What Hill Will You Die On?

Are some battles the ones that are essential? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently in a group I’m in, someone shared a picture with someone saying on social media, “Answer me one question and I will convert to atheism. Show me the evidence for the Big Bang Theory.” I find it incredibly sad that someone could make a post like that and even if it wasn’t real, we know there are people who think that way.

For one thing, let’s start with a basic quibble. Every position has something that can be called evidence. The most crazy conspiracy theory out there that no one else will believe in except the one person who does still has evidence. You could say he’s interpreting it wrongly or that it’s not really true, but it is still evidence. If you asked if there was any evidence for Muhammad’s night flight, I could say that we do have Muslim sources saying that. That is evidence. Do I trust that evidence and think the sources are reliable? No.

This person likely meant proof, but even that is problematic for there is very little in life that we have proof for and certainly not in the area of science. We can have extremely good evidence in science for something, but that evidence is always probabilistic. It’s the same with history also. Historians don’t speak of proof. There are many events that are so sure that it’s ridiculous to doubt them, such as the crucifixion of Jesus, but that does not mean we speak of “proof.”

So after that, let’s get to the more serious point. This is not a hill to die on. Many readers I have here are YECs, but I would say the same thing to someone who was OEC and was saying “Show me the evidence of evolution and I will become an atheist.” What has to be asked is what is absolutely necessary for Christianity to be true. That doesn’t mean the other doctrines are unimportant or that they are false. It means what is absolutely necessary.

Let’s consider something with evolution. Let’s suppose you had thought that Piltdown Man was good evidence for the theory. Some people did believe that. I was trying to see how many dissertations were written on it, but I could not find that number aside from creationist websites citing 500 and I did not want to use the opponent to back the statistic.

Now we know it was a hoax. Does that mean that anyone who thought it was real should automatically conclude evolution is false? No. It could be false, but all that is really false in this case is one finding. Now you could say you question the scientific establishment after that, which is a separate issue, but the core leading cases for evolution and the science behind it would still be there. What that is would be up to the scientists to explain, but I have never had one tell me the case is built on one discovery.

So what about Christianity? You definitely need the existence of God for that. You also need Jesus being fully God and man or else we are not truly reconciled by the grace of God, which also entails the Trinity eventually, and you need the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is also not saying that you necessarily have to affirm everything to be a Christian. For example, I don’t expect a small child to understand the Trinity nor do I think the early church was quoting the Nicene Creed, though the seeds of the doctrine were there.

What about inerrancy? That is something important, but there could hypothetically be an error in the Scriptures and Christianity could still be true. It could still be that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. After all, the early church didn’t even have a New Testament and it’s not like a slip-up in a later writer could overturn a past historical event. Note that this does not mean inerrancy is false. That is not relevant at this point. It is just saying it is not an essential. It’s not even saying the doctrine is unimportant. It can still be important and I understand many churches and Christian schools putting it in a statement of faith.

The same applies to YEC. The same applies to OEC or to Evolutionary creationism. If you look at any of these and say “If this is not true, I am abandoning Christianity”, then you are basing your faith on something other than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. You could say if they are false, “I still have the resurrection of Jesus, but now I really have to rethink doctrine XYZ” and that’s okay!

For me, there have been many positions on which I have changed my stance. One such example is eschatology. I used to be a strong dispensationalist. I grew up listening to Southern Gospel music and so many songs are about the rapture. I was challenged by a Baptist minister especially to rethink that with plenty of reasons and like C.S. Lewis being dragged into the kingdom, I went kicking and screaming. Over several years time, I moved into orthodox Preterism. I have a strong passion to talk about eschatology and that doctrine, but I will not base my Christianity on it. I would say if it was shown to be false, “Whoa. I really gotta rethink the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation.” Maybe I would never even find an understanding of them. That’s okay. For all of us, there are things in the Bible that we don’t understand and aspects of our theology we are still working out.

Please note that at this point, I am not saying YEC, OEC, or EC are false. Right now, it doesn’t matter. I’m also not saying your stance on origins and creation doesn’t matter. I’m not saying you can’t have strong positions on those issues, be passionate about them, and argue for them. I am simply saying don’t base Christianity on them. Christianity needs to be based on the life of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Odds are if you are journeying on your Christian life and studying, you will change your mind on a number of issues, and that’s okay. There will still be many things you don’t know in the end also, no matter how much you study. If any of us could comprehend God, we would be God and He would not be. There are going to always be passages of the Bible that you don’t understand and you will not be a perfect interpreter of every one of them. That’s also okay.

Don’t be like this person who based their faith on something other than Jesus. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s wrong. I don’t really care on that issue. What I want to know is where does he stand on the resurrection of Jesus. It would be better to get Jesus right and everything else wrong, than to get everything else right and Jesus wrong.

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

Forgive Them

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

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

“How did you know?”

“It’s always a guy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Shock

What do we do with the words of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In all frankness right at the start, the title of this comes from Peter Kreeft. I can just think of no better way to describe this than he did, though he was taking a different approach. I started thinking about this one recently when talking with some skeptics on Facebook. Usually, we see the same verses pop up that we already know are being misunderstood.

Let’s consider Luke 14:26.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Such a statement is Jewish hyperbole and leave it to so many today to read it literalistically. The problem for those of us in the apologetics field is that we can be so easy responding to the misinterpretation that we miss the real interpretation. No. Jesus does not want us to literally hate our parents or ourselves, but He is calling us to literally do something.

So guys. If you’re married, how many of you men out there love your wives? How many women love your husbands? How much are you to love Jesus? You are to love Jesus so much that by comparison, your love for those people would seem like hatred. They can’t even be remotely in the same league as Jesus. Jesus doesn’t tell you to give up your family, but you would need to be willing to if need be.

Really. He said that.

Note that not only did He say this, but He made it about Himself. It’s not just that you need to do this to be a servant in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps that could be more understandable. No. Jesus made it about Himself. You need to be willing to eliminate these from your life if you are going to be a disciple of Jesus. Other great rabbis would speak about God. Jesus spoke about Himself.

What does that tell you about how He saw Himself?

Consider also another favorite one that is used. Jesus says that a man should not go and bury his father first. He needs to let the dead bury their own dead. Now the reality is the man’s father was likely still very much alive. The man was just saying he needed to fulfill his familial obligations first and then he could fulfill his obligation to Jesus.

Jesus won’t have it.

Yes. He actually says this.

Really. Let it sink in.

Are you ready to make that kind of commitment to Jesus?

Do you make this commitment to Him?

The problem for so many of us is that we have heard these kinds of sayings so much that we just tend to gloss over them. They no longer really surprise us. I have heard that when king Clovis II was told first about the crucifixion of Jesus, he immediately reached for his sword and said, “They wouldn’t have done that if I had been there.” We know that it was necessary that He be crucified, but we need to let the surprise of it sink in. This really happened. He really did this for us. Odds are if we had been there, we would have also been crying out to God to not let this happen.

Kind of like we do with much of our own suffering.

And God did let it happen.

Much like He lets our suffering happen.

And Jesus’s suffering ended in far greater good.

So……

Usually, many of my fellow apologists agree that Jesus Mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed, is thoroughly stupid. This is another reason for it. If Jesus never existed, I don’t think we would be capable of creating a figure like Him. I realize that’s not the same kind of argument that you can normally put forward in historical studies, but it is one. We could point to characters later on like Aslan, but that’s after we have the model of Jesus to look to.

For those of us in apologetics, let’s make sure we don’t spend so much time on misinterpretation that we ignore real interpretation. Jesus said the things He said and as has been said, they were the most incredible things ever said by human lips. We need to really take them seriously.

If it leaves you nervous, you’re not the only one. If it doesn’t, then really check yourself. It should. Jesus is calling for a radical commitment. Would you be willing to forsake all others for Jesus?

Note of course that I am not telling you to not love your family. You should. However, if Jesus asked you to give them up for Him, would you be willing to do that? We can look in amazement at the story of Abraham, but Jesus is asking us for similar here. No. We aren’t being told to literally offer them up as a sacrifice, but we are told to perform an Abrahamic sacrifice in that we are willing to give them up for Jesus.

This is also looking at just two passages. There are many many more. Jesus calls us to not even hate our neighbor in our hearts because that is the first step to murdering them. That’s a hard one.

How about lust? Look at the way our society is today with sex selling everything and we are told to not look at that woman with the idea of wanting to use her for sex or else we are on the way to adultery. We have already had the willingness to do so in our hearts after all.

Do you like that commandment? I don’t. It’s a difficult one to follow. I can’t help but think about what Mark Twain is alleged to have said at this point. It’s not the statements in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the ones that I do understand.

Jesus was the most radical figure who ever lived. We need to let ourselves be shocked by Him. Let’s not be so busy defending His words that we ignore them ourselves. Honestly to skeptics out there, I would encourage you to also really think about this figure. Mythicism is just ridiculous, but once you accept He lived, what do you do with Him? If you think someone made this all up, who was that amazing person or group of persons? Color me skeptical that such a thing could be done. If it wasn’t done, then we have to ask the question he asked.

“Who do you say that I am?”

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

Book Plunge: Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach

What do I think of Andrew Loke’s book published by Routledge? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be thorough. Loke leaves practically no stone unturned and he deals with numerous obscure objections to the resurrection in a logical format. He lists out the possibilities in each case at the start and in the end all the evidence points to Jesus being raised from the dead.

He starts with what the earliest Christians claimed. This is the natural place to start as all we have at the beginning as many skeptics will say is a claim. Meticulously, he goes through piece by piece answering most every possible step you could think of. That includes scholars well known and respected in the field, like Ehrman, to those on the fringe, like Richard Carrier. I was extremely pleased to see this as while most scholars don’t really bother with Carrier, someone does need to and Loke is the kind of guy to do it.

On and on Loke will go looking at each section of the chain and sometimes you will be left wondering how he can write any more on the topic and lo and behold, he does. Loke wants to make absolutely sure that he has left no stone unturned.

If you want to read a chapter on its own, you can go and read the chapter relevant to what you’re studying. Do you want to know if the disciples’ experience of seeing something was something extramental or purely in their heads, go to that chapter. Do you want to know the details surrounding the burial of Jesus? Go to that chapter.

While this is a historical book, there is philosophy covered as well. Loke has apparently written earlier on the existence of God so he doesn’t make that case, but it’s good to know that foundation is there. He does have a chapter here on the question of miracles for those who want to know about that. He is just as thorough in this area as he is in other areas.

There’s also a chapter on combination hypotheses. After all, maybe you say to yourself, “Okay. My case against the empty tomb isn’t that good, but it makes more sense when you combine it with these other arguments.” Don’t be so sure. Loke has this covered.

Now for the bad part. At the time of this publishing, to get a hardcover copy of this book is awfully expensive. It will cost you a little over $100. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the really good news. If you want to read this on your Kindle or computer, you can get a somewhat better price. How does free sound? Yep. Completely free. I checked just today to make sure and it has been free for years. That means you really have no excuse to engage with this book. You can get it here.

This is my challenge then to those who don’t believe in the resurrection. Give this free book a try. Don’t have a Kindle? You can either get one or you can read it on an Amazon app on your computer or even get the app on your phone. Try to even do something like fifteen minutes a day with the book. You could say you will lose time, but how many of us would spend that time watching Netflix or playing video games? We all have time for entertainment. Just give some of it to this.

It’s free. Face this book and see what you think and if you disagree, at least have an informed disagreement.

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

Reading Revelation

What’s the most important part of Revelation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many readers of this blog know about my fondness for debating eschatology. That includes the book of Revelation. I have also gone to a Bible study not so much from the Preterist view, which I hold, at an Orthodox Church Allie was attending for awhile. Not only that, but once we did a study through the book of Revelation like the one I am recommending on this blog.

Just last night I finished going verse by verse through Romans and I figured I would start going through Revelation. It would be interesting to go through it that way and I remembered the study I did years ago. That has taught me the most important lesson in reading Revelation.

Do not focus on end times when reading Revelation.

Now that seems shocking to people. Really? Isn’t that the purpose of the book? Well, that is certainly a purpose. We are to be shown what must soon take place. Now I will happily debate with dispensationalists and others on the interpretation of soon and I will debate with premillennialists and others I disagree with on the millennium, but there should be something that we all agree on and that something is the real focus on the book of Revelation.

That is to look and see what the book says about Jesus. The book begins as being described as the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Whatever your view on eschatology, you are supposed to see what you can find about Jesus.

In the book, Rediscovering Jesus, the authors imagine what would happen if we only knew what we know about Jesus through the book of Revelation. There would certainly be no gentle Jesus, meek and mild. This is a terrifying Jesus. This is a Jesus that is angry and He’s not going to take it anymore.

Fortunately, we do have more on Jesus in the Bible and when we study the book this way, we can consider so many odd messages. Think about the rulers of the Earth who went to be hidden from the wrath of the Lamb. What? How many of you have ever been terrified of a lamb?

If you have your eschatology timeline all filled out right and you have wrong who Jesus is, it will count for you for nothing. Make sure you get Jesus right. Try going through Jesus and don’t ask questions about eschatology, or at least primarily about eschatology. Ask about Jesus.

This book has a lot to say about Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Is Ehrman Among The Mythicists?

What about the Ehrman quote on the lack of references to Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I am browsing Facebook and see someone share this quote again.

“In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”

It is a real quote from Bart Ehrman. Unfortunately, the problem is too many people look at this and think that Bart Ehrman is endorsing mythicism. Hardly. Besides that, if some of the epistles in the NT are first century and mention Jesus and are private, such as Philemon, the pastorals, or perhaps some of the Johannine epistles, do these count as private correspondences?

However, to get to the point, no Ehrman is not a mythicist. He wrote a whole book to argue that Jesus did exist partly to deal with this claim that he is a mythicist. It’s a good book, but reading it, you can almost get the idea that he’s thinking, “I can’t believe I have to write this book.”

He has also spoken at the Freedom From Religion Foundation where he told mythicists that they just make themselves look stupid with that position. He has also debated Robert Price on the topic of did Jesus exist. So either Ehrman is massively in contradiction to several actions he’s done and is really a mythicist, or else the mythicists are misunderstanding Ehrman.

However, let’s also look at another approach. Let’s suppose this is the standard Mythicists give. Surely someone should have mentioned these people! Let’s see who else is unmentioned.

Hannibal was a general in the Carthaginian Empire and nearly conquered their great enemy, the Roman Empire. If anyone ever put fear into the Roman Empire, it was Hannibal. Many of us know about his crossing the Alps with his elephants on the way to conquer.

First reference? About 40-80 years later in Polybius. Think that’s not too bad? That’s also the date that would be given to the Gospels by liberal scholars.

Queen Boudica led a revolt in her time also against the Roman Empire. Keep in mind, this is a queen who did this. Contemporary references to her? None.

Arminius was a German general who in one battle defeated 1/10th of the Roman army. Where do we see him mentioned? About a century later in Tacitus.

In 79 A.D., the volcano Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii and killed a quarter of a million people. Historical references from contemporaries? One off-the-cuff remark between Tacitus and Pliny the Younger about how Pliny’s uncle died. We have some references in poetry and other places, but those are anecdotal. We don’t even learn about Herculaneum which was also destroyed until Cassius Dio in the third century.

In my debate with Ken Humphreys, he told me that he was absolutely certain Josephus existed. I asked him what contemporary references we have to Josephus. Answer? None.

These are just a few arguments and there are many more. The argument from silence is notoriously weak for something like this. It also assumes that these people should have written about Jesus, something I have written about elsewhere.

Note that I am not defending her the idea that Jesus is the Son of God who did miracles and died and rose again in the body on the third day. Affirming Jesus’s existence does not mean you have to affirm everything an orthodox Christian affirms about Him. I would think you’re wrong, but it is a more realistic position than mythicism.

When you see someone share this quote from Ehrman, put them back here. Odds are they don’t have a clue what Ehrman really believes and have never interacted with his work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Book Plunge: Why The End Is Not Near

What do I think of Duane Garner’s book published by Athanasius Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is a part of series of answers in an hour. The book is short enough that if you have the question about the end times of if the end is near, this book is meant to answer that. Of course, one could say we don’t know when the end is so it could be near, but I’m inclined to think we still have time since there are still unevangelized parts of the world.

Thankfully, Garner does hold to the future resurrection of the dead, but most of this is meant to deal with premillennial dispensationalism. Readers of my work know that eschatology is a favorite topic of mine and I speak as a former holder of the view of premillennial dispensationalism. Garner sums up well in his book reasons for my own change in position.

The position that he is responding to is quite likely the most prominent one in the church today, which is odd since it has virtually no presence in the early church. Even those who try to point to a few isolated passages would have to say those are the exception and not the rule. This is not the case with premillennialism itself. While I do not hold to that position, it was a prevalent one in the early church.

Garner asks how it was that the modern interpretation came about. There are some that trace it to a minister who held to some heretical positions named Edward Irving or the visions of a Scottish girl named Margaret MacDonald. It was largely popularized by John Darby and then further pushed by Scofield’s Bible.

Garner will point out various hermeneutical problems that I have with the rapture view. One main one is how do you divide the comings of Jesus? We are to talk about the second coming but the rapture is Jesus coming for His church, yet somehow it is not a coming, and then the second coming is seven years later. I’d add in also that Jesus says the resurrection will be on the last day and Paul says at the last trumpet, but if you read Revelation with the rapture viewpoint in mind, then there are 1,007 years at least after the last day and seven more trumpets after the last trumpet.

The far better way is to read passages like the Olivet Discourse like you would Isaiah 13. Isaiah 13 sounds like a doom and gloom future passage about what’s coming up. However, it is a prophecy against Babylon. Some would try to push this into the future with a future Babylon (Think New Babylon from the Left Behind series), but the reading of it as referring to Isaiah’s near future works just fine.

While I hold a great love for my brothers and sisters who hold to the idea of the rapture, I do hope that will start changing soon. End times madness is incredibly shaping in the church and those from the Preterist viewpoint, like myself, often have our orthodoxy questioned immediately as if we’re denying the Trinity. I look forward to the day when the church is caught up in understanding many more aspects of the faith than just prophecy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)
Donate to my Patreon here.

Book Plunge: 100 Bible Verses That Made America

What do I think of Robert Morgan’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you want to know about the history of America, it is imperative that you know about the Bible. You don’t have to be a Christian, of course, but a non-Christian should recognize the role that the Bible played in shaping our country. Our Founding Fathers were heavily influenced for the most part by the Bible.

This book follows that shaping from 1511 to 2019. Yes. Even before the country was founded, the seeds were being sown in Scripture that would make us who we are. Great figures in American history have used the Bible to inspire them and to inspire others. Great conversions led to intense ramifications for America.

My personal favorite stories largely took place in the 18th century. This is when our country was starting to establish itself and in war against the British. The way that pastors were targeted at that time is mind-blowing. Back then, the British put a bounty on the heads of certain pastors of churches. Today, most of our pastors are scared to say anything political because they could lose their 501c3.

These people relied on Scripture and based their lives on it. They believed Scripture called them to resist a government that was tyrannical and stand up for the freedom that they believed was found in Christ. Whether their interpretation was right or not, what matters is how seriously that they took the text.

Of course, one can’t avoid talking about American exceptionalism and if anything has made America exceptional, it has been the focus on Scripture. Christianity has shaped our country to be what it is and I have a great fear for what happens the further we move away from that. I keep coming back to a conversation I had a few years ago before even the 2016 election.

I made a statement to someone about the future of our nation that the gospel doesn’t need America, but America needs the gospel. That is still the case. If there is anything that our country needs today, it is still the gospel. We need 100 more instances of the Bible shaping America and even more.

That being said, sometimes in the book, I did question the connection between the verse and the historical incident. Was that incident specifically based on an understanding of the verse in question or did Morgan find a verse that he thought fit the context? I was unsure.

However, reading this will hopefully change your idea of American history. It really is a fascinating topic and with all going on in our country today, one I am definitely looking more into. For those of us who live in America, if we love our country, we need to know how we got to where we are and what we can do to keep America being what she’s meant to be.

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)

The Calling of Matthew

Why does Jesus hang out with tax collectors? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a gameshow junkie. I sadly think gameshows are going to pass away with the advent of streaming, but I can still talk on and on about mainly older gameshows. As a teenager, I got a wish to come true when Gameshow Network went on the air. I was curious when I started seeing older ones from the 50’s and 60’s like What’s My Line?

In this game, a panel got to ask a contestant yes or no questions. Every no gave the contestant $5 for a maximum of $50 if he stumped the panel and they were told no ten times. The question every time was to guess what the person’s job was.

Normally, this would be met with applause, but I remember one time specifically where the applause had some boos thrown in. The panel noticed it too which led to the conclusion this must not be a well-liked job. What was it? IRS tax agent.

No one likes taxes. They and death are the two great inevitables in the world. If you rank right up there with death, you have to be pretty unpopular. Jews are no exception to this and the past is no exception. Jews of the past particularly hated tax collectors. They not only took the money, but they were seen as betraying their people by aligning with Rome and normally, they would also line their pockets with a little bit extra.

So when Jesus calls Matthew, it’s a shock to everyone, and no doubt Matthew as well. Keep in mind also that Jesus’s entourage also included at least one zealot so that must have been fun to have someone who was extremely pro-Israel and anti-Rome and someone seen as a collaborator in the same group.

Jesus is asked about this, and understandably so, though prostitutes are also included the mix. Jesus points out that it is the sick who need to see a doctor. He has come to call the sinners and not the righteous. Let’s look at that point of Jesus saying “I have come.”

First, there are shades of pre-existence here. It’s not a slam dunk by any means, but there is evidence of it here. If that is what is going on, this certainly is a high Christology going on and coming from the lips of Jesus Himself.

However, Jesus certainly has a view of Himself as a man on a mission. He is here for a specific reason. He has come to call the sinners. He also doesn’t speak of fellow sinners. He never indicates any need on His part. It is also as if He can provide righteousness.

With anyone else also, we would get concerned. Imagine if you heard your pastor had had a meal with several prostitutes, and this not even at a restaurant but at someone’s house. “Sure pastor. I’m sure that’s all you had. Say. What was served for dessert?”

Similar could have been said of Jesus. This was the scandal that the man Jesus was and still is. Yet we look at Jesus as not only hanging out with prostitutes, but leading a celibate lifestyle. It’s worth pointing out that when Jesus walked this Earth, he freely forsook one of the greatest joys He had created.

We’re not wrong in being suspicious of a pastor doing this necessarily. I know there are some guys who can actually do ministry in places like strip clubs. More power to them. I don’t want to risk it. However, even as I say that, some of you might be thinking that you’re sure they’re doing “ministry.”

Yet when God comes before us, who does He go to? Not the best of the best, but the lowest of the low. He goes to the ones who are cast out and the ones who see themselves as hopeless. We are told elsewhere that prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom due to repentance. Prostitutes certainly don’t stay prostitutes, but Jesus has a heart for these women who are trapped in the sexual trade either willingly or unwillingly.

Jesus was a scandal then.

He still is today.

And we’re meant to show His love today, even to those tax collectors and prostitutes.

Maybe it would be better to pray for that What’s My Line contestant instead of booing.

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