Is Doing Science Good?

Is our science necessarily a blessing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor again having a sore throat and some lightheadedness. Turns out, I have strep. I am supposed to be able to go out into the world again on Thursday. For now, I am feeling a bit miserable.

Last night then, I was doing some gaming while listening to N.T. Wright. That’s something that usually always gets me thinking. Wright talked about Paul and the world he lived in and why he did what he did.

As I took my medication last night for Strep, I started considering it. What did people do in the time of Jesus when they had a sickness like this? There weren’t really medications that they could take that were as effective as what we have today. I really am thankful to live in this world where I can have medication available.

That got me considering about the nature of science. We have done this with medication and that is certainly a good use of the science that we have. However, why should we develop the science to work on this problem? We could just as easily poison everyone with a medication as we could cure them.

We have many things we could do with science, and sure, we do use science for weapons of war, but even when we do that, we don’t go out full throttle with them and unleash them on anyone else who disagrees with us. Had we wanted at one time, we could have taken over much of the world being militaristic.

Let’s imagine that we could go back to ancient Rome and give them the means to launch a nuclear weapon. Do we have any reason to think they would not have nuked Carthage in the Punic Wars? We could say that they would have made medication also and given it to all their people, but why think that? Rome wasn’t known for taking care of the poor. It would be better to take care of the elites and the military.

Today, we don’t really have this concern. It seems like a given to us that you care for the poor among you. It seems like a given that you try to use nonviolent means before going to violence. Why do we think differently?

It’s because before science became the force that it is on the scene, Christianity became a force as well. Our values were drastically changed by Christianity and most of us don’t realize that there is a background Christianity behind much of our moral thinking even if we don’t recognize it. Because of that, when we developed science, we thought of the ways that we could use it to help us and to explore the cosmos. We developed weapons of war so we could defend ourselves, but never with the intention of a militaristic takeover of the rest of the world. Again, ancient Rome would likely have done the opposite.

We are often told that we have a lot of blessings today because of our scientific enterprise, and I agree with that. However, if we didn’t have the moral categories we have, we could easily turn most any place we wanted to into Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We could easily infect the world in biological warfare and kill billions. It’s a blessing that we have this science today, but a better blessing that we have the moral teachings of Jesus that guide us.

Yet what will happen if we ever abandon that heritage and the morality that has been given to us?

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

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)

Is Christianity Bad For Aspergers?

Do Aspies get a major disadvantage? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I came across this post recently. I will grant it is an older post and one that a lot of people probably didn’t see, but it is raising concerns that I think need to be addressed. That’s on whether Christianity is bad for Aspergers.

The author, Corbin Croy, says that he is not formally diagnosed, but the diagnosis would make sense, and he is by no means an expert. From here, he goes on to list some problems with Christianity and Aspergers. It is clear he has some education in historical matters, but seems too caught up in modern phenomena of Christianity.

The first is that Christianity is too gesture oriented and not critically grounded. Croy points to events like altar calls and being slain in the Spirit. Part of the problem with the argument is that Croy never defines a gesture. Is a gesture any act on God’s part? If so, well it’s obvious God has to act at a certain point for Christianity to be true and it would be bizarre to think God has to keep doing that same event over and over again.

I have never found a problem with what Croy calls indirect communication with this. I can read the Gospels like most any other history and I can gather such information from the epistles as well. Croy makes much of how God speaks today, but I think this is largely a western problem that we have. We think we are so great that surely God must communicate with us directly today or God must speak in a clear way that modern 21st century Westerners can understand.

So on this first point, I am puzzled by what Croy means.

The second is a lack of freedom and again, I find it puzzling. Croy says Aspie memories are unreliable, but I find this odd. I consider my memory more reliable than that of many other people. Croy also says that Aspies can struggle to express themselves and that there is a lot of bickering and power plays going on in the church.

That’s not really an Aspie problem. That’s a human problem.

I hate to say it, but if any of us on the spectrum or off feel like we can’t speak or anything of that sort, that is a problem within us. We are responsible for our own feelings. No one else is. Despite what you think, no one can make you feel anything. If you have certain difficulties whether it be from Aspergers or anything else, it is up to you to deal with them. You can get help from others, naturally, but you own the responsibility.

At the same time, freedom is still not defined. Freedom doesn’t mean you can do anything you want. I can’t say, “I have Christian freedom, so I am going to sleep with every girl I can in my apartment complex.” Freedom means I am no longer under a penalty and I can behave the way that I ought without owing any debt.

Finally, Croy says Christianity has no fail-safe. Again, he doesn’t define this. If he means what to do if Christianity is false, of course we don’t have that because we do not think it is false. The only option we have is let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.

He also says Christianity has this idea called faith. He never defines it and it looks like he could mean more what Richard Dawkins means by it as just belief, and blind belief at that, instead of trust in what has been shown to be reliable. Croy’s whole argument here is confusing. He never really explains what he means by terms and acts like his experience is universal.

Christianity is hard for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone. The most worthwhile and good things we will ever do are hard. Being on the spectrum can be hard, but life itself can also be hard. Sadly, Croy has some challenges for himself, but I don’t think they’re because of Christianity per se. It could be more because of Western thinking instead of Christianity.

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

Book Plunge: Heaven and Hell

What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s latest published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Generally, I have enjoyed reading through Bart Ehrman books. I thoroughly disagree, but I like the books. However, when I read the one before this, The Triumph of Christianity, I found myself walking away disappointed. There just didn’t seem to be anything there like the last ones. I started reading Heaven and Hell when it came out, got caught up in other books, and it was just awhile before I came back. Perhaps it seems more like Ehrman is moving away from Jesus to an extent and going to other areas in history and philosophy and there just doesn’t seem to be as much there. I can’t say entirely.

This book is a look at the formation of the doctrine of the after-death, as I prefer to call it, in Christian thought. Ehrman starts with the way the pagans in the world viewed death. From there, he goes to the Old Testament and then to Jesus and on to Paul and looks as well at Revelation. From then on, he looks at the church throughout history and then gives some concluding remarks on how he views heaven and hell.

This also leads to questions of the nature of heaven and hell. Again, these are more theological and philosophical questions so it could be that this just isn’t Ehrman’s area and so it seems more like just personal opinion at that point. However, there are some interesting points worth noting in the book.

Ehrman does show that in the pagan world, generally speaking, resurrection was not a good thing. The body was a prison to be escaped. Thus, resurrection in the Jewish or Christian sense also did not fit in.

For many skeptics who think that resurrection was the Jews copying from Zoroastrianism, which shows up on the net at times, Ehrman cannot agree, which is refreshing. As he says:

More recently scholars have questioned a Persian derivation for the Jewish doctrine because of certain problems of dating.1 Some experts have undercut the entire thesis by pointing out that we actually do not have any Zoroastrian texts that support the idea of resurrection prior to its appearance in early Jewish writings. It is not clear who influenced whom. Even more significant, the timing does not make sense: Judah emerged from Persian rule in the fourth century BCE, when Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) swept through the eastern Mediterranean and defeated the Persian Empire. But the idea of bodily resurrection does not appear in Jewish texts for well over a century after that.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (pp. 104-105). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Also, on a humorous note, he gives the story of how in an account Jesus said people would hang by their teeth in Hell over fires. Some disciples asked “What if someone has no teeth?” Jesus would then reply, “The teeth will be provided!” This was a joke done by a professor not to be taken seriously.

Also, for those discounting the Gospels as sources for Jesus, Ehrman has the following:

Even the most critical scholars of the New Testament agree that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are by far our best sources of information for knowing about the historical Jesus.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 150). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately though, at times he lapses back into his more fundamentalist days of reading the text. As commenting about Mark 9:1 where Jesus says some standing here would not taste death before they saw the Kingdom of God come in power:

Jesus is not saying that people will go to heaven. He is saying that some of his disciples will still be alive when the end comes and God’s utopian kingdom arrives on earth. Or, as he says elsewhere, when his disciples asked when the end of the world would come: “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place” (Mark 13:30, emphasis added).

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 154). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

As I have argued, Jesus nowhere says when the Kingdom comes, it will be a utopia immediately. Jesus does not speak of the end of the world either, but of the end of the age. As an Orthodox Preterist, I’m convinced Jesus’s prediction was stunningly accurate.

Interesting also is what Ehrman says about 1 Cor. 15.

And so, for Paul, there will indeed be a resurrection. It will be bodily. But the human body will be transformed into an immortal, incorruptible, perfect, glorious entity no longer made of coarse stuff that can become sick, get injured, suffer in any way, or die. It will be a spiritual body, a perfect dwelling for life everlasting. It is in that context that one of the most misunderstood verses of Paul’s entire corpus occurs, a verse completely bungled not just by many modern readers but throughout the history of Christianity. That is when Paul insists: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). These words are often taken—precisely against Paul’s meaning—to suggest that eternal life will not be lived in the body. Wrong, wrong, wrong. For Paul it will be lived in a body—but in a body that has been glorified.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 182). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Ehrman also thinks the beast in Revelation 17 is the same as the beast that came out of the sea in Revelation 13. I disagree with this. Looking at the passage, it talks about a great harlot and the beast himself actually attacks this harlot after a time. Who is the harlot? Look at your Old Testament. One nation is repeatedly referred to as a harlot and that’s Israel. Israel would work with the Beast for a time, (Being Nero) in killing Christians, but in turn, the Roman Empire would eventually turn on the harlot, as Israel was destroyed in 70 A.D.

Yet at the end of this look on Revelation, Ehrman gives a paragraph that aside from the opening remark could easily be said in any evangelical church. As many preachers I know would say, “That’ll preach!”

Even if parts of the vision are difficult to unpack and explain and others simply do not cohere, the author’s main points are clear. His overarching message is that God is ultimately sovereign over this world, even if it doesn’t seem like it. We may live in a cesspool of misery and suffering, and things may be getting progressively worse. But God is in charge, and it is all going according to plan. Before the end, all hell will indeed break loose, but then God will intervene to restore all that has become corrupt, to make right all that is wrong. Good will ultimately prevail.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 230). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

In the end, where does Ehrman fall? While he rightly tells us to try to avoid emotional reasoning, it’s hard to not see this in his response.

Even though I have an instinctual fear of torment after death—as the view drilled into me from the time I could think about such things—I simply don’t believe it. Is it truly rational to think, as in the age-old Christian doctrine, that there is a divine being who created this world, loves all who are in it, and wants the very best for them, yet who has designed reality in such a way that if people make mistakes in life or do not believe the right things, they will die and be subjected to indescribable torments, not for the length of the time they committed their “offenses,” but for trillions of years—and that only as the beginning? Are we really to think that God is some kind of transcendent sadist intent on torturing people (or at least willing to allow them to be tortured) for all eternity, a divine being infinitely more vengeful than the worst monster who has ever existed? I just don’t believe it. Even if I instinctually fear it, I don’t believe it.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (pp. 293-294). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Of course, this would all depend on how you view heaven and hell. I have written about my views elsewhere. Ehrman does say he doesn’t think this is what God is like. While I don’t think it’s accurate to say God is actively torturing people or even allowing it, seeing as I think torture and torment are two different things, I have to wonder that it’s incredible that Ehrman is willing to take the risk. Seriously, if Heaven is possibly there to gain and Hell is possibly there to avoid, I think it behooves anyone to seriously consider the question and when you decide, it needs to be more than “I just believe it” or “I just don’t believe it.” Some might think Christians should then read other religions as well. I have personally read the Mormon Scriptures and other of their books, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, and the Analects of Confucius.

Overall, there is some good stuff in the book, but there seems to be something missing. I can’t help but see an Ehrman who I think after all these years is still searching. Perhaps a book on the afterdeath is coming as Ehrman is seeing himself getting older and thinking about these questions a lot more. I still hold out hope that one day he will return to the Christ he has since rejected. I am pleased when in the end he says three of his great heroes are Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jesus. He would love to get to meet them in an afterdeath.

I am sure Jesus would love to meet Ehrman also.

Hopefully, it will happen, and on good terms.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/7/2019

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

What are we to do with the disabled? Sometimes, churches don’t know how to handle people who are really different and have a disability. Some churches might not be accessible to people in a wheelchair. Some might not understand that greeting time could be horrible to someone who has a disability. While special education can be good for some, does it really help disabled kids to be set apart from all the other kids as if to say that they don’t belong?

And what about healing? What if churches treat disabled Christians as lesser Christians who need to have faith that they will be healed and don’t do anything else for them? What message does it send a disabled person if they are told the condition they have is a sign of their lack of trust in God or the judgment of God or something similar to that?

What about Jesus? Jesus regularly healed the disabled, but is that all? We can’t always do that, so what do we do to love like Jesus did? Did Jesus treat the disabled like second-class humans?

This Saturday, we will be discussing these kinds of questions. How do we follow the way of Jesus when dealing with people who have a disability? My guest is someone who does ministry with the disabled and has a keen interest in this question. She is the author of Disability and the Way of Jesus and her name is Bethany McKinney Fox.

So who is she?

According to her bio:

Bethany McKinney Fox is founding pastor of Beloved Everybody Church in Los Angeles and adjunct professor of Christian ethics at Fuller. She earned her PhD in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological seminary, her MDiv at Columbia Theological Seminary, and her BA in Philosophy with a minor in Russian Literature from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Her new book Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church (IVP Academic) examines how Jesus’ healing in the Gospels, too often used in ways that wound people with disabilities, might point a way toward real healing and mutual thriving. Dr. Fox is founding pastor of Beloved Everybody Church, a church startup where people with and without intellectual disabilities lead and participate together. She writes and speaks particularly on topics of disability, healing, and church practices to undergrad and graduate students, church leaders, and other people of faith around the country.

As readers of this blog know, disability is something near and dear to my heart. I hope you’ll be looking for this new episode too. We are working hard on getting all of them up for you as soon as we can.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is Necessary For Christianity?

What should really be the emphasis of our worldview? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I wrote about the topic of evolution and why I don’t debate it. It looks like a lot more people responded to that one and it sparked some debate. Some people were concerned about other doctrines that we just had to have in Genesis or else there would be no Christianity.

Note also that this usually relies not just on Genesis being true, but a specific interpretation of Genesis being true. This is not to say those interpretations are always wrong, but it just looks like it creates another barrier to belief for some people. I have a hard enough time convincing people Jesus rose from the dead. Do I have to convince them of several other things as well?

Usually when I deal with Christians in doubt, I always jump straight back to the resurrection. They’ll present me with some concern and I’ll ask “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” “Yes, but….” There is no but there. That’s not to say the objection isn’t important, but let’s put it in perspective. We’re not dealing with a dealbreaker.

One such objection often raised is the question of a historical Adam and if he was historical, was he the only human being around? At this point, I am inclined to think he was historical, but that there were others around. Adam and Eve were just especially chosen for this. There is much that can be debated about this and evolutionary creationists can hold to inerrancy and do their own studies of the text to see how it works together for them. This is not to say that their arguments will be sound, but if you’re going to take down a position like that, just one question will rarely do it.

A few years ago I was at the debate between Craig Evans and Richard Carrier on the existence of Jesus. Now Jesus mythicism in my mind is a completely bankrupt position. Still, I don’t think there’s any one question I could have asked Carrier that would have totally destroyed his position. It was multi-faceted. Personally, if you have a worldview that can be toppled by just one question, you don’t have a good worldview, or at least you haven’t thought about it.

But for what is necessary, I consider it simple. Jesus is the Messiah whom God raised from the dead. It is not inerrancy that is essential. It is not the age of the Earth. This is not to say those are not important. I consider myself an inerrantist and have two ebooks on the topic. It’s not a hill I’m going to die on. My Christianity is not built on old creation either, Genesis, but on new creation, the resurrection.

Again, this is not to say the other questions are unimportant. It is to say they need to be put on the proper level. Some skeptics have said before if there is no Adam and Eve there is no original sin and thus no need for Jesus. I consider this highly simplistic thinking. If I need a doctrine of sin, I can just turn on the evening news and see that it exists, or even better, just look inside myself.

By the way, for the question of God, I normally do start my apologetic with a case for classical theism and then move to the resurrection, but if the conversation starts at the resurrection I can do that. If it can be shown Christ rose, attempts for anyone other than God as the agent behind that are usually pretty weak from what I see.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

Is this an issue really worth debating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Over the weekend, I saw some Christian friends arguing on Facebook about evolution. One is open to it if not supportive of it and the other is skeptical. I have also been reading through Richard Dawkins’s Outgrowing God who seems to be of the opinion that if you prove evolution, then you have put God out of a job.

Here I sit then thankful that I don’t debate the issue at all.

Let’s start with Dawkins. Dawkins regularly in his book when he talks about anything outside of science gets things stupendously wrong. I don’t want to be like that. When I get to the science section of his book, it sounds impressive, but then I think that he really blundered earlier. How do I know he didn’t do the same here? I try to give the benefit of the doubt because this is his area, but it can be difficult.

Yet here I am, someone who has not studied science. Do I want to make the same mistake in the opposite direction? Do I want to risk saying embarrassing things about science in a way that when it comes time to the areas I do know something about that people will not listen to me?

Keep in mind this is me saying this is what works for me. If you are someone who has studied science seriously and reads both sides, I have no problem if you want to debate evolution really. I think there are better areas to debate, but I’m not going to stop you.

But what about Genesis? For Genesis, I go with John Walton’s interpretation. In this one, Genesis is not describing the formation of creation in material terms, but in terms of function. It is telling how everything works together in the making of sacred space. The days can then be literal because this is just God making declarations over what He has made.

As it stands then, I have no hill to die on. My worldview then does not depend on modern science. Evolution is true? Cool. I move on. Evolution is false? Cool. I move on.

In my opinion, both Christians and atheists who think evolution is the dealbreaker are misinformed. For one thing, none of this has impact on if Jesus rose from the dead. At the most, it can damage inerrancy. The case for the resurrection of Jesus does not depend on Genesis.

It’s also sad that in some sense, atheists are right when they say we have God of the gaps and science keeps filling in those gaps. The early scientists who were Christians did their science to see how God did something. It was not assumed that He had to do something a particular way and if He didn’t, then He didn’t exist.

Let’s take our own formation. We all believe thanks to Psalms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and the Psalmist says we are knit together in our mother’s womb. At the same time, many of us do not balk at the idea that we are formed through a process of gestation that takes place in nine months and don’t think this means God micromanages our DNA. God can still form us and a natural process can be involved.

Why not with our original creation?

Also, the existence of God is not on scientific terms, since science can never prove or disprove something immaterial. It’s in the area of metaphysics and here the question goes deeper. It is the question of existence itself. What does it mean to be? It’s not just how the universe came into being, but how does the universe stay in being? What about goodness, truth, and beauty? Where do they come from?

These are questions that are not scientific necessarily, aside from perhaps how the universe came to be. The rest are philosophical questions and God is something that can be studied through philosophy. This is where the real battle lies.

Furthermore, I get concerned that we could be keeping up a stereotype of science vs. religion. This is a big problem I have with Dawkins’s book. At the end, he can describe things like starlings in flight or chameleons catching insects with their tongues or anything like that. I read it and think “How marvelous the way God’s creation works.” Why? Because God is largely in my background knowledge and I see no contradiction between evolution and God.

Thus, if God is in that knowledge and I have no problem with evolution, I, like many others, will interpret knowledge I gain through the lens of what I already hold on what I at least think are good grounds. There are plenty of people who will not think that way, but religion is a deeply important part of their lives.

For those who have science as their background and are atheistic, this will get them to think science and religion are opposed, but the problem is a number of religious people could think the same way. Dawkins could wind up driving people away from science.

The reality is if you pit these two against each other, people will gravitate towards the one that means the most to them. Jesus means a lot more to a lot more people than, say, knowing how far away the Crab Nebula is from us. They will accept science on basic things, but not on things that really challenge their thinking.

My philosophy now on it is to just stay out of it. I do not know the field well enough to debate it and I could make blunders that would undermine me in other areas. It also does not impact my position on Genesis or Christianity at all. Once again, if you know the science and you think you can give someone a door to Christianity, have at it. God bless you. If you are not a scientist though or someone who seriously studies it, be careful about debating such a topic.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Moral Combat: Why The War On Violent Video Games Is Wrong

What do I think of Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson’s book published by BenBella books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Gaming has always been a pastime of mine that I have highly invested in. I have heard for years the panic about video games leading to violence. This has often been assumed and taken for granted. If you let your children play violent video games, they will be desensitized to violence and be more prone to be violent. Besides, look at all these school shooters who played violent video games. What more do you need?

People who think that way need to read this book. It is an excellent look at how these claims are blown out of the water. What is going on is often bad science. People are often tested to see if they’re more aggressive after playing a video game. Question. How do you measure aggression?

You don’t let people walk the streets with a crowbar in their hand seeing if they’ll bludgeon someone. Instead, questions are often asked like would you put hot sauce in someone’s food if they didn’t want it? You could be asked if you would be prone to hurt someone’s feelings. Some people will want to do this anyway. Some people might want to do the hot sauce thing not because they’re aggressive, but because they like to pull pranks on people.

When some games have come out, such as some in the Grand Theft Auto series, it has been speculated that there would be a rise in crime. It was even compared to the Polio scare. Well, the game under question came out and yes, crime was affected.

Crime dropped.

What about school shootings? How about someone like Adam Lanza? He’s the guy who shot up the Sandy Hook school. It was said that he was a player of video games and this without the hard evidence and people ran with it. Well, it is true. Lanza was spending significant time playing video games.

He had a reputation of spending hours at the arcade playing Dance Dance Revolution.

What’s interesting is that sometimes, these killers had a history of NOT playing violent video games. This actually could have made them more prone to violent shootings. Why? Because games are nowadays a way that people come together and bond together socially. People who are not doing that can be social outcasts and feel rejected by their peers and be more prone to shootings.

What about Columbine? Contrary to what is thought, the killers had not made a level of DOOM modeled after their high school. Also, the skills needed in a video game to shoot the enemies do not transfer to real life. My father-in-law is quite good at sharpshooting I have been told. Let’s go back to when I used to play Goldeneye. I could play that all day and still go to a shooting range with him and do horrible even if I was the best player of Goldeneye there was.

Many games nowadays also contain moral judgments. Some people will go through a game again and try to be as ruthless as possible just to see what happens, but most will actually start to think about these moral issues. Final Fantasy X can get one thinking about the relationship between religion and technology and what it requires to atone for one’s sin.

What about video game addiction? This can vary. When Breath of the Wild first came out, many of my friends were spending hours playing this. Does this constitute addiction? No. This is just guys getting a new toy and playing with it. Sadly, there are cases where intense horror has taken place, such as the daughter who starved to death while her mother played World of Warcraft.

A child could play 3-4 hours of video games a day and still function well with their peers and make good grades. If they are able to do this, that does not constitute addiction. By contrast, someone could play 1-2 hours and have their grades suffer and that could constitute addiction.

What about obesity and video games? This sounds like a no-brainer, but again, it isn’t. Take away a child’s video games and it doesn’t mean they’ll jump outside and start running and jumping. They can just as easily find something else to do. If anything, now we have games that require movement which are being good exercise. My wife once decided she really wanted to lose weight and did it with the DDR exercise plan. What’s that? It’s playing the aforementioned Dance Dance Revolution. It worked. She lost 30 pounds.

More and more games are coming out like this. It can also be better than going to a gym because with video games, you can get instantaneous rewards that motivate you, such as a high score or trophies or achievements unlocked or reaching new levels.

Now many of you know that this is an apologetics page. What does this have to do with apologetics? First, we need to be people of truth in every field. I don’t care for football at all, but that doesn’t mean I want to spread a claim that playing football makes someone more violent if it isn’t true.

Second, a work like this can show us how misinformation can spread easily. Many people who complained about certain games revealed by their words that they had never played or seen those games and were going on secondhand information. This never does our cause any good.

Third, if we attack false causes of violence, we never get at the real cause. No one doubts the nobility of the desire of people to want to reduce violence by eliminating violent video games, but if that is not the cause, then you could eliminate all such games and violence would still take place.

Fourth, paranoia should never be our friend as Christians. It’s easier to go after something else rather than saying that maybe we should do a better job of raising our children and teaching them good from evil. How about a parent instead of banning some games, maybe try something like renting through Gamefly first and, I know this is bizarre, playing it with your kid and talking about it. If you fear some of the content, go on YouTube and watch the videos of the game and discuss why or why not the child should be allowed to play it.

Also as Christians, we don’t want to unnecessarily alienate video game players. The overwhelming majority of us, including me, grew up playing games and we are not violent people at all. As someone with Aspergers, I was also pleased to hear about how games have helped people on the spectrum socialize and I can attest that that is true.

So my fellow gamers, game on. Enjoy and have fun. We all want to end unnecessary violence in our world today. Maybe now we can go and find the real culprit.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why I Still Believe

What do I think of Mary Jo Sharp’s latest book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I first found out about this book when someone mentioned it in relation to dealing with Jesus mythicism, which it does to some extent, and that got me curious. I got in touch with Mary Jo and was able to get an advance copy for review purposes. I really had no idea at the time what else it was about, but then I saw it looked to deal a lot with hypocrisy in the church. Interesting, but could a whole book really be made about it?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Not only could a whole book be done, this is one of the best books I’d recommend in helping someone out struggling in this area. Sharp’s book is engaging, but at the same time, it is not preachy. She is an open book in this one and writes about so much of the pain that she has experienced in the church and revealing even what some of her home life is like.

Sharp writes as someone who came to the church culture as an outsider having been an atheist. She then gets involved in the church and on the first Sunday there, the pastor’s wife greets her and tells her she needs to dress better because her clothes look too revealing. Keep in mind Sharp was supposed to go up and announce to the church she had become a Christian, which she did anyway, and there the pastor’s wife put her on the spot like that. Imagine how any investigator of Christianity would have taken it. (And keep in mind that from what I’ve seen in churches, too revealing could mean that if you squint and stare for a few minutes you might see some skin.)

She also talks about bringing a skeptical friend to a church lesson that talked about the age of the Earth. This person knew far more than the teacher including quoting Augustine on the matter. The pastor shut the questioner down and then in the end angrily gave him a stack of literature on the topic of creation. Sharp said she never saw him again and he never returned to the church.

Who can blame him?

Along the way, Sharp discusses issues like the resurrection of Jesus and other Christian claims. One of the more interesting ones she does this with is the topic of beauty. Beauty is something we don’t talk about much in the church. We talk about truth and goodness, but not about beauty. This part was quite exciting.

She also writes about how her own ministry got started, especially with the help of David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi. This is humorously referred to as lessons from a sociopath and an ex-Muslim. The candor and reality of the book is what makes it so endearing.

Sharp also talks about her own struggles. She has a hard time with trusting people and has an idealistic vision of the church and how it should be and gets disappointed when it doesn’t measure up. In some ways, she seems to wish she didn’t know what she did know about apologetics, because it would be so easy to say “This isn’t worth it” and go back to atheism, but she can’t. It’s a reality I can understand and relate to sometimes.

Mary Jo Sharp’s book should be required reading for anyone struggling with what they see in their fellow Christians and expecting something different. At the same time, Sharp also looks at herself in all of this and sees the kind of person she is, which she doesn’t like as well. But then, that is the good news isn’t it? As it is said, if the church only welcomed perfect people, we wouldn’t be members. We can all be imperfect together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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