Confessing Christians, Practicing Atheists

Are we really showing the difference the Christian life makes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today during some time I had alone, I started thinking about the way we live our lives. Look at how many of us wrestle with issues that we have today. How many of us in the church struggle with addictions and sorrows? Now of course, some of this is the day to day of ordinary living. Someone who has recently lost a loved one is not supposed to feel happy. There is something wrong if they do. Even barring extreme examples like that, there are regular day to day events that don’t bring us the greatest of joy, and that’s understandable, but overall, our lives are to be examples of joy.

The sad part is some readers who are down will be wanting to ask what we have to be joyful about.

Let’s start off. God is in his Heaven and Jesus is Lord and we are invited to join into His rule as the king of this world.

If you’re sitting there still wondering what the big deal is, you have a problem.

And insomuch as I do the same thing, I have a problem.

First off, I want to state some thoughts on how we got to this point exactly. Our ancestors lived in a world where the deities or deity always mattered. Christianity did not change that. Throughout the medieval period, the highest study you could attain to was the knowledge of God. You had to have learned every other subject well before you could move on to that one. Then something happened. I start it at the Reformation. Now I think even the most ardent Catholic would admit the Catholic Church was not the picture of purity and innocence at that time. Yes. Wrongs were being done by the church and yes, changes needed to take place. Of course, this is really true of every church and will be because every church is composed of these problematic creatures called humans.

The sad thing is that even though I think the Reformation was needed, a good thing can go to far. The questioning of the highest authority on Earth led to the questioning of the highest authority in Heaven. Questioning is good of course, but a lot of people were throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It would be interesting to know if this would have happened had the Reformation never happened, but we do not have access to know such a thing. I reckon it often when we do this thing to be like teenagers given the keys to their parents’ car and then suddenly thinking they’re in charge of the world and don’t need anyone, neglecting the fact that Mom and Dad hold the credit card that pays for the gas.

So we go on and note that I have said the questioning is not the problem. In fact, I wish more historical Jesus questioning had been going on and that we had been learning more. The good part for a Christian is that we can be open to any avenue of questioning and should do so without fear. What do we have to be concerned about? If Christianity is true, then honest and real investigation will lead to that. If it is not, then we should be thankful that we have been shown that that which we put our greatest trust in is false. Naturally, I do not see this happening on any level, but I still do read the opposing sides just in case I am missing anything.

As we moved on, we got to Deism. There is a God, but He’s more of an absentee God. He created things, but He cares nothing about you. He is indifferent to all the evil that is going on in this world. This deity is more of a stopgap to explain the word philosophically. However, people who grow up with absentee fathers can often say that there is little difference between an absentee father and no father at all. They certainly can and they certainly do say that. The next step in the worldview would act on it and that would lead us to atheism.

If atheism is true, then really, we are in a bind. We have to seek out something. Man by nature does want to be happy. He wants at least the satisfaction of his desires. If his highest desires, such as his rationality, lead to nothingness, then why not move on to his other desires? This is where we end up centering our lives on things like sex, money, food, fame, drugs, etc. Many of these can be good things in themselves. In fact, the first one on the list, sex, is quite likely our nation’s #1 choice of deity right now. Many a Christian can easily understand this, and if we don’t, that says more about our sex lives than it does about sex itself. Sex was made to be a beautiful and wonderful and transcendent experience. As a lady was telling my wife and I yesterday, it is a great power women have over men especially and men will do most anything for this good. I can easily say it is amazing how many life changes I made for the better in my life after getting married and how much more confident I was in many areas. That is not an accident.

But there is a danger here. One dare not think about sex too much on this level. What is it for? Does it have any greater purpose? Is there anything beyond the physical act? Such thinking could lead one to questions that might wind up with God, the explanation that is desired to be avoided. One pastoral author has said actually that if anyone asks you to prove that God exists, just answer with one word. “Sex.” If they don’t understand your argument, they’ve quite likely said more about their sex life than they ever intended. Many of my friends are single and could be thinking I’m making too big a deal here. If you’re one of those, just wait until you get married and then get back to me.

This is also why our nation is so odd when it comes to sex. Although we have mountains of evidence of the dangers of constant illicit sex, although our experience shows it, although there is much science backing the pro-life position, this is all ignored. The only reason this is ignored is because it is sex. As soon as we start saying there is a proper time and a proper place for sex and a proper purpose for it, well then we enter into the area of design. We are the children once again who are satisfied with having the toy that we pay no attention to who gave us the toy and why they gave it to us.

So we have a world that lives like there is no God, and many are sure there isn’t, and that our highest good is the satisfaction of our own desires.

We expect that of those outside the fold.

But it’s also showing up within the fold.

Yet what if we could return to that one central truth? There is a God and Father who is in charge of the world and while He doesn’t always interact as we would like, He does interact. It is an incredible interaction every day that He holds all creation together. Yet even still, to say that there is a God is not enough. That can get you deism, but deism really doesn’t answer our existential cravings so much. This is a great danger especially in apologetics. We can spend so much time defending a goal that we forget what difference the goal makes. Lewis said we can defend God so much that we would give the impression that God has nothing better to do than simply to exist.

Theism is indeed an awesome and incredible claim, but we Christians make a more incredible one. This God that we worship exists in Trinity and the second person of this Trinity entered into human history. He walked as one of us, lived a life like one of us, and then He died. He died and then He rose again in a new and glorified body and in fact promised that if we follow Him, that the same thing would happen to us.

Let’s keep one thing in mind. When the skeptic says that this is a unique claim, they are right. They in fact could realize more the greatness of what it is that we are claiming. We do need a lot of evidence to back this and I have given it elsewhere here and there are many scholarly works that do demonstrate that great evidence. Yet here is where the rubber meets the road ultimately. Take Lewis’s statement and apply it here. Could we sometimes be so caught up in defending the resurrection, which we absolutely must do, that we would practically give the impression that the most important point is to show that Jesus arose, though who on Earth knows why He did?

Recently, a cousin of mine who’s a pastor put up a status about following Jesus on Facebook and how important it is. I certainly agree that it is, but I wanted to press the issue some. I did state that I was a Christian, but I was interested in people asking the question about why we follow Jesus. What purpose could we have to it? The sad tragedy is that I don’t think anyone ever responded to that. Now if we are unable to tell ourselves why it is that we follow Jesus, how on Earth could it be that we could tell someone else why they should follow Jesus? Do we do it just for our personal feelings? “Try Jesus! You’ll like Him!” We can in our evangelism and giving our “personal testimony” treat Jesus as if He was some 12-step program that if we follow Him will make us all feel better about ourselves.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to following Jesus.

We are right to defend the resurrection as a historical reality. As it is, I want to be adamant on that. Christianity hangs or dies on this being a real event or not. If Jesus is not risen, let us please go on our way and do something else. If He did rise, let us do nothing else than live the way He commanded us to as servants of the Kingdom. The danger is that we take the resurrection of Jesus and make it a past event only and ignore that it is a reality that reaches far beyond itself to touch everything that happens around it. If the resurrection of Jesus is true, then everything else in this world is different. If it is not, then as Paul said “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

If the resurrection is not true, I frankly cannot blame the world for living the way that it lives.

If the resurrection is true, I can greatly blame Christians, including myself, for living the way we live.

Let’s return to that starting place. God exists, well and good. But who is He? What is He like? We could use our Aristotelian proofs, and do not misunderstand me. I think the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments are powerful and conclusive to show that God exists, but this deity is not necessarily the God revealed in Jesus Christ. He could be, but He is not necessarily. That does not mean the arguments are useless. They are a stepping stone. We must go to the greatest revelation of God and too often, we’ve treated the historical Jesus as the resurrected Messiah, but not in any way revealing to us who God is.

If our theology is not informed by Jesus, our theology is not an informed theology.

I’d therefore like to challenge myself and everyone else to know what it is you believe and why it is that you believe it. I have in fact used this approach in person before. When my grandmother passed away, I was one of three pastors given ten minutes to speak. I had lain out what I wanted to speak on and my own wife and mother at the time were skeptical, but I asked them to trust me on it. Later on, they had to admit my practice was a right one. In the first five minutes, I gave a brief apologetic to show that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical reality. I spent the last five showing what a difference it made, including what it meant and would mean for my grandmother. Both of the other preachers I found out later were impressed and the audience I think overall left in a good mood celebrating the life of my grandmother, which was also helped as after I was done, I was the Master of Ceremonies as it were gathering stories for us to share publicly about my grandmother.

Now was there still sorrow? Absolutely. My grandmother had died. Even as I write this, there is a tinge of sorrow, especially as I realize my wife and I currently live in her old house. This house that I used to go see my grandmother in regularly is the one we live in today and if I thought of it long enough, I could see many memories forming in my mind here. Yet that sorrow is not overwhelming. Paul told the Thessalonians that we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. Yes. We should mourn. Mourning is good and healthy. It is part of grief, but it is not proper to mourn as if we have a lost cause. When we mourn, we mourn not for the loved one in Christ who died. We mourn for ourselves as our lives are forever more lowered without these people in them.

But as we mourn, there is a hint of rejoicing. We know the story is not over yet. There is a God who has acted in Christ.

As I end this, I hope there is a note of joy showing up in you. If there isn’t and you’re a Christian, you might want to ask what it would take. If the fact that God exists and has revealed Himself in Christ and has invited you to join in His Kingdom does not excite you, good grief but whatever could?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Heaven Silent?

Is it really true that the Heavens are silent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote on how God is good and sometimes that’s terrible. Part of that is at the times when the Heavens seem silent. I’d like to start really looking at that topic in-depth as it affects a lot of people greatly. One aspect I wish to stress is that too much of our church has bought into a sort of concept of Christianese. I think one of the worst things we do is put on our spiritual hats and act like we have all the answers and that everything is always good in Jesus.

Let’s be blunt people. Sometimes life is a nightmare.

For some strange reason, we act like this is a surprise.

Too many Christians have given this impression that everything in their life is just wonderful. They act like prayer is just always so simple to do and they’re always so pious when they talk about how they do it. Let’s not forget Bible study. This is certainly a major one. After all, when these people open up the Word of God, they get something new out of it every day. I’ll go ahead and state it. There are many times I read the Bible and get absolutely nothing out. There are many times that prayer is a drudgery and a duty more than it is a joy. There are many times it is a pain to be a Christian.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not think I am alone in this thinking.

And you know one of the worst parts? It’s that you cry out to God and you beg and plead for that help. Is He not to draw near to the broken-hearted? Is He not to care for His sheep? Is He not the loving Father who is looking for His own? This is what we expect.

And nothing seems to be said back.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

What is going on?

I mean, doesn’t God know the situation?

Doesn’t He care about the situation?

Doesn’t He know that this is the time He’s supposed to show up and do something?

Nothing is coming.

What is wrong?

In any situation we have with another person, my first recommendation is that we always check ourselves. We check ourselves thoroughly. We ask if we have done anything that has cut us off from support. You see, if God is love, we must realize that sometimes we push ourselves away from love. If we are blocking ourselves, we will not be able to receive the love that is already coming from God. All of us must constantly watch to make sure we are open to receiving love. If we are not, then it could be that we have built ourselves a wall so strong God will not get through it. That’s quite a wall, but it happens.

What are other possibilities?

Another one is that too often, we expect God to speak in a grand way. Many of us are familiar with the still small voice of Elijah. I am not talking about God speaking to our hearts. The passage is not about that. I am talking about the way God does work in our lives. Many times, it is through ordinary means. The signs of the covenant were quite often very ordinary. A rainbow was the sign of the covenant with Noah. When it comes to the new covenant, Jesus used ordinary bread and wine. Many times, God uses just ordinary people. I do not mean that they are prophets in the sense that God directly sends or gives a direct message. I mean that the love of Jesus is shown in the love of His people.

Fear can keep us away from God too. If we are fearful of other people, we can be fearful of God as well. Many times we can say we want God to love us, but it can also be scared to have that love. It is scary because that love changes us and it often requires we do things that are very painful. It could be required that we love and forgive our enemies, which is something that is extremely difficult to do.

Of course, there is also sin. We must really examine ourselves and ask if we have done anything seriously wrong for our sins can often cut us off. Have we truly made God our #1? Have we made Him our focus? Have we unknowingly sought after other gods? This is part of self-examination. Are we living the lives that we ought? Are we truly giving thanks and praising? A broken and contrite heart does not mean that we regret what has happened and want to be with God again. It means that we regret the sin greatly. We view the sin as our greatest enemy and we seek to do everything we can to eliminate it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Then finally, there is the point that this can be normal. It could just be that God is allowing something to happen to us because He is shaping us to be the people we need to be for the future that awaits us. We are quite presumptuous when we think that we always know better. We do not. Part of faithfulness is realizing that you do not know better. You are often speaking from ignorance. Nay. You are always speaking from ignorance. You do not know the future.

As we continue, I’d like to look at more concerns about the silence of God and how to deal with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God is Good, And Sometimes That’s Terrible.

That God is good is meant to provide hope, but can it sometimes provide pain? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I find it awfully odd many times when I argue with atheists and they accuse me of having beliefs that make me feel secure and happy and that the reason I defend them is I’m really scared to step outside of that kind of thinking that brings so much joy. After all, you believe in a good and loving and all-powerful God who is watching over everything. How can that not be a joy and comfort to someone?

If such a person thinks that is why I defend Christianity, they are sadly mistaken. In fact, this is one of those beliefs that I can say is so far off that it’s even a compliment to say the belief is wrong. I am not an emotional person as is. I do not experience waves of emotion from God. I do not go to bed at night and wake up in the morning just wanting to say “Thank you God for beautiful day!” at the start and “Thank you for a wonderful day!” in the evening. I can frankly have times where I read the Bible and I really don’t get anything out of it. It happens. I think we have too much Christianese built into our culture about what the Christian walk is supposed to be like.

But how on Earth can a good God be a pain?

When I go through times of suffering, it can feel like I’m trapped by my own apologetic. You see, in those times, I know that Christianity is true. I know that Jesus is Lord. I know that God is all-good, all-powerful, all-loving, and all He does is right. All of this is stuff that I cannot deny. It is not based on having a warm fuzzy. It is based on argumentation. You could argue that you think the argumentation is poor. That is one thing. Let us not make a mistake though of thinking that it is not based on argumentation. I really find the arguments to be undeniable at this point and all I normally get is just-so stories.

Sometimes, that’s just horrible.

Why? Because many times suffering does come. When it does come, and when it is intense, one cries out begging for God to intervene and do what you think needs to be done. In all of this, the Heavens are silent, as if the Almighty is not listening to you at all any more. There is no hope or comfort that is given. In fact, at such times, it is very easy to feel intense anger to God. You do not serve God for a reward, but you wonder how is it that you serve so much and then when it comes time to making one request of your own, that that request goes unanswered. Are you really asking for too much? Is it not a simple request.

What makes it so odd after that?

Someone like myself goes on and serves Him still anyway. Now you could call me delusional or something like that if you want, but the thing is I’m convinced Christianity is right which means Jesus is Lord. The right thing is to serve Him anyway. You treat the King like the King. You do it also because if it’s true, other people need to know about it.

You do it ignoring the pain that you can feel at the time.

At times like that even, I find great solace in the prayer of Madeleine L’Engle. She was a Christian author who years ago wrote the following:

Dear God,
I hate you.
Love Madeleine.

That prayer is a great blessing in suffering.

And you know what? It’s okay to be angry at God. It’s okay to rage against Him. It can be difficult still. You see, in times like this, it would be easy to believe in an evil god. If there was an evil one, not only could you rebel rightfully, it would in fact be noble to fight against such a tyrant. Yet what do you do when your opponent is good? Do you not relate to Habakkuk who cries out violence and God does not save? Do you not relate to Job who says that though God slays him, he will trust in Him?

I have to remember at this time that no feeling or experience lasts forever. The reality of what happened lasts. The past is not changing. To stay with the feeling is a choice.

Think back in time to a point in your life when you were really happy. For most of us, we can think of our wedding day. If you have never been married, you can think of something else, like graduating or getting a good job or getting your first car or a really special Christmas. These are times of great happiness and joy, but they can’t be relied on forever. This is one reason addictions take place. People keep wanting a high over and over because no experience lasts forever. This can be so even with legitimate desires. A husband has an awesome experience when he has sex with his wife, but he needs that regularly because the euphoria of the experience goes away and he can’t just look back and say “Well that was awesome then.” It certainly was and he can feel some joy at thinking about it, but the feeling is not the same.

Think back also to a time of great suffering. For instance, you could think of being at the funeral of a loved one or a time of having painful surgery. Those times are incredibly hard. For a funeral, you go and look at the casket and it hits you. When my grandmother died, I was expecting the news. I heard it and I was incredibly sad, but there were no tears. I was a strong guy then. My wife knew it was hard, but hey, I was strong.

And then I got to the funeral home and saw her in the casket and the reality hit home.

Yes. I could not stop bawling at that point.

In fact, it was even harder for me because I was one of three pastors assigned to do her funeral. In fact, I was the last one to speak and had to be a Master of Ceremonies. I had decided since I had ten minutes to speak that I would spend the first five talking about the resurrection of Jesus and how we know it’s true. For the last five, I would talk about what that meant for the resurrection of my grandmother. I can say that when I got up there to speak, I was fine at that point, but that was the first time ever I was truly terrified to speak publicly. Until then, I always loved public speaking. When I got done, many of us were in a good mood. We actually left feeling pretty good. We had all shared good memories, but no doubt, there was still emptiness.

When I think back to that funeral, I can still be sad.

It won’t change the reality. Until the resurrection, my grandmother is dead.

With marriage, biblically, till death do us part, we are wed. There are times of great joy and times of great sorrow in marriage. You let the times of joy carry you through the times of sorrow. You do the right thing because you made a covenant.

And when it comes to God, I made my own promise to Him. I promised Him my whole life and service and I aim to give Him that. If He is true, He has promised me He will in fact reward me handsomely eventually, but it is in those hard times that I have to swim against the current. It is when the heavens are the darkest and the world seems the most intimidating and nothing makes sense. This is when a man finds himself tried the most.

A poem by an unknown author as far as I know, goes like this:

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

If such is the case, then submission is what is done. While one has one fist raised to the heavens in anger, the other is an open hand helping to lead others into the Kingdom. One is entering into enemy territory with the bullets firing at them not sure if their commanding officer has really placed the guards about him, but they are fighting anyway. This is the time true testing begins. I am convinced that those who can survive through the hardest of testing are those who will ultimately survive through anything. Make no mistake however. This is one time where the idea of counting all things joy seems impossible. It is a time where one would jump ship if the opportunity presented itself.

But the reality one is out at sea and realizes the only harbor they have is the boat that they’re on. It makes no sense to jump from the empty boat to the shark-infested waters below.

Sometimes it is a pain to realize that God is good, and those are the times where holding on can be the hardest, but it must be done.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do I Suffer With Aspergers?

Does having a condition mean that you suffer with it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife shared on her Facebook the tragic story of a young girl who committed suicide because of being diagnosed with Aspergers. Now I have not hidden on here that my wife and I both have Aspergers. Does that sometimes lead to suffering? Of course. There are difficulties. I can have a hard time recognizing sarcasm and tend to take things very literally. I can easily obsess on matters that I shouldn’t and I am prone to anxiety.

Yet as I looked at the comments on this story, I think of the first one I read and it had a phrase that I have seen several times, even when people speak about me. That is the term that they know someone who suffers with Aspergers.

I don’t like that term.

I don’t like it because it makes it sound like if you have a condition, then you are automatically meant to suffer. Now of course we can argue that it could increase your likelihood of negatives in your life. We can argue that it could give you extra hurdles. I would also add that it gives me several bonuses too. I like the way that my mind works with this. I think it enables me to be a better husband as I am able to be so focused on my spouse in a special way and it gives me a great memory to use in the field of apologetics. I think my mind is also much better able to multi-task.

The point is that suffering is a choice. I have very little control over what happens to me. I cannot control if you care about me or hate me. I would prefer that you care, but I cannot control that. I would prefer many things, but I cannot control them. Life is not based on what I want and prefer. It is just what it is. I am playing a game and I cannot control the cards that I have been dealt. I can control what I do with those cards and I can control that I will play them to the best of my ability. I cannot guarantee that I will win a game, but I can guarantee that I will be fighting the whole time.

I can control my attitude towards what happens. That takes work, and I realize that, but that is my responsibility to learn how to do that. I cannot hold other people responsible for my feelings. I have made it a choice to not be a victim to what others say. It is okay for me to feel sad at times and to feel hurt at times. It also does not mean that I act recklessly. It means that I live my life the best that I can and if you do something wrong to me, well that’s on your head. I’m not responsible for it. I could have even provoked you in some way that led to your doing a wrong action, even doing something wrong myself, but you are responsible for your own wrong actions just as I am for mine.

None of this is to deny that suffering is real. I went through back surgery when I was fifteen and about to turn sixteen. I had a steel rod placed on my spine. Let me tell you, that suffering pain I felt was VERY VERY real! Never have I felt such intense physical pain before. The stomach aches afterwards (They had to take my stomach out to do the surgery for a bit and I am told they unintentionally stretched it when they did) were very real. Twice in the past year I have had the flu, the worst time being in December. The pain was very real. With emotional pain, I have had depression and I have had panic attacks. Yes. Those pains were very very real. In fact, I would rather go through the back surgery again than the depression and panic attacks.

Suffering is real.

And what about other people in the world? Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are persecuted for our faith. I have been told about some who had boiling water applied to their bodies, even to their genitals, to make them feel pain. Many times, these are even little children who undergo this. This suffering is very real. They have no choice as to if they will undergo this suffering and no doubt with the physical suffering, they feel the effects of that for a lifetime. What about that?

You cannot choose if you will feel physical suffering or not. That much is real.

You can choose how you respond to it.

For little children, this can be harder because children are really impressionable in so many ways and don’t know better. They don’t know the coping skills. This is why good parenting is so essential. You have to watch the messages you are giving your children early on. They have the capability to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, some children are raised by terrible parents who are abusive and tell them lies and physically abuse them. When does the pain reach its worst? It is when the child starts to believe everything that is said and done to him. It is when the child internalizes it. Then the child unknowingly becomes his own abuser too.

A friend asked me about Jesus in response to this. Jesus underwent suffering. What about that? Yes. Yes He did. He chose a life of suffering. He was described as a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. At the same time, He was also a man of great joy. How do I know this?

People wanted to be around Jesus.

Do you really want to be around people that are negative? Not at all. Jesus was invited to parties and gatherings. When people were loved by Jesus, they took that as God loving them. Jesus had done miracles and spoke in the style of a prophet to show who He was. People came to Him for forgiveness instead of the temple. People came to Him for healing instead of the temple. In fact, Hebrews tells us that Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him. Jesus was not looking at the suffering itself. He was looking beyond the suffering to the fruit that it would be used for.

We in the midst of our suffering have to do the same, and might I say we tend to fare worse than our counterparts? There are people that live without a steady food supply, no internet, not having a plumbing system to use the bathroom, subject to all manner of weather, under persecution by wicked governments, and without clean water, and many of them have more faith and joy than we have. We should be ashamed to see the suffering that other people face with joy and compare that to the kind of suffering that we too often complain about over here.

And who is responsible for that?

They are the ones choosing to rejoice in the face of suffering. We are the ones choosing to focus on the suffering that we have. We cannot control the suffering that others inflict on us, but we can control the suffering that we choose to reflect on. This can take time and work depending our psychology, but we have that choice.

Do not define me as suffering with Aspergers. My life is an adventure. I thrive. I am happy to be alive. I choose to live every day seeking to learn more about my God and to serve Him. I love doing Christian apologetics. I love the wife that I’ve been given. All of this is a gift to me from God. I serve Him and I look forward to serving Him in His Kingdom.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/11/2015: Sarah Ankenman

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re going to be continuing this month looking at Autism and Aspergers and life on the spectrum. Last week, I spoke to my friend Dan Ventress and we discussed our lives together. This Saturday, I’m going to be speaking to my friend Sarah Ankenman. Sarah and I met at the New Orleans Defend The Faith conference and she is also one of the group of women in apologetics. She also happens to have a son who is autistic. We will be talking to her about her life as an apologist and we will be focusing on her life with her son and how that has affected her life, what she knows about autism now from her experience, and what impact that has on her ministry. So who is Sarah?

SarahAnkenman

Sarah Ankenman currently works at Online for Life as the Director of Pregnancy Resource Center Relations and is the Founder of The International Society of Women in Apologetics. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education and graduated with a Masters in Christian Leadership from Grand Canyon University. She received her Bachelors in Biblical Studies at Calvary Chapel Bible College and has a second in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University. She is currently teaching an Intro to Apologetics class at Maranatha Chapel’s School of Ministry in San Diego. In the past, she has taught Women in Faith, Drama and Film, and Apologetics to Islam at Calvary Chapel Bible College and Apologetics and Worldviews, Church History, and Comparative Religions at Maranatha High School in Rancho Bernardo, CA. She also currently speaks across the country on topics like Equipping Your Kids, The Case for the Anti-Abortion Position, Apologetics to Islam, Seeking Something More: The Argument from Desire, Why Apologetics?, The Definition of Truth, God’s Existence, Miracles, the Reliability of the Bible, and Rethroning Jesus: The Case for His Existence, Death, Deity, and Resurrection. She has also written a curriculum to equip the average, busy Christian woman in apologetics. She blogs as The Valley Girl Apologist and is currently working on a book entitled Seeking Something More, on the argument from desire.

Sarah has a wide range of interests as you can see and this time we will be having the focus on autism. This can be tied in with many of the issues that she does speak about. What about women who might want to get an abortion if they were to somehow find out that their child is or could be autistic? Why does God allow people to have disabilities like this, especially if they are so severe that your life can be interfered with to some extent? What do you learn about being a good parent? What advice would you give to other parents who have children on the spectrum?

I hope this will be an interesting talk for you and I hope that this month will open you up more to the world that is life on the autistic spectrum.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Resurrected Judge

What does the resurrection mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I don’t post on Easter or do Facebook, so on that Sunday, I don’t contribute, but now that it’s done, I do want to say something about the resurrection that I said to a small group recently. As I thought about this, Acts 17 actually has well what I am wanting to say. You see, we often think that resurrection means we’re all able to be forgiven of our sins. Now I don’t deny this. Forgiveness is good and it’s important and we should celebrate it. To say that’s all it is though is like saying all that a college degree is about is getting to have a good job or all that getting married about is getting to have sex. Those are good and important things, but there is much more involved.

When we get to Acts 17, we see this taking place.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Something to consider is that sins are never mentioned here. Ignorance is mentioned, but not sins. Is repentance mentioned? Yes. Repentance often has an overtone of forgiveness, but it can also be used of just changing one’s mind. Consider how it is used in the autobiography of Josephus.

I perceived … that there was a great many very much elevated in hopes of
a revolt … I therefore endeavoured to put a stop to these tumultuous
persons, and persuaded them to change their minds … [I] desired them
not … to bring on the dangers of the most terrible mischiefs upon their
country, upon their families and upon themselves.

[I told Jesus] that I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived
against me …; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would
show repentance and prove his loyalty to me. All this he promised …

For more on this, please go here.

So what could we say the message is?

We could say the message is in the past you have been ignorant, but no longer. The great wrong here is idolatry. God let you go, but now He has truly spoken in a way that is unavoidable and He has shown that He will judge the world by the man He raised from the dead. Do note that. It is not that because Jesus has been raised, you are forgiven. It is that because Jesus has been raised, judgment is coming. Jesus is the king of this world and this resurrection is meant to be a public demonstration to the whole world that Jesus is indeed King. This is something I think we miss quite often. Jesus is the King. He’s not just a savior, although He certainly is. He is our Lord and Master and we are to live our lives in service for Him. The question is not “What is Jesus doing in your life?” The question is “What are you doing in His?”

Celebrate forgiveness and be thankful for it, but don’t stop there. You were forgiven not so you could receive a blessing for God, but that you could extend His blessing by serving others.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Jesus Was Crucified. Why Call It “Good Friday”?

Is it morbid to refer to the day that Jesus was crucified as Good Friday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Good. What do we have in mind? If you asked for a good pizza, one with mouse droppings on it would quite likely not be what you have in mind. If you ask for a good movie, the one with the worst rating at Rotten Tomatoes would not be what you have in mind. If you asked for a good spouse, one who will abuse you and watch internet porn is not what you have in mind. If you ask for a good babysitter, you don’t want one who is a convicted and unrepentant pedophile. Yet here we talk about Good Friday and what do we say happened on it? Good Friday is the day that the righteous Son of God was crucified.

What was that?

You don’t even have to be a Christian at this point to see the problem. Even most non-Christians would hold Jesus up as a good figure worthy of emulation. Few would say that Jesus was the kind of man who deserved crucifixion. Yet that is exactly what happened. So why do we call this day “Good Friday”?

We do not call it good because something good happened. My stance with Jesus is that based on what we have from Him in the Gospels, either the crucifixion was the most righteous act of all that put to death the most wicked man who ever lived, or it was the most wicked act of all that put to death the most righteous man who ever lived. When we say that this was a wicked act, we say it because we believe Jesus was a righteous man. It is important to note that we are not saying the crucifixion was good or was a good action. Yet if it was not a good action, how can we speak then of Good Friday?

Simple reflection on your own past should show this. How many of us have gone through times that seemed absolutely horrible at the time and we would not want to repeat them ever again, but in the end we look back on those times and say “Yes. That was a terrible time, but I am ultimately glad I went through it because that time enabled XYZ to happen.” Perhaps it led to a new development in your life like a career path or a spouse, or perhaps it led to you developing a certain kind of character that helped you. You would never say that what happened was good, but you would affirm that it was used for good.

In fact, this is what we get in Romans 8. All things work together for good to them that love the Lord. Paul never once says that all things are good. He’s spent much of Romans telling us that much is not good. He instead says all things work for good. Of course, he does not suggest a reckless attitude. He does not think that you should do evil so that good may result, something he explicitly states in Romans 3. He is just saying that whatever happens, if you love the Lord, it will work out for your good. If all Christians everywhere could grasp this message and truly believe it, we would all live radically different lives.

What changes everything is the resurrection. Were it not for the resurrection, as Frank Turek has said, Good Friday would just be called Friday. In fact, no one would really care about that day. We would never have heard anything about Jesus. He would not be talked about at all today and would have died as a no-name in history not worth mentioning. The only reason we talk about Him today is not because of what happened on Friday, but it is because of what happened on Sunday and we really need to grasp what that was. Jesus rose from the dead indeed, but so what? What does that mean?

It means God has vindicated the claims of Jesus. Had He stayed dead, it would have been God saying “Yes. Those claims He made are false.” By raising Him from the dead, God gives the stamp of approval on Jesus’s life. Now there is a new king of this world. There was a challenge to Caesar then and a challenge to all Caesars today. The message we have to give to the world is that Jesus is King and you’d best get in line. We most often want to say it would be “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Can anyone imagine a herald going around the Roman Empire saying “Caesar is Lord and he has a wonderful plan for your life.” The claim is not about what Caesar will do for you. The claim is about what you will do for the Caesar, or in this case, what you will do for Christ.

Now does Christ do a lot for you? Yes. He does. He forgives you of your sins, He grants you a place in the Kingdom, and He promises to raise you up on the last day. That’s good, but if you stop there, then it’s like getting married and then saying “Now what is my spouse going to do for me?” You should be asking the most what you are going to be doing for your spouse. Jesus is not there to serve you. You are there to serve Jesus.

Good Friday is only good because we know it was used for good and we know that because of the resurrection. No one wants to say what happened was good, but God took the greatest evil done and used it for the greatest good. This should remind us all today that God can take the evil and suffering in our own lives and use that for a greater good.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/14/2015: Jerry Walls

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Awhile back, I reviewed the book Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. As it stands, I interviewed Dr. Walls on this book last Monday. That interview will be being worked on and will come out hopefully on Saturday. We spent about forty minutes on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory each. If you don’t know who Dr. Walls is, let me tell you some about him.

Jerry Walls

Jerry L. Walls is Scholar in Residence and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He has authored or edited over a dozen books and over eighty articles and reviews. Among his books are: Hell: The Logic of Damnation (University of Notre Dame Press, 1992); Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy (Oxford University Press, 2002); Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2012); and The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2008). His co-authored book with David Baggett, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press, 2011) was named the best book in apologetics and evangelism by Christianity Today in their annual book awards in 2012. He is also a big sports fan, and has done two books about basketball: Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint (coedited with Greg Bassham, University of Kentucky Press, 2007); and Wisdom from the Hardwood: Defining a Success Worth Shooting For(Gray Matter Books, 2012).

I should also point out that I found out that Dr. Walls and his son (Who has written an excellent book on the Legend of Zelda) are big tea drinkers and so that definitely shows that they’re on the path of righteousness.

We started with talk about Heaven and the question we had to ask was if Heaven was boring. That was where we started. Why is it that we do not celebrate the idea of Heaven? Why is it that there is just not a lot of appeal to the topic? We talked about how our view of God affects our view of Heaven and how our view of this current world does that as well. It really does make a difference if you have a false view of creation. If all you have is a sort of pie-in-the-sky by and by mindset where you will just fly away, you will not take this world seriously nor the idea that God is really going to redeem this world.

What about Hell? We did ask the hard questions. If God knows what it will take to make me believe, why does He not just do that? What about the question of those who have never heard? Why not go with the idea that God annihilates us in the end instead? How can it possibly be that anyone will be in Heaven if they know that there will be loved ones suffering forever in Hell? These are all hard questions, but Dr. Walls was willing to take them on.

Finally, we got to Purgatory. This was an interesting one. Dr. Walls is not a Catholic, but yet thinks we should try to reclaim this doctrine. We talked about the idea of post-mortem evangelism and we also talked about the importance of sanctification. How does this tie in with the Great Commission? If there is a chance that God will reach people without our activity and even after death, does that change our motivation?

You might not agree with all Dr. Walls says, but you can be sure it will leave you thinking. This was an astounding interview and I hope you’ll listen for it when it comes out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Disproving Christianity

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

DisprovingChristianity

I was told about this book a few days ago and decided to look and see what I could find out about it. I saw it wasn’t too much on Kindle and I had some Amazon credit so I decided to buy it. How would the author go about disproving Christianity? What I had read already indicated to me that McAfee could be a cut above many of the other atheists that are writing today so I was eager for a challenging case.

I’m still eager for one because I definitely did not find one here.

What I instead found was someone decrying fundamentalists and yet who is practically twice as fundamentalist as the opposition he wishes to go against. It’s another case of someone who thinks “I’ll sit down and read this book from another culture, time, place, and language, and assume that it is to be read exactly like a modern 21st century Westerner would read it and of course, since this is the so-called Word of God, there is no need to consult any works that are actually scholarly so all I’ll do is just quote what the Bible says and I don’t even need to have a bibliography in here then.”

In fact, McAfee’s whole case never comes close to disproving Christianity. At the most, he could have possibly disproven a literalistic version of inerrancy. He never gives an argument against the resurrection of Jesus. It is as if he has this mindset that if one contradiction can be shown to be found in Scripture, then we can safely say that the whole thing is false. I know people who do have this kind of mindset and as you can imagine, yes, we call them fundamentalists. I could grant that every contradiction claim that McAfee raises is valid and I could still say Christianity is true and do so very easily.

How does McAfee define Christianity at the start?

Christianity, for the purposes of this book, will be considered the organized belief system based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and utilizing the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as the Literal Word of God.

And right there we have our first problem, as the literal word of God. What does literal actually mean? The real definition of literal is actually “According to the intent of the author.” What literal means today is what I prefer to use the term “literalistic” for. You read the text in a just straight-forward fashion and assume that what it means to you is just what the text means. In reality, this is really a rather post-modern way of reading the text. Unfortunately, McAfee will stick to this methodology. Oh he will talk about consulting Bible scholars, but he will never mention who they are and I suspect his definition of scholar is about as fluid as that of Ken Humphreys, which would be something akin to someone who can argue their case well and use the English language well.

McAfee also tells us that we do not have proof for many things, so that is where faith comes in instead of logic and reason. McAfee is off on many points here. To begin with, there are many things we do not have “proof” of, but most of us do not take them seriously. We would think it bizarre to believe otherwise in fact. I do not have proof that we are not living in a computer simulation. I do not take that claim seriously. I do not have proof that during the night I was transported to an alternate universe where everything is practically the same. It could have happened, but I do not think it did and I would be crazy to spend serious time today thinking about such a scenario. We do not need proof in many areas. We just need justifiable reasons to hold to a proposition and no justifiable reasons for doubting it.

Of course, faith is always a favorite. McAfee could have bothered to do about five minutes worth of research and studying what Christians really mean by faith, but hey, if you’re setting out to disprove Christianity, you don’t have time to do serious things like research. Just repeat the same tired old drivel that is always said. I, on the other hand, do have time for research. Let’s pull up a real scholarly resource and see what it says about faith.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

Now McAfee could answer that he hears Christians using faith the way he sees it used all the time. He would be right in that, but the misuse of a word does not count against its true use. After all, those same Christians who use it that way are prone to define atheists as wicked and godless people who live with no morality and only care about themselves. Of course, even atheists should say that not all atheists have been saints and some of them have been wicked people who only lived for themselves, but a misuse of this word that is common does not mean that that is what the word means and certainly not what the word meant to its original audience.

Now of course, McAfee must show us that

The Bible is meant to be taken as the literal word of a flawless Lord.

That is an important thing to demonstrate. So how does he do it? Watch and see as you are about to be amazed with a stunning display of Scriptural interpretation.

John 10:35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Well geez. That should settle it. You should all realize by these verses here that the only way to read the Bible is in a literalistic sense.

That is, unless you actually read the verses and really think about what they argue.

What does the first have to say? It says Scripture cannot be broken. It says nothing about how to read it. In fact, there were plenty of ways to read the text in the time period of Jesus. There were plenty of ways to read the text afterwards. You think someone like Origen would have accepted that we are to read the text in a literal sense every time? Of course not.

We see the same with 2 Peter. All it tells us is that Scripture came from God. It wasn’t just people making things up. Note also that both of these passages would apply to the Old Testament, although you could argue that Peter might have included the Pauline writings in there. One would think that McAfee would have gone with the classic use of 2 Tim. 3:15-16, though even that passage does not give any indication as to how the text is to be read. Also, keep in mind that contrary to what McAfee thinks, Christianity does not stand or fall on inerrancy. I can point McAfee to several devout Christians who are orthodox in their doctrine and do not hold to inerrancy.

And as for Revelation, McAfee thinks that this applies to the whole of the Bible. While one could argue that, I think that just as compelling a case can be made that John is writing about only the book of Revelation. Again, the point is that all McAfee has shown is that the Bible does claim to be from God. What he has not shown is that it is to be taken in a literalistic sense and the evidence we have of the time period shows that it was not. Now McAfee could say he doesn’t go by extra-biblical information, but if that is the case, then first off, he is confirming that he is a fundamentalist again, and second, why is he writing this book then? Is this book not extra-biblical information?

To see a bad argument like that above is incredibly ironic when you see a statement like this later on in the book.

“For an idea as important as religion, it is a shame that Americans (and people around the world) simply take what they are taught from family at face value as opposed to studying, questioning, and learning about multiple religious traditions in order to make an informed decision regarding how, if at all, these organized belief systems will play a role in their own lives. I often ask Christians who received their religious ideologies from family whether or not they acknowledge the statistical assumption that if they had been born in, say, India—to Indian parents—for example, they would probably be affiliated with a denomination of Hinduism instead of the Christian tradition which they now consider to be the absolute Truth, though they would likely hold these religious beliefs with equal or rivaled fervor”

Well Mr. McAfee, I am not one of these Christians. I have read the holy texts of other religions and regularly read books that disagree with me. I interact on a regular basis with atheists and other non-Christians. So far, I haven’t seen anything that really shakes me and judging by the quality of your book, it looks like the atheist side is getting even worse in its argumentation, which is really what I expect. If you just start off with the assumption that you are rational and logical and the rest of the world is not, then you really don’t think you need to do much research in the area of religion.

Not too long after writing something like that, McAfee shows he has not followed his own advice by saying

Morals do exist outside of organized religion, and the “morality” taught by many of these archaic systems is often outdated, sexist, racist, and teaches intolerance and inequality. When a parent forces a child into a religion, the parent is effectively handicapping his or her own offspring by limiting the abilities of the child to question the world around him or her and make informed decisions.

Had McAfee done the study that he talked about, he would have known this is not a biblical position. I do read many Biblical scholars. I do not know one who argues this position. In fact, most Christians today accept some form of Natural Law theory from what I see. Has McAfee ever read J. Budziszewski? Has he ever read R. Scott Smith? These are the Christian scholars in the field to be interacting with and that’s just a start. There are several several more? Or, is McAfee content with taking on the weakest version of his opponent that he can find and thinking that he has defeated the strongest?

Furthermore, all parents are going to raise up their children to believe some things. This is inevitable. I could just as well say atheists are prone to raise their children to think religion is something that only foolish people believe and that they expect better from their children and thus, the children will not grow up questioning atheism. I do not doubt some atheists do this, but I suspect not all would. I have no problem with atheist parents raising their children up and teaching them atheism. I have no problem with Muslim parents raising their children up to believe in Islam. If you believe something is really true, you should want to pass it on to your children. At the same time, let them research. Let them question. That is the best way to learn.

But of course, McAfee just sees this all through a fundamentalist mindset.

Now we go to Christianity in America where he says “The Constitution also guarantees the freedom to be governed by a secular political system, commonly known as the separation of church and state. This simply means that our government should be free of religious influences in order to avoid a nation oppressed by a religious majority much like the one that our Constitution’s framers had escaped.

I had no idea this was in the Constitution!

It’s so incredible. I mean, I just went and looked at the Constitution itself. I did a search for the words separation and didn’t find it. I looked for church and didn’t find it. Religion only shows up when it talks about the freedom of religion. I could have sworn that it came really from a letter that Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Church
and that in this letter, what was really meant was that no one would be forced to belong to any church to be a citizen of the United States and the government could not force anyone to be of a particular religion. I never thought it meant that there should be nothing religious in government, especially since so many of our founding fathers were Christian. I also was sure Jefferson still had a worship service in the White House the following Sunday and that Congress was still opened with prayer, but hey, McAfee says this is in the Constitution and the government is to be free of religion, so who am I to question?

McAfee also argues that many of the early settlers sought to destroy any of the Indians who refused to convert because they had to fulfill their God-given destiny. Is this possible? Could be. I do not doubt horrible things were done to the Indians, but McAfee needs to show this. He has given no documentation of this whatsoever. He has cited no scholars of history. Again, I am not saying that he is wrong, because that is not the area that I study principally, but if he wants me to think that he is right, he needs to give some research from a bona fide historian, and not a fellow new atheist who has no credentials in the field.

Of course, there is also the complaint about homosexuality as if to say that the only reason we have for opposing homosexual behavior and redefining marriage is because of Scripture. There is no interaction with the fact that there are other reasons to be opposed. Of course, you could say that these reasons are wrong and you could say the motivations are really just “The Bible says so”, but that does not make the arguments go away.

The same follows with abortion. McAfee says that it is the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy while in a nonviable state, which he defines as not capable of living, growing, or functioning successfully.) Where does he get this definition? Right here.

Yes. McAfee couldn’t even be bothered apparently to go directly to the page itself where that definition is.

I am one who is willing to look. What do I find?

1: capable of living ; especially : having attained such form and development as to be normally capable of living outside the uterus—often used of a human fetus at seven months but may be interpreted according to the state of the art of medicine 2: capable of growing or developing

Okay. So my question is what is it about being viable that makes what is in the womb suddenly a human person? If we’re talking about able to survive on their own outside the womb, then by that standard infants and toddlers would not be viable. Should we think then that McAfee would support infanticide? Obviously not, though with atheists like Peter Singer out there, you have to wonder how far away that is. Think I’m making this kind of stuff up? Not at all. There are people out there who are defending an after-birth abortion idea. If McAfee thinks this is all religious indoctrination, then what is he going to do with the groups that are secular and pro-life, like the secular pro-life alliance?

McAfee also talks about extremist religionists. He says women have been killed, abortion clinics bombed, doctors attacked, and women denied medical care for having had an abortion. He goes on to say

This act of Christian terrorism is the same terrorism that we have been fighting against in the Middle East, but it is taking shape as a result of interpretation of Christian Scriptures, not Muslim texts.

Ah yes. We all know there is a wave of Christian terrorism going on in this country. One major difference is that Christian leaders and others normally universally decry these kinds of attacks on doctors and clinics and believe in showing grace to women who have had abortions. Women could easily plan on having a march down the street to raise what they consider to be awareness for abortion rights. Do you think they’d be as willing to do that in Saudi Arabia? Muslims are killing us because we do not accept their religion. That McAfee thinks these are exactly the same just shows how out of touch with reality he is.

McAfee also spends a lot of time arguing against the idea of eternal damnation. He has indeed a fundamentalist view of this as he goes to John 14:6 to argue his case.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Now before we get to the main point here, we must speak to yet another howler in this book.

“This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head”

If you want to really show that you should not be taken seriously in the world of New Testament scholarship, one of the best ways to do so is to claim Jesus never even existed. McAfee should realize he’s going against 99.9% of the scholars in the field. Now that does not mean that they are right, but it means you’d better have some strong evidence to make a claim like this. Of course, McAfee could say “Well of course they accept that. Most of them are Christians.” Really? Go to a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. You’ll find more than enough non-Christian scholars there. This is a group that elected John Dominic Crossan as their president in 2012. That’s the Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, hardly a friend of orthodox Christianity in any sense of the word. Does that sound like an evangelical or fundamentalist group to do that?

And no, saying the name of Richard Carrier does not answer the claim either. In fact, a search of his name at SBL still turns up nothing. He is not being talked about. He is not taken seriously at all. He does not teach at any accredited university. He is not recognized by the leading scholars in the field and there’s a reason for that. We might as well ask if McAfee thinks vaccines lead to autism.

But to get back to the verse cited, it does not mean what McAfee thinks it means. All we gather is that it is only by the authority of Jesus that anyone makes it into the presence of the Father. It does not mean an explicit knowledge of Jesus. Neither would a text like Acts 4:12 mean that. All that says is the name of Jesus is the one by which we are saved. By this, it does not mean a phonetic understanding, but authority. Simply put, no one will be able to come to God apart from the authority of Jesus.

Do we have examples of people who are said to be saved and yet do not know who Jesus is? Yes! We have a slew of them!

They’re called “Old Testament saints.”

These people were saved by the light that they had and living in accordance with that. Now why should I think it will be different for those who have never heard? It is as if McAfee is totally unaware that this is a doctrine of debate within Christian circles. Many of us do hold to a position that those who have never heard can be saved by living in accordance with the true light they can get from general revelation. We in fact see this in Revelation 7 where there is a great multitude from all over the Earth of every people group that there is. In light of this, much of McAfee’s complaining on this topic evaporates.

In this section, McAfee also argues that according to Christian doctrine, it is impossible to be moral without Jesus Christ. I would very much like to know where this is said. Now we would say no one can be righteous apart from Christ, but that is not the same as saying that no one can be moral. It’s almost as if McAfee decided to go to the most fundamentalist church that he could, just asked them what they believed, and then walked away saying “Well this must be Christian dogma. This is just what all Christians believe.” If he didn’t, then why does he not cite where these opinions are stated?

It’s also important to state that this says nothing about the importance of right living. All Christians agree that right living is important, but to judge that way could easily be arbitrary. God sets the standard Biblically as perfection, which is non-arbitrary. Peter Kreeft in The God Who Loves You suggests we consider what the alternative would be. What if God set up a point system. You have to have 1,000 points. All good actions you do gave you a certain amount of points depending on the action. All bad actions you did cost you some depending on the action. Would this not be totally arbitrary?

Instead, faith in Jesus is a way of saying you can’t measure up and you accept what God already did for you. Your works then determine how you will enjoy God in the life to come and your place in the full realization of the Kingdom. If you do not have that, God has one way to judge you. He judges you by your works. They have to be perfect. For those who have never heard, He will judge fairly. God knows how they would have responded had they heard and the way that their hearts were going. If McAfee wants to argue against the Christian concept, he must accept that the Christian concept is that God is fair in all that He does. It will not do to just assert that God is not fair. If God judges fairly, then there is nothing to complain about.

Of course, there is the idea of the problem of evil and for this, McAfee goes to the problem of natural disasters. Once again, McAfee seems happily oblivious to the fact that some scholars have written on this topic from the Christian perspective and even most atheist philosophers will tell you there is no logical contradiction between God and evil. Of course, they still think there is a problem of evil, but it is not in the same way. I have my own ebook on this topic that is a debate between myself and an atheist. Of course, I am not saying I am a scholar. For that, I can point to others such as looking at the book God and Evil or looking at Plantinga’s work on the case that was said to defeat the logical problem of evil. He could also consider the interviews I’ve done with people like David Wood, Greg Ganssle, and Clay Jones.

In fact, McAfee argues that God causes these disasters. Where does he go? Nahum 1:3-6

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the bloom of Lebanon withers.
5 The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

It’s hard to see that McAfee misses the apocalyptic language. Can God do these things? Yes. Does that mean God is the direct cause of all of them? No. McAfee does assure us that this is not a radical interpretation. Some of the most well-known Christian evangelists hold this to be the case! Of course, McAfee does not name who these evangelists are and if I should take them seriously as scholars in the field or not. He also says that they blame disasters like Hurricane Katrina on the sinfulness of the people living there. Oh sure, there were Christians saying this, but most scholars in the field who are Christians would not be. Unfortunately, media tends to cover the loud mouths the most.

Returning to the after-death, McAfee raises the question of what if two people cannot be happy without one another in Paradise? How can one be happy while knowing the other is burning in Hell? Again, this shows us that McAfee has not bothered to read Christian scholars. You could probably count on one hand among scholars the number who hold to a literal burning hell (Of course, a fundamentalist like McAfee will). Besides that, anyone who says they can only be truly happy with someone else there with them is practicing a form of idolatry. I certainly would hope that I get to spend eternity with my own wife, but I must realize the joy of being in the presence of God is far greater than being in her presence, and her absence could not overpower the joy of His presence. She would say the same about me.

McAfee also argues that God caused the death of His Son by making the Romans do the crime. Again, it is as if McAfee has read nothing on debates on free-will. I have no problem saying that God knew what the Romans would freely do to His Son and chose to use that. Also, any of them could have repented for their actions later on and received forgiveness. We know that in Scripture, a number of priests and Pharisees did in fact become Christians.

In looking at the origins argument. He has a Christian asking where the universe came from if not a creator. When asked why it had to come from somewhere, the Christian says “Everything has to come from something.” When asked where God came from, the Christian replies He didn’t come from anything. He just always was. The answer then is not everything comes from something so maybe the universe always was.

Could McAfee or any atheist please point me to the Christian scholar who is arguing that everything has to have a cause? I don’t know any framer a cosmological argument who treats it that way.

Also, I would be just fine with an eternal universe. What I want to know is not if the universe came to be, but rather how the universe is existing right now. Is it the cause of its own existing? That is the case in classical Christian theology of God. God has the principle of His existing in Himself because existence is His very nature. He is what it means to be. An eternal universe would not be a problem. Consider the case of having a man who has existed eternally in the same spot. He is standing in front of a mirror that has existed eternally. The mirror has eternally reflected the man’s image. Is the image in the mirror both caused and eternal? Yes.

Naturally, we have the look at the age of the Earth. Once again, you would think that McAfee has never read an authority in the field. He just accepts that the text has to say that the Earth is young. There is no interaction with Hugh Ross. There is no interaction with my personal favorite interpretation, that of John Walton. (Listen also to my interview with Walton here.) It’s for reasons like this that when I read arguments like that of McAfee, I just get further confirmation that atheists don’t really do research when they study religion. This despite the claim that McAfee says Biblical scholars and fundamentalist churches both say the Bible gives an estimation of between 6-7,000 years since Earth’s creation. (Never mind that this sentence seems to be phrased terribly in the book.) Really though? What Biblical scholars? Could he please name them? The vast majority I know of hold to an old Earth.

And naturally, there is the argument of why won’t God heal amputees. One reason that this doesn’t happen as often is that frankly, this is not life-threatening. It’s not pleasant I’m sure, but most of us can go on to live easily enough. Second, does McAfee know that this has never happened? Has he examined every case, or has he more likely just dismissed them? Has he interacted with a work like Craig Keener’s Miracles? (Again, my interview with him here. Has he demonstrated that this has never happened? Even supposing that it hasn’t, has he demonstrated that because of this miracles never happen? Not at all.

We finally get into contradictions. To begin with, McAfee speaks of a text that has been edited for thousands of years. It would be nice to see some scholarly citation of this. I suspect all he could point to is Bart Ehrman. Well Mr. McAfee, if you think Ehrman says this, then let me show you some quotes of his.

20. A lot of textual scholars have fretted about this as if it were a problem. The concern seems to be that if we can’t radically modify the original text, we have no business engaging in this line of work. This view strikes me personally as completely bogus. We can still make small adjustments in the text in places–change the position of an adverb here, add an article there–we can still dispute the well known textual problems on which we’re never going to be agreed, piling up the evidence as we will. But the reality is that we are unlikely to discover radically new problems or devise radically new solutions; at this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

(found here)

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

But hey, fundamentalist atheists have to have their myths.

Of course, we have one of my favorites. Jesus false predicts his own return. After some brief discussion McAfee says

There is no known resolution for this false prophecy put forth by Jesus.

Why yes, yes there is. It’s a simple one. It’s called orthodox Preterism. Jesus was not predicting his return or a rapture. The apostles asked Him about the sign of His coming. They had no concept of Him even leaving. Why would they think something about Him returning? They were asking about the sign of Him taking His throne. They knew the destruction of the temple would mean that a new thing was going to be taking place. Jesus spoke in the language of Old Testament destruction. McAfee could get some information on this if he actually read a book on the topic such as Gary DeMar’s Last Days Madness Keep saying there’s no resolution to it McAfee. Those of us who have studied the topic and written about it (See here and here for this are just laughing our heads off at this point.

We then come to the Genesis 6 passage that says that God is limiting man to 120 years. McAfee says most Biblical scholars agree that the Lord is limiting lifespan to 120 years. Really? Most? Who are they? Could you not name one? McAfee acts as if finding one person who goes beyond this disproves the text. First off, if McAfee’s interpretation was correct, this would be an approximation. It’s a generality. Second, I do not think it is even correct. I think God is saying there is 120 years before the flood (Oh by the way McAfee, had you read those scholars like I have suggested, you would know many of us think the flood was not a global flood but a local one). After all, the writer of Genesis has long life spans even after the flood. You can say he was wrong, but don’t make him an idiot. He then thinks this whole thing has to be a contradiction since the Bible also says that we are given 70 years in Psalm 90, perhaps 80 if we have the strength. Again, this is a generality. It is not a fault against Scripture if we live longer lives now because of better conditions.

McAfee also reads literally the statements about God’s feelings in the Bible. (What a shock. A literal reading of the text) Myself and others see this as anthropomorphisms. God is being described in ways that we can understand. I do not believe God literally has feelings that change since God does not change according to Scripture and according to the Thomistic metaphysics that I hold to. McAfee also thinks a perfect God should only create perfection, but why? Perfection is a difficult term. Only God is truly and absolutely perfect and He could not create a being like Himself because such a being would have to be eternal and uncreated. Again, McAfee has not interacted with any real scholarship on the issue.

McAfee also asks if God is a warrior or a God of peace? He’s described as both. Indeed He is! What’s the contradiction? One reason we can go to war is to get peace after all. There are people who are opposed to peace and using force to get their own way on their victims. We go to war against them so the innocents can live in peace. Suppose someone breaks into my house and is attacking my wife. This person has violated our peace. I pull out a gun, shoot, and kill him. You know what? I have taken a violent action, but the peace has been restored by eliminating the ones that violate the peace. Of course, if he has objections about God and supposed genocide, he is again free to go to scholarly works on the topic.

When speaking about the virgin birth, he asks why it is only in Matthew and Luke when it was extremely important to later Christian teaching. So extremely important that for some reason it’s not mentioned in the epistles or Revelation. Of course, I do think it is important, but the central focus was resurrection. So why would others not mention it? Mark is giving the eyewitness account of Peter. Peter did not witness the virgin birth. (And to be technical, it’s not a virgin birth but a virgin conception.) Also, this teaching would have been something shameful to mention. Mary would have been seen as having a child out of wedlock and Jesus would be seen as an illegitimate child. One would hardly make up the claim of a miracle to avoid that. That would be implicating God. This is the kind of stuff a good Jew does not make up, and we have every indication Joseph and Mary were good and devout Jews. Again, there were scholarly works available to McAfee such as Ben Witherington and David Instone-Brewer.

McAfee also argues that Adam and Eve were the only two people on Earth, though there are again evangelicals that would disagree with this, such as Walton and N.T. Wright. He also says that Lot and his family were blessed despite the behavior of Lot’s daughters. I do not know of any further mention of Lot’s daughters. First off, to say Lot was righteous does not mean he lived a perfect life. Many great heroes made mistakes. It could have meant that, but it does not necessitate it. Second, there is no sign of blessing on Lot’s daughters. Their action is described but not prescribed. In fact, the children they gave birth to went on to for the most part be enemies of Israel.

McAfee also claims that Jesus being fully God and fully human is a contradiction. We are not told how but hey, let’s just take it on faith. He also says that many times Jesus separates himself and points us to Mark 10:18 with Jesus answering a rich man with “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” What McAfee does not realize is that in Jesus’s day, a compliment like that was often a trap. To take it would be seen as stealing honor for oneself. Jesus instead deflects the charge by pointing it to God and at the same time does not deny it for He is saying “You are saying I am good. Yet in your view, only God is good. Are you willing to put me on that level or not?”

We cannot go through every contradiction that McAfee cites, but we can look at a few. McAfee tells us that James says God does not tempt anyone, but God did tempt Abraham. No. God tested Abraham and there is a difference. He gave Abraham a choice as to how he wanted to go. Again, there is no real interaction with any writing on this topic. For all we know, all McAfee did was visit Wikipedia pages.

Jeremiah 3:12 says the following:

Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say,

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.

And 17:4 says

You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

Never mind that Jeremiah 3 gives a conditional based on repentance. Also, McAfee is still in his fundamentalist reading. Forever in this case is a hyperbolic statement meant to show the seriousness of the offense. Jews specialized in using hyperbole after all.

Can man see God? Again, the supposed contradictory verses are given, but no real interaction. McAfee never cites Biblical scholars. He never considers the text is talking about seeing God fully in His essence as He is. Myself and numerous others would say only Jesus has seen that, and all others got to see something else. For many of us, it was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.

What about who the father of Joseph was? There were at least four different options the early church had to resolve this. McAfee does not argue with them. My thinking is one of the genealogies is the genealogy of Mary and the other that of Joseph. Would the son born to them be called Emmanuel? Matthew is saying Jesus is a picture of God with us, which is also how the book of Matthew ends, meaning Jesus’s life is God with us. I’m also one who does not see the Isaiah account as a prophecy of Jesus per se, but one that was re-enacted by God in the life of Jesus in a greater and more powerful way.

What about the giants, the Nephiim, described in Numbers 13:33. Were they not destroyed in the flood in Genesis 6 since they were mentioned before that? It’s simply a comparative statement. Moses is saying that the people were saying the people seemed quite large.

Was the new covenant delivered through a mediator? Galatians 3 says so, but there is no mention of that in Exodus. Of course, McAfee is still a fundamentalist who seems blissfully unaware of the thinking at the time in Second Temple Judaism on passages like that in Exodus. McAfee says this has been studied extensively by Biblical historians and remains a mystery. Who are these historians? We are not told. The mediator is quite simply Moses. There is no contradiction in the text just because one does not mention angels.

He also argues that Judges 1:19 and the iron chariots shows that God is not all-powerful. This is not so. The problem was that the people were not faithful to go and fight because of those chariots and so God would not drive them out. McAfee thinks this shows the powerlessness of God and even includes Genesis 11 as an example since God has to go down and investigate the Tower of Babel. McAfee misses that this is a joke. The people are said to be building a tower so they can reach up to Heaven. This tower is so unimpressive though that God is said to “look down” so that He can see it. It’s nowhere near the glory of God. The language is that of a joke. “Oh sure. Let’s go down and see what those silly people are up to now. Isn’t it just cute?”

And of course, there’s mention again that the text has been substantially altered from its original state. Again, no evidence, just a statement of faith. (This must be learned about fundamentalist atheists. They are great people of faith. They will believe anything they read that is negative about the Bible without doing any of the necessary research or if they do read something, it is only what already agrees with them. Fundamentalists like to stay in a bubble after all.)

What about babies born with disabilities in connection with Exodus 4:10-11? McAfee assures us he has talked with many Biblical scholars on this. Many claim that this is the work of the devil that causes children to be born with disability. Can God create people blind and deaf and undo that as well? Yes. Why are some allowed to be blind and deaf? Jesus gives an example in John 9 where it is for God’s glory to be shown in their lives. God often uses the disabled community to remind us all of the things in life that are extremely special. I know this talking to many parents who have severely disabled children.

Naturally, there is the story of Elisha and the bears. There is no mention that bears in the area would not have been moving that fast which shows these kids were trying to fight back against the bears seeing as forty-two were killed. There is no mention that these were likely not small children, but more young adults who were a sizable threat since there were at least forty-three of them there. There is also more than just mockery going on here. These boys represent rebellion against God and are telling Elisha to go ahead and disappear to. They want nothing to do with him and his message and essentially want to see him dead. McAfee knows none of this. It’s too bad those many Bible scholars he claims to have talked to couldn’t have told him anything about this. Of course, he could have bothered to do some research and read commentaries and such but hey, if you’re a fundamentalist, you just don’t do that.

Slavery comes up as well. There is no interaction with Ancient Near East studies on this. You will not find it explained that in Exodus, the slaves were just undergoing discipline. Slavery was largely voluntary as people had to bring in a living somehow and the owner was to be given the benefit of the doubt. Any serious injury resulted in the slave’s freedom which meant loss of income for the owner and loss of future income as his honor would have been tarnished and who wants to work for an employer like that?

Of course, there are the spoils of war described in Numbers 31:17-18. For these men who were supposedly obviously just keeping these women for sex, there is no acknowledgment that they had to have a week of purification. There is no acknowledgment that in Deuteronomy a woman was to grieve for a month over her family before being fully a wife. McAfee says they were captured for sex, but the text does not say that. Perhaps McAfee is just reading a view of women he holds into the text. Well if it’s not sex, then why spare the virgins? Because the virgins would not have been guilty of seducing Israelite men in Numbers 25. They would be spared because they were innocent.

It’s odd really. When no one is spared, God is mean and evil. When people are spared, God is still mean and evil. Heads, the atheists win. Tails, the theists lose.

We have also the story of the rich young man who is told that he must sell all he has and give to the poor. McAfee takes this as a command for all Christians for all times. It is not. It is just for this man who had an idol of wealth. We know this because Jesus regularly traveled with rich people who were his patrons and supported him. Every traveling rabbi had to have supporters like that. Jesus does not condemn wealth. He condemns wealth having us.

Sabbath breaking has to come up. McAfee shows no awareness of the great debates at the start of early Christianity. In reality, all sides in leadership would agree Gentiles did not have to become Jews completely, but at the same time James was not wanting to have zero connection with Judaism or make it that someone was looked down on for observing the Law. Since the theocratic nation of Israel was not in the same state, Gentiles were free to not observe the Sabbath. They were not under the Law to begin with. McAfee shows no interaction with these kinds of complex ideas and the view between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament situation. Once again, this is because he is a fundamentalist.

When we get to the story of the resurrection of the men in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, what is the commentary by McAfee? “This is considered to be an extremely absurd and radical idea to say the least.”

Well I guess that settles it. Yeah. We get by your worldview that miracles are absurd, but that is the very aspect under question. Should we embrace your worldview? It’s saying “You should embrace my worldview because your worldview has things my worldview considers absurd.” Okay. Well in my worldview, a universe existing by its own power is absurd. Therefore, McAfee should become a classical theist.

McAfee also goes to Luke 14:26 where Jesus says you must hate your own family to be His disciple. He says Jesus praises ignorance and separateness throughout the text. We are told even the most liberal Christian scholars cannot disagree with this fact. Who are these scholars? Again, we do not know. McAfee misses that Jesus is again engaging in hyperbole. He is saying you must be willing to forsake everything if you are to be a disciple of Jesus. You may not have to, but you must be willing. This is because the Kingdom of God is coming in Jesus and your relation to Him determines your place in the Kingdom.

He also writes about God’s condemnation of eating shellfish in Levitical Law and says “homosexuality is also said to be an abomination.” Homosexuality is part of the moral law and in fact repeated in the OT. Dietary laws are part of ritual law and not repeated in the NT. The passages on homosexuality show the nations around them were being judged for their wrong sexual practices. The other nations are never judged for dietary laws or for the Sabbath or anything like that. What’s worse is this is really simply bigotry on McAfee’s part. It is making fun of cultures that do have purity laws, without realizing that McAfee himself I’m sure has several. Does he ever use hand sanitizer? Would he be fine with me coming to his house and writing on his walls with permanent marker even though it would not carry and disease whatsoever? Perhaps McAfee should broaden his horizons and go to other cultures where ritual purity is taken seriously.

McAfee also writes about the women keeping silent in 1 Cor. 14. What he does not mention is that there is some evidence first off that this is an interpolation. Second, if not, Paul is likely quoting a saying the Corinthians themselves have. Paul has already spoken in 1 Cor. 11 about a woman prophesying in the church so he has no problem with women speaking. He also had Phoebe deliver a letter in Romans and quite likely, she was the one then to read that letter. McAfee could have done what I did and actually talk to a Biblical scholar on this passage, such as my interview with Lynn Cohick on Jesus and Women. (Please note this McAfee. I not only talk to the scholars. I also present evidence that I have done so. I can also cite scholars. Maybe you should try it sometime.)

McAfee concludes this section by speaking of the Bible having very little historical evidence, without any interaction with writers like Blomberg, (and here as well), Bauckham, Evans, (and here as well), Boyd and Eddy, Hemer, or Keener. After all of this, he has the gall to say we must properly understand Christianity with:

in the case of Christianity, this consists of a strong knowledge of Christian history, modern teachings, and biblical lessons in context — which many Christians lack.

Those who can’t do, teach apparently.

In later writings in the book, he says he finds great comfort in having his view based on science and not faith. Again, no interaction with Christian scientists and a misunderstanding that borders at least on scientism.

He also asks why you’d claim to be a follower of

an outdated tradition that you do not understand

and

All that I ask is that you question the beliefs that were (most likely) implanted in your mind as a young child and hopefully research your so-called holy texts.

Well I have done that and dare I say I’ve done it a lot longer than you have and I would simply encourage you to do the same. As many have said, if you wrote something like this for a school, it would fail immediately due to a lack of a bibliography and lack of interaction with sources.

He also says amusingly that atheists should understand the Bible. Indeed, they should, but it would be nice if McAfee would lead by example. In that same section, he says the great flaw of all of these systems is faith, which is simply ignorance. Well if faith is ignorance, which we have shown it isn’t, it is hard to imagine someone having more faith than McAfee. Yet at the end of this, he describes himself as a religious studies scholar. Okay. McAfee, please show me what peer-reviewed works you’ve written at the field. Please show me your credentials in the field. Please show me the institution that has hired you as a professor of religious studies. Now you can say “But you are not peer-reviewed and not teaching in the field and you don’t have a Ph.D. at this point. Indeed! But I never claimed to be a scholar either and deny the claim when it is said of me. You have not done that.

There is also a section on Christianity and war. You will find the claims about the Crusades and the KKK and that Hitler was a Christian as well. For the Crusades, we await eagerly to see if McAfee has bothered to interact with someone like Thomas Madden. Does he not realize the Crusades were for the most part defensive wars after 400+ years of Muslim aggression? We also wonder why we should accept the KKK as representing orthodox Christianity in any sense. Finally, with Hitler, could he consider interacting with a work such as this one? Meanwhile, would McAfee be kind enough to explain to me the killing that went on under atheist regimes in Cambodia, China, and Russia?

In writing about religion in Canada, McAfee says he is able to write about the topic of religion from an objective point of view. Yes everyone, because we know that atheists hold zero biases in all that they write. It is only those Christians that hold a bias. McAfee goes on to say

“Because of this theism-laced political system in Canada, citizens (regardless of religious affiliation) are forced to endure not only the singing of a theist-based national song, but also Christian prayers before various federal events—including meetings for the creation of legislation”

The horror! The horror! Right now, Christians are being murdered for being Christians all over the world, but those poor Canadian secularists. They have to endure singing of a theist-based national song and then they have to hear Christian prayers! The terrible plight of such suffering that these people go through! Won’t you please come alongside these people who are suffering so much with having to listen to things that disagree with them? Please go right now and write to your Congressman and urge him that we must convince Canada to stop this great suffering right now!

In the end, McAfee is demonstrating to me the downward spiral that is going on in the atheist community. Atheist books are becoming more and more anti-intellectual and atheists are not doing really serious research and seem to think all their thoughts are gold because they are atheists. Now of course, this does not apply to all atheists. I know some atheists who will read this review and would read a book like McAfee’s and say “No. This is not me. I am just as embarrassed by this guy.” The sad reality is too many are not. If you are a self-respecting atheist and want your community to be taken seriously, then please do your part and beg people like McAfee to be quiet on these matters. Please tell people like McAfee to write actual books that show actual research where they actually interact with the other side.

Yet I am thankful. If atheism continues down this path, atheists will just grow more and more uninformed while thinking they are informed. They will leave themselves vulnerable in the long run in the marketplace of ideas. The response of Christians now is to be bulking up on what we do believe and learning it well as well as learning what atheists like McAfee believe. I seriously doubt McAfee will stop writing, but I hope he doesn’t. I want him to keep making material like this that will do further damage to the atheist community. He’s doing more service for Jesus Christ than he realizes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A further review of this book can be found by Tyler Vela on his podcast and here. My own ministry partner has written on this here.

Book Plunge: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory

What do I think of Jerry Walls’s new book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

In the interest of fairness, I want it to be known that Brazos Press did send me a review copy and I consider Jerry Walls a friend.

When I first heard about Jerry Walls, I thought he was a Catholic.

Not because I’m anti-Catholic! Not at all! With my philosophy, I’m a Thomist in my philosophy and a reader of people like G.K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft. I’d just heard that he’d written a book about Purgatory and thought that was the case. I was surprised a bit when I found out he was a Protestant just as I am. I suspect with this book out, some people would be surprised to learn that this is a protestant view of the cosmic drama, as he describes it.

But yes, Walls is very much Protestant. Picking out his position I find is interesting. The book is not about soteriology per se, but yet his strong position against Calvinism is noted. It’s more really about eschatology, but he is one of those rare people that you can talk about his position in eschatology and you don’t mean the one we normally mean, such as what is the view on the rapture or the Olivet Discourse. This is all about our personal eschatology. What happens to us when we die.

Walls is familiar with this seeing as he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Hell, and I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have to give a defense of your view that Hell is a justifiable doctrine. While I think it is, it is not the kind of position I would want to do a Ph.D. dissertation on, yet Walls did so and it looks like he managed to defend Hell in light of some of the best antagonism, so he has something to say.

Yet this time, he rightly starts with Heaven. What is Heaven. How will it be for us? Walls rightly shows that we Christians need to spend more time thinking about this doctrine. I do want to jump ahead to something he says at the end of the book about Heaven answering the question of if we will be bored in Heaven. I do that because frankly, hearing the way some Christians talk about Heaven, I think I would be bored endlessly if their descriptions were right. Too often we make Heaven sound like an eternal church service. (Never mind other baloney claims such as we become angels when we die) There’s a reason skeptics of the faith say that Heaven would be boring and if they’re in Hell, they’ll be with their best friends anyway.

Walls gets most of his information on Heaven from Scripture going to Revelation 21. He does not take it in a literalistic sense, but he does have it that this is powerful language. God who exists in Trinity is the central focus of our eternity. He is the basis. He is the one that makes Heaven, Heaven and he is the one that makes eternity to be eternity. Our origins are found in Him and our purpose is found in Him. As has been said, if you have a “God of the Gaps” mentality, you’re not really dealing with the God of Scripture.

Wells shows that this is not just pie in the sky nonsense to escape reality, but is facing reality head on. It is saying that all of our hopes and desires do point to somewhere. He does this engaging with numerous arguments from the skeptical side, such as those of Russell or Nietzsche. Heaven is the best explanation that we have of all of the data that we have. Heaven makes sense of our world.

Yet what about Hell? Why is there Hell? Walls works to show that Hell is God giving people what they have wanted for so long and for this, he is largely in debt to Lewis, who aside from Scripture I would say is no doubt the most quoted author in the book. The gates of Hell are locked on the inside. The people in Hell are the ones who ultimately choose they want nothing to do with the God of Scripture. I would have liked to have seen something in this section that would have dealt more with the conditionalist position which is gaining popularity. Walls could have done that in another book, but it would have been good to see something here.

From there, we get into Purgatory. Now this is where some Protestants could be raising up their intellectual shields in defense and preparing to go on the attack. It is understandable, but I agree with Walls that we really need to interact with this idea and not just associate it with Catholics. Catholics believe a lot of right things too after all and just because an idea was misused is no reason to throw it out entirely.

I will not go into the details of Walls’s argument other than to say it focuses greatly on sanctification and while I cannot say I’m totally sold on it yet, and I do not think Walls would want me to change my mind entirely after reading just one book, I can say I do think Walls has benefited us greatly by starting the discussion and one aspect I will say I am sure he’d be pleased with, is that it does get me thinking more about sanctification and how seriously we need to take it.

Walls also deals with the problem of evil, including from this the speaking of Ivan from the Brothers Karamazov. While Dostoyevsky who wrote the book was a Christian, these are some of the most powerful quotes you’d hear advocating the problem of evil that he puts on the lips of his atheist character. Many atheists should learn to realize that we know the problem very well and I think Dostoyevsky places it more powerfully than any atheist writing I’ve read on it.

And yes, Walls has an answer. Of course, those interested in this need to get the book so they can see it.

We move on from there to morality and if there is a grounds for it in atheism. Walls of course argues that there isn’t and looks at some of the best theories out there attempting to explain this. Of course, if there is no ground for morality, then it’s quite difficult to raise up the problem of evil unless you want to say that it is an inconsistency for Christianity but when you abandon Christianity, lo and behold, there is nothing that is truly good or evil.

Finally, there’s a section that includes theories on the possibility of someone being reached even after they die. This is an interesting idea, but again, I’m not really sold on it. I wasn’t really sold on Walls’s approach to Hebrews 9, but I do think he’s certainly right to show that if Scripture does contradict any idea that we have, then we have to come to terms with the fact that that idea is wrong.

So while I do not agree with all that Walls says, I have to say this is an excellent book to get you thinking. It will put in you a desire for the state of Heaven and get you thinking seriously about sanctification and holiness. I do not doubt that even with that conclusion, that Walls will be pleased.

In Christ,
Nick Peters