Joy in God’s Absence

Can someone be happy when giving up on God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I continue looking at the news of Tyler, one aspect of it that didn’t surprise me was when he talked about being in a good mood even after abandoning God, not in the sense of going atheist, but in the sense of abandoning Christianity. This sounds like a shock to many people. I get that. After all, if God is the greatest source of joy in your life, then surely losing that would be misery wouldn’t it?

But notice the conditional statement.

If God is the greatest source of joy in your life.

What if He isn’t?

What if He’s a misery, actually?

What if you think God is someone who doesn’t care about you, doesn’t want to help you, and refuses to be there in your suffering? If your idea of God is of a God who is cruel and uncaring, what if you lost that idea? What if that idea was gone from your mind? It could be relieving. You no longer have to work to please this tyrant then.

I contend that when people turn their back on God or refuse to believe in Him, they often have an extremely negative view of Him. N.T. Wright has talked about new students entering a university when he was on duty as a chaplain there and when asked about their religion that they didn’t believe in God. He would say “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.” Sometimes, they would smile thinking that they had heard many of the clergy there were secretly atheists.

So if you tell me that there is a god who stands absent in your suffering and doesn’t care about your pain at all, then I will say, “Yes. I don’t believe in that god either.” My concern at this point is the idea that when you answer the question of God differently, how your worldview changes is a result of what place you gave Him in your worldview. Consider a parallel.

I live in New Orleans. This is a city that has a problem of crime. I could watch the local news tonight and hear hypothetically about a resident of the city who was murdered and think “Well that sucks”, but I won’t stay awake at night thinking about them. Now if it turned out that someone I know well here on the campus was murdered and I would never see them again, that would hit me very differently.

We are all like that. If we weren’t, there are people dying every day everywhere and somehow many of us can have joy and sleep peacefully at night. What hits us hard is based on how close someone was to us. We can hear about thousands dying in a disaster somewhere and it is saddening, but when we hear about the death of one person close to us that we know, that is far harder for us to take.

If you remove God from your worldview and it doesn’t change, then that is an indicator of what place He played in your worldview. If God was mainly there for emotional support, well you can get that in several other places. If God is just there to fill in the gaps in scientific thinking, then that means the study of science leads to that kind of atheism.

Yet what if God is the foundation for everything? I find it fascinating so many atheists question if God exists, but they don’t stop to think about what it means to exist. It sounds like a simple question, but it isn’t. This is a gift that Classical Theism brings to the table.

To get back to the joy of the absence, it makes sense that if someone you perceive as a negative influence in your life is gone, there can be joy. That shouldn’t be surprising. The concern is that if we look at the emotions as the guide, they are always temporary. They will fade. What then? Also, what if the emotions guide the worldview? What if we say “I feel this, so now I must fit my idea of God to correspond with this emotion.”?

When I get in the point of wondering if God cares for me, I have to go back to what I know. Does God exist? Yes. There are too many good arguments I know of. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes. I know no other way to explain the data and the person of Jesus is hard to explain outside of Christianity. Then I have to interpret everything in light of that.

I also know if you go the way of skepticism, you eventually have to lower Jesus. It’s the question of if someone is willing to do that or not. Time will tell.

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

Can I Have Some Bread?

What kind of father doesn’t give his son bread? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m continuing my look at what Tyler Vela has shown and commenting from my view as a divorced man as well. This time, we’re going to look at Matthew 7. In this passage, Jesus asks that if your son asks for bread, will you give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If a wicked father gives good things to his children, how much more will your good Father give good gifts?

To start with this, I want you to know that your Bible has a major difference from the originals. There is something that they have that was not written in the original documents. At this, I wonder if any atheists could be booting up their blogs and their video equipment so they can write and make YouTube videos and podcasts about this. An apologist is going to admit a major problem with the Bible!

You’re going to be disappointed.

I am simply talking about chapters and verses. Matthew did not start out and write “Chapter 1, verse 1.” Those numbers weren’t added until later. They do have a benefit in some ways in that it’s easier to find one isolated statement. There is a downside in that we can read chapters and not connect them to earlier chapters.

In Matthew 6, Jesus has been talking about being provided for and that includes basic staples. Food, water, and clothing. He does not mention luxury goods. I don’t see any reason to think that that changes after Matthew 6.

There are plenty of reasons to not give some good gifts. Something could be good in and of itself, but bad for a child. A lollipop could be fine for many children, but not for a child who is diabetic. Some good things could be too expensive. Sometimes a parent might want a child to learn some discipline and self-control and save a good gift for when something good has been done, such as not giving money until chores are done.

Yet Tyler is asking about something simpler. Can God show me that He loves me?

That is a real and noble desire. Yet as I see it, God has already done that. The question is “Why is He not believed on the basis of the cross and the resurrection?” I understand doubt. Doubt is real, yet is God obligated to give us extra special revelation if one is not accepting what He has already said? As Jesus said, if they do not believe the Scriptures, they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.”

What is most important to ask about this is “Why is this doubted?” I can’t claim to know the answer, but let’s consider a guess. What if you think “If my wife didn’t really love me and could betray me so quickly, why should God be different?” That is something that needs to be worked on and therapy can be a great way. However, it also has to be asked “Why is she being given that power that her voice speaks louder than God’s on an authority basis?”

Let’s suppose it was because of a wrong done on your part that led to the divorce? I say this to cover both ends. If you are the wronged party, you can wonder if you are lovable. If you are the party that did the wrong, you can wonder if God could love and forgive you. Again, Scripture says if you have repented, He has. You have to figure out why you feel otherwise.

One problem if God does do something special and exceptional for you alone to show He loves you is that if you have an underlying issue, it can be a temporary fix. If that happens, then you would need an experience over and over again. This can get the idea of being hooked on a feeling or hooked on an experience.

What also has to be asked is why we have the standard often that if God doesn’t do what I think He should, then He doesn’t love me? Those kinds of conditions for love are dangerous put on anyone. That can also lead to the dissolving of a lot of marriages. A husband can say, “Well if my wife really cared about me, she would do XYZ.” It could be sex, letting him watch sports on the weekend or go fishing with friends or buy a new video game. A wife could say if her husband cared about her, he would help with the chores or assist with the kids or bring home flowers or know what she really wanted for Christmas. Both partners could even be right, but the conditional is a killer.

Keep in mind, none of this is meant to be a cure-all. Issues about struggling with the love of God, or anyone else for that matter, cannot be answered by a simple blog post. However, I do hope this can be a key that could lead someone to understand what is going on with them and come to conclusions.

I also want to stress that I can understand this concern that God doesn’t love you. I have gone through it. I suspect most every Christian who takes his Christianity seriously has gone through this as well. This is another way the church needs to talk about this issue. Maybe more people could be helped if they saw they weren’t unusual.

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

Can God Be A Moral Monster

Is it possible for God to be morally wrong? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

He told me that it the flood was wrong. I wanted to know why. The reply was that it brought about a lot of agony. I’m sure it did, but on what grounds does that mean it was wrong? There are plenty of events that bring about agony. Sometimes, it’s needed. I had a lot of agony after my back surgery. Still glad I went through it.

One of the big problems with this kind of objection is that it carries in it a built-in idea about God that many Christians hold to as well. The book Is God A Moral Monster? is a great book and I’m not saying Copan holds the view I am critiquing, but it could be asked if the claim is even possible. Can God be a moral monster?

When objections are raised about what God does, the claim often comes up that it is wrong for God to do X. Why? On what grounds? I am not going the presuppositionalist route here. This is not asking by what authority one can condemn God. It’s asking if questions of morality can even apply to God.

Consider how this works. If God is capable of being moral or immoral, then that means there is a moral law that is objective. Christians agree at this point, but does this mean that it applies to God? God is under the law and is to be held accountable to it? Who could hold God to account for it?

So if God takes a life, for example, on what grounds has He done something wrong? He is the Lord and source of all life. If He wants to take a life, He can. Is there anyone that He owes a life to? Is there anyone that God is in debt to?

Now one objection I can think of to this is that God has made promises. Doesn’t God keep His promises? Doesn’t He have an obligation to do that?

God does keep His promises, but it’s not because He’s moral, doing what He ought to do as there is no ought above Him. It is because He is good. All moral acts are good, but not all good acts are moral. Sometimes, we go above and beyond what we ought to do and that is a good act that is not required upon us.  I may have a moral requirement to help my neighbor in need. It’s going above and beyond if I can somehow pay all of his bills for a year.

If you ask me then if God is moral, I will say no. The question doesn’t apply. If you ask me if God is good, I will say absolutely. The question does apply. This is not because goodness is something outside of God He submits to. It is because goodness is His very nature. He is good because He cannot deny Himself or be untrue to Himself.

Thus, in a debate, I make it a point that my opponent has to demonstrate why God is supposedly in the wrong for anything. It’s not mine to assume God’s actions have to be defended. My opponent needs to show me why they need any defense at all.

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

Divorce as Rejection

What ultimately is divorce? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have my laptop back and everything looks to be working fine, so let’s jump back into this topic. When it gets down to it, what is the #1 pain of divorce? If I could sum it up in one word, it would be rejection.

Many of us have experienced a break-up in our lives or have asked someone out and been told no, and those can compare, but divorce is just so much worse. Divorce is when someone makes a promise to you and then breaks it. Divorce is when in a marriage you have given everything you have to someone and they have said that it wasn’t good enough.

For me, this has hit quite hard as if you asked my parents about me growing up, I always wanted a woman in my ilfe, and this was long before I knew about the birds and the bees. I never had that faze in my life where girls were icky and had cooties or anything like that. I can still remember the first crush I had was back in elementary school in Transition and that lasted all through elementary school.

I also had got used to being told no later on when I would ask any girl out. No. No. No. I still want to roll my eyes when I hear a lady say something like “I just want a nice guy who cares about me and my feelings.” Let’s face it. We’re all a bit superficial at times and those looks play a big role in it. I would just prefer the honesty.

So when she came into my life and was interested in me, it was something incredible. I had never once encountered a girl that was actually desiring of me. Not only that, she didn’t get turned off by the Aspie traits that I have. Everyone who saw us thought we were the best couple. My best man at the wedding in his toast said he didn’t think there were two people more suited for each other. The counselor doing our pre-marital counseling said he had only met seven couples he thought were a match made in Heaven and we were one of those couples.

And yet something went wrong.

Did I make mistakes? Obviously. Everyone does. Only a fool says he goes into a marriage and makes no mistakes. Anything worthy of this? Not a bit. The message given is that things were so bad with me that she thought she had to break her promise to God to escape.

Now I realize that sometimes people divorce over issues like divorce and adultery being done. In that case, the party that divorces when their spouse is unfaithful in that way is responding to a rejection already. I recommend trying to work things out if possible, but if the other party isn’t willing, there’s nothing you can do.

Today, I notice that I am very sensitive to rejection. It’s different for different people. A girl I used to go to DivorceCare with said once the ultimate one breaks the promise and rejects, the other rejections don’t really hurt anymore. For me, they do. They remind me of that rejection.

I used to tell people I was on the spectrum and have no problem with it. Now I do it and get nervous beforehand worried that they will reject me. If I make a mistake at my job, I am sure for some time that I will be fired. It hasn’t happened yet, but that is still there. I do try to approach women, but I am still again sensitive to any hint of rejection.

Rejection is so painful because the message given is not just your actions but that you as a person are inadequate. You are not good enough. I find this ironic since what she always complained about was other people saying she wasn’t good enough. Now who is the one saying that?

By the way, I want to stress that while I am honest about her behavior when I speak of it, I am not trying to speak ill of her honestly. For her, I really do want the best for her. I want her to have a holy and happy life eventually. I do have my concerns about that, but I try to eliminate any animosity. That doesn’t do me any good after all.

My DivorceCare leader and I had a discussion a few months ago that covered rejection. I told him that I didn’t understand when he said he wanted me to speak less, but was always praising other people when they spoke. That was one thing among many. He thanked me for sharing and said “I thought you knew that I was encouraging them because they were new. I didn’t realize you didn’t see it that way.” In truth, I didn’t. It felt like a rejection every time.

I also realize that ultimately, this is not an issue with other people. This is an issue with me. I cannot demand that other people change to fit my happiness. None of us can. Anyone has a right and freedom to reject me if they wish. It could be wrong perhaps, but it is their choice. I also have a right to not accept everyone who comes to me. I have a desire to remarry, but I don’t want to remarry someone who isn’t a Christian.

I do know that at my workplace I will soon be able to have health insurance. I have a therapist already, but one of my plans is also to get a psychiatrist then so I can work on the issues that I am dealing with and if need be, get medication. I wonder if I might have a form of PTSD from everything I went through and I think a psychiatrist can best determine that.

Now some of you might be tempted to go all spiritual on me and say “Well God accepts you. Isn’t that good enough?” In a sense, it should be for all of us, but God also made us social creatures. We are not meant to be alone. Even in the most glorious state in creation for man, it was not good for man to be alone. When our Lord walked this Earth, He had friends. Could there not be a hint of the pain of rejection in his words when he says to His disciples in John 6, “Will you go also?”

If I desire friends in my life and don’t want to be rejected, will anyone really tell me that’s wrong? If I desire for even strangers to like me and not reject me, is that wrong? If I also, which I do, desire a lady in my life to share my journeys with, will anyone say that that is wrong? These are all desires that I think are God-given so we should celebrate them and try to meet them.

Can this kind of thing be taken too far? Yes. That is something that I have to work on on my end, but at the same time try to better myself for my interactions with other people. I have read some books on interacting socially lately to try to work on this all the more. I can easily say I don’t ever want to go through the pain that divorce brings and is bringing again.

I say bringing because everything I do around me often is a reminder of it. When I go to bed at night, there’s no one lying next to me or no one who can reach over and touch me or vice-versa. She was the only person who I really craved the touch of. I live with my parents again now and I don’t even like it if they touch me.

When I am at work, I wonder if I would be where I was if she hadn’t rejected me. When I find myself going out there trying to make friends again and trying to win the heart of a lady, i often think about what I have lost. Yes. Despite the wrong that has done, I have lost something.

The Scripture says the two become one flesh. How can you become one flesh with someone and then when they are gone not have a real loss? When you marry, so much of your life becomes integral around another person and then that person says they don’t want you anymore? What are you to think of that? In some sense, does your identity not come into question?

I look through Facebook memories and so many times, I see myself making a post on how much she means to me. In the comments, I can sometimes see her talking about how much she will always be devoted to me and always love me and how thankful she is. Yep. That stings every time I see it.

I had a coworker ask me about animes recently. I don’t remember what brought it up, but that was hard to talk about. After all, the main person I know about those through is her.

When you’re 41 also, it’s much harder to find someone who is in your age range who is still looking for someone for marriage. Put in all my eccentricities and it can become even harder. Still, I think it’s worth it. I have a therapist working with me in this regard, but it is difficult.

If you’re in a marriage and struggling, please do try to work out your struggles. Aside from abuse and adultery, divorce should be a last option. It is a great pain to the person who is being rejected. I have met people who have lost a spouse to divorce and death and to a person, I think aside from just one maybe, all of them said divorce was worse.

Yes. Divorce is worse than death.

It’s worse I think because it’s an ongoing living death. You know the other person is out there and has intentionally acted in this way to get away from you. This person has decided that you are unlovable. Now I still maintain that if you think your neighbor is unlovable, the real deficiency is in you and not in them, but that doesn’t change that it hurts.

Yet I think the more I stay hidden away and don’t get myself out there, the more I am just bringing that rejection on myself. As I go out in the world, will I still get rejected? Obviously. Whether it’s for friendship or a date or a job interview, it will always hurt, but that’s life. You can’t control that other people will do hurtful things to you, but you are in control of how you respond to them. I have to make a deliberate choice to choose to overcome. Everyone has their choice to make. I also have mine.

Thank you for all who have been supporting me on this journey, fellow travelers.

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

 

 

Ten Shekels and a Shirt

What do you go to God for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I went to speak to a financial advisor yesterday who is also a Baptist minister. I assured him I would not hold that against him. Naturally, in the middle of talking about my finances a lot, we talked a lot also about theology. One recommendation he gave me was to listen to a sermon called Ten Shekels and a Shirt by Paris Reidhead given in the 1960’s that can be heard here.

I honestly don’t remember what led to this message being recommended, but I did listen to it. The reference comes from Judges 17. In it, a young Levite agrees to serve a family as a priest for ten shekels and a shirt a year and willingly sacrifices that when he gets a chance to be a priest for the tribe of Dan. This young man is an opportunist just going wherever he can get the biggest reward.

Reidhead’s point is that too many times we are doing the same thing. Are we just talking about the liberals who are all about the happiness of man? No. The conservatives do the same thing. A liberal Christianity is often about making you happy in this life. Too often though, a conservative focuses only on happiness in the next life. Both have the same focus, but just in different times.

I remember years ago attending a church and the pastor finished a sermon with a prayer like this. “Lord Jesus. I know I am a sinner, and without you, I cannot get to Heaven. So come in to my heart and be Lord of my life from this day forward. Thank you for my salvation. Amen.”

True, the prayer says we are sinners and calls Jesus Lord, but what is the point in the prayer? Sadly, it’s about going to Heaven. I am honestly at the point where I wish Christians would stop talking about Heaven so much, at least the way that they do. I have even said we talk about the joys of Heaven and God is an afterthought. It’s like saying God’s purpose is to make us happy.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being happy and wanting to be happy. The question is what will make us happy. A Christian should happily serve Jesus because they do it all for the glory of God. In the end, if you do glory in God, you will wind up finding happiness. Too often though, we choose a path and think “This path will make me happy” but if we sacrifice holiness, it will only be a short-term happiness.

This can happen in any number of ways. A person can cheat at the job to get some extra money and it can even be for a good reason, but yet they have sacrificed their soul to some extent. A couple can decide they love each other so much that despite their not being married, why not just have sex anyway? A little here and a little there and it adds up. What are we willing to sell our souls for? Do we really think if we want happiness and we’re Christians that we’re going to find it going against the ways of God?

This becomes a way of using people, and we can often do this. If we are dating, we often want to date someone who makes us happy, and our spouse should want to make us happy and we should find happiness in them, but do we think “How can I make this person happy?” Much of our marriage culture is all about our happiness and that only leads to destruction. Gary Thomas has a book called Sacred Marriage where he asks “What if the purpose of marriage is not to make us happy, but to make us holy?”

Good question.

In reality, the Bible does tell us to seek happiness to some extent. When Jesus tells us to sacrifice and give, He also consistently points to some reason for it. He tells us about treasure in Heaven and that we will have the Kingdom. The Ten Commandments say to honor your father and mother so that it might go well for you and you will have a long life on the Earth. Romans 2 praises those who persist in doing good by seeking glory, honor, and immortality. Yes. We are to seek those things.

But why do we seek them?

If we all do it for ourselves, we are empty beings indeed. We do it also for the glory of God. If we come to God just because we want the goodies, you could say in some way we are raping God as it were. We are using Him for what we want and then dispensing with Him when life doesn’t go our way. There is nothing wrong with wanting forgiveness and salvation, but let’s try to remember we do this because we have dishonored a holy God and we don’t want to do that. Too much of our thinking today assumes God owes us something, which is also behind a lot of atheist argumentation with the idea of “How dare God judge person XYZ!”

To get back to what we do in conservative circles, we have made Christianity all about what happens when we die and we say hardly anything about what happens before that. We don’t talk about the kingship of Christ or the glory of God. All we do is pretty much give people “Get out of Hell free” cards. Is it any shock that if that’s all we’re doing there’s not much passion for evangelism? That’s also hardly a loving Father we present. “Come to God so He won’t send you to Hell.” I can’t imagine why it is atheists don’t just flock to that.

This is not to say we avoid teaching about Hell. We should. It is to say we need the positive too. Come to God because He is worth it. Come to God because He truly is goodness and love.

My biggest concern with Reidhead’s message is that yes, we can have a message that focuses too much on the happiness of man, but let’s not go so far as to say that doesn’t matter a bit. God cares about it for He did create Heaven to be a place of joy to remove everything sorrowful from us and He did send His Son to the cross. God cares about our happiness too, but He also knows the best way to bring it about. You will never find true and lasting happiness by going against Him. God’s rules for living are not to hinder our joy, but to enhance it.

It is a fine line. We do not exalt the glory of God by choosing to be miserable, but we also don’t go to God just because we want to be happy only and don’t care about Him. That is like a man doing good for his wife because he wants her to do something to make him happy and he doesn’t really care about her. The great joy is in knowing you did something loving and if you get a blessing from it, even better. If not, you still did what was right. You bettered your own soul.

Where is the balance then? I don’t claim to fully know at this point. Our lives are caught in a state that we don’t really know what is good for us and often run contrary to what we think is good for us. However, I am sure we can never find true happiness apart from God and we can’t find it in using God. One might start with coming to God for less than noble reasons at first, but when we start to grow in Christ, we should think more about His glory and honor and let that be motivation for serving.

At this point, I ask, what about you? What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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

God As A Means

What is the point? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times, I get really annoyed when Christians start talking about Heaven so much. It’s not so much because Heaven is unimportant to talk about. It is. The problem is that seems to be all that we talk about and when we talk about Heaven, it’s not even for the right reasons.

Let’s start with the first point. Listen to many Christians today and you would think the whole point of Christianity is going to Heaven. A small child comes forward and accepts Jesus and now he has to look forward to that when he dies, he will go to Heaven. What is he told about the here and now? What is he told about the purpose of his life? Well, be a good person. Congratulations. Even secularists do the same with their children. They can also offer that without all this stuff that people find so hard to believe, so what a shock when children will dump Jesus later on in their teen years. What was the point anyway?

Nothing is said about us being servants of the Kingdom. Jesus is your savior, but nothing is said about what you are to do for Him. It’s all about what He did for you. Nothing is said about how He is supposed to be your king. When do we hear about holy living in the here and now for the glory of God?

As for the second problem, I have heard many Christians describe Heaven and when they do so, their descriptions are quite lacking. The lacking in the details of Heaven is nothing is said about God. You see, you get to live forever and you’re reunited with your loved ones and you have this mansion and these streets of gold. It’s as if God is an afterthought.

With this, God becomes solely a means to obtain what we want for ourselves. God is not the goal and the great reward. He is the means to the goal and the great reward. It’s almost as if this kind of attitude is wanting to rape God for the good things that He has.

I can assure you it was incredibly awkward even writing that last sentence, but that is the only kind of parallel I can come up with. Perhaps such a graphic illustration is what some of us need anyway. All the good stuff alone does not make Heaven.

I have heard there was an episode of the Twilight Zone where a man dies and goes to a place where he has a mansion and all the good things he wants. As time goes on though, he gets bored and when asks about that is told that’s the way it is. He asks why it is that Heaven is like this to which he is told, “Who said you were in Heaven?” I am not saying this is what happens, but one could imagine how twisted it would be for a hell to be a place where you seem to have all you want at the start and then find out that it is unfulfilling. Ultimately, only God can eternally satisfy the longings of man, something I still have to remind myself of.

Besides that, when we see our loved ones, it’s almost as if we think we will pick up right where we left off. Last night, I finished reading again C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. He describes the same sort of idea and does also realize he is being tempted to treat God as a means to see his beloved again. Lewis throughout tries to think about what could be happening to his bride. Perhaps she is still being sanctified. Why think that her pain is entirely ending? Could she be experiencing separation? While Lewis was a Protestant, he did still pray for her and was open to some sufferings of purgatory.

Perhaps it is because we do not see God as desirable Himself that we look at Heaven like this. Why do we not see God as the great reward Himself? As an apologist, I wish I had an answer, but I do not at this point. It is a question I am still mulling over. I hope to do some future blogs as I think about it in the future.

I suppose in closing all I can say is to think about why you are doing what you are doing. Is God a means to an end? What is the point of your life now? Are you presenting God as the goal or just the afterthought, the means to the end?

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

Autism Awareness: God

How do I relate to God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As a Christian, sometimes, it is difficult to understand how one is to respond to God. I was tempted to say relate, but how do you relate to God? God is so vastly different from us. Of course, we do have the incarnation to help with this, a great blessing of the Christian belief system.

Unfortunately, I have a great distrust of a lot of Christianese. I have heard this said in Protestant and Orthodox Churches and I am sure it is said in Catholic Churches, and that’s where you hear talk about how “This is what God has done for us” and it’s not what happened in Scripture, but what took place in goals like fundraising or building plans or something of that sort. I always want to ask “How do we know God did that?” It could be we’re going along with our plans and when we see something happen, we interpret that to mean God is giving us a green light, but maybe He isn’t.

I am also highly skeptical when I read a Christian book that is more about something like marriage build-up or dealing with anxiety and depression and not apologetics related and I hear the author talk about what God told them. I am usually very skeptical at that point. Just yesterday I was listening to a book on my Tap where the author talked about sending a message to his wife that he said God gave him, but it was clear, and the author even realized this later on as well, that it was not from God.

A great danger also is if I am right with this and it is not God speaking so much, then we are setting up newer Christians and people on the spectrum for a fall. They have a number of options. Someone can make something up because they think that is what they are supposed to do. Someone can have a strong feeling and think God is speaking to them then. (How many of us really think all our strong feelings are from God?) Some of us on the spectrum who do not have strong emotions or relational skills could think something is wrong with us.

Those of us on the spectrum have a hard enough time relating to other people not sure what all the social rules of a relationship are. It’s far harder for us when it comes to relating to God. Here, we have someone we can’t see and few if any will rarely directly hear.

For me with prayer, it is something I always wonder about. How long do you do it? What do you really say? How do you treat God properly in prayer? I have read books on prayer, but there is still something about it that is hard to understand.

Now keep in mind this is from someone on the spectrum who is also highly well trained in Christian theology. If I have this hard a time with the matter while it is my life’s work, how much harder could it be for the person on the spectrum who is exploring Christianity? When we talk to them about the faith, are we talking about Christianity as it was taught by the apostles, or are we talking about the Western individualist notions we have added in?

The walk with God can be difficult for everyone and in some ways, should be, but it can be harder I suspect for those of us on the spectrum. Be understanding. Apologetics will be a great help here since many of us are logically minded and prefer rules and order. Talking about your personal emotions and experiences will probably not be helpful.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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The Need of the Other

What can we not do for ourselves? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My apologies for a week without blogs. I have had a whole lot going on in my personal life. I am sure it will come out eventually, but for now, I am fighting a private battle with the help of some friends and others and I appreciate your prayers and support in it. I also have some book reviews to do, but I wanted to write on something I was thinking about recently.

It started with my cat actually. I have noticed whenever I am around him, my cat is constantly wanting my attention. I can hardly play a video game or a TV show without him being right up there with me wanting to get attention.

Now in some ways, we could say a cat could survive on their own. Many do in the wild. They can hunt their own food and they can go to the bathroom where they want. Many of them are solitary animals who hunt on their own from what I see.

So yes, I do feed my cat and change his litter box and he can’t do this on his own while domesticated, but even if in the wild, there is something he can’t do on his own. He can’t pet himself. If my cat wants to be petted, he depends on me, a human being.

As we grow up, one of the first blessings we can get in our lives when we step outside of our homes is friends. These are people who have no blood relation to us and come to like us and enjoy our company and are willing to sacrifice their time and sometimes money because they think we are worth the investment. I have plenty of friends who have been there whenever I have needed to make a phone call and it means a lot when someone calls just to check and see how I am doing.

Aristotle even said friends were something not necessary to live, but they were good to have and your life is lacking without them. Friendship has been a great mystery to us, but we are all thankful for it. Even in Plato’s Lysis, it is not known at the end what a friend is, but it is hopeful that we all leave as friends.

This is not to deny family, and it’s interesting that it takes multiple people really to have a family. The family begins with a man and a woman together. Communist societies had a war against the family constantly because the family doesn’t require the government or its justification to exist. Family is the first community we live in and it is a community often vastly different than we are. Our birth parents in reality are people we might not even choose as friends if we didn’t know them, but we have a great bond to them as family.

And now let’s combine those two. Friends and family are best combined in marriage. Again, I cannot give myself that kind of love. If we refer to sexual love, yes, regardless of your moral stance on the issue, masturbation exists, and yet most of us would prefer to be with a member of the opposite sex instead of alone by ourselves.

So sexual love requires someone else and marriage is not only a community, but is a making of a new community that is a reproducing community. If you have friends, you grow the circle from without by bringing in new people that are already there. With marriage, you bring in new people through the act of sexual intercourse. That comes from within.

If we look in Scripture, we find numerous passages in the New Testament in the epistles especially that are commands to do something to one another. The church is meant to be a community. There is no Lone Ranger Christianity in reality. With the Coronavirus, many of us have lost that community. It’s hard to have community when you are alone in your homes watching on a screen. While I have a different interpretation of the Lord’s Supper than my Catholic and Orthodox friends, we all agree it is an important aspect of community.

All of this community shows us how much we need one another. We are not meant to be alone. Even if a person wants to be single, they still need companions and friends. Even Jesus had them on His journeys as did Paul. All of this comes from God above.

And by the way, He is a Trinity. Just think about it.

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

Is God’s Goodness Always Good?

What happens when good doesn’t seem good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christians hold that God is good. We also hold that there is real evil in the world. It’s not an illusion. It actually happens. There are things in this world that are unjustifiably evil.

Let’s understand if skeptics see a problem here. I understand logically things work out, but emotionally, evil is a real problem. I’m wanting today to write about when the idea of the goodness of God is hard.

It’s easy to say God is good when things are going fine in our lives. That’s not a problem. However, as soon as we start having problems that are serious, many of us start to wonder about the goodness of God. Besides, isn’t it so obvious what should be done in this situation? Surely God who is all good and all loving and knows all would agree with what needs to be done and do what we ask. Right?

Not necessarily.

That’s when the goodness of God gets really difficult. If anything, it becomes more painful to believe in the goodness of God. You have to accept that what is happening is not necessarily good, as evil is never good, but that God is not doing anything wrong in allowing this evil to occur, whatever it is.

Do you still believe in the goodness of God?

If you don’t, you don’t really believe in the goodness of God. You believe in it only if God is doing what you think is good for you. God is subject to what you think. If you do believe in His goodness, then you believe in it regardless. That is the real test of belief in God’s goodness.

This is what happens in the book of Job. The book of Job is not about the problem of evil. You can look high and low and you will not find the answer to why good people suffer. It is also not God making a bet on a whim. It is asking why does Job serve God?

Does Job serve God because life is going good for Him and He gets all the goodies? Well, congratulations. Anyone can serve under those conditions. If you were a Christian and one of the wealthiest people if not the wealthiest in the world at the time and had a good family on top of that, it would be really easy to talk about the goodness of God.

Can you talk about it when things are rough?

What if Job lost everything? Would he still serve God? If he doesn’t, then he only serves God for the goodies. If he does, then he serves God because of who God is and it’s the right thing to do.

This is not to say Job can’t question and complain. He does. So do we. We can do that also. The Psalms are full of such cases. You are allowed to talk to God. He’s a big God. He can take it. You’re still supposed to trust Him in it.

C.S. Lewis said years ago this is the kind of Christian that puts the cause of evil in a panic. If a soldier looks up for a God who he feels abandoned by, asks why, and still obeys, then that soldier will serve through anything. That is a position we are all to take.

God’s goodness can be hard, but it is the best hope that we have. When things are rough, God is still good. He is still in charge and it is His story, not yours. Trust the author to work it out.

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

Book Plunge: Time and Despondency

What do I think of Nicole Roccas’s book published by Ancient Faith Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes when I have been struggling with something, I will talk to my wife’s priest. While I am not Orthodox, that is not a problem with us as he’s more than happy to help me with things. I also think wisdom can be found outside of one’s own tradition (And even religion) and if we as Christians ever think it’s only people of our theological heritage that have true wisdom worth gaining, that is a very sad state.

Right now with some present circumstances, I have been in normally a state of seasonal depression. When I mentioned the word depression to him, he turned it into despondency. At that moment, I remembered I ordered for my wife who is a catechumen in the Orthodox Church the book Time and Despondency. I decided to get it out and give it a try.

Let’s start with one excellent thing about this book. The author does not come out as someone high and holy and thus you read the book and think “I will never reach this level.” Nope. Roccas is a fellow traveler on the journey and she too would prefer at times to do something like binge watch Netflix.

She definitely writes from an Orthodox perspective, but that does not overwhelm the book so much that others won’t benefit. As a Protestant, I found much of the advice helpful. The advice of great saints is found as there is wisdom to be found in many places.

She also writes of goals that are doable. She never tells you to go and pray for an hour or so. Instead, just work on matters bit by bit and learn and grow in them. There’s even a place advocating quick prayers. Those are fine many times. When I am out in public and I hear sirens and see a first responder going by, I always pray for that situation. (Definitely not with eyes closed if driving.)

Her advice to deal with despondency is also not just purely spiritual matters. She talks about St. Antony who was scolded by someone for playing with his fellow monks when surely he should have been praying and how Antony responded to justify his actions. She talks about the use of humor, which at this point, I couldn’t help but think of Harry Potter and the spell to deal with boggarts.

For those who don’t know, boggarts are creatures that take on the image of your worst fear. The way to deal with them is to use a spell with the word “Ridiculous!” and turn them into something you can laugh at. I think Rowling at this point hit on something with the nature of fear.

Roccas also shows that this is a problem that is not just modern in nature. Monks from well over a thousand years ago dealt with this. They had times they didn’t want to pray either or work on the Scriptures. Apparently, some could have even committed suicide from sorrow. It was even called the noonday demon. The condition is the same, but today we probably have more means to encounter it.

There is also definitely good theology in here. Roccas brings out the reality of the resurrection and what it means. God being the God of all time is there to redeem every moment of time, including the moment that we are in. Again, just like before, none of this though is spoken in terminology that is over the layman’s head.

If you’re struggling with depression, or despondency if you prefer, this is a really good book to read. The advice is practical and doable and not over your head. Most of the chapters are short enough to read in one sitting and even the longest one can be broken down into manageable pieces. Give it a try. It beats living in despondency after all.

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

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