Removing God From Evil

Why does it not make sense to me to see people make the argument from evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Suppose you know the basic Christian claims, but you don’t know the reasons behind them. You don’t know the case for why Jesus rose from the dead and you don’t know the case for the existence of God. Suppose also that you don’t really know the arguments for atheism. You don’t see a strong case for something like evolution so you’re skeptical. Essentially, you’re a more neutral person in this debate. I realize this is highly unlikely, but this is a thought analogy.

Now you are presented with the problem of evil. Again, you don’t know a strong case against God or for God one way or the other. All you know is that if you go with this problem, then you have a case for not thinking God exists. It’s not a certain one, but it’s a probabilistic one. However, you also know something else about the problem of evil.

You know the problem of evil entails real suffering. You know a woman being raped involves real suffering. You know children starving in Africa involves real suffering. You know that there have been such evils in the past as 9/11 and the holocaust.

You also know that on atheism, at least what you are presented, those are still being seen as evil. You also know that on theism, especially Christian theism, there is a good God who is involved in some way you are told and will one day redeem the suffering people go through and bring about justice. You don’t know how this will happen or when, but you know on Christianity, it is claimed to be happening someday.

Then you start to think. “If I go with this argument, then I remove God from the picture and if I do, there is no basis for redemption of suffering or future justice.” That means that the rapist can still get away with it. That means the children dying just pass out of existence. That means that some people who were involved in the holocaust will never face ultimate justice.

You remove God from the picture, and yet the evil still exists. The person who has been raped has still been raped. The child who is dying in Africa is still dying. 9/11 and the holocaust still happened regardless.

What have you gained from this? You still have the problem and not a solution. It would seem that on a practical ground at least, you would want theism of some kind to be true. Note that I am not speaking on the argumentative level here. I am not saying at this point the arguments for Christian theism or atheism are better. I’m speaking about which one would you at least want to be true?

From my standpoint, at least on theism, you can have some level of hope regardless. If the rapist is never found, you can at least believe that there is a God who will judge him one day. If you go through suffering, you can at least believe that that suffering will be redeemed not just for good, but also for your good. You can believe that the innocents who die can be brought into the loving manifest presence of God and enjoy Him forever.

To be fair, I could also understand an atheist who would see this and say “It would be wonderful if that was true, and I honestly wish it was, but I don’t believe that it is.” That’s a fair position. I don’t understand anyone who would say, “I really don’t want that to be true. I don’t want justice to be brought to the evildoer and I don’t want suffering to be redeemed for good.” That doesn’t really make sense. You could go on and say it’s a fairy tale if you want to, but still say, “It would be nice though if that fairy tale was true.”

For me then, when I then look at the arguments for and against Christian theism, the arguments for have a lot more power to them. Evil is a very good argument to appeal to one’s emotions, but from a rational and a practical standpoint, I find it greatly lacking. This is not to say one cannot argue against God on other grounds, but evil is not the best one. It also is not to say that one should say Christian theism is true because they want it to be true. Not at all. None of this is an argument for Christian theism. It is just a way of looking at the problem as it is presented.

This is definitely nothing against making arguments for theism and definitely not saying we don’t need to answer the problem of evil. We do. This is just my saying from a practical standpoint, the argument doesn’t make sense. It might seem to gain an intellectual victory perhaps, but it doesn’t really change the suffering and removes the hope in the face of that suffering.

Also, none of this resolves us whatever our viewpoint of our responsibility. While those of us who are Christians do believe in prayer, if we just pray while there is something more we can do, then we have not done enough. If you have a loved one in a car accident and they are in the doctor’s care, then prayer is about all you can do, but you could possibly also visit the rest of the family and be support. You might not be able to go overseas and feed starving children in Africa, but you can support a missionary or special program to help provide food and water for them.

By the way, one such organization to go to is Jonathan’s Impact. They are friends of Deeper Waters. Jonathan was a young boy who I never got to meet, but looked up to me from a distance and I invested a lot of time in this fine young man. His death is certainly a tragedy, but his parents are fulfilling a deep desire that Jonathan had. If you want to help out the people in Africa, please consider this organization.

So in the end, I find from just a practical standpoint the argument from evil removes hope. From a philosophical standpoint on other grounds, I find it just fails. However, if I didn’t have the philosophy, I would at least want something like Christian theism to be true.

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

When I Don’t Trust God

How do you handle a lack of trust? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I could have easily titled this “When You Don’t Trust God”, but I know you have that struggle if you’re a Christian already and I think it’s good for you to know that I do. Sometimes in the Christian world, those of us in ministry can sometimes be seen as if we are above the day to day struggles. We have the answers to the questions and we have the good theology. Our lives work out well.

That is a lie.

John Piper is well known for his Desiring God concept, but he also wrote “When I Don’t Desire God.” It’s a personal book. I haven’t read that yet, but I don’t deny for a moment it’s true. There are times that John Piper does not desire God. So it is that there are times I don’t trust God.

And folks, this is what faith really is. I am not for one moment doubting His existence. If people say I believe in God for emotional reasons, they are entirely missing the boat. I am convinced because of my rationality which makes the emotional struggles all the harder.

I am not even questioning His goodness. I do know God is 100% good. The problem is that doesn’t bring me comfort at times because there’s a part that wants to say, “If this is what goodness really looks like, then I could do with a little less good in my life.” As C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed after the death of his wife

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and
I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me
about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect
that you don’t understand.”

Lewis has much to say about the goodness of God. He talks of people who say they are not afraid because God is good. Have they never been to a dentist before? I had a surgery job done in my teenage years by a good doctor, the one considered the godfather of scoliosis surgery. I am sure the staff at the children’s hospital consisted of good people. I still struggled for a year with walking on my own for a good operation done by good people.

There are times you look at what’s going on in your life and wonder “How did I get here?” A lot of the self-help people will say “You are responsible for your own life and your outlook on it.” We are told that in groups like AA, nothing can heal until a person accepts responsibility, but after that everything can heal. Therefore, for your life, you need to accept responsibility.

That can be good advice, but it really only works insofar as you are directly responsible If you tend to take good care of your body and you get cancer, are you to take responsibility for that? If your child is killed in a car accident by a drunk driver, are you to take responsibility for that? If you lose your home in a sudden natural disaster, are you to take responsibility for that?

Now keep in mind that in all of these disaster scenarios, I am not at all you saying you don’t own your responses to them. Some people beat cancer and some don’t and one of the #1 reasons for who does and who doesn’t is often attitude. There’s the old saying that one person says “I can” and the other says “I can’t” and both of them speak truly. Even if you physically can’t beat cancer, as sometimes the best attitude in the world won’t overcome, you can still choose how to live the remainder of your life.

There is a sense in which our struggles come from within in what we tell ourselves of the things around us, but do they not play a role? Suppose I am walking down the street on a daily walk for exercise. Now I am a typical guy with my book and playing some Pokemon Go as I travel and I turn to walk down the street and way off at the end of the street, I see a bear.

Rest assured, that never happens here, but this is a big for instance. Am I going to suddenly have anxiety? You bet I am, and while we can say that that can largely come from what I tell myself about the situation, there is no doubt the stressor is there, such as if the next thing I saw was tranquilizer guns shooting the bear and knocking it out and Animal Control coming and putting the bear in the back of a secure vehicle, I would have some aftershock anxiety, but I would be a whole lot better off.

In these times, people come and they mean well but they often say things that are so mundane. They’re true, but not helpful. You are told “You need to trust in God.” Wow. What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that? Yes. And when you are rolled into that operating room and going under the knife and don’t know what will happen, just trust the surgeons. You can be told that all you want, but it won’t change the reality. When your walk with God is going well, it’s easy to tell someone else to trust in God. No. I don’t want it to be that while I’m in the foxhole and the bullets are whizzing over my head that someone from HQ messages me and says “Trust in God.” No. Come and really get in the trenches with me and I will better hear what you say.

The reality is we know we ought to, but we are majority blind fools in many ways. Yes. We know God works all things for good to those who love Him. Yes. We trust that if God allows it, He does so for our good as well. Here’s what that doesn’t change. It hurts. It hurts and when we look at where we want to be, where we want to be seems so far away we don’t know how we can ever get there.

Let’s also keep in mind none of us trusts God entirely. If we did, we would never sin. We do. We fail every day. I would certainly hope my Catholic and Orthodox readers would have understanding of a great quote of Martin Luther. The gospel is just one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. We’re all wounded on the journey in some way and we’re traveling with other people who are wounded. Maybe right now you’re in good health. That’s great, but remember as you tell me about the joy of Christ that I know somewhere is true, but rings hollow now, that sometime in the future if we both are living, there will come a time when you are in the valley of suffering and the last thing you will want to hear about in some ways is the joy of Christ because it is not resonate with where you are.

In an odd way, what is comforting to hear about now is not joy, but suffering. Tell me about Joseph being in prison and telling the cupbearer and baker, “Please tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this prison.” Joseph had found favor with God and was serving well and the warden had put him in cause, but he knew he was there wrongfully and while conditions could not have been better for him than they were, he still wanted out. Tell me about Daniel being thrown in the den of lions when his only crime was being faithful to His God. Tell me about Jesus begging to go to the cross. He had prayed “If there be any other way, let this cup pass through me.” Do we not think the Father would have loved to have been able to say “Actually, there is another way we can bring salvation to the world. The cross is not necessary.”

You see, the future is a place that is far off and distant. As a child, my family and I used to go to Myrtle Beach on vacation. It was in South Carolina and we started in Tennessee. At four in the morning when we’re heading out, the beach seems like an eternity away. You want to get there and we know the constant refrain of children. “Are we there yet?”

The children are realists though. They trust that their parents want to get them to the beach and to do so safely and know how to get there, but the child only sees miles and miles of interstate that look exactly the same. Telling them about the pleasures of the beach on the way sounds distant and hollow. It is the same way as when Peanuts refers to Christmas as being on top of a steep hill. The closer you get, the steeper the hill gets.

We often say that God is there when you are suffering, and it is true, but it is often still not much consolation in honesty. Lewis again writes that when life is good, God seems to be everywhere to the point where He can practically seem as if He’s so overwhelming you that you don’t enjoy your life. However, when you are in need and when you want to experience Him the most, the door is slammed in your face it seems. Being told God is there is no more a comfort than the child being told Christmas is coming or that they are on their way to the beach. It is met with a “Yes, but” and that is not helpful.

There’s a story that the great composer Beethoven had a friend who had suffered a great tragedy. The musician went over to his house and rather than see the friend, sat down and played the piano for half an hour and then left. The friend regarded that as the most helpful visit of all. Somehow, the music Beethoven played shared his longing and sympathy for his friends. As we often say, talk is cheap. Show me your actions instead.

At times like this, it is hard to trust God, but at those times, what reveals us most is not really our words but our actions. Everything I am writing in this post goes with what I am going through right now. Some of you know what’s going on. Some don’t. I don’t want to say here what it is. Either way, to quote the common saying, “The struggle is real.”

The actions though are still where it’s at. If you meet someone who is still trying to serve and do the right thing for the Kingdom even when it is hard, be thankful, though I would say at the time inwardly. There are many times for all of us it would be easier to throw in the towel altogether and give up. Go ahead and lie in bed all day and do nothing. Close the windows and curse the light.

Again, we have to refer to Lewis. Those Christians that still get up and serve regardless are the ones facing the struggle the most. It is easy to serve the Kingdom when everything is going your way and you’re prospering in all or most areas of your life. When you have struggles with God and you still serve, that is the hardest.

And maybe in reality, is it not entirely a lack of trust of God. I could just as well argue it is the pain and suffering that is trusting the most. Who would we say would be trusting God the most? A Pollyanna Psalmist who only wrote Psalms of praise and thanksgiving, and there is a time for such Psalms, or one who writes also the Psalms of lament and suffering. This is the Psalmist who trusts God with what he really thinks about this world. The Hebrews writer tells us to boldly approach the throne of grace, and it is the true person who knows that God is real and comes to help that feels safe enough to boldly come to that throne to register a complaint. Job had his own accusations against God and even though he darkened God’s knowledge without counsel, he was declared in the end to be the one who also spoke rightly, unlike Job’s friends.

As I think, it could be that you could say I am not trusting in God when I worry about the future, and that is true, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trusting in God at all. I’m still trusting in Him that I can go to Him with my complaints. I’m trusting Him that I can go to Him and tell Him what’s wrong. I’m trusting Him that I can go to Him and tell Him that I don’t like the way things are. I can even go to God and trust Him when I want to outright accuse Him of some statements. I can do this knowing they are not true, but still saying “This is how I really feel at the moment.”

To my atheist readers also, this is what faith in God means. Let’s drop this nonsense that faith in God means knowing that He exists. James dispels that one easily in his epistle. Faith in God is trusting Him and in that case one could say in spite of the evidence, because of the wrong evidence. It is not the evidence of simply present reality. It is the evidence of all that He has done in the past and the character of who He is. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where faith takes place. Faith is a willingness to follow God and His commands even when for the time being, it appears to profit you nothing. It’s easy to follow your commanding officer when you think he’s ready to send you back-up at any moment and you only need to hold off the enemy for a short time. It’s hard to when you can’t reach him and you don’t know where he is, but it is the true person who trusts his officer who still keeps firing away at the enemy regardless.

Thus, there are times I don’t trust God and what am I to do? Act. Act accordingly anyway. I have learned in all of my emotional struggles, that they don’t really last a long time. There are many times that I am in the valley and each time I think, “This is the worst valley I could ever be in!” and at the time, I think I am right, and a few years down the road, I find myself in a worse one. Every time I have been brought through. Sometimes, I have been brought through kicking and screaming and not wanting to trust the hands that want to carry me through, yet still I make it a point to go on. Where else will I go?

If anything, I think it would also be good if we Christians often dropped the spiritual platitudes we still too often share. We often act like intense struggle is the exception in the Christian life. It is not to be. It is the rule. It is how we handle those sufferings that will reveal who we are and the world will see us. It’s easy for the world to know we are Christians by our love if we rejoice and love when everything is good. They do that as well! It’s how we will handle the crucible of pain that will reveal our love the most. If we are showing love, it is to people who need that love the most intensely. They may even as we do with God at times smack our hands away in anger and want nothing to do with us, but we still love.

If you are also in the time when you are not trusting God, you are not alone. Trust if anything requires it being difficult to trust. It is easy to think about how the laws of science work so well when you are going about your day to day mundane life. If you have to get on a space shuttle and fly out where everything you do, including your return to see your loved ones on Earth again, depends on how well people are calculating the laws of science and how well they work, it could be different. I cannot speak on that, but it would be interesting to ask an astronaut someday if I could. Maybe I will see if I can track one down. Actually, I’m doing that right now. Perhaps that’s a future blog post.

And also if you are there, I am not going to give you platitudes. Just know that in my own way, I am also walking through it. None of us are where want to be entirely yet. All of us are still works in progress. When you meet me on my journey, it might be best to not talk. Just grab another sword and walk alongside me together. Even if we walk in silence, at least we walk together facing the next day.

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

Isaiah 45:7

Did God create evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You’re reading in Isaiah and you come across this passage in 45:7.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all theseĀ things.”

If you’re a Christian, this doesn’t seem right. If you’re an atheist, you jump up and down like you just found buried treasure and go straight on Facebook to share your profound knowledge that even the Bible teaches that God created evil. Take that Christians! Your God is the source of evil Himself!

But if you’re thoughtful on either side, you pause and ask what is going on in the passage. That’s really a much more rational approach to take. After all, if something seems to go against the whole thrust of the story, then you need to see if you might be misunderstanding something. To my atheist readers, you should also want to be sure of this. You know how you think some Christians can embarrass themselves, and they do, when they don’t know anything about evolution and argue against it? Don’t be the same with the Bible.

So what is going on? This passage is talking about Cyrus going out before the Lord to bring about judgment. Like Babylon, Cyrus will be an instrument of God. Yes. I know atheists are already having an issue about a man’s name being given 200 years in advance, but the dating of Isaiah is a separate point to this one so let’s bookshelf that one for now. We’re taking the passage as is.

God is then talking about what He brings about in the world. Light and darkness are the first examples. Many of us don’t like the dark, but darkness does not necessarily equal evil. The night time is not an evil time. In Scripture, God is the God of the night time just as much as He is of the day. The night is a blessed time where we can all sleep and recharge for the next day.

However, we can see light and darkness as opposites. These are parallels. Sometimes in Hebrew, this is known as a merism. You mention two opposite things to include everything between them. When the Bible says God created the Heavens and the Earth, it is talking about two contrasting objects that really means in essence, everything. God made it all.

When we see the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this is also a merism. It doesn’t mean that the couple had no idea of good or evil beforehand or any epistemology. It is speaking in language of wisdom more than anything else. It is saying that Adam and Eve by taking the fruit would make themselves to be the source of wisdom and order for their lives and not God. We should all know in Scripture wisdom is kind of a big deal.

So it is with this, we see light and darkness to form a contrast. Then we look at the next topic. That’s peace and evil. Attentive readers should realize this doesn’t exactly work the same way as light and darkness. We know those two are opposites. Peace and evil are not necessarily opposites. We can say peace is good, but is it always. Suppose no one ever went to war to stop Hitler and his concentration camps. Jews were rounded up around Europe and destroyed. Would Europe have peace? Sure. Would that be good. No. War was a good thing here because it brought an end to suffering. I realize one could say the Jews didn’t have peace, and that is true, but the good benefit of World War II was we brought peace to them and to Europe by stopping an evil man.

Even more, we can look at the Hebrew words here. The word for peace is Shalom, which is to be expected, and the word for evil is ra. Ra can mean evil, but it can mean a variety of things, even bad figs. Hebrew is in some ways a limited language where one word can have multiple meanings.

The word is used in Genesis to describe the bad vines and cows in the dreams of Pharaoh. Jacob uses the word to describe sorrow if he lost Benjamin. It describes mischief in Exodus 32. It describes beasts in Leviticus 26, which I don’t think can be considered evil. The thing is, I could easily keep going and list more examples. If you want to see more, they’re all available online. I have no need to keep demonstrating the point.

Not only that, the best opposite word for evil would be Tov. That would mean goodness, as it does in Genesis 1. That is not what is used. So what is being said?

It’s talking about calamity. God can bring that about on a people that He says are doing evil. God is a God of judgment. If people do evil, God will judge them eventually which can be in the form of calamity. Why should He allow peace for a nation that is evil and disregards Him? If we want justice at all in this world, we have to realize some people will experience calamity.

So to Christian readers, no need to panic. God did not create evil. To atheist readers, no need to jump up and down as if you found the Fountain of Youth. The argument you want is not here.

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

Forgive Them

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

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

“How did you know?”

“It’s always a guy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should Revelation Be Scary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh. Imagine that.

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

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

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

Come.

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

Whether Weather Means Something

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

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

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

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

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

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

For about a week or two.

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

Bull.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Plunge: The Skeletons in God’s Closet

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

Sometimes you hear about someone you really like or meet them. They seem like a great person upfront in their public image, but then you see something behind the scenes. This person has skeletons in their closet. Everything is called into question then.

Many people think God has a few in His closet.

How could a loving God send people to Hell?

Why would a loving God judge anyone?

How could a loving God be so genocidal in the Old Testament?

Each of these can be a deal breaker for so many people. Why would I want to serve a God like that? These are valid questions, but Butler turns these on their heads. Each of these is actually good news for most of us.

One of the reasons for this is we don’t take sin seriously. We say to just let it be. It’s not really hurting anyone. Right? Imagine if we took the same approach to someone being treated for cancer. “Don’t worry. It’s just a little cancer. You want to keep some of it in you. Right? A little cancer won’t hurt you will it?”

The analogy, like all analogies, is not perfect, but if we treated sin like cancer we could find our lives quite different. If we don’t, then God has the answer of Hell. At the start, Butler has it clear that this place is not a torture chamber. Part of the problem is we have an idea that Heaven is up above and Hell is down below, such as the old email chain about Hell being found underneath Siberia. (Ridiculous since Percy Jackson showed us all that Hell is really under Hollywood, but I digress.)

This is false. Heaven is some place far up there and Hell is some place way down there. This division doesn’t really help us as we make this world an awful place to escape then. This is the world of God and God made it to be dwelt in. That does not include Hell. Nothing in Scripture indicates that Hell is made for humans.

Hell is really an intruder in this world. However, what if someone doesn’t want to choose God in this life? What does God do with them? He gives them what they want. Those who want to join in the rebellion and fight against God get the results of fighting against Him and choosing against Him. Still, it is not a torture chamber. It is a place of shame and sorrow where one realizes what they have lost.

Judgment, however, is still good news. After all, if anyone talks about the problem of evil and asks why God doesn’t intervene, they want judgment in some way. “If I was God, I wouldn’t let someone get raped.” This is a real need for us. We want to see justice done.

This is then good news. There is a God who will deal justice and does deal justice. We don’t really want a grandfather in the sky who says the children will be children, unless, of course, it’s our own sin that we’re talking about. We don’t want God to judge that.

But for those who do evil, there is a day of reckoning coming. God will not let someone do what they want forever and for those of us who do hunger for justice, that is good news. For those who are living in a sin of some sort, that is very bad news. Nothing will escape His eye. Nothing. We have to give an account for everything that we do in the body. If you’re a Christian and you read that and there is no nervousness in you over that thought, you really need to examine yourself.

And sometimes, that judgment came in the Old Testament in holy war, but is that really like God? Butler argues that what happens most of the time is not living cities are attacked, but more military outposts. These also often include the idea of driving out instead of killing.

But doesn’t the text say women and children are killed?

This is language of totality and is really trash talking. It doesn’t indicate women and children are killed, especially since they were rarely in these military outposts. What about Jericho? Consider first off that Jericho could be walked around 7 times in one day. Sure, Rahab was there, but it wasn’t uncommon to have a woman be a tavern master for the men and sometimes, she would be a prostitute if men wanted more than a drink.

Consider as Butler suggests, a basketball team in the locker room after a game talking about how they demolished and destroyed the other team. Final score? 120-105. Hardly a complete shutout, but that language is used. What you see in the genocide passages is actually trash talk.

I have only given brief explanations, but this book is an extremely powerful book. Skeptics who want to complain about these kinds of passages really need to read this book. Even Christians who have studied apologetics for years will get food for thought.

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

Evil And Responsibility

Why argue about evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I ultimately think the problem of evil is a failure. The logical problem has been solved as even most atheistic scholars in the field will admit, but that doesn’t stop the more emotional forms about certain kinds of evil being allowed. One of the big objections I have with this is that it doesn’t really deal with the theistic or historical arguments which still stand regardless. From a practical standpoint, it eliminates the cause of hope in the face of the evil while still allowing the evil to stand. Hardly a win.

That being said, I have noticed too often that evil is more of an excuse. This past weekend, I was engaged in a debate with someone where evil came up and the objection of children being molested by Catholic priests. I agree this is a real problem and needs to be addressed. However, I asked him that if that was a concern of his if he condemned the public school system as well. I was told that was a red herring, but how could it be? If we’re talking about suffering children, public schools have the same problem. In reality, public schools are more dangerous. Now if children suffering through sexual abuse is the issue, it should be easy to say, “I agree. We also have a problem in the public school and that needs to be taken care of.” Instead, as you can imagine, it isn’t.

Most of us have an idea that a man is not measured by his words. If you want to know where someone stands on an issue, you don’t look at just their words. You look at their actions. Consider the case of Charles Blondin. It’s a true story that he put a rope across Niagara and walked across with an audience watching. Crowds would gather and one time, he came with a wheelbarrow.

“Do you believe I can cross this pushing a wheelbarrow?”

“YES!”

“Do you think I could do it with a person in the wheelbarrow?”

“YES!”

“Who wants to climb in?”

No one did then, although later Blondin’s manager did.

That’s an extreme example, but you could apply it to several other cases. I have a phobia of water. If I tell you that I am now convinced that water is safe, yet I hesitate to get into a swimming pool, you have reason to disbelieve my words. You can say all you want to that flying is safe, but if you refuse to get on that plane, then we can question if you really believe your data.

We do this in philosophy too. If someone says morality is relative and then complains about evil, we see an inconsistency. I find it amazing that the people who are often the ones to complain the most about evil in the world of evil in the Bible, are also the ones who state that morality is relative. You can’t have it both ways.

So what do you do with someone who says that they don’t understand why God allows XYZ evil, but then they go and do nothing about that evil? I infer from that, that they don’t really care about that evil. They care about using that evil as an argument against God. Note, this is assuming an evil you can do something about no matter how small. A Jewish person can do nothing about the holocaust that happened decades ago.

You see, the problem of evil isn’t just a problem for Christians. It’s one for everyone. Everyone has to give an answer for evil. This is also the case with Christians on other issues. You want to complain about abortion? Do what you can to end it. You want to complain about redefining marriage? If you’re single, treat marriage as holy and don’t have sex with anyone until you’re married and if you are married, treat your own marriage seriously. Do you care about sex trafficking? Then at least avoid pornography which encourages that. Do you care about the poor? Then give of y our own resources. The government has a horrid record of helping the poor.

From now on then, I think one of my approaches with skeptics will be to ask them what they’re doing about evil. I should also be willing to accept it if they ask me the same question back. This doesn’t mean we don’t answer the problem of evil, but I want to see if the skeptic really cares about the evil, or if he just wants to use evil to attack Christianity not caring about the victims.

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

Thoughts On The Rich Man and Lazarus

What does this parable tell us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am sometimes engaged in debates on the final fate of people and particularly, the unbelievers. Do they go to a place of torment or are they annihilated? Sometimes, many people will go to Luke 16 with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to get some answers. It’s understandable, but this parable is really not about the nature of heaven and hell.

Let’s start with the story. The rich man wears purple. The wording could indicate that this even goes down to his undergarments, the garments people wouldn’t normally see. Why does this matter? Because purple was the color of royalty and prestige. If you were wearing purple, you were a big deal.

This man lives in luxury every day. Outside his gate though is a man named Lazarus. Note that the rich man has a gate which means he has a good living place. After all, gates were means of protection. This guy can afford some security.

Let’s start with Lazarus being named. It would bring to mind Eleazar which means God has helped. Some people look at the parable having a man with a real name and say “No other parable has this so this isn’t a parable.” This is understandable, but it is mistaken. The reason Lazarus is named is to show him as a worthwhile and honorable individual. The rich man, who most people would look up to and admire becomes in the eyes of God a “What’s his name?”

Lazarus meanwhile is someone who is sick and has nothing and dogs lick his wounds. Some people think that the licking of a dog was seen as medicinal. Either way, the message is that dogs are doing more for Lazarus than this rich man, who could clearly afford to help him.

Lazarus dies and he gets a personal escort of angels. Note that what is said about his death is just that he died. Nothing. No one notices him. The rich man dies and is buried. Burial was important for one’s honor and it is also done by someone else. No one can bury themselves. The rich man is remembered when he dies.

However, in the afterdeath, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man is in hell. The rich man now has to look up to see Abraham and Lazarus and in all of this, he still sees Lazarus as a tool. This also shows that the rich man was aware of Lazarus since he knew his name. His attitude remains unchanged and he still sees Lazarus as a servant and refuses to even address him.

He does call Abraham, father, which indicates this was a Jewish man. He also doesn’t want to go to be where Lazarus was, but he wants to bring Lazarus to where he is. Lazarus remains completely silent. This time, he has an advocate and one great one to have, Abraham.

Abraham also refers to the rich man as son, a familial name. It is showing a degree of care, but Abraham reminds the rich man that in the past, Lazarus had nothing and the rich man had everything. Now the roles are reversed. There is also a chasm fixed so that people cannot go back and forth. This should also be another indication the story isn’t literal. (What would happen if you fell down the chasm anyway? Would you “die” or would it be like a Mario game and you would just reappear where you started?)

The rich man then asks that Lazarus be sent to his family of five brothers. Again, Lazarus is the servant. However, why does the rich man have five brothers? Jesus didn’t need to be specific. He could have said family and it would have worked. Why five brothers?

Could it be because in the Old Testament, Judah had five brothers? Judah would be a picture of Jerusalem. Is this Jesus pointing out that Jerusalem itself is under judgment? Quite likely.

Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man insists that is not enough. Many of us hear this today. It is a common argument today from skeptics that they need God to do something for them personally before they will believe. I have no reason to believe those people are really seeking. Most of them are not interested in diving into the best works they can defending a Christian worldview to see what they really have to say.

It’s a shame to have some people miss out on God because they are caught in emotional arguments. These same people will often chide Christians for believing for emotional reasons. This is understandable as if atheists shouldn’t make eternal judgments based on emotions, neither should Christians. Many Christians could bear to read some scholarship as well.

We all know skeptics who are like this. The problem they claim is that there is not enough evidence when normally, the evidence that is there has not really been considered. Sometimes God does give more, but why should He if someone isn’t considering what they already have? Abraham says the rich man’s brothers won’t believe even if someone rises from the dead.

This is true.

After all, I have also met a number of skeptics that have said that even if God is real and Jesus rose from the dead, they won’t worship Him. This is normally for an emotional reason. Odds are you have met someone like that too.

This is not a parable about the afterdeath. This is a parable about those who God honors as well. That’s humbling too. Many of you who look up to me as a Christian to admire, and I hope I am, know my name from my writings and debates. Who is the real hero in the Kingdom of God though? It could be an unknown person that when they die, the world will neither know nor care. Meanwhile, those great celebrities who walk the streets of Hollywood and are known by everyone? They could be the ones that find themselves in a position of shame forever.

If this is true, you should consider your choices carefully. Before rejecting it also, you should make sure that you have investigated it fairly and don’t just have an emotional reason. If you are a Christian, be living so that you will be honored like Lazarus was when your time comes.

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

On Josh Duggar

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

Josh Duggar is connected with a celebrity Christian family. Unfortunately, that puts him in a spotlight to be what a Christian is meant to be and sadly, he is definitely not. We could grant some understanding with having a problem with pornography. I am not justifying that, but many men struggle with porn today and if they are repentant and seeking to change, we should be working with them and showing them grace. Sadly, Josh Duggar was doing more. He was also accused of molesting his sisters and now, child porn has been found on his computer.

Now when I first heard about child pornography, I thought it was likely teenage girls or something of that sort. No. We mean actual children. Children who are toddlers and some younger. Children who are nowhere near puberty. What do you say about a man who is sexually aroused by that?

Not only that, he had Covenant Eyes on his computer and yet found a way to bypass it. He was also involved on using the dark web to get his fix. This is a man who knew what he wanted and was willing to do anything underhanded to get it. Please think about that. This man sought out means to get his fix of children.

His wife I understand is still standing by him. I understand that divorce is often viewed as a great evil in the church, but there are some evils that are worse. This man is unsafe to be around, especially with children in the house that are the age of the children that he was viewing on the internet. She definitely needs to be open to this possibility. Fortunately, she is at least scared to be alone with him.

Rachael Denhollander issued a powerful Twitter series of posts on the topic. You can read them here. Let’s also spend some time then talking about what a girl is worth, which is the title of her book, and the way wives are sometimes portrayed in Christian marriage.

Women are sometimes blamed for the fall of men. Even if we go to the very first case, Adam and Eve, Eve did indeed give Adam the fruit, but it was Adam who willfully partook of it. Eve didn’t hold him down and shove it down his throat.

Suppose I am somewhere where a woman does everything she can to seduce me. Suppose it’s really a place that would normally be considered safe and I have been following good protocol to stay safe. This woman could do everything she can to seduce me, even stripping naked in front of me. She is responsible for that behavior definitely, but who is responsible for how I respond?

Me and only me.

Some women get the idea that if they dress a certain way, they are responsible for the fall of men around them. Now to be fair, a woman should be aware of how she dressed in the world. There are women who do dress in a way to advertise themselves in a way that is not appropriate, especially for a Christian woman. Many women don’t. A woman might pick an outfit out at the store just because it feels good on her and she’s not aware of how it looks in the eyes of a man.

However, a man cannot control what the women in his life do. He can only control what he does. Men need to learn that self-control regardless. Yes. Your wife might not be in the best state of mind and you might have to go without sex for a time. While a woman should not without cause deprive her husband as there is a mutual duty in marriage, if there is something going on with a physical condition or something of that sort, a man needs to be understanding.

For a woman who is not married, you never need to give yourself to a man before you marry him. If he won’t love you unless you give yourself to him, then he doesn’t really love you. He loves something you can do for him. What is a girl worth? A lifetime commitment.

Also ladies, if your husband is using porn, take action. If he is willing to work on it, be gracious and offer to work with him, but let it be understood you will not share him with pornography. Get him into a program like Celebrate Recovery and make sure he has friends who will hold him accountable. Be a partner in the journey.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that women can be involved in pornography as well. The same would apply in reverse. More and more women are struggling with pornography today.

For all of us, it’s always advisable to do our best to avoid being in sexually compromising situations. Being someone with a public image, I try to be especially careful. Unless the woman is related to me somehow, I won’t be alone with another women be it a restaurant table or in a car or on an elevator. Is that because of the woman? No. It’s because of me. I know beautiful women are extremely tempting for me and my thinking is if you think you are above a sin, you are far more likely to fall to it.

This is also appropriate on social media as well. I have women who are friends, but I try to be careful what I will talk about. Those of us who are Christians should be striving to live lives that are above suspicion. It would be a blessing to me if my intellectual opponents could look at me and say, “I don’t believe what he believes at all, but I do think he does try to live out what he believes and has that character.”

Also to those skeptics, none of this disproves Christianity at all. Josh Duggar’s sin does not show that God does not exist or that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. It shows that Christians, or claimed Christians, can be evil and hypocrites. None of us needed to be told that. We all know it. You want to condemn this as wicked behavior? You get no complaint from me.

For the rest of us, this is the danger of our Christian culture. We saw this with Ravi Zacharias. All of us who are in the public eye should be able to say to any challenge of our moral character to go ahead and investigate it. There’s a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that goes “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.”

I also recently had a friend in ministry message me asking if I had two months to teach on a specific topic for apologetics purpose, what would I choose. Without hesitation, I said sex and marriage. I was told he wanted two months worth and I said that would be two years worth. Most Christians do not have a biblical worldview of either and our young people especially get the message of the world for at least six days and the one day we have to teach them normally, we don’t.

Meanwhile, pray for this family. They definitely need it.

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