Should Kids Be Taught Religion?

If we avoid talk of sex with our children, should we do the same with religion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Earlier this week, I blogged about the problem of stealing our childhood from our kids. I was asked by a commenter if that would include religion since we don’t want to introduce kids to the world of sex early. Let them be kids before they get involved in a religious debate they don’t understand. Right?

I figured this would come up. Now to be sure, when I say don’t introduce kids to sex, I mean the actual graphic real sex. At the same time, sex is in a sense unavoidable. Girls should be raised to be girls and boys should be raised to be boys. Girls and boys should both be taught basics on how their bodies work and when they have questions and “explore” we should be willing to answer. I have heard it recommended that we don’t come up with nicknames for body parts. Call them what they are.

As for religion, I am not saying we need to get children involved in debates on the age of the Earth or about the rapture or if they should speak in tongues. At the same time, this should be age appropriate. You don’t need to show a teenager a porn video to explain sex to them, but you also aren’t going to talk to them the way you would talk to a five year-old.

Religion is often a family affair so parents will likely bring their children to church and thus to Sunday School. The kids should be allowed to ask questions about any subject matter brought up in class. My Dad and I both share a love of the Fox Trot comic strip and writing this brought to mind this.

Personally, if I was in Jason’s Sunday School class, I would be glad to see that he was thinking this way and not giving any look. This would be a student trying to grasp the idea. Now as someone who is not a Star Wars fan really, I can’t tell how accurate the description is, but if a student is asking, we should celebrate that.

And just as we teach a student in elementary school elementary math and we increase it as the kid grows older, so we should do with religion. When they start entering the teenage area, we need more than just Bible drills. We need them to be having an informed worldview about why they believe what they believe.

Also, this same route would go with politics. Let’s face it. When six year-olds write letters to the president and include statements about the economy and foreign policy, those are the overwhelming majority of the time coming from the parents and not the children. We can raise children with our ideas and we inevitably will, but we should not ban them from asking any question that they want.

As children grow older with the topic of sex and especially getting into puberty, we definitely need to be answering more questions and explaining more material. Girls need to learn what it means to be a woman and boys need to learn what it means to be a man. However, that is for that case.

When children are young and in Elementary school, we don’t need to be rushing them to be adults. We are preparing them for that, but they are also still kids and they only get to be kids once. Sex is often considered an adult topic for a reason. We can refer to a child’s innocence being taken from them.

There is no hard and fast rule, but do things in proper moderation and in proportion to the child’s skills. Many children should be taught math on their age level. For me, my parents knew I was advanced in math early on and I was treated accordingly. If a child seems to be a political prodigy or a religious one, then treat that properly too. However, sex is in the issue of morality and thus makes it different. Also, it’s done with other people and we don’t want small children engaging yet.

But please, don’t use children as pawns in political and religious debates. Let them be kids. They have plenty of years in adulthood to argue with the rest of us on Facebook. Let them enjoy being kids for now.

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

Book Plunge: The God Virus Part 1

What do I think of Darrel Ray’s book published by IPC Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Oh my! There are atheist books out there that actually try to make a convincing argument, but this is not one of them. At least, that’s not the way I see it. It’s as if today atheists want to compete to see who can write the worst one out there.

This one is an older one published in 2009, but while age might improve wine and friendships, it doesn’t always improve books. I was asked to read this by someone and thinking them someone I want to take seriously if I remember rightly who it was, I ordered it. Going through this one has been funny at times, but a labor at others.

Ray writes the whole time as if religion is a virus and he uses metaphors for viruses throughout. It really doesn’t work well. The work comes across as very depersonalizing and instead of really treating religion seriously, it looks like Ray, who apparently has a Master’s in religion, doesn’t really know much about it.

For one thing, he never even defines the term. He just comes out of the gate talking about religion and I’m sitting here wondering “What do you mean by the term?” This is especially problematic when later on he gets to movements like Marxism and the rise of Lenin and those get treated like religions too. Those are atheistic movements and yet somehow an atheistic movement is a religion.

Ray also says he starts with an experiment. You talk with a deeply Christian friend (Assuming you’re not a theist) about Muhammad. You agree he was delusional thinking he was talking to God and the Koran is definitely his work and he didn’t fly to Heaven on a horse, etc. Then he says imagine you wrote a transcript of the conversation and gave it to them.

“During the conversation you bother agree that Jesus was probably delusional to think he could talk to Jehovah. The Bible was clearly written by men and not by Jehovah. You both agree that it is ludicrous to claim that he is the last prophet and that all later ones are false. Neither of you can believe that he rose from the dead nor flew to heaven. It all sounds too crazy, and it is difficult to see how someone could believe such a religion. At the end of the conversation, you both agree that Christians did not choose their religion; they were born into it. Anyone who was exposed to both Christianity and Islam would see that Islam is the true religion.”

And thus is the experiment. Present this to your Christian friend and they will turn defensive (Imagine that. When you question what someone believes, they might actually defend what they believe! Gasp!) Will they make elaborate arguments that have no factual basis? Will they cut you off and terminate your friendship?

Some of us will give arguments and if Ray wants to say they have no factual basis, it will be up to him to demonstrate that. Good luck. Without that, he’s just engaging in presuppositional atheism.

However, on this very page after talking about a friendship enduring, he goes on to talk about an associate of his who lost a father to cancer. After that, he became a Christian and any time they talked religion crept in and before too long, Ray stopped seeing him altogether. This on the very same page as the above questions.

So if you challenge a Christian, your friendship might not endure. However, when Ray hears someone talking about Jesus so much, their friendship can’t endure. How is this not seen?

In just three paragraphs, Ray deals with near-death experiences. Does he look at any with evidential claims in them? Not a one. Does he mention any researchers in the field that endorse such arguments? No. He points to one doctor who says it’s the brain trying to make sense of an experience. He also tells us that we can bring about the emotion of NDEs by stimulating certain parts of the brain. This is likely true, but irrelevant. We can stimulate many things, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t stimulating real things.

But again, without dealing with real evidential cases, Ray is not doing his proper work. Throughout the book Ray will talk about theists shutting off logic and critical thinking. Physician! Heal thyself!

On p. 30 in a footnote he says that during witch trials in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, historians estimate that 200,000 people died. Inquiring minds want to know who these historians are. Ray never tells us. Too many atheist readers will lap this up and believe it instantly. Those of us who actually care about evidence want to know more.

In a footnote on p. 32 he mentions Bruno as one who questioned the suppositions of religion and paid a price for it. Another such example he mentions is Galileo. People who make this claim have likely never read anything by Bruno. As for Galileo, he questioned Catholic interpretations, but he never once questioned the truth of Christianity.

On p. 39, he speaks about fundamentalism where people are immune to influence and ignore any evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Note, this is from a man who at least halfway through the book has not interacted with one opposing scholar so far. Ray also regularly writes about his fundamentalist upbringing. I do not question he had one. I also do not question that he has not escaped it. His thinking is still very much the same way.

On p. 42, he says Christians early on were instructed on how to take over political institutions. I would love to know where he sees this, but he does not say. Maybe all those things about honoring the emperor and praying for him and things like that. That’s how you take over government after all.

When we get to p. 48, he describes Marxism as a god virus. How this is a god virus when it is inherently atheistic is not explained. It’s a convenient way though to avoid having to question your own movement. Any movement that has mass death behind it must be a religious movement. It can’t possibly be atheistic!

Naturally, on p. 51, he says science education is the answer to religion. There is never a connection made here. There are plenty of fine scientists who have no trouble with being theists at all. Ray gives no arguments here.

When we return next time, we’ll start with the chapter on American Civil Religion, which is definitely a hideous chapter as far as evidential claims are concerned.

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

Book Plunge: Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views.

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell and Christopher Gnanakan’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When a Wheaton professor wore a hijab, it led to a major evangelical controversy. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God? In this volume, four different views are shared on the topic. If you think the answers are simply yes or no, you’re mistaken. So what are these views?

Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb Jr. both take the view of yes, we all worship the same God. Francis Beckwith takes the idea that in a way, we all do worship the same as a referent. Gerald McDermott holds a shared revelation view where Jews and Christians worship the same God, but not Muslims. Jerry Walls takes the position that none worship the same God.

Now going in, my position was very much that of Jerry Walls. I do think there are generic theistic arguments that can be used for all three of the Abrahamic faiths and you can only know which one is true by special revelation, but when we look at the deities described in the revelation, they’re very different. Namely, it comes down to the view of Jesus. Since Jesus is fully God and fully man, Christians necessarily worship a Trinity.

I found the first view of all worship the same God being the most unconvincing. For instance, it was said that there are many Christianities. At this point, I have to wonder if the authors have any idea what it means to be a Christian because if Christianity can be anything, then it means nothing.

It’s hard to disagree with Francis Beckwith, and as Jerry Walls said in the book, especially when he begins with an analogy involving Superman. (We’ll try to forgive him for never mentioning the Smallville series.) Still, at the end of the day, I just can’t sign easily on the dotted line. It’s hard to think that the Father of Jesus is the God of Muhammad.

Gerald McDermott would agree as he thinks there’s a radical division between Islam and Christianity. However, there was not any dispute among the Jews and Christians at the start about which God was worshipped. Therefore, Jews and Christians worship the same God. Muslims do not. This can make sense, but I agree with Walls that McDermott does seem to move too quickly through the doctrines of the Trinity, the resurrection, and the incarnation.

Finally, we get to Walls’s view. This is the view I did find the most convincing. Now you could say it’s because I approached the book with this view so yeah, bias is always a part, but also when one studies for years, they don’t form positions lightly. In all fairness, the positions of Beckwith and McDermott I did think made some good points.

Walls also did bring up something else that needed to be discussed. Even if we think they all worship the same God, does that count towards salvation for them? I wish the other authors had said more about that question. I don’t think Beckwith and McDermott would hold to a pluralistic view, but I wonder if the first authors might.

There are also two essays afterwards, mainly on evangelizing Muslims. These are good to have, but shouldn’t we include something on evangelizing Jews as well? Judaism is much smaller in number to be sure, but why not have one chapter on Muslims and one on Jews? Jews need their Messiah too, after all.

If this question interests you, then you should get this book. The extra benefit besides just the replies to the authors on their essay is the author of each essay gives one quick counter-reply to all the others. I like this touch and wish it would be used more often.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/2/2019

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that has in its own way always been around, but wasn’t its own individual branch until sometime after Descartes. Differences have gone all the way back before from Plato to Aristotle. Plato had the theory of the forms to explain how we know things. Aristotle didn’t disagree entirely with the forms, but said we know things through sense experience, or at least that’s where our knowledge begins.

Today, we can look at the material world and see that we have a lot of science and think that that is the path to knowledge. By contrast, what is religion? Religion is done by authority. The adage of “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” Some leave out the “I believe it” which would be redundant in a sense.

Is that the way religion is done? Do we just believe something because we read it in a book? How can we know God exists? How can we know what He’s like? Can we have a proper experience of God? How could we tell if that was a valid experience? Can one just intuit God exists even if they don’t know how to articulate the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

We’re going to be discussing religious epistemology today. How can someone know something that is a religious claim? Does one just have to take something by faith? What is faith anyway?

To discuss all of this, we’re bringing on a young scholar. Young is the word as just checking, my wife and I were surprised to see he’s just a few months older than she is, and yet he already has an Oxford published book called Religious Epistemology.. His name is Tyler McNabb.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Tyler Dalton McNabb (PhD, Glasgow) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Macau. Before taking his current position, McNabb taught three years at Houston Baptist University. McNabb is the author of Religious Epistemology(CUP) and co-author of Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions (Lexington). He has also authored/co-authored various articles published in journals such as Religious StudiesEuropean Journal for Philosophy of ReligionInternational Journal of Philosophy and TheologyThe Heythrop Journal, and Philosophia Christi.  

We are busy working on getting episodes up. I know we’re behind on schedule, but thanks for bearing with us. Please keep listening.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheism: A Critical Analysis

What do I think of Stephen Parrish’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Stephen Parrish has written a book that is highly philosophical, and yet at the same time, highly readable. The book is a look at the idea of atheism. Does it really stand up to scrutiny? He looks at it from a scholarly level and from a popular level both.

At the start, one gets treated to definitions. What is meant by atheism and theism? What is meant by religion and science? What is meant by the term supernatural? These are all terms that we use freely, but very rarely do we stop and ask what they mean. I am one who never uses the term supernatural thinking it is way too vague and when I get a claim such as someone talking about the evils of religion, I ask for a definition of religion.

He also deals with popular objections. Is atheism merely a lack of belief in God? What about the idea that someone is an atheist to many other gods out there. The one who identifies as an atheist just goes one god further. Sure, these are all piddly weak on the surface and the old atheists would have been embarrassed to see such arguments, but they are out there today.

Parrish’s work that presents problem areas mainly for atheism come in three categories and these can be broken down further. The first is the origin of the universe. This is an interesting topic in itself, but I am pleased to see that he goes even further and asks not only how the universe came into being but rather how does it continue in being. It’s not enough to ask why it came in the first place. Knowing how it remains here is something great to ask too.

The second area is the problem of the mind. How is it that the mind works? What is the explanation of consciousness? There are a plethora of different theories out there. Parrish works to explain the flaws in the other theories and gives a case for why theism has better explanatory power.

The last is ethics and morality. There is a subsection here on beauty as well. How is it that we live in a universe where there seem to be principles of good and evil that most people consider objective, binding, and authoritative? Could they all really be subjective?

An atheist reading this could think, “Ah. Those are issues, but surely he should discuss the issue that’s problematic for theists. The problem of evil.” He should and he does. He looks at this and a number of defenses and theodicies and then turns and says that on his argument, the problem of evil is more of a problem for the atheist than the theist.

Some of you might be wondering why I don’t spell these kinds of thoughts out even more. There’s a simple reason for that. You need to go and get the book yourself. I can’t help but think of the quote of C.S. Lewis.

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

A man wishing to remain in his atheism should also realize that this book is a trap as well. While I am far more Thomist than Parrish is in my philosophy, there is far more that I agree with than I would disagree with. Anyone who is a critical atheist needs to get this for a critical analysis of that view.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 1

How do religion and culture interact? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Christian Delusion is a book edited by a guy named John…oh….what’s his name?…..Oh yeah. Loftus! He takes several atheist authors and puts them together in yet another appeal to show Christianity is wrong. Let’s see how well it measures up.

David Eller is the first one who writes about the culture of Christianities. At the start, he says every argument in support of religion has been shown to be inconclusive or demonstrably false, and yet it persists. With a bold claim like this, one would expect some backing for it, but alas, there is none. Could we at least get a footnote pointing to some books on atheism? Nope.

Another big problem here is that right at the start, Eller has never defined religion. It is a difficult term to define even according to scholars of religion. Classical Buddhism as an example does not hold to a deity. How is that a religion? What makes a religion? Eller doesn’t tell us. He uses the term throughout assuming we all know what it means.

From here, there is a whole lot about how Christianity interacts with culture and how culture interacts with Christianity. One problem I see with this is that this isn’t just a trait of religion. All systems do the same thing and all cultures do the same kind of thing. Secularism does the same kind of thing as it interacts and affects the culture and is affected by the culture and has its own rules and taboos even if the rule is there is no rule and the taboo is saying nothing is taboo.

One statement is that Christianity is not reasoned out and is assumed to be true without prior proof. You have to wonder how much reading has been done on this kind of topic. Early Christians were making arguments for the existence of God before atheists were really a major force around to deal with.

I wanted to cheer when I read this statement from Eller:

“As I have tried to warn readers in my previous work, the United States and the wider Western world are heavily saturated with Christianity throughout their many large and small cultural arrangements. Whether or not they know it—and it is more insidious if they do not know it—non-Christians living in Christian-dominated societies live a life permeated with Christian assumptions and premises. Christians and non-Christians alike are literally immersed in Christian cultural waters, and like fish they usually take for granted the water they swim in.”

Please let this be written in gold and shown to atheists everywhere. Let them take it in and make it a reality in their lives every day. Let them realize how much their worldview is influenced by Christianity. Let them realize this in morality. How much of what they stand on in moral issues can be demonstrated? Is Eller married to one woman and faithful to her? I do not know, but if he is, how is this established on atheism?

I have long contended that atheism today often hijacks a Christian morality as if it was obvious to everyone and then runs with it. If you are an atheist, I urge you to not believe anything unless it can be backed on atheistic grounds entirely. You may not like the system, but live it out at least.

Eller later says Christianity has a disdain for the physical and the bodily. I do not know what he’s talking about. Perhaps some do, but for me, I love the physical and the bodily. Do I need to remind you all that I am a married man? The physical body is super good! Jesus was resurrected in a body. Jesus lives in a body. Eller has confused modern Christianity and assumed it’s like ancient Christianity.

Eller also says that if religions cannot have their place in the institutions, even dominating them, they will make their own. I found this amusing since it is normally here in America the case that secularism tries to dominate religion. I always wonder about this supposed takeover of the government by religion. People wanting a theocracy are in the minority. I am convinced there will always be some corruption in every church because every church is made of corrupt people, much like every system of government.

Eller also says that since its inception, Christianity accommodated itself to its surroundings, and it had to since otherwise it would be unappealing and unintelligible. Why yes. The early Christians did this. That’s why they told the Romans there was only one God who had revealed Himself in Jesus and taught a crucified Messiah and refused to pray to the emperor.

Eller also gives a howler talking about Christianity absorbing pagan rituals such as Nordic practices of yule trees and Easter eggs. No documentation is given of any of this stuff. He also says there is ample evidence that Jesus’s birthdate was borrowed from pagan religions like Mithraism since there is no basis in Scripture for a December 25 date. We challenge Eller to please go and show the December 25 date in Mithraism with primary sources. For a claim with ample evidence, it would be nice to have seen some of it.

He also gives the claim about 38,000 denominations. Even Roman Catholic apologists are saying to not bring out this one. Statements like this lead me to believe that Eller has just as much blind faith in atheistic arguments and such as do many of the Christians he condemns.

In conclusion, of course, there is interaction. Christianity can be changed by a culture some in its presentation. When we attend an Orthodox Church, I notice the priest uses a device like a tablet for his reading. I doubt the early church was doing that. There are ways Christianity influences culture. Some good and some bad on both ends, but in the end, the fundamentals are still there and Eller says nothing to challenge those. It is just assumed that Christianity is false and we go on from there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/8/2018: Greg Cootsona

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do any apologetics for awhile and you will find adults who talk about science as disproving Christianity. Because they invested in science, they came to see that religion is bogus. However, if you want to get an adult that thinks that way, don’t be surprised if you first have a teenager that thinks that way.

Sadly, the church can often be the culprit.

The church can often go to young people and tell them they can either believe science or the Bible. So, they look at these teenagers who often drive to church in cars and enter buildings with modern light and air conditioning and when these kids look up from their iPhones, they’re told that either science or Christianity is true. Geez. Which one are they going to go with?

Now I am not a scientist, and I don’t even play one on TV, and I have often decided that I won’t say yea or nay on science issues. I do not debate evolution, for example. If evolution falls, let it fall because it’s hypothetically bad science, but it’s not my call to say if it is bad science. Still, I find the history of science and the interplay between science and religion quite fascinating.

So does Greg Cootsona. He also has a great concern for our young people, especially the millennials, who are falling away from Christianity and often times, it’s because of science issues. How can we best reach these people? What steps should we take to interact with them? Is it really true that science and Christianity aren’t the polar opposites they’re seen to be?

But before that, let’s ask a more basic question.

Who is Greg Cootsona?

According to his bio:

Greg Cootsona directs Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries (or STEAM), a $2 million grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation and housed at Fuller Seminary to catalyze the engagement of faith and science in Christian ministries with 18-30 year olds. He also is also Lecturer in Religious Studies and Humanities at Cal State Chico. He has written Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging AdultsCreation and Last Things: At the Intersection of Theology and Science, and C. S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian. Greg served for 18 years as Associate Pastor for Adult Discipleship at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico and Fifth Avenue Presbyterian in New York City. Greg has written for several periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal and Christianity Today online;has been interviewed by CNN, the Wall Street Journal, BBC,and The New York Times; has spoken at university campuses throughout the United States such as Columbia and Rice Universities; andhas appeared on the Today Show three times. He and his wife, Laura, live in Chico and have two emerging adult daughters. Besides hanging out with his family, he loves to bike, read (and write), and drink good coffee.

I’m looking forward to this discussion and I hope you are too. Please also consider going on iTunes and leaving a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast. It means so much to me to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: A Charlie Brown Religion

What do I think of Stephen J. Lind’s book published by the University of Mississippi Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As far back as I can remember, Peanuts has been a part of my life. As a small child, my sister had given me a Snoopy stuffed animal and I slept with that for many a night. The library was within walking distance of my home and I would often go down there and pick up the Peanuts books and read through them repeatedly. My Dad had his old collection of Peanuts books and they were passed on to me and I read them repeatedly. He and I can still regularly talk about various strips.

This isn’t even counting the animated specials. How many times did we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas together? For many years, this has been a family tradition. It’s amazing that Linus’s speech towards the end was so amazing for its time and growing up, I didn’t realize all the boundaries that Linus was breaking with that speech. There is hardly a more touching Christmas special than that one.

Those who read Schulz regularly also know about religion in the comic strips and particularly Christianity. Questions often arise about Charles Schulz. Was he a fundamentalist? Was he an atheist? I wanted to know and I went looking for a book. I came across this one in my search, but not knowing for sure, I checked the endorsements. When I saw endorsements from Schulz’s children, I knew this was the right one.

Lind takes on a tour of Schulz’s (Or Sparky’s) life growing up and how he came to know Christ at a Church of God. Schulz was a man very committed to the Scriptures and a number of times when he met someone famous, one of the first things he would do is ask them about their opinion of Jesus Christ. He had several commentaries and such and would read them trying to study the Bible. There is no reason to doubt his conversion to Christianity was a real one and there is no evidence that he ever retracted his faith.

This is not to say that his faith didn’t change. It did. Sparky held a number of positions that many of us would consider liberal. For instance, Sparky’s daughter Amy wound up joining the Mormon church and while Sparky thought Mormonism was a great hoax, he didn’t deny that his daughter was out there supporting the kingdom of God. It could also be asked if Sparky really held to Christian exclusivity. It might have just been that Sparky liked to discuss the Scriptures, but he didn’t want to debate them.

Sure, there are times Sparky described himself as a secular humanist, but odds are he didn’t really realize what that meant. He wanted to avoid saying Christian because people thought of denominations and such when he said that. What he had in mind was not a denial of God or Christianity, but an emphasis on the living out of Christian claims in caring for the poor and loving your fellow man and such.

As I said earlier with the Christmas special, Sparky was willing to push the envelope. He fought hard to get Linus’s speech into his special. A lot of people were backing off because you just didn’t talk about religion like that on TV, but Sparky had said to his team that if we don’t say this, who will. It was kept in and it made a different. Scores of letters came in from fans who praised the report and Coca-Cola who sponsored the special certainly benefited from it.

Sparky’s comic strips took a subject one was not supposed to talk about, and talked about it. Very rarely was there any direct preaching in the strip if ever. Instead, it was more meant to get people thinking about the topic. This could include even ideas like The Great Pumpkin or a butterfly landing on Peppermint Patty’s nose only to be told to her later by Marice that it turned into an angel and flew away while she was sleeping.

Sparky’s kids in the comic were children like no other. They were often engaged in deep conversations for their age. Linus was a great theologian walking around his town, and yet the one who always sucked his thumb and had a security blanket with him constantly. They were kids asking the questions of adults, but often they were still just being kids.

Sparky also wasn’t always a saint with his life. If one reads the book, they will find that he made many mistakes along the way, some of them very disappointing. As a parent, he was also quite absent. He loved his children, but he rarely talked with them about religion. They saw him reading his Bible, but discussion didn’t seem to be commonplace.

It has been a little over eighteen years since Sparky died. As I would go through the book, I would find myself from time to time going to the internet and looking at the last strip. In all honesty, I get emotional seeing it and have great sorrow thinking about what a gift Sparky was to the world. It seems almost like a divine plan that when that strip hit the paper announcing that Sparky was done drawing new comic strips and no one else would take over drawing comic strips, that Sparky had passed away in his his sleep the night before after losing a battle with colon cancer.

Sparky was willing to cross that envelope and many people might sadly never hear of the great apologists of the faith today, but perhaps many will be thinking more seriously about religion because they knew Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and so many others. These kids are all easily recognizable and household names as are terms now like “security blanket” and “good grief” and others. Sparky left us a legacy and a challenge to go forward and spread the message of the Kingdom. We could ask the question about spreading it that Sparky said when asked about Linus’s speech in the Christmas special.

“If we don’t, who will?”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Newton’s Apple And Other Myths About Science

What do I think of Ronald Numbers’s and Kostas Kampourakis’s book published by Harvard University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is an excellent book looking at a number of claims that have been made about science throughout the centuries. Many of these claims are taught even in textbooks today, but they really don’t bear any semblance with reality. Some are complete nonsense. Others have a grain of truth, but they’re mixed in with a great deal of error.

I knew the book was going to start off well when it had the first myth being that Christianity held back the progress of science. To give an example of someone postulating the myth, they quote someone and I won’t say who he is, but I will say he’s a certain unemployed polyamorous prominent internet blogger who’s banned from Skepticon. At that point, I knew I was going to like this one.

The book also deals with other myths I found personally interesting such as that Columbus refuted the idea that the Earth is flat or that science and religion have always been at conflict. These are myths that have so permeated our society that it’s hard to find people who disagree with them and consider it something that all educated people know. Well, no. A lot of educated people know just the opposite.

Others that caught my attention were the idea that there really is no scientific method. So many people claim to go by one, but there are vast and different fields in the scientific enterprise and no one method works for all of them. Get in a room with ten scientists and ask them to describe the scientific method they use and you’ll likely get eleven different opinions.

Another one was that there is not a wide gap between science and pseudoscience. Many ideas have been popular in science history and are pseudoscience today. It’s hard to really set out a line on what constitutes real science and what doesn’t. Even if you have falsifiability as one, then many end-times speculations and faith healings and such could be considered real science. (I do believe that there are actual miraculous healings, but I think many of the so-called faith healers are frauds.)

Another interesting aspect was a chapter about Paley. Paley in his watch was pointing more to teleology than internal make-up. Darwin only mentioned Paley once in his massive work and even then it was favorable. Much of what we call ID today would not be at all what Paley had in mind.

Other readers will find many other aspects interesting, especially if they’re interested in the sciences, but if you’re not, those chapters can be confusing. Some are historically enlightening, such as that the launch of Sputnik did not create a battle cry to start upping our science education. I recommend those who are curious to just look at the book on Amazon and see what myths are covered in there and if that is something that is of interest to you.

It’s also amazing how many scientists fall for these myths. Many scientists are great at science, but they are not great at history and philosophy and they went through school likely being taught these myths and it wasn’t the main focus of their education and they saw no reason to question them. Unfortunately, now they are propogators of those myths and it’s up to the historians and those of us interested in science to set the record straight.

This is a very enjoyable read. I often enjoy reading not so much about science itself, but the philosophy and history behind it. Ronald Numbers has had his hand in a number of great books like this and I look forward to more coming.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why God?

What do I think of Rodney Stark’s book published by Templeton Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Religion has been told it’s on its last legs. Atheists today are predicting its demise and many are getting set to celebrate a world without religion. Could it be that their cries of triumph are a bit early? Could it be that despite the best efforts of atheists, religion is not on its way out?

Rodney Stark has written this book recently to analyze religion, what it is, and why it is that it stays with us. The book is loaded with propositions and definitions put forward. It does not argue for the truth or falsity of any religious position whatsoever, including theism. It just tries to state the facts about religion, what it is, and why it seems to endure, and what difference it makes to its followers.

There is plenty of helpful information and food for thought in here. I think the first chapter is one of the best with defining what religion is and especially helpful is the differentiation between many religious practices and magic. Stark describes as well in the book how people approach God and the way that religious growth takes place in a society.

On the other hand, sometimes I thought things weren’t given the time they needed. 87 definitions can be understood, but in a book with 236 pages, 192 propositions about religion means that many of these propositions will not be given the attention that they deserve. Some of them will seem to be thrown out without as much backing as one would like.

I also wondered how much of this relies on modern sociology. We could look at how new religious movements start today, but would it have been the same in the past? Has Stark compared how a religion grows in an honor-shame context as opposed to our more Western guilt-innocence context? How would that affect religions like Christianity? How does it change the dynamics for Islam when one realizes that Islam spread by the sword?

What about people coming to a religion because they think that it is true? While Stark is not wanting to defend the truth of any one religion, it seems hard to avoid the notion that many people come to a religion not just for sociological reasons, but also because they think the religion is true. No doubt, many do join because their friends and family have joined the religion, but not all of them do. How do these people affect our study of religion?

There is also information about how for many young people, their friends today are not necessarily part of their same religious heritage. Perhaps what is needed the most for today is a study on religion in the age of the internet. How does something like Facebook affect the way that a religion is spread? Today, we can even hear people talking about the church of Facebook. Are internet debates changing the way we view religion?

Stark’s book is worth reading, but at the end, while I got some helpful definitions and such, I couldn’t help but think that I was given a quick tour. I would have liked to have seen the question of truth raised more often. That doesn’t mean I expect Stark to defend or attack any one religion, but deal with the idea please about people who come to a belief because they think it’s true. Still, those wanting to understand religion should try to understand this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters