Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 2

Does God make sense of human suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter on human suffering is written by Matthew Taylor. Let’s see how this starts with this quote early on followed by some examples from Francis Collins:

The Christian claim is that their god is the best explanation for our existence. The justification is that everywhere we look, nature is amazing and wondrous and it simply can’t be an accident. All that is must be the product of something greater, and that something can only be the Christian god. Ask any Christian to justify this and you’ll get an answer that attempts to show how science and faith do not conflict or that science confirms the reasons for the faith. Press hard and the reasons sound more wishful thinking than demonstrated conclusion.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Unknown is why something is raised up about science and faith being in a construct. It can easily be that the world is beautiful and amazing and science is a tool that brings out the beauty and wonder of the world. Alas, I suspect that Taylor is just trying to poison the well right at the start.

Naturally, he went with a scientist on the question. If the question is the nature of beauty, a philosopher would have been the better pick, but what do they know I suppose. I would have told Matthew about truth, goodness, and beauty being transcendental and ontological realities and how God is the metaphysical basis for them.

So I guess ask any Christian just isn’t right.

Evidence is a genuine challenge for Christian claims involving their god. The bible makes it clear that faith in an unseen god is something to be respected. A trait that Jesus himself praises when he says to Thomas “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”. John 20:29

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

On the contrary, I love talking about evidence. It is atheists I meet who most often do not. It’s easy to see this when I recommend them books to read and get told no over and over. As for faith, I have my own work on that here. As for the passage in John, as John Dickson says:

It is important to realise that Jesus is not saying, You, Thomas, believe with evidence; but blessed are those who can bring themselves to believe in my resurrection without any evidence! That is often how people perceive the Christian faith—as if it were about believing stuff blindly, without evidence, or even contrary to the evidence. The British atheist A.C. Grayling cited this Thomas story in a Guardian article, arguing that “Faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and reason … [Faith] is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant.”[29] But “faith” in the Christian tradition, as I pointed out in chapter 2, has more in common with the oldest usage of this English word: “Belief based on evidence, testimony, or authority”. In this famous passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus is not saying people will be blessed if they can learn to believe without any evidence. He is making the distinction between believing on the basis of personal observation and believing on the basis of testimony. Both are forms of evidence. It’s just that personal observation is the way you determine repeatable and directly detectable things, and testimony is how you verify things that are, by definition, beyond your direct detection.

Dickson, John. Is Jesus History? (Questioning Faith) (p. 112). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.

In other words, Thomas had enough evidence already with all he had seen over the years and the testimony of the ten there with him. He would have been more blessed if he had trusted the reliable sources he had with him. It is not saying that all evidence is to be avoided.

Taylor after talking some about evolution goes on to say:

So why is it that when the Christians on the Unbelievable? forums are challenged to provide the details of the experiments that can confirm the presence of the Christian god, the questioner is accused of being hostile? This is exactly what Justin does in Chapter Two of his book when he quotes Lawrence Krauss as describing the world’s religions of being in disagreement with science. If the Christian is to remain in step with science, they must be prepared to subject their god to scientific testing. Testing that will, over time, make the Christian god more or less probable. Yet, when the Christian is challenged to do that, the response is that the Christian god can not be tested in a lab and so, as Krauss predicts, the Christian removes their religion from the boundary of science. When the Christian’s response to the question of where is the experimental evidence that supports their god’s existence is variations of “god is outside of nature and can not be tested” then they are at odds with science and they are making claims that science can not support. That being the case, they can not then claim that the arrow of evidence points in the direction of the Christian god. The two positions are contradictory.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But God is outside of nature and cannot be tested. Science is great at testing the material realm, but if something is not a question of matter in motion, then it is not removing it from science. One can use scientific tools, but the conclusion itself is not scientific. If you want to know if Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, you go to history and not science. If you want to know if Romeo and Juliet survive at the end of Shakespeare’s play, you go to literature and not science. If you want to know if Fermat’s Last Theorem has been solved, you go to mathematics and not science. If you want to know what truth, goodness, and beauty are, you go to philosophy and not science.

Taylor’s main problem here is assuming that if something is not in the realm of science, then it is nonsense, while the idea that if something is not in the realm of science makes it nonsense is itself not in the realm of science. I object to the idea of scientifically testing God because He is not matter in motion and that’s a category fallacy. I don’t object to doing philosophy and metaphysics and I don’t object to using scientific tools to gather data, but the final ground is not science.

That is not a fault of science any more than it’s a fault of literature that it can’t tell us what the speed of light is or a fault of mathematics that it can’t tell you if Babylon conquered Israel. When it comes to the matter of studying, well, matter, science is superior. When it comes to studying other areas, leave it to those areas.

If asked what caused the Big Bang, Taylor says:

The Christian already knows the answer of course, they say the answer is their god. Yet challenge the Christian to explain what was before their god and the response is it’s not a valid question because god is beyond time. The very answer that they reject with reference to the big bang, is the answer they give for their god.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. It is a nonsense question because God is by definition eternal so if you ask “What came before that which is eternal?”, it’s nonsensical. That is not the case with the Big Bang. Even if somehow the universe was eternal, an event is not. The Big Bang is not eternal so it makes sense to ask what was before the Big Bang.

There is a trend in Christian apologetics to claim that this can only be the case because the Christian god created everything to be this way. The process of science can only work because matter interacts and behaves the way it does. If the interactions of particles, chemicals and everything else was arbitrary then science would be impossible. The reason why everything acts the way it does is because of the properties of each particle. The elements hydrogen and oxygen exist the way they do because they can’t exists any other way. of how their atoms are formed. They interact the way they do because their make up means that there is no other way for them to interact.  Why is this the case? Well we don’t know at the moment, could there have been any other way for these particles to exist and interact? We don’t know at the moment. Will we ever know? Maybe, which is why the efforts are being made to find out. Does any of this mean that a god should be invoked as the unexplained explainer? No, because that doesn’t explain anything.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

If it is asked “Does God explain how all of this works?” then yes, just saying God is not sufficient. If God is used to explain why all this works, then yes, God is sufficient. It works because God created the universe to provide for us. We can use science to study the how, but the why, the final cause, is known by theology and philosophy.

What’s more, a supernatural god can create a universe that operates in any way it likes, intervene with miracles whenever it chooses, all without regard to natural laws or consistency. Creation can be reordered, man can be made from mudpies, snakes and donkeys can talk, and the sun can be stopped in the sky in order to create a longer work day. On the other hand, for a natural universe to exist it would have to be bound by a variety of predictable and consistent constraints that serve to make its continued existence possible. All that we know about nature and the universe is knowledge that has been gathered through the scientific process. More than that, the scientific process has only provided details and information on what is natural, science hasn’t provided us with any clues about the existence of anything extra natural or supernatural.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Taylor ignores that in Scripture, the strength of the covenant is based on that natural order. Consider Jeremiah 31:35-36

hus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
    and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
    the Lord of hosts is his name:
36 “If this fixed order departs
    from before me, declares the Lord,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
    from being a nation before me forever.”

Not only this, but you have to have order in order for there to be miracles. If there is no order and anything could happen at any time, there would be no miracles. The fixed order is not a shock to the Christian. It’s a necessity and the early scientists wanted to study this order to see how God did what He did.

As for leaving evidence, I consider existing itself to be the evidence. Why should there be something rather than nothing at all? Why is there truth, goodness, and beauty in the universe? These are philosophical questions, but they need answers just as much as scientific questions do. We ignore science to our peril, yes. We ignore philosophy to our same peril.

More will be said in later chapters on suffering. It looks more like this chapter was about explaining the universe instead of suffering. Unfortunately, we won’t find much good in many of those chapters.

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







Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 1

How is the church failing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is a response to Justice Brierley’s Unbelievable. This was a popular radio show he did out of the UK where Christians and non-Christians debated, though sometimes Christians debated on an in-house issue. The book has chapters by various skeptics talking about why they still think Christianity is unbelievable.

It starts with the first part of a woman named Sophie who abandoned Christianity. I mainly want to highlight the lessons we can learn from it.

First off, don’t live in a bubble or put your children in one:

I had assumed that it was only with Christians that you could share, connect and be known and that all secular folk had god-shaped holes, with ultimately empty lives, and that they were wracked with guilt and in rebellion to the Almighty. They, of course, knew He existed, they just wanted to live their selfish lives. However, this didn’t’ seem to bare out. My non-theist friends’ lives were no more empty or full than my theist friends’ lives. Some, who clearly stated their atheism, were some of the best parents I’d encountered. They had good, loving family relationship. For the most part, they led pretty wholesome, happy lives and some even confessed to wishing they could believe in a god and had sincerely tried, but not been able.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Of course, I contend that this is because non-Christians also have a Christian background that they get the way they live from, but it doesn’t matter for now. The point is if we paint the other side as if they are constantly wicked in any way, then we are not preparing our young people. If we assume that people feel a constant emptiness without Jesus, then we are not preparing our young people. Our call to evangelism should not depend on our audience having a certain emotional response which they may or may not have. It should depend on the reality that Jesus is the risen Lord, savior, and King of the universe, and there’s no may or may not about that.

Second, we need to really teach the nature of God living as a Trinity:

My faith doubts were never about if there was a god, but rather what His character was like and what His will was for my life.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I stress the Trinity because then we properly get a relational God. We learn who Jesus is. We learn who the Holy Spirit is. The problem is we often look at God and then think about what He has to do with us instead of the other way around. I really can’t stand the idea of people trying to find a “will for their life.” You want to know God’s will for your life? Easy. Conform you to the likeness of Christ. That’s it.

Third, while many apologists don’t really want to bother dealing with popular atheists, we really need to.

I recall the disconcerting, but euphoric moments of discovering Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, whose irreverence and boldness, left me wide-eyed with my hand over my mouth. I encountered those who’d been theists like Dan Barker, John Loftus, Rob Price and Ryan Bell – all who’ve been guests on the Unbelievable? show, as well as others, like Bart Campolo the de-converted son of Tony Campolo, who I’d worked for in the States.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I have read the writings of the new atheists. I have debated both Loftus and Barker. To those who have only heard pablum from the pulpits all their lives, these seem to be the first people who really argue for something. It’s poor argumentation, but if it’s your first time hearing it, you don’t know how to tell that.

Yes. This sword cuts both ways. That’s also why I would encourage churches to also be reading these skeptical authors together and discussing what they have to say. We should not be afraid of what we are hearing. If we have the truth, we need not fear a counter-argument.

There are many more points that can be made, but those will come with later points in the testimony. Next time we look at this book, we will be discussing if God makes sense of human existence.

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


Book Plunge: Unveiling Grace

What do I think of Lynn Wilder’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.


My first hearing of Lynn Wilder came with her appearance on the Unbelievable? show with Justin Brierley. Sometimes apologetics is a hit and a miss. There are people who do great, people who do so-so, and people who are just embarrassments to the cause. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard Lynn Wilder was an ex-Mormon who would be speaking about coming out.

After hearing her, I was convinced that that she belongs without a doubt in the first category. That led to my getting a copy of her book. (And thanks to Justin Brierley for supplying one) Unveiling Grace is her account of how she and her family got started in Mormonism and how they escaped.

The book is entirely gripping. As readers know, I am an Aspie and that makes it difficult for me to connect with people on an emotional level, but I was somehow able to with the family presented in this book. I started knowing them and as Wilder would write about one kid I’d be thinking “Okay. What about this one?” or “Oh. Talking to that person? I know where this is going!”

The book begins with her talking about her son Micah going on a mission and one night, she gets a phone call and Micah says “It’s over.” There is a sense of finality and if you don’t know the story, you’re left wondering what exactly is going on.

She takes an interesting turn at this point. Picture it like an episode of a TV show where they show you a dramatic event and then they give a flashback so you can see what led up to that point. As in most cases, most of the episode is a flash back and a lengthy portion of the book is just that.

This flashback is incredibly helpful. Wilder shows you how she and her husband got caught in Mormonism and gives an insider look from her perspective as a former BYU professor on how the Mormon world operates. Readers wanting to know about Mormonism will have their eyes opened by reading this book.

Wilder also refers regularly throughout the book to the Dancer of Grace. This is the term she uses to refer to God being at work in her life in various places to protect her and this even includes when she was in Mormonism and how some events took place that seemed strange at the time, but later on were used for the glory of God.

The book chronicles how her doubt began and the key to freeing her from Mormonism was quite simple. Read the New Testament. As she read it, she came to see more and more the conflict between Mormonism and Christianity. When she looked at the Bible without Mormon glasses she saw the Jesus of Scripture shine through and saw the incredible contrast with Mormonism and the Mormon culture around her.

The story also ends happily as she talks about how all of her family escaped and what happened with her four children. Many of them are involved with a musical band today they formed called “Adam’s Road.” They have even gone throughout Utah performing and sharing the true Gospel.

Some points to learn from the book.

First, there is a price to Biblical ignorance and if the church doesn’t learn this soon, the church will be paying that price. What could have prevented the Wilders from getting caught in Mormonism? Biblical knowledge could have. Wilder regularly states that at the time, she did not know enough about the Bible to recognize a counterfeit.

Second, grace is something absolutely essential to talk about with Mormons. Wilder shows in her work the lack of grace that exists in the Mormon community. There are many indications that sin is a problem for the Mormons, but the problem should never be greater than the solution is.

Third, knowledge of the New Testament as it is has a powerful effect on the Mormons. After seeing the focus of the New Testament, Wilder’s family started talking less and less about Joseph Smith and more and more about Jesus Christ.

Also, Wilder is very careful I find about experiences. While she talks about dreams that seemed to be revelatory to her, at one point on page 321 she says that maybe it wasn’t the Holy Spirit causing her experiences. This is an excellent point! Of course the Spirit can cause us to dream dreams if He wants to, but too often we are prone to see every “spiritual” experience as coming from God if it produces some positive result.

Wilder is quite right to say that those could be from God, but they could just be dreams as well, but even if they are just dreams, they are dreams that are still used by God for His glory. Ultimately, I find in most cases we will never know for sure, and if we keep assuming that they are from God, we give divine authority to something that might not deserve it. This is in fact what Mormons do with the burning in the bosom.

Without a doubt, to date, this is the best book on Mormonism that I have ever read. Wilder’s still is engaging and one that will draw you in. She brings her story vividly to life letting you get to really know the family that she presents. Fortunately also, this story does end with a happy ending. If you want to understand Mormonism and learn how Mormons see the world and ways to witness to Mormons, get this book. You’ll be glad you did.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

An Unbelievable? Podcast

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters podcast? Let’s talk about it today on Deeper Waters.

I actually just finished the interview for the Deeper Waters podcast about half an hour or so ago. This time, I interviewed Justin Brierley of Unbelievable? and talked with him about the show Unbelievable? and about the conference of the same name happening annually in the U.K.

Unbelievable? has been one of my favorite shows since I’ve started listening. Justin Brierley is a wonderful host/moderator who brings on excellent guests and who manages to remain quite neutral in his presentation. If you really want to hear both sides of a debate sometime, just turn on Unbelievable? and see what you find. As Justin and I discussed, sometimes the atheist does do better. Sometimes the Christian does better. That is life. For those interested, I have often written into the show and spoken about how badly a Christian has done in debate. In fact, for those even more curious, I was once a guest on the show. (See January of 2010 for my debate there on the problem of evil after the Haiti earthquake.)

Justin and I talk on the show about the state of the church in the U.K. Contrary to what I used to think, it is not a spiritual wasteland over there. There are bright lights that are shining, and I consider Unbelievable? to be one of them. We need to keep in mind that there are strong pillars of Christianity that exist over there, including someone like N.T. Wright.

We also talked about the show and how it has come along and the great guests that have come on. Justin said some guests have been good and some haven’t. Some could be great writers and just not meant to a debate style like that which is done on Unbelievable?. The show has also been an education for him, something I’ve noticed in my brief time hosting a podcast. The show is often a chance for me to get my own education in interviewing guests on so many great topics.

There was also talk about the Unbelievable? conference that takes place annually in the U.K. This year, the conference will be focused highly on C.S. Lewis, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his death. There will be discussions on Lewis and the imagination, Lewis and the problem of pain, and even what would C.S. Lewis say to the new atheists?

I highly encourage my readers to be listening to the Deeper Waters podcast. It’s really exciting to be bringing out the best in Christian apologetics. We plan on having more and more scholars show up. Yet while listening to my show, I also encourage you to listen to the Unbelievable? podcast. It is a podcast that I never miss and if I’m on vacation and have to listen to two podcasts one after the other, well that’s what I do. Unbelievable? is that good.

For those interested, the interview with Justin Brierley can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Homophobia Fails

What were my thoughts on the debate on homosexual marriage on Unbelievable? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently on Unbelievable?, host Justin Brierley had a debate on homosexual marriage between Peter Tatchell and Peter D. Williams. Tatchell has been a lifelong advocate of what he prefers to call “gay rights.” Peter D. Williams is an apologist who works with Catholic Voices. There will be a link to the program at the end.

To begin with, this is a debate I thought was an absolute trounce on the part of Williams. Williams knew the material that Tatchell was citing and what the problem was with it. Furthermore, Williams himself never appealed to Scripture to defend his case so it wasn’t just “The Bible says so.” (I have heard some apologists say they think homosexuality is wrong just because the Bible says so. I really don’t think this is the way to go. It’s not that X is true because the Bible says so. The Bible says X because it is true.)

I could tell the way the debate was going to go when right at the start Tatchell started talking about homophobia. Williams was right when he said that this is more often a way of shutting down debate. It becomes more about the motives of the person presenting the argument rather than the argument itself.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Williams really did have a hatred towards homosexuals and homosexuality. Let’s suppose that he was filled with nothing but vitriol towards them and thought that they were less than human in any sense of the word.

Question. Does that make his arguments against homosexual marriage wrong?

No. It just makes him a jerk. He could be entirely right in his opinion and entirely wrong in his attitude. It would not work against his argument to say that he was a jerk. You still have to deal with what is said and the claim about someone being homophobic does not do that.

Furthermore, let’s think about this. What does the term mean? Phobias are not funny things. They’re terrifying things. I have a phobia of water for instance. My wife and I honeymooned at Ocean Isle Beach and it took a lot for her to get me into the water. I got out into the ocean deeper than I ever had before. Most noteworthy was she got me into the pool about 5 feet deep and away from the edge.

There was a part of me that was inside screaming “My wife is trying to kill me!” while I was doing that, but the rational side of me was saying “My wife loves me and if anything does happen, she’s fully capable of saving me.” I did trust her. It took a lot, but I trusted her.

Now let’s suppose someone was walking by who saw this and said “Wow! Look at that! The little wimp is afraid of water!” Now some of you might think that fear is bizarre, but there would not be sympathy for someone who holds that kind of attitude. I can assure them they would need to pray for God to have mercy if my Mrs. had heard that because she sure wouldn’t.

Phobias are not terms you should use to mock or denigrate someone and yet that is exactly what the term homophobia is. It is the idea that the only reason Christians are against homosexuality is because they are afraid of it or homosexuals. Does that mean I have kleptophobia because I’m opposed to theft? Do I have nymphophobia if I am opposed to sex outside of marriage? Do I have homocidophobia if I am opposed to murder? Could it actually be that I might have moral reasons for objecting to homosexuality?

The next term Tatchell used regularly was discrimination. This is playing the victim card because who wants to be on the side of the discriminators. The reality is that we all do discriminate on various topics. We discriminate on who we’re friends with, who we do business with, who we marry, and who we have sit our kids.

The law itself discriminates. You have to be a certain age to drive. You have to be a certain age to vote. You have to be a certain age to drink alcohol. If you want to carry a gun, you have to show that you are qualified to do that. This is discrimination and it is good discrimination.

Williams made the point that Tatchell is not denied any right. He is wanting different rights. He’s correct. No one has the right to marry someone of the same sex. Instead, everyone has the right to marry someone of the opposite sex, and even then there’s some discrimination, such as that you can’t marry a close family member.

Williams is also right when asking “Why not polygamy?” We could go further and ask “Why not NAMBLA?” or “Why not incest?” Now for polygamy Tatchell was of the opinion that no one would want that. He can say that, but I’m pretty sure the Mormon church here in America would certainly get a “new revelation” if polygamy became allowed.

One important aspect of the debate was that marriage sets a normative route for society that shows what is needed for the ideal raising of children. It doesn’t mean that all marriages have children or will have children, but it means that children are ideally raised by a mother and a father both. Of course, there are some tragedies that happen, such as the death of a spouse, that leave some single parents, and these can do very admirable jobs, but I am sure most would say it would be a whole lot easier if the other spouse was around.

The key point was in the idea of which sex it is that is not needed to raise a child. For me, this is the main point. Allowing homosexual marriage will be saying that men and women are really interchangeable. There is no difference between the two. Which sex will be the one to be cast aside? It’s very easy to tell you that. Fathers will be seen as superfluous.

Being a man means something. It matters. Being a woman means something. It matters. I am thankful God made me a man and when the Princess and I have children some day, as we hope to, I will be very pleased that I get to be a father and she gets to be the mother of my children and we will both play our essential roles in their proper raising.

Let’s hope the society in the U.K. recognizes what marriage really is, the union of a man and a woman, and let’s also hope that here in the states we do the same thing. For those of us who are married, let’s start living the joyful life of marriage for a watching world. The reason other people lessen marriage is because we did it ourselves in the first place.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The debate can be found here:{45A7CC8B-2EE9-4394-B030-54C00AA7CA39}

The Driscoll/Brierley Discussion

So who’s the bad guy in this discussion? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I recently got to listen to the Mark Driscoll interview that he had with Justin Brierley of Unbelievable? Let me go ahead at the start and present a possible bias. I do consider Justin Brierley a good friend and I have been on his program before. I consider Justin a great guy and he’s done a lot for my wife and I.

Being an Aspie, I wonder if there’s things I can see in this conversation that others might miss. I also want to state up front that what I say about Mark Driscoll is based solely on this interview. I have not seen his sermons or read his books. I am just looking at the interview and asking “Was Driscoll out of line?”

First off, I’ll say about Driscoll that I do like his style. I found a number of things he said in the interview quite amusing. Of course, that could also be because I have a sarcastic mindset. I also like the idea of him being straight forward and confrontational. I think part of the problem in America is that we Christians have let the world walk all over us and not had a spine.

As for Brierley in the discussion, I will grant that there were times I think he should have spoken more, such as when asked about Penal Substitution. Of course, I also realize that it could be that he is a moderator of a debate show and has to learn to be as neutral as possible. He could have also thought the interview was not about him and that stating his opinion could reflect that of the organization he represented and did not want to do that.

I can understand where Driscoll was coming from some in that there are times I do think Brierley can be too polite. I understand not all people are confrontational. That’s fine. At the same time, there are times where one does need to just bite the bullet and offend someone. Jesus did that several times.

Looking at Driscoll’s part, I do think he was too defensive when he told Brierley that the only parts being picked out in the book were ones that were the most controversial. Well that’s what an interview is for I think! These are the parts of the book I’ve heard about and those are the exact questions I’d want an interviewer asking. I want to know what the author thinks about the most controversial parts of his book.

I would have thought that Driscoll should have been prepared for such questions, particularly since people are wanting to know more about him and for someone so confrontational, I would have thought he would have handled that better. If anything, I would think it would be seen as a welcome opportunity to finally silence the critics. (Assuming his position is right. I’m not saying it is, but if he thinks it is, he could have seen it that way.)

Driscoll also complained that his wife did not get to speak much and it seemed like Brierley ignored her. On the contrary, Brierley said that she could speak at any time and he did not want it to be just Driscoll, but from what I gathered, it seemed like Driscoll spoke so much that Mrs. Driscoll never got a chance to say anything unless she was personally addressed. Could this be a failing on the part of Driscoll that the Mrs. does not think she can speak? I don’t know. All I have is this one interview, but I do not think Driscoll had a real basis for this complaint.

I do think Driscoll has a valid point about Britain not having a great Bible teacher. Honestly, some bloggers have thought Driscoll was thinking about himself, but I don’t see that. Our country has often had noted teachers throughout it that are known from Moody to Billy Graham. Of course, none of these fit the criteria of young. If Driscoll is known all throughout America however, it could be that he might be doing something right we can learn from. This is not necessarily so however as one could easily say Benny Hinn and T.D. Jakes are known throughout America as well.

Sometimes I thought Driscoll’s approach was too simplistic. When asked about his view on women in ministry and where he got it from he said “The Bible!” and talked about what a great book it was and how everyone should read it. Granted, I think the answer is funny and straightforward, but I wonder also since the other side, people like Brierley would also say their view is biblical.

At times, I wondered if Driscoll himself was reading his own culture into the Bible instead of understanding the culture of the Bible. You really cannot isolate Scripture from its social context and when you try to do that, you will replace it with another context, most likely your own culture.

I do think Driscoll’s answer on questions of Reformed thought was very unsatisfactory. Driscoll used the analogy of a parent saving their child against their will, but this is not what happens with God as the person who is saved at the time of being saved is NOT his child. Ephesians 2 makes it clear that we were once children of wrath.

It was odd to hear Driscoll speak around that point about people making decisions based on feelings, and later saying that when he speaks a word of prophecy, he does it based on what he feels led to do. To speak a word of prophecy sounds like a serious decision to me and Driscoll made it clear that he was, yet his basis for this was a feeling.

Now we come to the major point of disagreement. Women in ministry. Now personally, I would probably have more sympathies for Driscoll’s position. I cannot sign on the line yet about women being pastors. However, having said that, it is not a hill I am willing to die on and I definitely think women can still be active and involved in ministry.

People are talking about this and how offensive it is. No one seems to be asking one question. “Could Driscoll’s position be true?” It does not work to say that you find a position offensive. Several people find the doctrine that Jesus is the only way to be offensive and because of that say Christianity cannot be true. Christianity is offensive however. It does teach that people are sinners who can’t save themselves and must rely on Christ. There is no other way. That offends people, yet we tell them they must deal with it.

Now let’s look at Driscoll’s position. Could it be that it is biblical that women don’t pastor churches? Could it be that in fact women can be too motherly and present God in a way that might tone down some arguments? Keep in mind that this is his position and not necessarily mine. I would side more with the reasons of Lewis in an essay he wrote on this topic most likely, but let us not discount Driscoll’s view because we find it offensive. Let us do study to find if it is true. In saying this, I do not doubt that women can certainly give the hard truth if need be, but is this the way it naturally is?

For instance, many of us young men growing up knew about which parent to approach if we wanted something. If we wanted to do something questionable and/or dangerous, we went to see Dad. If we skinned our knee or needed some comfort, we went to Mom. There’s a reason for that.

Is the way to determine this to compare Driscoll’s church to Brierley’s? No. The way to do it is to have skilled researchers that know how to compare churches that have women as pastors to churches that have men as pastors and see if this is the case. Of course, if Driscoll can make his case biblically, that will settle the deal, but if we are uncertain, there is nothing wrong with looking at his question in other areas.

Note the danger we get in if we just play the offensive card. A few years ago, Lawrence Summers had to resign from a position at Harvard when he said that there are some skills men are better at than women. There was an outcry against what he said without asking one question about what he said. “Is he right?” If he is right, well he’s right and saying that it offends someone will not change the fact that he is right.

Men and women are different and God values those differences. I do believe I’d have more sympathy with Driscoll’s position because I do believe that men have been given the place of leadership and that men need to stand up and take charge of the situations around them.

This is not anti-woman at all. Those who know me know the devotion I show my Mrs. and that I do not look down on her because she is a woman. In fact, I take my position of leadership very seriously as I have to remember that when I stand before God, I give an account not only of how I turned out, but how my family turned out based on my leadership and that is a serious charge. For those who think the Bible is sexist in Ephesians 5, have you seen what it tells me I must do as a man? I must love my wife as Christ loved the church. Do you know what a calling that is? Do you know how serious that is? The Bible gives me the greatest responsibility that I must answer for.

I think it would be wrong then to say that Mark Driscoll is sexist because he holds this position. If he is sexist, it is not because of this. Elizabeth Elliot even holds the position that women should not be pastors. Does she hold this position because she hates her own sex? When we look at whether this is the way it should be, we have to look at the arguments themselves and not how we feel.

This is not to say that Driscoll’s arguments were the best of course. For Driscoll wanting Brierley to give the verses, it would have been nice if Driscoll himself had given some. Could we have had more of a discussion on passages like 1 Corinthians 11 or 1 Timothy 2?

Driscoll also emphasized getting the young men saved, but could there not be a good reason for this? In Driscoll’s view, the men are the leaders of society and if the men are living Christian lives, it could be expected the people would follow. In ancient times, if the king of a land became a Christian, it would not be a surprise for the people to soon follow suit. We can look at this statistically? Could it be that if men become Christians, more of the family is prone to follow than if the wife or a child becomes a Christian? Of course there are individual exceptions, but we must ask on a whole if Driscoll’s position is correct.

In that case, I don’t think Driscoll is sexist in saying this. Again, he could be sexist in other ways, but not in this one. Driscoll just wants men to be men and to lead their families and the best way to lead them is to be like Christ and how can they be like Christ if they do not know who Christ is?

At this point, Driscoll chooses to ask Brierley some questions. I have already briefly discussed how Brierley answered on Penal Substitution. I do not see how Brierley struggles to believe in that, but rather how he wants to be careful about how he presents it.

As for the literal Hell question, I would have asked what Driscoll meant by a literal Hell. If he meant a place that actually has flames and worms, then no. I don’t believe in a literal Hell either. That is just because I don’t believe that is what the Bible has in mind. Now I don’t think annihilationism is the way to go, but it was surprising to me how Driscoll spoke about that being a feminine position when someone he said he admires, like John Stott, held to that position. Was Stott really affected strongly be feminism?

Having said that, I don’t think Brierley was annoying or impolite in the interview. I also would not call him a liberal Christian. When I think of people we call liberal Christians, I think of ones who want the name of Christian but hold to stances that deny essential Christian doctrine, such as the deity of Christ. I do not really consider such people Christians, but there is not much other name for them in our society. I do not see Brierley backing down on essential issues.

At the end of the day, let us remember that if we are in apologetics, one question e should be asking at the start of any claim is “Is it true?” It seems too many people are jumping at Driscoll and immediately talking about how offensive they find what he says before asking the question “Is it true?”

If it is, I think we should all want to know that. If Brierley comes to the conclusion that it is true and thus, his wife needs to step down, well that will have to be accepted, but I think he’d want to do that rather than to go against the truth. If it comes that the conclusion is not true, then we have nothing to worry about. If it is, let us give thanks that it was brought to our attention so we could discover it. If it is not, let us give thanks anyway that we got to come together in a disagreement and work together on studying a position to learn if it is true.

That’s my opinions on the matter. I overall think Brierley handled himself well. I also think Driscoll does raise some points worth thinking about and we need to watch to see how we respond. We don’t want to be reactionary people but people seeking the truth in all things, even if we don’t always like that truth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters