Generous Reading

How do you read a text that’s controversial? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, rather, it only appeared to them. (Qur’an 4:157)”

This is a text from Islam’s holy book that many apologists use to say that Jesus was not crucified. Many Muslims do the same as you will find books about the “Cruci-fiction” out there. However, it was when I was reading a Christian book about Islam that I came to a different conclusion.

It’s not a hard and fast conclusion, but it’s one that is possible. That is that the Qur’an is not really denying the crucifixion, but it is rather answering the Jews who thought they brought it about and is saying it was really the doing of Allah. The author of the book argued that Muslims didn’t make denial of the crucifixion a claim until some time much later than the time of Muhammad.

That could be right. The point is that I don’t know enough about the Qur’an to know if that interpretation is correct or not. However, I do know that there is a right and a wrong way to read a text. If I have read the text and there can be a reasonable doubt that there could be a more generous reading of that text, I will not go with the reading that I have.

This is also a rule to follow with any text, and that includes texts that aren’t written, such as in speeches. If a case can be made for a more generous reading of a text that doesn’t present it in as negative a light as you would like, following the principle of charity, it’s good to be open to that one and not hold dogmatically to the one you have.

I did the same going through the Book of Mormon one time. When I would find something mentioned as existing here in America at the time, I would look and see if it was there. If it was found here, then I would go right on ahead. If I found evidence that that came to America at a later date, I would put it down as an item to use. After all, anachronisms are a powerful argument. For instance, it was either cement or concrete that I did find evidence of being over here. Scimitars? Not so much.

Note that this rule applies with all things being equal. It doesn’t mean the better reading is always right, but it does mean that if there is an equal probability of the two or it’s controversial and you don’t know the subject well, go with the one that is the more generous. If you don’t do that, it could be that you really want that person behind the text to be as bad as you want them to be.

I also want to stress that this isn’t a rule just for the Bible as I started out with texts that I do not think are from God in anyway whatsoever. I will happily debate that many Muslims do deny the crucifixion, which is certainly a fact, but that does not mean that the Qur’an necessarily does. If a Muslim denies the crucifixion in front of me, then I will argue against them on that point.

If you do know the subject well though and you can make a case that this is what the author of the text originally meant, then by all means make the case. This is in no way saying authors and books never say evil and/or stupid things. It’s just a general rule of thumb and it’s good for holy texts (Or claimed holy texts), political speeches, or any other text whatsoever.

This will also help your debates as someone is more apt to listen to you (Not a guarantee mind you) if they know you are really listening to them. Everyone wants to be treated fairly most of the time. If you’re a Christian, you are commanded to. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want someone to be generous with your words, then do the same with theirs.

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

Book Plunge: Woke

What do I think of Titania McGrath’s book published by Constable? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Truly, we have a budding genius in our times whose writing will bring about a new Copernican Revolution. Then again, she would prefer we call this a McGrathian since Copernicus was obviously a racist and sexist cis white male. Everyone of us should be blessed by reading McGrath’s work.

Obviously, everything is tongue in cheek here. Titania McGrath doesn’t really exist. She is the creation of Andrew Doyle. Her satirical work is meant to make fun of woke culture and does a superb job. I found something that made me laugh on most every page.

Consider some examples:

The conservative broadcaster Ben Shapiro ( whose opinions are always wrong ) bases much of what he believes on facts, which just goes to show how useless they are. ‘ Facts don’t care about your feelings, ’ he is known to say. The opposite is true. Feelings don’t care about your facts. This is how social justice works. If you feel something to be true, then it is true.

One might be tempted to think that it’s obvious that feelings don’t determine reality, but then look at our culture. Is that not what is too often happening? When it comes to transgenderism, what data is pointed to but feelings? Now working on changing the feelings isn’t acceptable. One must change the body instead. Speaking of transgender:

“Anybody who has ever taken even a rudimentary course in Gender Studies will know that there are literally no biological differences between men and women. Except in the case of trans people, who are born in the wrong body.”

“I mention all of this because enlightened society now realizes that gender is fluid, the outdated categories of ‘male’ and ‘female’ being dictatorial taxonomies assigned randomly at birth. Some ‘ experts ’ still maintain that there are only two sexes. The idea that knowledge is more important than feelings is everything that is wrong with the field of modern science.”

We should all know that so much of this is nonsense. However, when it is put in a satirical form, it becomes that much more enjoyable. That is the way satire is supposed to work.

There’s much more than just transgenderism. McGrath speaks about Islam as well.

In order to achieve wokeness, one must treat Muslims with special sensitivity. This is essential given the increasingly vehement forms of prejudice they face due to damaging stereotypes in the media and popular culture, as well as legitimate grievances in Islamic communities, which have arisen as a direct corollary of Western depredations in international conflicts. Also, some of them have bombs.

What makes this so funny is the last part. Bart Ehrman was once asked why he doesn’t do what he does with the New Testament to the Qur’an. His answer was quite revealing.

And what happens when there is an attack by a Muslim? You go after the logical target, the Christians. We’ve seen it happen before.

Every time I hear about another act of jihadist terrorism my heart sinks because I know there’ll be a horrible Islamophobic backlash. Whatever their crimes, nothing that ISIS have ever done comes close to the acts perpetrated by the European nations during the Crusades. Surely in the face of modern-day jihadism, we need to be focusing on the misdeeds of medieval Christians. Anything else would be sheer hypocrisy.

And going on those standards,

Westerners have to understand that there is a civil war raging within Islam, and moderates are trying to reform the more problematic beliefs. We could see evidence of this when Islam was rebranded as The Religion Of Peace ™, which I think we can all agree is much catchier. This also helps to remind everyone that when somebody drives a truck into a group of pedestrians, shouting ‘ Allahu Akbar ’, it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam.

You can try to deny it, but remember the Fort Hood shooting? It was marked as workplace violence. I still remember all the memes going around about the Crusades being workplace violence.

Feminism is also a target.

If women choose to sacrifice the prospect of a career in order to breed, that is of course up to them. By doing so, however, they are embodying all that is rotten in patriarchal society. They have internalized their misogyny to such a degree that they genuinely believe that raising a child is more important and rewarding than earning money.

Most of us would laugh at this, except we see it happening. Many of us do place money over what matters most like children. How many of us neglect our families at times for lesser goods?

How many times also have we said something about safe spaces at universities and conservative speakers being chased off of campus?

Student unions at universities are currently spearheading the battle against free speech through the creation of ‘ safe spaces ’ where debate is outlawed if the topics are potentially triggering. At Oxford, a debate on abortion was canceled because a man with incorrect views was scheduled to appear. Debates are all very well in principle, but there’s no need to represent all sides of an argument. One protestor, Niamh McIntyre, said, ‘ The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalized groups. ’ A university is hardly the appropriate place for exploring alternative ideas.

Something like this is so incredible since a university is exactly where you should be exploring alternative ideas. We should all welcome debate on controversial topics. As I write this post even, I am dealing with atheists on a JW page who are doing everything they can to avoid reading a book that disagrees with them.

And as for pop culture:

Hip hop music is sublime, with the exception of white rap artists such as Eminem, Vanilla Ice, and Pam Ayres. But while enjoying rap, one must guard against cultural appropriation. When Kendrick Lamar invited a white fan onto the stage to sing along to his song ‘ M.A. A.D City ’ at a concert in Alabama, he was forced to interrupt when she repeatedly used the n-word. Nobody can fathom why the girl indulged in this racist outburst. Some have surmised that it might have something to do with the word being a continual feature in the song’s lyrics.

This is something I have often thought about and yes, I think much of this music does much damage to the culture by instilling ideas that do promote the usage of women especially.

Woke is a hilarious read and one that is not too long. Christian readers need to know the book does contain language that would not be appropriate for your children. The point is that this is satire done extremely well and those who enjoy political humor should read it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Book Plunge: Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views.

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell and Christopher Gnanakan’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When a Wheaton professor wore a hijab, it led to a major evangelical controversy. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God? In this volume, four different views are shared on the topic. If you think the answers are simply yes or no, you’re mistaken. So what are these views?

Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb Jr. both take the view of yes, we all worship the same God. Francis Beckwith takes the idea that in a way, we all do worship the same as a referent. Gerald McDermott holds a shared revelation view where Jews and Christians worship the same God, but not Muslims. Jerry Walls takes the position that none worship the same God.

Now going in, my position was very much that of Jerry Walls. I do think there are generic theistic arguments that can be used for all three of the Abrahamic faiths and you can only know which one is true by special revelation, but when we look at the deities described in the revelation, they’re very different. Namely, it comes down to the view of Jesus. Since Jesus is fully God and fully man, Christians necessarily worship a Trinity.

I found the first view of all worship the same God being the most unconvincing. For instance, it was said that there are many Christianities. At this point, I have to wonder if the authors have any idea what it means to be a Christian because if Christianity can be anything, then it means nothing.

It’s hard to disagree with Francis Beckwith, and as Jerry Walls said in the book, especially when he begins with an analogy involving Superman. (We’ll try to forgive him for never mentioning the Smallville series.) Still, at the end of the day, I just can’t sign easily on the dotted line. It’s hard to think that the Father of Jesus is the God of Muhammad.

Gerald McDermott would agree as he thinks there’s a radical division between Islam and Christianity. However, there was not any dispute among the Jews and Christians at the start about which God was worshipped. Therefore, Jews and Christians worship the same God. Muslims do not. This can make sense, but I agree with Walls that McDermott does seem to move too quickly through the doctrines of the Trinity, the resurrection, and the incarnation.

Finally, we get to Walls’s view. This is the view I did find the most convincing. Now you could say it’s because I approached the book with this view so yeah, bias is always a part, but also when one studies for years, they don’t form positions lightly. In all fairness, the positions of Beckwith and McDermott I did think made some good points.

Walls also did bring up something else that needed to be discussed. Even if we think they all worship the same God, does that count towards salvation for them? I wish the other authors had said more about that question. I don’t think Beckwith and McDermott would hold to a pluralistic view, but I wonder if the first authors might.

There are also two essays afterwards, mainly on evangelizing Muslims. These are good to have, but shouldn’t we include something on evangelizing Jews as well? Judaism is much smaller in number to be sure, but why not have one chapter on Muslims and one on Jews? Jews need their Messiah too, after all.

If this question interests you, then you should get this book. The extra benefit besides just the replies to the authors on their essay is the author of each essay gives one quick counter-reply to all the others. I like this touch and wish it would be used more often.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christianity At The Religious Round Table

What do I think of Timothy Tennent’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the past, a Christian growing up would likely never encounter a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Muslim, at least in a place like America. Now, you encounter them in a wide number of places. A church my wife and I attend has a ministry to Indian people in the area. Many Hollywood celebrities practice Buddhism. Oprah Winfrey regularly shares Eastern thought on her broadcasts. Islam seems to always be in the news and 9/11 has a permanent memory with many of us.

Even if a Christian lives out somewhere in the boondocks surrounded by Christians, if they get on the internet, they will encounter other worldviews. Nowadays, learning about other worldviews for a Christian is not just an option. It is mandatory.

Fortunately, Timothy Tennent has written a book where he does interact with other worldviews from the perspective of one who has spent some time in serious study of those worldviews. Tennent gives a brief explanation of major ideas in Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic thought. Then he has a dialogue with holders of those worldviews and lets us see how the interaction is to take place.

He also has three bonus sections at the end that aren’t dialogue, but do look at how one interacts with other religions and how some have done it in history. Anyone interested in interacting with this kind of thought needs to go through this area as well. There is also a section beforehand on different views of exclusivism and inclusivism so Christians can see where they fall on the spectrum.

The information in the book is certainly excellent. Be warned that when many of us read sections on Hinduism and Buddhism, self included, it is easy to get lost. This is because you really do get to see how different Eastern thought is from the way that we generally think and the terminology is terminology that we are not familiar with. I don’t think this is the fault of Tennent at all when it’s sometimes hard to follow. I think it’s just that we’re so far away from the system that we don’t know how to process it.

Some people might be surprised that the information on Islam doesn’t cover terrorism. The book was published after 9/11, but I suspect Tennent wanted to focus more on the doctrinal issues than that. That could be a good topic of further dialogue in the future if one is interested.

If anything would be changed, I would have liked to have seen some names attached to the participants in the dialogue and perhaps rather than just long pieces, have more immediate give and take like a conversation. Names would have made the dialogue seem more personable. Perhaps we should have some sections of longer parts and some of shorter parts. For shorter parts, I think of the writings of Peter Kreeft he has, such as those with Socrates.

Still, if you want some good information on these beliefs, this book is an excellent place to go. You will walk away with a better understanding of these worldviews. Again, you have to have this knowledge if you want to be effective today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Saving Truth

What do I think of Abdu Murray’s new book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Murray is writing about a situation that I have thought for a long time has plagued the church. It is that we live in a post-truth society. Nowadays, the truth doesn’t even matter. How someone feels about a claim matters or how well it serves an end-game is what matters.

This isn’t the fault of the world alone. The church is also to blame. The church determines truths based on feelings just as much as the world does. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about doing something as you “feel led.”

There’s also the fact that Christians can just as easily spread false information. Last night, I had to deal with a family member who shared a news story that I could tell in less than a minute was false. Going further, I found that the website also held to the idea that 9-11 is an inside job. Yep. Real reliable source there.

I get greatly bothered when I see something like this happen. We have the job of trying to convince people that Jesus rose from the dead, a fact that they cannot check the veracity of immediately, but we will so easily share stories that can be easily seen as fake? Doesn’t that damage our witness of the Gospel?

Murray also writes about our misunderstanding of freedom. We think by freedom that there is a certain something that has no hold on us. That is true to an extent, but it like saying being literate means that you can decipher symbols in an alphabet. Yes, you can, but you need to able to do more. You read so you can learn much more that there is to learn. You read so that you can be a better person.

In the same way, you are free not to pursue whatever you want to do, but you are free so that you can pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. You are free to live for something greater than yourself. Freedom is not about you get to do whatever you want, but you are free to do as you should.

Murray also talks about issues of human dignity, what does it mean to be a human? Do we treat human beings as objects more in this day and age? What about issues of abortion?

Issues of sex and gender are definitely on the stage. Murray begins this chapter with a question a woman asked in an open forum about Christianity and homosexuality. It dominates the landscape in this chapter as Murray keeps thinking about it. Murray deals with the purpose of sexuality and questions relating to transgenderism as well. What does it mean to be a man or a woman?

Murray also deals with questions of science and of pluralism. Both of these are issues that strike our epistemology. Science is seen today as the only way to truth. Pluralism is seen as rude and exclusive.

There are many issues discussed in Murray’s book. Each of them in itself is worthy of a book-length work. Murray’s book is a good look at these topics and often shared from the perspective of an ex-Muslim who had to realize that truth mattered more than anything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/162017: Andy Bannister

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

The Qur’an is a book many Christians aren’t really familiar with. Muslims and Muslim apologists will often talk about the perfection of the Qur’an. The Bible after all supposedly has so many textual difficulties and which version do you read? Not the case with the Qur’an after all! There’s only one Qur’an! There aren’t manuscript difficulties with it! This book came from Allah Himself through the angel Gabriel and delivered to Muhammad.

But what if it’s not true?

Could it be that there has been study done into the Qur’an and found that these claims are lacking? Could it be that we know more about the formulation of the Qur’an than is realized? Could it be the Qur’an is much more human than realized? While the authors of the Bible having their humanity influence the way it was written has been understood, is it the same with the Qur’an?

To discuss this, I have asked someone to come on who understands the Bible very well. I asked someone who has studied this at the highest level and has written about it to help explain it. He’s been on the show before and this time he’s on to talk about the Qur’an. His name is Andy Bannister.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

I am the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, speaking and teaching regularly throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, and the wider world. From universities to churches, business forums to TV and radio, I regularly address audiences of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.

I hold a PhD in Islamic studies and have taught extensively at universities across Canada, the USA, the UK and further afield on both Islam and philosophy. I am also an Adjunct Research Fellow at The Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

I am the author of An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an (a groundbreaking and innovative study that reveals many of the ways the Qur’an was first composed) and Heroes: Five Lessons From Whose Lives We Can Learn, an exciting and fast-moving look at the lives of five incredible giants of the Christian faith. My latest book, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (or: The Dreadful Consequences of Really Bad Arguments), is a humorous engagement with the New Atheism. I also co-wrote and presented the TV documentary, Burning Questions.

When not travelling, speaking, or writing, I am a keen hiker, mountain climber and photographer. I am married to Astrid and we have two children, Caitriona and Christopher.

I hope you’ll be interested as we have this hour-long discussion on the nature of the Qur’an. Please be watching your podcast feed for this episode. If you can also, go and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on iTunes. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Secret Battle of Ideas About God

What do I think of Jeff Myers’s book published by David C. Cook? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jeff Myers’s latest book certainly starts off getting your attention. How can it not with talking about people who were directly tied in to 9/11? This then gets directly linked to virus outbreaks that have taken place which is finally compared with the idea of mind viruses. Myers doesn’t mean some disease you need to go see your doctor about, but rather ideas that spread and people don’t have much defense for, including and especially, younger Christians.

Myers work is to deal with a problem which is that many of our younger Christians believe things that are entirely at odds with orthodox Christianity and they don’t even realize it. They’ve been made victims in a war that they don’t even realize that they’re fighting in, something immediately reminiscent of The Green Book is Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. These people have not been given a Christian worldview. As I’ve said many times before, it might be shocking to realize that to develop a good Christian lifestyle, you might need to have more than concerts and pizza parties at church.

Myers says that there are essentially five other kinds of worldviews, though no doubt there is some overlapping. These are secularism, Marxism, postmodernism, New Spirituality, and Islam. As I write this, I know Christian friends who have fallen especially for New Spirituality and Islam. Myers contrasts these worldviews with Christianity in the book.

One good aspect about the book is Myers is very open about himself and his own struggles and mistakes. When he writes about a failed marriage, he doesn’t hide it. When he talks about anger with God, that’s out there in the open. When he talks about mistakes in the past in the area of sex, that’s right there. When he says that counseling drains him, he means it. That kind of openness I admire.

Those questions are relevant because what Myers is really dealing with in the book is existential questions. Am I loved? Why am I hurting? Does life have any meaning? Can’t we all just get along? Is there hope for the world? Does God matter? Many of us in apologetics would like to leap straight to the questions of if God exists or if Jesus rose from the dead, but many people are not starting with those questions. They’re starting with these. We need to get to those questions, but how does Christianity answer these questions in contrast to other worldviews?

Myers’s book is clear and easy to read. You don’t have to be a professional philosopher to understand his arguments. There’s about 200 pages of content, but it’s still a relatively short read and it’s one that you could present to someone who is exploring Christianity and wondering about these kinds of questions.

If there was something I would like to see more of, it is that while the book is clear that Christianity does answer these questions, that doesn’t show Christianity is true. It’s fine to have a book dedicated to existential questions, but I would have liked to have seen a section at the end that would include apologetics books for further reading on the other questions that can show that Christianity is true. Perhaps it could point to other authors like J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel.

Still, this is a good book to read to help with the questions. It’s easy to read that when I finished, I put it in a stack of books for my wife so that she could go through it as she’s been learning a lot about these questions as well. If she does go through it, I am sure she will be blessed by it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi

How do you honor a life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I woke up Saturday like it was much any other day. At one point, I knew we needed some groceries so I tell Allie I’m off to the store to pick some up. There I am walking through the frozen section when I hear my phone go off indicating a text message. Well, let’s see what Allie wants me to pick up that she just remembered.

It wasn’t her.

It was my mother-in-law, Debbie Licona.

“Nabeel is with Jesus. You cannot say anything to anyone until we tell you.”

The timestamp shows that that message came in around 2:25. I wandered through the story trying to remember what I needed to buy and trying to keep a brave face about me. Inside, I was heartbroken. Yeah. We knew that this was coming. We knew it could have been any day now. Still, there’s something of a shock when the news finally comes.

I was also worried about my wife at that point. She does not handle bad news well and she was home alone. Before too long, the news had broken from other sources all over Facebook. My father-in-law had tweeted it out and that’s when Debbie told me she had already told Allie.

I went through the shopping of that day watching other people go about their business as if it was an ordinary day. I turned on the radio in the car and heard talk radio that was about sports, which I already don’t care for, but which I cared for even less this time. How can you talk about sports when this has happened? How can people go about their day normally? Don’t you know a great man has died?

I remember being rung up at Sprout’s and the cashier giving me my receipt and saying “Have a good day.” My thought in my head was “Whatever that means.” Today is not a good day. Today we lost Nabeel.

I had got to know Nabeel through Mike. I remember being with him at a restaurant I think after or during the apologetics conference talking about life in general. I had messaged him some on Facebook and I loved his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel had been a guest on my show once talking about Islam. Those interested can find that here.

Nabeel bravely battled against stomach cancer. There was always a hope that he would be healed, but it didn’t happen. It’s times like this I wondered what God was thinking. Why Nabeel of all people? He didn’t deserve this did he?

I also sadly saw some Muslims speaking about where they think Nabeel is now. I know there are some who are celebrating. I saw them post when the news came happy that Nabeel was getting what they thought he deserved. It’s tempting to reply with anger at them, but you know what? Nabeel wouldn’t want that.

Nabeel was also young. Younger than I am right now, and that makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life. It was also the kind of event that made me want to come home and hold my wife close to me. I don’t know how many days we have together. I want to make the most of them.

I miss Nabeel now. I didn’t get to know him well enough as I should, but I always enjoyed my time with him. Sadly, I probably took it for granted. He was young and healthy. He’ll be with us awhile. I was wrong. I hope I’m not taking anyone else in my life for granted.

There is a picture going around Facebook of Nabeel after his baptism. He has his arms raised in his air in victory. In the past, it brought joy, but today it brings me sadness. I know it should bring me joy, but it doesn’t because I want to see the happy and healthy Nabeel again, and I don’t. It’s obvious my sadness is not for Nabeel. He is far better off. It is for myself. It is for his family and all others left behind.

Nabeel. Thank you for being my friend in this time you had with us. I look forward to everlasting friendship with you one day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Bernie Sanders and Religious Exclusivity

Is it wrong that Christianity is an exclusivist religion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In a hearing for Russell Vought recently for office, Senator Bernie Sanders expressed some hostility towards Vought for his position on Christianity. Apparently, Vought holds this really bizarre position. He thinks Christianity is actually true and not only is it true, it’s the only true religion and thus all other religions are wrong and will not get you into the grace of God.

Now to Sanders, this might be news. It’s not like this is a new development in Christianity. Christians have held to this belief since the very beginning, even when it led to them being outed by the Roman government and put under all manner of persecution and had them branded as atheists. We have to wonder if this is the first time Sanders had heard about this.

He’s right that while Christianity would be the majority religious belief in America (Or at least claimed) that there are numerous other believers in other religions and no religions here in America. Does this mean that Christians are automatically meant to treat them as lesser citizens. Sanders seems to think this, but on what grounds?

Let’s start with establishing something. Every religious belief is exclusive on some areas. Even a universalist would say that a person who thinks only one way to God is true will still make it to God, they are wrong in holding an exclusivist position. A pluralist will have to essentially change every other religion out there in order to make his pluralist religion true.

This includes Judaism and Islam as well. Try going to a regular synagogue and saying you’re a Jew who accepts Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. See if you’re treated as a Jew like everyone else. While there might be some exceptions, many Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah are excluded. Islam is often violently exclusive as is seen by many of the terrorist attacks we have going on today.

This is simply because of logic. All Christians give claims that are truth claims and those claims by nature exclude anything that contradicts them. This is no different from every other field out there. All truth claims do this. If Christianity has it essential that Jesus is the Messiah, then if the claim is true, all religions that disagree are wrong. If Islam were right in that God is a monad and only one in person, then all religions that disagree, like Christianity, are wrong.

One of the great freedoms we have in this country is the freedom to come together and worship as we see fit and to discuss our religious differences. In the practice of true tolerance, we have it that you can disagree very strongly ideologically, and yet still leave in a spirit of peace and even friendship. These are the discussions we should be having. I have no desire for us to try to establish a theocracy here because it would not be God ruling. It would be some men claiming to rule in the name of God.

The problem for Sanders is that he’s doing the exact thing he condemns. He is saying that if you hold X religious belief, you are not fit for public office. This is a rather exclusionary position and is saying that someone is wrong to hold the religious belief that they do, yet all the while complaining that it’s wrong to say another religious belief is wrong. It can’t be had both ways.

Naturally, a Christian who holds public office should care about the freedom and well-being of all of his constituents. This is part of our religion as well. We are not to show favoritism. If a Muslim and a Christian come to trial and the Muslim is in the right, the Christian should back the Muslim. He can disagree with his religion all day long and should, but in this area, the Muslim is in the right.

Sanders is, unfortunately, being an example of someone who doesn’t really understand religions and doesn’t see them as truth claims but more as personal preferences. Sadly, a lot of Christians might take the same attitude, but it’s not one Christianity has had historically. Part of this is also an example of the great problem we have of religious illiteracy here in the West where many people talk about religion and religions, but they don’t really understand them.

What are we as Christians to do then? We are to teach our people that Christianity is not just a flavor of ice cream that you happen to really like, but making really serious divine claims about everything in reality, and that we are to go and live out those claims. We are to uphold the Kingdom of God in all things, but also to uphold the great love of our neighbor that we are commanded as well. Who knows? Sanders might find that living in a society like that isn’t as bad as he thought.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/22/2017: Ken Samples

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

Is Jesus really unique? We live in a world where there are many religions. Each of them claims to be true. Is there really any way to tell? Why should anyone think that there’s anything special in Christianity as opposed to another view like Islam or Confucianism?

Ken Samples in his book God Among Sages has looked at the religions of the world. He points out positive contributions of each one and ways that we can better understand and interact with adherents of them, but then shows the uniqueness of Jesus. In the end, Jesus does indeed stand out.

This Saturday, we’ll be exploring that claim further. We’ll have an hour together to discuss the matter and we’ll be making the most of it. Still, we need to ask who Ken Samples is. Well….

According to his bio:

Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion for helping people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity’s truth claims. He is the senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe and the author of several books, including Christian Endgame and 7 Truths That Changed the World.

How does someone approach other religions of the world? As Christians, we can tend to be hyper-skeptical of any of them and not really give them the time and attention they deserve if we want to reach their adherents. Islam is one of the major world religions highly impacting our world today, but how many of us have actually read the Qur’an and informed ourselves about it, yet we often have no trouble commenting on daily news stories about Islam itself as if we know what we’re talking about with it.

It can also be tempting to go on full attack mode with other religions, but there’s no need to do that. There are things that will be correct in other religious beliefs. We also don’t need to rule out automatically the religious experiences of people in other belief systems. If we want them to treat Christianity seriously, we need to treat their belief system seriously.

There is also the question in the end of what about those who have never heard. While Samples and I do fall on different sides of the spectrum here, we both fully uphold the idea that the Great Commission needs to be fulfilled. This is an area that Christians can disagree on, but we must never take it as a reason to be lax in our duties with regard to the command of Christ. As I have said before, the Bible never explicitly addresses the question. It gives us our marching orders and says nothing about if we fail the plan. There is no plan B.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and I hope you’ll also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show! It’s always great to see them. Be ready next time to discuss world religions and the uniqueness of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters