I Survived The End Of The World….Again

What are we to say about end of the world predictions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you know about predictions being made about Rosh Hashanah this year. September 23, 2017 was supposed to be a date of huge prophetic significance. Well, that is if you listened to the “prophecy experts.” For the rest of us, we preferred to call it “Saturday.” Okay. Some of us called it Batman Day and went to our local comic book store to get a free Batman comic.

As for me, I decided this time I’d be an exception and make some predictions as well. I made these three. The amazing thing is as far as I have seen, they have held out.

Prediction #1: Nothing of eschatological significance will happen.

Prediction #2. People making these predictions will not repent when shown they were wrong but will simply recalculate.

Prediction #3. At the next event that they deem to be unusual, these people will start the whole cycle all over again.

The sad thing is this is an easy set of predictions to make because it happens so often. Has John Hagee repented for the Blood Moons hysteria that led to absolutely nothing? Nope. How many people have repented after a book that claimed XYZ was the antichrist was written and now that person is long dead and gone? Sorry. Not happening.

As I have said, being a prophecy expert would be a great job to have. You can say whatever you want and claim it’s from the Bible, be a best seller, have a great following with people hanging on your every word, be entirely wrong and demonstrably so, and yet still be regarded as an expert. All that’s left is for these people to go into politics.

If there was anything else I was noticing regularly, it was people on YouTube making videos and what would they point to? Experiences and dreams over and over. Scripture could be turned to, but only as an afterthought to confirm what was in the dream. To those who are saying that there are no coincidences with Christ, sure, but sometimes things happen that aren’t all about you. That dream you had last night? Maybe it was from God. Maybe also it was your brain sorting things out because you had too much pizza the night before.

You see, you don’t know that everything in a dream or your experience is a direct message from God. You don’t. This is what is said about Scripture. Try interpreting Scripture. (You know, that book that says about what you say is the return that no one knows the day or the hour.)

Why is it that I get on this so much? It’s not just because I’m an orthodox Preterist in my eschatology. My wife sure isn’t and she has a huge problem with these people as well. It’s because these people and this mindset give people excuses to not believe the Gospel. If they can’t trust you on what the Bible says in this case, why should they trust you on the resurrection?

Keep in mind, the Bible nowhere tells us to be predicting when Jesus will return. It doesn’t. If you are doing the Great Commission, it won’t matter anyway. If He returns tomorrow and you’ve been doing it, great! You’re ready! If He returns 1,000 years from now and you were doing it in your lifetime, great! You’re ready!

There are too many Christians out there that are so obsessed with the future return of Christ that they’re not doing anything with Him in the present. Instead, it’s becoming an embarrassment as this is the picture the world gets. Fox News even had a story about “Biblical Numerologists” saying the end of the world was coming. How much egg does the church have on its face because of these kinds of actions?

That’s one reason I want to take a hard stand against this from now on. Please Christians. Do not buy books that are claiming to be expert guides to prophecy. Do not go to ministries that claim to have the inside scoop on what’s going to happen in the future through prophecy. Do not support and encourage Christians that are trying to date the time that Jesus will return.

If God says something will happen in prophecy, it will happen. He doesn’t need your help. You have your marching orders already. That’s the Great Commission. Too many people try to find out who the antichrist is and spend less time thinking about who Jesus is. Too many out there can “prove” in minute detail every single point about what’s going to happen in the Great Tribulation, but they can’t give you a case for why you should think Jesus rose from the dead. That’s a problem.

As long as the Christian community supports such people, it will be encouraging them and helping to further embarrass. It is understandable some people have a hard time believing in Christianity for reasons like miracles and the like. We don’t need to give them another reason or have them think the Bible can’t be trusted because we are saying it is clearly teaching X when it is not and that can be too easily demonstrated.

I get that some of this crowd are waiting for Yom Kippur which is at the end of the month, but if nothing happens, then what? Will there be any repentance? If not, then you have to ask who these people are doing what they’re doing for the most? Is it really the honor of Jesus they think most of or their own?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: From Jesus To Christ

What do I think of Paula Fredriksen’s book published by Yale University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently I was debating issues of the New Testament with someone on Facebook who thought I was obviously unfamiliar with research on the New Testament, so he recommended I get this old book. I am always eager to do such and so I went straight to the library to get a copy. As I read through, I didn’t really see anything I was unfamiliar with. Fredriksen does at times bring up interesting questions that we should spend time thinking about, like why exactly was Paul persecuting the church so much and why do we not have any records of others doing such? Of course, part of that is the argument from silence, but that’s not the point of this review.

Something I find about many works that argue from a more liberal perspective is that some starting conclusions are never argued for. Those positions could be right of course hypothetically, but I would like to see an argument for them. Why should I think that Mark and the rest of the Gospels were written after 70 A.D.? In fact, I find Fredriksen’s talk of this issue to be a major problem in her interpretation.

When Fredriksen gets to a passage like the Olivet Discourse, it’s consistently interpreted as if it means the end of the world. This could be understandable as a lot of people do see it this way, but as my readers know, it’s simply wrong. Jesus is not predicting the end of the world. (What good would fleeing to the mountains do if the world was coming to an end?) Instead, Jesus is describing judgment on the Temple and that it will come within one generation.

When the talk is made of the parousia, that is the coming of Jesus, it is assumed that this means Jesus is coming to the Earth and ending it all. That’s not what he means. In Matthew, the text specifically points to Daniel. Look at the coming of the Son of Man in that book. He’s not coming to the Earth. He’s coming to the Ancient of Days. He’s taking His heavenly throne to sit at the right hand of God.

Unfortunately, Fredriksen seems to make this a centerpiece of her thinking on Jesus. She will say that it’s odd that writers would include this false prophecy and that Christians had been sure the end of the world was coming. One has to wonder why a prophecy would be included if it was knowingly false? The Gospels are thought to be after 70 A.D. because this is predictive prophecy and somehow, we know that doesn’t happen, but then the prophecy predicted was wrong. It’s something that doesn’t make sense.

For Fredriksen, this leaves the rest of the Christians confused. They thought the end was coming. This included Paul. The reference for this is 1 Thess. 4:17 with the “we who remain” passage, but there’s no reason why this we had to include Paul. If Paul is speaking about Christians, then Paul could generically say “We Christians who remain.” Paul could very well not say “Those who remain” either because he again did not know when the return of Christ would take place. (Not the parousia. The return. These are two different things.) Maybe it would take place in his lifetime. Maybe not.

Fredriksen also says the resurrection would be spiritual since flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Why should I not see this as a Jewish idiom? In this case, Paul is saying mortal and sinful humanity cannot inherit the Kingdom. That is why we must all be changed.

I also find it problematic to keep pointing to what the communities needed to hear that the Gospels were written to understand why the writers wrote what they wrote. What we have immediate access to is the writing itself. We don’t have access to the communities or even proof that there was a “Matthean community” or a “Lukan community.”

One way I find this problematic also is that she says that Matthew knew about the tradition that Jesus had to be virgin born so here comes Isaiah 7:14. So what is this tradition? Do we have any record of it? Does it exist in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Do we have any knowledge that Christians thought the Messiah would be virgin born? It’s as if it’s unthinkable to some that these things happened not because prophecy had to be fulfilled so the events were made up, but maybe because, well, they actually did happen and indeed, I do affirm that this virgin birth happened.

The benefit is even when Fredriksen doesn’t agree, it’s not like reading Ehrman. When one reads Ehrman, it’s like he has a vendetta to debunk the past Christian fundamentalism he used to embrace. (Note: He still embraces the methodology. Just not the outcome.) Fredriksen does raise good questions as pointed out and they should be discussed, but I just find the attempts to explain Jesus to be unconvincing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Neil deGrasse Tyson Embarrasses Himself Again

Is Tyson speaking out of his area again? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Neil deGrasse Tyson of Cosmos has had a history of not getting his facts right when speaking to public audiences. I found out yesterday while browsing on Facebook that he had spoken to Bill Moyers on Moyers and Company. The Friendly Atheist gave a report on the interview here. Unfortunately, when Tyson spoke, he again revealed that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about and this time it was done when talking about the second coming of Christ.

At the start, Tyson doesn’t realize apparently that there’s much debate about what is called the second coming. There are some Christians that see the discourse in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation as referring to a future scenario. Then there are some who like myself see it more referring to a past event. We look forward to the future bodily return of Christ, but Matthew 24 is really talking about the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Probably the best work you can read on Matthew 24 from that perspective now is Dee Dee Warren’s It’s Not The End Of The World. You can also listen to my interview with her on that book here.

Of course, Tyson doesn’t know about any of this. What I first was confronted with was a meme that someone made meant to show that the Bible cannot be trusted on anything, which is already itself a strange statement to make. Because the Bible was supposedly unscientific at one point, we cannot trust it on anything whatsoever? You can always count on fundamentalists to have all-or-nothing thinking, but let’s take a look at the meme itself.

starstoEarth

Once again, I would have liked to have thought that this was a misquote. I would like to have thought that he did not say this. Unfortunately, the link from The Friendly Atheist shows otherwise. Of course, Tyson in all of this is showing that faith and science are supposedly incompatible. Towards the end of the article, he makes statements that could help indicate the cause of his misconception.

So, this whole sort of reinterpretation of the, how figurative the poetic passages of the Bible are came after science showed that this is not how things unfolded. And so the educated religious people are perfectly fine with that. It’s the fundamentalists who want to say that the Bible is the literally, literal truth of God, that and want to see the Bible as a science textbook, who are knocking on the science doors of the schools, trying to put that content in the science room. Enlightened religious people are not behaving that way. So saying that science is cool, we’re good with that, and use the Bible for, to get your spiritual enlightenment and your emotional fulfillment.

Unfortunately, Tyson doesn’t realize that his hang-up on literalism is not one that was shared by the early church. The fathers, for instance, had a great love of allegory. This was also long before the rise of modern science. Saint Augustine wrote a book where he argued that all of creation happened instantly and did so in a book about the literal meaning of Genesis. In fact, you can find here a great statement from Augustine:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Keep in mind this is long before modern science.

The irony is that Tyson is doing to religion exactly what he accuses of religion doing to science. Tyson is knocking on the doors of religion trying to get to insist on a literalist interpretation of Scripture and saying that this is how it should be done. You can be a strong conservative holding to positions like inerrancy and reject the idea of the Bible as a science textbook and insist that not everything has to be interpreted “literally.” Tyson thus wants to treat the idea that taking the Bible “literally” is ridiculous when not only does he do it himself, but he shows no indication that there are other understandings of the passages under question held by even conservatives.

It could be understandable why Tyson interprets the data of Scripture the way that he does given the modern context that we live in. On the other hand, Tyson could also recognize that when it comes to claims like evolution, for a number of people, it could be said that they just look at the data of the complexity of nature and the beauty of the universe and find that’s an inadequate answer. Tyson would probably say they need to study the evidence of evolution before dismissing it so quickly, and he would be right. I say the same thing back. Before Tyson speaks on interpretation, he needs to actually study it and how the text has been interpreted throughout the centuries and what some interpretations are of such passages.

Of course, he also ends with saying that many of us can go and still get our emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Tyson is unaware that many of us go that route for intellectual fulfillment. We believe in Christianity because it actually answers the questions of the mind. Whether or not it gives spiritual or emotional fulfillment is irrelevant, and frankly, many of us will often say that it does not. The Christian life is not always rainbows and roses. I like how C.S. Lewis said years ago that he didn’t go to Christianity to be happy because he knew a bottle of port would do that just fine. If we were searching for emotional and spiritual fulfillment, many of us would go elsewhere.

Now of course, I recognize Tyson is a scientist, but the problem is scientists like him are speaking about how much religious people who do not understand science are trying to speak on the topic without knowledge. I agree. I have a problem with that going on. I would join Tyson in that. The problem I have is that has to be a two-way street. Tyson does not get to speak on religion just because he is a scientist. If Tyson wants to make his audience more friendly to what he has to say, then he needs to learn to not speak on areas where people who do know what they’re talking about will only roll their eyes.

Will he and others like him ever learn?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: From There He Will Come

What does it mean to say that Jesus will come? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I hold to an eschatology that is preterist. That means that I believe a lot of fulfillment of prophecy is in the past. In fact, if you’re a Christian, so do you. You believe the Messianic prophecies have been for the most part fulfilled in Christ. I also hold that much of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse is also past.

So when it comes to the coming of Christ as it is stated in the Olivet Discourse, I don’t think this means coming to Earth, but rather coming to the throne of God and sitting at the right hand. Yet when it talks about coming from the throne, then I believe we are talking about a coming to Earth.

There is a viewpoint out there that is known often as full preterism or hyper-preterism. I prefer to call it Neohymenaeanism. Some people have asked me why I don’t call myself a partial preterist. The reason is because I believe the teaching of Neohymenaeanism is actually a heresy and if that’s what you call full preterism, I will not be considered a partial heretic.

I think the ultimate problem with the Neohymenaean position is not what it says about eschatology so much as what it says about Christ. Much of your study of the end times will revolve around the question of who you think Jesus is. We are told that our resurrection body will be like that of Jesus. If the resurrection is something spiritual, then that would mean that Jesus’s resurrection is just a spiritual resurrection as well. We’re into the territory of the Jehovah’s Witnesses with this one.

We can be told that Jesus is the exception, but that is not what I see in Scripture. I see instead that we shall be like Him and we shall be like Him when He comes. Since I hold to the bodily resurrection of Jesus, I hold also to the bodily transformation of those who are His when He returns.

Some of you might think that my holding an event to happen in the future makes me a partial-futurist. It does not. It makes me a Christian. The return of Christ has been a part of the Christian creeds, such as the one that we see here in the Apostles’ Creed. It is part of orthodoxy to believe in the return of Christ to put an ultimate end to the problem of evil.

Let’s also all be wary of one really foolish tendency that seems to exist among Christians. Do not attempt to date when the return of Christ will happen and if you believe in the rapture, don’t attempt to date that either. If you do so, you run the risk of embarrassing not just yourself, but the Christian faith.

Too many Christians have tried to find loopholes in what Jesus said. “Oh we won’t know the day or hour, but we can know the year!” This is just trying to do what Christ would not want us to do and this kind of energy could be better spent in other ways, such as fulfilling the Great Commission.

To which, if you ask me, that is how we speed the return of Christ. I find this based on the end of 2 Peter 3 that we live godly lives so we may speed His coming. Besides that, even if I’m wrong, we have our marching orders to do the Great Commission anyway so there’s no reason not to. Sounds like a good deal. We do what we’re supposed to do and if I’m right, well then we have the ultimate end of evil all the sooner.

Go out and be looking for the return of Christ, but don’t just look. Work also. You have your marching orders regardless of your eschatology. Do them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: When God Goes To Starbucks

What do I think of Paul Copan’s book on everyday apologetics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

starbucks

 

A friend of mine told me about getting this book as a Christmas gift and asked if I’d like to read it and see what I think. Now I do know Paul Copan and see him as a friend and I’ve liked all of his other books that I read and so I jumped at the chance. As expected, I was not disappointed.

Copan’s great strength is in so many of his books that he writes that are conversational and deal with issues that will pop up at a location such as Starbucks. In this volume, you’ll find issues such as the question of egoism, lying to the Nazis, the redefining of marriage, the Canaanite conquest in comparison to Islamic Jihad, if Jesus was wrong about His second coming, and the problem of so many denominations.

Copan lays out the case each time and then concludes with a summary of the issues. When that’s done, he’ll point to other works that are worth reading, many of them the works of scholars in the field which is something that I greatly appreciate. Copan’s writings are meant to be a starting point for further study with enough to show you where to go next.

I was pleased also to see him talking about the importance in the book of the honor and shame dynamic in the Middle Eastern culture and how we misread the Bible because of this. This is the kind of idea I wish would catch on like wildfire among evangelicals, but alas, as evangelicals too often are ignoring scholarship and sticking to a Western worldview, we are disappointed. It is one of the reasons that we have so much fundamentalism in the world today, including the way atheists respond to the Bible in assuming a Western context.

Also refreshing was to realize that Copan takes a Preterist viewpoint in answer to the question of the second coming of Christ. This is also a view I hope to see grow in the evangelical movement. Copan’s chapters on the question of the return of Jesus will no doubt cause great shock and concern among many Christians, as such an idea did for me when I was first looking into the problems of a dispensational viewpoint, but in coming to a Preterist view, I found a view that I hold has a more comprehensive explanation of Scriptural passages and speaks in the language of Scripture far more.

The only chapter I really thought could have used some more was the last one on the denominations in the church. There was no mention of the claim that there are x thousand denominations in the world today, with a number that seems to keep rising. Most people don’t realize this is an entirely bogus statistic and I would have liked to have seen more on that front.

Still, in a book like this, that that is my main concern should speak plenty about how excellent the rest of the volume is. This is a book I would gladly put in the hands of the layman today who is dealing with some of the issues that are being talked about. I consider Copan to be an excellent apologist and worker in the field and hope to see more books like this increasingly from him.

In Christ,

Nick Peters