Much of our political discourse is really about symbolism.

What about sexuality, which is where much of our fighting takes place? Consider the fact that a restaurant or baker or florist or photographer can say they don’t want to use their services to celebrate a ceremony that they do not encourage, such as two homosexuals wanting to declare themselves married. Most of us would think the thing to do then is to go down the street to the next business and hear them say “Sure. We’ll cover that for you!”

However, what happens is the original businesses are instead sued. Now why is this? Why would you want the services of someone who you know is opposed to your view like this and doesn’t celebrate what you celebrate? The answer is not that they want those services from them, but because these people are symbols of something they don’t like, disagreement with their position.

In our world, the culture wars are largely about sexuality. What I find ironic is that the Christians are the ones treating sex as sacred and the pagans are the ones that are not saying that, though they are treating it as an ultimate. If we admit that sex is for anything or about anything, then we have to set up some standards for sexuality and what is right and wrong, although some do still hold, as most people today definitely condemn rape.

The idea on the left has largely been privatization. You can have your religion and you can practice it, but it must be private. In public, you must go along with us. This is exactly the response of Rome in the beginning of the Christian era. We are still fighting the same battle.

There is so much more in Smith’s book that cannot be broken down easily, but it is an eye-opening one that is worthy of your time and attention. I recommend you go out and get it as soon as you can and read it. It has certainly shifted the way that I look at the culture wars.

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

Ignorance Is A Weak Excuse

Should you know what the other side says? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been going through Raymond Bradley’s book God’s Gravediggers and I plan to do a fuller look chapter by chapter, but I saw one quote that I wanted to highlight. It is about Christian philosophers who hold to inerrancy.

“”Are these guys serious? What would be their line when confronted by 2 Chronicles 4:2, which gives a false value for the mathematical constant pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter)? What would they say about countless inconsistencies the Bible contains? For example, between 2 Samuel 24:1, which says the Lord commanded King David to “number the people of Israel”, and 1 Chronicles 21:1, which says it was Satan, not the Lord, who issued the command. What account would they give of scientific absurdities such as that of a six-day creation, the fixity of species, and the world-wide flood, an event that some biblical genealogists calculate as occurring on the 27 February 2267 BCE, an event that, as Australian geologist Ian Plimer points out, was “spitefully” ignored by the Egyptians of the time? I simply don’t know what answers these notable theistic philosophers would give. They proclaim inerrancy as a general doctrine without considering its specific applications. They preach it from their pulpits yet ignore it in their philosophical writings. Yet where inconsistencies abound, so does falsity; for at least one of each inconsistent pair must be false.”
There’s one part in here worth highlighting.
“I simply don’t know what answers these notable theistic philosophers would give.”
Anyone should really know at this point to not take Bradley seriously.
Unfortunately, Bradley is not in the minority. Normally when I speak to atheists, I ask them if they have read such and such that disagrees with them and I am told that they have not. Most usually make some excuse and it really is presuppositional atheism. After all, everyone knows science is the only way to truth and anything that disagrees is automatically stupid. Why bother looking into a case for a miracle if it’s just so obvious they never happen?
Getting back to Bradley, he is talking about Old Testament questions. No one is saying that these questions shouldn’t be asked, but these are not new. The early church often debated passages that seemed to contradict and tried to work out apparent discrepancies.
The problem is that Bradley has no idea what would be said and this is too often something that can happen. A person can come up with what they think is an objection to a position and say to themselves, “I can’t think of any possible counter to this, therefore there isn’t one.” Consider what happens with the problem of evil. “Why would God allow this evil?” If no answer can be found immediately, well then there just obviously isn’t an answer. Right?
By the way, this is not to say that Christians don’t do the same thing. Christians absolutely do and that’s a travesty on our side. The mindset of Bradley is one that no one should really have.
Also, I would encourage Bradley to instead go to some Old Testament scholars instead of philosophers. Go to people like Walton or Longman or Christopher Wright or others. Go to a seminary and ask to see the library and read some commentaries on the passages in question.
When it comes to the age of the Earth, even the rabbis had been debating the interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Rudimentary forms of evolution were even discussed in those times. The information we can have is new, but the debates are really old. While it looks like Bradley grew up with young-Earth creationism, even the most ardent YEC would know other Christians have other interpretations and while they don’t agree, I hope they would say they understand these people are trying to be faithful to Scripture who disagree.
Something I often say about skeptics I encounter is they are not true skeptics. They believe what agrees with them 100%. They only question what disagrees with them. This also applies to politics also where it’s easy to go in with a bias and find something that supports your side and ignore the rejoinders to it.
Bradley is not a skeptic. He honors it with his lips, but his head is far from it. He has simply abandoned one loyalty to a position and replaced it with the same loyalty to another position.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 1

What do I think of Raymond Bradley’s book published by Ockham Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I got this book seeing it on sale on Kindle and seeing praise from Graham Oppy for it. I thought this would then be a good and challenging read. Unfortunately, the more I go through this book, the more I see it is not that. Bradley holds to extreme fundamentalist views. Unfortunately, I can easily see why.

Bradley grew up in New Zealand in a situation that was hyper-fundamentalist. He talks about being at Bible camps and all manner of events constantly. At one, he talks about how a leader taught about masturbation and treated it essentially as if it was the unforgivable sin and identified it with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Whether or not one agrees with masturbation or not, I don’t know anyone who thinks that’s what Jesus was talking about in the Gospels.

There was also the case that his parents when confronted with questions would tell him to have faith. Now I cannot prove any of these stories, but I am going to accept them on face value. I really have no reason to not do so.

So let’s say this at the start. Parents. If you think your faith is extremely important and that your child should believe the things you believe, don’t you think you should study those things and why you should believe them? If you have no reason to believe what you believe, why should your children?

I can think of no other area in your life where people would say have faith? Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, do you tell your child to just have faith your position is true. Do you tell them why you think they should support or oppose gun control instead? Do you tell them why they should or should not support minimum wage laws?

Bradley also early on talks about what could convince him of theism. On page 7, he tells how if the heavens opened tomorrow and God was revealed and kept sharing His desires and ended all injustice and human and animal suffering, he might consider revising his beliefs. When atheists make statements like this, it tells me they are not open to argumentation. They want an experience. (All the while, telling Christians to not go by their experiences.)

He also says that dates are given for people like Caesar in ancient history, but not for the Son of God. It’s hard to believe so many people think this is a serious objection. Now if everyone believed Jesus was the Son of God, of course, they would have written that, but hardly anyone did. Bradley compares the Caesar on the throne to what the rest of the world said was a crucified criminal and asks “Why was one recorded and not the other?”

He also goes on to say the prevailing view among Christians at the start was Docetism. Source for this? Good luck.

When he writes about the existence of Jesus, he says most scholars regard what was said in Josephus as interpolation possibly invented by Eusebius. Source for this? None. He also says Tacitus was at best just hearsay of what Christians were reporting. Source? The same. None. Most scholars think there is some interpolation to Josephus’s first reference to Jesus, but not the whole statement is interpolation. The second one is hard to regard as interpolation.

The reference to Tacitus is not hearsay as Tacitus did not care about hearsay and regularly checked every claim given, including by his best friend Pliny. He was a senator and a priest. If anyone had access to the information, it was Tacitus.

Bradley goes on to decide how his parents reacted to his questioning. This included physical beatings by his father that were so bad a neighbor threatened to call the police. It also involved some books he got being burned. This is actually a great example of how NOT to reach your children. His parents saw this coming for years. They sat him down with two experts, but never seemed to consider learning themselves.

At this, I can have some sympathies for Bradley as such abuse is never justified. However, it looks like Bradley has stayed at this state. He is still the fundamentalist that he was years ago as we will see.

We will continue next time on chapter 2.

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

Book Plunge: Hidden in Plain Sight: Esther and a Marginalized Hermeneutic

What do I think of Robert P. Debelak Jr.’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Nearly everyone who is a Christian has a favorite Bible book. Many point to John or to Romans. I recently had someone surprise me who told me they really like Leviticus. If you ask me, the book that I seem to get very excited about whenever it comes up in my daily Bible reading is Esther.

I still remember sitting at a personal table I had in the living room as a young child going through my Bible and going straight through and coming to this book. Naturally, I had no idea what this ten chapter book was about, but I decided to go through it. That’s exactly what I did. I read all of the book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.

The book read like a modern adventure novel and has comedy in the irony that takes place in it. Something I found fascinating that I read about in the intro to the book the first time I read it was that God was not mentioned. In an odd way, this adds to the appeal of the book because you know God is present in the narrative, but here He is behind the scenes. (The king just happens to have insomnia and just happens to read about Mordecai saving him and then Haman just happens to be in the king’s court at the time wanting to ask about hanging Mordecai?) I could go on and on like that, but you get the idea.

In this book, Debelak takes us through and just encourages us to read it through the lens of margnizalization. What is especially noteworthy is the contrast of the women to him in the book and to those deemed less otherwise. Vashti is mentioned briefly in the first chapter and yet disappears as Esther takes her place and Esther has even more control over the narrative. At the start, Vashti is deposed for not following the orders of the king and in the end, it is Esther that is giving out the orders. Vashti is called to come into the king’s presence and refuses. Esther is not asked to come and risks her life and is accepted.

Mordecai is also such a figure. We know nothing of him other than he is Esther’s uncle of the tribe of Benjamin. He is seen as a loner figure who just sits outside the king’s gate and checks on Esther, but he is the one who has the gall to stand up to Haman (In every way as he refuses to bow down to Haman and give him honor) which brings about the events of the book. If Mordecai had just been like everyone else, nothing would have happened and Esther would just have enjoyed a nice royal life and Haman would not have had a plot to kill all the Jews.

Also, Debelak does not make any references such as “And here is how we see Jesus in this passage” or at least none that I remember. This is important because we too often do jump to that instead of just seeing what the passage means. Questions of historicity do matter, but Debelak doesn’t focus on those either but rather just looks at what the text means in the setting that it claims to take place in.

I found this an interesting perspective on Esther and I am interested in reading anything I can on the book. It is one I wish we talked about more in the church as I cannot recall one time I have ever heard a sermon on it. Sadly, most people don’t know about this book in the Old Testament. If you don’t, maybe you should dust off that Bible and go through it and see if you read it as I did as a youth back in the day.

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

Book Plunge: Hate Crime Hoax

What do I think of Wilfred Reilly’s book published by Blackstone Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I read a number of political books and normally, I don’t review them, but this one is an exception. I listened to it on Audible and decided the material was too important to not share. The author, Reilly, is himself a person of color, as he says, and yet wants to share this to show how in his mind the left is selling a fake race war based on hate crime hoaxes.

Now if you consider yourself someone on the left, please don’t shut down at this point or just close this blog page. Hear me out. If anything, the information in the book should strike you as good news.

By the way, before going further, I also want to say that there hate crime hoaxes done by conservatives and done by white conservatives especially that Reilly talks about. While a majority are on the other side, my own conservative party is not without its hoaxers.

Many of us know about such hoaxes when we think about the Jussie Smollett case, which happened just a month before the book was published so you won’t see it in here. We saw the outrage when Jussie said he was attacked and then before too long, everything changed. It became clear pretty quickly that no such attack had ever happened.

Unfortunately, too many hoaxes do not have the same response. The usual pattern is some “hate crime hoax” happens and then there is outrage and everyone gets up and does some virtue signaling and then, something happens and it’s found to be a hoax and people say “Well there’s still an issue here that needs to be dealt with” and any retraction is put offhandedly in a tiny paragraph on page 26 of the New York Times.

However, the good news is that so many of these crimes are hoaxes. Sadly, many times, anti-black crimes are committed by someone who is black and anti-gay crimes committed by someone who is gay and on and on. Some sad cases even end in real deaths and real injuries. The burning down of a gay club was actually done by the owner. A black church has been burnt down by a black member who made it look like a hate crime. One black minister even staged a hate crime at his home where he was going to go to bed and die in a blaze he had started. If his oldest son hadn’t been woken up by the sound and reacted, everyone would have died.

The story is told of two black children who encountered white men with shoe polish who told them “You’ll be white today” putting it on them. Fortunately, this never happened. Unfortunately, there was at least one white man who was beat up by three black men in response to this crime.

While these may be done to draw attention supposedly to racism, if anything, they make racism more and more of a problem. Each of these hoaxes gets people to take sides more and more. This is one reason I do not take accusations of racism very seriously anymore. I need to see highly convincing evidence.

I also don’t think it helps to take people who disagree and tell them that they are phobic of whatever it is that they disagree with. Throwing out terms like sexist and racist and bigot do not help understand a position and if you assume the motive at the start is something like racism in your opponent, then you won’t listen a bit. This is not to say that there are no racists out there among us, but we need to be very careful with the term.

One story I remember hearing about when it first happened was the pastor of a gay church who asked to get a Love Wins cake from the Whole Foods store. He claimed that there was an anti-homosexual slur that was written on the cake. Whole Foods faced a backlash and the baker of the cake got fired. I do not know if they got their job back or not, but I do know that it was found to be a hoax thanks to security footage.

One step that needs to be done to stop these is to have much harsher penalties for hoaxers. If someone commits a hate crime hoax on a campus, don’t celebrate it by having an event to raise awareness or building a building. Instead, expel the offender immediately and cancel any events or plans that were going to be set in motion by the hoax. Giving attention and fame to one hoaxer just empowers the next one.

Why should this be good news if you are on the left? If most of these hate crimes are hoaxes, then that means society is not as bad in this area as you think it is. In an economic way of putting it, the supply does not match the demand. Any time we deal with fake racism, we are kept from dealing with real racism. It should be kept in mind that crimes the police and FBI investigate that are hoaxes are also drainers of time they could be spending on real crimes.

I urge everyone out there to go and read this. Really consider what is being said and be careful the next time you hear of a hate crime. Don’t go and get your pitchforks ready to deal with the other side and don’t immediately start concluding that society is completely hopeless on this issue. Wait and see. Odds are, it will likely be a hoax.

Not the best news of all if it is, but still far better than the alternative.

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

Book Plunge: Jesus’s Resurrection in Early Christian Memory

What do I think of David Graieg’s dissertation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As far as I know, this isn’t published yet nor is there an official name, but the title i have put is something found in the heading of the dissertation. I saw on Facebook that Graieg had done his dissertation on the resurrection from a perspective of memory and I asked if I could see it. He sent it to me and I did tell him I would write a review.

I have now finished it and for my thoughts, well, it’s certainly thorough. If you go through a dissertation, pretty much everything has to be backed, save for when you’re doing your conclusion on the matter, and the bibliography makes up about a third of the writing itself. This would be something for many of our atheist friends to keep in mind who think we just blindly believe matters about religion.

The emphasis in this paper is on the creed in 1 Corinthians 15 and the memory of Jesus’s resurrection event. As we know, the letter was written between 55-60 AD, but the creed comes much earlier. Most scholars will place it no more than five years after the event in question. Most place it at a very early timeframe. Some have placed it within a few months of the event.

Yet the earliest record we have of it is this letter. Perhaps somehow matters changed. Can we be sure that this is accurate? We have Paul’s word on it, but can we trust his memory stood the test of time? Doesn’t memory change? We’ve all experienced remembering something that didn’t happen or filling in details or telling a story and have it change based on the audience.

This is the basis of Graieg’s work. Early on, he has a look at the chapter as a whole exegeting it. I thought this was interesting, but if there was one part of the dissertation I didn’t see fitting in, it was this part. I could understand some parts like the idea of a spiritual body being worthy of discussion, but not the entirety of the chapter as a whole. It was unclear to me how this related to memory studies.

However, from there, nearly every question that can be asked about memory is asked. This includes how memories are shared and how they last and flashbulb memories and what kinds of memories fade. One concern of people who haven’t read this might be that this could be seen from an individual basis. Nope. Graieg spends time looking at the aspects of communal sharing and notes that this would be a communal memory that would be not just shared, but rather performed, several times.

Such factors even as Paul’s age is looked at. We don’t have a biography of Paul, but Graieg goes on the best information we have and he sees no reason to think that Paul would have his memory sufficiently altered to make the creed radically different from what it was originally. Like I said, it’s very in-depth.

This also includes look at how reliable testimony is. Hasn’t eyewitness testimony been called into question a few times? Graieg looks at the ways in which memory is reliable in these situations and in the ways in which it is more prone to error.

In the end, Graieg concludes that there is no reason to believe that there is an error in memory taking place sufficient to overcome that Paul really believed this event happened. That does not mean that it did, but it does mean critics of the resurrection need to be careful before making such an argument. They also need to contend with the evidence and realize perhaps Paul really remembers what happened because it really did happen.

If there was one other area though I would like to have seen covered, it would have been cognitive dissonance. This is a favorite magic word of skeptics who have never ever read anything on the topic, but it is thrown out to make it look like they know what they’re talking about. I consider it a weak objection, but I would have liked to have seen Graieg talk about it.

Keep an eye out for this author. If you’re interested in resurrection studies, this is worth it.

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

Book Plunge: With All Your Mind

What do I think of Erin Ruth’s booklet? Let’s plunge into the deeper waters and find out.

I really like Erin Ruth’s work. I was introduced to her through a podcast where we both being autistic Christians talked about our experiences. What was so unusual was that the first question showed that we’re also very different. Ruth contended that it was more difficult to be a Christian on the spectrum because you’re so logical. I said that it was odd that I found it the same way in that it’s easier for me to be a Christian because I’m so logical. Emotional arguments don’t really faze me, hence I’ve never really been bothered by the problem of evil.

Now, Ruth has written a booklet called With All Your Mind on being an autistic Christian, and this is from someone in the United Kingdom where Christianity is a minority definitely. This is not so much her experience however as it is recommendations to the church. How can the church better help people who are on the spectrum?

A great problem in many cases is that Christianity is often a very social faith, but autistic people like myself tend to not be social. It’s actually a paradox. We want to be involved with other people, but we want to be in our own world too. The hard reality is people who try to force you to be social often wind up being unintentionally counter-productive.

People who know me know that I hate it when someone who doesn’t know me asks “How are you?” Unfortunately, I work in retail and I get that question often. I have also been “coached” before for not approaching customers in the self check-out and talking to them. In my world, that is absolutely terrifying, something I’m having to work on with people as a once again single man seeking to remarry.

Churches can do this too. Ruth rightly points out that something as simple as giving out earplugs to people who may have sensory issues can be helpful, but I want to also add to please don’t try to be the best friend. It can take time to build up a relationship with a person on the spectrum. I know I’m notorious for saying church greeters often do more harm than good as people on the spectrum want relationships, but I don’t think we want to feel like we’re forced into them either.

Prayer is something she talks about in her book as prayer can be difficult and I’m pleased to see she spoke in ways I have often said. It’s hard enough for us to relate to someone we can’t see. How do we relate to someone we can’t see?

Add in another hurdle being that so much of Christianity is often experiential and emotional today. Many people on the spectrum have a hard time with relating emotionally to situations. When people talk about the feeling of the Holy Spirit or great joy in circumstances, people like myself can be thinking, “What are you talking about?” It’s not that we don’t have feelings, but that we often do not have the strong constant ones and we don’t know how to understand them when we do.

At the same time, this shouldn’t become a burden put on us. Some people will say to read your Bible every day. I do that, but I don’t think it should be a legalistic thing. I had been reading a lot every night, but I realized I wasn’t getting as much out of it because it was becoming more ritualistic, so I switched to reading some of the church fathers in addition to my small nightly reading to give me a small enough portion of Scripture to really think about.

If you want to understand the autistic person, find out what their interests are and engage them on it. Ruth talks about how when she was a child, it was easy to make friends. Just talk about Pokemon. That wasn’t around when I was in elementary school, but video games definitely were, and I quickly became a popular student in school when I showed a natural gift for playing video games well.

Today, that can get me excited to talk to someone as it is easy to relate to a customer I meet at work who is wearing a Legend of Zelda T-shirt for example. Also when I was married, at a Celebrate Recovery meeting once, someone asked my ex about me thinking that I seemed to be off by myself. She was trying to explain matters to him. I was watching this from across the room seated on a couch minding my own business. Then I heard her say, “You could talk about apologetics.”

He proceeded to ask what that was, but he didn’t have to wait long. I had ran up there instantly asking “Did someone say apologetics?” I think this is one reason I like to tease people a lot of times. Humor is a way I relate to people and I have been told before I should consider doing Christian comedy. (And yes, I do think about that.)

The point here is that if you do manage to find an entry way, that’s a great way to open up communication. However, do remember some people on the spectrum are non-verbal. To get back to what I said earlier, if you try to tell us how we should communicate, it can have the opposite effect. Recently, I had a customer say thank you to me for helping him. I gave a nod and then went on my way, or maybe I didn’t as usually after I help someone, I like to disappear. A little bit later I hear a voice and it’s him saying “When someone says thank you, you say ‘you’re welcome.’ ”

Think that inspires me to talk?

Not a bit. It leaves me thinking that there’s a reason I don’t like to talk to people. I am certain the guy meant well, but too many people do not understand the world of the person on the spectrum. The same rules don’t apply and if you think we’re rude, you’re really missing it.

Autistic people can also be spiritual. One way we can do this is love. We do have a capacity to love and form relationships. I have been married before and want to marry again. I know that it is possible. It can be harder, but it is possible to relate.

We can also be sometimes scrupulous in matters, which is why we can tend to fall into legalism. I worry sometimes about spending too much time on other interests and not about God as much as I would like, which really I think shows me how much I care about God that I want to do better with him. There are a number of facets of Christianity that aren’t clearly spelled out in Scripture and this can be difficult for many of us.

Ruth’s book is a welcome guide to many and a beacon of hope for autistic Christians and the people who love them. The church needs to do more to help such people as now it is likely that most every church has at least one autistic person in the congregation. Thankfully, we have been blessed to have people like her help us understand the field.

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