A Way Forward

How do we keep going on? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

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Now on to a blog.

On Wednesday, like many of you, I was watching the news when I could. I was busy and at times I would get updates on my phone telling me some of what was going on. Overall, I largely kept thinking back to April of 2016.

Mike Licona and I were picking up Craig Evans at the airport for a debate he had with Richard Carrier, the unemployed polyamorous prominent internet blogger who’s banned from SkeptiCon, if you’re wondering who I mean by that name. After we took him to his hotel, we had some time before the debate and so we went to Subway.

While there, Mike asked me my opinion of the political climate of our country. What does it take to change things? My answer was the one I have always given. The church has to be the church. You see, the gospel doesn’t need America to survive, but America needs the gospel to survive.

I remain thoroughly convinced of this. Part of what helped out our founding in this country is Christianity. I have been doing some reading on our history and it’s really fascinating how many preachers had bounties placed on their heads by the bishop.

Think about that. A preacher in a church doing a sermon is the most prominent target in the place and has nowhere else to really go, and yet these preachers got up there and preached. What would they think today knowing our country kills babies in the womb, is treating the idea that men and women are different as a joke, has said that the old definition of marriage is not accurate, has prolific pornography, etc.

Most of our preachers today don’t even touch those topics. Can’t risk someone touching the 501c3 or possibly offending someone and getting a lawsuit. Sure, it’s destroying our society and future generations, but at least we’ll have a nice potluck supper this year.

No. The church has to get up and be the church. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House or who controls Congress or who is on the Supreme Court. If we think the right candidates can heal our country, then we are treating a spiritual problem with a political band-aid. This isn’t to say who we vote for doesn’t matter, but it’s not the cure.

There’s a story that Billy Graham went to visit Konrad Adenauer who was the chancellor of West Germany shortly after World War II. Adenauer asked Billy Graham if he believed in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Graham was surprised and said that of course he did. (Rumors also have it that he added that he affirmed the virgin birth, which I do affirm.) Adenauer looked out the window at the ruins of Germany and said that apart from the resurrection, He knows of no other hope for mankind.

And that is the hope we need. It is to return to the fact that Jesus by His death and resurrection conquers evil. It is to say that the Kingdoms of this world are not the final say. In Psalm 2, the one enthroned in Heaven laughs at their attempts to undo the reign of His Son. This is not to say we establish a theocracy. I have no wish to see Christianity marry the government like that because men are by nature corrupt.

It is to return to the ethic of Jesus as well and that includes especially the area of sexuality in our culture. Many have said the abstinence movement has failed and in many cases, I agree, but too often we have only given the message of “don’t” and then said everything will be perfect once you marry. I realize most of us don’t really think that, but that is the message that has been heard. We do not have a worldview of sex in our culture today and the rampant chaos on the topic doesn’t show that everyone knows what they’re talking about. It shows the opposite. Hardly anyone does.

It also means love of our neighbor and of ourselves. It means practicing forgiveness. It means keeping our word. It means charity. Instead of waiting around for the government to provide food and medical care, strive to help others yourself. Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, which includes the unborn especially.

It has been said that all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. If you’re a Christian, whatever political side you are on, you realize that our country has problems and we don’t want a future of constant rioting. I had the same thoughts back in the summer and I think I shared them then, but I have decided that one can either live in doom or gloom, which does nothing, or one can take their own stand.

I choose the latter. I hope you will take it with me.

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

I Never Knew You

How should we respond to this fearful announcement? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Towards the end of Matthew 7, Jesus tells the crowd that many on that day will point to many signs and wonders that were done in the name of Jesus and He will say to them, “I never knew you.” The only ones who go in will be the ones who do the will of the Father.

First off, before we get to the scary part, let’s consider something about this. How is it that Jesus gets up and speaks to a crowd as if He is the final judge that will tell people what their destiny is in the end? How is it that He speaks of people coming to Him and calling Him Lord? How is it that He speaks of people casting out demons in His name and doing miracles in His name and prophesy in His name?

Either Jesus is severely deluded in this passage, severely wicked, or He is rightfully in the place of God. It’s easy to point to explicit passages on the deity of Christ. I think a lot of these more subtle passages can be far more powerful.

So now let’s get to the concern. A lot of Christians get absolutely terrified. What if I am one of those on that day? What if Jesus tells me I never knew you?

So let’s ask a question.

Why does that scare you?

If your fear is never getting to be in Heaven because you won’t see your loved ones and you will be in Hell forever, then you have a wrong perspective. It doesn’t mean you won’t get in, but I have a fear that many of us want to see Heaven for so many reasons and throw in as an afterthought that God is there, or else we just want to avoid Hell.

If you say though because you want to be with Jesus, then I really don’t think you have to worry. In reality, most Christians I meet concerned about not being saved I have no doubt really are saved. The fact that they ask the question shows that they have a deep concern for Christian matters.

That being said, we should always examine ourselves to see if our behavior is being what it ought to be. Are we truly living a Christian life? Do we need to repent of anything? Are we loving one another as Christ loved us?

Note also that Jesus’s requirements are not seen in what we consider grand achievements. It’s seen in doing the will of the Father in Heaven. What is that will? Love your God and love your neighbor as yourself.

When people ask me what God’s will is for their lives, I always tell them the same thing, because it’s the same for everyone. “Conform you to the likeness of Christ.” “Yeah, but what about who I marry or where I work or what I study in school?” “Do what you will provided your goal is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.”

Instead of worrying so much about if you are saved or not, which accomplishes nothing, live as Christ would have you live, which you should be doing anyway. When you fall down, repent and seek forgiveness and move on. There is a proper fear to have of God, but remember He prefers to show grace rather than judgment.

And if you think you have grace, show it. Even if you don’t think you have it and fear you don’t, show it anyway.

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

Book Plunge: Out of Zion

What do I think of Lisa Brockman’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Mormonism is really a fascinating belief to study as it has become its own culture. When it comes to dialogue, I really prefer Jehovah’s Witnesses because you get so much into the Scriptures more. Mormons tend to go with the burning in the bosom regularly. However, when it comes to what they believe and their history, Mormonism is much more interesting to study.

When I saw Lisa Brockman’s book then, I was interested in going through it. The book actually starts in the middle of the story with her with a non-Mormon guy named Gary she really liked who at one point just asked a simple question. How do you know Mormonism is true? It froze her. She had the burning in the bosom that she talked about, but what if that wasn’t enough? She proceeded to do a Bible study with Gary and in a little less than a year abandoned Mormonism for Christianity.

But that’s not where her story starts. Her story starts with her being a little girl in a Mormon family devoted to Mormonism and wanting to please Heavenly Father. At one point seemingly out of nowhere though, she really wants to fit into the crowd and thus starts drinking and making out with guys. Until that point though, you really see how controlling the Mormon lifestyle is on kids. Everything they do is not really to please their Father so much as to earn His approval. This especially is meant to culminate here in a temple marriage. That’s the only way you can enter the highest heaven and eventually be a god or goddess over your own planet.

The biggest insight out of this book really is family life. When reading it, I got shades of what Nabeel Qureshi’s book was like. In his book, when he left Islam for Christianity, he was happy to be a Christian, but a part of him wished that he could have converted and died immediately so that he would never have to shame his parents. Many of us today don’t understand this generational shame, but it’s a strong reality in families from the East and apparently fits into Mormon culture.

Brockman describes about how she told her parents about what happened. Some stories I would have liked to have more on. One was a story about what happened after where she met with her Dad and a leader of the Mormon Church and a friend who was an ex-Mormon who came to support her and when prayer was suggested the friend say, “We would prefer to pray ourselves since you pray to Satan.” I would have loved to have known how that turned out!

The last major chapter of the book describes her living in Orlando and someone moves in from Utah named Tiffani who is a struggling Mormon and about their relationship together as Tiffani comes to Jesus. It is a heartwarming story. Once again, the family dynamics of Mormonism come into play.

This book is more autobiographical than meant to be an apologetic. While there is some of that in place, you won’t come here finding the killer argument to refute Mormonism, and that’s okay. Brockman I think wants to introduce you more to the culture to extend your heart to these people. You really understand more about why it is so hard for Mormons to leave.

For that purpose, this is a great book. I sometimes did think some stories were a bit disjointed. For instance, she talks about an interest in a boy named Finn, but later on we don’t hear anything about that or what came of it. I would have liked to have parts like that explained more. I also wondered at the end where her parents are today.

Still, if you want to understand Mormonism from the inside-out and from the perspective of someone much more a layperson in the faith, this is a good one to read. I give it my full recommendation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Olivet Discourse Matthew 24:13

Is the Discourse talking about salvation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the favorite topics evangelicals like to discuss is salvation. It’s a great topic, but just because the Bible uses the word saved, it doesn’t mean it’s talking about salvation. For a case in point, let’s look at today’s verse.

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

One of my favorite examples of this is in Acts 27. When the ship Paul is on is in the sea in the middle of a storm, some sailors decide that they will flee in a lifeboat. Paul has already told them that everyone will be spared, but they’re not believing it. So what does Paul say?

“Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

Wow. So Paul was saying salvation was out of reach? Now to be fair, being dead could make it hard to get saved, but Paul is talking about something else. He is talking about surviving the storm at sea.

So when Jesus is talking about this, He is talking about avoiding death. He is not saying that enduring earns one salvation, although one who has salvation ultimately will endure. Now were there plenty of reasons for someone to not endure?

Yes. Apostasy will be a reality for the early church at this point. The book of Hebrews is the prime example of this. This was not persecution to the point of shedding blood as the writer of the piece himself says, but it is persecution that is leading people to be tempted to return to Judaism.

Christianity was a shameful movement at the start and if you are staying in it for salvation, well, Judaism already has that. Why not return to Judaism and avoid the social ostracism that takes place with Christianity? It was a tempting offer and that’s why the author makes repeated warnings to people to not abandon Christ. This letter quite likely has more such warnings than any other letter.

Jesus is describing people in Jerusalem going through a similar time, except it will be far worse, which we will get to later. This will be an event to endure indeed. There are some who place this in a “great tribulation” in the future which could very well return us to a salvation by works. As we go on through the discourse, I hope you will see that such an interpretation is unnecessary. Everything can easily fit into the first century.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do Protestants Have A Problem With Works?

Is works salvation really a major issue today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday at a Bible Study at the Orthodox Church my wife attends, we were going through Revelation 14 and I heard the priest get to the verse about those who die in the Lord for they will rest and their works will follow them. He remarked that Protestants have a problem with this verse. For me, I was sitting right there as the Protestant in the room and thinking, “I don’t have a problem with it.” I don’t know how we could get statistics on how many Protestants might have a problem with it, but I figured it could be something interesting to write on.

I think those of us who are Protestants have rightly emphasized salvation by grace through faith. It cannot be earned. It is a gift. It is not wages that are given out because we are good boys and girls.

So when I see this verse in Revelation, I think it means the work that the person has done immediately is done. They themselves will work no more, but the effects of what they have done will live on. Why would that be a problem?

If we go back to the Reformation, I am convinced the Protestants had the better arguments, but their exegesis was still not the best overall. Now I think there’s more evidence that what is being discussed in Galatians is not if salvation is by works or if it is by grace. It is instead being discussed what is the identity marker of if one is a Christian? Is it keeping the Law, i.e. circumcision, or is it faith in Christ?

If we’re Protestants, we shouldn’t balk when we hear works being talked about. Works are great and wonderful things. Picture a man who goes to an altar one day next to a woman he loves and says, “I do.” Then he goes back home to his parents and stays there. He never interacts with his wife or has sex with her or provides for her or anything, but he insists that he is married. We would all seriously question that one.

If you are a Christian, then along the way you ought to show the signs that you are a Christian. If you are not producing any fruit at all, we have reason to doubt your Christianity. This shouldn’t be a problem. It’s abundant in Scripture. Christ says He who abides in Him will produce much fruit. Ephesians 2:8-9 is followed by a verse saying that we are saved by grace through faith and the very next verse talks about the works that we do. While James 2 is often misunderstood, it is certainly right in the emphasis on how important works are and I would argue that James is talking about justification before men and not before God.

While I do think the comment yesterday might have been exaggerated, we who are Protestants do not need to shy away from doing good works and we need sermons on the importance of doing good works. Again, none of this is so that we can be Christians. We do good works because we are Christians and we have a job to do. We are to do the Great Commission.

It still is a tragedy to me today that there are three branches of Christianity today and I do look forward to the unity of all three one day. Still, we should all agree on the importance of doing good works. If a tree doesn’t produce any fruit, we can rightly speculate that the tree is dead. If we do not produce any fruit in our Christian walk, people can rightly speculate that our faith is dead.

Again, I don’t know how many Protestants really do have a problem with the passage, but we shouldn’t. We should be greatly emphasizing the importance of doing good works. Those start with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Gospel Allegiance

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What is the gospel? Many pastors today write books on the topic and talk about how central it is and how important it is to be proclaiming the good news. Sadly, many of them don’t have the good news right, and these are not the liberals. These are conservative God-honoring pastors who truly want to build up the church. The gospel becomes all about what happens individually in a person’s life. Justification by faith is said to be the gospel or in some cases I’ve seen such as saying Calvinism is the gospel.

My wife and I once attended a church where the pastor at the end of every sermon gave a call to accept Jesus as savior. Unfortunately, it seemed like the whole goal every time was to get someone to go to heaven. It’s as if it’s decided that the whole point of Jesus coming and dying and rising again is all about the next life and not here.

Matthew Bates says this must change. Now while it sounds like he’s wanting to change the gospel, what he’s wanting to change is our perception. He wants the gospel to go beyond forgiveness of sins. He’s not opposed to that as it’s certainly included in the message and he’s not opposed to justification by faith, but what is the gospel?

The gospel is about Jesus coming and living and dying and rising again and thus, being the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and everyone else for that matter. We treat Messiah like it’s a name. I have even had atheists ask me why a Jewish guy would have a Greek last name, as if Jesus was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. The religion of Islam stresses that Jesus is the Christ, but it gives no content to this whatsoever.

When we say Jesus is the Messiah, we mean He is the king and He came to institute the Kingdom of God on Earth. Our response to this is not intellectual assent which is normally meant by faith. Instead, what is required is a life of allegiance. This does not mean that we earn our salvation, but that our lives model what we say we believe.

The kingship of Jesus means that we are not just agreeing with a proposition, but living lives of loyalty to the king. When we get the gospel wrong, we make the gospel be all about what happens to us. The gospel is all about what Jesus did and who He is. You could give a gospel presentation today to people that would not require Jesus being the Messiah or being the king. We are doing something wrong at that point.

Bates’s message then is that this a more biblical way of viewing salvation. Salvation is something that God does in us, but we willingly submit to him with a life of faith lived outward in allegiance to him. Bates does take on some of our modern pastors who emphasize too much justification by faith. He doesn’t disagree with them, but he does say that we need to move beyond that. He does have some problems with Catholicism, though he does not say Catholics are not Christians and is concerned when any Christian is restricted from partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

This is stuff I have already believed, but once you see it spelled out, it’s hard to not see it in other places. When I hear someone give a gospel presentation or read it now, it seems so lacking. While this is something I have even done a sermon on, it is something that needs to be stressed. We have made Christianity be about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is reducing Jesus down to the buddy Jesus idea, and not about Jesus being king. When I introduce myself at a Celebrate Recovery meeting, I do not describe myself as a faithful believer in Jesus, but rather as a faithful servant of king Jesus.

I hope more pastors and more Christians read Bates’s book. Bates is doing the church a great service. He is taking the material of scholars and giving it to the public on these issues in a way that is easy to understand. This book is highly readable for the layman and I recommend it greatly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/20/2017: Matthew Bates

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

What must I do to be saved? This was the question of the Philippian jailer and yet today, it’s still a debated question. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Okay. What does that mean? What all does it entail? Can you just walk down the aisle and say a prayer one time and boom, you’re good? On the other hand, we don’t want anything legalistic to say you must always be doing XYZ. What of Christians who have a habitual struggle with sin?

A recent book on this topic is by my guest on this week’s episode. The book is called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It is a look at what it means to believe and how that relates to salvation and what all salvation entails. Is it just about making sure my sins are forgiven or is it something more? The book’s author is my guest coming back for the second time to the show and his name is Matthew Bates. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

We’ll be discussing what it means to be saved and what it means to show allegiance. Are there some flaws in our popular evangelism message? Could it be we need something more than tracts and such? Are we lulling people into a false sense of salvation based on saying a prayer one time?

Why also is there so much talk about going to Heaven when we die? To hear many sermons, you would think the whole purpose of salvation was to make sure that people get to go to Heaven when they die. Is it? What purpose does this world serve in understanding salvation?

And what about our nature? What does it mean when we are said to be in the image of God? How does creation affect our final reality? Is this world a lost cause? Are we meant to live in new and glorified bodies forever? When we are in eternity, what kind of activities are we going to be doing? Could it actually be that there is work to do in “Heaven”?

Bates’s book is a fascinating look at an important topic and one I urge you to read. We’ll be discussing what we need to do for salvation and what difference it makes. I hope to also discuss matters related to those who have regular doubts about their salvation. How can we have allegiance and assurance at the same time? Be listening then for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the show!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Mind of the Spirit

What do I think of Craig Keener’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You can find many books on the thought of Paul, but how many books can you find on the thinking of Paul? We can say that we know what it is that he thought, but what about what he said about how to think? That is a topic that has been neglected largely, but thanks to the work of Craig Keener, we now have a dense scholarly work on the subject.

Keener looks at passages mainly in the undisputed Pauline epistles, though there is a brief look at Colossians 3:1-2. In these passages, Keener examines the way the ancients saw thinking and how Paul would fit in with them. The goal is to walk away with a renewed interest in proper thinking and especially in this case, proper Christian thinking.

There are also numerous excursuses throughout the book so you can see what is thought about a certain topic in the ancient world. There’s also a look at what the ancients thought about the soul. In addition, you will find a section stating advice for counselors and others on how to use the material.

Keener doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He is incredibly thorough seeking to cover every minutiae of a subject that he writes about. You will find a long section on Romans 7 for instance and whether it describes Paul’s own thoughts about a struggle against sin or something else.

The advice given to counselors is also good. Keener wants this book to be able to help people with psychological problems. It could be used also to help all of us as we all need to have some renewed thinking. None of us thinks entirely the way we should.

Keener also points out that it’s too easy for people on one side to lower people on the other. In some circles in Christian thinking, it is thought that not having an education is in fact a virtue. That means you’re more prone to just believe what the Bible says without man’s ideas getting in the way. On the other end, it’s easy for those on the more intellectual side to look at the behavior of more emotional people and reduce it to emotionalism. The more emotional thinking can be in danger of a religion based on impulses without content. The more logical thinker can be in danger of a religion with content, but no passion.

The truth is, we need both. That’s one reason I’m happy to be married to a woman who is more emotional than I am. We can better balance each other out that way and frankly, sometimes, her way of looking at something is much simpler and can see a small detail I’ve overlooked.

In recommending changes I would have liked to have seen, Keener does end with a section on advice to counselors and pastors and such, but I think it would have been good to end each section with a little statement on application. Many times, I was getting a lot of content, but no application. Something on each section I think could have further helped the process along.

While the excursuses were also interesting, they could be seen as distracting too. Does it matter to a counselor to know about dying and rising gods? For me as an apologist, it definitely matters, but I wonder if that could have made a counselor more hesitant.

Still, I did enjoy the reading and I think Keener would definitely agree with me on one aspect of all the work he’s done. Easier said than done. We can know a lot more about how to think better, but the school of hard knocks can make it hard to pass the exam. Hopefully we’ll all learn to improve more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Johannine Theology

What do I think of Paul Rainbow’s book on the theology of John? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

JohannineTheology

Johannine Theology is over 400 pages of looking at a highly complex topic. John is the Gospel that is often the most problematic for people due to its being so different from the others. Even N.T. Wright has said it is like his wife Maggie. In speaking of her he says “I love her, but I do not claim to understand her.”

Rainbow begins with a brief history on Johannine studies and with a defense of authorship and the date of the writing and such and from there, it’s off to see what the book has to say. The opening should be sufficient for those who are interested in the basic apologetic aspect to understand the usage of John in studies of the historical Jesus.

Rainbow argues that while John’s Gospel certainly tells us about the life of Jesus, the main character being it all is really God. The Gospel should be read not just as a Christological statement but as a Theological one. This is fitting since we are told that it is the Son who is explaining the Father. We know God by knowing the Son. He who has seen the Son has seen the Father. We cannot know God as He truly is apart from knowing the Son and the Son came to reveal the Father.

I found this to be a highly important insight. Rainbow is not at all downplaying the importance of Christology. He has plenty to say about that in a later chapter and of course, he comes down on the side of orthodox theology, but he does want to stress that we cannot leave God the Father out of the equation in John.

I will say when he got to Christology, I was disappointed on one aspect. Much of the Christology came from the Gospel. I find an excellent place to go to really to get Christology in the Johannine corpus is to go to the book of Revelation. I did not see this interacted with in the work. Revelation begins after all describing itself as the Revelation of Jesus Christ and it does say that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Rainbow also covers other themes related to theology. He covers the question of salvation and that of apostasy. He covers issues related to free will and predestination and points out that John has no desire to really address our questions there. It could be argued that John in fact argues for both sides of the equation. He also argues for how John says the church is to be to the world.

Surprisingly, there is little on eschatology and this was one area I did have a difficult time with as I happen to highly enjoy discussions of eschatology. Rainbow does take a futurist stance in his writings and that is not something that is argued for. I find it interesting for instance that Revelation is said to tell us about the antichrist and yet Revelation never once uses the term.

Still, Johannine Theology is a difficult topic to handle and I think Rainbow for the most part does an excellent job. I would have liked to have seen more on eschatology, but then that could be its own book entirely. Still, if you want to understand the writings of John in relation to theology, then you should get yourself a copy of this volume.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Core Facts

What do I think of Braxton Hunter’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Braxton Hunter is a professor of Christian apologetics who holds a PH.D. in the same field. He’s recently written a book called “Core Facts” written to not just give a good start to apologetics, but it also is a kind of teaching guide to help others learn how to do apologetics.

The presentation that Hunter presents surrounds his “core facts.” The list is as follows:

C – Cause of the universe
O – Order of the universe
R – Rules of morality
E – Experience of God

F – Fatality of Jesus’s death on the cross
A – Appearances of Jesus to the disciples.
C – Commitment level of the disciples
T – Testimony of the disciples
S – Salvation taught through the Gospel.

Now granted there are some here that I would not use. At the start with the cause and order of the universe, the scientific arguments are cited, but this is something that gets me wondering at times. Is it because I am opposed to science? Not at all! Is it because I am opposed to scientific apologetics? Again, not at all! It is because I have this fear that too often we make the case scientific and I want to make sure that those of us who do have taken the time to learn the sciences not just for apologetics purposes but general purposes. This is the reason why I do not use scientific apologetics. I am not a scientist (And I don’t play one on TV) and I do not want to speak in a field that is not my area.

I also am cautious about the idea of the experience of God. The problem is that experience is not an on-demand kind of thing and to this day, when Bill Craig gives his fifth way in a debate of knowing that God exists, I still cringe.

For the last group, I think in this day and age I would replace fatal with something like “Fact of Jesus’s existence.” There are more people who are Christ-mythers today than there are people who hold to the swoon theory.

For C, I would have probably gone with the idea of conversion, such as that of James and Paul. Why is it that those who were skeptical of the faith were the ones who later on joined it? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose. After all, C and T sounded awfully similar to me at times.

And as for S, an excellent ending would have been shamefulness of Christianity. It is too often overlooked that in the honor-shame context of the ancient Mediterranean world, Christianity was a shameful belief and that that belief not only survived in the face of persecution and shaming but also came to dominate is something that needs to be explained.

Still, the areas that Hunter does present, he does very well on. I was also pleased to hear him say that evolution is not a battle that we have to fight. Very few apologists make such a statement, but I agree entirely with Hunter. I would not argue it unless one was skilled in the sciences and making a purely scientific argument for or against. I only wish he’d gone further on this point and said that we can also go with an eternal universe or a multiverse and Christianity is still safe.

A bonus also is that Hunter does have tips at the end of each section for how to transition the material to a teaching presentation. This makes this kind of book ideal for a leader to use when teaching a class. There are several sidebars as well that provide more detailed information and Hunter has indeed read both sides of the issue.

If there’s one section though that contains poor argumentation, it’s the last one where Hunter has a debate that he did with the owner of an atheist forum who simply goes by the name “Will.” To be sure, the poor argumentation is not on the side of Hunter. It is on the side of Will. As I read this section I found myself repeatedly face-palming. It is embarrassing to see the arguments so many atheists use. Will uses everything from an insistence on YEC and Inerrancy, to a lack of understanding of biblical texts (Judges 21 has God commanding rape? Please find the command from God in there! It’s in fact showing what it was like when Israel was NOT following God.), to a Boghossian understanding of what faith is, and then going so far as to be a Christ-myther. (It should sadly be for the atheist community that they would want to get the Christ-mythers to be quiet. Instead, they champion them. Reality is there are more Ph.D. scientists who hold to a young-earth than there are Ph.D.’s in ancient and NT history that hold to the Christ myth theory. I also for clarification am not a YEC.)

Hunter answer very well, but the fact that Will is a preacher’s kid shows how bad a job is being done in educating the youth of our church. That anyone would think that these are serious arguments being put forward is a travesty. Now of course there are serious arguments atheism can put forward, but many used today are ones that should not be given the time of day. (And of course sadly, the same applies to many Christian arguments.)

In conclusion, while I don’t agree with everything Hunter says, naturally, I could recommend his book as a good resource to a starting apologetics class at a local church. It will become one that can easily be taught and easily discussed and the debate at the end should show how well the Core Facts can stand up to scrutiny. It is a work I could use myself. Braxton Hunter’s “Core Facts” has my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters