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What are my thoughts on the death of Robin Williams? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
When I heard the news of Robin Williams’s death, it was in an email and I thought “That can’t be right. Surely it must be another actor with that name. Robin Williams committing suicide?” I went to IMDB and saw the age given matched perfectly. It was quite a shock to hear and it was indeed tragic.
Let’s go ahead and say it right at the start. Suicide is always tragic.
None of us really like death, but in some cases, we can accept it to an extent. If our loved one is old and it’s “their time” we’re sorry to see them go, but we understand. If a soldier or a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty, we are sad to see that happen and we don’t really think it was their time, but we understand it.
That leaves us with question after question.
I put something about this on my Facebook yesterday and someone told me about someone whose Dad had committed suicide when they were five years old and how they kept asking “Did my Dad not want to see me grow up?”
This person was in their 60’s and still asking.
Suicide will leave a mark on every family when it takes place. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas will be different. Wedding anniversaries and birthdays won’t be the same. Whenever the date of the suicide comes around, the people involved will remember it. Every time they think they will ask themselves “Was there anything I could have done differently? Could I have stopped this?”
And they will never find a satisfying answer to those questions.
For our family, Robin Williams was a treasure. When my wife and I were dating, we lived in different states about 250 miles apart so I’d often bring over movies when I came to see her. At that time, she struggled with depression and one movie I bought was Patch Adams, which is about a doctor who used humor to treat his patients.
If you’ve never seen the movie, Robin Williams’s character, Patch Adams, has set up his clinic and a girl, Carin, he has an interest in is one of his doctors that helps treat the patients. One time, she is alone and a man with mental illness of a severe nature comes to see her.
The next thing we hear is that he has murdered her.
Patch blames himself and in the following scene, we see him having a dialogue with God wondering if he can even go on.
As you see in the video, what stops him is a butterfly on his medical bag that flies on to his shirt and then he has on his finger. Why? Because Carin had said earlier how she wishes she could be a caterpillar so she could transform and fly away. Patch has his spirits renewed by this and continues his work.
Since marriage, we’ve watched a number of other films of his such as Jumanji and Mrs. Doubtfire and we did watch the only season of the Crazy Ones together. Allie also was happy to share with me about how his daughter was named Zelda, after the Legend of Zelda, a series Allie knows I thoroughly enjoy.
Since hearing the story of Williams’s death, I have also been given some hope in hearing that he had attended Redeemer Church where Tim Keller serves as pastor and that he has attended at least one other church in San Francisco on a regular basis and had been asking questions. Did he find the right answers? We can hope.
I do want to say a few other thoughts that come to me about this.
First, if you are a Christian who is making comments about someone being in Hell right now and doing so gleefully, shame on you. I have unfriended one person on Facebook who did this. It is not our call to make if someone is in Hell or not. Yet even if we were absolutely certain that they were, we should not be rejoicing in that fact.
Years ago when Saddam Hussein was still alive, someone messaged me on a forum I was in when the news came that Saddam’s sons had been found and killed and said “Isn’t this good news?” Now I was absolutely certain they were Muslims and outside the fold and I replied that it was good that the evil they would do on Earth had been stopped and they would never harm someone again, but it’s tragic that someone enters eternity without the grace of God.
Yes. Even our enemies.
I do believe in Hell, and if you agree with me, you should defend it similar to the way that you would defend the reality of the holocaust (Since there are holocaust deniers). Both should be seen as realities and both should be seen as things that you would prefer could be otherwise.
Christian. You may think someone didn’t do the best with their life, but the reality is, well, neither do you. We all screw up and make mistakes. On this point, I don’t care if you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian. We all know the only way we get to Heaven is by the grace of God. We do not deserve to be in the loving presence of God and walking with Jesus at all. We all need grace.
If you think Robin Williams didn’t make it, then just remember that if it wasn’t for the grace of God, neither would you. I, meanwhile, hold out hope. This is also so since I found that one of the books he read often to his children and one of his favorites was the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I hope he came to know who Aslan is in this world.
The next point is that suicide is a tragedy. This has been said, but some people have been sharing the meme of saying “Genie. You’re free.”
What does that mean really?
Do you really want to affirm the view of the suicide and the person contemplating suicide that this world is just awful and that we should all be seeking to escape it? Let us consider what G.K. Chesterton said about those who are suicides in contrast to those who are martyrs.
“A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside of him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside of him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end.”
If you are a Christian, you should know that this is your Father’s world. This world is not all that it was meant to be. That’s true, but it is not Hell. There are plenty of good things here and one just needs to take the time to see them. Many times when I have been depressed, it has been the simple things that have brought me out, such as seeing my cat play with a toy. It can also be the love of other people, such as the touch of my wife.
You see, it’s okay to not always be in a happy mood. You’re not meant to always be happy. It’s okay to have a down day. You can’t force yourself to feel happy. If you could make yourself feel something, we’d all make ourselves feel joy. You’re not always responsible for your feelings, but you are responsible for what you do with them.
You might think Robin Williams is free today, but you know who isn’t?
If you’re reading this blog with sadness thinking about it, you’re one of the people who isn’t.
Neither are the immediate friends and family. The rest of the world is at a loss right now because of this tragedy. Suicide takes the pain that one person goes through and thrusts it instead on everyone else. It is a wound that will never be healed this side of eternity. It will be a constant reminder on the lives of everyone involved from then on.
I say this as someone familiar with it. Some of you know that when I was introduced to my now wife, it was when she was recovering from a suicide attempt.
How different things would be if she had succeeded.
And keep in mind for her, at one point, she thought it was all over. In fact, what she was doing was because of a bad relationship with a boy.
Would she have even dreamed that within about a year’s time, she’d be walking down the aisle to marry a totally different man who saw her at her worst and still loved her?
In fact, I wrote earlier this year about how she even won a beauty pageant earlier this year put on by Joni and Friends called the Miss Shining Star pageant for girls with disabilities.
I still remember it well. All the girls I had seen won had won the talent competition also. Allie had lost it in her division. There it was at the end and I was thinking “She’s not going to win it.” It just looked like she would lose this title.
And then they announced her name as Miss Shining Star.
She’ll also tell you I cried more than she did that day. It was just such a delight to see how far she had gone and how she had been so hesitant to enter this pageant and yet, she won it. Next year, she will pass her crown on to someone else so they can enjoy that privilege, but now, she is an inspiration that there is always hope.
And all of those might not have been.
In fact, each one of us is a “might not have been.”
None of us was required to exist. The world could have gone on just fine without our being here. None of us are essential to the story. Each of us has been given life and each of us is to decide what to do with it. I pray you’ll treat it as a gift.
Please remember this. Suicide is never the answer. Your pain might end at that point, but the pain you leave for others will never end.
Third point is one that seems odd coming from me, but it is true. My wife and I are Aspies and introverts. We don’t thrive on relationships like other people do, but we also know that relationships are important. I am incredibly thankful for the friendships that I have earned over the years. There is nothing like it. I am thankful for a family that raised me up in a Christian home and showed me love always, and I am thankful for the family that has become mine as well in my in-laws. They are honored to have me as a son-in-law and I am grateful.
I am also thankful for our church family. Just last Sunday, we celebrated Allie’s 24th birthday and some friends took us out to eat. Allie talked about how her family couldn’t do that since they were far away and my family can’t really afford it. This couple that took us out is in their 70’s and lead a group called Marriage Moments at our church. They know something about marriage. They’ve been married for 50+ years. Since our church is “The Point” they said to just think of them as their Point Parents.
That is something that I am sure will never leave me.
That evening, Allie and I watched Into The Storm with a gift card we’d been given by my parents. Allie really liked Twister and likes this one even more now. Still, as I saw it I was left in a somber state. I can assure you the movie is an awesome one that will have you on the edge of the seat, but I also think about the times that people were near-death and focusing on the relationships that they had formed over the years and wanting to tell people how much they loved them.
Allie would be the first to tell you how quiet and somber I was that evening.
Why? I’m a go-getter type of guy who wants to make the most of what I have and was thinking “Are we making the most of our time here now?”
Those relationships are important and of course, none of them will be perfect. You will not be a perfect spouse. You will not have a perfect spouse. You will not be a perfect parent. You will not have perfect children. You will not have perfect friends or be a perfect friend or have perfect siblings or be a perfect sibling.
And that’s okay.
Things won’t be perfect, but they can be great.
For we Christians, we should know this first and foremost. Our own God is eternally relational Himself in the Trinity.
Too often, we take these relationships for granted. We act like that person will always be here, and then a car accident takes place and they’re gone, or they get the news that they have cancer and their time is limited. We can often ask ourselves what we will do with the future, which is fine, but we need to ask ourselves what we’re going to do with this moment.
Of course, I am not saying be reckless with other people. As an introvert, I will not relate to everyone and there will be times that people like myself need to be away from the crowd and recharging, but even then, introverts need people too. Let us remember what C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
These are the people. These are the ones you will take with you into eternity. I am an avid lover of books and reading and the quest of knowledge. I hope my wife would agree however that I am a greater lover of her and I would hope ultimately also that I am a greater lover of God. The knowledge of God is subservient to God Himself after all.
Today, the world just doesn’t seem as funny because of a tragic event that has happened and made us all stop and think about what our lives really mean and what they’re all about. What we all would give right now to have had a butterfly come and land on Robin Williams at this time.
And if you are in this boat right now of considering taking your own life, please please please do not do it. Reach out and talk to someone. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. (1-800-273-8255) Please also find a good local church and talk to a good minister or counselor there. Just reach out and get some help. The Christian message is that every human life is valuable and precious by nature of what it is.
My own wife wrote about what she was dealing with in her journal last night and shared it on Facebook. (So yes, I am not sharing something private here and she knows I’m sharing this and is fine with it.)
As I was journaling tonight, I journaled a bit about the death of Robin Williams and it got me thinking about my own suicide attempt five years ago. Stories of suicide is very heart-breaking, and for me, they resonate very deeply because I was almost one of them. Here’s what I wrote, you may like it, you may not like it, but it’s the truth and is what’s on my heart:
Why…why did God rescue me from my suicide attempt…but he allows others to die? Why did he rescue me from my death but not other people? It almost makes me angry to have survived. I’m no more special than anyone else, I still haven’t figured out what I’m really good at, yet God decided to rescue me? Why? I was still a follower of Christ, if I had died, I would’ve gone to heaven and been with the Lord. But there are some who don’t follow him who kill themselves, and their despair is even worse in the afterlife instead of having peace. Why God…why did you rescue me from death…but you don’t rescue others from the grips of suicide? Their lives are just as precious as mine! Robin Williams was doing good in the world – he made people smile when they thought they couldn’t. But I don’t do any good in the world. I don’t make any contribution to the world. So why did you rescue me? My soul aches…people are hurting so much…and there is so much death around me…people killing each other…people killing themselves…this is not what you created us for! All this death and violence…this isn’t what you wanted for us! What are we to do in world that is killing itself and breaking down? Will we all eventually kill each other to the brink of extinction? No, that won’t happen. You promised you’ll come back for us. You promised you’d come back and reign over us on earth, just as you do in heaven. We still have hope! You won’t abandon us, you always keep your promises. I know you’ll come for us, and you’ll be our King. The world will finally know you are there! The world will finally bow down to you as LORD. You will rescue your servants. You will come for your children. You won’t leave us like this. We are waiting for you…come soon my LORD!
As you can see, she still has problems and attitudes she’s working with, but I like at the end what she’s doing. She’s seeking to find hope in God and frankly, where else will you find it? If Christ is not risen, then death will indeed have the last laugh. It will have it on the suicide or the murder victim or the martyr or anyone else. No one will escape it.
If Christ is risen, those of us in Him have the last laugh on death.
And speaking of laughs, let’s look back on the life of Robin Williams and remember he left us with several. We will miss him, but let’s not lose sight of them.
Please be in prayer for those who have been left behind from this tragedy.
R.I.P. Robin Williams.
Edited to add: A kind reader suggested a guide to help those struggling with depression and other conditions that can be found here.
Is it possible to be a recipient of the information age and be uninformed? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
With Christmas coming up, I’m wanting to upgrade some of my technology, and so yesterday while the Mrs. was at a Pinterest party, I decided to go to an AT&T store after some grocery shopping to talk to someone there about upgrades. One thing I want upgraded is my Kindle. I’d like to be able to read books on audio much more easily with a Kindle and I’ve been told I could just consider an IPad and with that I could use a Kindle App and have access to a tool I can use for powerpoint.
The guy who was telling me about the products heard me go on and on about books and then saw the books I had with me, apologetic books in nature, which led to a discussion about certain issues and I was told that in the past people believed the Earth was flat.
I quickly pointed out that this is a myth. “On The Heavens” by Aristotle has the teaching that the Earth is a sphere and you would be hard-pressed to find one intelligent thinker after that including Aquinas and the church fathers who thought otherwise.
I was told that the intelligentsia believed that, but not the masses. The masses all thought you would fall off. I simply replied that I would need evidence to believe such a thing.
So what happens? Well we’re there looking at IPads so he suggests that we just look it up.
How does the argument go? Well one of the first things found is this:
Except it’s worse than that.
You see, my salesman didn’t even look at the book. In fact, he never got to the picture. All he saw was a link with the title of the book and how it was a history of the 21st century and said “See? Even up until our time that’s been believed.”
Amazing what you can learn about a book just by seeing a title. Not only can you learn about the book, but you can learn about what a whole group of people have believed. No research required.
Now in our next vast tour of internet research, what’s the next thing we come across? This:
Is there any attempt to see who did this painting? Nope. Is there any attempt to see when it was done? Nope. For all we know, it could be after the myth was popularized that people used to believe that the Earth was flat, which I pointed out Washington Irving popularized that myth about why Columbus sailed West. (It’s worth pointing out as well that Ingersoll helped popularize it.)
By this mindset, the musical group Kansas must have included flat-Earthers in it. Take a look at this album cover:
Now let’s suppose something. Let’s suppose that I am wrong for the sake of argument. Even if I was, is it sufficient to look at a web link and a picture and do nothing further beyond that and decide that your opponent’s position is refuted? Not at all.
Yet this is exactly what we’re up against.
You see, we live in an age where people think they are authorities because they can use Google. I can’t help but think of what my friend Tim McGrew, professor of philosophy at Western Michigan, says about this:
“One of the most disastrous illusions of the internet age is that an amateur plus Google is equivalent to a scholar. A search engine offers information, more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher. But it does not sift that information; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff. It does not explain which facts are relevant and which are beside the point. It does not weigh the merits of competing arguments and tell the user where the balance of evidence lies. A bright amateur armed with the internet may at best be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error. But it will not turn him into a scholar himself. There is no such thing as effortless erudition.”
Google is a fantastic tool when used appropriately, but when used inappropriately, it can give the illusion of knowledge without research.
Yet this is what we see happen in our age. I am involved in debates often with Christ-mythers for instance who when presented with several works of scholarship just instead put up a Google link by a non-scholarly source and then march off triumphantly convinced they’ve defeated their enemy.
Of course, I am not telling you to avoid using Google. I am also not telling you that all sources must be scholarly, but I do think sources for arguments should interact with scholars and while Google can be a tool in your research, it should not be the whole thing.
The sad part is unfortunately, the side relying entirely on Google has fooled itself with an illusion that real research has been done, when it has not been done. This is also why those of us who argue MUST read and study that which disagrees with us. If not, we can lull ourselves into a sense that we are automatically right by virtue of our position and have nothing to learn from our opponents.
And yes, both sides are guilty of this. The Christian side can too often consist of people saying “We have the Inerrant Word of God! What need have we to study anything else?” Meanwhile, the atheist side consists of people who will say “Courtier’s reply!” and think they have made a substantial reply.
Recently on my show, I interviewed my father-in-law Mike Licona. We’re quite different intellectually. He was the one who struggled in school and worked and when he did, got C’s. Meanwhile, I was the student who went to school, did all the assignments, came home and played video games all day, and then got A’s and elected Most Studious in my class. Study was not a necessity for me in school.
Now Mike is an academic, though he says it’s not his natural bent. How many of you in apologetics want to be like Mike? Then he would tell you this too. Study, study, study. There is no shortcut on this path. You must do the work.
Now some of you could be saying “Well that’s him, but what about you? Do you have it easy as one inclined to academics?”
Nope. Not a bit. Despite our differences in school, in this field, I too have to study, study, study. Now could it be I might have some advantages? Sure. But those advantages themselves do not present results. Those results only come from sacrifice. There are many times I’d frankly like to do other things, but in order to be informed, I have to study. It is work, but to be informed, it is worth it.
Also, if you get to the point where you think you no longer need to read the other side, then you are not really studying. By all means reach a conclusion. I have concluded Christianity is true, but I still read what I disagree with. Perhaps someone will show me an argument I have not considered. I can be skeptical, and you can be too, but we must always be open.
In our age, Google cannot take the place of real learning and research. Google if used properly will be an excellent tool for learning, but when used improperly, it can convince someone that they are learned when they are not, and when they speak on an issue, those who know it better will be left shaking their heads wondering how such a person thinks their point is valid.
Be a researcher. Don’t rely on just Google.
What value does our society place on books today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
My wife really likes to watch the Crazy ones, a show starring Robin Williams. I watch it with her, often reading or doing something else at the time. Tonight we saw an episode about a move to save a library, which was not necessarily greeted with enthusiasm by others on the show and the way it was saved by actually staging a fake book burning so that people would get enraged and come out and save the library.
Spoiler alert: It worked.
Yes as I watched, the thought of burning a book was horrendous to me and if someone says “Well Christians burned books in history!” then I would say that wherever that happened that that too was a great evil. I think it would be wonderful to have more of the works that have been lost over time. Now of course, some works are lost just because there was no interest and no one was copying them and some were lost by other circumstances, but it’s a shame when anyone purposely destroys a work of literature.
In the past two novels have been written that deal with books. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury feared a world where people would have a job of burning books. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote about a world where there would be books, but no one would read them due to their quest for pleasure. Of course, this pleasure was mainly sexual pleasure.
Huxley’s view seems to have won the day.
Now keep in mind, I’m not against pleasure. I think we should enjoy our lives and that includes the sexual pleasure to be enjoyed in marriage. I’m not saying all we should be doing is reading. My wife and I go to a gym regularly and exercise. We have some favorite TV shows and movies we like to watch. We also have a number of game consoles and I do have a reputation as being a good gamer.
But do make sure to read.
In fact, this is my problem with too many Christians and too many atheists. They don’t read enough. Let’s look at some attitudes we see.
For atheists, too many of them are simply only reading what agrees with them. They are not reading works that are outside their worldview that will truly challenge them. How else do so many get suckered into the idea that Jesus never even existed? I found much confirmation of this in looking at the bibliographies in new atheist literature. Works that disagree with them are woefully lacking in reference.
As for the Bible, too many atheists don’t read the Bible and when they do, they make a mistake of not reading it as literature. They don’t read it to first see what the author is really trying to say. I don’t necessarily mean the divine author. Let’s even just go with the human author. Let’s take a book like Romans that is indisputably Pauline. How many are reading it to see what Paul really said? I don’t care if you agree or disagree with him at this point. Do you really seek to find out what he really said?
The Bible is often read only to attack it and then to mock it. Even if someone doesn’t believe in the message of the Bible, to be an educated person in this society, you must be familiar with it. The Bible is without a doubt the book that has shaped Western Civilization more than any other. If you do not understand the Bible, you will be incredibly ignorant in this culture.
Now what about Christians? Too many Christians don’t read what disagrees with them and challenges them, but there is another dangerous idea they have.
“I just read the Bible. That’s the only book I need!”
What nonsense! Now I do not doubt the Bible contains all that is needed for salvation and the message is there, but if you want to truly understand the Bible, you will need to read other books. For instance, if you don’t know the original languages, you will either want to try to learn them, as I am, to seek to understand what the Bible says in the original languages. Until then, you are at the mercy of a translator.
If you want to understand the culture of the Bible, you will need to read about that elsewhere. If you want to know about the history of the Bible, you will need to read that. If you want to know about textual criticism, apologetics, philosophy, etc. all of those are found in books outside of the Bible by people who have dedicated their lives to understanding this book, and for atheists who are still reading at this point, not all of those are Christians.
Beyond that, Christians need to be educated in other areas they talk about. If you want to understand philosophy read giants like Plato and Aristotle. If you want to understand history, choose a period of history and read all you can about it. If you want to understand science, do the same.
Too often in our culture, we are not reading books. I am not talking so much about books being converted to electronic format. I get that. In fact, I own a Kindle as well. (And in fact, would love to upgrade to a Kindle Fire.) I am not talking about audio reading either. I’ve done that too. I’m talking about just not reading books.
Of course, I am not opposed to reading material online. If I was, I would not be writing this blog, but I have a problem when I debate someone and all they link to is wikipedia and think that that constitutes an argument. There’s a reason I never bother to look when someone links to wikipedia in a debate. Nowadays, many of them are going to just YouTube videos. Now there are some good videos out there that explain works well, but there are a lot that don’t and sadly in our age, anyone can look like an authority. (And for those concerned about my own work here since anyone can look this way, feel free to check what I say and also note the link of endorsements on the side of this blog.)
I’m also not saying by the way to only read academic works. I like to read some fiction from time to time. My interest there is mysteries. I just ordered the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel from the library and I eagerly await the next Monk Murder Mystery being a paperback so I can order it on Amazon. I have no problem with reading just for pure pleasure.
My main message at this point is simple. Just read. Try to read at least a little bit every day. There are days I can get really constructive and focused and read a whole lot. There are days I don’t get in as much. Usually Allie goes to bed earlier than I do and I just get up and go to the living room and read. She knows and is fine with it. For me, it is a great way to clear my mind. Then as I go to sleep, I look up a few verses of a passage of Scripture, namely the Psalms I’m going through now, and just think about those verses as I drift to sleep. It seems to work well.
I fear a culture that does not read. A culture like this is uneducated and is easily swayed by every wind that comes along. At this point, I honestly don’t care if you agree with me as a Christian or not. I simply ask that you read. If you want to remain an atheist, at least seek to be educated on both sides in your atheism. If you are a strong Christian, by all means keep reading your Bible, but make sure to read the works of other great minds that have bent the knee to Christ and sought to pass their wisdom on to you. They have much to teach you.
I just hope our culture is willing to learn.
What do I think of Foreman and Dew’s book on epistemology? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Foreman and Dew have written this in order to explain epistemology to people who have never really considered it and in our day and age, it’s more necessary than ever. After all, you have people like Peter Boghossian out there wanting to train up “street epistemologists” to deconvert Christians from their faith. In addition to that, there is a rampant scientism in our society that says science is the way to know the truth. If what you say is not scientific, then it is not a fact.
So how is it that we do know anything at all and what is knowledge? Naturally, you won’t find a comprehensive refutation of positions in this work. Instead, it’s more to get you thinking about what the different positions are. The authors themselves do not come down on either side in the debate. After reading it, I cannot tell you what position either one of them holds.
The authors also go through the classical problems in studies of epistemology. One such example that will be well-known to students of philosophy is the Gettier Problem. (To which, I remember when this was discussed in my epistemology class one of my classmates immediately asked the professor about Gettier. His question? “Did he get tenure?” Yes. He definitely did get tenure after that.)
Gettier’s problem was to show that you could have a belief that was justified and that was true, but even then that might not be enough to say that you had knowledge. This is problematic since the prior definition of knowledge has been justified true belief, which means that now philosophers are looking to see if a fourth item might need to be added to the list.
Those dealing with new atheist types will be pleased to see the authors make a statement about faith and how faith is not a way of knowing but is rather a response of trust to what one is shown to be true. Of course, we seriously doubt that Peter Boghossian and others like him will pay any attention to anything that goes against their beliefs.
Along those lines, there is also a section on whether one can know through divine revelation which includes a short apologetic for Christianity. The authors are both Christians and do hold that divine revelation can be a valid way to possess knowledge.
If there’s a concern I have with the book, I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the medieval period. Too often we talk about Plato and Aristotle and then jump ahead to Descartes. A few times Aquinas is cited but not often. I do not remember Augustine being cited but that could have been something I overlooked. There were plenty of great thinkers as well in the medieval period and it does help to see how we got from the ancient to the modern era.
Despite this one misgiving, I find that this book will be an excellent start for those wanting to learn about epistemology. You won’t walk away with a firm conclusion most likely, but you will walk away hopefully knowing that you need to look.
What did I think of this counterpoints book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
A friend sent me this wanting to see what I thought of it. He also figured I’d eat it up since I am a major fan of the work of John Walton. In that case, he is entirely correct and it’s not a shock that in my eyes, Walton did indeed deliver.
I will say also that at this point, I do believe the case for a historical Adam is far stronger than the case against. At the same time, I am not ready to make the belief in the existence of Adam a point of salvation. Salvation is based on belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is not based on belief in Adam.
The one essay in the book that argued against a historical Adam, that of Denis Lamoureux’s, also contained a wonderful story about his coming to Christ and it’s apparent throughout the work that he has a great love for Jesus Christ and a high regard for Scripture.
In reviewing this book, I’d like to look at in order the essays that I found most persuasive and why.
It is not a shock that I found Walton’s to be the most persuasive. Since reading The Lost World of Genesis One, I have been amazed by Walton and that book has forever shaped the way I read Genesis. Naturally, I have a great admiration as well for the book he co-wrote with Brent Sandy called The Lost World of Scripture.
Walton argues that Adam is the archetype of humanity. The text does not say anything about if Adam was the first human or if he was the only one at the time before Eve was created, but it does argue that he is the one who is the representative of us all. Walton also argues that the text says nothing about the material origins of man but rather a statement such as being dust refers to our mortality. He also argues that God did not really perform divine surgery but that the text is written in a way to show that Adam realized Eve was of the same nature as he was and was meant to be his helpmate.
The argument is impressive, but I would like to have seen some other points. For instance, I would have liked to have seen more about his view of the Garden of Eden itself, though I realize that that was not the scope of the book, it would have helped explain the relation between Adam and Eve more in their historical context. Also, the biggest pushback in the counter essays to Walton was on his view of the firmament in day two and this wasn’t really addressed. I know his view has become more nuanced since The Lost World of Genesis One was published and I would have liked to have seen more on that.
The second essay I found most persuasive was that of C. John Collins. Collins comes from an old-earth perspective more along to the lines of what one might see from Reasons To Believe. I found Walton did make a case for how his view would fit consistently.
Yet at the same time, I wondered about some aspects of his essay. Did he really make a case for reading Genesis as he suggested to refute the young-earth position, especially since one scholar in the book is a young-earth creationist? I did not see that presented enough. I also did find his essay contained more concordism than I would have liked.
The next on the list is Denis O. Lamoureux who argued that Adam did not exist. I found it amazing to see that Lamoureux did hold to a high view of Scripture in fact proclaiming his belief that it was inerrant. His case was a fascinating one for no Adam and he did seek to bring into play the NT evidence as well.
Yet I found myself wondering if this was really necessary. The genealogies and other such arguments do lead me to the position of a historical Adam. I do not see how Lamoureux’s position does in fact explain the origin of sin in the world and the problem of evil. Still, it is worth seeing what that side has to say.
The least convincing to me was that of William D. Barrick who argued for a young-earth and a historical Adam. It is not because I hold a disdain for YECs. My ministry partner is a YEC. My wife is a YEC. I do have a problem with dogmatic YECs however, and that includes someone dogmatic in most any secondary position. I would have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC.
Barrick too often was pointing to Inerrancy and seeing Scripture as the Word of God as support of His position and agreeing with what God has said. Now naturally, every Christian should want to agree with what God has said, but your interpretation might not be what God has said. This is built on the idea sadly that the Bible was written for the context of a modern American audience. I do not see this.
I have also seen firsthand the damage that is done by assuming that if you believe in Inerrancy, then you must believe in a certain interpretation of Scripture. I would not argue against a Jehovah’s Witness, for instance, that he denies Inerrancy, even though he denies essential tenets of the Christian faith. I would argue against his interpretation. Inerrancy says nothing about what the content of Scripture specifically is. It only says that whatever the content is, that when Scripture affirms something, it affirms it truly.
Also, Barrick did not make any arguments for a young Earth that I saw from a scientific perspective. Now he might discount this as man’s reason and such, but I would have liked to have seen something. I do not think these arguments work since I am not YEC, but I still would have liked to have seen them.
After all, if we are going to just simply say “We don’t need man’s reason” then my reply to that is “Then I do not need to read Barrick.” I do not need to go to his seminary and sit in his class and learn from him. I do not need to go to a church service and hear a pastor speak. I have everything I need with just myself.
Yet I will not be the one who thinks that the Holy Spirit has only guided me into truth and everyone else is just ignorant.
Sadly in many ways, it comes across as just a self-righteous and holier than thou approach to argumentation. I do not think that that is at all conducive to good debate and discussion and while of course the case of Scripture is supreme, there is no harm in looking at extra-Biblical sources. The Bible was not written in a vacuum and we dare not proclaim there is a cleft between the book of Scripture and the book of nature.
The book ends with essays by Greg Boyd and Philip Ryken with Boyd arguing that Adam is not an essential to the faith and Ryken saying that if we don’t have a historical Adam, then Christianity is seriously undermined.
Frankly, I see Ryken’s argument as a kind of paranoia in Christians that if you take this one step, then everything goes down from there. I do not see the argument that if there is no Adam, there is no original sin and thus no need of a savior. If I need to see original sin, I just need to turn on the evening news and see that there is a need for a savior. If I want to see if Christianity is true, I look and see if Jesus is risen. I find it bizarre to think that we could say “Yeah. Jesus came and died and rose from the dead, but Adam didn’t exist so Christianity is false.” I can’t help but think of what G.K. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy:
“If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”
I highly recommend this volume as an important work on an important question. While I do not think this is a salvation question, I do think this is an important one and one worth discussing.
What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Friends, we have a great show lined up for you this Saturday! My guest is none other than Professor Craig Evans and we are going to be talking about Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other archaeological findings that have helped us in our understanding of Christianity.
If you don’t know who Evans is, well let me tell you. The following is a mini-biography that I have straight from the source.
Craig A. Evans is Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. He earned a doctorate in biblical studies at Claremont Graduate University in 1983 and in 2009 received the Decretum Habilitationis from the Reformed University in Budapest. Prior to his appointment at Acadia he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and for twenty-one years was Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, where for many years he chaired the Religious Studies Department, founded the Dead sea Scrolls Institute, and directed the graduate program in Biblical Studies. He was also for one year a Visiting Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.
Professor Evans is author or editor of more than seventy books. Among his authored books are Word and Glory: On the Exegetical and Theological Background of John’s Prologue (1993), Luke and Scripture: The Function of Sacred Tradition in Luke-Acts (1993), Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (1995), Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration (1997), Mark (2001), The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke (2003), Jesus and the Ossuaries (2003), Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (2005), Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (2006), with N.T. Wright, Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened (2009), and The World of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence (2012).
Professor Evans has also authored more than three hundred articles and reviews. He served as senior editor of the Bulletin for Biblical Research (1995–2004) and the Dictionary of New Testament Background (2000), winner of a Gold Medallion. Currently Evans is serving on the editorial boards of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus and the Library of New Testament Studies. At the spring 2006 commencement the Alumni Association of Acadia University honoured Professor Evans with the Excellence in Research Award.
Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Oxford, Yale, and other universities, colleges, seminaries, and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He also regularly lectures and gives talks at popular conferences and retreats on the Bible and Archaeology, including the Biblical Archaeology Society summer sessions and Seminars at Sea. He also presented a paper at the prestigious Joseph Ratzinger Foundation Symposium held in the Vatican.
Professor Evans appears regularly on television, on the History Channel, History Television, BBC, Discovery Channel, Day of Discovery, and in Dateline NBC’s 2004 specials “The Last Days of Jesus” and “Jesus the Healer,” which were watched by more than 25 million North Americans. In 2005 he appeared on Dateline NBC’s “The Mystery of Miracles” and “The Birth of Jesus,” as well as History Channel’s “The Search for John the Baptist.” Professor Evans also appeared in 2006 in National Geographic Channel’s documentary on the recently discovered Gospel of Judas and the sequel entitled “The Secret Lives of Jesus,” as well as in Dateline NBC’s “The Mystery of the Jesus Papers.” He also served as consultant for the epic television miniseries The Bible, produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, which was watched by more than 100 million viewers. For fun he participates annually in archeological digs in the Middle East and volunteer-teaches at schools world-wide.
Professor Evans lives in Kentville, Nova Scotia, with his wife Ginny; they have two grown daughters and a grandson.
As you can tell, Evans is certainly well-prepared and a great authority in the field. I hope you’ll be listening in with your questions ready. The show airs from 3-5 PM EST and the call-in number is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.
So why did I not even bother watching the big debate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Awhile back, I first heard the news about how Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was going to debate Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I had great frustration as soon as I heard about the debate. On Facebook after the debate, someone in apologetics I know posted asking who won. My pick obviously didn’t win, and that was the meteor shower that should have come through and knocked the satellites broadcasting it out of the sky or else the winter snowstorm that could have cancelled the whole event. I replied that I don’t know who won, but I’m sure the loser was everyone on the planet.
Yet a few people did ask me what I thought about it and wasn’t I excited about this debate. Therefore, I figured I’d write something so that those who want to know my opinion on the whole matter could see what it is and why that I hold it.
As readers know, I am an old-earth creationist. I do not hold hostility towards YEC. My ministry partner is a YEC. More importantly, my wife is a YEC. What I have a problem with is a dogmatic YEC. I in fact have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC. Someone is not more or less of a Christian because of their views on the age of the Earth. There are people who love Jesus more than I do who are YEC. There are people who love him more than I do who are OEC.
Having said that, part of the problem those of us who are OEC have to overcome is constantly having it be assumed that if we’re Christians, then that means that we believe in a young Earth and we don’t. Too often, YEC is presented as the biblical model. As readers know, I happen to think John Walton has the right model. My review of his book on the topic can be found here and my interview with him can be found here.
I also have another viewpoint that can be considered different from a number of Christians and that is that I do not consider the question of evolution important to Christian truth. That does not mean the question is unimportant in itself, but if you want to know if Christianity is true or not, you do not need to ask if evolution is true or not. Now if matter is all there is, then of course Christianity is not true, but because evolution is true, it does not necessitate that matter is all that there is.
In my own work, I refuse to speak on evolution as evolution and my reasoning for doing such is quite simple. I am no scientist. If evolution is to be critiqued, I believe it should be critiqued scientifically. I do not possess the necessary study and/or credentials to do that. If I fault the new atheists for speaking on philosophy, history, biblical studies, etc. without proper background and/or study, then I will follow the same pattern.
For those who do wish to critique evolution, there is no reason to bring Scripture into it. The claim of evolution is a scientific claim and if it falls, it will fall on a scientific basis. I have no problem with people critiquing evolution. I hold no position on the matter simply because I could not scientifically defend or deny evolutionary theory. It is the same reason I do not use Craig’s Kalam argument for the origin of the universe. I am not a scientist and it is not my language. I will stick to the metaphysical arguments instead.
So when I see the Ham/Nye debate, I see the perpetuating of a stereotype that I do not want perpetuated. I see it being made as again, science vs. the Bible and if you hold to the Bible, well you have to hold to a young-earth.
When we are trying to get people to become Christians, our goal should not be to get them to a viewpoint on the origins of old creation but rather on new creation. We want to get them to the risen Jesus and not to a 10,000 year old Earth. Suppose that someone believes in evolutionary theory and a 4.5. billion year old Earth, but also believes Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.
Now on the other hand, suppose there is someone, perhaps a Jew, who will stand with Ken Ham and say that the Earth is indeed 10,000 years old and macroevolutionary theory is a fairy tale. Suppose also that this person being a Jew and not Messianic denies that Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is not in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.
So which one should we be emphasizing and getting people to realize the most? The age of the Earth and a stance on evolution, or should it be that we are getting them to recognize that Jesus is the risen Lord?
What we do too often is tell atheists that if you want to be a Christian, then you must deny what you are certain of by the sciences. What we also do is tell Christians that if you want to be a follower of Christ, you must believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old. Both positions I am sure will keep people away from the Kingdom.
It is my hope not that Christians will embrace evolution as I do not care about that, but that they will realize that it doesn’t matter and the ultimate hope is to realize that Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe. If you are someone who is capable of presenting every argument you can for the Earth being young, but you are unable to make an argument that Jesus is the risen Lord, then you have made a mistake somewhere along the way.
It is because it feeds a debate then that I do not support in any way that I refused to watch the Ham/Nye debate and so far, no one has given me any reason why I should.
What do I think of Holding’s book on conspiracies? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
My ministry partner J.P. Holding recently sent me a copy of his latest E-Book on dealing with conspiracy theories. Like many of his recent E-Books, this is a quick read as I tend to only read the Kindle at night and managed to go through it in just a few nights.
The whole theme of the book is about conspiracies that are often believed today involving any number of topics such as Alexander Hislop or the masons and Jesuits or whether Pope Francis or Barack Obama are the antichrist.
The title refers to such an idea as an example with the agnostic John Allegro writing a book where Christianity was a cult group that was created due to the effects of a certain mushroom in the area on the minds of the people. It was such a bad book that Allegro wrote on the topic that fourteen scholars took out an ad against it.
From here, Holding goes on to discuss various beliefs of people who are big into conspiracies. Naturally, such people can be hard to reason with because as soon as you deny the claim that they are making, well that’s because you’re part of the conspiracy! This is quite evident to several of us who have had to deal with the claims of Zeitgeist. If we’re not part of the conspiracy directly, well we’re just horribly duped by it.
Many of these you will just find it hard to believe. How can anyone take any of these seriously? Alas, I don’t doubt that many do. Most of these I had frankly never heard of. It would indeed be a stretch many times to put the occult significance into many of the items mentioned as no one would really notice. How can you convince people of a message if no one can understand the message?
I say this as someone who regularly gets asked questions about so many items in the world. Is X occult? Is this pagan? Over and over. Nowadays, it’s come to the point that when someone asks me if something is demonic, my default position is no because I’ve heard a case for most everything being demonic.
Perhaps also that’s something different about this book. I wasn’t able to get into this one as much and it could be because I’ve heard claims of “Demonic” so many times that I just start to roll my eyes. There are some ways I would also like to see some changes in future editions.
First, I kept wanting there to be some different title for the people being addressed. I heard conspiracy buffs, conspiracy guys, conspiracy X regularly. Holding is quite good at finding an appropriate label and sticking it most of the time so I was hoping there was just one humorous term we could include over these people.
The second area that I would like to see change in is that at the start, we are told we will be shown how to find the answers to this. I think it would be quite helpful for Holding to describe how he as one skilled in the use of a library, went about doing his research. What questions should one ask when considering a conspiracy theory? What resources should one look to? What resources should one not look to? What should qualify as a standard of proof?
Still, this is an interesting read and most of the time you’ll be rolling your eyes thinking “These people really believe that?” The sad answer is “Yes.”