Can Jesus Be Non-Miraculous?

Is it really possible to remove the miraculous element from Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus is the figure that stands out in all of history. It’s really hard at times to find someone who has a bad word to say about Jesus, even from a non-Christian persepctive. Such does exist, but even a negative word is still there in an abundance of praises for his teachings and character.

However, is there any reason these should stand out? Jesus was a great moral teacher. As Lewis said, we have had enough of those. We didn’t listen to them. Why listen to Jesus? Our world right now shows us that we are not.

New Testament scholars often seek to go through the New Testament and separate the fact from the fiction. What is true about Jesus in this? Can we move past all this miraculous stuff such as the miracles that He did and the idea that He was God or some divine being of some kind? Surely that stuff got added on later.

The moment you say this, you have to ask why it was added on. First off, why was He crucified? I find many a New Testament scholar who presents a case for how Jesus lived gives me no reason to think He would ever be crucified. Their Jesus is more akin to a Mr. Rogers figure. Adolf Harnack used to say Jesus was teaching about ideas like the brotherhood of all men. Okay. Why would this Jesus be a threat to anyone? Not only is He not a threat, He’s not someone you would give the worst death sentence of all to.

The disciples were convinced He rose from the dead? Why? Even assuming He had risen from the dead, is there any reason for them to say “Jesus rose from the dead! He is the Son of God, Messiah, and God Himself!?” No one ever thought that before in Judaism about anyone they thought came back from the dead. Even if the Jews were convinced Moses came back from the dead, would they say such a thing about him?

There is a simple explanation for why they believed such things. Jesus said and indicated such about Himself. Of course, this is the claim the liberal New Testament scholar does not want to admit at all. It wouldn’t be rational to think something like that after all!

So the attempt is made to remove those miraculous elements again and yet even still, Jesus is hard to escape. Jesus makes grandiose claims about Himself. In the Q document, which has never been found and is purely hypothetical, you can still see Jesus speaking about the house built on the rock. Where does this put His view of Himself? “If you hear my words and obey them, you are a wise man.” Nothing about God in there. The very Sermon on the Mount is filled with this high view. Jesus speaks of what we call the Old Testament quoting it and then saying “But I say to you.” These are the Ten Commandments sometimes, the ones written by the finger of God, and Jesus is attempting by His own authority to speak even stronger than they are? Who does He think He is?

Despite this, we look at these claims that Jesus makes about Himself and say “Isn’t He the picture of humility?” If what He says about Himself is true, then He can be, but if it isn’t, Jesus is certainly suffering from delusions of grandeur. Jesus is the greatest narcissist who ever lived in that case. There is a real condition known as Jerusalem Syndrome where someone goes to Israel and becomes convinced they’re the Messiah. We know immediately such people are insane to that extent at least. Do we think that about Jesus? There are many ideas of who the historical Jesus was. I have not seen a New Testament scholar arguing for “Insane lunatic.”

Not only this, but we have the ethical teachings of Jesus and these are not the teachings of someone who is insane. Most everything about Jesus shows a well-balanced individual. At the same time, this individual never asks for help, never apologizes, never admits a wrong, etc. Some of you may recognize shades of Tom Gilson’s Too Good To Be False in here, which is influential, but I’m also talking about the miracle aspect as well. I definitely urge you to read that book on the character of Jesus.

Assuming this figure is somehow made up as the mythicists would like us to think, who did this making up? This puts us in an even more difficult position in many ways. People who foisted a lie on the world also gave an immensely brilliant ethical system if not the greatest one of all?

Some could say it’s not that hard to create a Jesus, such as Lewis’s Aslan as an example, but the difference is Lewis had a model to work with. That is the Jesus who is already in the New Testament. Anyone who did this originally did not have such a model. Whoever could create this figure would be someone practically worthy of worship himself or themselves.

Notice in all of this, I have not once argued that the text we have is perfectly reliable or accurate. I have no need to. I am asking even to go with the data that will be granted by skeptical scholars. If we take all of this still, can we present a coherent picture of Jesus? Can we explain His teaching, His crucifixion, what claims did He make about Himself, and why the belief He rose again?

I seriously urge skeptics of Christianity to try to do so.

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

School Shootings And Evil

Is this proof there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I saw on Unbelievable? in Facebook a thread with a news story about the school shooting yesterday and showing it as proof that God does not exist. The problem with something like this is that proof is a strong word to use. I could understand skepticism, but most philosophers, even atheistic ones, agree that there would be no proof here. The logical problem of evil is not really used that much anymore.

Now I have some political thoughts on this event that I shared yesterday on Facebook and I plan on sharing here as an addendum to this post, but the theological ones are the ones worth talking about. I have said on another post that I do not understand the usage of the problem of evil in this way.

This is not about whether theism is true or not as this point cannot establish theism or atheism. This is on a more matter of living everyday and of practicality. We could consider it a sort of Pascal’s Wager point on how you would want the universe to be.

Let’s suppose we have two universes. In one, there is no God. Now right away, since I think God is necessary for the universe to exist in any way, I am granting a huge point, but this is just for the sake of argument. In this universe, matters are exactly the same for the most part and the school shooting has taken place.

Will the victims ever live again? Not a chance.

Will the parents ever see their children again? No way.

Will the teacher who was killed ever see their family again and vice-versa? Forget about it.

Will anyone who does such a crime and somehow gets away with it ever get justice? Not necessarily.

Is there any hope for healing? Perhaps, but it sure isn’t built in hope of resurrection.

In a Christian universe, all the answers are different. Now this does not show God exists, but it does show we should hope that God does exist. That an atheist wants to use this is practically a way to me of saying, “Let’s push some hopelessness!”

The pushback I received was mind-boggling. Unfortunately, that thread seems to have been eliminated so I will have to go by memory.

First I had said that good can come out of this, and so the reply was “So you’re saying what happened was good?”

Good grief. Do these people not read?

Let’s be clear. Evil is evil. That’s a tautology, but no one can make evil good. God doesn’t even make evil good. God makes evil people into good people and brings good things out of evil things. There is a difference.

But don’t I believe in Heaven in that this gunman could have repented right before death and received forgiveness and gone to Heaven?

He could have, though I think if someone is that bent on evil it is highly unlikely. However, would you honestly want it to be otherwise? If you would rather someone suffer for evil rather than realize the error of their ways and turn, then that reveals very little about the evildoer and much more about yourself. We should always hope someone will change their ways and repent. We should always hope someone would embrace the good.

Right now, I have an ex-wife. It would be easy to delight if something goes wrong with her and her desires and she has to suffer, but why should I want that at all? Note that this is even a woman who has accused me of being abusive to her and shattered my heart to pieces and I suffer everyday because of it. Why should I delight in her suffering? That will not help me at all in my life.

Instead, I pray for her constantly and that God will show her mercy and where I am in error, let justice and mercy come to me appropriately. If I were to pray that she suffer instead, then that reveals nothing about her and more about me.  Anyone can treat their friends well. It’s how you treat those who wrong you and your loved ones that shows who you are.

However, just because someone is in Heaven or in Hell doesn’t mean that it’s all equal. There are degrees of blessing and degrees of suffering. My ministry partner and I have talked about people who will be scrubbing toilets in the New Jerusalem.

There is also the claim that someone who is murdered if their murderer repents could be forced to spend eternity with the person who murdered them.

Yes? And?

That article is sufficient to deal with those claims.

I was also told that I said the murderer is good. Not at all. Scripture tells us none are good but God alone. The beauty of the Gospel is that it takes evil people and makes them good people, people like you and I.

To those who lost loved ones yesterday, Christianity offers hope of resurrection. It says that good can come out of the darkest places. It offers our Lord who Himself was in the darkest place and out of that came the greatest good. It also says that those who turn to Him can have hope.

From just a practical basis, I would hope Christianity was true and I would think any honest atheist would want to know that there could be a way that good could come out of evil and there will be hope. In an atheistic universe, I gain no practical benefit from this.

May we all pray for those involved yesterday and that includes the shooter’s family who has their own suffering as well.

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

Political addendum:

So after this shooting, I did watch and saw Biden make a speech where he pretty much immediately went after the gun lobby and called for the passing of stronger laws concerning guns.
I am old enough to remember where the politicizing of a tragedy was normally condemned right after it happened, but I guess that the rules change when the left has power.
But since it has already been done, here are some points to consider.
If someone is really willing to break a law against murder and even kill kids doing it, do you really think they are going to pay attention to a gun law? Does anyone think the only place to get guns is through a licensed dealer or a place that does background checks?
Here are some better ideas.
From now on, police investigate every claim about someone making any sort of threat whatsoever against a school. If it comes out sometime in this that the villain (And here’s a side point. Don’t mention their names. They don’t deserve credibility. Just call them the X shooter for whatever school it was) was reported many times and had a history of threats and the police never did anything, that’s on them then.
When we say a place is a gun-free zone, what we are really saying is “Come in here and start shooting because we can’t stop you!” Everyone should agree that most people who have guns in this country are good and law-abiding citizens. The overwhelming majority would never do what some idiot did today.
If gun laws won’t stop these people, and they won’t, what will stop them?
For one thing, enforce the laws we have. If someone commits a crime that results in the intentional taking of a human life, don’t dilly-dally on it. Get them in and get them in jail and keep them locked up. If we have to use the death penalty, we do. Let people see that crime has a price to it.
Second, there are countless veterans all over this country who would love to have a side job of some kind where they get to patrol our area schools and keep students safe. Let them take security positions in schools. Many of them would be glad to do it on even a volunteer position.
Third, any teacher who wants to should be allowed to have a gun with them. Don’t think you can trust them with it? Then why trust them with your kids? Teachers are adults who should have the right to arm themselves, especially to protect students that can often be like family to them.
A law will not stop a shooter, but what could stop them is the thought that there are several people in that school who could kill them just as quickly before they get to go on a mass shooting spree. The best defense is indeed a good offense. Let the criminals wonder who it is that has guns in a school or any other place for that matter and let them ask if they are willing to take that risk.
Gun laws do not work and gun-free zones do not work. If you want to murder someone, you will not be stopped by a law. Fear is what will work.

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet Bradley gets even worse in this very section:

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

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

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

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

Because?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Plunge: Jesus’s Resurrection in Early Christian Memory

What do I think of David Graieg’s dissertation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As far as I know, this isn’t published yet nor is there an official name, but the title i have put is something found in the heading of the dissertation. I saw on Facebook that Graieg had done his dissertation on the resurrection from a perspective of memory and I asked if I could see it. He sent it to me and I did tell him I would write a review.

I have now finished it and for my thoughts, well, it’s certainly thorough. If you go through a dissertation, pretty much everything has to be backed, save for when you’re doing your conclusion on the matter, and the bibliography makes up about a third of the writing itself. This would be something for many of our atheist friends to keep in mind who think we just blindly believe matters about religion.

The emphasis in this paper is on the creed in 1 Corinthians 15 and the memory of Jesus’s resurrection event. As we know, the letter was written between 55-60 AD, but the creed comes much earlier. Most scholars will place it no more than five years after the event in question. Most place it at a very early timeframe. Some have placed it within a few months of the event.

Yet the earliest record we have of it is this letter. Perhaps somehow matters changed. Can we be sure that this is accurate? We have Paul’s word on it, but can we trust his memory stood the test of time? Doesn’t memory change? We’ve all experienced remembering something that didn’t happen or filling in details or telling a story and have it change based on the audience.

This is the basis of Graieg’s work. Early on, he has a look at the chapter as a whole exegeting it. I thought this was interesting, but if there was one part of the dissertation I didn’t see fitting in, it was this part. I could understand some parts like the idea of a spiritual body being worthy of discussion, but not the entirety of the chapter as a whole. It was unclear to me how this related to memory studies.

However, from there, nearly every question that can be asked about memory is asked. This includes how memories are shared and how they last and flashbulb memories and what kinds of memories fade. One concern of people who haven’t read this might be that this could be seen from an individual basis. Nope. Graieg spends time looking at the aspects of communal sharing and notes that this would be a communal memory that would be not just shared, but rather performed, several times.

Such factors even as Paul’s age is looked at. We don’t have a biography of Paul, but Graieg goes on the best information we have and he sees no reason to think that Paul would have his memory sufficiently altered to make the creed radically different from what it was originally. Like I said, it’s very in-depth.

This also includes look at how reliable testimony is. Hasn’t eyewitness testimony been called into question a few times? Graieg looks at the ways in which memory is reliable in these situations and in the ways in which it is more prone to error.

In the end, Graieg concludes that there is no reason to believe that there is an error in memory taking place sufficient to overcome that Paul really believed this event happened. That does not mean that it did, but it does mean critics of the resurrection need to be careful before making such an argument. They also need to contend with the evidence and realize perhaps Paul really remembers what happened because it really did happen.

If there was one other area though I would like to have seen covered, it would have been cognitive dissonance. This is a favorite magic word of skeptics who have never ever read anything on the topic, but it is thrown out to make it look like they know what they’re talking about. I consider it a weak objection, but I would have liked to have seen Graieg talk about it.

Keep an eye out for this author. If you’re interested in resurrection studies, this is worth it.

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

Sharing My Debate

Where can you find a debate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Just wanting to quickly plug this debate I did for today’s blog. You can watch it here. Please leave a comment on the video as well and I appreciate any feedback.

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

Why Good Friday?

Why did this day happen? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I was married, my ex and I were watching the series on TV about Jesus that was made by Roma Downey and her husband. This one took some liberties with the text including a great line from Pilate upon the announcement that Jesus would be crucified. “He will be forgotten within a week.”

And you thought two weeks to flatten the curve were a long two weeks.

Here it is 2,000 years later and the world has been totally transformed by Jesus. Many of us do not notice the impact Christianity has on our lives. Art, literature, science, medicine, morality, philosophy, music, etc. All of these have been influenced by Jesus. More books have been written about Jesus than anyone else and more art and music has been done about Him than anyone else.

All of this started though that fateful day when Jesus was crucified, so what brought about that day? It’s beyond dispute that Jesus died by crucifixion. (No. I’m not at all going to treat those Jesus mythicists seriously.) The question to ask at this point is, “Why?”

Now a Christian could respond and say, “Well, Nick. Haven’t you been to church to hear? Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world.” Yes. That is why God allowed it, but is that the same as why it happened? No. Pilate was not standing there saying “This guy is innocent, but we have to crucify Him for the sins of the world.” The chief priests and Pharisees weren’t saying, “Jesus is a pretty good guy, but remember, we have to crucify Him. God needs it done to save the world.”

The question is simple, and yet it is not. Jesus is crucified. We all know that. How did He get up on that cross anyway? Perhaps an example will explain. In Five Views on the Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan writes on how Jesus saw John the Baptist get beheaded for having an apocalyptic message, so Jesus shifted course. He was more into such talk as the love of God and the brotherhood of men then. That sounds all good and well until you ask a simple question. “Why was He crucified then?”

A Jesus going around and teaching just about the love of God is not going to get crucified. This Jesus is not a threat to anyone. This is like calling Barney the Dinosaur or Mr. Rogers a threat. This Jesus is harmless and note that Jesus is not just killed, He is crucified, a treatment designed to shame and humiliate, not just kill.

As a Christian, my answer is that Jesus was teaching about His rule in the Kingdom of God and what it would be like and taking power away from those who had it and challenging their right to dictate the way of God to men. Jesus was a threat because He kept humiliating His opponents in conflict over and over and He was doing so many miracles and wonders that the hand of God was undeniable on His life. Crucifixion would be a way of silencing everything as surely that would be the end of it all and no one would want to follow a crucified failure.

But yet, He wasn’t.

All that is being asked here is about a basic fact in history. Jesus was crucified. Why? What was He doing with His life that was so dangerous He had to be crucified? It is common for those of us who are Christians to press skeptics on the evidence for the resurrection. We should do the same with the crucifixion.

Today, we will celebrate that God did take this evil event and use it for the greatest good possible. I also hope we will think some on why this happened. Anything that helps us understand the life of Jesus better will help us live the life of Jesus today.

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

Book Plunge: Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach

What do I think of Andrew Loke’s book published by Routledge? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be thorough. Loke leaves practically no stone unturned and he deals with numerous obscure objections to the resurrection in a logical format. He lists out the possibilities in each case at the start and in the end all the evidence points to Jesus being raised from the dead.

He starts with what the earliest Christians claimed. This is the natural place to start as all we have at the beginning as many skeptics will say is a claim. Meticulously, he goes through piece by piece answering most every possible step you could think of. That includes scholars well known and respected in the field, like Ehrman, to those on the fringe, like Richard Carrier. I was extremely pleased to see this as while most scholars don’t really bother with Carrier, someone does need to and Loke is the kind of guy to do it.

On and on Loke will go looking at each section of the chain and sometimes you will be left wondering how he can write any more on the topic and lo and behold, he does. Loke wants to make absolutely sure that he has left no stone unturned.

If you want to read a chapter on its own, you can go and read the chapter relevant to what you’re studying. Do you want to know if the disciples’ experience of seeing something was something extramental or purely in their heads, go to that chapter. Do you want to know the details surrounding the burial of Jesus? Go to that chapter.

While this is a historical book, there is philosophy covered as well. Loke has apparently written earlier on the existence of God so he doesn’t make that case, but it’s good to know that foundation is there. He does have a chapter here on the question of miracles for those who want to know about that. He is just as thorough in this area as he is in other areas.

There’s also a chapter on combination hypotheses. After all, maybe you say to yourself, “Okay. My case against the empty tomb isn’t that good, but it makes more sense when you combine it with these other arguments.” Don’t be so sure. Loke has this covered.

Now for the bad part. At the time of this publishing, to get a hardcover copy of this book is awfully expensive. It will cost you a little over $100. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the really good news. If you want to read this on your Kindle or computer, you can get a somewhat better price. How does free sound? Yep. Completely free. I checked just today to make sure and it has been free for years. That means you really have no excuse to engage with this book. You can get it here.

This is my challenge then to those who don’t believe in the resurrection. Give this free book a try. Don’t have a Kindle? You can either get one or you can read it on an Amazon app on your computer or even get the app on your phone. Try to even do something like fifteen minutes a day with the book. You could say you will lose time, but how many of us would spend that time watching Netflix or playing video games? We all have time for entertainment. Just give some of it to this.

It’s free. Face this book and see what you think and if you disagree, at least have an informed disagreement.

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

Book Plunge: Raised on the Third Day

What do I think of Mike Licona and David Beck’s work published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Gary Habermas has done more in defending the resurrection of Jesus in scholarly work than anyone I can think of save going back to the apostle Paul. Not only that, he keeps doing more. Also, he has the character of one who is meant to be an apologist. He not only deals with the resurrection, but especially deals with doubters and will invest plenty of time on them and answers all of his own emails and phone calls.

This is a work dedicated to Gary Habermas with a range of scholars coming together, all of whom have been impacted in some way by Gary and his work. The book has some of everything. Some chapters I didn’t understand at first, such as Francis Beckwith’s chapter on legal issues involving the redefinition of marriage, until I found out that Gary has an interest in that area as well.

Want to know about substance dualism? J.P. Moreland delivers. What to know about the Shroud of Turin? Barry Schwortz is here. You can discuss the moral argument and purity in the Gospel of John in relation to the empty tomb.

Veterans and novices alike will find something in this book that can greatly help them. Those with legal challenges will find Francis Beckwith’s work fascinating. Those interested in the Shroud again will enjoy the chapter by Schwortz that discusses the history. Mike Licona’s chapter will be of interest to those who hear the argument about the authorship of the texts being in question with what he says about ancient historians.

The book also has personal looks at Gary Habermas. The two that are in this field are Alex McFarland and Frank Turek. I want to take some time to personally expound on this issue from my own personal position.

Many of you know that I know Gary Habermas personally. If I send him an email, I can normally expect that within 24 hours, he will respond to that email. There have been times that I have called him on the phone and he said that he only had ten minutes he could give, but he ends up giving an hour.

Gary’s personal investment in taking the time to meet with people he doesn’t know and invest in them, even hardened skeptics, is a testament to his character. I was never a hardened skeptic, but he took the time to invest in me once and has helped me tremendously. With the trouble that is going on in my own marriage right now, Gary has been an invaluable help to me.

When I in the past had been caught in the throes of extreme depression over the situation, Gary was right there willing to help. I could call him feeling utterly miserable and hang up feeling good. As one can expect, I would not be filled with joy, but Gary is a good listener who knows the psychology of what he speaks and knows how to talk to people who are suffering. This is fitting for him since he himself went through that with the death of his first wife, Debbie.

That having been said then, that is about the only lack in this book is a chapter on dealing with doubt. This has been an emphasis of Gary Habermas for a long time and it is something that any great thinker will deal with. I know many skeptics reading this will say it as a smear that an apologist can have doubt, but if anyone who is a serious thinker doesn’t ever have doubts about their position, I consider them NOT taking that position seriously.

Thus, if I would have changed anything about the book, I would have included one chapter on the different kinds of doubt and how to deal with them. It would have included an emphasis on emotional doubt since that is the one most common on a personal level. Such a chapter would be a benefit to many apologists and to any seekers reading the book.

Still, this is a fine book to read. It is an excellent tribute to an excellent man. Gary Habermas is a gift to the Christian apologetics community and we can be thankful for what he has done.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Book Plunge: Time and Despondency

What do I think of Nicole Roccas’s book published by Ancient Faith Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes when I have been struggling with something, I will talk to my wife’s priest. While I am not Orthodox, that is not a problem with us as he’s more than happy to help me with things. I also think wisdom can be found outside of one’s own tradition (And even religion) and if we as Christians ever think it’s only people of our theological heritage that have true wisdom worth gaining, that is a very sad state.

Right now with some present circumstances, I have been in normally a state of seasonal depression. When I mentioned the word depression to him, he turned it into despondency. At that moment, I remembered I ordered for my wife who is a catechumen in the Orthodox Church the book Time and Despondency. I decided to get it out and give it a try.

Let’s start with one excellent thing about this book. The author does not come out as someone high and holy and thus you read the book and think “I will never reach this level.” Nope. Roccas is a fellow traveler on the journey and she too would prefer at times to do something like binge watch Netflix.

She definitely writes from an Orthodox perspective, but that does not overwhelm the book so much that others won’t benefit. As a Protestant, I found much of the advice helpful. The advice of great saints is found as there is wisdom to be found in many places.

She also writes of goals that are doable. She never tells you to go and pray for an hour or so. Instead, just work on matters bit by bit and learn and grow in them. There’s even a place advocating quick prayers. Those are fine many times. When I am out in public and I hear sirens and see a first responder going by, I always pray for that situation. (Definitely not with eyes closed if driving.)

Her advice to deal with despondency is also not just purely spiritual matters. She talks about St. Antony who was scolded by someone for playing with his fellow monks when surely he should have been praying and how Antony responded to justify his actions. She talks about the use of humor, which at this point, I couldn’t help but think of Harry Potter and the spell to deal with boggarts.

For those who don’t know, boggarts are creatures that take on the image of your worst fear. The way to deal with them is to use a spell with the word “Ridiculous!” and turn them into something you can laugh at. I think Rowling at this point hit on something with the nature of fear.

Roccas also shows that this is a problem that is not just modern in nature. Monks from well over a thousand years ago dealt with this. They had times they didn’t want to pray either or work on the Scriptures. Apparently, some could have even committed suicide from sorrow. It was even called the noonday demon. The condition is the same, but today we probably have more means to encounter it.

There is also definitely good theology in here. Roccas brings out the reality of the resurrection and what it means. God being the God of all time is there to redeem every moment of time, including the moment that we are in. Again, just like before, none of this though is spoken in terminology that is over the layman’s head.

If you’re struggling with depression, or despondency if you prefer, this is a really good book to read. The advice is practical and doable and not over your head. Most of the chapters are short enough to read in one sitting and even the longest one can be broken down into manageable pieces. Give it a try. It beats living in despondency after all.

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

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