Book Plunge: The Gospel Precisely

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Renew? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Matthew Bates for his friendship as I was one of the people he contacted in order to promote his new book. It’s an honor to be in that circle. I find Matthew Bates to be a highly informed scholar, but I am super thankful that he is not just staying in an ivory tower, but is taking advanced New Testament studies and breaking them down for the layman to understand the gospel in a whole new way.

Too often, our idea of the gospel is way too shortsighted, which is a tragedy because what we have is really good already and yet we miss that there’s so much more. We are more content with making mudpies when a day at the beach awaits us. We are pleased with what we understand of the gospel, and we should be, but we miss that there is a lot more.

So let’s start with what is the gospel. Most of the time, we make the gospel about ourselves. This is what God is doing to forgive us. With that, we are ultimately the subjects of the gospel. It is about us. The gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are the ones that are being used for the glory of God. God is not to be used for the glory of us.

One aspect that we miss is the gospel is Jesus becoming king. I remember hearing once that John Dominic Crossan said about Mark 1:1 that talked about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s a short little verse, but Crossan said it could be translated as “In your face, Caesar.”

If he said that, he’s not wrong.

Jesus is coming and declaring Himself to be the king who will rule on God’s behalf. This is part of the gospel. This is one of the reasons He was crucified. You don’t get crucified for just teaching good ethics and sharing parables. Jesus was a majorly political figure as well as a religious one.

Why does this matter? Because we were created to be the rulers of this world on God’s behalf. Unfortunately with sin, we all failed at that one. Jesus was meant to be fully human and fully God so that He could rule and reflect God perfectly but also be a man ruling like God intended. Part of the good news is also that not only are we forgiven, but we are to be rulers of the new creation with Jesus Christ. God saves us so we can serve.

This is however also good for non-Christians for the time being. The world is meant to be a better place with the coming of Christianity and where Christians aren’t being what they were supposed to be. Most people, Christians or not, do support the life and ethics of Jesus. I still remember a non-Christian friend saying on my Facebook wall that life would be a lot better if we all tried to live like Christ.

Oh. Let me explain something with that. When we speak of Christ, we shouldn’t treat Christ as just a name. Some people actually think that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I wish I was joking. I can still remember years ago someone asking “Why would a Jewish guy have a Greek last name?”

The closest idea we have to Messiah is King. In our country, that’s something that seems foreign to us, but we might not be too far from us. A friend of mine thinks we might naturally move as a society towards monarchy. Every four years, we are having “The most important election of our lifetime” which should show that we place way too much emphasis on the president, no matter who he is.

Of course, if we’re servants of God, we need to know who this God is. The Trinity is not just an add-on. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, the Gospel is completely changed. Christians need to learn how to understand to some extent the Trinity and how to defend it.

I’m only giving snapshots here because honestly, i want you to read the book yourself. Some of you might be concerned with reading a whole book on this. Good news. The book is only about 100 pages. You could easily read it in a day or two, and it would be a day or two well-spent.

Finally, how do we share the gospel? This is where it might get difficult as Bates lists ten items that he thinks we need to remember and share. Those complaining about this might want to think about what they have memorized about sports teams, TV shows, music, or video games.

So final opinion? Get this book. It’s a great one to understand the gospel and will show you how much you are missing. It has five chapters and while I said you could read it in a day, if you wanted to read one chapter a day, you could do so easily and read it in a week and you would be blessed for doing so.

Matthew Bates is a gift to the church that keeps on giving and thanks to him for his work and being considered part of his team to help share his material. It’s material worth sharing and it’s an honor to be a part of it. And oh yes, there is one part where he does show that he does believe Jesus was born of a virgin so he does affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, the obvious important sign of anyone wanting to share the gospel.

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

 

More on the Sadness of Jesus

Why do we not talk about the sadness of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Within the past month, I have written about the sadness of Christ. I was pleased to see that article linked to on a popular apologetics website. However, after seeing that, I started to ponder. I have written many blogs including on the historical Jesus. Why this one?

Could it be that this one resonated? This one did hit something and it at first doesn’t even seem to be something related to apologetics, but I think it is. Could it be that maybe we talk so much about the joy of Christ that we don’t know about His sorrow as well? Could it be that we ourselves don’t really know much about sorrow either?

Now that last one might be a surprising statement. After all, look at how many people in our country struggle with depression. Look at how many self-help books we have out there. Our people have experience with sorrow so surely they know a lot about it.

It’s not hard to figure out the error in this statement. Our people also debate politics and economics regularly, but most of us think that our fellow Americans are clueless about both of them. This is especially so since you can find quite sincere people and quite intelligent people on both sides of any debate. We have had the sexual revolution going on, but I contend that our culture is one that knows very little about sex.

One of our problems with sorrow and depression is we really don’t know how to handle it. We often act like we’re not supposed to have any depression or sadness at all. Sadly, the church is one of the worst at this. We often pay lip service to the idea of mourning with those who mourn and Jesus weeping in the garden,

For us, if you have depression or anxiety, then there is something wrong with you. Christians are supposed to be people of joy and so if you have depression or anxiety, there is something wrong with you. This can lead to being depressed about being depressed or anxious about being anxious.

Being a fully functional human being means experiencing the full gamut of human emotions and sometimes you will have anxiety or sadness. That is okay. If you start saying you shouldn’t, then what are we to mourn for?

This also leads to a false pollyanna world that skeptics don’t believe in. They don’t want us to act like life is always great. They want to see how we will handle it when life is hard. Will we be realistic or will we be living a life of total denial?

I also don’t believe in that world.

We also then treat suffering like it is something foreign to us. The suffering that we cannot bear often times would be nothing to our ancestors of the past. These were people who were willing to go to the death for their faith. They also didn’t only exist back then. They exist in the world today where real persecution is going on.

Why do we not talk about it with Jesus? Maybe because it doesn’t seem to give us something to aspire to. It’s easy to want to live like Jesus when He is being gracious to His enemies or outwitting them in debate or showing outstanding love. However, to aspire to be like Jesus in His sorrow will mean experiecing that sorrow as well, and we don’t want that.

But that is part of pollyanna thinking. The sorrow will come. We treat pain and suffering like they are something foreign to us. In reality, they have been promised to us.

The question is not then will suffering come, but how will we handle it? We are not to act like it is all good and wonderful. Sure, we are to count all things joy, but that does not mean that you always put on a happy face since Jesus didn’t do that. We can need help on the journey, and that’s okay. That’s why there are friends and therapists and yes, even medications.

Sorrow in Jesus I think resonates with us because deep down, many of us know that it is a reality and we want something in our lives. Yet still, the only book I found on a general search on Amazon on this topic was about 500 years old. Who is writing about this today? If any New Testament scholar is reading this, consider this a challenge to write a book on the sadness of Christ. To any pastor, consider preaching a sermon on Jesus being sad. It would be refreshing in some way. If anything, that could help many in your audience who do struggle with depression and anxiety. They could actually really resonate with Jesus.

I continue to think on this and learn about the topic. If we want to know Jesus as He is, we have to know all sides of Him. We have to have a Jesus who is not just fully God, but also fully human. That includes not just being hungry, thirsty, and tired, but also, sad.

Nothing short of a real Jesus will do.

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

Ehrman vs Price

What are my thoughts on this debate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been recovering from a sickness and I’m still at home so yesterday after watching my church service, I decided to also watch the Ehrman/Price debate that was held before Mythicist Milwuakee. This is probably the first debate where I was ever on the side of Ehrman. While in many areas like politics and abortion I side with Price, in this area, being the existence of Jesus, I side with Ehrman.

However, this debate brought out to me the multitude of problems both sides have. Let’s start with mythicism. Mythicism is a ridiculous proposition from the get-go. There is a reason the scholarly academy has rejected it over and over and over again. I generally refer to mythicism as a conspiracy theory for atheists. When I meet someone who espouses it seriously, I know to not take them seriously. By that, I mean someone who argues it thinking it is true. I would have no problem with an atheist saying “I just don’t understand why no one would write about Jesus if He was such a miracle-working figure and I would like to know,” and assuming that is an honest question, I would be glad to answer it. (Such an answer can be found here.)

Most atheists are no like this. These are people who think they know better than the entire academy. Note that these same people will mock young-Earth creationists for doing the same thing with evolution. I am not a young-Earth creationism, but I can understand that at least they interpret a text that they regard as holy and think God has said in the text that the Earth is young.

However, I think Ehrman and Price both have a problem with who Jesus is. Ehrman will clearly say in the debate several times that he does not believe Jesus did anything miraculous whatsoever. He’s interested in defending the historical Jesus and surely the historical Jesus never did anything like that.

This leads me to ask the question of where these miracle accounts came from. Ehrman rightly says that we need to get past Albert Schweitzer who talked about an event like the feeding of the 5,000. The scholars of his day said one person brought out his lunch and then others did and Jesus encouraged everyone to share and it eventually became the miracle account. Schweitzer thought all of these accounts were ridiculous and strongly argued that.

I agree, but I still want to know where the miracles came from. Now the answer could be “Well, they needed to build up Jesus since He was their Messiah.” Okay. Well, that makes sense, except for one question. Why was Jesus chosen to be the Messiah?

It is absolutely certain that Jesus was crucified. Aside from the mythicists, you won’t find anyone denying that. What sense does it make to take a crucified man and say “He’s the Messiah!” The last time I asked this to someone, I was told it was because of prophecy. Okay. Can you show me who was interpreting Isaiah 53 this way? I know that rightly or wrongly, Christians today do that, but were Jews doing that and even if they were, why choose this man instead of anyone else?

We could go further and ask “What did Jesus do that got Him crucified?” I remember years ago reading Five Views on the Historical Jesus where John Dominic Crossan had a chapter and in his, Jesus saw His cousin John the Baptist get killed so Jesus went on a much kinder streak then and spoke about the love of God and the brotherhood of men. That might not be an exact quote, but it is the general idea.

I kept thinking the same thing reading it. “This Jesus does not get crucified. You do not get crucified for being Mr. Rogers. This Jesus is not a threat to anyone.”

This is why Jesus is really the most difficult figure in history to explain. The basic facts about Him are the biggest problems. Why was He crucified? Why did He have a reputation as a miracle-worker and exorcist? (Note. That is not saying He was those, though I think He was, but it is accepted He had that reputation.)

Most Biblical scholars I am sure agree that the ethic of Jesus is excellent. Why then crucify a teacher who had such a great ethic? What about the cleansing of the temple? That’s one that is generally accepted to have happened.

Now we have to ask the question. Why did He do that? Was that also alone sufficient? Could Jesus not have just been seen as a madman? You don’t crucify someone for being insane. Jesus had to have some kind of movement to get even that going, on especially since he had twelve disciples which is also accepted. Why?

The idea of this Jesus that someone like Ehrman has comes loaded with questions. Why was He proclaimed Messiah? Why was He declared to be risen from the dead? Why was He crucified? Where did these miracle stories come from and how did they overcome the “true” accounts so quickly?

I really have hopes that as things go along, New Testament scholarship of the secular sort will find itself pushed into a corner more and more. The ideas conceded today would not have been the ones done fifty years ago. The questions I am asking also I consider basic. Why? Jesus was crucified? Why? Jesus has a reputation of doing miracles? Why?

Of course, I think Jesus did the miracles, but I think historical Jesus research has a problem if we show up and say at the outset “Well we know Jesus didn’t do any miracles.” If that is from a position you have not argued for, why should I think that? If the historical Jesus did do miracles, you have a method that has ruled out the truth from the outset.

Now suppose you are a philosophically-minded historian who says “These are the problems I have with theism and why I think atheism is true.” Okay. You at least have a basis for your skepticism, Even then, you should still be able to say, “But if there is enough evidence for the miracles in the Gospels, I will be open to changing my opinion.”

Years ago Chesteron said that the believer in the miracle believes in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them. I find that still to be entirely accurate. As a theist, you could eliminate every miracle out there and God would still exist. (Christianity would be false, but atheism is not necessarily true.) It could be that God exists and just hasn’t done any miracles.

For the atheist, however, grant one miracle and something happening outside of the materialistic chain of events, and there is a problem. There is much more at stake. Take a book like Keener’s “Miracles” and every single miracle in there has to be shown to be false.

In the end then, Price’s position is completely untenable, but is Ehrman any better off. I have several questions about his Jesus as well. Now if Price wants to go with something like “Well one person shared his lunch and that’s how the miracle story of the feeding of the 5,000 came about”, I don’t find that plausible, but it’s at least an attempt to find an answer. Oddly enough, at least mythicism recognizes the problem there.

As someone who thinks about these issues, I do ask these questions. Every position of Jesus has questions to answer, but I really find the orthodox view of Jesus has the best explanatory power of the data. All others are wiling to try, but for now, I will stick with the Jesus I find the most likely to be the world changer that there is today.

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

The Sadness of Christ

Why was Christ sad? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There have been some snafus with the blog lately. I hope that’s worked out. I do have a new laptop now and I tried to make YouTube videos of the blog for that, which apparently also had some problems. I was going to work on that some today, but really, things are extremely rough right now.

I don’t want to go into everything going on, but let’s just say that yesterday, I had the perfect storm of depression and anxiety come based on so many situations. Much of it I still want to keep private, but I can assure you it’s real. It has been so real I called to have an emergency session with my therapist and I am trying to reach out to other friends who I know can do some counseling.

So yesterday, I started wondering about the sadness of Christ. Go on Amazon and you can find plenty of books of Christ offering hope to those suffering. Wonderful. You can hear about Christ speaking to your sadness. Excellent. You can hear a lot about the promises of Christ and what He went through for your joy. Great.

And right now, I don’t really care about it.

Right now, I want to know about Christ Himself. What about His sadness? For some of us, it seems shocking to talk about such things, yet at the same time so many refer to Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of Christ that describes Him as a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

Yes. That’s what it says.

Jesus is not referred to as a man of joy. He is referred to as a man of sorrows. He is not described in ways that glorify Him. He is someone despised and rejected. There was no reason to desire Him. Nothing. Let us not color it over so much saying it was Jesus that we miss something.

This is in many ways a very depressing chapter.

Consider the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” How many of us have sung that at church? What a wonderful encouragement! What a blessing it is to us! How good it is to know God is faithful! That passage is in the Bible? It must surely be in a book of joy. It’s a Psalm of praise. Right?

Think again. It’s Lamentations. The entire book of the Bible that is just that, a lament.

So if you hold that Isaiah 53 is Jesus, this is really Jesus. When I talk about wanting Christ, I want to know just what He will do for me when I have sadness. I want to know what He did for Himself. I want to know why He was sad. I want to know His experience.

The number one place is in Matthew 26 when Jesus is in the garden praying and fortunately, I found one book on the topic by Thomas More that is over 500 years old called the Sadness of Christ and it is looking at the Passion. Jesus tells His friends that He is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Jesus turns to His friends.

Let’s get rid of some bad theology with this.

Some people will tell you that if you have God and you know His love, you should always have joy and happiness. If you are depressed then, there is something wrong with you. You need to repent.

I defy you if you are a Christian to find one human being you think has better theology than Jesus.

Was there something wrong with Jesus that He was sad? Did Jesus have a deficient theology? Did Jesus just need to repent and find joy in the Lord?

If your theology contradicts Jesus, your theology is wrong.

Jesus was sad. We could say it was because of the sins of the world and the pain of the people around Him, but could we consider something else? Maybe, Jesus just didn’t want to go to the cross. Hebrews tells us that He went despising the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. He knew this was the path to the greatest joy so He went for it.

He went to the cross because He wanted to save the world and bring glory to God. He didn’t want the cross for the sake of the cross. He would have preferred another way.

Yet Jesus was sad.

If that’s the case, then we can dispense with this idea that if you have God in your life, you should always have joy and living abundantly. Dare I say it, sometimes you should be sad. If you have a loved one who dies on you and you are not sad, you are not exhibiting great strength. You are being actually deficient as a human being.

1 Thessalonians is a passage I am discussing in eschatology right now, but while we disagree with many Christians on the eschatology, let’s speak about one thing we should agree on. The text says we mourn. Paul never says “Cheer up guys! No need to mourn! These people will rise again! Celebrate!” No. He says mourn. In Romans, he even tells us to mourn with those who mourn.

Paul says he had no rest at one point until he found his brother Titus. He talks about how thankful he was to have someone come to him so he could have less anxiety in Philippians, the very book where he tells us to be anxious for nothing. It could be Paul was also preaching to himself there. How many of us know what it is like to give advice some one and yet struggle to follow that same advice ourselves?

But to get back to Jesus, Jesus definitely did have sadness. When we talk about the incarnation, we understand He was hungry and He slept and was thirsty and could experience pain and even die, yet talking about sadness seems taboo. Jesus as a human being had emotions and surely those emotions always had to be joy.

No. Not a bit. He experienced the full gamut of emotions. When my soul is also overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, in some ways, I am in good company. Jesus’s was too.

What did Jesus do? He needed what we need then. He needed His friends. He didn’t just turn to God. He turned to others. I am thankful I have God to turn to, to be sure, but there are ways that another human being can connect with you that God can’t always. This evening I am planning on visiting a friend to have a gaming night. Sorry, but God isn’t going to sit on a couch with me playing Smash Brothers or something.

Sometimes, you need a touch too. Now Jesus could appear and do that, but it’s not likely. I am not a touchy person, but sometimes, it is nice to have.

In all of this, I am not saying prayer and good music and Bible study and similar things have no place in this. They are good. I also say good music because sometimes it’s not just Christian music you need. When I heard Nabeel Qureshi had died, I was one of the first. Mike Licona was there when it happened and his wife called and told me and said not to tell anyone. I was in a Wal-Mart shopping at the time and having to put on a brave face even though inside, I was falling apart. What did I listen to driving then?

World of Ruin from Final Fantasy VI.

Sometimes in my own pain nowadays, I find myeslf listening to A Place To Call Home from Final Fantasy IX. Different music will resonate with different people. Some will find themselves listening to the classical composers. Some might want rock and roll or even heavy metal. If it is not sinful and it helps you get through it, go for it.

But I don’t want to overwhelm you. For now, I just want us to think about the sadness of Jesus. We have a Lord who was sad and had to deal with it. We do nor honor Jesus when we turn Him into a superhuman who never had sorrow and sadness in His life. That should be a comfort too. If our Lord had it, we should not count ourselves exempt from it.

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

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.