And Then Jesus Showed Up

Where do we go from here? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Like several of you, I’m quite depressed today. Let me tell a little bit about where I’m coming from.

My birthday is September 19, 1980. That means politically, that when I was born, Carter was finishing his term as president. I grew up then in the Reagan years. My dad worked for USA Today and my mother worked at an Elementary school. I also have an older sister. Now, she lives in Nashville and is trying to make it in the music business. (She goes by the name of Angela Ross over there if anyone is interested in finding her music.) My family is conservative and I grew up conservative, but they said nothing about politics really growing up. They decided to let me make my own decisions. I did grow up in church, and I did make my faith my own at the age of 11. Today, chances are both of my parents would say I know more about both politics and the matters of the church due to a large amount of reading.

We did have financial struggles growing up. My father lost his job when the company was being transferred seeing as my sister was about to graduate. Things have been more difficult since then. The reason I got to go to college was because of disability (Asperger’s). Vocational Rehabilitation was willing to help me. I did graduate and was the first in my family in a long time to have a college degree.

I went on to SES to pursue a Master’s in Philosophy. While there, I got married to Allie, who as readers know is the daughter of Mike Licona and his wife. I bring that up because about a year after that, a controversy broke out over if my father-in-law was denying Inerrancy or not. Readers know I spent much time writing up on that topic. I don’t let anyone mess with my family. It did mean that my education there was pretty much done on my own part as well. I was sure I’d developed some opposition.

Also, three months before my wedding, I had lost my job. It was later that I got a part-time position at a Wal-Mart which later became a job on the night shift. Unfortunately, that job was too stressing for me. Before too long, I got fired, and that has been a black mark on me. I had appealed to managers and told them about the difficulties of the job beforehand, but they did not listen. My wife and I moved back to Knoxville and we live in my grandmother’s old house. (She passed away in November of 2010) We are right next door to my parents. We depend highly on our families to make it as no job has come in yet and donations are down to Deeper Waters. (Keep in mind that any reader who is interested in our newsletter can leave a comment and let me know. Also, we have a page on Facebook that you can like and support)

Seeing all of this, I was hoping for a conservative win last night. I’ve seen the economy dropping and people are not hiring. Any time I have gone on Careerbuilder or Monster, I have been disappointed. My skills are in the area of ministry and there are many jobs I cannot do and do not have the credentials for. Meanwhile, in my field, I see several in the church who have no business being in that position.

So last night, it looks like much of our path got cemented. Not only that, for the first time, marriage lost in some states. We dropped our guard. So the questions are two.

How did we get here?

What do we do now?

Let’s start with the first.

I have several speculations on how it began, but I’ll list a few points.

When the Reformation began, which I think needed to be done, there were still unintended consequences. People tend to move on a pendulum and make great swings from one side to the other. We had trust in the authority of the church and then all of a sudden, that authority was gone. The sad reality is that often at those times some can think “Well what else have we been misled about?” Unfortunately, few people were willing to look for the answers that needed to come. This led to the coming of the Enlightenment. In many ways, our societies were acting like rebellious teenagers. We didn’t like what our parents did so we would grow up and rebel against them.

Like rebels, we sought to see how much we could do on our own. Let’s try to make it without God. Let’s see what we can do. It’s my stance that this led to a greater emphasis on the material world to exclude the world of God. What could be done then? Science is pretty much eventually the only answer. In saying this, it does not mean that science is bad. It most certainly is not. It just means that our society had a wrong focus. We started thinking of science without philosophy or sound metaphysics. After all, to do those could get us into the realm of the divine again.

Next came evolution.

The church made a big blunder here. Let’s realize something immediately at the outset.

Evolution is either true or false.

That’s not too difficult is it?

Evolution can be proven true or false by science.

That’s also not too difficult is it?

The problem is we too quickly took evolution into the religious field. If there’s something I’ve seen lately, it’s been the danger of the Inerrancy of interpretation. Now let’s suppose a macroevolutionary theory would contradict our reading of Genesis. Does that mean that Genesis is wrong? Not necessarily. It means that our interpretation is wrong and what we have to ask is “Is our interpretation correct?” Note that to establish that, we can also use literary methods to study the text.

In fact, recent studies are showing that our interpretation could be wrong. Some works on this include John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One” and Henri Blocher’s “In The Beginning.” Does this mean they’re right automatically? No. But like anything else, we need to just say “Bring forward your case and let’s examine it.” Too often, the church has had a habit of deciding the case before the evidence has come in. This can only cost us.

What our actions did made it a case of science vs. the Bible instead of realizing that if we believe the Bible is true, then if something is true scientifically, it will contradict the Bible. Instead of firing shots, we should have said “Okay. We’ll wait and see what the evidence is on your side.” If the Bible is true and Inerrant, nothing in science can go against it. If we believed in the Inerrancy of Scripture, there would be no need to worry. We could wait and see what happens.

Note also that Darwin’s argument was meant to counter Paley, who had a design argument different from that which has been the case historically. The fifth way of Aquinas, for instance, is not about the internal make-up of objects, but about things working for a final cause, the cause that Aristotle said was the most important cause of all. Darwin dealt with an argument that is not the one the church should have been relying on to begin with.

Note also that neither argument is metaphysical.

When we made a battle go on between science and religion, some decided to return the favor. This includes the works of Draper and A.D. White whose works have largely been found to be lacking in substance, but at the time, people were believing them simply because they did not do the background work and check up on what was said. This is always a problem for us. In fact, it’s a problem for anyone.

Well what happens if we think the external world is no longer our friend?

That’s right! We go to the internal world. Christianity then became a system that is meant to give us good feelings and became a more personal belief system than one that described the world as it is. Religion slowly becomes a personal preference just like a favorite ice cream flavor. We were in fact doing Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA long before he came up with it. There was an emphasis on internalization to demonstrate that Christianity is true. In other words, we became anti-intellectuals. We withdrew from the world.

And this rift has grown. The church has become less effective in its approach. People have grown more individualistic and more focused on what is going on internally.

Those of us watching last night should see the results of this. A lot of Christians were saying that we cannot support a Mormon. If that is the case, then why did we not have a Christian out there? Could it be because we have so isolated ourselves from the world that we are no longer raising up good Christians in the area of politics? How is it we are to be salt and light in the world and think that we cannot directly influence the governments of our world?

Instead, we became a society that was interested in what can be done for us, or rather for each of us, me. Claims were not studied. Few people have really read anything on economics. People often go by what is going on with them personally instead of looking at the big picture of all the world. We should not be surprised if the world has a self-focus. We should be extremely disappointed if the church is doing the same thing.

As we were sitting here today watching a movie with Allie trying to lift up my spirits, Allie’s Mom called her. I had the phone on speaker as I was sitting here, which is what I usually do, and she wanted to speak to Allie. She told Allie that she was thankful for her. Why? Because she’s seen too many who are compromising with the world. They are looking out for themselves and the great example she had was the marriage debate and how it turned out in some states last night. She was thankful Allie had not compromised and agreed to meet the world halfway. I’m thankful for that as well. She did her own research to decide, something a lot of people don’t do.

That gets us into what we do from here, the second question.

Mike Licona wrote a piece that made it onto Parchment and Pen. I will have a link to it at the end. One term showed up in there. Before the claim, let me show what he said.

“In the first century, the Roman Empire was, for most people, a brutal place to live. Rome ruled with an iron fist and crushed everyone who challenged it and even many who didn’t. An overwhelming majority of those under Roman rule lived below the poverty level.”

This is a hopeless situation. What happened then? Mike Licona goes on to say:

“And then Jesus showed up.”

That changed everything. The world has been going up because Jesus showed up. Jesus turned everything around. Today, we are asking what is going on in our world. Where is Jesus?

He’s not showing up.

Now does this mean I expect Jesus to physically return to save us? Well he will eventually, I know, but I’m not saying that that was the only solution and until that happens, we give up. No. Not at all. There is one way Jesus can show up and that is the way He has not been showing up.

That is, we have not been showing up.

We are to be the body of Jesus, and how are we showing Jesus? We are not. We are withdrawing into ourselves when Jesus went out into the world and confronted others who disagreed. He raised up disciples who went forward with his message. The Roman Empire was a hopeless situation and unlike us, the Christians could not say “We’ll wait until the next election comes about and then we’ll get our Christian choice for emperor on the ballot and we’ll make sure he gets the vote.”

What hope did they have? The government was against them. Heck. It was persecuting them regularly. The other people were looking down on them. They were in the minority. They were a new group and they could not look to past precedent. None of them could say “We can look at the past Christians hundreds of years ago and see what they did.” What did they do? They first off made the arguments that they needed to make. The apologists were busy constantly.

Not every Christian could do this of course, but several were then busy being what the apologists proclaimed. When plague struck, Christians would often care for those no one else would. The lives of Christians were a constant testimony to the world around them. It was unbelievable to people that they were so willing to die for the faith that they were claiming. As Tertullian said “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The Christians were salt and light in their world. Intellectual grounds were being manned and people were living for Christ. Today, we are living for ourselves and not willing to face any discomfort. Meanwhile, in other places, the church is being persecuted and we are not really taking that into consideration. In fact, in those places, the church there is often praying for us to be persecuted. Why? Because that will get us going.

Many of us talk about dying for Christ. That’s a thought we might have to consider. Some of us could have to do that, and it is not a pleasant thought to think about. There is a great danger in some of us that are so quick to say we’d be willing to die for Christ. Let’s keep in mind that the head apostle also made the same claim and later denied that he even knew who Jesus was. There was a lot of talk, but there was no substance behind it. (Kind of like politicians and preachers today and it is a great fault of us that we fall for style instead of substance)

Dying for Christ is a moment and it’s done. Of course, there could be exceptions where a death is drawn out, but if anything is longer than that, it is life itself. Few of us talk about living for Christ. We cannot fault the world for acting the way it does. Yes. It’s sin. Yes. God will hold to account. The big failure last night was not on the part of the world. We cannot expect the world to live like Christians when Christians are living like the world. If there is no difference between how we live and how they live, why should we be surprised?

What that means for us is that we need a revolution. No. I am not talking about a physical battle. I do not oppose the right to bear arms. If we are in physical danger at times, I think physical fighting is justified, but it is not the final solution to our problems. We need a revolution of the mind. We need the church to stand up and say “We are here and we will not be silent any longer.”

We also need to avoid this fear we have of offending people. The world is more than ready to do what it can to the church and we think that if we bend over and do nothing, that the world will just stop what it’s doing. It won’t. We’ve got a long track record to show that. We cannot expect to live as non-Christians and have the world come to embrace the Christian message. Christ did not raise up the church to be reactive. He raised it up to be proactive.

The church is supposed to be a force that the gates of Hades will not stand against. Gates are defensive. We are to be offensive. Do we believe that we are to be that force?

The church is supposed to be yeast filling through the dough. We are to spread our influence. Do we believe that?

The church is supposed to be a mustard seed growing into a tree to fill the Earth. Do we believe that?

If we believe that, then we realize that there is no real “Game Over.” (Yes. I grew up a gamer as well and still am.) We just have to start playing a better game. We should realize that the person behind the game knows that in the end, the good guys always win. We can realize that our world is a really dark place, but that a dark place is a place where heroes can rise up. Right now, the church needs that. It needs us to stand up and lead the charge.

If you’re reading this blog and a Christian, I’m going to assume you’re a Christian who at least somewhat takes your faith seriously. Do it more so. Do your part. It could be tempting to lie down and surrender and I will say part of me is having a “Why bother?” attitude. What I write I write not only for you, but also for myself. This is not the case for us. The early church won the battle overall, and they did not have America to do it with. They didn’t even have free elections.

We can’t guarantee America will last. Great empires do fall. The gospel will not fall. If we believe that, we must live it. We must stand up to our age and say “No. You will not marginalize and bully us. You will not trample on us. You will not deny us our right to speak. We will get our message out. We will live our message. We are going to be what Christ wanted us to be. We will say what we believe and we will make no apology for it.”

It is only by the church standing up and being the body of Christ can we hope to make an impact. Let’s hope we do it here in America. If we do not, we can know that someone else will somewhere, maybe in China, but when we stand before God, the line of “It was someone else’s job” won’t work.

Let’s do our part. Our Lord deserves 110% and still more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Mike Licona’s blog entry can be found here