When Your Enemy Suffers

What do you do when your opponent suffers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Proverbs 24: 17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

I was about to write out another blog on the next chapter of Bradley’s book when I saw the news shared in the thread on it at theologyweb.com. Bradley died earlier this year at 91. I had to pause some at that one.

Do I like Bradley’s book? No. Normally, I enjoy going through atheist material, but this one just seems same-old, same-old and is a real disappointment. My reading through Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture is at least engaging. If anything, I find reading Bradley embarrassing as he thinks he knows what he’s talking about when really he doesn’t and pulls out the same old tripe arguments that have been answered multiple times before.

However, I still had sadness when I saw this. My longing at the time and my personal prayer was that he somehow managed to get a bit of grace before he died that he turned to the Lord he had shunned throughout his adult life. Do I know that this happened or have any strong evidence? No, but a man can hope.

I have at least two vivid memories of the opposite happening in my past. One time was when Stephen Jay Gould passed away. I was on America Online then and I remember being in the chat room and hearing the people speak who were vocal creationists, whether YEC or OEC I don’t know, and saying things like “You think it’s hot where he is right now?”

Whatever your doctrine of Hell, this is something that should never be said. People who hold to conditional immortality and people who hold to eternal conscious torment should all agree on one thing. It is a tragedy when people go to Hell. We would all like in some way for universalism to be true, but I fear that it isn’t. I found it just awful thinking that some people were practically gloating that their enemy was in Hell. If it wasn’t for the grace of God, they would be too and frankly, I didn’t see a lot of that grace there.

The other incident was on PALtalk when the Pope had died. Now I do not believe Catholics are outside of the grace of God. Some people do. Let’s suppose that’s true. Even if it is, should you have the attitude that these people did that the Pope busted Hell wide open, as I remember hearing? That should be a cause of sorrow for you.

In the causes of justice, I think some exceptions can be made I was on PALtalk again when someone messaged me about Saddam Hussein’s sons being found and killed and said “Isn’t this good news?” In a sense, it is good in that they will not be able to bring about evil on this Earth anymore. In another sense though, it is sad, because now they are quite likely in a place of dark eternity where there is no escape.

The Bible does show times of celebration when the enemies are defeated, but let us make sure we are celebrating first that God acted according to His covenant and provided justice and relief and secondly, that their evil is no longer being done. If we act like we are pure and innocent and don’t deserve judgment, we’re asking for it.

As a divorced man, I have to watch myself with this. I do have times of anger every now and then, but they are rare. If anything, for my ex-wife, I pray for her well-being and blessing. I don’t know where exactly she is right now. I do not check. I do not search.

Am I saying she is my enemy? In a sense, she did hurt me deeper than anyone else ever has and she has spread untruths about me claiming that I abused her, but I don’t like to think about her that way. I prefer to see her as someone who is hurt and confused and needs to come to grips with her own issues. I prefer to think that nothing was done out of a malicious attempt to hurt me even though that is what happened.

After all, I have my own sins that God could call me to account for if He wanted to. Forgiveness was not owed to me. Now God did promise He would forgive, but it was conditional on that I repented. Had I never done that, God had no obligation to forgive and indeed I have no reason to think He would. Every moment I spend in a blessed eternity with Him will be a gift of grace. There will never be a time in my existence when I am not dependent on that grace.

I hope Dr. Bradley somehow came to Christ in his final moments before he passed on. God will do what is right and no one will say it wasn’t fair, but I can hope. May I live with grace and forgiveness to my own personal enemies throughout my life.

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

Brothers Reunited

How does the story of Joseph end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Jacob has now died in the story and that leaves Joseph and his brothers. However, now Joseph is one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers? Not so much. We all know sibling rivalry is a thing, but throwing your brother into a pit, selling him into slavery, and then telling your father he died, is somehow a step above shaking up their soda before you bring it to them at work. (Which I never ever did to my sister, of course!)

But as I said, Joseph has the power now and while his father was alive, he might have not wanted to do anything. Now, dear old Dad is gone. If anyone has the power in the family, it’s Joseph, and he does have the power indeed. He can do whatever he wants with these brothers. The only person who could really stop him is Pharaoh and somehow I suspect Pharaoh is interested in other matters besides sibling rivalry.

The brothers come up with an idea, and who can blame them? They claim that Jacob said that Joseph needs to show mercy and forgive his brothers. After all, it’s really easy to speak for someone after they’re dead. It’s not like Jacob is going to be able to say anything to him.

However, the brothers need not have worried. Joseph, if anything, is disappointed that this has happened. Do his brothers still not trust him yet? Do they not realize that regardless of what happened, that they are family?

Joseph assures them he has nothing against them. Yes. What they did was meant for evil. He doesn’t deny that. The reality is that God used it for good, the saving of many lives. This is something good for us all to keep in mind. Whatever someone intends for evil will be used by God for good one way or another.

We in the West look at this and think that this is a nice and heartwarming story. We don’t realize how important it is. For the Eastern audience, this could be the most important part of the story. Yes. Joseph has saved the world, but what about his family? No one ever forgets where they buried that hatchet. Will the brothers be reunited? If they weren’t, what would that mean for the future of the twelve tribes of Israel?

This isn’t just an epilogue. This is the story reaching its true resolution. Leave this out and there’s a mystery. Even if you see the twelve tribes together in Exodus, the audience would be wondering, “But what about Joseph and his brothers. How did that end?”

What we see here is a beautiful story of forgiveness. There’s a reason that Joseph is usually seen as a Christ figure of sorts in the Old Testament. Joseph can do whatever he wants with his brothers and he chooses to do one of the most powerful acts of all, to forgive them.

Genesis started with one brother killing another. It ends with one brother forgiving all of his when he could have been justified in killing them. That means the story ends in hope. Israel may not be in the promised land now, but they are united and at least they’re not killing each other now.

Tomorrow, I plan on a Christmas post, but then after that, hopefully, we will return to marriage and divorce.

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

Book Plunge: The Gospel Precisely

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Renew? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Matthew Bates for his friendship as I was one of the people he contacted in order to promote his new book. It’s an honor to be in that circle. I find Matthew Bates to be a highly informed scholar, but I am super thankful that he is not just staying in an ivory tower, but is taking advanced New Testament studies and breaking them down for the layman to understand the gospel in a whole new way.

Too often, our idea of the gospel is way too shortsighted, which is a tragedy because what we have is really good already and yet we miss that there’s so much more. We are more content with making mudpies when a day at the beach awaits us. We are pleased with what we understand of the gospel, and we should be, but we miss that there is a lot more.

So let’s start with what is the gospel. Most of the time, we make the gospel about ourselves. This is what God is doing to forgive us. With that, we are ultimately the subjects of the gospel. It is about us. The gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are the ones that are being used for the glory of God. God is not to be used for the glory of us.

One aspect that we miss is the gospel is Jesus becoming king. I remember hearing once that John Dominic Crossan said about Mark 1:1 that talked about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s a short little verse, but Crossan said it could be translated as “In your face, Caesar.”

If he said that, he’s not wrong.

Jesus is coming and declaring Himself to be the king who will rule on God’s behalf. This is part of the gospel. This is one of the reasons He was crucified. You don’t get crucified for just teaching good ethics and sharing parables. Jesus was a majorly political figure as well as a religious one.

Why does this matter? Because we were created to be the rulers of this world on God’s behalf. Unfortunately with sin, we all failed at that one. Jesus was meant to be fully human and fully God so that He could rule and reflect God perfectly but also be a man ruling like God intended. Part of the good news is also that not only are we forgiven, but we are to be rulers of the new creation with Jesus Christ. God saves us so we can serve.

This is however also good for non-Christians for the time being. The world is meant to be a better place with the coming of Christianity and where Christians aren’t being what they were supposed to be. Most people, Christians or not, do support the life and ethics of Jesus. I still remember a non-Christian friend saying on my Facebook wall that life would be a lot better if we all tried to live like Christ.

Oh. Let me explain something with that. When we speak of Christ, we shouldn’t treat Christ as just a name. Some people actually think that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I wish I was joking. I can still remember years ago someone asking “Why would a Jewish guy have a Greek last name?”

The closest idea we have to Messiah is King. In our country, that’s something that seems foreign to us, but we might not be too far from us. A friend of mine thinks we might naturally move as a society towards monarchy. Every four years, we are having “The most important election of our lifetime” which should show that we place way too much emphasis on the president, no matter who he is.

Of course, if we’re servants of God, we need to know who this God is. The Trinity is not just an add-on. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, the Gospel is completely changed. Christians need to learn how to understand to some extent the Trinity and how to defend it.

I’m only giving snapshots here because honestly, i want you to read the book yourself. Some of you might be concerned with reading a whole book on this. Good news. The book is only about 100 pages. You could easily read it in a day or two, and it would be a day or two well-spent.

Finally, how do we share the gospel? This is where it might get difficult as Bates lists ten items that he thinks we need to remember and share. Those complaining about this might want to think about what they have memorized about sports teams, TV shows, music, or video games.

So final opinion? Get this book. It’s a great one to understand the gospel and will show you how much you are missing. It has five chapters and while I said you could read it in a day, if you wanted to read one chapter a day, you could do so easily and read it in a week and you would be blessed for doing so.

Matthew Bates is a gift to the church that keeps on giving and thanks to him for his work and being considered part of his team to help share his material. It’s material worth sharing and it’s an honor to be a part of it. And oh yes, there is one part where he does show that he does believe Jesus was born of a virgin so he does affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, the obvious important sign of anyone wanting to share the gospel.

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

 

Forgive Them

Who is it that you are to forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness can be very hard. I remember several years ago when I was employed at Wal-Mart that a girl came up to me who worked there and said something along the lines of, “Nick. You seem like a really wise person. I’m struggling with forgiving someone. Can you tell me how to do it?” I immediately asked “What’s his name?”

“How did you know?”

“It’s always a guy.”

It was a safe bet that I made that turned out to be right. Forgiveness is hard, but it is really the way of Christ. We could say if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not. It’s extremely difficult. However, if we withhold forgiveness from someone, we are not really hurting them as much as we are hurting ourselves. If someone wrongs you, that reveals something about them. If you refuse to forgive, that reveals a lot more about you.

Now that doesn’t mean as I said that it will be easy. Sometimes, it will take work to forgive and you might have to do it again and again and again. I also want to stress that I am not saying to go to the other person and say “I forgive you.” Of course, in some cases, such as if the person is dead or it could be harmful to you to encounter the person, this is impossible. If at all possible, let them come to you. However, you should be in a position where you are in an attitude of forgiveness and ready to forgive.

Years ago, I wrote a post about “Will your murderer be in Heaven?” There are several great stories of forgiveness in there. I urge you to go there and check it out as there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel here. People have forgiven those who have done great wrong to them.

Yet you could be thinking, “Yes, but this person intentionally did something to me incredibly hurtful. How do I forgive them?” We do that by looking at our example of Jesus. Look at what happens on the cross. You hear Jesus saying “Father. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Now we know that they didn’t understand that Jesus was God’s Messiah and actually YHWH with skin on. However, what is understood? Whatever their reasons for doing it, they were intentionally doing it. They weren’t doing it in the sense of saying “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” This wasn’t done accidentally. This was done intentionally and with forethought to it. This was an evil act of malice.

Holding to the deity of Christ also doesn’t mean that you think He knew everything about everything in His incarnation, but being omniscient isn’t necessary to see that this was an act of evil. Christ knew that, and yet what did He do? He sought their forgiveness. He did not forgive them from the cross since they had not repented and forgiveness requires that, but He sought their forgiveness.

When He died on the cross, He died as much for them as He did for anyone else. (I realize many Calvinist readers will disagree with me. I am not interested in that debate, but if you hold to the L in the Tulip, consider that any that were Elect He died for just as much as any others.) He doesn’t love you or I any more than He loves them. That’s a love that’s hard for us to comprehend.

That’s the first point to consider, but then realize what you have done. Whatever someone else has done to you, you have done worse to Jesus Christ. You have rejected Him who has done so much for you. Years ago, a friend said something in reply to the idea that if you were the only one to save, Jesus would have come for you. He replied that if that were the case, you would have killed Him also.

I often tell people to do an exercise. Think of the person who has wronged you. Then think about standing before Jesus and telling Him what this other person has done to you. Oh wait. It’s not just that. Think about standing before Jesus on the cross and telling Him as He is being crucified what this other person has done to you.

Does that make it seem ridiculous to complain about that then? This is not to downplay what you have gone through, but to show that what you have done to Jesus is actually worse than that. This is the King of the universe here and sin is saying “I want to take your place.” We have all knowingly or unknowingly made a claim to want to be God. We have all done directly ourselves the sin that took place in the Garden.

Again, this does not mean it will be easy, but it is possible and not only that, required. Jesus says if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven, and as C.S. Lewis says, there’s no indication He doesn’t mean what He says. This could require a good therapist and/or pastor to work with you on this. That’s fine too. As long as you’re working on forgiving, I think Christ sees that.

There are evil people out there, and it’s easy to look at the evil in them. It’s far more beneficial to look at the evil in us. That’s the one evil that we can directly do something about.

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

The Requirement To Forgive

How serious is the call to forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Jesus’s new Kingdom, forgiveness is kind of a big deal. After all, the only way anyone else gets into the Kingdom is through forgiveness and grace. If you are a recipient of that forgiveness and grace, it follows that you should show it to others.

Jesus later gives a parable illustrating this. We know it as the parable of the unmerciful servant, though perhaps we should also consider it the parable of the merciful master. The servant begs the master for just a little more time to pay off a debt that he must be deluded to think he could ever pay off. The master doesn’t give it, but instead he just cancels the debt entirely. The servant leaves and finds a fellow servant who only owes him a small amount. He demands this servant pay him immediately and when he is begged for time, he throws the other servant in prison. The master finds out and has the servant brought to him and then the same is done to him.

Jesus ends saying that if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. In other words, it must not just be the lip service that is done. It must be real and honest forgiveness. In our world, it might be easy to say something before the cameras that looks really good, but God knows the heart and won’t be fooled at all.

This is something that should give us all pause. If we are not showing mercy to one another for their sins, it is because we do not trust that we have been shown mercy. The unforgiving servant still thought that somewhere he had to pay off the debt. Had he really believed he had been forgiven, he would be able to show forgiveness.

This should give us pause because there is no indication Jesus doesn’t mean what He says. Forgiveness is not optional. It is a requirement. If your brother comes to you and asks for your forgiveness, there is no question about it. You give it. You don’t test. You don’t ask for proof. You don’t withhold. You just forgive.

The Kingdom is to be a place of grace and thus its citizens must be gracious. To not be gracious is to say one would rather inflict suffering and judgment on another instead of showing the love that is required in the Kingdom of God. This is one reason also to believe in the forgiveness of God. To believe God has not forgiven us when we come to Him is to believe that He would rather punish us than to show grace to us.

This is a big requirement, but a necessary one, and maybe if we took it more seriously we would find ourselves becoming a better people. We would be more gracious of the wrongs of others considering how much grace has been shown to us. Maybe that would be the kind of Kingdom most of us would like to live in.

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

Book Plunge: The Madness of Crowds

What do I think of Douglas Murray’s book published by Bloomsbury Continuum? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I ordered this book on Interlibrary loan after I saw my wife’s priest recommended it, and I shortly forgot that I had. When I got it, I was thinking “I have so many books to go through already. Do I really want to go through this?” I saw an endorsement from Sam Harris on the back and seeing as I think the new atheist material is just horrible, that got me even more concerned. Do I really want to go through this? Still, I decided to open it up and give it a shot.

Within a few days, I was telling so many people they needed to go through it as well.

This is one of the most important books on our society that I have read. Murray deals with four major areas today and with some smaller areas that have a major impact. He does not write as far as I can tell from a Christian perspective and actually I gather is a homosexual from what I read. I read through though finding extreme agreement with so much that I read.

Let’s start with the first section he has on homosexuality. He talks about a movie being played in a theater in England that a gay publication protested against so much that it had to go to a new venue to play. The story in the film was about people who used to be same-sex attracted and no longer were.

Murray wrote about taking the main man behind it who helps people who want to be rid of same-sex attraction. He says that he never forces anyone and they come to him and how he said we should take him at his word. He’s not out there trying to eliminate homosexuals from society. He’s trying to help people who want to be helped. We could question his methodology, but why assume base motives of him?

He then goes on to say that gay no longer refers to just who you sleep with. Consider Peter Thiel who spoke at the RNC convention in 2016 and made a remark about the great battle of the day in comparison to past generations was what restrooms can we use? That he was truly representative of the homosexual movement was called into question. Ian McClellan made a statement about Brexit that said that if you were a homosexual, it was clear how you were to vote.

Murray also points out that this view of homosexuality only goes one way in the sense that if someone leaves a straight lifestyle to embrace a homosexual one, they are said to have found their true selves. If they go the opposite way, then they are said to be traitors to the cause living in denial. I wish something had been said about how in the first case it can often leave a family behind that doesn’t really want the dynamic to change.

The next major area to be dealt with is the question of women. This has begun with the idea of women being sexualized, and again, there are mixed messages. Consider how when Harvey Weinstein was found to have a casting couch that immediately women jumped up to complain about the treatment.

Mayim Bialik of the Big Bang Theory talked about how she makes it a point to be modest and dress conservatively, except, of course, when she doesn’t. Murray brought up about her being on Piers Morgan’s show and how he was saying there was an event to honor someone who had died and he thought too many women were using the event to show off their cleavage and he didn’t find that appropriate, Bialik, who is on the panel, gets up and turns her back to the crowd and tears her dress to expose herself to Morgan in protest.

Murray writes about how women have complained about being sexualized, all the while while often wanting to be as sexy as possible. Too often, women want men to notice them and yet at the same time not turn them into object. One aspect of this I was surprised was not mentioned were topless marches. Women who complain about objectification aren’t helping themselves by doing this.

He also says the feminist movement has often gone to an extreme of “Kill All Men” which really doesn’t mean to kill all men for some strange reason. It really means that men need to realize how they behave and bring about change. Who knew? Men are vilified for the crime of being men.

If women want a world where men are not going to notice them physically, it’s really a pipe dream. This is especially so since women buy so many items that are designed to highlight their feminine features and be noticed by men. It is human nature for men to notice beautiful women and this is a power that women have in that they can drive men absolutely mad and make them do things they wouldn’t normally do, a power they can use for good or for evil.

As for believe all women, this seems to go one way. When a woman makes a charge about how a man has behaved towards her sexually that is inappropriate, that is to be believed. What happens when it goes the other way? What if a man complains about a woman? The man is part of the patriarchy and must be dealt with!

There is an interlude after this on technology. Social media has its benefits, but it has also been a problem. Now, anything you say can be found and used against you. A tweet made years ago in innocence can ruin your career today. A person could have made a statement back in the early 2000’s that was opposed to redefining marriage, which was the majority opinion then, and be called into question for it today.

Social media means everything you say can be found for all time and there is no distinction anymore between private things and public things being said. Also, many people say things online that they wouldn’t say in person. It’s easy to do that when the person isn’t right in front of you and you are safe that way.

The next major section is race. Here again we see the same kind of scenario that we saw with women. Charges of racism and cultural appropriation can show up anywhere and someone can be turned into the bad guy immediately. Campuses have had riots over a comment that most of us would see as innocent, but was perceived as racist.

Consider the case of a school where one day a year, minority students were expected to stay off of campus by choice to show the contributions that they have made to culture. Whatever one thinks of this, it is an event done voluntarily by a group to themselves. Then one year they decided to reverse this and have a day where no white people were to show up.

The difference is that the whites were not volunteering. It was told they should do this. One professor sent out an email in response saying that this is not proper and goes against our basic freedoms. Before too long, there were riots taking place with even the president of the college being in a kind of hostage situation and the professor who sent the email was being accused of racism and had to quit his job.

As with Peter Thiel also, race has become more of a political stance than a biological one. Kanye West endorses Candace Owens and then goes and meets with Trump. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you think of any of those three people. The point is that after this, Kanye is said to not be truly black.

By contrast, what about Rachel Dolezal who was a chapter president of the NAACP and whoops, she turned out to actually be white. Her parents are both white. What are we told? If she wants to say she’s black, then she’s black. So Kanye who is truly black is not black, but Dolezal, who is truly white, is black.

The next interlude is on forgiveness with some nodding towards the Christian tradition on this. Can there be any forgiveness in our culture? Someone gets appointed to a government position and everyone scours through their past tweets and Facebook posts to find any dirt that can be found whatsoever and ruin their lives.

I have gotten annoyed thoroughly with the apology culture where everyone has to apologize for everything. Just this morning I read about a Padres player who apologized for hitting a grand slam. Apparently, he was supposed to not get one because when your team has a great lead, you shouldn’t pile on the runs. Ridiculous! This guy plays the sport well and has to apologize for it?

Besides that, it’s easier to think today that these aren’t apologies. They’re a way of saying “Please don’t ruin my life.” Unfortunately, the crowds don’t know forgiveness.

The last issue is transgenderism. One theme in the book regularly is that we make a major change in society, such as many people have done on homosexuality, and before the dust can settle and we can see how this will work out, we’re off to the next one. Murray writes about children even as young as eight being given hormone treatment to transition and they’re not required to tell their parents about it, although their parents sure need to get permission if that child needs an aspirin in school. Parents get concerned and they are told, “Get in line or your child will commit suicide!” What’s a parent to do?

Long time feminists who speak out are condemned. This includes those cases where a rapist in a prison identifies as a woman and then goes to a women’s prison and, well, I think we all know what happened. What about men who transition into women and then compete against women in sports? They do have an advantage from their past. The feminist movement must be beside themselves since they have long complained about men being seen as superior. Now, apparently, men are also superior at women’s sports.

Where will this end? It’s hard to say, but the crowd is not getting any better. More and more people are being attacked for perceived wrongs and the worst motives are assumed every time. Discussion is automatically shut down when one person is said to be on the wrong side of history or a racist or a homophobe or transphobe or sexist or whatever. Such people exist, but why assume they are everywhere? Why not have a real dialogue about our differences?

I really encourage everyone to read this book. It’s incredibly eye-opening and very easy to read and shocking to read. Our society has a lot of problems and if we don’t reverse the trend, it will only get worse.

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

As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us

How serious is forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You know, up until now, the Lord’s Prayer has been pretty good. You treat God as God. You ask for His Kingdom to come. You seek His daily bread. You ask for forgiveness of your sins. It’s been good. These can be hard, but many of us can like them.

Then right after asking for forgiveness, Jesus changes the game a bit with this saying.

“As we forgive those who sin against us.”

Wait a second.

If I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive them?

You mean that person who cheated me out of that financial deal?

Yep.

You mean that person who was driving drunk and killed my daughter?

Yep.

You mean that person who made false accusations against me and ruined my reputation?

Yep.

You mean that person who sexually abused me in the past?

Yep.

You mean that person who deeply hurt my wife?

Yep.

Do you see a pattern forming here?

There are no exceptions. If we want to be forgiven, we have to forgive. There is no loophole in this. It is like the parable of the unmerciful servant. If you do not forgive, there is reason to think that you do not know forgiveness yourself.

One of the most popular blog posts I have done is one based on a weak atheist meme (Sorry for the redundancy) called Will Your Murderer Be In Heaven? In it, you will find wonderful stories of Christian forgiveness. I urge you to read it.

Now forgiveness doesn’t mean that you return to things as if they never happened. They did. You can forgive the babysitter for hurting your child. You do not have to hire them again. You can forgive the person who sexually abused you. You do not have to go on a car ride with them or be alone with them. It mainly means you are releasing your hostility and anger against them.

In many ways, I honestly do not like this teaching. I think I’m not alone. If someone hurts Allie, the first thing going through my head is not “How can I forgive and show love to them?” The first thought is “Where can I hide the body?”

Some of you have seen me on Facebook with this. I have a zero tolerance policy with those who insult my wife on there. My first action is to immediately go after them for that and make sure everyone knows this is something you don’t do again. I remember being at a conference once and I looked up and from behind, the person in front of me looked exactly like someone who hurt Allie deeply once and I was honestly filled with rage.

What does Scripture command me to do?

Forgive them.

I hate it sometimes. I really do, but I have to work on that. I have to work on sacrificing my hostility towards them.

Something important I recommend also is not going up to a person and saying “I forgive you.” Instead, wait and talk to them first if need be about it. See if they ask it first. If they don’t ask for forgiveness, don’t suddenly pronounce it. That can rob them of the gift of repentance. However, you should be in the spirit of forgiveness even if they don’t ask it and in your own heart have forgiven the person. It will be a much better gift to them to get to ask forgiveness and hear you say it.

And as Lewis says, Jesus gives us no loopholes. If we do not forgive, then we will not be forgiven. He means what He says. It is a high calling to us and we’d best follow it as Christians.

Think about that person today. Ask for help forgiving them. Realize that if you were at the foot of the cross with this person, it would be ridiculous to tell the Lord about everything that person did to you. You have done worse to God.

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

Forgive Us Our Sins

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

C.S. Lewis has a brilliant essay in the Weight of Glory where he talks about our idea of forgiveness and what it means. When we talk about forgiveness, he thinks we more often mean not forgiveness but excusing. We want God to understand the circumstances behind what we did and say, “No big deal. You’re off the hook.”

It is a big deal though. Every sin to some extent is a form of divine treason. It is a denial of God’s knowledge because you act like He doesn’t know it. It denies His omnipotence because you say He doesn’t have the power to judge. It denies His omnipresence because you say He doesn’t see it. It denies His goodness because you say He won’t do anything against you. It denies His truthfulness because you think He’s holding out on you. We could go on through the list. Every one of them is this.

So what do we want God to do? We want God to say “I know you didn’t mean any of that. Let’s still be friends.” Now there are unintentional sins to be sure, but let’s face it. We all have times that we do the wrong thing and we know it’s the wrong thing and we do it anyway. Those times, we don’t really care. There are times we want to do the wrong and then ask for forgiveness later.

But there is no excusing what we do. It cannot be done. There is no justification ever for doing the wrong thing. That’s why it’s the wrong thing. There are circumstances where it’s understandable why one did it and one can always point to good motivations or good results from doing it, but if it is wrong, then the good that can come and the good motivations do not matter.

Not only that, there will always be something seen to be good in it. “Well, my wife wasn’t fulfilling my sexual needs, so I turned to pornography.” “Well, my family was going broke, so I decided to mess with the books a little bit when doing our taxes.” “Well, I’ve been incredibly lonely in my marriage, so I decided to have an affair.”

Having needs met or providing for your family or overcoming loneliness are not bad things, but there are good ways to deal with those issues and wrong ways and if you go the wrong way, then it is a sin. There is no excusing it. There may be things around it that can be excused, but the sin itself is still wrong.

It doesn’t need to be excused because it can’t be. It needs to be forgiven. It needs to be seen that first off, it is a big deal. It needs to be shown that real damage has been done to a relationship. In human terms, it could be marriage and family, friendship, co-workers, or just your neighbor you don’t even know.

You did something wrong. That’s it. No justifying it. It needs to be faced that you have caused harm in a way that has no justification for it. You have done something against God Himself and undone the goodness of redemption in some way.

You participated in what led to the crucifixion.

Yes. This sin needs to be seen in all of its wickedness. Only then can you realize what forgiveness means. Forgiveness means you realize God could throw the book at you. He could sentence you to hell forever. He could banish you from His loving presence. I don’t care what your doctrine of hell is at this point. Everyone who is a Christian agrees that whatever happens, it’s something you don’t want. God does not owe you forgiveness like that. He does not owe you His loving presence. You owe Him everything.

And yet, that is what makes forgiveness so incredible. God still looks at you and makes it clear that you don’t deserve forgiveness. He is not improved by forgiving you. If anything, forgiveness was a cost to Him. Still, despite all of that, He says He’s going to forgive you and restore you to proper relationship with Him. You are still a child of His.

Forgiveness means that God is telling you you are still in the family. There may be consequences still, but none of those consequences include you losing your place in the family. You’re still one of His. You are forgiven. God does not owe it to you, but He has promised it to you if you come and sincerely repent.

It’s still there today. You can be forgiven. It is truly a big deal.

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

Book Plunge: Atonement and the Death of Christ

What do I think of William Lane Craig’s book published by Baylor University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

William Lane Craig is often said to be the #1 apologist alive today. I consider him a friend personally, and yet I honestly haven’t read many of his books at this point. It’s not because I am opposed to him in some way. It’s just that for whatever reason, I haven’t. When I got this book in the mail though, I figured I should see what it was like. Most of Craig’s works I know of have been apologetics works. While there is apologetics in this to a degree, this one is more theological.

I was also curious because I am a fan of N.T Wright and I couldn’t help but think of this being a response in part to his book on the atonement. Thus, I dove in. I will be giving a brief summary of what the book is about and then listing things I liked about it followed by areas that I had some questions about.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is the biblical data, which makes sense. When forming a doctrine from the Bible, the Bible is usually seen as a good place to go to. Craig actually begins in the Old Testament, which I also thought proper, and looks at topics like sacrifice and the suffering servant before proceeding to how this is fleshed out in the new.

From there, he goes to history. What do the Fathers of the church say about the atonement? What was said in the medieval period? What happened after the time of the Reformation?

Finally, we get into probably what is the most unusual part of the book, though interesting and helpful, and that is the philosophy of the atonement. In this, there is not only a look at the philosophy surrounding justice and mercy, but also around law courts. There are several instances of American law cited and questions of topics such as how do pardons work.

So for positives here, Craig is indeed very thorough. Most people would not think of including something like this last section in a book on the atonement, but Craig does. He also does include some words on the New Perspective on Paul. It’s food for thought, but at this point, I am not ready to say the NPP doesn’t work.

On page 206, there is a wonderful paragraph on the necessity of the crucifixion and the resurrection. This helps show the connection between God dealing out justice and God being merciful on us. There is too little of this in Christian thinking today in that we don’t see the difference the resurrection makes beyond “Christianity is true.”

As I said earlier, I appreciate Craig going to the Old Testament. The Old Testament is where our faith begins and too often we dispense of it. Most Christians I meet who are biblical scholars are New Testament scholars. Nothing wrong with being one, but we need specialists in the Old Testament as well.

I also did appreciate the final section. It was interesting looking at the atonement through the eyes of jurisprudence and seeing how modern notions of law can help us see the way the doctrine works. I also appreciate the philosophical objections being dealt with such as penal substitution being immoral.

However, there are some points I wish to raise that I would like to see addressed.

First, when we get to the New Testament data, I think there is an overemphasis on Paul. I am not opposed to Paul, but when you look in the references, you will find more references to Romans than you will to all the Gospels combined. While I do not consider it Pauline, at least exclusively, the same applies to Hebrews as well. On this point, I think Wright does come out ahead since he does spend more time in the Gospels with the direct words of Jesus.

On p. 167, Craig says it seems odd that someone can be forgiven for their sins and punished for their sins. It does, but I immediately remembered King David’s first son with Bathsheba. David was explicitly said he was forgiven, but he was also told immediately that the child born to him would die. It looks like then that David was forgiven and still punished. I would like to see this fleshed out.

I would have liked to have seen more interaction with N.T. Wright. Wright is the most prolific writer who has put out something on the doctrine and while he was cited at times, I would have liked to have seen an extensive interaction with him.

Finally, I thought the discussions of modern law were interesting, but I kept being struck by a concern in that. If we were in England, would we see English law? Would we see German law in Germany? American law is the category we think in, but does it follow that it’s applicable to the biblical doctrine?

I would have liked to have seen interaction with law in the world of Jesus, such as the law of Caesar or the law of the Sanhedrin. How did justice work in those courts? How did Caesar dole out justice and mercy both? Could Caesar give a pardon and how would that work? After all, these are the categories the biblical world was set in. I am not saying that there is no correspondence to modern law, but I can be skeptical. In a future work, I would prefer to see law in the ancient world look at.

That being said, Craig’s work is a great defense of penal substitution in particular, but I think also rightly recognizing there are some elements of other atonement theories. It is quite likely one will not cover everything. Those wanting a good resource on the doctrine of the atonement owe it to themselves to read Craig’s book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Love Your Enemies

How should you treat your enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus has just told us to respond with kindness to those who insult us and try to hurt us, but now He ups the ante even further. Up until now, He has been telling us what the Law means, but the next saying He quotes is not from the Law. Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 5.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Nowhere does the Law command you to hate your enemy, but this was a common thought of the time. If you loved your neighbor, since an enemy wasn’t specified, surely you are to hate your enemy. Nope. You are to love them too. Actually, the Law itself upheld good treatment of the enemy, such as returning his stray animal to him.

This can be really hard at times for all of us. I don’t consider myself having many personal enemies, but if someone hurts Allie, they become my enemy. I was once at a Christian event and I looked up and suddenly from behind, the person in front of me looked like someone who had really hurt Allie in the past. I was filled with rage immediately. I could hardly concentrate on what the speaker was saying. I found out later it wasn’t him, but at the time, I sure was thinking about things I wanted to do.

My usual idea in this case is to do what I want and then ask for forgiveness later.

Just a couple of days ago we had someone knock on our door and with them was someone Allie had been hurt by. They wanted to take us downtown and offered to pay us. I only asked if it was okay with Allie.

It’s really amazing how we think. We look at what other people do so much which we cannot control, and we look at what we do so little which we can control. When I stand before God one day, He is not going to ask me about how other people treated me. He is going to ask me about how I treated other people.

God demonstrates this love. Everyone gets rain and everyone gets sunshine. Anyone can love someone who is good to them as well. Big whoop if you do that. It’s if you can love someone who is opposed to you. That’s a real accomplishment.

Something to note. This does not mean you necessarily put yourself in a compromising position. In a 12-step recovery, you are told to make amends to people you have hurt unless that would hurt you or them. If it is dangerous for you to be in front of a person who could be a threat to you even if you did hurt them, do not reach out to them. You can forgive someone for a wrong, but you don’t have to trust them again.

Those who want some examples of this kind of love are free to check my article on if your murderer will be in heaven, which is one of the most popular ones on this site. As someone said in the comments, right now, Stephen and Paul are together. Radical love is what is required to be a Christian.

In Christ,
Nick Peters