Book Plunge: 7 Things I Wish Christians Knew About The Bible

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

I have to say that every time I read something about Michael Bird, I get a treat. Michael Bird is an author with keen insights and a pastoral heart as well, but he also has a great touch of humor and will say so many statements that make you laugh all throughout the book. I would be thrilled to see him team up with Andy Bannister to write a book.

This is a book written for Christians, though I think it can be helpful for non-Christians as well. In it, he gives seven different statements that many of us might think are old hat, but in reality, there are people who treat the Bible this way even if they know it’s not literally so. For instance, the first one is that the Bible didn’t fall out of the sky.

Really, even if we don’t know how the Bible came about, somehow, we all know that it didn’t. In reality though, we do often treat it that way. The Bible is a divine book to be sure, but it is also a very human book. That’s actually the second, This gives us more of how the Bible was written by people and has their own personality styles in the text.

Third is that the Bible is normative and not negotiable. In this, he wants us to realize that Scripture is the place of authority. We don’t just pick and choose. Too many “churches” today have the idea that the Bible is authoritative when it speaks properly, which by the way, happens to be the times that it agrees with them. Amazing!

Next is that the Bible is for our time, but it’s not about our time. This is especially the case with modern prophecy experts who think everything going on is talked about in Scripture, they are shown to be wrong, but then a year or two later, the exact things happen again. I am not just talking about so-called prophecy experts. I am also talking about laypeople who read the Bible this way. (Sometimes, they sadly commit the unpardonable sin of calling the final book “Revelations.”)

The fifth is that the Bible should always be taken seriously, but not literally. Somehow, we live in a time that thinks that literal interpretation is the best way to read the Bible every time. The early church really enjoyed allegory, for example. Too many atheists also make a big deal about literal interpretation.

The sixth is that the purpose of the book is to give us faith, hope, and love. Now here, I would have liked to have seen Bird say something about the fake view of faith as belief without evidence or something similar. Still, Bird’s point is entirely valid. As much as an academic like myself wants to gain a lot of knowledge and as much as some people might go to the Bible wanting to get personal advice on how to live, and neither of those are bad in themselves, the main goal is to produce the character of faith, hope, and love.

Finally, Christ is the center of it all. However, saying that, he wants us to be careful to not forget the Father or the Spirit. He also wants us to make sure we don’t just read Christ into everything without first understanding what the text says in itself. Also, he thinks we should be able to teach Jesus as Messiah from the Old Testament, which I agree with.

Bird’s given us a great gift in this one. I highly encourage you to go and read this one. You’ll laugh a few times and you’ll learn something.

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

 

How To Ace Bible Trivia

Is answering trivia the goal? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few days ago at my workplace, I found an item someone decided not to purchase that had been left behind. It was a book for middle schoolers on how to ace a world history exam. As I saw it, I thought that is part of the problem with the education system today. We teach students how to pass tests. They are taught knowledge for the sake of knowledge. They are not taught how to apply it.

When we don’t see the relevance of something to our lives, we quickly forget it. I can remember how to get through levels on video games I played decades ago, but I don’t remember a bit how to do quadratic equations, with respect to my algebra teacher. Why is that? Because I have never once had to use the process to do quadratic equations, but I sure have played my share of video games.

Fortunately, this doesn’t go on in the church. In the church, we only learn what is relevant to our lives. We don’t just give information so we will know stuff. We show the relevance of….oh please stop laughing already.

Yes. This is exactly what we do in the church. Let’s take something simple. We teach our children the ten commandments. Okay. That’s good. Why do we follow them? Don’t murder? That seems like an obvious one, but why not? Why is murder condemned? How many of us as young children also cited “Do not commit adultery”, but we had no clue what adultery was?

We teach our children how to do Bible drills. Congratulations! You can look up Philippians 4:13 faster than anyone else in the church! What good will that do you if you don’t have a clue what the passage really means? If we teach them anything about verses, well, it’s all about them. Philippians 4:13 is not about the glory of Christ, but it is about winning football games.

Don’t forget the trips that we send them on! They go on these trips that are youth conferences and come back and get super excited and want to tell the world about Jesus and life is awesome!

For about a week or two if that long.

After that, it’s right back to the same old thing.

If all we are teaching our youth is the content of the Bible, we are failing them. This is nothing against said content. This is just saying that we need to know the relevance of the content. We don’t need just pieces of Christianity. We need a whole tapestry of Christianity woven together so the students do see the importance and relevance of it in their daily lives.

Otherwise, the guy is with the girl and they’re alone together and she starts coming on really strong to him. So here he has a hot girl that he will really want to be intimate with and on the other hand, he has a verse in his head saying “Do not commit adultery” with no reason why other than don’t. Which one is he going to listen to? Now imagine instead if he has a whole biblical worldview on sex and marriage and understands based on that the importance of waiting for marriage and how giving in to temptation dishonors the God He serves who is to be His king?

Folks. It’s not enough anymore to just teach our youth facts about the Bible. They will forget them just as quickly as we forget things in school we don’t deem relevant to our lives. They need to be taught a whole worldview, a whole curriculum. They need to be taught about how every facet of their lives intersects with Christianity. It can’t just be about them. We also don’t just teach them isolated verses. We teach them the context of those verses and how they apply.

In the end, they’ll have a greatly informed biblical worldview that does apply to them to help them in their lives.

And they’ll probably still rock at Bible drills anyway.

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

Book Plunge: Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible

What do I think of Joseph Keysor’s book published by Athanatos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I know I haven’t done a book plunge in awhile. It’s not because I haven’t been reading. It’s because I was reading books on the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and I didn’t plan to review those but to save them for a future ebook. If I read books relevant to future debates I have planned or future ebooks, I will not review those, but i will try to review books that aren’t relevant to those.

This is one I decided to get after Hitler came up in a discussion on my Facebook page. I was reading David Robertson’s Magnificent Obsession where he just casually recommended this one and being a fan of his, I decided I would get it. I thought it sounded like it would be a quick read at first. Not complaining, but I was sure wrong about that.

Keysor has definitely taken an in-depth look at Hitler and asked about his influences. Some people like to say that Hitler was heavily influenced by Martin Luther, but Keysor notes many many other people at the time that were more influential to Hitler. Now there is a downside here in that when Keysor introduces people and places, he doesn’t always explain them. The reader who doesn’t know will be lost at these parts.

However, he does quote numerous authorities in the area of Hitler research. He doesn’t hide at all that he is a Christian and is striving to show how much Nazism was opposed to Christianity. At the same time, he freely, and I think correctly, argues that Hitler wasn’t an atheist. If anything, we could say his god was more like a will to power that was vaguely pantheistic I think. His god agreed with him on the need of a pure race and the greatness of the German nation.

Keysor largely starts his work looking at the history of anti-semitism. This includes looking at various passages in the New Testament that are claimed to be anti-semitic. From there, he goes through history, of course with an in-depth look at Martin Luther, and then up to modern times. As one sees later in the book, there are a surprising number of German thinkers who had anti-semitic tendencies, including Kant and Nietzsche.

He then looks at Christians in Nazi Germany. Not all that was called Christian was Christian. There was a movement called Positive Christianity that was built around the alleged greatness of the Aryan Race claiming that Jesus Himself was an Aryan who decided to fight against the Jews. He also looks at Christians who stood up to the Nazi regime and points out times where the Catholic Church did as well, even though they get a lot of scorn for how they handled Hitler, and answers questions like why the Church handled Hitler the way it did, even though Keysor is definitely not a Roman Catholic.

From there, he looks at those who were influences on Hitler, including Wagner, Chamberlain, Nietzsche, and Haeckel. Mentioned also throughout regularly will be Darwin. At times, I thought Keysor was way too hard on philosophy and seemed to get preachy. I also think he too often made a split between evolution and Christianity, as if you couldn’t believe in both.

I do think he rightly points out that Hitler was not an idiot. He read well and had many influences on his thought, though he didn’t name them since he was to be the self-made man. He was also a politician through and through. He knew that if he came out and made several public anti-Christian statements that he would not get the support he wanted, so he would make a promise to the churches, they would accept, and the next day he would break it.

Nazi Germany was also incredibly scientific. The problem was they had no moral basis to guide their science and the science was used for whatever was good for Nazi Germany and if that meant gassing Jews and others, well that was what would be done. After all, humanity had to eliminate the undesirables.

Is some evolutionary thinking involved here? It would be hard to deny otherwise. That doesn’t say anything about the truth or falsehood of evolutionary theory. It does show that we shouldn’t try, if we believe in it, to force the process alone ourselves.

If there is any near comparison today, it is, of course, abortion. The unborn are made to be less than human and thus able to be killed and then this is done for the good of the rest of us. For many of us, this shows how far we have lost our moral grounding.

So this is still a good book, aside from the caveats of sometimes getting too preachy, downing philosophy at times, and making evolution and Christianity an either/or. I also suspect the writer is more in the Calvinistic camp as I did see some presuppositionalist tendencies. However, there is still a lot here to ponder and one will get introduced to other works, some I plan to get to someday.

If you want to study Hitler then, this is a good place to start.

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

Marriage in the Bible Intro

How do we see marriage explicitly? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re in the book of Exodus in our look through the Bible at marriage and as we get into this, we will see a lot of customs that don’t match up with a modern Western approach to marriage. This isn’t a culture that practices dating or marriage for love. You do not normally choose your spouse. Marriage seems to be a different kind of relationship.

At this point, skeptics of the Bible who tend to be left politically shout with glee about how much marriage has changed. Thus, we live in a time also where marriage is changing and it is changing so much that it is no longer supposedly a union of a man and a woman. We have already changed marriage since then, so why not?

So for this, I want to give a brief overview. Some matters will be acknowledged. Why people enter into marriage has changed. Why people got married has changed. How people got married has changed. There is something that hasn’t changed.

Marriage hasn’t.

But what about polygamy?

This was a borderline practice that was allowed in the Old Testament. Still, if anything, this could count as one man having multiple marriages. When Joash was the last surviving member of the line of David that was able to rule, he was granted to have two wives. After all, they needed to produce more children again.

So in the Old Testament, most marriages were arranged. This is still common in much of the world today. A person doesn’t know their spouse sometimes until the day that they marry them and then they are to give to the relationship and make it work. In many cases, it really does work.

Marriage was mainly about the uniting of the families together and the survival of the family. This was to pass on the heritage of the family and ensure that they would not be forgotten in Israel. Producing children was a must as that was the way to make sure this would take place and you needed a lot. Today, we take it for granted that our children will live and start saving for college while they’re in the womb. Not so in those days. Child mortality was very common.

While love was not the basis, there was no doubt that it was hoped for. If you read Proverbs, a man is told to delight in his wife. Song of Songs is a very passionate poem about love and especially sexual love in a marriage relationship.

Divorce did happen, but it was not a practice that God celebrated in Scripture, even when He did it Himself to Israel. The breaking of a covenant is always a tragedy. Now I realize some people are saying, “But my spouse abused me. Are you saying that the divorce was a tragedy?” Yes, and hear me out on this please. It is a tragedy that one person broke a promise to love and cherish the other and treat them like a partner in life and wound up abusing and/or betraying them. While the divorce was sadly a necessity in this case, the first tragedy is that the betrayal had already taken place. It is sad the situation was so bad that one person had to remove themselves from it to protect themselves when marriage was meant to be a relationship for the growing of love between the two.

So as we go into this, I’m not going to say every time about how different the union was entered into and the different purposes it served. I figure it’s easier to do this upfront than to do that. Still, we will see differences between our day and theirs. The past is a strange place. They do things differently there.

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

Yes. You Need To Study Before Arguing.

Do too many people argue without knowing what they’re talking about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there’s something I see on Facebook debates and any debates online for that matter, it’s a lack of real research into what people are talking about. No. It’s not just atheists who do this. Christians do it as well.

Yesterday, I saw a debate going on about Genesis 1 and evolution. It’s easy for an atheist to assume that the only interpretation of Genesis 1 that every Christian must hold to is young-earth creationism. This is not to say that that view is right or wrong, but it is to say the debate is not as easy as that.

Not only that, whichever view an informed Christian holds on the topic of Genesis 1, normally they have a defense of the position that they hold so a basic stumper objection that someone thinks is so powerful just won’t work. It’s not so easy to say “Well if there were plants on day three, how does that work if the sun wasn’t there until day four?”

On the other hand, a Christian will automatically jump to critiquing evolution. Now I know that some Christians do disbelieve in evolution and some of those are Christians who have really studied science and are informed on the topic. I have no problem with those. They could be right for all I know.

Unfortunately, too many Christians want to throw out an objection they read and they have never studied the science at all. Hint. If you can’t figure out how to work a Punnett Square, you probably shouldn’t be debating evolution. If you do debate it, also make sure it is science vs science and not the Bible vs science. If evolution falls, it will because it will be shown to be bad science.

The problem with all of this is that these are all complex topics. Science is a deep field that people spend years studying and do a PhD on one facet of the scientific kingdom and normally specialize in that area. Being a scientist does not mean that you know everything about science or study it thoroughly.

The same with the Bible. It’s not really a book, but rather a collection of books. When Mike Licona and I have talked about gaming together, he has said he doesn’t want to play Bible trivia against me. Why? He’s a New Testament scholar? It’s because he knows he’s not well-versed on the Old Testament and I would likely do better in that area.

Even in New Testament studies, someone can be specialized. Even a great scholar like N.T. Wright is not trained in the Gospel of John. He has said the Gospel is like his wife Maggie. He loves her, but he does not claim to understand her. Some will specialize in the Pauline epistles. Some Revelation. To do a commentary of one book can take years of study.

Most people who are making memes on the internet to argue against positions have very rarely done any study of them. If you are someone who uses memes as arguments in themselves, you’re probably doing a huge disservice. Memes can be fun illustrations of arguments, but they are not meant to be the arguments themselves.

Consider how this happens in philosophy. The problem of evil is probably the most potent argument against the existence of God. I don’t consider it logically persuasive, but I understand the emotional persuasion in it. However, if all you have is evil, odds are you need to do some more study. It’s too simplistic to just say “Evil is real, therefore God doesn’t exist.”

A lot of this comes down to a number of causes I think. The first is that we tend to have emotional commitments to positions that we hold. This can include a Christian who has ties to a doctrine such as Arminianism, the rapture, inerrancy, young-earth creationism, or any other position. (Each of those is also a position I have held to in the past or hold to today.) Emotional barriers make us incredibly resistant to rational persuasion.

I have no doubt a lot of atheists are atheists for primarily emotional reasons, such as dislike of God over the problem of evil, or a desire to live as they want, especially in the area of sexuality. I don’t doubt a lot of Christians base their Christianity on an emotional experience that they have had before as well. This is not to say that emotions should play no part in our thinking, but that they don’t need to be the main force.

There’s also that a lot of us think we shouldn’t really have to study something. There should be some silver bullet argument to take down any position. This is quite likely not going to happen for a complex worldview. They can exist for one particular argument, but not for the position as a whole.

So what’s the solution? There’s no easy way about it. A person needs to study and not just what they agree with, but what they disagree with. The great danger also is that simplistic thinkers will often think they are great thinkers. Too many Christians think they’re devastating evolution when those who study it are just rolling their eyes. Too many atheists think they’re Biblical scholars when those who have studied Scripture are just convinced the person is clueless. Anyone can have an opinion, but let’s not confuse an informed opinion with an uninformed one.

That also means study needs to be with books. Podcasts and YouTube videos are great, but the best material is to be found in books. Get the best and learn what you can. In debate, those who do not read will always be at the mercy of those who do.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Book Plunge: 100 Bible Verses That Made America

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

If you want to know about the history of America, it is imperative that you know about the Bible. You don’t have to be a Christian, of course, but a non-Christian should recognize the role that the Bible played in shaping our country. Our Founding Fathers were heavily influenced for the most part by the Bible.

This book follows that shaping from 1511 to 2019. Yes. Even before the country was founded, the seeds were being sown in Scripture that would make us who we are. Great figures in American history have used the Bible to inspire them and to inspire others. Great conversions led to intense ramifications for America.

My personal favorite stories largely took place in the 18th century. This is when our country was starting to establish itself and in war against the British. The way that pastors were targeted at that time is mind-blowing. Back then, the British put a bounty on the heads of certain pastors of churches. Today, most of our pastors are scared to say anything political because they could lose their 501c3.

These people relied on Scripture and based their lives on it. They believed Scripture called them to resist a government that was tyrannical and stand up for the freedom that they believed was found in Christ. Whether their interpretation was right or not, what matters is how seriously that they took the text.

Of course, one can’t avoid talking about American exceptionalism and if anything has made America exceptional, it has been the focus on Scripture. Christianity has shaped our country to be what it is and I have a great fear for what happens the further we move away from that. I keep coming back to a conversation I had a few years ago before even the 2016 election.

I made a statement to someone about the future of our nation that the gospel doesn’t need America, but America needs the gospel. That is still the case. If there is anything that our country needs today, it is still the gospel. We need 100 more instances of the Bible shaping America and even more.

That being said, sometimes in the book, I did question the connection between the verse and the historical incident. Was that incident specifically based on an understanding of the verse in question or did Morgan find a verse that he thought fit the context? I was unsure.

However, reading this will hopefully change your idea of American history. It really is a fascinating topic and with all going on in our country today, one I am definitely looking more into. For those of us who live in America, if we love our country, we need to know how we got to where we are and what we can do to keep America being what she’s meant to be.

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

Not Liking Scripture

Should you always enjoy Scripture? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I meet people who tell me they just look forward to getting up and reading the Bible every day. They just find such great delight and get a new insight every time they read it. Personally, I don’t really believe such people. The more prone someone is to tell me how spiritual they are, the less I am likely to believe them. The more someone tells me what a struggle their Christian walk is, the more I believe them.

Last night, I talked to someone who told me they recently read the Bible for the first time and as a Christian, there was a lot of stuff they didn’t like. I think this is something very real. If anything, I admire it. I don’t think highly of people who read through the text and never have any questions about it or get troubled by it whatsoever.

This person was wondering why Abraham would decide to sleep with his concubine or why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land. I really think these are good questions. I don’t want to go into them here, but I think they are good questions.

The point I wish to establish with this is someone who is wrestling with these questions is someone who is taking the text more seriously. Sadly, by those standards, some atheists online take the text more seriously than some Christians. The problem is most of those atheists never bother looking for answers to the questions. It just becomes, “I don’t like this, therefore the Bible is wrong and Christianity is false.”

When we read the Bible, we see the blemishes and faults of the characters. It’s not a pretty picture. David, the man after God’s own heart, is a murderer who can’t keep it in his pants. Moses is a murderer with a temper. Solomon, well, we all know how much he loved the ladies. In the New Testament, the apostles many times seem to be bumbling idiots that even Jesus Himself is exasperated with.

But there are also other parts of the Bible I don’t like. I don’t like being told I need to love my enemies. I’d like to do many things to my enemies, but love isn’t one of them. I don’t like being told I have to put others before myself. Personally, I’d love to be at the center of my own universe. I don’t like being told I have to forgive those who wrong me. I think it would often be more fun to sit back and plan a nasty revenge.

These are all things I am told to do though, and when I do them, I find I grow to be a better person regardless. Are they easy? Of course not. If they were, everyone would do them.

And honestly, I think this is the real problem many skeptics have with the Bible, especially in the area of sex. So many times when questions begin to arise, it can be because a member of the opposite sex is involved. If Christianity did not have high standards such as sex only within marriage and marriage is to be for life, then I think it would be more popular to people, but God’s ways are indeed not our ways.

As you read your Bible, realize it’s okay if it’s difficult or boring sometimes or you find things you don’t like. Still, I encourage you to keep wrestling with the text and asking the hard questions. They have been asked for years. However, it is foolish to ask a question and not seek an answer. That’s where too many atheists stop. Go find the answers. You might find that in the end, though you still don’t like everything in there, you respect the text a lot more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To David Cross

How did we not get the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let me tell you the story about how we got the idea of evolution.

Once in history Charles Darwin was sailing around in the Beagle Boat and saw a bunch of birds who had different beaks and came up with an idea of animals mutating into different forms, kind of like Pokemon, and then decided to extrapolate all the way back to the past. Modern scientists today think that there was a pond somewhere on Earth and a lightning bolt struck it and some cells came together and a bunch of them turned into a fish that crawled out of the ocean and turned into every other animal that we see over time. Unfortunately for the theory, Darwin recanted of it on his deathbed.

Anyone who is an evolutionist be it an evolutionary creationist or a naturalistic creationist would think I am a total moron on the theory saying that. You know what? They would be right. That would be one of the worst presentations I could give of evolution. That doesn’t mean that evolution is true, but it does mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about with it.

Now imagine if someone said the same kind of thing about the Bible? What if someone made a statement presuming to be an authority on a subject and yet it was nonsense? Such is the case with a meme I saw recently. I went to my site here to see if I had said anything about it and I hadn’t. Therefore, I decided I should write about it.

This meme is attributed to David Cross. I do not know for sure if he said the quote or not, but people spread it around anyway. For the sake of argument, I am going to be assuming it was said but even if it was not, the thought expressed, or lack of thought I should say, is one that is commonly shared.

So let’s look at this meme in all of its infamy.

Where to begin?

First off, the Bible is a book that was written over a long period of time so to say when it was written doesn’t really make sense. It’s also unclear about what is meant by when it was editing. Some editing did take place in copying, but this would be to replace an unknown location with what it was known by to the current audience. This is not a change of content.

As for dead languages, not at all. Three languages are in there. Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Today, there are scholars of all three languages so we can know what is said. it would also be false to say a translation was made of a translation of a translation of a translation. Go to the store and get any Bible you want. It has been translated one time. Each translation goes back to the manuscripts that we have to see what it says.

Then given to kings for their favorite parts? Which kings were these? Cross doesn’t say and for good reason. There aren’t any to say. For a king to make this kind of change, he would have to go and change every single manuscript out there that we do have of the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the New Testament, he would also have to change the quotations found in the early church fathers.

Then Cross goes back to the editing and re-editing and then talks about it being given to the Pope for him to approve. Which Pope? He doesn’t say. Again, this is for good reason. There wasn’t a Pope who did this.

We come back to the same refrain again to which he then says that all of this was based on stories told 30 to 90 years AFTER they happened.

Um. Mr. Cross. I don’t know how to break this to you, but most histories are written after the events happen. Some historians have tried writing about it before, but it really doesn’t work that well. It’s best to wait until the events take place and THEN write about them.

I would also think it would be awesome if we could get skeptics to say Genesis was written 30-90 years after the events took place. We could easily dispense of JEPD then. This again is another area where Cross doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Cross’s statement is also unclear. Did these stories just start getting told 30 to 90 years later? Doubtful. These were being told in the lifetime of Jesus even and these were oral societies that knew how to keep stories well. Don’t expect him to cite anyone like McIver or Dunn or Keener or anyone like that.

Also, 30 to 90 years in that time wasn’t a long time. Many of the lives of Plutarch were written over a century later. Many great historical works were written long after the events took place. This sounds like a problem to modern people. It’s not in the world of ancient history.

Finally, most people back then couldn’t read or write, but someone else could and that person would read a letter or Gospel. Normally, the person delivering the work would also know the author and be able to tell some of the details that weren’t written and answer questions. Again, no research is cited in this little meme but hey, lack of research has never stopped atheists from propagating statements of faith like this.

So no, you don’t have to wonder what it would be like for someone to get Biblical transmission as wrong as I got evolution.

David Cross has already done this for us and so have all the atheists who have shared this as if it was a convincing argument.

Steven Anderson on Mount Athos

What do I think of Steven Anderson’s views on Orthodoxy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those who don’t know yet, I am a thoroughly convinced Protestant. I have a wife who is interested in Eastern Orthodoxy and that did get me looking into issues of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It really was something I never wanted to get into since I am one who tries to be ecumenical. Now I do have a greater understanding of both positions and still disagree, but I don’t want people speaking wrongly against my brothers and sisters on the way.

For those who don’t know, Steven Anderson is this crazy pastor who thinks that we should kill all the homosexuals or that they should kill themselves. This is not to say that I think homosexuality is fine. I think Scripture is clear on the wrongness of homosexual practice. It’s also clear to me that we’re not in an Israelite theocracy based on the Old Testament Law.

I also find it interesting that the video we’ll be looking at has a description that says the real way to get to Heaven. It’s a shame that Pastor Anderson thinks that the whole point of Christianity is to get to Heaven. That is part of it, but the goal of the gospel is to bring honor to God and has an impact for this life and not just the next one.

In this video, Pastor Anderson says that he is told that he needs to look into Mount Athos. Some of you might not know that for Orthodox people, Mount Athos is one of the most holy sites out there. I don’t claim to fully understand that, but I know when I’m at the Orthodox Church and hear Mount Athos mentioned, it’s a really big deal.

The first thing he talks about is the idea of vain repetition. I understand the concern with saying the Jesus Prayer over and over and I do agree that some people could get into this being a rote thing that they do without any real motivation behind it, but the constant repetition does not equal vain repetition. Jesus condemns a certain kind of repetition, but He does not condemn all of it.

The Jesus Prayer in my understanding is meant to change the person praying more than be a constant plea for mercy. It’s meant to make them think about who Jesus is. It’s up to the person to determine if they’re being vain in their repetition or not.

Next he mentions praying to Mary. Now I do disagree with this practice, but at the same time, I’m not ready to say everyone who has done such is being thrown into hell or is outside of the body. I would find it hard to condemn Christians across the centuries who have been doing this since whenever it started, and any Orthodox person who wants to convince me it started early had better bring some really good historical evidence to the table.

The same will be said with praying to the saints. While I disagree with this, I am not one who thinks that there were no true Christians after the apostles died until Martin Luther showed up again. I actually think most Catholics while disagreeing with Luther would agree that the Catholic Church needed some reformation and change in it and there were corrupt practices going on. Any material about practices like this then I will not say further on but just point back to these sections.

He also says something about the drinking of alcohol. He is right that the Bible condemns drunkenness, but it does not follow that it condemns alcohol, any more than the Bible condemning gluttony means that it condemns eating. The Bible condemns extramarital sex, but it thoroughly commends it between husband and wife in marital union. Jesus did not turn the water into grape juice at Cana.

I want to say at this point also that I do not say this as one who drinks alcohol. My wife has come to accept that I am willing to change my diet in many areas, but I just never want to drink alcohol. If you can control it, I have no problem with you drinking it, but I will abstain.

He then goes on to a monk carving a crucifix and says it is the making of idols even though we are told to not make any graven images. To begin with, if images are the problem, then what is going on behind Pastor Anderson in his own church video with watching a service live? Would we really say the problem with the image is that it is graven instead of that it is an image?

The first person to be explicitly said to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the Bible is a man named Bezalel. Who was he? An artist. He made images that he was ordered by God to make. Now it could be that the Bible contradicts itself in such an obvious way, or else the prohibition is not against images, but rather against the use of images to worship.

This is a point the Iconophiles brought up against the iconoclasts in the debates about the use of icons. At the same time, I want to be aware that yes, some people could treat icons and relics as if they were magic charms which is just as bad. The misuse of an object does not point to a lack of a proper use.

He also says that the Bible says it’s a shame for a man to have long hair and every priest and monk on Mount Athos has that. Samson also had it as that was part of the Nazarite vow. What is going on in 1 Corinthians is Paul is addressing practices of the day. How men and women wore their hair said something to their culture then. Were I to visit Anderson’s church, would he want me to greet his wife with a holy kiss? That’s what Scripture tells me I am to do.

Pastor Anderson said that Jesus said to beware of the ones who go around in long clothing. Jesus was speaking more of the tassels on the garments and those were used to show a special kind of holiness. In other words, Jesus was against wearing clothes for the purpose of showing off your holiness. It’s not as if Jesus would have no problem with the scribes and Pharisees if they suddenly switched to shorts and T-shirts.

He also has a statement about the prohibition of calling people Father. Now at this time, I also do not call priests in the church by the name of Father. At the same time, I recognize there are some ridiculous extremes that can be taken, such as the video my wife and I saw once about the man who called his parents by their names instead of Mom and Dad even to avoid breaking the commandment of Christ.

He also looks at collections of skulls and femurs and other bones they have and says that the Bible says to bury the dead out of sight and to not touch dead bodies. It’s really a shame a pastor has such a poor understanding of Israelite Law and its relation to Gentiles today in light of the new covenant. My understanding is that these are gathered to remind the people of the resurrection that is coming.

There’s a part here where in what is apparently an aside he says that the monks are dressed like warlocks. I am sure in movies and TV shows and video games warlocks dress in these robes, but I am also sure that in real life, they could dress just like everyone else for the most part. As I say this, it is still morning and I am wearing my Legend of Zelda robe. I suppose Pastor Anderson is convinced I’m a heathen then.

He also says that the Bible says that all those who hate me love death. He doesn’t say who says this, but it is Wisdom in the book of Proverbs. This is said about the skull collecting, but does that equal a love of death? Does someone who grows up wanting to be a mortician then hate Jesus? This is not done to worship the dead but to honor the dead.

He then goes and says there is no monastery or monk in the Bible. True. There’s also no such thing as a pulpit or a pew in the Bible as well. I wonder if Pastor Anderson’s church has a parking lot and heating and air system in it since those aren’t in the Bible. His services are recorded, even though the Bible says nothing about that. If he wants to go the argument from silence route, I expect him to be consistent.

Finally, in criticism, he says that Orthodoxy is closer to Eastern practices and he gives Buddhism as an example. The thing is, he’s right and also wrong. I don’t think it’s like Buddhism, but it is closer to Eastern practices. What else is closer to that is the culture of the Bible itself. Pastor Anderson probably knows nothing about the eastern dynamics of honor and shame and agonistic societies. The Bible is itself not a Western book. It is a Middle Eastern one.

He encourages people to come to the real Jesus and the real gospel. I encourage that, but I have many friends who are Orthodox and Catholic. We disagree on many things, but there is something we don’t disagree on. We agree on who Jesus is.

I am sure Pastor Anderson’s motivations for this are noble, but his criticisms are way off the mark. I encourage healthy dialogue between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox on our differences, but let’s make sure they are informed criticisms. I also encourage that we try to recognize that others are Christians as well. Not all Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants are Christians, of course, but for the most part, the doctrines all agree on the centrality of Christ and His work in salvation.

Let’s try to focus first on what we agree on. Alright?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Further Responding to Jim Hall

How do we deal with common objections? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So do you remember Jim Hall? You don’t? Yeah. His work is pretty unforgettable, but he’s the guy who wrote a book which is not worth your time to read at all and I reviewed. I shared my review with him publicly on Facebook and he has yet to respond to it at all. Instead, he has told me I am intellectually dishonest. On what grounds? Well, none have been given. Recently on someone’s wall he made a list of claims that are common I figured I’d respond to here just because I can and I know again, he won’t respond.

Objection #1:There are over 60 gospels, only four were arbitrarily added to the Bible.

Yes. Arbitrarily added. Of course, Hall will never ever dare read a book like Charles Hill’s Who Chose The Gospels? Nope. That requires research. He won’t look and say “Hmmm. Who were the ones the earliest church fathers were pointing to?” We find extremely early on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John being put out on display. Why is this? Because these were seen to be the most reliable by the church and connected to apostles.

As for arbitrarily chosen, by who? Perhaps Hall buys into the myth that these books were voted on at the Council of Nicea. Good luck finding evidence for that. It’s a common myth, but there is nothing that has been produced from the Council itself saying it. As Ehrman says:

http://ehrmanblog.org/widespread-misconceptions-council-nicea/

Ehrman on the NT Canon and the Council of Nicea. Widespread Misconceptions about the Council of Nicea (For Members)

One of the reasons I’m excited about doing my new course for the Teaching Company (a.k.a. The Great Courses) is that I’ll be able to devote three lectures to the Arian Controversy, the Conversion of the emperor Constantine, and the Council of Nicea (in 325 CE). It seems to me that a lot more people know about the Council of Nicea today than 20 years ago – i.e., they know that there *was* such a thing – and at the same time they know so little about it. Or rather, what they think they know about it is WRONG.

I suppose we have no one more to blame for this than Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code, where, among other things, we are told that Constantine called the Council in order to “decide” on whether Jesus was divine or not, and that they took a vote on whether he was human or “the Son of God.” And, according to Dan Brown’s lead character (his expert on all things Christian), Lee Teabing, “it was a close vote at that.”

That is so wrong.

There are also a lot of people who think (I base this on the number of times I hear this or am asked about it) that it was at the Council of Nicea that the canon of the New Testament was decided. That is, this is when Christian leaders allegedly decided which books would be accepted into the New Testament and which ones would be left out.

That too is wrong.

So here’s the deal. First, the canon of the New Tesatment was not a topic of discussion at the Council of Nicea. It was not talked about. It was not debated. It was not decided. Period. The formation of the canon was a long drawn-out process, with different church leaders having different views about which books should be in and which should be out. I can devote some posts to the question if anyone is interested (I would need to look back to see if I’ve done that already!).

Short story: different church communities and Christian leaders preferred different books because they (the communities and leaders) had different understandings of what the faith was and should be – even within the orthodox community there were disagreements.

The *first* author ever to list *our* 27 books and claim that *these* (and no others) were “the” books of the New Testament was the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, in the year 367 (45 years *after* the council of Nicea!) in a letter that he wrote to the churches under his control to whom he was giving his annual episcopal advice. And even that did not decide the issue: different orthodox churches continued to think that some books should be in, for example, that didn’t make it in (e.g. 1 and 2 Clement; the Shepherd of Hermas; the Letter of Barnabas).

There never was a church council that decided the issue – until the (anti-Reformation, Roman Catholic) Council of Trent in the 16th century!



We can also point out that when we look at the earliest opponents of Christianity, such as Celsus, what do they respond to? Yep. The four Gospels.

Finally, let’s see what Bart Ehrman says about this:

If historians want to know what Jesus said and did they are more or less constrained to use the New Testament Gospels as their principal sources. Let me emphasize that this is not for religious or theological reasons–for instance, that these and these alone can be trusted. It is for historical reasons pure and simple. (Ehrman, The New Testament, page 215)

Objection #2: None of the Bible authors ever actually met Jesus face-to-face.

Again, no evidence is given of this. It’s an assertion. Could it be true? Perhaps. Does he respond to someone like, say, Richard Bauckham with his work Jesus and the Eyewitnesses? Nope. Not a bit. No historians are cited.

Atheists like Hall often make these statements of faith. How would they establish that? Again, Hall gives us no reason to believe that.

Objection #3: The gospels were written anonymously, at least 30 years after the crucifixion.

Let’s suppose they were anonymous, although Martin Hengel disagrees. So what? Many works from the ancient world were anonymous. That doesn’t mean we have no idea about who the author is. E.P. Sanders has a reason also why they were anonymous.

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

Furthermore, the Pastoral epistles are not anonymous and say they are by Paul. Does that mean that skeptics immediately jump on that and say “Hey! Paul wrote those!”? No. Why should I think a name on the Gospels would be any different?

Objection #4: Luke/Acts is widely agreed upon to have been written around 80CE.

Again, no evidence for this whatsoever. Hall gives no information to believe this claim. I also find it hard to believe that the author of Luke/Acts would say absolutely nothing about the death of Paul, Peter, or the destruction of Jerusalem. Now again, I could be mistaken in my belief, sure, but Hall doesn’t give me any evidence to go by.

Objection #5: If Harry Potter was the most-studied book in history, that still wouldn’t make it true.

I don’t know anyone who is saying the Bible is true because it is the most studied book in all of history. I have no idea what Hall is trying to establish with this claim. Let’s move on to the next.

Objection #6: There is no moral teaching in the Bible that cannot also be found in much older religions’ texts.

Reply: So what? The Bible is true because it contains some unique moral teaching? Morality is common knowledge that is meant for all men. You don’t need the Bible to know it.

Objection #7: “Positive impact on the world”? It has been cited for centuries to justify slavery and the subjugation of women.

Reply: Yes. The Bible has been misused. So what? Evil people misuse good things constantly. The Bible has also been used to end slavery repeatedly and to raise up women. That is never mentioned. Hall is free to find a nation untouched by the Bible at all where he would rather live if he thinks things are so awful in places the Bible has reached.

Again, I know Hall will not respond. He can claim I’m intellectually dishonest all he wants, but that will not work as well as just responding to the claims. Show I am wrong on something and I will accept it. We’ll see if that happens, but don’t hold your breath on it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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