Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Conclusion

How does it all end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to Sophie to find out where her story ends.

Where the rubber really meets the road though, is in the personal experience of god. It’s where Christians return to, and what they rely on.

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.

Not me. I will point her consistently to the Thomistic arguments and to the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Personal experience usually only convinces those on the inside already and is way too subjective. The irony here is that throughout this chapter, Sophie talks about her personal experience regularly as a now non-Christian.

It was woven into my being, but for me there had not been a defining, dramatic conversion. It is fair to say I knew no “before” but I had, what I considered to be, a personal relationship with the Christian god through Jesus and there was nothing more normal to me than that. I could hardly conceive how people functioned without it. During my deconstruction, eventually I had to take a cold hard look at this aspect of my belief, and my overall feeling on the matter boiled down to this; How most unremarkable this ‘walk’ with the Lord was. How completely underwhelming this supposed supernatural, life-to-the-full experience had been. How completely hidden this deity had been despite purporting to desire deep connection.

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.

Which is a reason why I encourage Christians to NOT go by personal experience. We present Christianity in a way that is outside the experience of most people and then they feel let down, when it was really never Jesus that let them down, but an idealized version of what He’s supposed to do. If your Christian walk is built on anything other than the resurrection of Jesus, your walk is going to fail.

I didn’t seem capable of discerning God’s will, I just had ‘hunches’ much like secular folk.

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.

Which is again nothing that has been part of historical Christianity.

I was assailed by anxiety, depression and fear as much as the next terrified little humanoid. There was no peace in the storm, there was Xanax.

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.

We need to show grace to people suffering from mental stress beyond normal. I take medication for anxiety. It’s great for me. Since my divorce, I was regularly in the throes of panic. If we can go to doctors for physical healing and take medications, we can do the same for mental healing.

I eventually had to concede that, despite trying, there was no “personal relationship” with God. I had tried but found it lacking and I could hardly see the point, much less muster up the enthusiasm anymore. I stopped communicating.

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 argued against the idea of Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is my king. I am His slave.

The amazingness of us even being on earth has given me goosebumps, awe and gratitude.

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.

Sure, but gratitude to who?

If I’ve learnt anything from the experience, it is that I am not qualified for the job of evaluating this religion and its claims. I don’t have the theological training, the language expertise in Greek or Hebrew, and I have neither evolutionary biologist nor cosmological background. I don’t have sufficient historical information that I can evaluate on how much Christianity copies from other religions, or just how much neuroscience can explain spiritual phenomena. Needless to say, it’s a minefield with the added difficulty of the credibility of the sources and the cognitive bias present in almost everything. And that, that in itself, is enough to discredit it. Surely God would not have made the matter so hard that reasonably intelligent, truth-seeking people end up on either side of the fence and it’s just down to chance as to whether you can make the leap of faith or not? It seems it is. For that reason alone, I find it therefore quite improbable that this particular god exists.

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.

Go back and listen to old sermons preached centuries ago and find that the common man was being taught what we would consider difficult today. However, if you say you don’t possess the ability to evaluate, then why are you just doing this evaluation right now? Once again, I don’t think Christianity is Sophie’s problem, but an idea of Christianity instead.

in the end, Sophie looks to be open. I hope she is. I hope if she ever reads this blog she will reach out. I would love to introduce her to a Jesus who doesn’t want you to find “His personal will for your life”, but just asks that you serve however best you can. You aren’t supposed to listen for His “Still small voice” but you’re supposed to study the Scriptures diligently. He doesn’t always take away the storm, but He is there with you and no, you won’t always feel it.

Also, if this book is ever redone, the only parts worth keeping are the ones by Skydive Phil and Ed Atkinson, even though I highly disagreed with them still. Definitely find someone better than David Johnson who regularly had some of the worst argumentation. Overall, this one really won’t provide you with decent argumentation for the most part.

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





Why Isn’t God Interacting With Me?

Is our presentation of God really honoring Him as He is, or lowering Him down to our level? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently in interacting with a non-Christian who doesn’t think there is a god out there, I got told that one problem he had with the claims of God is that there is no interaction taking place. That was part of something much larger, but the word interaction is one that I noticed immediately. As regular readers of my blog know, I have before spoken on my problems with the description of Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now of course, I do not dispute that God is a person and the same for the rest of the Trinity, but I do dispute that the presentation we give today to an unbelieving world is what the Bible has in mind at all and if we give a false view and promise things that God never promised, then we do a dishonor to God.

Now of course, God can lower Himself as it were. This happened in the Incarnation when the second person of the Trinity took on a human nature. Yet even in that, we have in John that Jesus says it is better that He goes away or else the Holy Spirit will not come. This should strike us immediately. While there was a time we had Jesus walking on Earth as deity incarnate, He said it was better to have the Holy Spirit come. Is it the Holy Spirit who is to dwell us and to bring us to God and work on our sanctification if we are obedient to the process. Yet despite all this, could we be lowering God in another way?

You see, unbelievers are surely right when they do not see God interacting with people on that personal level. Of course, I think He can. I think God does do miracles today. I think He can speak to believers today. The difference is that I think these are the exceptions and not the rule. Too many people think that God speaking to them is a common occurrence. Interestingly, they don’t consider all the ramifications of God speaking to them, such as that if they get anything wrong that they claim would come from God, they should automatically be seen as false prophets, which in the OT would lead to stoning.

A lot of Christians will also say Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. The language is foreign to the NT and for all intents and purposes, Christianity is a religion. We believe in a deity. We have rules of practice. We have a holy book. While religion can be a difficult term to define, I see no reason to not include Christianity in the circle. Someone could say “Well we don’t include religions like Islam or Judaism because they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” If that is your case, then all you have done is just simply beg the question.

The great danger is that when we do make claims about God as if He is someone who is expected to interact with us every day, we do not view Him as a king then but more as a friend. Of course, the King can be a friend, but He is still the King and we dare not remove Him from that position in our viewpoint. Our king does not owe us anything. We owe Him everything. This is how this ties in with the silence of God. Too often we go through these situations and can be angry with God when He seems silent because surely He owes us a response. I have found consistently after going through that no, it was good for God to not speak the way I wanted Him to. In fact, if He did, I think a number of things would happen. They would more likely for me and they could for you.

The first is that I would grow dependent on the experiences. Once that happens, you keep needing another fix over and over. You need something more and more. Now in some relationships, this is good and normal. A husband and wife do not just have sex on their honeymoon and say “Well now that we have that done, let’s get on with our marriage.” No. This becomes a unifying activity in the marriage that magically bonds the husband and wife. I really do hesitate to use the word magic there, but I say it because the more I think about this union, the more I see a mystery and beauty to it that it practically does seem like magic. This is a need especially for the men in the relationship who need to be united to their wives.

But what would happen if the man was more interested in the sex than in His wife? Ah. Now we have a problem. It is not so much that his wife is the means to knowing sex as sex is the means to knowing his wife. If he relies on the experience minus truly knowing her, then he has a problem. The man should be seeking to grow in the knowledge of his wife regularly. When I was engaged to my wife, I was studying philosophy at the time and when we were out with her parents at a lunch, I said I planned to get two Ph.D.’s. My father-in-law thought that was rather ambitious so I told him what they were. I wanted to get one in philosophy and I wanted to get one in Allie. I am to seek to be a student of knowing my wife more and more every day and learning how she works.

So it is with God that too often we come to God wanting the experience, but very rarely do we really build up in our knowledge of God. Knowledge isn’t everything, but it sure is something. Most of us know a good deal about the person already that we come to on our wedding night. If we do not, such as in a system of an arranged marriage, we make it a point that we are to know that person more and more and the best way of knowing is one that will not depend on the exceptions. It is easy to know God and to trust in Him when all is well in your life. Can you walk with Him when it is difficult and He seems distant? If you can learn to do this, you can walk with Him anywhere, and I am quite sure that those being persecuted for Christ all over the world with their lives on the line are not sitting back demanding an experience.

Another great danger that would come is pride. I am sure if God really started speaking to me, I could well develop pride. After all, what a special person I must be if God is the one who is speaking to me. Could it be that many times, God doesn’t do this because He doesn’t want to feed our egos? We should all take this into consideration because the moment you say you do not have an ego, you could have well displayed one.

So how do we know God? Well there a few ways. The first is through creation. However, most of us will not know enough philosophy and/or science to do this well and even if we do, we will come with many errors. Without the aid of any revelation, Aristotle came the closest and who among us will say we have an intellect to compare to Aristotle. (I understand Carrier has said that. Fortunately, many of us are not that egotistical.) We can read great minds like Aquinas, but we must remember that this knowledge of God while good, is not the main way we know God. I am also including moral philosophy in this as I think the study of morality tells us about God.

The next way we understand God is by the Bible. The Bible reveals who God is and what He is like and how He has brought about His plan throughout history. I do not think we should speak of the Bible as a love letter from God, but we should see it as a message of love from Him. The message is not written to us but for us. That is a distinction we must make. We too often think that everything in the Bible should be personalized. Not at all! We must see what it meant to the ancient audience first and then we are to go and apply it to our own lives. Too many passages have been ripped from their context in an attempt to personalize the Bible.

Finally, we know God through Jesus and to my fellow apologists, I cannot stress this enough. It is tempting to look at the Summa Theologica or a work like that as your baseline for who God is, but the best way is to know God through Jesus. Jesus reveals the Father to us like no one else and we know what He did through the Bible, but the Bible is in this case the means to knowing the even greater means of Jesus. When we look at Jesus, we are to see God in Him and how He interacts is how God would in the same way. Of course, Jesus did this on a human level, but this is a promise of what is coming in the future when God rules on Earth as He does in Heaven. This is still future for us.

Let us not come with this idea that God is supposed to be the way we want Him to be. Let us see Him as He is. When we present the idea of a personal relationship and God speaking to us as a commonplace regular event then we are saying God is doing something normally that He never promised to be normally. God is under no obligation to speak to us and He has not given any indication in Scripture that the kind of activity many believers present is to be seen as commonplace. While we often think God is silent, it could be that it is just who are listening for the wrong message instead of hearing what has already been said.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Question The “Personal Relationship” Paradigm

Is it wise to speak about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It happened to me again just today. An atheist on a message board spoke of me and a friend as saying that we think we know everything because we have a “personal relationship” with God. Had this person bothered to find out what my view is, they would have found out I espouse nothing like that. In fact, I have had many problems with the idea of a personal relationship, and if any one needs to know that’s not a recent innovation, just ask my wife.

Now in a sense, of course we all have some sort of relationship with Jesus, but what kind is it? My contention with the personal relationship talk is that it really lowers God in a sense of making Him not the sovereign king of the universe, but really a friend who is mainly there to help us out in our hard times. What happens when help does not come in those hard times? Well a lot of people feel betrayed. Some friend they had! There are several atheists today who apostasized from the faith starting out this way.

The Christian message really is found in passages like Romans 5:1 where we find that we have peace with God. That means the wrath of God no longer abides on us. It means that we are forgiven. It does not say that you have a two-way dialogue going on between God and yourself. I am constantly amazed that we have so many seminars at churches on how to hear the voice of God when the Bible nowhere gives instructions on how to do such a thing. Besides that, we do have a way to hear the voice of God. It’s Scripture. The difference is that one requires work to study and interpret and for too many people, it’s easier to just look for a shortcut.

This also feeds into our own self-serving “It’s all about me”, mentality. We have a local car dealership in Knoxville where the ads at the end tell the person to come down where “It’s all about you.” I cringe every time. If anything, the problem we have in our society is that too many of us do think that it’s all about us. When we start thinking God is telling us ideas, then that’s going to make that even more so.

Now please be clear on this. I am not in any of this saying God cannot speak today. Not at all. I know people who have had such experiences that I think were legitimate experiences. I am saying such experiences should not be seen as normative. They should not be things that we are expecting and they should not be experiences that we think that God is obligated to give to us since He is our friend after all.

When we approach God, we should be aware of His love for us and that he cares for us. Yet at the same time, we should approach Him realizing that He is the king of the universe and we dare not have the pride to approach Him just like anyone else. We are to come to Him on His terms. He is not obligated to come to us on our terms.

It is for reasons like this that I really encourage Christians to not use this kind of language. It is not spoken of in Scripture and I am convinced the concept is not even there. God is our king and Lord and we need to make sure our language always affirms that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters