Reading Disagreeing Material

Do you have guarded reading? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I encounter internet atheists, I usually ask them the same question. When was the last time you read an academic work on the topic that disagrees with you? The overwhelming majority of the time, I get nothing back. I find this fascinating since these people claim to be champions of reason and evidence, but are often only interested in seeing it from their perspective.

Yes. Sadly, too many Christians who argue do the same thing. Still, I do notice that it seems we do it less. I can’t claim to have data for this, but when I see Christians engage with atheists, many of them know the atheist arguments and can in many cases articulate them better.

I’m on pages for debate between Christians and Mormons. What do I notice? Christians seem a lot more familiar with Mormon arguments than the other way around. The same happens with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses I see nowadays don’t even get the Trinity described right, confusing it with modalism, let alone know how to argue against it.

For Muslims, I still remember a day several years ago when I was engaging with a Muslim online and in it I asked him “Have you ever read the New Testament?” He replied, “No. Have you ever read the Qur’an?” I am sure he expected a negative back, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t get it. I had indeed read it. Now, I have read it twice.

When Mormons come to visit me, I can assure them I have read all of their Scriptures and a number of other pro-Mormon writings. When a new Bart Ehrman book comes out, I’m one of the first to get it. I had this last one so quickly that when it came out, some of my professors on campus asked me what I thought of it.

When I read Christian writings arguing for their positions against their opponents, I find they constantly reference primary sources they disagree with. I have written long ago that sadly, atheist writers often don’t do this. Reading through them, I can tell. When you meet atheists espousing Jesus mythicism or saying “If God created everything, who created God?” and treating it like that refutes the cosmological argument, it’s clear that they don’t know the material.

As a Christian, if you do this, the advantage you have is that first off, you know the material that you are going up against. No one can know it exhaustively, but you know it enough to be familiar. A general rule of thumb is that before you argue against a position, you ought to be able to theoretically argue persuasively FOR that position. If you can’t make that case without making it a total joke, you probably don’t know the position at all.

This also increases your humility. Doing this is a way of saying “I could be wrong and I want to know.” If you are of the mindset that you don’t have to read the other side because you already know they’re bunk, odds are the only person being fooled is you.

Third, as a Christian, this can show you flaws in your own positions that you hold. Sometimes, you might change your mind. Other times, you can see a weakness and refine your position. Sometimes, you might find something you agree with in the writing. I can say I have learned from reading the material that I disagree with.

There can be something we can learn from so many other positions. I have said before that Richard Dawkins when writing about theism or philosophy or anything outside of his area has no clue and is just a train wreck. When he writes about science, what you would consider the most ordinary of all is made wondrous and alive and I could read him all day. The best work Dawkins does for science is not when he argues against Christianity. He does great damage to science then. The best work he does is when he just writes about science as science. He doesn’t tie his worldview into it. He just describes it. If he did this more often, he would encourage more people of all worldviews to go into science and study it.

Definitely if you’re an apologist, read what you disagree with. I’m always going through at least one book I disagree with on Kindle. I started a new one just recently, but before that, I had returned to some Islamic hadiths. The learning is always beneficial.

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


Book Plunge: In God We Doubt Part 13

Are we just serving our genes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Humphrys makes a list of heroic people and why they did what they did. An atheist like Richard Dawkins will write that we are living in service of our selfish genes. It’s a reversal of sorts of the Christian view. In our view, we are doing what we do in service of God, but in the atheist view, it is in service of ourselves. (Not sure how aborting your children works with that considering they can’t pass on any more genes for you or sterilizing your children through “gender-affirming care”, but that’s another point.)

But Humphrys doesn’t think this works. He talks about the Virginia Tech shooting as one example. Liviu Librescu, a 76 year-old math teacher, held the door shut so his students could escape through the windows knowing this would lead to his death. On another aside, it is disappointing that in these cases, many of us can bring to mind the shooter, but not the heroes that held back the shooter to some extent. Was Librescu doing this to serve his genes?

Humphrys doesn’t find this credible, and again, I agree. In a sense, genes have become a sort of god for Dawkins and others who go this route. Whatever the genes are commanding, this must be obeyed. This is not to say that we don’t have base desires that we all fall prey to. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be a problem with obesity, broken marriages, STDs, etc. in our world today.

Humphrys goes on to list a number of heroes and it’s worth reading this chapter just to hear what their stories are. Too often when we think about evil, we ask what is it that makes evil people do what they do? Could it perhaps be better to ask “What is it that makes good people do what they do?” and then find ways to make that far more likely to happen? Just a long shot here, but maybe we should consider the virtues that lead to people doing that and celebrate those virtues and condemn the vices that go the other way.

However, there is an unfortunate statement in this chapter in that Humphrys concludes that atheists have the best arguments. What they don’t have is a grasp of what it is that makes human beings what we are. I agree with the latter, but I definitely disagree with the former.

On the latter point, could we not consider that if atheists don’t have that, could that lead to the idea that man is more than just a material being? Could it lead to the idea of essences and substances? Could it lead to a soul, a spirit, or something of that sort? Would this not be a problematic position for atheism to explain anyway? If human beings are just material objects and we have been studying matter for so long and have personal experience with this matter, shouldn’t we have a good idea of what we are?

However, throughout this book, there has been little attention paid to theistic arguments. Even in the chapter featuring Craig, the only response given was that it was nonsense, all of it, and then Humphrys goes on to criticize Craig instead of asking his side how they can better answer Craig. I don’t see the Thomistic arguments ever dealt with nor do I see the philosophers used that have taken on the problem of evil.

Humphrys then is too dismissive. It seems that evil is just something that controls his thinking and that is the real draw. How can a good God allow evil? The problem is this is often a much more emotional argument than a rational one. We see this when Humphrys says that when a cab driver murders his wife and four children, that overpowers an argument.

Could it be atheists actually have the more emotional opinion?

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

Book Plunge: In God We Doubt Part 3

What are the battle lines? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In chapter 2, (And we won’t always be going one chapter a day) Humphrys starts what he calls the battle lines. He has said that only recently in history have we been allowed to question the existence of God. I cannot help but wonder what history he is reading. These are usually people who don’t understand either the Crusades or the Inquisition, or both. The treatment of Galileo and Bruno (To be fair, we don’t talk about Bruno), also misunderstood, didn’t even happen during the so-called “Dark Ages.”

Yet then he goes and points to the Enlightenment as the dawn of rational debate. Seriously? What was going on between Augustine and Faustus? In the medieval schools of thought, debate was taking place regularly. The rule was even you couldn’t comment on your opponent’s view until you could say it in your own words to his satisfaction. (Would that we had that today!)

Naturally, he also has the line about debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. While in a sense, this is a real question to discuss, it was never one discussed in that period. It was one made up later on to mock the kind of discussions that took place in that period. Mission accomplished, I suppose.

He then writes about figures like William Lane Craig, Richard Dawkins, and Alister McGrath. He notes Alister McGrath as saying he converted to Christianity because it worked. He says that it actually brought purpose and dignity to life. I can accept this provided that by works we don’t mean something like Christianity meets emotional needs since as Lewis once said, if he just wanted to be happy, a bottle of port could do that. If he means it makes sense of the world we live in, that is fine.

Humphrys goes on to say that there is a lot of dogmatism on both sides of the debate, but to call Dawkins non-thinking is a bit below the belt. Of course, it was entirely acceptable to say in the first part that anyone with the mind of an inquisitive child can see through the arguments for the existing of God. No harm in implying that your opponents don’t think that well, but if you say something about the new atheists, well that’s just mean.

Do I think Dawkins is non-thinking? No, but he has a gigantic flaw many atheists have in their approach. When Dawkins writes about science as science it is beautiful. I imagine I could read him for hours as he describes the wonders of especially the animal world. Dawkins is a magnificent writer there.

However, he then takes the mindset that because he understands this, then he is also qualified to speak on theology and philosophy and history. The new atheists seem to assume that anything religious is nonsense and stupid and so they don’t need to study it. Many internet atheists do this today, and when they do, they make embarrassing blunders and cannot see it no matter how many times it gets pointed out to them.

So yes, when it comes to writing on religion, I do consider Dawkins to not really be thinking. There’s no real attempt to engage with the substance matter. If you want to see this, consider what I wrote on the shoddy research of the new atheism.

Humphrys says the approach of someone like Dawkins won’t work on many because they weren’t reasoned into their faith. They were born into it or indoctrinated or had a Damascus Road experience or something like that. It never seems to occur to him that that can happen on atheism as well.

There can be many non-intellectual reasons for being an atheist. They could have had an experience with evil and don’t understand why a good God would allow it, or they could not like the political stance of Christians, or they could even just want to have a free sex life without the idea they are doing something wrong. It is foolish to say that most Christians come to their position emotionally, but atheists don’t have that problem. News flash. Humanity has that problem.

However, when it comes to choosing a belief system, one should take the best proponents of it. Consider their arguments. Just as I as a Christian have to put up with bad arguments and reasons from fellow Christians that can make me cringe, atheists have to do the same. As Michael Ruse has said:

Their [the new atheists] treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing.

This is an accurate description. My copy of The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath and his wife had a quote by Ruse on the front along the lines of “Dawkins makes me embarrassed to be an atheist and the McGraths show why.”

The problem with Humphrys when he fails to do this is the hidden implication that if you are a Christian, it is most likely for emotional reasons, but if you are an atheist, well that is most likely for intellectual reasons. He himself does this without dealing with the arguments for theism. As we go along, we will see that that happens consistently. I have not finished it thus far, but so far, I have not seen him dealing with the arguments, just with the arguers.

But we will see more next time.

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

Richard Dawkins on Eugenics

Should you trust a biology professor on eugenics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Dawkins has a penchant for saying things that aren’t too bright. Now in all fairness, when he writes a book that focuses on science, it’s really quite fascinating reading. I like reading this Dawkins. Even if I don’t agree with him, it’s enjoyable and I see a great love nature in him.

Yet sometimes he steps out of that and that’s when things go wrong. Think The God Delusion. Think Outgrowing God. (Which my ebook response to is coming out soon.) Think The Magic of Reality. In all of these books, there is talk about theology and it’s consistently bad.

Or think about statements he’s made. Dawkins has said he couldn’t condemn the mild pedophilia that he experienced at a boarding school growing up. (Prediction, within a few years, Dawkins will be seen as someone ahead of his time, though still with bigoted viewpoints in thinking pedophilia is harmful at all. There have already been TED talks trying to normalize this awful practice.) He has also said that if a baby is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring such a child into the world if you have a choice.

So after awhile, you realize that he’s fine when studying zoology, but when he goes outside of that area, disasters happen. Such is the case with a statement he made yesterday on Twitter. Dawkins has decided to talk about eugenics this time.

“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”

I will leave it to the scientists to discuss if eugenics would work on humans or not, but I find this kind of statement disastrous. For one thing, Dawkins overlooks that ideology could be factual just as much. There are moral facts out there. Perhaps it’s a moral fact that one shouldn’t try to farm the human race to breed superior humans and weed out weaker ones and deny them a right to life.

We can also be sure that Dawkins does not see him as one of the humans that would be eliminated with eugenics. Those who advocate eugenics tend to see themselves as the superior ones. It’s the same way I approach the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. If you believe in your cause, lead by example.

Now to be fair, Dawkins does go on to say that he thinks a eugenics policy would be bad and shouldn’t be done, but quite likely most people will not read the follow-up comments unless they are separate tweets themselves, which they are not. That is their fault if they are not, but sadly, Dawkins will still have stuck his foot in in his mouth and people will run with it.

However, whether it would work or not is irrelevant. Why bring it up if it is wrong? I am sure we could come up with a plan of an untraceable murder and it would work, but it should still not be done. It is fine for Dawkins to want to defend science, and really he should, but eugenics is much more an ideology than it is a science. It might be fine to breed dogs or cats or horses a certain way, but humans are different.

It’s important to consider that humans are different and if we agree (And sadly, not all do), then we have to ask what is the basis of this fact? Because we’re smarter or more evolved or something of that sort? Could it be there’s something all humans uniquely share that makes us different? Maybe. Just maybe.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheists Who Don’t Care About Arguments

What does it take to convince an atheist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of mine on Facebook started a thread asking for a quote by someone indicating they need an experience to believe God exists. This is not knocking experience. It happens many times that experiences that are a divine encounter change someone’s mind. My problem is with saying that has to be the requirement.

Also, not all atheists are like this. Some of them are people who have reasonable discussions and look at the evidence. However, if you are an atheist who says you will only change your mind if you have an experience, then you are not a reasonable person. You’re just not.

After all, if you engage in a debate with me with that kind of attitude about the existence of God, what you are telling me right at the start is that your mind is not open to being wrong. If evidence cannot convince you that you are wrong, it is not evidence that your position is based on.

You also should not deny any Christian who is a Christian based on their experience. If an experience is a valid argument for you, it is a valid one for them. You can question the experience happened or their interpretation, but you should be consistent and let it be a valid basis for them.

So what kind of statements do I have in mind?

How about a start with Jerry Coyne and keep in mind, he says this evidence is tentative. One wonders what conclusive evidence would look like.

“The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119

Or Peter Boghossian. In his Manual For Creating Atheists he says that if all the world went outside at night and saw all the stars in the sky spell out something like “I am YHWH. Believe in me,” that could be suggestive. He doesn’t rule out that we could all be experiencing a mass delusion.

Bill Maher is reported to have said that if he thought he heard God speak to him, he would check himself into a mental institution and so should you. If this is accurate, then we have someone who argues that God does not exist. When he has an experience that could be evidence, he denies it.

Richard Dawkins in this video starting around 12:30 is asked what would it take to convince him God exists. In the end, he says nothing. There is always some other explanation and he admits this goes against the grain because he has always paid lip service to the idea of following the evidence where it leads.

Note that it’s lip service.

Now Christians can be sadly just as resistant to evidence, but it’s often atheists that are priding themselves as being people of reason. The problem with this is that if reason does not change your mind, your mind is not based on reason. Again, this doesn’t apply to all atheists, but if this is you, you’re not a genuine debater or reasoner. You are debating with a Christian wanting them to change their mind based on your arguments, all the while saying you will not change your mind based on their arguments.

This is just a small sample of quotes. I have no doubt that if I wanted to do a more in-depth project of this, I could find many more quotes. If you have some, feel free to share them with me.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Christianity Is Not True Chapter 7

Does God exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return again to David Pye’s book and this time he has a chapter on the existence of God. Pye is not ready to say he’s an atheist yet, but he does lean more towards that side. This isn’t a really long chapter, though it does seem longer than others. The downside is that real evidence is not engaged. There’s more thought experiments than anything else.

Pye starts by talking about how The God Delusion came out which presented the case for atheism with great force and clarity. With great force, we can agree. With clarity, we cannot. Dawkins did not write a convincing work at all and a number of atheists even agree with that one. It will be agreed that he at least brought a debate mainstream, but even now the new atheists seem to be a thing of the past.

One of the first pieces of evidence for theism that Pye presents is people saying that they know God. “Jesus indeed rose from the dead. I spoke with Him this morning!” I really do not take arguments like that seriously any more than I take the Mormon claim of the burning in the bosom seriously.

I agree with Pye also that this seems to be the inside language in the church. I don’t think it does any good and wish that older Christians would stop because I think it just confuses younger ones. Go look in your Bible and see all the passages where it tells you how to hear the voice of God. Oh wait. They’re not there.

From here, Pye goes on to the rise of science. He says that over time religious explanations have been replaced by scientific explanations. It’s a shame no examples are given. We can be sure that there were many people in a polytheistic context who tried to explain such things, but did they invent deities to do that, or were the deities already there believed to do the things that needed explaining?

As for Christianity, the Christians were the ones trying to find the scientific explanations many times. Science was being done often in the Middle Ages. Finding a natural explanation for something was not seen as removing God from the picture. It was seen as a way of demonstrating how the mind of God works.

The idea of science removing faith might work if you have an idea of a God who must be constantly doing miracles or such to maintain reality. That is not the Christian position. It is true that God upholds all existence by His power, but He also does it through many instrumental means and not through a constant working of the miraculous.

He tells a story about a little boy seeing the sun and realizing no man made that. He points out this story would be convincing 30 years ago, but not today, but why? What did we discover? There is often this idea that if you find a natural explanation for something, there can be no greater explanation. I see no reason to think such a thing. A natural explanation can show the genius of the creator.

Pye then goes on to ask if disbelief in God is evil. He compares it to the Loch Ness monster. Perhaps someone is not convinced by the evidence. Does that mean their denial is evil? Unfortuantely, the Loch Ness monster comes with no moral requirements of such a nature. If God exists and especially the Christian God, one is called to live a life of dying to one’s self and self-surrender.

This leads to Pascal’s Wager. He quotes Dawkins as saying that Pascal must have been joking. We can be sure that Dawkins has never read Pascal. Pascal in the wager was speaking to the man who has heard both sides and is just sitting on the fence and has his emotional doubt creeping in.

Pascal in this case does advise what is called “Fake it until you make it.” Pye says God would not be fooled, but such a person is not trying to fool God. Such a person really wants to believe. It is like the person in exposure therapy who tries to face his fears. He really does want to face them. He doesn’t feel like it the first time, but he wants to get there. A woman who has gone through abuse can have a hard time trusting her husband, especially sexually, but if she wants to, she will face even if she doesn’t feel like it.

Pye also says that the criterion listed is that God will judge based on belief, but this is assuming Pascal would not encourage a holy life anyway. Of course, he would. This is kind of like people who say an argument for God does not work because it does not prove the Christian God. So what? God is shown and theism is shown to be true then.

By the way, earlier in this chapter, Dawkins is quoted saying the non-existence of God cannot be shown. This is nonsense. This is not to say it can be established, but if one could show a necessary contradiction in the nature of God, then God could not exist.

Pye also has some material about word associations. We often associate good things with theism and bad things with atheism. This is interesting, but it really says nothing about the existence of God.

From there we get into discussions about omnipotence. The classic question is brought forward of if God can create a rock so heavy He can’t lift it. I will gladly answer this.


What? Isn’t that a denial of omnipotence?

Not at all. What it is saying is God cannot make a contradictory state of affairs. God cannot make it be that something surpasses His power over the physical world. Pye can often quote Lewis. He should remember Lewis also said nonsense doesn’t become sense just because you add the words “God can” to it.

Pye thinks it’s nonsensical to say “I believe God was able to raise Jesus from the dead” and then say “I believe God can heal your Psoriasis.” Why is it nonsense? Just becuase the greater entails the lesser? The person who says this is saying it because the other person really does have doubts and they want to encourage. Whether it’s the right thing to say is another matter. That it entails a problem with doubt is not established.

Finally, Pye ends with a note on solar eclipses. He notes that our planet is the only one we know of in such a relationship to its moon that it has solar eclipses. He has not seen this argument he says used for theism. Pye has not looked hard enough.

If you’ve been paying attention, you notice a few problems here overall. The only evidence really given for theism other than personal experience at the start is solar eclipses. No Kalam argument is given or interacted with. Moral arguments are not. Thomistic arguments are not. The arguments from desire and beauty are not.

As I think about it, it looks like we have a lot of psychology. There is much more thinking about why people believe things instead of the evidence for those beliefs. Hopefully in the future Pye will interact with the best arguments on both sides.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus Among Secular Gods

What do I think of the book by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale published by FaithWords? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been doing apologetics for a little over fifteen years. When I first started, one of the shaping books for me was Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ followed by The Case For Faith. It was in the latter that one mind I read particularly gripped me with his story, personality, and reasoning style and that was Ravi Zacharias. One book of his quite popular at the time was Jesus Among Other Gods. I remember devouring that book and thoroughly enjoying it. Now here we are years later and we have Jesus Among Secular Gods.

This might surprise some people. Secularists don’t have gods! In the sense of real entities that are deities that have their own being, sure, but there are a number of isms out there like scientism and hedonism. Can the claims of Jesus stand up to secular thought? Does secular thought really answer the deep questions of life?

Ravi has a story early on about dialoguing with someone in the Middle East who drew two circles. For most Middle Easterners, their faith is the outer rim of the circle and their life is a little dot in the center. We have it reversed. It’s easy for us to compartmentalize our faith. This is what the Middle Easterner believed would lead to the fall of Western civilization. One’s religious walk is a secondary part of their life instead of becoming what influences their whole life.

Ravi goes on from there to interact with Stephen Hawking who suggested that we need to find extraterrestrial life if it’s out there before it destroys us. I appreciated Ravi’s cynicism at first in wanting to say that since we’re having a hard time finding intelligent life here, let’s find it elsewhere, but his next thought was even better. Isn’t it fascinating that intelligent life is something we are to be looking for outside of our Earth, unless that intelligent life happens to be theistic.

Richard Dawkins isn’t safe either. Many of us remember him saying that

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Yet if God is a fiction, then we have a problem. The actions attributed to him are really to be attributed to some really gullible people who in turn did some evil things. If so, then where does the evil lie? If Dawkins has it that God is a fiction and in turn there is no fall away from him but man living by his own nature, then aren’t we the source of the evil? Isn’t it the problem man playing God? Should we not strive to avoid that?

I like a story he tells about Billy Graham visiting Disneyworld and telling Walt Disney that he had created an amazing world of fantasy. Disney replied that Graham had it backward. He had shown the real world. Everything else was fantasy. What did he mean by that?

In Disney’s world, one of the greatest gifts is children are children. They laugh and play and have utter delight. Go out there and what do you find? You find children attacking other children. You find children cutting themselves and harming themselves. You don’t find white knights coming along to save them and you find dragons roaming in the real world that no one will fight.

Of course, Ravi and Vince contrast this with answers from other faiths. A story is told about talking to a man from a Muslim country asking the difference between the Christian God and the Muslim God. He was told that if you want to know what the Christian God is like, read the life of Jesus. If you want to know what the Muslim God is like, read the life of Muhammad. That was enough to settle the question for him.

Vince also shows himself to be taking on the thinking of Ravi. I liked how he described that we talk about the intellect of God and how He knows everything immensely and we can’t compare, but when we talk about His love, we downplay it. We make God’s love very human and act like it’s just as prone to being broken as ours is.

I also appreciated the story about Matthew Parris writing on how Africa needs God. God gives the people hope. Following God helps them to be provided for and keeps them away from other gods such as the infusion of Nike, or the witch doctor, or the machete. We need to have evangelism going on in Africa and not let it be stopped.

By the way, Matthew Parris is an atheist.

Vince when taking on hedonism starts with the idea of the experience machine. Imagine a machine you could plug into and feel the sensation of any experience you wanted. You could be making love to a supermodel or going into battle in whatever time period you want or you could be making a scientific breakthrough. You can have whatever you want. Should you plug into the machine?

No. We don’t want just the feeling of doing these things. We want to be able to do these kinds of things. We don’t want to just feel loved. We want to be loved. We don’t want to just have dreams. We want to accomplish them.

Vince also tells about the Christian view of sex here. I like the story he tells about seeing a testimony in the past with someone saying “I used to drink. I used to party. I used to have sex. But now I’m a  Christian and I don’t do these things any more.” If this is your testimony, please stop. Everyone who isn’t a Christian is saying “It sounds like your life was better before.”

Vince reminds us that sex is something sacred and meant for a covenant of two people. The action means something and it is special when saved for that covenant relationship. Our world treats sex as something common and the results have been horrid for us.

That being said, God is not anti-pleasure, but he calls us to more than just living for ourselves in this moment. In fact, he tells us our greatest joy is in denying ourselves and following Him. Lewis would say this is really having us be more ourselves than we ever were before. Christianity is not opposed to pleasure, including sexual pleasure, but that pleasure is not to be a god.

The writers also point out the importance of disagreement. We have reached an age where to disagree with someone is to devalue them as a person supposedly. To be sure, there are wrong ways to disagree with people, but that doesn’t mean all disagreement is the problem. Disagreement can mean we value the person’s opinion and we think the subject itself is really important.

The book overall is a good look at the thinking we have in the West and how we need to contrast that with Christ. Ravi I have found consistently is a writer who touches the heart as well as the head. Vince follows along very well in that pattern and hopefully we’ll see more of him in the future. I recommend you go out and go through this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist

What do I think of Andy Bannister’s book by Monarch Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I have studied apologetics more and more, sometimes reading apologetics books now gets boring. It’s a lot of the same-old, same-old. You’ve heard it all several times before and there’s nothing new so what’s the big deal. Honestly, getting Bannister’s book, I was expecting I’d get a good primer on some apologetics issues and put it down thinking that I had had a decent enough read and that’d be it. I don’t mean that in a snide way at all. Many of these books are fine for beginners after all and I read them wanting to learn how well this would help someone who was starting out in the field.

I could not have been more wrong.

As I started going through Andy’s book, from the very beginning I saw that it was different. Now the content is still a good basic start for most people. You’re not going to get into the intensely heady stuff here. You will discuss the issues, but it is just a start. What makes this book so radically different and in turn one of the best that I’ve read on this kind of topic in a long time is the presentation. Bannister is quite the comedian. His humor shines throughout the book and this is one book where I had great joy whenever I saw there was a footnote. Normally, you tend to just pass those over. Do not do that with this book! You will find some of the best humor.

That makes the content all the more memorable. Bannister deals with a lot of the soundbite arguments that we deal with in our culture such as “You are an atheist with regards to many gods. I just go one god further.” He deals with scientism and what faith is and can we be good without God and can we really know anything about the historical Jesus? If you spend time engaging with people who follow the New Atheists on the internet, then you need to get your hands on this book. With humor and accuracy, Bannister deals with the nonsense, which tells us that in light of all the work he invested in this that first off, Bannister is highly skilled as an apologist and second, that Bannister has way too much free time on his hands to be thinking so much about this stuff.

I really cannot say much more because it would I think keep you from enjoying all the surprises in this book. There were many times my wife had to ask me as I read “What’s so funny?” Some parts I even read to her. If there was one thing I would change, it was the chapter on the question of goodness. I don’t think Bannister really answered the question of what it means to be good. He said we need a God to ground it in, and I agree, but that does not tell me what good is. Even if we say the good is God’s nature, that still does not tell me what the good is, yet we all know that people know the good and the evil without knowing who God is.

Still, do yourself a favor. Get this book and then sit down and prepare for a fun and worthwhile time. You’ll laugh and you’ll enjoy yourself so much you could lose track of how much good apologetics is sinking in.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Andy Bannister’s book can be purchased here.

Book Plunge: Godless Part 1

What are my thoughts on Dan Barker’s book published by Ulysses Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.


I’m working on something right now studying the atheism of Dan Barker. He’s well known for being a minister who became an atheist and for his influential position with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. When you read a book like Godless, you won’t learn a lot about atheism really, but you’ll sure learn a lot about Dan Barker and you’ll learn a lot about how the fundamentalist mindset works.

To correct everything wrong in the book would require a whole volume in itself. The foreword by Richard Dawkins doesn’t really help make the volume better. If anything, it just feeds into the mindset because when it comes to studying religion, Dawkins is often just as fundamentalist. A point I wish to look at is how Dawkins describes Barker’s mother who having been a Christian for practically all her life in a fundamentalist background threw it out shortly after Barker told her about his atheism. Dawkins says

“In his mother’s case, it only took her a few weeks to conclude that “religion is a bunch of baloney” and a little later she was able to add, happily, “I don’t have to hate anymore.”

Many will be wondering what style of fundamentalism Barker grew up with. If so, consider someone like Pat Robertson or Bob Jones.

Now multiply that by about 100.

Even supposing that religion is a bunch of baloney, it is not a simple subject and why should one think that just a few weeks is enough to conclude? Let us suppose I said this instead.

“Yeah. I had a relative who tried to convince me of evolution. I just went out and studied it and in a few weeks, I knew it was a bunch of baloney.”

That’s the kind of conclusion not reached in a few weeks. That requires much more time, but in our generation, we too often think the answers are quick and easy.

Consider the case of an atheist who I am sure would love to be mentioned but is someone who really likes to try to make a habit of debunking the faith he once says to have defended. He had a post talking about a man who went into a Barnes and Noble browsing and picked up this atheist’s book. He looked at some arguments about the Bible and then went to look up the verses in the Bible in the store in their context. He then says that hours later he renounced his faith.

Again, maybe the arguments were valid, but you really think a few hours qualifies you to make such a huge decision?

And as for not having to hate any more, we can’t help but wonder what it is being talked about. First off, there are some things you ought to hate. You ought to hate all manner of evil for instance. You ought to hate that people are abusing children right now and that women are being sold in the sex slave market. You also ought to hate that there are people living in poverty.

So this blanket statement is hard to understand and an odd focus as well. But then, such is the way it goes in fundamentalism.

Dan Barker starts the book off largely with his personal testimony. (Some things never change do they?) As we go through it, we see a young man with a lot of passion, but not a lot of information, which is a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, it’s also a formula we have too often with our own youth. We send them out on youth retreats and such where they get a lot of entertainment and a lot of personal motivation, but they get very little in content.

Barker also talks about the moral differences between believers and nonbelievers. Somehow in his environment, he got the impression that atheists must just be wicked people somehow. I don’t know any Christian intellectual who holds to such a position. The moral argument is one constantly misunderstood as if it is being argued that an atheist cannot be moral. It’s a straw man made over and over despite it being answered time and time again. The moral argument argues that atheism has no ontological basis for morality. The moral truths are still there and they’re still followed, but they’re just not explained.

Much of Barker’s life relied on what he thought was a personal experience of God. On page 22, he says it’s interesting that God called Him so often exactly where he wanted to go. This is not a shock. I have noticed the same phenomenon. It seems interesting that the call of God seems to match so well for some preachers with where they can go and get a bigger church and a bigger paycheck.

Barker also gives us a good look at the fundamentalist mindset on page 33. “To the fundamentalist there is no gray area. Everything is black or white, true or false, right or wrong. Jesus reportedly said: “I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16, and not a very nice image.”

It’s also worth pointing out it’s a false interpretation of the passage. The city had hot water that served a purpose and cold water that served a purpose. Lukewarm water was useless. Jesus is not referring to spiritual condition here at all, as if He would prefer they be cold. Is the image pleasant? No, but it’s not supposed to be. This is yet another part of the fundamentalist mindset. “If it’s from God, it should not offend me.”

Barker’s story is one that most every feeling and inclination was seen as from God and every event that was happening was the hand of God at work. Now of course, every event is used by God for the Christian, but it is not directly caused by Him. It’s like the story of the woman who drives in a parking lot and sees a spot near the door and thinks God has blessed her. (And sometimes she drove for twenty minutes in the parking lot before she found that spot)

Barker talks about not accepting money for his services even though he had a family to take care of and about the music that he wrote. Any intellectual development however is not really talked about. This is one reason that it’s so important for churches to be preparing the people intellectually. If a pastor cannot be prepared intellectually and thus fall away, how much more the laity? How many apostates is someone like Barker making because no one took the time to train him up properly and if he was not willing to listen to others, why give a place of authority?

There was a man once who made a statement about the danger of zeal not in accordance with knowledge…

Godless has a lot in it that needs to be taken care of. This is just the start. We’ll continue our look at this book later.

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/11/2014: Graham Veale

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

First off, some people have asked about where the podcast is showing up on their ITunes feed. We had to switch carriers due to my last one deciding to drop the show after I disagreed with him on a secondary doctrine. We are now working with the Universal Pentecostal Network and had our first show with them last Saturday, but the process is still having kinks worked out of it and such. Bear with us. I want to get things back up on ITunes as soon as possible.

That having been said, let’s discuss what’s going on. The New Atheism has made itself known in the public square for the past decade and longer. The ideas of atheists have really gone public, but unfortunately, the new atheists have put forward a lot of heat but they really haven’t put forward very much light.

There have been many books addressing them. One such book is The New Atheism: A Survival Guide. We’ll be meeting with the author, Graham Veale and chatting with him this Saturday from 2-4 PM EST.

Graham Veale photo

The following is Veale’s information about himself:

Graham Veale is co-founder of, a web ministry for apologetics. A theology graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, he has been teaching religious education for 15 years in Armagh, Northern Ireland. He and his wife, Nicola, are parents of two children. With a particular interests in the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, and the design and moral arguments for God’s existence, Graham is author of the book New Atheism: A Survival Guide.

On the show, we’ll be discussing everything from science and religion to what to do about pasta. Yes. There is actually a topic discussing the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s quite amusing to realize that atheism has come to such a level where this kind of argument is put forward and it is supposedly seen as a valid one.

Definitely science will be a topic of discussion. Is it true that if you become a scientist, you must reject Christianity? Or on the other hand, if you are a Christian, should you avoid science? It’s my opinion that both of these are highly errant positions and when we present a dichotomy between the two worlds, we do a disservice to both of them. It ends up only feeding the false notion of a warfare going on between science and religion.

The new atheism has arrived of course, but what kind of impact will it have? Too many Christians have been unprepared for this, especially those of our youth who are going off to college. We cannot faithfully serve Christ to the fullest without being aware of the strength of the foundation upon which our worldview is built. That’s why I’m thankful to have books out like those of Graham Veale and I look forward to his appearing on my show this Saturday to talk about it and I hope you will be a part of it as well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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