Truth or Happiness

Do we want to live true lives or happy lives? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I wrote about reading James Rebel Jamias’s book, which I did enjoy, and one idea that stuck with me on there was something that I have recently concluded. Our culture consists of people who care about happiness more than they care about truth. Aristotle began hisĀ Metaphysics by saying all men by nature desire to know. Today, the modern equivalent would say that all men by nature desire to feel.

We can all relate to this on some level. There have been times all of us have had something that we want to avoid being true because of the pain that we will feel, a state we call denial. My first major encounter with death was a sunday school teacher who I had a close relationship with. To this day, I can still remember being at the church for his funeral service and thinking, “This still has to be a joke. He’s going to jump up and tell everyone the truth soon. He has to.”

Sometimes, this can even be lethal. How many people have avoided going to a doctor because they think they might have a condition and they don’t want to hear that they have it? In reality, they do and it goes untreated and it becomes something untreatable and fatal when if it had been caught early, it could have been treated.

This also has severe moral consequences. With marriage, which I have been writing on, how many people are entering into marriage and doing so because the goal is that marriage is meant to make them happy? It is all about them. Now don’t get me wrong on something. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy and there is nothing wrong with wanting a good for yourself in marriage, but it’s not just about you.

Hence, too often when the feeling fades, which it will, we think the marriage has faded and it’s time to move on. It’s not about a greater commitment to something beyond ourselves. Instead, it’s about what is expedient for us at the moment. When divorce is too easy an option, it is the option that will most often be chosen.

In many of the daily lives of people today, it’s not often asked “What is the good thing to do here?” Instead, we are asking what will bring us the most happiness at the moment. When was the last time you heard someone talking seriously about virtue?

Is our Christian community any different in the West? Hardly. If anything, most of our emphasis seems to be on how we feel in our relationship to God. If we feel good, yay! Christianity is true and God is real and we want to worship and praise! If we don’t, then Christianity could be false and God might not exist, but if He does exist, He hates us, and why bother with worship and praise?

In reality, a Christian life is supposed to have all of these. You are not meant to be happy in all of your Christian walk. Jesus wasn’t and it’s the height of arrogance to think we should have something that Jesus never did. Jesus was sad sometimes. Jesus was also happy, but if we look at Isaiah 53, Jesus was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.

This is not to say bad feelings and emotions don’t matter. It’s not to say that for chronic problems you shouldn’t consider therapy and possibly in addition medication. With my divorce, I have both going on. Definitely if you are experiencing strong suicidal feelings, get help right away.

One great hope for our culture is when we all strive to be people of truth. In our religious debates, it’s easy to claim the other side is going with emotions. There are emotional benefits to each side. If you’re a Christian, you can claim you will get to live forever and that you will see loved ones and never die and spend eternity in a place of joy and happiness. I think even a lot of atheists would like for something like that to be true.

On the other hand, a Christian can say an atheist has reasons for them to not want God to be real. One big reason could be a life of sexual liberty in that you get to pursue sexual happiness and do what you want in that area. Another could be one doesn’t want to live under the authority of God. One could also not want to believe in something the rest of their social group will consider foolish. There are many more on both sides we can think of.

Also, in both groups, there are sadly people who don’t really care about truth and don’t want it. These are people who only read what agrees with them and base their arguments for their position on how they feel about something. The first question we should ask about Christianity is not if it makes us feel good or if we like it or if it’s beneficial to society. The first question we should ask is “Is it true?” If it is, then we should believe it even if all the other questions are answered no. If it isn’t true, then we shouldn’t believe it even if all the other questions are answered yes.

It is my hope that we can begin working more on a truth quest instead. Our emotional quests are more often centered on looking within and finding something for ourselves. When we look for truth, we are looking for something outside of ourselves and what we can submit to and ultimately, what we can live our lives based on.

It’s up to you which you choose.

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

Book Plunge: Why The Church Needs Apologetics

What do I think of James Rebel Jamias’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jamias is a friend of mine and when he found out I had ordered his book, I found out that he was awfully nervous about my review. Would I like it or would I hate it? Would I be hard or would I be soft?

That being said, it was tempted to start off this review telling you this book was totally awful and not worth reading at all and a sadness to all the trees that had to die. It was tempting to do that and then put out a “just kidding”, but I decided against that. Still, I had to mention the idea just for the comedic effect.

Okay. So let’s talk about the book. By and large, I agreed with much that was in it. Now as a seasoned apologist, I really didn’t find anything new in the book that stood out intensely. That’s okay. The book wasn’t written with someone like myself in mind but more with a person who wasn’t as familiar with apologetics, which could sadly include a lot of pastors.

So let’s go with the positives first.

To start, this book is very accessible. If you don’t have a clue what apologetics is, by the time you pick up and finish this book, you will not only know what it is, but you will also know why it is important. You won’t find apologetic arguments in here, but that’s okay. This book isn’t meant to provide those. This book is meant to show what a difference apologetics makes and why it matters to the church today.

Second, this book is short. Someone without a lot of time they want to invest can read this book. I could see a devoted reader easily reading it in a day. If you have even just fifteen minutes a day to read a book, it shouldn’t take you long.

Third, this book is in short chapters. Benefit of that? Great for small group discussion then. It’s easy to come together and read a chapter and just discuss what was read.

Fourth. Jamias also lists various resources that can be used, including my own podcast that I hope to start up again soon depending on if I get the necessary funding for that or not. Jamias lists them by level and so if you want to get started, this is a place to go. I was pleased to seeĀ The Case for Christ, for example, as it was the book that lit my fire.

So now let’s go on to the negatives.

I did talk with Jamias about this and he agreed, but there is a lot of reference to Ravi Zacharias. This book was published just shortly after he died and the news of his lifestyle had not come out. Jamias did personally confirm to me that if he wrote a second edition, references to Ravi would be severely edited. If you are reading this, please keep that in mind.

I do respect William Lane Craig as a great apologist, but I sometimes find there is a constant reference to Craig’s work. I would have liked to have seen more variety in this as there are plenty other great apologists one could go with. I wondered sometimes if I counted all the footnotes to Craig what percentage they would be.

On a smaller matter also, I disagree with Jamias on 1 Peter 3:15. While he thinks we would have the case if this was the only verse we had, I think it is not actually about apologetics. Thankfully, there are plenty of other excellent verses that I think are about apologetics.

Lastly, Jamias does speak about how we present the case and says sometimes we make winning the argument more important than winning the person. I might sound contrary, but yes, I think sometimes the focus is on the argument and should be. Why? Because there are some people who at the time of a public exchange are obviously not interested in Christian truth, but they are more interested in shaming and mocking Christianity. This can especially happen online.

What is the goal then? The goal for me is to shut down opposition and make their side look shameful and build up confidence in the Christians on my side and hopefully let any fence-sitters see what could be a strong and confident case for Christianity. Jamias is right that often the audience is the one to be won in these encounters, so I just take it to the conclusion and say sometimes you should be more interested in shutting down opposition. (Was Paul trying to win Bar-Jesus to the faith when he struck him blind or was he trying to win over the king who was watching?)

Those negatives, however, are miniscule in comparison to the positives of the book. Get this book for yourself and read it. Get this book for your pastor and have him read it. Get this book and share it with a small group leader and make it a group reader. Either way, get this book and read it.

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

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