Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Conclusion

How does it all end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to Sophie to find out where her story ends.

Where the rubber really meets the road though, is in the personal experience of god. It’s where Christians return to, and what they rely on.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Not me. I will point her consistently to the Thomistic arguments and to the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Personal experience usually only convinces those on the inside already and is way too subjective. The irony here is that throughout this chapter, Sophie talks about her personal experience regularly as a now non-Christian.

It was woven into my being, but for me there had not been a defining, dramatic conversion. It is fair to say I knew no “before” but I had, what I considered to be, a personal relationship with the Christian god through Jesus and there was nothing more normal to me than that. I could hardly conceive how people functioned without it. During my deconstruction, eventually I had to take a cold hard look at this aspect of my belief, and my overall feeling on the matter boiled down to this; How most unremarkable this ‘walk’ with the Lord was. How completely underwhelming this supposed supernatural, life-to-the-full experience had been. How completely hidden this deity had been despite purporting to desire deep connection.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Which is a reason why I encourage Christians to NOT go by personal experience. We present Christianity in a way that is outside the experience of most people and then they feel let down, when it was really never Jesus that let them down, but an idealized version of what He’s supposed to do. If your Christian walk is built on anything other than the resurrection of Jesus, your walk is going to fail.

I didn’t seem capable of discerning God’s will, I just had ‘hunches’ much like secular folk.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Which is again nothing that has been part of historical Christianity.

I was assailed by anxiety, depression and fear as much as the next terrified little humanoid. There was no peace in the storm, there was Xanax.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

We need to show grace to people suffering from mental stress beyond normal. I take medication for anxiety. It’s great for me. Since my divorce, I was regularly in the throes of panic. If we can go to doctors for physical healing and take medications, we can do the same for mental healing.

I eventually had to concede that, despite trying, there was no “personal relationship” with God. I had tried but found it lacking and I could hardly see the point, much less muster up the enthusiasm anymore. I stopped communicating.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I have argued against the idea of Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is my king. I am His slave.

The amazingness of us even being on earth has given me goosebumps, awe and gratitude.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Sure, but gratitude to who?

If I’ve learnt anything from the experience, it is that I am not qualified for the job of evaluating this religion and its claims. I don’t have the theological training, the language expertise in Greek or Hebrew, and I have neither evolutionary biologist nor cosmological background. I don’t have sufficient historical information that I can evaluate on how much Christianity copies from other religions, or just how much neuroscience can explain spiritual phenomena. Needless to say, it’s a minefield with the added difficulty of the credibility of the sources and the cognitive bias present in almost everything. And that, that in itself, is enough to discredit it. Surely God would not have made the matter so hard that reasonably intelligent, truth-seeking people end up on either side of the fence and it’s just down to chance as to whether you can make the leap of faith or not? It seems it is. For that reason alone, I find it therefore quite improbable that this particular god exists.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Go back and listen to old sermons preached centuries ago and find that the common man was being taught what we would consider difficult today. However, if you say you don’t possess the ability to evaluate, then why are you just doing this evaluation right now? Once again, I don’t think Christianity is Sophie’s problem, but an idea of Christianity instead.

in the end, Sophie looks to be open. I hope she is. I hope if she ever reads this blog she will reach out. I would love to introduce her to a Jesus who doesn’t want you to find “His personal will for your life”, but just asks that you serve however best you can. You aren’t supposed to listen for His “Still small voice” but you’re supposed to study the Scriptures diligently. He doesn’t always take away the storm, but He is there with you and no, you won’t always feel it.

Also, if this book is ever redone, the only parts worth keeping are the ones by Skydive Phil and Ed Atkinson, even though I highly disagreed with them still. Definitely find someone better than David Johnson who regularly had some of the worst argumentation. Overall, this one really won’t provide you with decent argumentation for the most part.

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

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Good News For Anxious Christians

What do I think of Phillip Cary’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of book that should be required reading, especially for young Christians. I would be absolutely thrilled if at churches they gave a copy of this book to new Christians after they confessed and were baptized. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Not because ordering a lot of books could be expensive, but because most of the ideas Cary is arguing against are treated as traditional beliefs of Christianity from the beginning in the church.

For Cary, this results in Christians being anxious. “Why is my life not being like everyone else’s that I see? Why do I not hear the voice of God? Why do I not have joy? Why am I bored at the sermon? Why can’t I just let go and let God?” It is unspoken by Cary, though I suspect he would agree, that this I think is also a cause of apostasy in the church at times when the Christian life seems to fail to deliver on promises it never really made and certainly a critique atheists like to give.

So I won’t go in-depth on many of these, but they are important. First off is hearing the voice of God. We too often have our own feelings and emotions in us and the idea is we have to discern which one is the voice of God. This is not to rule out that God can speak, but it is to say it is not to be normative in the Christian life. This also ties in with the idea he has that you don’t have to know which of your intuitions are the Holy Spirit.

I remember getting ready to speak at a church one and hearing the person introducing me say “Let’s listen to what God has put on his heart.” I was inwardly thinking “Please don’t put me in that position.” You see, I don’t doubt I had a good message, but I would not say this comes directly from God through me to you. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. If every pastor I have heard is the voice of God speaking, God must be really confused.

This goes along with the idea of doing as you feel led. I know of churches that say to give as you feel led. Never mind that we have 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 that tell us how we are to give. Let’s throw those out for personal experiences.

The next one I want to emphasize is that you don’t have to find God’s will for your life. Somehow people got this idea that God wants you to have a specific career and marry a specific person and you have to find out what and who. (It’s usually assumed it’s God’s will for you to marry.) However, Greg Koukl as well pointed out that if you married the wrong person, then the people you were meant for have to marry someone else and the people they were went for and on and on and so by your one mistake you have screwed up God’s plan for humanity. Well done!

No. You don’t have to do this. Just find a job that is moral that you are good at and can provide and for marriage, find someone who is good for you and you are good for.

What about motivations? Now back when I was married, I remember one day a friend picked up my ex-wife for a women’s conference and I thought I would surprise her and do a deep clean of the house while she was gone. After awhile, I thought of how happy she would be to see things so clean which was great and then thought “I bet she’ll really want to show me how happy she is.” Then anxiety set in immediately. What if that’s really why I’m doing this? What if I just want the reward.

Nowadays, I think that was a ridiculous worry to have. Was it something good to do? Yes. Then do it. Now if I knew I was doing something just for the reward, I think that would be hypocrisy, but if I at least want to do good, that is all that matters, and I just pray for God to purify my motives. Odds are none of us will ever have 100% pure motives for anything. We do the best with what we have.

I’m going to skip a couple now to talk about how you don’t always have to have joy, at least the feeling of joy. One of the best gifts you can give someone at times is letting them suffer. I know in the early days of my divorce, if you had tried to downplay what I was feeling such as telling it wasn’t that bad or told me I shouldn’t be sad over it as a Christian, I would have wanted nothing to do with you. The best advice I had came from fellow sufferers who had been divorced and came alongside me. I remember especially someone saying “Today sucks, but tomorrow will suck a little bit less.”

Job is used as an example. The best gift Job’s friends gave him was silent presence. Everything was going right until they decided to speak. Then they ruined everything. The Bible says to mourn with those who mourn. Yes. It is Biblical sometimes to mourn.

One chapter that really left an impression on me is why application is the most boring part of many a sermon and too many sermons are ALL application. Consider this scenario. In the future, I meet a great girl and we go out and I want to get married and knowing my past divorce history, I tell you I’m scared I could be making the wrong decision. You want to talk to me about why you think this is a great relationship.

And your idea is to tell me about all the things that I do and all the traits I have to do that.

That just shows about me regardless of the woman. What makes sense? You tell me all about her and who she is and what she does.

In our sermons, we tell people to do things for Jesus, but we don’t usually tell them who Jesus is. Sermons are largely telling people what to do and not much about who they do it for. Instead, present Jesus as best you can as He is and count on people to have the proper response.

Finally, there’s a chapter on experiences. We live in a consumer age and too many people base what they have on their experiences. In the end, we end up needing more and more and the focus of our lives becomes not what God has revealed in Scripture, but what is going on with us and assuming all of it is the direct work of God.

This book is such a relief and it can be to so many more people.

I hope someday the church starts reading this. Sadly, they need to first to get rid of the bad ideas they’ve taken in.

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

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

How does God rule? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When Jesus finished the sermon, either a centurion in Israel or his servants, and I suspect the latter, came to Jesus. The centurion wanted a paralyzed servant to be healed and requested Jesus to do it. Jesus offered to see him, but if my suspicion is correct, this guy had told his servants what to say. He’s not worthy to have Jesus in his house, but he is a man of authority and understands how authority works. If he says something to a servant in his house, it gets done.

What does this man understand? He knows what Jesus’s house is. Jesus’s house is all of creation. If He says something, it gets done. If He says “Be healed”, Jesus doesn’t have to be present. It just gets done. This is truly a very high view of Jesus and Jesus rightly says this is greater than even the people of Israel.

Maybe the centurion heard about the Sermon on the Mount.

Maybe the centurion heard that Jesus had said that God’s will should be done on Earth as it is Heaven. What that means is in God’s domain, what He says goes. No angel talks back to God or offers a rejoinder. “Did you think about this part?” Nope. He says it. It’s done.

When we pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are saying we want the same thing. We want it to be that if God says it, it happens on Earth as well. Now here’s the concern. When we pray this, do we really mean it?

Let’s face it. If we’re Christians, we all know the “Christian answer.” We all know what we’re supposed to say, but talk is cheap. I recently saw someone on Facebook said that they are honestly scared to suffer even if it means suffering for Christ. I admired that. It’s honest. It’s easy for us to say, “If I had to die for my faith in Jesus, I would do it.” It’s easy to say that until the gun is pointed at you or you’re about to be thrown to the lions or something of that sort.

Want an example? Consider Peter. Peter bragged that he was willing to die for Jesus. What happened a few hours later? “Never heard of Him!” Peter had the talk, but he didn’t have the walk and he suffered for it.

So when we say that we want God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, let’s see if we really want it. Do we really want to sacrifice our sins so God’s will can be done? Do we want to be willing to give up everything for God’s will to be done? Do we want to do the work of loving our neighbor as ourselves so God’s will can be done?

If we don’t, then when we say God’s will be done, then we do not really mean it. What we might mean is we want all the goodies that come with a Christian life, but we don’t want the pain and sacrifice required on our end. We don’t want to have to make ourselves uncomfortable or exert ourselves where we don’t have to. Please let the will of God be done, provided it doesn’t interfere with my Netflix time. Okay?

But if you want the will of God to be done, you will have to demonstrate that. That means sacrifice on your end. It means forgiving your neighbor even if they don’t deserve it, and they don’t. You don’t either. It means loving your neighbor even if they’re often a pain, because you’re often a pain as well to those around you. It means going through suffering regardless, because Jesus went through suffering for you and He definitely didn’t deserve it. It means not thinking about what you deserve, but thinking about what is good for the kingdom first.

If you can’t say those things, and that applies to me as well as it’s a struggle, then you don’t want the kingdom to come on Earth as it is in Heaven. Perhaps you are still more invested in your own personal kingdom. Perhaps you want your will on Earth more than you want God’s will.

Only you know that one.

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

Your Will Be Done

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

So many Christians today want to find God’s will for their lives.

Should I get married? Who should I marry? What job should I take? Should I go to college and if so, what should I major in? So many decisions are about finding the will of God.

Is this what the Bible means when it speaks about the will of God?

No. This is a highly personalized idea. Let’s consider the first one about marriage. Assuming marriage is even for you, the Bible in a book like Proverbs lays out criteria. Since one should marry in the Lord, a Christian should marry a Christian. When speaking of a wife, the book mentions the kinds of qualities to look for. Don’t marry a nagging wife is one example. Marry a woman who fears the Lord. (Or a man if you are a woman)

Somehow, we got this strange idea that when we got to the New Testament, God decided to jettison wisdom and was going to tell us all what to do and we needed to find a way to get these secret messages from God. We are to look for clues, often ones that reside in our feelings and emotions, and from there try to determine what God is telling us. Scripture may be used, but apparently, it’s not as reliable as those feelings and emotions.

As you can imagine, I think this is a bunch of bunk. I see nothing in Scripture about it and it only showed up in our time of individualism. This kind of thinking really makes us very self-centered Christians.

Not only that, if God has a specific will for our lives like that, we’ve already screwed it up definitely. Also, if any one other person has screwed up their lives, they’ve ultimately done it for everyone. If you are to marry one specific person, then that means that if you marry the wrong one, both of your intended spouses have to marry the wrong one and then all their intended spouses have to marry the wrong one and on and on it goes.

It also causes the wrong focus. What we should be looking at the most is what kind of spouse we are going to be. What kind of employee are we going to be? What kind of student are we going to be?

“But how will I know what God wants for my life?”

It’s very easy. I can tell you definitely what God’s will is for your life and I have no hesitation in doing so. God’s will is to conform you to the likeness of Christ. The best thing to do when examining an action and if you should do it is to ask if it will conform you to the likeness of Christ.

When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are not praying that we will find some specific individualized will, or at least we shouldn’t pray that. We are praying that God will make the universe the way He wants it to be. How He wants us to be is to be conformed to the image of Christ. He wants us to be like Jesus.

You have plenty on that in Scripture.

Go try following that instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Finding The Will Of God, A Pagan Notion?

What do I think of Bruce Waltke’s book published by Eerdmans? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve long been questionable of the idea we have today of finding the will of God. I largely consider it part of the me-centered idea of Christianity. In seminary, I remember my roommate and I hearing some missionaries talk about going overseas and having people ask them questions after their lessons along the lines of “How can I hear the voice of God?” No one ever seems to question if this is a normative practice or not.

I was curious to see what Bruce Waltke would have to say about these ideas and especially any ways the pagans tried to do such things. While Waltke does have some good points in his book, it sometimes looked like the idea of a pagan notion was an add-on to get readers. There is a little book about the things pagans did to find the will of the gods, but most of the material is how Christians should make wise decisions.

There is nothing wrong with this, but I would like to have seen more. Still, Waltke does go to the right places. He takes us to Scripture and points out that we need to apply wisdom to our decisions. I find it amazing that so many people think God would give us a timeless book such as Proverbs to encourage us to make wise decisions, but then He would turn around and say, “But hey, forget all of that in the new covenant. I am going to make your decisions for you.”

Waltke is also right that too many Christians have a notion of God hiding something from them and they have to work to discover it. The very premise behind this is that God has an individual will for the life of each and every Christian. Then after that is that this will is something that we are supposed to find out. Then after that comes that if we use certain techniques we will find out what that will is. All of this is highly questionable.

I would have liked to have seen something more also on our emphasis on feelings today as determining the will of God. I recall several church services that had pastors telling me to give as a I felt led when the offering plate went around. Nothing from 2 Corinthians 8-9 is ever said about how God loves a cheerful giver. If anything, many times when the plate is passed around, many of us don’t feel like giving anything. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t and think that they can in the end justify their bad decision by doing what I call “Punting to the Holy Spirit.”

If you’ve never read something like this, Waltke’s book is good, but I think honestly a far greater treatment can be found in a work such as Decision Making and the Will of God. I do still think that this is an area Christians need to really discuss. The modern paradigm seriously needs to be called into question.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On God’s Will

What does it mean to be in the will of God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I recently had someone contact me with apologetics questions and the discussion turned to the will of God. I wanted to know what they meant by being in the will of God. I would like to share some of my own thoughts because I think this is something that is often misunderstood in our culture where we are incredibly individualistic and think all about ourselves.

We often treat the will of God as if it’s this secret map hidden in the mind of God and you have to go and discover what it is based on little clues that God gives you. Those clues could be what someone else tells you or a feeling you have or a sense of urgency about something. You’re also supposed to think that God is constantly trying to communicate this to you. Oh if only you were really listening!

That’s really a form of divination that way. It’s trying to know something secret in the mind of God that has not been revealed. It’s the kind of knowledge that we’re not supposed to be looking for. There is nothing about this in Scripture. You won’t find any passage on how to hear the voice of God. The closest we get is the still small voice of Elijah, which communicated no words at all and do I need to remind you that this was a one-time thing and that you are not Elijah?

In fact, if you want to know the will of God for your life, I can tell you what it is right now. It’s simple. The will of God for your life is to conform you to the likeness of Christ. You are to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God spreading the Kingdom.

Yes. But who am I supposed to marry? What job am I supposed to have? Am I supposed to go to school? Where am I supposed to live?

These are all good questions to ask, but they’re not questions that you’re supposed to find a secret answer to. Here are some better questions that you are to ask.

For marriage, first off, do you really want to marry? Not everyone does. Some people will be happily single, and that’s okay. (Please stop thinking there’s something wrong with every person who is single. You can be a complete person and be single, but if you want to marry, that’s fine too.)

Next question. What kind of person should you marry if you choose to? You do have some Biblical criteria. They first need to be a Christian. Second, you have to marry someone of the opposite sex. Then you can narrow it down from there. What age do you want? What type of personality? Things of that sort.

Then we get to a question that seldom gets asked. It’s often asked who is the right person for you. The next question is are you being the right person for someone else? What kind of spouse would you be? What kind of spouse should you be? It’s better to work on that before you get married instead of getting married and then having to work on that.

We could go on with this to the other questions. It’s not where should you work. It’s really “What kind of worker are you going to be?” It’s not where are you going to live. It’s “What kind of citizen are you going to be?” Notice that these questions are now about what you are doing for others. They’re not about what others are doing for you.

In this, you also have great freedom. You don’t have to go into full-time ministry to serve God for instance. God needs construction workers, teachers, bus drivers, doctors, lawyers, librarians, etc. Do something that you can do with passion and enjoy and you’re also good at. That’s giving God the best service that you have.

Ultimately, when you think of the will of God, it’s not a big secret. It’s about being the right kind of person. Of course, some moral questions are tough. Of course, you should seek advice from others in what they think is good for you, but don’t live in fear if you choose to live in Baltimore that maybe God wanted you to live in Tulsa. God can use you wherever you are. Don’t be so arrogant as to think you’ve ruined God’s plan entirely. You don’t have that kind of power.

In Christ,
Nick Peters