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)

More On Pointless Debates

What difference do some debates make? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there’s a debate I don’t really care for on the internet, or anywhere else, it’s Calvinism vs Arminianism. I suspect my church is more in the Calvinist camp. I am not. I also don’t really care. Let’s start with some simple suggestions.

Can we as Christians please stop acting like we are more holy or righteous or take Scripture more seriously than someone else because we disagree? I am thoroughly convinced there are people on both sides of the debate that have a deep love for Jesus and Scripture and want to be faithful to the text and for whatever reason just disagree.

I remember reading years ago that Charles Simeon, a preacher of a couple of centuries ago, had said that if a Calvinist or an Arminian had been by Paul’s side as he was writing his letters, both of them would have asked that he mark out some passages he wrote. I am not saying the issue of sovereignty and free-will don’t matter. I am not saying that salvation doesn’t matter either. I am saying what is the practical difference in our primary job based on our position on these topics?

Let’s suppose that Christ has predestined everyone who is going to believe in Him like the Calvinists say. You know what? We still have the Great Commission to do because that is how we are to reach those people so let’s get out there and do it the best we can because God is worthy of our very best. If we go lax on what He commands us, then we are not taking Him seriously.

Now let’s suppose that they are wrong and that God will judge the world fairly still, as Scripture says and I think we can all agree on that, but we know that the odds of someone hearing the true gospel are greatly increased if we do the Great Commission. So what do we do? We go out there and we do the Great Commission to the best of our ability because God is worthy of our very best. In other words, whichever view is correct, we are to handle the situation the exact same way.

Now some might say the former view could lead to laziness. If that is the case, then we need to work on that ourselves. We need to learn greater discipline. Others will say the latter view will lead to anxiety. That is again a problem we need to work on for ourselves. We again need to learn greater discipline. I have heard it was once attributed to Augustine that we should work as if everything depended on us and pray as if everything depended on God.

This is not to say that we if we are studying theology should not have opinions on these issues or even discuss them, but my rule on matters that I consider secondary is that they should never be seen as a matter of division. Never should we go to those issues and use them as an excuse to bludgeon our fellow Christian with spirituality. Your neighbor could be entirely wrong and still love Jesus deeply. As I heard Steve Brown once say, “We will just agree to disagree and when we get to Heaven, Jesus will tell you that you were wrong.”

As I said, I am much more Arminian in my approach, but I would hope any Calvinist would happily be willing to put aside his personal disagreements with my theology and join hands with me when it comes to evangelizing non-Christians and answering cultists, atheists, other religions, etc. I can say on my end that I will put mine aside. My only concern will be making sure our arguments are good arguments. Yes. I have made it a point to take down plenty of bad arguments Christians put forward.

Too many of our debates that we actually divide over are really debates that are rather pointless. By pointless, I do not mean the truth doesn’t matter, but that they don’t really impact the way that we do evangelism or our orders to do the Great Commission. You can find Calvinists and Arminians both who have excellent reputations as missionaries and are devoted to Jesus.

On a similar path, I’d consider the debate about what happens to unbelievers when they die in a similar light. Some might think they want to do evangelism to help people avoid eternal conscious torment. If you hold to conditional immortality, wouldn’t that make you not be as motivated to witness to the lost? However, someone who holds to conditional immortality could agree that non-existence is a terrible fate to suffer and want to make sure people are in the Kingdom. He could say that maybe the holder to ECT gives a negative view of God, but the ECT can say the same back.

Here’s what they both have in common.

They both have the Great Commission to do. They both have the same marching orders. They both also have fates that they don’t want unbelievers to have (Or they shouldn’t want them to have) and they both have a Kingdom they want to serve and bring others into (Or they should want to at least).

Again, this doesn’t mean that in this debate the truth doesn’t matter. It means let’s try to remember that this is an in-house debate. I saw someone recently on Facebook saying that if someone wasn’t a believer in ECT, they weren’t much of a Christian. Now my view on Heaven and Hell is a bit more nuanced, but I immediately jumped in to defend my brothers and sisters who hold to conditional immortality. I would certainly hope that in any case, a Calvinist would do that for an Arminian and vice-versa, and the same for what happens when an unbeliever dies.

Again, none of this is saying don’t bother with the debate, but none of these debates are really debates that are essential to the gospel. You can believe on either end and still be a devout Christian. Perhaps it could even help our debates if we tried to realize the people on the other side are Christians like we are, maybe in some ways even better Christians. Perhaps even if we disagree with them in the end, we can still be humble and learn something from them.

And perhaps we can give a better demonstration of Christ to the world by handling our disagreements properly.

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

More Than Heaven

Is there more for Christians to talk about than Heaven. Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s the time of year where Vacation Bible School is going on and the emphasis is to try to get children to make a decision to follow Jesus. I don’t have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with how it is done and what we are telling them. We get them in the classroom and then we tell them that they need to accept Jesus to make sure that they can go to Heaven when they die.

I do realize that tragedies can happen and children can die. From my class of 99 in high school, we have already had a few deaths. Some were to suicide and at least one was to a car crash. It happens. However, if we were betting on the odds, we would say that these kids are likely to live a few more decades.

And we’re to tell the youngest among us that the goal of life to focus on is to focus on what will happen to them decades in the future?

What do they do now? Why are they here for these decades that they have? What is the point of living?

Our “Christian” influence would have them think that the only point of life is what happens when you die. They need to know this life matters. Christ told us that He came that we might have life and have it in abundance. There’s no indication that He meant that you will have that life when you die. One of the fruit of the Spirit we are to have now is joy. Nothing indicates that you will have joy when you die, but you won’t in this life.

What are we teaching children about the hear and now? Eternal life doesn’t begin in Christianity just when you die. It begins when you trust Jesus right now. You are to begin holy living right now. Are we teaching the children about the resurrection of Jesus, or is that doctrine only a means to talk about Heaven? Are we teaching them about holy living now, especially when they will face temptation in the future and bluntly, our children will especially face sexual temptation in the near future? Are they ready for that?

This isn’t just for the kids either. We do this with adults. Adults are taught intentionally or unintentionally that the whole goal of Christianity is to get to Heaven. They are not taught about the hear and now. The overwhelming majority of people I fear could tell you about Heaven but they will also confuse that with the Kingdom of Heaven. They don’t realize the Kingdom of Heaven is a teaching for here and now.

If this is the case, we should not be surprised if people aren’t excited about their Christianity or know what to do with it. All they have to do here is to be a “good person” because we know that absolutely no one else in society has that goal at all. For many, it’s like this life is just a sort of trial run and the real purpose of life comes when you die. This life isn’t a trial run, but it is a trial in a sense and it is here we determine if we are really focused on the matters of God or not.

So what do we teach children? I am not saying don’t teach them about Heaven and I am not saying don’t teach them to live good lives. Teach them why. We are to live holy lives here because Jesus came and by His death and resurrection revealed Himself to be God’s King. We are to live our lives as servants of the King and how we live them will reflect how we see the King and in turn how people will see the King through us.

Salvation is not a one-time decision. It is a lifetime. When you marry someone, you make a decision that you publicly announce at once, but it is a lifetime decision to be faithful and true to the person you have committed to. Why do you then go out and live a life of faithfulness to that person? It is not so that you will be married. You do it because you are married. In the same way, salvation is a decision made at one time, but it is also a lifetime decision. You don’t live a good life before the King because you want Him to take you to Heaven when you die. You do it because He is your King and it is not about what the King does for you, but it is about what you do for Him.

I would like to hope that someday the church will realize this, but I keep fearing that our future focus is getting us so caught that we don’t realize what we are to do in the present and we are not giving our young people anything different for the here and now than the world has. If anything, we feed into their individualism and selfish mindsets where the goal of Christianity is all about them and what happens when they die. Christianity is about every facet of your life, and that includes the here and now.

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

Thoughts On The Rich Man and Lazarus

What does this parable tell us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am sometimes engaged in debates on the final fate of people and particularly, the unbelievers. Do they go to a place of torment or are they annihilated? Sometimes, many people will go to Luke 16 with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to get some answers. It’s understandable, but this parable is really not about the nature of heaven and hell.

Let’s start with the story. The rich man wears purple. The wording could indicate that this even goes down to his undergarments, the garments people wouldn’t normally see. Why does this matter? Because purple was the color of royalty and prestige. If you were wearing purple, you were a big deal.

This man lives in luxury every day. Outside his gate though is a man named Lazarus. Note that the rich man has a gate which means he has a good living place. After all, gates were means of protection. This guy can afford some security.

Let’s start with Lazarus being named. It would bring to mind Eleazar which means God has helped. Some people look at the parable having a man with a real name and say “No other parable has this so this isn’t a parable.” This is understandable, but it is mistaken. The reason Lazarus is named is to show him as a worthwhile and honorable individual. The rich man, who most people would look up to and admire becomes in the eyes of God a “What’s his name?”

Lazarus meanwhile is someone who is sick and has nothing and dogs lick his wounds. Some people think that the licking of a dog was seen as medicinal. Either way, the message is that dogs are doing more for Lazarus than this rich man, who could clearly afford to help him.

Lazarus dies and he gets a personal escort of angels. Note that what is said about his death is just that he died. Nothing. No one notices him. The rich man dies and is buried. Burial was important for one’s honor and it is also done by someone else. No one can bury themselves. The rich man is remembered when he dies.

However, in the afterdeath, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man is in hell. The rich man now has to look up to see Abraham and Lazarus and in all of this, he still sees Lazarus as a tool. This also shows that the rich man was aware of Lazarus since he knew his name. His attitude remains unchanged and he still sees Lazarus as a servant and refuses to even address him.

He does call Abraham, father, which indicates this was a Jewish man. He also doesn’t want to go to be where Lazarus was, but he wants to bring Lazarus to where he is. Lazarus remains completely silent. This time, he has an advocate and one great one to have, Abraham.

Abraham also refers to the rich man as son, a familial name. It is showing a degree of care, but Abraham reminds the rich man that in the past, Lazarus had nothing and the rich man had everything. Now the roles are reversed. There is also a chasm fixed so that people cannot go back and forth. This should also be another indication the story isn’t literal. (What would happen if you fell down the chasm anyway? Would you “die” or would it be like a Mario game and you would just reappear where you started?)

The rich man then asks that Lazarus be sent to his family of five brothers. Again, Lazarus is the servant. However, why does the rich man have five brothers? Jesus didn’t need to be specific. He could have said family and it would have worked. Why five brothers?

Could it be because in the Old Testament, Judah had five brothers? Judah would be a picture of Jerusalem. Is this Jesus pointing out that Jerusalem itself is under judgment? Quite likely.

Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man insists that is not enough. Many of us hear this today. It is a common argument today from skeptics that they need God to do something for them personally before they will believe. I have no reason to believe those people are really seeking. Most of them are not interested in diving into the best works they can defending a Christian worldview to see what they really have to say.

It’s a shame to have some people miss out on God because they are caught in emotional arguments. These same people will often chide Christians for believing for emotional reasons. This is understandable as if atheists shouldn’t make eternal judgments based on emotions, neither should Christians. Many Christians could bear to read some scholarship as well.

We all know skeptics who are like this. The problem they claim is that there is not enough evidence when normally, the evidence that is there has not really been considered. Sometimes God does give more, but why should He if someone isn’t considering what they already have? Abraham says the rich man’s brothers won’t believe even if someone rises from the dead.

This is true.

After all, I have also met a number of skeptics that have said that even if God is real and Jesus rose from the dead, they won’t worship Him. This is normally for an emotional reason. Odds are you have met someone like that too.

This is not a parable about the afterdeath. This is a parable about those who God honors as well. That’s humbling too. Many of you who look up to me as a Christian to admire, and I hope I am, know my name from my writings and debates. Who is the real hero in the Kingdom of God though? It could be an unknown person that when they die, the world will neither know nor care. Meanwhile, those great celebrities who walk the streets of Hollywood and are known by everyone? They could be the ones that find themselves in a position of shame forever.

If this is true, you should consider your choices carefully. Before rejecting it also, you should make sure that you have investigated it fairly and don’t just have an emotional reason. If you are a Christian, be living so that you will be honored like Lazarus was when your time comes.

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

Book Plunge: Immortal

What do I think of Clay Jones’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Most of us growing up have some idea that somehow we are going to live forever. I sometimes wonder if that could be what is behind our big obsession with our generation has to be the one Jesus will return in. It’s natural to long for that, but could it also be that if He returns, we get to avoid that death thing?

In this book, Clay Jones shows us how the fear of death drives everything. As I write this, our country is experiencing a pandemic that has kept people in the grip of fear in a way I have never seen in my lifetime. People seem to be constantly afraid they will either get the disease or give it to someone else.

So Jones takes us through a number of sections in this book. He writes about how people are in a desperate bind to learn how to live forever. It could be through virtual uploading to a computer or freezing your body through cryogenics. Either way, so many people want to do all they can to avoid death. It’s irony that so many that come up with health systems to avoid death wind up dying at what can be considered a younger age than expected despite this.

Well, if those don’t work, what about symbolic immortality? One of the biggest ways we often try to do this is to have kids. Surely that will make us live forever symbolically? Not really. Most of us don’t know much about our great-great-great-grandparents. For mine, I couldn’t even tell you their names.

We can also try to do a great work like a book or art or get a building built in our name. In some way, we want our legacy to live on. Sadly, another way many people try to do this is through evil. Commit a great evil and all of a sudden people know who you are. This is one reason I don’t favor giving the names of mass shooters out when they happen. It just gives them more of something they want.

If the fear of death is driving us though, how do we cope with it? We often turn to pleasure and amusement or even just sad acceptance in depression. We can get addicted to sex and to drugs and alcohol. We can even go the route of suicide. Wait. How is it that suicide deals with our fear of death? Because if death is coming and it’s inevitable, might as well go ahead and get it done with. Right? (Please do not go this route. Call the suicide hotline if you or someone you know is considering this. 1-800-273-8255. Your life is worth living.)

Jones then follows this up by first giving a brief case for the resurrection of Jesus. From there, he goes on to talk about our future life in Heaven which is something Christians do not think about enough. It has been said some Christians are so Heavenly minded that they’re no Earthly good. It is just the opposite. Too many Christians are so Earthly minded that they’re no Heavenly good. If we focus on eternity and what it will be like, then we are more prone to take things seriously here.

I remember when I was engaged to Allie and I had the realization come in of what was going to happen to me soon in marrying and the Scripture of “As Christ loved the church.” That was what I was called to do. I was called to love my wife that way. That was scary. Someday when I stand before God, the first questions will not be about Deeper Waters or my ministry. I suspect one of the first questions will be “How did you treat your wife?”

I have said before to guys, and women can alter it for themselves, that I don’t care if you have a worldwide ministry. I don’t care if atheists are scared to confront you. I don’t care if you win every debate. I don’t care if your books are all best-sellers. If you are not a husband to your wife and a father to your children, I count you a failure in ministry. I stand by that.

If there’s anything I would alter in Jones’s book, it would be how we are to live life now exactly. Jones wants us to be focused on Heavenly things, but rightly says he takes time for joys of this world too like going to superhero movies, prime rib apparently, and indicates he wouldn’t mind recreating his honeymoon. (And who can blame him guys. Am I right?) I would like to know how this is done. Do I need to feel guilty if I start to play a game in my private time? I would like to see more on this.

At any rate, this book is an important one to read. Death drives us more than we realize and this will make you think more seriously about your mortality and what you are doing with your life. This is only the second book I have seen from Clay Jones, and yet both of them I consider important reads.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there is any objection normally raised up against theism, it is the problem of evil. How can a good God allow so much evil in the world or any evil even? The argument from my perspective is not the most rational or logical, but it does have a strong emotional appeal. As I write this, our society is on lockdown from fear of a virus and even before this point, atheists were already making memes about God allowing or not doing anything concerning this virus.

In this book, Campbell looks at how different worldviews answer the problem of evil. He deals with naturalism, pantheism, panentheism, and theism itself. Each topic is dealt with the same way. In the end, there is more examination of theism since this is where Campbell lies and he spends more time on defenses of it. In each chapter, he also looks at the best defenders of each position.

Each worldview has to deal with the following questions: Life, human consciousness, the metaphysics of good and evil, and human responsibility. At this, I would have preferred the first two be left out. Let’s suppose we grant the positions of life and consciousness as questions to be set aside for the moment. If we look at just evil itself, how well does each worldview explain it?

Campbell does treat each view fairly and then looks at theism. Here, I would have also liked to have seen more distinction. He focuses naturally on Christian theism, but I was hoping in the book to see a comparison between Islam and Judaism and perhaps even deism as well. Campbell makes the Trinity a necessary part of his defense, so Islam would definitely have some problems, but couldn’t Judaism possibly work still since it would be open to incarnation, resurrection, and Trinity? After all, the first Christians were open to all of these and were Jews.

I was pleased to see the engagement with New Testament scholarship when talking about the Trinity. Campbell looked at some of the best research on this and if you’re not familiar with it, you will gain enough to be basically cognizant of the issues. This is explained in a way that is easy to understand as well.

Campbell also has some questions about classical theism. I really did not find them convincing as a classical theist myself. Still, it is not necessary to Campbell’s book that you embrace his view. I did appreciate his critique of open theism, however.

The final chapter also deals with the defeat of evil and looks at questions such as the nature of Heaven and Hell. While I am not a proponent of conditional immortality, I don’t think many of them would find his arguments in this case tenable. There was some said on Heaven, but I think more needed to be said.

If there was something else I would add, it would be a brief chapter on those who are dealing with suffering right now. What advice does Campbell have for us when we are in the midst of the pain? At that time, the intellectual arguments don’t really help out that much. I realize this book is not meant to be a pastoral book, but that would be something good still to have.

Overall still, this is a very thorough work on the problem of evil and atheists who want to use it as an argument need to deal with it. It’s also a rare book that deals with pantheism and panentheism on the problem of evil as well. Now maybe someone who studies this more will go forward and look at Judaism, deism, and Islam more on evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Can someone who’s a cannibalistic serial killer be with God forever? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Atheists often like to talk about the atrocities of God in the Bible that they see. If God kills someone in the Bible, well He’s wicked and evil. What is amazing also is that if God is gracious, He’s also wicked and evil! Let’s consider this image.

I wrote something about a similar post once in addressing if your murderer will be in Heaven. Some atheists I have seen discussing this picture have asked what it will be like for someone who was ate by Jeffrey Dahmer to see him in Heaven. Awkward?

No. Not really.

It assumes that when people are around the throne in Heaven, they will be still in their same sinful natures. Not at all. Heaven is a place of grace and forgiveness. There are no grudges or desires for revenge and there is no hatred there. If anything, those who were victimized will be happy to see Dahmer because they want to see him get the same grace they have received.

Let’s also assume for the sake of argument that Dahmer did have a real conversion. I know some people could bicker that maybe it was a fake one, but for the sake of this discussion, I am going to assume it was real. Why is this really a problem for Christianity?

If anything, this shows how much God is willing to forgive. God loves His creation so much that He does forgive all the sins of the past. This doesn’t mean that everyone will experience Heaven the same way as I think there are degrees of reward in Heaven, but it does mean that one will at least get into the city.

If forgiveness could ever be earned, it would not be forgiven. When you forgive someone, you just forgive them. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences whatsoever, but it means there is no debt between the two of you. It won’t be used against you further.

I don’t need to repeat a lot in this post since much of it is in the earlier linked post, but this whole scenario always boggles my mind. God is a problem because He is angry at sinners and wants to kill them all supposedly, but then He’s also a problem because He will freely show grace to all sinners and pronounce forgiveness for them.

Besides, for my fellow Christians. My big amazement is not that Jeffrey Dahmer is going to make it. Many of us will happily talk about the grace given to sinners.

Our big amazement as Christians and the one we usually doubt is that we’re going to make it.

But we are, and this is mind-boggling. If we think the goal is to get people around the throne of God, the cross should show us that God is more serious about getting us there than we are. God’s ultimate goal is to include as many as possible and not to exclude. No. That’s not an inclusivism where there are many roads to God or something like that. It is a call that God has made it as simple as He could for us to come to the Kingdom by giving us the Son.

Atheists. Don’t think you’re going to make me doubt my Christianity by talking about the grace of God for Jeffrey Dahmer. I’m amazed enough that He has grace for someone like myself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 9

What about the Darwinian problem of evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We continue our look today at the Christian Delusion and this John Loftus guy, although I understand not the one who researched the nazis, is back with a chapter on the Darwinian problem of evil. There’s really not much here that hasn’t been said elsewhere. Just the usual stuff about nature being red in tooth and claw and such.

I am in a position to have done some thinking about this. Recently, my in-laws had to put down their dog that they had had since 2002 and I was present when it took place. It was certainly a sad event to see and my wife and I had to spend some time discussing animal suffering.

One of the favorites is the ichneumonidae. It’s so common to see it that you can predict it. It’s about a parasite that eats its host from the inside. Why would a good God allow this?

I recommend the reader check this link for more on this. In particular, note the part where it is described as “sent in mercy be heaven.” Apparently, this creature balances out the ecology wherever it is, it grows in the host living one life as it were, it apparently kills its host painlessly, and after that it never eats another insect again.

On a side note, Loftus makes a point about saying something about a triune God sending one third of Himself. I understand that the Trinity is hard to understand, but let’s not give out any nonsense. God is not divided into parts.

Loftus also quotes Christian scholar Robert Wennberg saying animals will not be compensated beyond the grave. First off, I dispute this and my interview with Dan Story on his book Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven is the place to go. Second, even if this wasn’t the case, this would not be sufficient to charge God with wrongdoing. It implies that God owes animals or even us something.

Loftus also looks at an answer by John Hick saying Hick is a speciesist. Indeed. Most of us are. Most of us do think the species are different, unless Loftus is willing to cook up his dead relatives and have them served at fast food restaurants. Either Loftus needs to have a vegan or at least vegetarian diet or he needs to allow grandma to be on the menu at McDonald’s.

When he gets to the animal afterdeath, Loftus says this does not justify their sufferings. If it did, anyone could torture any sentient being and then compensate them for their sufferings. This isn’t about what anyone could do though, but about what God did, and again, God owes no animal or even human anything whatsoever. To say God must compensate us is to say that He owes us something. Still, I do hold to an animal afterdeath and I am of the opinion that all of us in eternity in the blessed presence of God will see it was all worthwhile. It’s up to Loftus to demonstrate otherwise and he hasn’t.

Loftus also asks a litany of questions about animals in the afterdeath. Will they live in the same habitat? Will there be mountains, oceans, deserts, etc.? Will we have animals we don’t care for there? He ends saying a heaven with all creatures in it will look like the actual world.

Well, why shouldn’t it?

Do we think it unreasonable that God will create Earth to be like what we are forever meant to be in? Will there be changes? Yes, but I suspect there will be a lot of similarities.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that we are constantly told science revels in questions and encourages us to ask them so we can find out. Those same people will present the litany of questions about a religious point of view and then say to not even bother exploring. Why not explore both questions?

Loftus also says we’re on this side of eternity and we want to know how the question can be resolved before we believe there is a heaven in the first place. Not necessarily. If one has independent evidence of the question of animal suffering that God is real and Jesus is who He said He was and rose from the dead, one trusts that there is an answer. If this is a critique to see if Christianity is internally consistent, it’s just fine to assume Heaven for the sake of argument.

In the end, as usual, I don’t find John Loftus persuasive, as he may have recently noticed. It looks like the preacher is still giving an emotional appeal without any real substance. About all that’s needed is an offering and a chorus of Just As I Am.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Imagine Heaven

What do I think of John Burke’s book published by Baker Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Burke’s book could be the most exciting book on near-death experiences (NDEs) that I have ever read. While the majority are not evidential in the sense that they tell about people seeing things that they could not have seen that can be verified, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much information here that should bring joy to the heart of a Christian. Namely, are some of the ideas about what is possible in the city that is being prepared for us.

This doesn’t mean that we shut our brains off and just believe entirely everything said. One has to be on guard because there have been fake accounts of people having NDEs. Burke is right though that many of these come from people who could face public embarrassment for claiming the things that they do claim. What do they gain by making them up always?

Burke is also very reliant on Scripture to make sure that the claims do not go beyond what is written. When one reads the accounts, it’s hard to not get excited. Light is a common refrain that shows up and life is right behind it. It’s as if the place that is coming is full of light that seems to move through everything and life is all around us.

Beauty also plays a major role and with this one, I was surprised that Burke didn’t address an issue that many men wonder about and that is the issue of marriage and sex in Heaven. I think marriage could have been addressed, but not the sexuality aspect. I remain uncertain about whether it will be in heaven, though making babies certainly will not take place. Still, what it is here should be seen as a foretaste of what is coming with God flirting with us about the joys of this world.

Some ideas that were really convicting also included hellish NDEs and the life review. For the NDEs of a more hellish nature, I found myself looking at my life and wondering if I was living that nature more sometimes. I do think I found some areas in which I can improve.

The life review was something common to come across as well. In this, people would review their lives like they were movies and see thoughts and emotions and how their tiniest actions affected people around them. The main question that was being asked is “What did you do with the life that I gave you?” In the accounts, Jesus cares deeply about how we treat other people around us.

I also found it interesting to hear about actual homes in the next world. This was intriguing to think of places where people live in a city. I was very pleased to hear about books being there and the constant pursuit and learning of knowledge.

Burke at one point does describe a welcoming committee and one reason they come is protection. More was said to be coming about this later, but I don’t remember it coming and it was something I was looking for. It could have been hellish NDEs, but that was not specified.

Again, I do not think that we should accept blindly every account given of an NDE, but there are too many to just dismiss them. More and more of them are also coming with evidence that can be verified.  Those with an interest in this field need to read this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Christianity Is Not True Chapter 3

Do we have a problem with evangelism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re going through David Pye’s book again and looking at chapter 3 on evangelism and eternity. I consider this chapter to be a weak argument for what it sets out to prove, but hard-hitting for the content. I am still really considering sharing this in some Christian groups to get us all to remember why we do what we do.

At the start, Pye says that Christians believe someone is either a Christian or lost by default. I think it is more likely they are, but there is the question of those who never heard and Christians have different answers to that. My answer is that God will judge us based on the light that we have. The judge of all the Earth will do right.

Pye goes on to say about evangelism that

Both the evangelistic crusades of the past and the Alpha course of today are, I believe, significant evidence against Christianity being true. If Christianity were true we would expect to see Christians integrating into their lives what they say they believe – sharing the Gospel with their relatives, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. In which case neither the Evangelistic crusades of the past nor the Alpha course of today would have been necessary.

This is a giant non sequitur. Let’s consider how we could put this in a logical form.

Christians are supposed to evangelize.
Christians do not evangelize like they should.
Therefore, Jesus did not rise from the dead.

There are any number of reasons why Christians do not do this, many of them bad. Also, keep in mind that knowing what it is we should do doesn’t seem to lead to us doing it many times. Many of us know about diet and exercise from our doctors, but we don’t do it. Many of us know that we are to treat our neighbor better, but we don’t do it.

If you want to show Christianity is not true, you have to show that Jesus did not rise. You can show Christians aren’t following their marching orders, but that only says something about Christians. It doesn’t say anything about Christianity. Keep in mind that Pye bases this on what he sees in the U.K. There is nothing about data in third world countries, especially those where doing evangelism can lead to execution.

From here, Pye goes through a list of reasons why people don’t evangelize. One of the first ones is that they want their lives to be the witness. I agree that this is a flimsy excuse. Some people do that and no one ever asks them anything. You have to lead a radically, radically different life for this to work.

Generally, in face to face relationships, I try to get to know the person first and then try to weave my way into any openings. I’m not as good at face to face which is why most of my work is done on the internet. There is a fine line. You don’t want to be obnoxious where people think you shove Christianity down their throats, but you don’t want to be totally silent so people have no clue you’re a Christian.

The second reason is that some people say God hasn’t called them to evangelize. I think this is weak as well. Do you have the Great Commission in your Bible? That’s part of your marching orders. I agree with Pye that it is tiresome to hear people talking about doing what they feel called to do or led to do, this without any Scriptural warrant.

I used to attend a church and when the offering would go around, the pastor would say “Give as you feel led.” Part of me wanted to be sarcastic and put a penny in and say “That’s what I felt God was leading me to give.” I suspect I would have been told I wasn’t listening. Just because we have the Holy Spirit doesn’t change that we are to follow wisdom, such as in Proverbs. If you want to know about giving, read a passage like 2 Cor. 8-9.

It’s also amazing how often these “signs” that people follow coincide with what they already want to do. This is not to say God cannot do something like this, but we should not expect it to be normative. I agree with Pye. This is often an excuse and giving divine authority to our feelings is dangerous.

A third reason is that God is in control. After all, if God wants them saved, He’ll do it. Even many of the staunchest Calvinists today would say God will do it, but He’ll do it through evangelism. I also wonder if Christians will do this in other areas. Need food? Don’t go to the grocery store. God will give you food if He wants you to eat. Don’t put on your seat belt when you drive. God will keep you safe if He wants you to live.

Pye shares a verse from a poem about this.

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side

There is also the adage that goes back to Augustine of to pray as if everything depended on God and work as if it all depended on you. It would be wonderful for an Arminian to have the confidence in the sovereignty of God that many Calvinists do. It would be wonderful if many Calvinists thought they absolutely had to do evangelism like Arminians do.

The fourth is about the leading of the Holy Spirit and identical enough to the second that we need say nothing more.

The fifth is that people already know the Gospel. Many of them do, but many who think they do also misrepresent it and not necessarily intentionally. We should not presume that someone does.  Many Christians I think don’t even really know the Gospel.

A final reason is that it’s better not to have heard than to hear and reject and be lost. I consider this quite flimsy. I don’t think it even deserves a response if a Christian treats this seriously.

There are other reasons though. Sometimes people don’t know what to say. Sometimes they don’t know what could turn a person off. For this, I honestly think the church needs some classes on evangelism.

Finally, we end with some questions on Hell. Now my perspective on Hell is different from many others. I also think there are degrees of suffering in Hell and degrees of reward in Heaven. This is a complex question and simple answers won’t do.

I also agree with Pye that we should take no delight in people being in Hell. If it weren’t for the grace of God, it would be us. Moody is once said to have said that if you speak on Hell, you’d better have tears in your eyes. I sometimes see Christians say eternity is a long time to be wrong. If someone says that, they’d better think about what that means.

Pye presents two scenarios then:

(i) A 65 year old Christian, Clive, is retiring from the job he has been in for the last 30 years. On his final day there is a presentation to him and he is shown a great deal of warmth and affection. Likewise Clive feels a deep love for his colleagues who he’s spent so much time with and with whom he’s been through many good times and bad times – challenges, disappointments, joys, successes. None of these colleagues are Christians.

A few days later, alone at home, Clive reflects about the eternal destiny of these people who he worked with and loves. Can it really be that they are condemned? he wonders. Can it really be that they’re destined for hell? Surely not? He imagines himself in heaven with the knowledge that these dear people are suffering in hell.“Would I be able to enjoy heaven in those circumstances?” he asks himself. He vaguely wonders whether he should at some point have tried sharing the Gospel with any of them.

Then he reflects further: “‘For your thoughts are not my thoughts’ saith the Lord.” With a deep sigh Clive reflects “Who am I to argue against the Word of God? Who am I to think that I can judge better than God what the consequences of unforgiven sin should be?”

And with this he makes himself a cup of coffee and switches on the TV.

Clive is pathetic and might I add misusing a text of Scripture. No Christian should applaud what Clive is doing. Many of us wouldn’t, but in many cases we do act like Clive.

He then gives a second story

(ii) A man, Donald, goes through his working life employed in a factory. He is a decent man, hard-working and honest. At 20 he marries his childhood sweetheart and they go on to have 3 children. Life is hard. Donald’s health is poor but he rarely misses a day’s work. He and his family constantly struggle to make ends meet. People who know Donald see him as a devoted husband and father, a man who is kind, reliable and trustworthy. Family life is happy and joyful despite the lack of money.

Donald retires aged 65 but within a year he has a heart attack and dies. In his life Donald never became a Christian.

Pye asks how we feel about this, but really, does that matter? I don’t feel good about many things in the world, but that doesn’t mean anything about them. Reality doesn’t change depending on my feelings.

On the other hand, would Pye prefer the more Islamic system of angels recording good deeds and bad deeds and you’d better hope the good outweighs the bad? How is this system not arbitrary? Who decides how many points X is worth for good and how many points are deducted for Y? How do we know the point system?

The reality is God gave a non-arbitrary system. Perfection is the requirement. He also offers to pay it for us. Donald did do good things, but how did He treat the greatest good out there and if Christianity is true, God is the greatest good. Does one spurn God and say they will go their own way? The thing about Pye’s system is really God is irrelevant to it. That’s not a Christian system at all. Of course, Pye is not a Christian, but how could this system be compatible with Christianity?

The next chapter will be about faith. I have my concerns about how that will go, but we will see.

In Christ,
Nick Peters