When Your Enemy Suffers

What do you do when your opponent suffers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Proverbs 24: 17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

I was about to write out another blog on the next chapter of Bradley’s book when I saw the news shared in the thread on it at theologyweb.com. Bradley died earlier this year at 91. I had to pause some at that one.

Do I like Bradley’s book? No. Normally, I enjoy going through atheist material, but this one just seems same-old, same-old and is a real disappointment. My reading through Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture is at least engaging. If anything, I find reading Bradley embarrassing as he thinks he knows what he’s talking about when really he doesn’t and pulls out the same old tripe arguments that have been answered multiple times before.

However, I still had sadness when I saw this. My longing at the time and my personal prayer was that he somehow managed to get a bit of grace before he died that he turned to the Lord he had shunned throughout his adult life. Do I know that this happened or have any strong evidence? No, but a man can hope.

I have at least two vivid memories of the opposite happening in my past. One time was when Stephen Jay Gould passed away. I was on America Online then and I remember being in the chat room and hearing the people speak who were vocal creationists, whether YEC or OEC I don’t know, and saying things like “You think it’s hot where he is right now?”

Whatever your doctrine of Hell, this is something that should never be said. People who hold to conditional immortality and people who hold to eternal conscious torment should all agree on one thing. It is a tragedy when people go to Hell. We would all like in some way for universalism to be true, but I fear that it isn’t. I found it just awful thinking that some people were practically gloating that their enemy was in Hell. If it wasn’t for the grace of God, they would be too and frankly, I didn’t see a lot of that grace there.

The other incident was on PALtalk when the Pope had died. Now I do not believe Catholics are outside of the grace of God. Some people do. Let’s suppose that’s true. Even if it is, should you have the attitude that these people did that the Pope busted Hell wide open, as I remember hearing? That should be a cause of sorrow for you.

In the causes of justice, I think some exceptions can be made I was on PALtalk again when someone messaged me about Saddam Hussein’s sons being found and killed and said “Isn’t this good news?” In a sense, it is good in that they will not be able to bring about evil on this Earth anymore. In another sense though, it is sad, because now they are quite likely in a place of dark eternity where there is no escape.

The Bible does show times of celebration when the enemies are defeated, but let us make sure we are celebrating first that God acted according to His covenant and provided justice and relief and secondly, that their evil is no longer being done. If we act like we are pure and innocent and don’t deserve judgment, we’re asking for it.

As a divorced man, I have to watch myself with this. I do have times of anger every now and then, but they are rare. If anything, for my ex-wife, I pray for her well-being and blessing. I don’t know where exactly she is right now. I do not check. I do not search.

Am I saying she is my enemy? In a sense, she did hurt me deeper than anyone else ever has and she has spread untruths about me claiming that I abused her, but I don’t like to think about her that way. I prefer to see her as someone who is hurt and confused and needs to come to grips with her own issues. I prefer to think that nothing was done out of a malicious attempt to hurt me even though that is what happened.

After all, I have my own sins that God could call me to account for if He wanted to. Forgiveness was not owed to me. Now God did promise He would forgive, but it was conditional on that I repented. Had I never done that, God had no obligation to forgive and indeed I have no reason to think He would. Every moment I spend in a blessed eternity with Him will be a gift of grace. There will never be a time in my existence when I am not dependent on that grace.

I hope Dr. Bradley somehow came to Christ in his final moments before he passed on. God will do what is right and no one will say it wasn’t fair, but I can hope. May I live with grace and forgiveness to my own personal enemies throughout my life.

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

Some Thoughts On Election Debates

Why does the issue matter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I tend to write about what is talked about in Sunday School at my church and last Sunday in going through Romans we got to chapter 9. Obviously, with a chapter that really introduces the doctrine of election, well that wasn’t controversial at all. The teacher in class is much more Calvinistic than I am. (Well, considering I’m more of a zero-pointer that’s not saying a lot.) I think my pastor considers himself lightly on that way, but the church doesn’t take a hard stance on it.

My view is that the text is not talking about individuals for personal salvation, but about service in the pathway to bring about the Messiah. It’s too easy to read Romans 1-8 and think this is a part on its own and then get to Romans 9-16 and read that separately. Instead, I remember noticing once that the first time Israel is really mentioned in the book is in the ninth chapter. I have a theory that the first eight chapters are really answering a question of “Who is Israel?

What this means is that Paul in the first half establishes who the people of God are and that includes how one belongs to the people of God, being justified by faith. From there, he moves on to how God will work in this people in comparison to the nation of Israel. This is not a hill I am going to die on, but it is something I ponder.

However, when it comes to these debates, I generally stay out of it and this is something I brought up in the class while saying I do not hold to Calvinist doctrines. For myself, these are matters of just things to think about, but too often, the way we live is quite really the same. Let’s consider two issues. Security in salvation and evangelism will be our focus.

In the first case, Calvinists hold to eternal security. Others hold that salvation can be lost. Arminians could hypothetically say that you need to live a holy life in order to insure that you have salvation. In reality, I don’t know many who hold such a stance. Most seem to think, like myself, that you can only lose salvation by outright apostasy or by living in severe unconfessed sin for life, such as an adulterous lifestyle.

So the Arminian could want us to live a holy life for the necessity of making sure we are Christians, but I don’t know of any Calvinist who says “Go out and live in sin because you are eternally secured so do not worry about it!” No. Both sides encourage you to live a holy and godly life.

So what about evangelism? Arminians will say we have to go out there with the gospel to reach as many people as possible. A Calvinist can say “If they are to be saved, they will get the message somehow.” The point for them is that that very way could be the preaching of the gospel in evangelism. Both of them view the idea differently in some way, but at the same time, both of them encourage missionary work and evangelism.

In the end, I often say that this is my summation of the questions. God is sovereign and man has free-will. How do those two work together? I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out this side of eternity. That’s also fine with me. How I live is really exactly the same way.

Also, if doctrines like this become a point of where you cease to fellowship with a fellow Christian. I have friends who are very much Calvinist. I have friends who are very much Arminian. I get along with both and tend to just not debate the issue.

If you want to debate it, that’s fine, but let’s always remember that this is a secondary issue. There is no wrong in investigating the question of how God and time work together. If we engage in this debate, while we may come from opposite positions at times, instead of seeing each other as opponents, may we seek each other as allies in reaching for the truth.

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

The Sadness of Christ

Why was Christ sad? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There have been some snafus with the blog lately. I hope that’s worked out. I do have a new laptop now and I tried to make YouTube videos of the blog for that, which apparently also had some problems. I was going to work on that some today, but really, things are extremely rough right now.

I don’t want to go into everything going on, but let’s just say that yesterday, I had the perfect storm of depression and anxiety come based on so many situations. Much of it I still want to keep private, but I can assure you it’s real. It has been so real I called to have an emergency session with my therapist and I am trying to reach out to other friends who I know can do some counseling.

So yesterday, I started wondering about the sadness of Christ. Go on Amazon and you can find plenty of books of Christ offering hope to those suffering. Wonderful. You can hear about Christ speaking to your sadness. Excellent. You can hear a lot about the promises of Christ and what He went through for your joy. Great.

And right now, I don’t really care about it.

Right now, I want to know about Christ Himself. What about His sadness? For some of us, it seems shocking to talk about such things, yet at the same time so many refer to Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of Christ that describes Him as a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

Yes. That’s what it says.

Jesus is not referred to as a man of joy. He is referred to as a man of sorrows. He is not described in ways that glorify Him. He is someone despised and rejected. There was no reason to desire Him. Nothing. Let us not color it over so much saying it was Jesus that we miss something.

This is in many ways a very depressing chapter.

Consider the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” How many of us have sung that at church? What a wonderful encouragement! What a blessing it is to us! How good it is to know God is faithful! That passage is in the Bible? It must surely be in a book of joy. It’s a Psalm of praise. Right?

Think again. It’s Lamentations. The entire book of the Bible that is just that, a lament.

So if you hold that Isaiah 53 is Jesus, this is really Jesus. When I talk about wanting Christ, I want to know just what He will do for me when I have sadness. I want to know what He did for Himself. I want to know why He was sad. I want to know His experience.

The number one place is in Matthew 26 when Jesus is in the garden praying and fortunately, I found one book on the topic by Thomas More that is over 500 years old called the Sadness of Christ and it is looking at the Passion. Jesus tells His friends that He is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Jesus turns to His friends.

Let’s get rid of some bad theology with this.

Some people will tell you that if you have God and you know His love, you should always have joy and happiness. If you are depressed then, there is something wrong with you. You need to repent.

I defy you if you are a Christian to find one human being you think has better theology than Jesus.

Was there something wrong with Jesus that He was sad? Did Jesus have a deficient theology? Did Jesus just need to repent and find joy in the Lord?

If your theology contradicts Jesus, your theology is wrong.

Jesus was sad. We could say it was because of the sins of the world and the pain of the people around Him, but could we consider something else? Maybe, Jesus just didn’t want to go to the cross. Hebrews tells us that He went despising the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. He knew this was the path to the greatest joy so He went for it.

He went to the cross because He wanted to save the world and bring glory to God. He didn’t want the cross for the sake of the cross. He would have preferred another way.

Yet Jesus was sad.

If that’s the case, then we can dispense with this idea that if you have God in your life, you should always have joy and living abundantly. Dare I say it, sometimes you should be sad. If you have a loved one who dies on you and you are not sad, you are not exhibiting great strength. You are being actually deficient as a human being.

1 Thessalonians is a passage I am discussing in eschatology right now, but while we disagree with many Christians on the eschatology, let’s speak about one thing we should agree on. The text says we mourn. Paul never says “Cheer up guys! No need to mourn! These people will rise again! Celebrate!” No. He says mourn. In Romans, he even tells us to mourn with those who mourn.

Paul says he had no rest at one point until he found his brother Titus. He talks about how thankful he was to have someone come to him so he could have less anxiety in Philippians, the very book where he tells us to be anxious for nothing. It could be Paul was also preaching to himself there. How many of us know what it is like to give advice some one and yet struggle to follow that same advice ourselves?

But to get back to Jesus, Jesus definitely did have sadness. When we talk about the incarnation, we understand He was hungry and He slept and was thirsty and could experience pain and even die, yet talking about sadness seems taboo. Jesus as a human being had emotions and surely those emotions always had to be joy.

No. Not a bit. He experienced the full gamut of emotions. When my soul is also overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, in some ways, I am in good company. Jesus’s was too.

What did Jesus do? He needed what we need then. He needed His friends. He didn’t just turn to God. He turned to others. I am thankful I have God to turn to, to be sure, but there are ways that another human being can connect with you that God can’t always. This evening I am planning on visiting a friend to have a gaming night. Sorry, but God isn’t going to sit on a couch with me playing Smash Brothers or something.

Sometimes, you need a touch too. Now Jesus could appear and do that, but it’s not likely. I am not a touchy person, but sometimes, it is nice to have.

In all of this, I am not saying prayer and good music and Bible study and similar things have no place in this. They are good. I also say good music because sometimes it’s not just Christian music you need. When I heard Nabeel Qureshi had died, I was one of the first. Mike Licona was there when it happened and his wife called and told me and said not to tell anyone. I was in a Wal-Mart shopping at the time and having to put on a brave face even though inside, I was falling apart. What did I listen to driving then?

World of Ruin from Final Fantasy VI.

Sometimes in my own pain nowadays, I find myeslf listening to A Place To Call Home from Final Fantasy IX. Different music will resonate with different people. Some will find themselves listening to the classical composers. Some might want rock and roll or even heavy metal. If it is not sinful and it helps you get through it, go for it.

But I don’t want to overwhelm you. For now, I just want us to think about the sadness of Jesus. We have a Lord who was sad and had to deal with it. We do nor honor Jesus when we turn Him into a superhuman who never had sorrow and sadness in His life. That should be a comfort too. If our Lord had it, we should not count ourselves exempt from it.

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

Sins We Don’t Speak Of

Is the church really taking holiness seriously? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday when I was in Sunday School, I don’t know how it got started, but we started talking about secret sins. These are the sins that you never really hear anything about in church. Right now, our pastor is getting ready to go through the Ten Commandments with us so it’s my hope that we’ll be hearing more about these kinds of sins.

The deal with these sins is that we don’t really like to talk about them because they hit so close to home. They are what we all struggle with. One that came to my mind immediately was gluttony. We all know of pastors who are quite rotund who are getting up telling us how to live our lives, but you can be sure too many of them are not talking about this sin.

We just went through Gay Pride Month. Now many people think the church talks way too much about homosexuality, which is odd because I honestly hardly hear anything about it from the pulpit, but when was the last time you heard something about pride from the pulpit? This is considered the chief sin many times. This is supposed to be the sin that made the devil, the devil. Do you hear about it often?

But speaking of homosexuality, our leader also gave us a statistic. I don’t know the source for it as I didn’t get to ask in class, but he said 15% of Christians in the church struggle with same-sex attraction. Even if that number is too high, some do. There is nothing said from the pulpit to help these Christians who could want to get rid of these attractions even.

Along those lines, what about pornography? It’s been said that 1 in 3 men in the church struggle with this. A large number of pastors even struggle with pornography. It’s not just a man’s problem either. More and more women are struggling with pornography. When do you hear anything about it?

It’s amazing really how many of our sins are sexual in nature. We need to talk about abortion and not just that it’s wrong, but that there is mercy and forgiveness for those who have gone this route. A number of women in the church have had abortions and some people will go to the church seeking solace after having one. We need to be able to say that abortion is wrong, but that yes, there is forgiveness available.

The church has a stigma when it comes to divorce as well. This is even the case when divorce could be justified and the right thing to do, such as in cases of adultery and/or abuse. If someone is divorced, negative thoughts are assumed about them, which is our natural tendency. Imagine going through a parking lot and seeing a car with damage on from an accident. You might assume the person was a bad driver, which is my tendency. Maybe they came in contact with the bad driver. You don’t know until you ask. Again, we need grace and mercy here.

Why don’t we talk about these sins? Are we afraid of offending people? Then we’re not really walking as Jesus did. However, if we don’t talk about them, we don’t get to have people come to the cross if it is something they have done wrong to receive mercy and forgiveness and grace, or we don’t get to give them healing from pain that has been afflicted to them in their lives.

Too many of our sermons really feel good messages to help us feel better about ourselves. Sometimes we should feel miserable about ourselves. We should so that it will drive us to repentance, which will bring us an even greater joy. If we want to be like Jesus, we need that repentance as well. The church does not do anyone any favors by neglecting the topic of sin. It’s easy to talk about the sins everyone else is doing and how bad the world is. We need to remember to clean up our own house first.

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

More On Pointless Debates

What difference do some debates make? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there’s a debate I don’t really care for on the internet, or anywhere else, it’s Calvinism vs Arminianism. I suspect my church is more in the Calvinist camp. I am not. I also don’t really care. Let’s start with some simple suggestions.

Can we as Christians please stop acting like we are more holy or righteous or take Scripture more seriously than someone else because we disagree? I am thoroughly convinced there are people on both sides of the debate that have a deep love for Jesus and Scripture and want to be faithful to the text and for whatever reason just disagree.

I remember reading years ago that Charles Simeon, a preacher of a couple of centuries ago, had said that if a Calvinist or an Arminian had been by Paul’s side as he was writing his letters, both of them would have asked that he mark out some passages he wrote. I am not saying the issue of sovereignty and free-will don’t matter. I am not saying that salvation doesn’t matter either. I am saying what is the practical difference in our primary job based on our position on these topics?

Let’s suppose that Christ has predestined everyone who is going to believe in Him like the Calvinists say. You know what? We still have the Great Commission to do because that is how we are to reach those people so let’s get out there and do it the best we can because God is worthy of our very best. If we go lax on what He commands us, then we are not taking Him seriously.

Now let’s suppose that they are wrong and that God will judge the world fairly still, as Scripture says and I think we can all agree on that, but we know that the odds of someone hearing the true gospel are greatly increased if we do the Great Commission. So what do we do? We go out there and we do the Great Commission to the best of our ability because God is worthy of our very best. In other words, whichever view is correct, we are to handle the situation the exact same way.

Now some might say the former view could lead to laziness. If that is the case, then we need to work on that ourselves. We need to learn greater discipline. Others will say the latter view will lead to anxiety. That is again a problem we need to work on for ourselves. We again need to learn greater discipline. I have heard it was once attributed to Augustine that we should work as if everything depended on us and pray as if everything depended on God.

This is not to say that we if we are studying theology should not have opinions on these issues or even discuss them, but my rule on matters that I consider secondary is that they should never be seen as a matter of division. Never should we go to those issues and use them as an excuse to bludgeon our fellow Christian with spirituality. Your neighbor could be entirely wrong and still love Jesus deeply. As I heard Steve Brown once say, “We will just agree to disagree and when we get to Heaven, Jesus will tell you that you were wrong.”

As I said, I am much more Arminian in my approach, but I would hope any Calvinist would happily be willing to put aside his personal disagreements with my theology and join hands with me when it comes to evangelizing non-Christians and answering cultists, atheists, other religions, etc. I can say on my end that I will put mine aside. My only concern will be making sure our arguments are good arguments. Yes. I have made it a point to take down plenty of bad arguments Christians put forward.

Too many of our debates that we actually divide over are really debates that are rather pointless. By pointless, I do not mean the truth doesn’t matter, but that they don’t really impact the way that we do evangelism or our orders to do the Great Commission. You can find Calvinists and Arminians both who have excellent reputations as missionaries and are devoted to Jesus.

On a similar path, I’d consider the debate about what happens to unbelievers when they die in a similar light. Some might think they want to do evangelism to help people avoid eternal conscious torment. If you hold to conditional immortality, wouldn’t that make you not be as motivated to witness to the lost? However, someone who holds to conditional immortality could agree that non-existence is a terrible fate to suffer and want to make sure people are in the Kingdom. He could say that maybe the holder to ECT gives a negative view of God, but the ECT can say the same back.

Here’s what they both have in common.

They both have the Great Commission to do. They both have the same marching orders. They both also have fates that they don’t want unbelievers to have (Or they shouldn’t want them to have) and they both have a Kingdom they want to serve and bring others into (Or they should want to at least).

Again, this doesn’t mean that in this debate the truth doesn’t matter. It means let’s try to remember that this is an in-house debate. I saw someone recently on Facebook saying that if someone wasn’t a believer in ECT, they weren’t much of a Christian. Now my view on Heaven and Hell is a bit more nuanced, but I immediately jumped in to defend my brothers and sisters who hold to conditional immortality. I would certainly hope that in any case, a Calvinist would do that for an Arminian and vice-versa, and the same for what happens when an unbeliever dies.

Again, none of this is saying don’t bother with the debate, but none of these debates are really debates that are essential to the gospel. You can believe on either end and still be a devout Christian. Perhaps it could even help our debates if we tried to realize the people on the other side are Christians like we are, maybe in some ways even better Christians. Perhaps even if we disagree with them in the end, we can still be humble and learn something from them.

And perhaps we can give a better demonstration of Christ to the world by handling our disagreements properly.

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

Should Revelation Be Scary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh. Imagine that.

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

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

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

Come.

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

Is Scripture To Be Read Literally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does God Know What’s Happening In Genesis?

How do we read these texts? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes in the book of Genesis, it seems like God doesn’t know what’s going on. Now some of you might be thinking I’m referring to the creation passage and using that in this debate. No. I am not. I am instead referring to passages where God asks some questions or indicates He needs to investigate a matter.

Let’s start with Genesis 3. God comes walking through the garden at one point asking Adam where he is. While some might question if God knows the future, right now, this is asking if God even knows the present. Did God know where Adam was? Absolutely. He knew what had happened already. So why ask the question?

It’s asked to give Adam a chance to respond properly. As we know from the text, he didn’t. He played the blame game and blamed God and Eve both. Eve did the same thing and blamed the serpent. Unfortunately for the serpent, he had no one else to pass the buck to. God doesn’t buy any of it and punishes all of them.

Why phrase it this way? God is being presented in a way that we can understand. We will see this more when we get to impassibility. This is the language used especially in the Psalms when God is described as a rock, a shield, a hen over her young, or being told to wake up and bring about judgment. It’s not as if the Psalmist thought God was literally sleeping.

Another place to go to is Genesis 11. In this, the people decide to build a tower to the heavens. The problem with this is the flood came and the people were told to go throughout the Earth and fill it. Instead, they say they will stay in one place so that they can avoid another flood. God says “Let us go down and see what is going on.”

Why say this? It’s actually meant to be sarcasm. Here the people are trying to build something to reach to the heavens and God is in the heavens and saying “I think I see some tiny smidgen of something down there. Let’s go see what this thing is.” Consider it like Goliath talking smack to David about how insignificant an attacker he was. The text is speaking in mocking language of what God is doing to the people.

Finally, when Abraham barters with God, God seems to reason within Himself what He should do. Of course, this would mean that God would be ignorant of something. This again is not just the future, but the present. It is also God asking what the right thing to do is, which would mean God has a moral requirement and that laws of morality are above Him.

What is the purpose of this text then? It is to show Abraham as a mediator. After all, mediating is somewhat important in the Bible. Yes. God really does heed what men say. How that works will be something talked about later on. God is in charge of this deal the whole time. He sets the standards. Once a limit is reached, God says no more.

He also already does know what’s going on. It’s not as if God literally has to go and investigate. (And for what it’s worth, God is never seen going through the towns.) God is acting in a way we can relate to.

Now immediately, the objection pops up of, “But you’re not taking the text literally!” I am taking it literally in the sense that I think this is what the author intended. I am not taking it literalistically in the sense of reading it as a wooden text much like I don’t read in Deuteronomy of God being a consuming fire and think that He’s a giant cosmic bunsen burner.

All this sets us up for another such occurrence in Genesis in a passage with a lot of debate about it so we will save that for next time.

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