Joy in God’s Absence

Can someone be happy when giving up on God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I continue looking at the news of Tyler, one aspect of it that didn’t surprise me was when he talked about being in a good mood even after abandoning God, not in the sense of going atheist, but in the sense of abandoning Christianity. This sounds like a shock to many people. I get that. After all, if God is the greatest source of joy in your life, then surely losing that would be misery wouldn’t it?

But notice the conditional statement.

If God is the greatest source of joy in your life.

What if He isn’t?

What if He’s a misery, actually?

What if you think God is someone who doesn’t care about you, doesn’t want to help you, and refuses to be there in your suffering? If your idea of God is of a God who is cruel and uncaring, what if you lost that idea? What if that idea was gone from your mind? It could be relieving. You no longer have to work to please this tyrant then.

I contend that when people turn their back on God or refuse to believe in Him, they often have an extremely negative view of Him. N.T. Wright has talked about new students entering a university when he was on duty as a chaplain there and when asked about their religion that they didn’t believe in God. He would say “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.” Sometimes, they would smile thinking that they had heard many of the clergy there were secretly atheists.

So if you tell me that there is a god who stands absent in your suffering and doesn’t care about your pain at all, then I will say, “Yes. I don’t believe in that god either.” My concern at this point is the idea that when you answer the question of God differently, how your worldview changes is a result of what place you gave Him in your worldview. Consider a parallel.

I live in New Orleans. This is a city that has a problem of crime. I could watch the local news tonight and hear hypothetically about a resident of the city who was murdered and think “Well that sucks”, but I won’t stay awake at night thinking about them. Now if it turned out that someone I know well here on the campus was murdered and I would never see them again, that would hit me very differently.

We are all like that. If we weren’t, there are people dying every day everywhere and somehow many of us can have joy and sleep peacefully at night. What hits us hard is based on how close someone was to us. We can hear about thousands dying in a disaster somewhere and it is saddening, but when we hear about the death of one person close to us that we know, that is far harder for us to take.

If you remove God from your worldview and it doesn’t change, then that is an indicator of what place He played in your worldview. If God was mainly there for emotional support, well you can get that in several other places. If God is just there to fill in the gaps in scientific thinking, then that means the study of science leads to that kind of atheism.

Yet what if God is the foundation for everything? I find it fascinating so many atheists question if God exists, but they don’t stop to think about what it means to exist. It sounds like a simple question, but it isn’t. This is a gift that Classical Theism brings to the table.

To get back to the joy of the absence, it makes sense that if someone you perceive as a negative influence in your life is gone, there can be joy. That shouldn’t be surprising. The concern is that if we look at the emotions as the guide, they are always temporary. They will fade. What then? Also, what if the emotions guide the worldview? What if we say “I feel this, so now I must fit my idea of God to correspond with this emotion.”?

When I get in the point of wondering if God cares for me, I have to go back to what I know. Does God exist? Yes. There are too many good arguments I know of. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes. I know no other way to explain the data and the person of Jesus is hard to explain outside of Christianity. Then I have to interpret everything in light of that.

I also know if you go the way of skepticism, you eventually have to lower Jesus. It’s the question of if someone is willing to do that or not. Time will tell.

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

Jesus and Moral Issues

Can you separate Jesus from morality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I said yesterday, I have been reading Machen lately and something he said in a work of his was about how we have pulled away from what he calls the “supernatural Jesus.” Now I have said before about my beef with the term “supernatural“. However, I do know what he’s saying. This is a Jesus who is seen as more or less just a great moral teacher, perhaps highly enlightened, but He certainly wasn’t divine in any way and definitely didn’t rise from the dead.

However, as we have moved away from this kind of Jesus, so with that has gone much of our moral standards in society. Many people even today do not want to speak ill of Jesus. Of course, some people do, but Jesus is still by and large a respected figure in our history. (Setting aside the crackpot position that says Jesus never even existed.) Few would want to ascribe malicious intent to Jesus.

A lot of people do like the morality of Jesus to some extent, which is quite odd when one thinks about it since really, His morality is often quite difficult. I would find it easy to go through life and not commit adultery with a woman. I find it extremely difficult to go through life without looking at another woman with lust. It would be easy to go through life without murdering a brother of mine. It is far harder to go through life without anger toward him.

Jesus did change this and so you had a society soon that was changing rapidly with a people who were practicing sexual chastity, love for their fellow man, and tremendous self-sacrifice. When a plague came through the Roman Empire, the physicians fled, but the Christians stayed and tended to the sick. The Christians didn’t have the science to know how a plague worked, but they were unintentionally giving themselves some immunity to the sickness by staying and facing it to help the sick.

We have been trying an experiment to take the teachings of Jesus and somehow exclude the man of Jesus from them. Yes. This teaching is quite quaint and we like it, but we don’t need that extra baggage with it. We don’t need all this nonsense of miracles and resurrections obviously. Let’s just go with the teachings and live by them.

This experiment has been a failure.

Inevitably, Jesus’s teachings are bound up with His person, authority, and character. It’s not just that Jesus taught great truths, but He also lived them and lived them perfectly. Jesus didn’t teach these as great suggestions either. He taught them as commands and He insisted that it was only by His power that one could live them out.

Naturally, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Some of us could be very generous by nature and yet struggle with a temper. A man could be extremely peaceful and wouldn’t hurt a fly, but he struggles with the sight of the beautiful women who he passes by regularly. In our society, we have often said that we like the idea of tolerance and non-judgmentalism, which are really not the message of Jesus, but we don’t really care for messages on sexual chastity. (Isn’t it funny how those two go together also?)

However, virtue is not a buffett where you take what you want and reject the rest. You have to take all of it. Try to separate one part of Jesus’s teachings from the whole and you have the overemphasis of one trait with the neglect of another. Part of this is because of the separation of Jesus from His lifestyle as if Jesus is just incidental to His teachings.

Perhaps we can’t dispense with the miraculous Jesus after all.

Now if you have a resurrected Jesus who speaks with authority and can forgive one’s own sins so one can live out love and forgiveness in others, the system works a lot better. Jesus did not come just to teach us all how to get along. Yes. He wants us to live well and have life, but He wants us to be forgiven and free as well.

Ultimately, you have to accept the bad news of Jesus, you are a sinner in need of salvation, before you can truly live out the teachings. If you do not realize how much you are forgiven, you will be incapable of loving the way He wants you to. This can be a struggle for many of us. I see myself as the guy who grew up avoiding pornography, drugs, alcohol, staying chaste until I was married, etc. It is easy to look and say “I’ve lived a good life and don’t really have major sins to deal with”, but I need to realize that in many cases, I struggle with pride and other inner sins that could be far worse in a sense and yet, I am forgiven.

Every sin after all is ultimately divine treason. It is denying one or more attributes of God and saying that you should be on the throne. I am one who has excessive worrying and anxiety and it’s tempting to want to be in control of my own life and panic about even seemingly minor decisions. If I am guilty of divine treason, which I am and which you are as well, isn’t it a wonder we are forgiven? What person says to someone else “I forgive you for wanting me dead and acting on it.”?

If we don’t go by the strength of Christ and the Holy Spirit, then we have to do that from within. Now this does not mean that non-Christians cannot be loving people. They can be. It means that this is a struggle for all of us because our natural tendency is to love ourselves more than others. Even the suicide loves themselves more despite their thinking of how awful they are. They seek their good above that of others though trying to tell themselves everyone else will be better off without them.

The early Christians were able to love greatly because they knew that they had been loved greatly. Take that away and it all falls apart. They knew they were loved greatly not because Jesus was some nice man who was really enlightened and said they were special. It was because Jesus was the divine man who had risen from the dead and had the authority to forgive them for all they had done.

Christianity cannot be reduced to just a set of ethics. It is an entire worldview. Removing the miraculous Jesus removes the batteries and the system doesn’t work.

If our culture is to recover, the only way to do that is to return to the original system which worked fine. That is the real miracle-working Jesus who rose from the dead and forgives sins. Any other Jesus won’t do.

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

Book Plunge: On The Incarnation

What do I think of Athanasius’s classic work? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had been doing some thinking on the incarnation and was looking for a book to read and I thought “Why not Athanasius?” After all, since it’s an older work I can get it immediately on Kindle and it will be cheaper as well. Thus, each night I read a chapter of On The Incarnation before I went to bed. This is also one way you can recognize theological nerds. Our devotional reading is something like Athanasius. (I am also reading the complete church fathers on Kindle.)

As I got further into this work, I did begin to realize not what I was seeing, but what I was not seeing so much. I was not seeing a response to Arius. Arius isn’t even mentioned. I even did a check to see if the book was written after the Council of Nicea and lo and behold, it was.

Keep in mind as I say that that none of that is said to attack the book or say one shouldn’t read it. I don’t want to attack it and I think people should read it. It’s just to express an honest surprise to me. I came expecting to find such replies to questions like “Why didn’t Jesus know the time of His return?” (For the record, I don’t think He’s talking about His return there, but the question still stands) or “Don’t you know God can’t die?”

What is found instead is indeed much more devotional literature. There are claims in there that I am sure the skeptics of Christianity in the day wouldn’t accept just like those same claims would not be accepted by ours today. However, I am sure that there are some claims even skeptics would accept and it would lead to greater appreciation. Athanasius’s work is not so much about the how of the incarnation as it is about the why of the incarnation and then about the facts of the results.

When the results are talked about, it’s not so much the incarnation as it is along the lines of the books we have today talking about how the world has been changed for the better since the coming of Jesus. Many of these we may not be as able to verify being far away from the times, but the people back then could probably look at the world around them that had really just gone from being largely pagan influenced to now more and more if not largely Christian influenced.

So if you come to this book and you’re expecting a defense of the incarnation, you’re going to be let down on that front, but you should not be let down overall. After all, a book should not be faulted for not doing what it was never meant to do. Athanasius is wanting to use a likely new position he has to draw those under him into the worship of God and after just winning a major battle on the nature of the incarnation is wanting to show what a difference that makes. On this, He succeeds and how cannot really be shown best in this blog, but just by picking it up yourself and reading. If you want to, you can do what I did and read a chapter a night. There are 57 of them and they’re all short.

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

 

 

Repeated Forgiveness

How many times do you forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yes. I know about what Jesus says with seventy times seven and still more, but there is another aspect I’m getting at here. What I normally have in mind is someone wrongs me, they come to me and repent, I forgive, then they go off and do the same thing again and come to me again. It keeps going until they finally stop overall.

As a divorced man now, I’m thinking there might be more to it than that. For instance, there’s no way really my ex can come to me now unless she does it through others. For my own personal sanity, I had her blocked. I don’t delight in saying that. In reality, I hate it. I hate that things came to that level, but I needed to keep my own sanity.

However, I do believe in having an attitude of forgiveness. Now with forgiveness, I do believe you should let the other person come to you first. However, while that does not happen, many times, when I do think about her, I have to be ready to be in an attitude of forgiveness.

It’s not easy. Now I am in seminary now and as I write this blog, I am in the student center and generally, I’m in a good mood most of the time. I do like seminary and I like the field of education gripping me and getting to know students and professors both. However, I would be lying if I said there are not still times of sorrow.

I can see a happy couple on campus and think “I wish I had that.” I can have a flashback to something of my ex and I based on something I see or hear briefly. Sometimes, I can be climbing into bed at night and regretting that it is just me in that bed, despite the fact that I have woken up to see Shiro at my feet in the morning. Sometimes there is still a tendency to want to cry a little bit over the pain.

This is what I have in mind by forgiveness. I find myself having to be willing to forgive the same offense done repeatedly not at different times per se, but still ongoing. I am still deeply hurt by what has happened to me and I understand that such hurt never goes away entirely, even if one remarries. There is still a sense of rejection.

As one who is looking to date now, and I do plan on writing about that sometime, I still feel the sorrow when I send out numerous likes and don’t get a nibble back even. The one conversation that got started ended with me being ghosted. I keep having a longing and a hope. My therapist has referred to someone who is looking for me as much as I am looking for them.

But still, I have to forgive either way. Holding on to anger towards my ex despite what she did to me does not help me at all. I have seen what bitterness does to people and I don’ t want to be one of those people who is ready to spew venom at the very mention of my ex. If anything, I pray for her repentance and for her to know God better. Her suffering won’t improve me in any way and I should certainly not take joy at it.

It’s not always easy though. Sometimes, the temptation to go the other way and hold on to resentment is strong, but that is a cancer that doesn’t do anything to her and destroys me in the process. Why bother?

So right now, I am also learning forgiveness. I also figure if I can learn to forgive this, most anything else in my life will be much easier by comparison seeing as this is the most painful rejection and betrayal of all.

And if you’re struggling, join me in the journey. It might not be an ex, but it doesn’t matter. Holding on to hostility will do you no good.

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

The Humility of the Incarnation

What did the Son undergo? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the incarnation lately, mainly for future Ph.D. research. Even though I’m working on the Master’s, there’s no reason I can’t think about the Ph.D. now. Anyway, what has been striking to me about this lately is the humility of it all.

Picture God for all eternity and then comes the time somehow where the Son, the second person of the Trinity, has to take on humanity. Perhaps we could accept that, but notice how it even begins. It starts with the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and we could look and think “Couldn’t you have bypassed the baby stage?”

No. Our Lord came as a baby and grew up naturally with no rapid aging or anything like that. He had to be fed and put to sleep and everything else. Did He cry when He was hungry or sleepy? Did He have to be burped? Did He ever stumble when He was learning to walk?

As He grows up into adulthood, I think of all the attributes that He took on when we think about becoming a human. We all have some aspects of being a human that we like, but there are aspects that we don’t like. Christ took on all of them.

For one, we have a God who had to poop. Muslims will often present this as an argument against the deity of Christ since that would be unclean and God could not do that, but we have a God who was willing to stoop low enough to take on all of our characteristics. Jesus had to go to the bathroom like anyone else.

Jesus could work up a sweat when He was traveling or even growing up doing manual labor under Joseph. Did you ever think about it in that terminology? Jesus with body odor. Is there any indication Jesus would not have to bathe at times?

Could Jesus belch and sneeze and everything else? He got tired and had to sleep. He got hungry and had to eat. Did He ever have bad breath after eating a meal? Did He ever have morning breath in the morning?

Jesus was also fully a man and thus fully had sexual organs that a man has. I do not think Jesus was ever married, but was there any physical reason He couldn’t have? Did Jesus ever experience any desire? It sounds practically risque to say, but Jesus was fully a man and there is nothing sinful about the desires of a man in themselves as Adam in his pre-fall state definitely desired Eve.

Yet in all of this, consider the ultimate humility. Jesus came as someone who could die. Not only did He die, He died the most shameful death. He died naked and exposed in agony on a cross. Of course, He rose again after that, but He still went through it.

I really find this amazing about Christianity. We have a God who was willing to stoop. As I have thought about this at night, I have been amazed. Jesus took on humanity including those aspects of myself that I don’t really care for a lot. We might consider some things above Jesus, but He didn’t in many ways. He didn’t even consider giving up His life to be something that He should not have to do. This God was willing to stoop.

Take some time today and think about that. If you’re a Muslim reader, consider that this is what Christianity offers. If you’re an atheist, ask if you would really make up a God like this. If you’re a Jew, consider if you think YHWH would do this. If you’re a Christian though, I hope you’ll worship.

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

A House On Sand

How do we treat the teachings of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m almost done going through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew!

“Wait. Are you telling me you’re a Christian apologist who has never read that?”

I have read it, but never the way I have this time. This time, I went through reading one verse at a time, except for the Lord’s Prayer, where I read it even slower. When you read through it this way, you really get a lot out of it. I am doing more to encourage people to do slow Bible reading.

So when the sermon closes, Jesus gives a final statement about His words. He says that the one who hears them and does them is like someone who builds His house on a rock. No matter what happens, the house will stand. The one who doesn’t do what Jesus says is like one who builds His house on sand. When the trouble comes, that house topples over.

First off, let’s consider how seriously Jesus takes His own words here. Can you imagine any prophet of the Old Testament saying something like this? Jesus is really placing Himself on a high pedestal. What does this say about how Jesus sees His identity?

Second, what if we really took this last part seriously in connection with everything else that was said. If you obey what Jesus says, then you are building your house on a rock. If you don’t, then you are building on sand. What do we have to take seriously then?

The beatitudes at the start. We have to believe those people will be blessed. We have to believe we should be those people and live accordingly.

We must take Jesus’s words seriously on our righteousness being greater than the Pharisees and Sadducees.

We must not hate our brother in our heart and we must seek to make peace whenever possible.

We must avoid lust. This definitely includes guys that you cannot watch pornography. If you are doing that, then you are building your house on sand and you will not last.

We must honor our marriages for life. If you are not taking marriage seriously, you are not taking Jesus seriously. This is one reason I stayed in my marriage even when it was hard and yes, she initiated the divorce.

We must do as we say and let our words be true. If we say we will do something, we do it. We shouldn’t have to emphasize that we are speaking the truth. Our reputations should show we do.

We must end retaliation for the sake of retaliation. If someone gives you a personal insult privately, be the bigger man. Don’t escalate the cycle of revenge.

We must love our enemies. Anyone can love friends. Jesus tells us to go further.

We must not glorify our giving. Be humble in what we do. Give anyway.

We must pray humbly and trust God with the outcome. We must live out the Lord’s Prayer.

We must forgive those who wrong us.

We must focus on treasure in Heaven. There is no wrong in having things, but we cannot let them have us. Greed must always be avoided.

We cannot worry about anything. Tomorrow will have enough troubles. Do not worry about it today.

We must not pre-judge someone. Make sure our own house is in order.

We must believe in the goodness of God that He will bless us and if we ask for things that are truly good, that He wants to give.

We must make sure we are on the straight path and realize there are false teachers who want to take us away.

We must make sure we are being real and not just going through the motions.

Jesus doesn’t limit this. All of this is to be followed. All of it. It’s a serious call and I could have easily gone in-depth on any of these. Look through. Where are you struggling?

Keep in mind, any listener back then would have known it was fallacious to build a house on sand. What idiot would do that? If you don’t listen to what Jesus says and follow it, you are that idiot.

I encourage you to take this seriously even if you’re a non-Christian. Consider seriously the call for Jesus. Does He really have good wisdom here to follow?

For me, this has been humbling and I plan to go through the sermon in Luke the same way.

Maybe you should try this exercise of reading it slowly as well, but for now, see if you’re living wisely or foolishly.

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

 

 

No. Jesus Was Not Predicting The Transfiguration

Is the Transfiguration a prophecy fulfillment? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Transfiguration shows up in each of the Synoptic Gospels. Before each of them comes another passage.

Matthew 16:

27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Mark 9:

1: And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Luke 9:

26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

It makes sense to a lot of people to say that this is predicting the transfiguration. Unfortunately, both internet atheists and Christians often have the same problem. This verse is read in a literal sense often due to modern dispensationalism, but does it really fit to say this event is the fulfillment?

No.

Okay. See you next time!

Oh?

You want more than that?

Okay.

Let’s start with the fact that this event takes place a week later in the Gospels. By that, it’s usually not a great prophecy to predict something happening a week from now. Let’s suppose even if we went with something like the 2024 presidential election which at this point is in the future. Make a prediction a week before it happens and all things being equal, you likely have a 50% chance of being right. Predict something no one thinks is even possible and you might be on to something.

Not only that, but it’s hard to see how this event is the Kingdom of God coming in power. I would have no problem saying that this is a hint of what is coming. I suspect that this is part of the reason these passages are closely tied together.

Another problem with this is saying “Some here will not taste death until they see this.” Not only is it hardly a prediction to say “Some people here will not die before a week passes”, but it’s also not really a lot of some if that some consists of just three people.

This passage is also not about the return of Christ. No one had any thought really of Jesus leaving let alone returning at this point. This is something internet atheists often think is being talked about, yet they never do show where that is in the passage. It’s read into it.

As an Orthodox Preterist, I think the Kingdom of God coming into power being demonstrated was at 70 A.D. with the destruction of the temple. That would make sense also with the prediction of some would not die. It is something to say some would still be alive around 40 years later, especially in an age where most people had short lifespans.

Christians need to realize Jesus is talking about something deeper than the Transfiguration and something that should have given His listeners, and us today, pause. Internet atheists need to realize this is apocalyptic language and not read it so woodenly. If someone thinks it’s about the return of Christ, it’s on them to show it.

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

 

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 3

Does God deserve to die? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I keep going through this book, Bradley often looks less and less like an academic and more and more like that little fundamentalist boy who is on a rant. He starts off this chapter with a reference from H.L. Mencken on gods who were omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal, and all are dead now. You can see the list here.

It’s important to note that he says that they are theoretically the attributes I listed. In reality, they were not. That’s a big difference. Many of these gods were limited to one people group and were part of a polytheistic system and thus NOT the omni-qualities. Of course, we could replace the idea of gods with scientific theories and I could say “Look how many theories were believed by so many people in the past and today, they’re dead!” Would that be accepted? No, nor should it. What we have to ask is why these deities “died” and why the deities of religions like the big three monotheisms and various polytheisms live.

Bradley goes on to tell us that supernaturalism is dead. Outside of religious belief, it lives only in those who believe in ghosts, poltergeists, and the like. He refers to these people as credulous. Nothing like poisoning the well is there? Supernaturalism isn’t defined to which I refer the reader to my article on that term.

We can at least be relieved to see that he says that atheism is a term used to describe someone who does not believe in a god, any god. Unfortunately, he goes on from there to use the argument of religious believers being atheists with many gods. He just goes one god further.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You all believe there are many people in this courtroom who did not commit the murder. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further!”

He also speaks of a god who tortures non-believers in the fires of Hell. Once again, this is a fundamentalist child on a rant. Most of us trying to take the text as it was intended do not speak of a fiery Hell but rather see that as language of judgment and of shame.

He does say naturalism can be shown to be false. What’s the way to do it? Picture a global apocalypse happening such as how Bradley sees the book of Revelation and that could be evidence. This tells us Bradley is not open to argument demonstrating that theism is true. He will only accept an experience, all the while giving a book of arguments hoping theists will change their mind. Isn’t it interesting? The theist is the one in Bradley’s world who is responsive to evidence and the atheist the one who is responsive to an experience. Who knew?

He asks that if a new problem shows up in the world such as a new virus, where do you put your money? Well, since that is a problem relating to matter specifically and the material world, yes, I look for a scientific solution. What about when it comes to the character of scientists and everyone else for that matter? I look for a theistic solution to that. I see no reason to think science itself has improved our moral character.

It’s not a shock that he brings up the myth of 38,000 denominations in Christianity. Unfortunately, he never really has studied the source for this. Even a Catholic apologist recognizes the problem with it as can be seen here. Bradley is still a fundamentalist who now blindly believes from the other side parallel claims he used to blindly believe as a Christian.

He also says the Bible is supposed to be God’s autobiography. I have no idea where that came from. Was this what he was actually taught?

He naturally talks about literalism and asks that if a passage was meant to be interpreted figuratively, why not put them in an innocuous allegory form in the first place. Yes. It would be absolutely awful to think you have to study the book and actually learn about it. These are the same people that accuse us of wanting easy answers and being anti-intellectual.

He tries to show that the stele referring to David is not what it is thought to be since there are no vowels in the Hebrew script so it might not refer to David, which is very much grasping at straws, and some archaeologists think it’s a forgery. If this is true, he does not tell us who they are. Of course, things get even better when we move to Jesus.

We have the usual questions. Why don’t we know exact dates of events of his life? (Despite us having very good ideas about those claims like we do for many people in the ancient world and of course, it’s ludicrous to think historians of the time would treat a supposedly failed Messiah the way they did the emperor on the throne.) Why didn’t anyone else mention the slaughter of the infants like Josephus? (Why should we think Josephus tells us everything Herod did and a slaughter of a dozen or so infants would be par for the course for Herod.) Why were tales of His life told decades after His death? (Like they were for most everyone else in the ancient world.) Why didn’t He write His own autobiography? (Which hardly anyone did. Most great teachers didn’t even write down their teachings but left it to their students.) Why didn’t any historians of the time write about this God-man? (See my article on why Jesus is not worth talking about here.) Why is He based on so many pagan myths of dying and rising gods? (Because He isn’t as even Bart Ehrman shows in his book Did Jesus Exist?)

He then says he has asked this to several and never got a satisfactory answer. Considering how Bradley acts though, I am not surprised. I consider Jesus Himself could come down from Heaven, smack Bradley in the face, tell him the answers, and Bradley would write it off as a delusion.

He assures us that he is not being eclectic in raising these questions. He then points to his supposed long line of mythicists. I am sure Strauss would be surprised to find himself in that company. He then refers to the prolific D.M. Armstrong Aka Acharya.

Seriously?

Then it ends with a long list of the supposed moral crimes of God in the Bible. If anyone goes through this, just search this blog and you can find many of these addressed. I am more convinced that Bradley does not spend any time really interacting with biblical scholarship. This is a problem. While points Bradley makes in other areas could be valid, I hesitate to trust him because of how shoddy his argumentation is with accepting the great myths of atheism. It should always be remembered that if you want to convince someone, you have to use evidence they will find persuasive and understand that they think their worldview is true. Failing to learn and understand it will only hurt your approach.

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

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 2

Do gods have to compete? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re returning to God’s Gravediggers and looking at chapter 2 on the logical rivalry of the gods. Now Bradley’s main area is philosophy. You would hope that a professor of philosophy would give you something worthwhile. Sadly, that is not the case.

Naturally, you have the whole idea that how can people just believe the religion they were born in happens to be the right one? Well, if a religion is right, then some people will be born into it, and yes, they will be born into the right one. However, you don’t see any interaction with anything like Muslims that are regularly having dreams and visions of Jesus and becoming Christians despite growing up and living in Middle Eastern countries.

There’s also the talk about religion being the cause of war when usually more often, religion becomes an excuse for war. Of course, religion can’t be as peaceful as atheism which never leads to destruction, unless you count Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot. I do not count Hitler as an atheist, but I also don’t think World War II was a religious war as in followers of one religion against another.

There is the mention of Pascal’s Wager which is badly misunderstood. It’s a shame that the wager seems to be about the only thing anyone remembers of Pascal. Pascal is giving an argument along the lines of the person who is sitting on the fence between atheism and Christianity. He’s suggesting you try to live out Christianity and see how it works out for you. He’s not talking about someone who is unsure if any religion is true and wants to investigate several of them.

Now after all of this, he does give an interesting lesson on logic and validity and soundness and other such matters. There is little if anything here that is objectionable. If anything, a number of atheists could be helped by getting a crash course in logic.

Unfortunately, then we get back and we get Hume with his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I will quote the section that Bradley quotes in its totality:

“I may add as a fourth reason, which diminishes the authority of prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have not been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite number of witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other. According to this method of reasoning, when we believe any miracle of Mahomet or his successors, we have for our warrant the testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: And on the other hand, we are to regard the authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Tacitus, and, in short, of all the authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have related any miracle in their particular religion; I say, we are to regard their testimony in the same light as if they had mentioned that Mahometan miracle, and had in express terms contradicted it, with the same certainty as they have for the miracle they relate. This argument may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been committed.”

The whole of this is that every religion seems to have miracles and these miracles contradict one another and thus rule them all out. However, this is simply false. What if I said, “In studying biological evolution on the origin of life, every scientist has a different theory and all these theories are used to argue against the other theories and so no theory is true.” You can be a Christian who fully disbelieves in evolution and still see that as highly invalid.

“Gentlemen of the jury. We have seen many theories put forward today to explain the crime. All of them contradict one another, so there is no reason to believe that my client committed the crime.”

Not only that, but let’s look closer and especially at the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism would certainly want to deny some miracles of Jesus, like the resurrection, if not all miracles, and Islam does acknowledge the miracles of Jesus and many in Judaism, but not the resurrection and sees Muhammad as the final prophet, but Muhammad did no miracles. It is only in the hadiths years later that we have any miracles.

Meanwhile, Christians have no problems with the miracles in the Old Testament and since there are no miracles in Islam in the life of Muhammad, we really have no problem there. We just look at the evidence for Islam and problems in the Qur’an. We also still have the very positive case for the resurrection.

So thus far, color me unpersuaded by Hume’s observations.

Now it should be acknowledged that a general theism can be held by all the religions. In the Middle Ages, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers could all use arguments like Aristotelian ones to argue for the existence of a deity with such and such attributes. Knowing which deity it is would come down to personal revelation. Not a single one of the five ways of Aquinas establishes Christianity, but they do establish theism and thus refute atheism and they are consistent with Christianity, but also with Judaism and Islam. If one faults the argument for not proving Christianity, then one is faulting an argument for not proving what it was never meant to prove.

He then goes on to talk about the resurrection. Please do not be drinking anything as you read this:

“Did the Resurrection occur? Of course, the question itself rests on the presupposition that Jesus actually lived: he can’t have been resurrected unless he’d been alive beforehand. And some might question that. But suppose one grants this contentious presupposition. Then someone intent on exploring the credentials of this belief may be dismayed to find that the four Gospels provide different, and inconsistent, stories of the Resurrection; that those stories were unmentioned by, and apparently unknown to, early Church Fathers until well into the second century A.D.; that there are no independent and well-authenticated records of Jesus ever having lived, let alone having died and having risen from the grave; or, again, that many of the earliest Christians of whom we do have an authentic historical record, the so-called Docetists, whose views held sway from 70 C.E. to 170 C.E., regarded Jesus as having always been nothing but an apparition, a spirit without any physical body that could die or therefore be resurrected.”

Bradley, Raymond. God’s Gravediggers: Why no Deity Exists (pp. 69-70). Ockham Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sorry, but only on the internet is there really any contention that Jesus lived. I am sure Bradley would be horrified if I said about a scientific argument, “This assumes that evolution is true, but suppose one grants this contentious presupposition.” Unfortunately for him, that is the exact way mythicism sounds. Not only this, but he pays no attention to Paul in 1 Corinthians, where most scholars go to today to argue the resurrection, does not look at any Gospel scholarship for those who want to go that route, and gives no indication from the Church Fathers on the beliefs of early Christians that he claims.

He later asks why a resurrection proves that one is divine. Didn’t Lazarus rise in the Gospels and many when Jesus died in Matthew 27? Even accepting both of those for the sake of argument, no one ever said because someone rises from the dead, they are divine. It is first the nature of the resurrection of Jesus, as He rose to never die again, but also that His resurrection was based on the claims that He was making about Himself and who He said He was. The resurrection was God’s vindication of Jesus’s claims about His own identity. It would behoove Bradley to read some N.T. Wright. At least he could be better informed in his disagreement.

Bradley also uses an analogy of a horse race. Suppose you have reason to believe the race has been rigged so that the horse you are betting on will win. Unfortunately, everyone else has that same position and the majority disagree with you, so you’re probably wrong.

If Bradley thinks this is an effective argument, why is he an atheist? After all, the majority of people alive and who have ever lived have not been atheists and so it would seem the preponderance of the evidence is that atheism is false. In reality, we could say easily that most any position on most subjects is wrong. In the ancient world, the majority of people thought there was no problem with slavery. If Bradley traveled back in time to that era, should he just accept he is wrong if he disagrees?

Bradley then asserts that a diligent inquiry into matters will show that the evidence for a religious belief is not valid, but this just reeks of the Mormonism claim to pray the prayer to see if Christianity is true. I have done a diligent search and concluded Christianity is true. Yet by Bradley’s definition, he would say I must not have done that because I did not arrive at the conclusion he did. Now if I did become an atheist, well then, I searched diligently. Anyone who disagrees does not.

Yet Bradley gets even worse in this very section:

“He might go so far as to question, with Albert Schweitzer and others, whether there is good historical evidence for the existence of a Christ Jesus, and end up embracing merely the so-called “ethics” associated with the Jesus myth. He might even come think that there’s good reason to subscribe to the so-called “Mythicist” tradition of those who confidently assert that belief in Jesus has no more warrant than does belief in Santa or Sherlock Holmes.”

There is wiggle room here, but it looks like he’s asserting that Schweitzer was a mythicist. Obviously, there has been a lack of a “diligent inquiry.” Schweitzer was definitely not a mythicist. Mythicism is highly regarded as a joke position today. Unfortunately, Bradley does not know this.

In talking about laws of nature, he says that they are descriptive and not prescriptive. So far, so good. Then he says “Who made them? Who enforces them? How frequently are they broken?” He tells us that these questions do not arise from laws of nature, therefore, there is no reason or experience for thinking someone like a god is behind them.

Sorry, but many people still think that the question of where these laws comes from is a good question and just asserting your position is not a good argument in reply. He also says there is no warrant in reason or experience for thinking they have ever been broken. This is true, granted that you completely ignore the reasons people give and the experiences they do for thinking just that. Nope. No need to give an argument. They’re just wrong. He also says that even if science hasn’t brought about the way for how a phenomenon came about, we can be confident that it will.

Because?

He could be right, but upon what grounds? Even if he is right, how does that rule out theism? It doesn’t.

He then tells us that all miracles done in the name of God or religion have a foundation in illusion or self-delusion.

Isn’t it great to be an atheist and get to make sweeping grand claims without any evidence that people should just take on faith? God forbid he read any of Keener’s books on miracles!

But wait, he does give one! They are impossible because they violate the laws of nature which cannot be broken. Let me spell out the logic for you here.

The laws of nature have never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.
Miracles would be a breaking of a law of nature.
But a law of nature has never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.

The argument is entirely circular. It is only if you know the laws of nature have never been broken can you assert that it is impossible to break them. However, even if we granted they have never been broken, that doesn’t mean they never will be. Hume himself said that if you drop a stone and it falls 1,000 times, that does not prove it will fall the next time you drop it. Why should past experience of consistent laws in a universe that is an accident lead me to think that the future will be the same?

Whew! That’s a lot, and keep in mind this is only covering the highlights of the chapter! Next time we look at this book, we will cover chapter 3.

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

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 1

What do I think of Raymond Bradley’s book published by Ockham Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I got this book seeing it on sale on Kindle and seeing praise from Graham Oppy for it. I thought this would then be a good and challenging read. Unfortunately, the more I go through this book, the more I see it is not that. Bradley holds to extreme fundamentalist views. Unfortunately, I can easily see why.

Bradley grew up in New Zealand in a situation that was hyper-fundamentalist. He talks about being at Bible camps and all manner of events constantly. At one, he talks about how a leader taught about masturbation and treated it essentially as if it was the unforgivable sin and identified it with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Whether or not one agrees with masturbation or not, I don’t know anyone who thinks that’s what Jesus was talking about in the Gospels.

There was also the case that his parents when confronted with questions would tell him to have faith. Now I cannot prove any of these stories, but I am going to accept them on face value. I really have no reason to not do so.

So let’s say this at the start. Parents. If you think your faith is extremely important and that your child should believe the things you believe, don’t you think you should study those things and why you should believe them? If you have no reason to believe what you believe, why should your children?

I can think of no other area in your life where people would say have faith? Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, do you tell your child to just have faith your position is true. Do you tell them why you think they should support or oppose gun control instead? Do you tell them why they should or should not support minimum wage laws?

Bradley also early on talks about what could convince him of theism. On page 7, he tells how if the heavens opened tomorrow and God was revealed and kept sharing His desires and ended all injustice and human and animal suffering, he might consider revising his beliefs. When atheists make statements like this, it tells me they are not open to argumentation. They want an experience. (All the while, telling Christians to not go by their experiences.)

He also says that dates are given for people like Caesar in ancient history, but not for the Son of God. It’s hard to believe so many people think this is a serious objection. Now if everyone believed Jesus was the Son of God, of course, they would have written that, but hardly anyone did. Bradley compares the Caesar on the throne to what the rest of the world said was a crucified criminal and asks “Why was one recorded and not the other?”

He also goes on to say the prevailing view among Christians at the start was Docetism. Source for this? Good luck.

When he writes about the existence of Jesus, he says most scholars regard what was said in Josephus as interpolation possibly invented by Eusebius. Source for this? None. He also says Tacitus was at best just hearsay of what Christians were reporting. Source? The same. None. Most scholars think there is some interpolation to Josephus’s first reference to Jesus, but not the whole statement is interpolation. The second one is hard to regard as interpolation.

The reference to Tacitus is not hearsay as Tacitus did not care about hearsay and regularly checked every claim given, including by his best friend Pliny. He was a senator and a priest. If anyone had access to the information, it was Tacitus.

Bradley goes on to decide how his parents reacted to his questioning. This included physical beatings by his father that were so bad a neighbor threatened to call the police. It also involved some books he got being burned. This is actually a great example of how NOT to reach your children. His parents saw this coming for years. They sat him down with two experts, but never seemed to consider learning themselves.

At this, I can have some sympathies for Bradley as such abuse is never justified. However, it looks like Bradley has stayed at this state. He is still the fundamentalist that he was years ago as we will see.

We will continue next time on chapter 2.

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

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