Book Plunge: Pagans and Christians in the City

What do I think of Steven Smith’s book published by Eerdman’s? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know what happened in history. The world was largely pagan and then Christianity showed up and within a few centuries, Christianity became the religion of the West and paganism was defeated. Today, there are people who follow Asatru and other similar belief systems and say they worship pagan deities, but pretty much, Thor has been reduced to a comic book character and superhero in the movies. Paganism is pretty much dead.

But what if it isn’t?

What if it never died?

No. I’m not saying anything about Christians copying the pagans in this like the pagan copycat thesis. Instead, we’re talking about worldviews, not in the sense that it’s a belief about gods, but rather a belief about where the sacred lies. Paganism largely placed the sacred in the world, especially in the area of sexuality.

Christians said there was sacredness in the world, but the source of that sacredness was outside of the world and lies in God Himself. Christians are to agree that there are good things in this world, but the things are not the end in themselves. The greatest joy is to be found in God alone.

Modern people might be puzzled at the way Rome reacted in the past to Christianity. Why were Christians persecuted? What about live and let live? What about freedom of religion? Couldn’t the Romans just accept that the Christians only worshipped their God?

And what about the Christians? Couldn’t they just go along and kind of pay lip service to the idea of the Roman deities? Unfortunately, for both sides, that would have been disloyal. The Christians were not to give any indication that these deities were real. The Romans saw the Christians as dishonoring the gods and thus a threat to the well-being of the state.

Today, we live in a world where it seems to be Christianity vs secularism and so it would strike people odd to hear talk about paganism, but what if secularists were actually modern-day pagans? Not in the sense that they worship other gods, but they place the sacred, or we could say the ultimate, in this world. In a sense, they must. If this world is all there is, then whatever is worth living for must be in this world.

An important part of all of this is the role that symbols play. While this was written before much of the Trump era, many of us were stunned to see the tearing down of statues and other such events. Why were these turned down? The same reason. Symbolism.

For those who wanted them torn down, these statues were symbols in some way of racism and the symbol could not be allowed to continue. It’s possible to debate if a statue really was a symbol, but it seems undeniable that the people wanting them removed saw in them vestiges of racism. Much of our political discourse is really about symbolism.

What about sexuality, which is where much of our fighting takes place? Consider the fact that a restaurant or baker or florist or photographer can say they don’t want to use their services to celebrate a ceremony that they do not encourage, such as two homosexuals wanting to declare themselves married. Most of us would think the thing to do then is to go down the street to the next business and hear them say “Sure. We’ll cover that for you!”

However, what happens is the original businesses are instead sued. Now why is this? Why would you want the services of someone who you know is opposed to your view like this and doesn’t celebrate what you celebrate? The answer is not that they want those services from them, but because these people are symbols of something they don’t like, disagreement with their position.

In our world, the culture wars are largely about sexuality. What I find ironic is that the Christians are the ones treating sex as sacred and the pagans are the ones that are not saying that, though they are treating it as an ultimate. If we admit that sex is for anything or about anything, then we have to set up some standards for sexuality and what is right and wrong, although some do still hold, as most people today definitely condemn rape.

The idea on the left has largely been privatization. You can have your religion and you can practice it, but it must be private. In public, you must go along with us. This is exactly the response of Rome in the beginning of the Christian era. We are still fighting the same battle.

There is so much more in Smith’s book that cannot be broken down easily, but it is an eye-opening one that is worthy of your time and attention. I recommend you go out and get it as soon as you can and read it. It has certainly shifted the way that I look at the culture wars.

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

On Josh Duggar

What are we to make of this wickedness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Josh Duggar is connected with a celebrity Christian family. Unfortunately, that puts him in a spotlight to be what a Christian is meant to be and sadly, he is definitely not. We could grant some understanding with having a problem with pornography. I am not justifying that, but many men struggle with porn today and if they are repentant and seeking to change, we should be working with them and showing them grace. Sadly, Josh Duggar was doing more. He was also accused of molesting his sisters and now, child porn has been found on his computer.

Now when I first heard about child pornography, I thought it was likely teenage girls or something of that sort. No. We mean actual children. Children who are toddlers and some younger. Children who are nowhere near puberty. What do you say about a man who is sexually aroused by that?

Not only that, he had Covenant Eyes on his computer and yet found a way to bypass it. He was also involved on using the dark web to get his fix. This is a man who knew what he wanted and was willing to do anything underhanded to get it. Please think about that. This man sought out means to get his fix of children.

His wife I understand is still standing by him. I understand that divorce is often viewed as a great evil in the church, but there are some evils that are worse. This man is unsafe to be around, especially with children in the house that are the age of the children that he was viewing on the internet. She definitely needs to be open to this possibility. Fortunately, she is at least scared to be alone with him.

Rachael Denhollander issued a powerful Twitter series of posts on the topic. You can read them here. Let’s also spend some time then talking about what a girl is worth, which is the title of her book, and the way wives are sometimes portrayed in Christian marriage.

Women are sometimes blamed for the fall of men. Even if we go to the very first case, Adam and Eve, Eve did indeed give Adam the fruit, but it was Adam who willfully partook of it. Eve didn’t hold him down and shove it down his throat.

Suppose I am somewhere where a woman does everything she can to seduce me. Suppose it’s really a place that would normally be considered safe and I have been following good protocol to stay safe. This woman could do everything she can to seduce me, even stripping naked in front of me. She is responsible for that behavior definitely, but who is responsible for how I respond?

Me and only me.

Some women get the idea that if they dress a certain way, they are responsible for the fall of men around them. Now to be fair, a woman should be aware of how she dressed in the world. There are women who do dress in a way to advertise themselves in a way that is not appropriate, especially for a Christian woman. Many women don’t. A woman might pick an outfit out at the store just because it feels good on her and she’s not aware of how it looks in the eyes of a man.

However, a man cannot control what the women in his life do. He can only control what he does. Men need to learn that self-control regardless. Yes. Your wife might not be in the best state of mind and you might have to go without sex for a time. While a woman should not without cause deprive her husband as there is a mutual duty in marriage, if there is something going on with a physical condition or something of that sort, a man needs to be understanding.

For a woman who is not married, you never need to give yourself to a man before you marry him. If he won’t love you unless you give yourself to him, then he doesn’t really love you. He loves something you can do for him. What is a girl worth? A lifetime commitment.

Also ladies, if your husband is using porn, take action. If he is willing to work on it, be gracious and offer to work with him, but let it be understood you will not share him with pornography. Get him into a program like Celebrate Recovery and make sure he has friends who will hold him accountable. Be a partner in the journey.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that women can be involved in pornography as well. The same would apply in reverse. More and more women are struggling with pornography today.

For all of us, it’s always advisable to do our best to avoid being in sexually compromising situations. Being someone with a public image, I try to be especially careful. Unless the woman is related to me somehow, I won’t be alone with another women be it a restaurant table or in a car or on an elevator. Is that because of the woman? No. It’s because of me. I know beautiful women are extremely tempting for me and my thinking is if you think you are above a sin, you are far more likely to fall to it.

This is also appropriate on social media as well. I have women who are friends, but I try to be careful what I will talk about. Those of us who are Christians should be striving to live lives that are above suspicion. It would be a blessing to me if my intellectual opponents could look at me and say, “I don’t believe what he believes at all, but I do think he does try to live out what he believes and has that character.”

Also to those skeptics, none of this disproves Christianity at all. Josh Duggar’s sin does not show that God does not exist or that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. It shows that Christians, or claimed Christians, can be evil and hypocrites. None of us needed to be told that. We all know it. You want to condemn this as wicked behavior? You get no complaint from me.

For the rest of us, this is the danger of our Christian culture. We saw this with Ravi Zacharias. All of us who are in the public eye should be able to say to any challenge of our moral character to go ahead and investigate it. There’s a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that goes “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.”

I also recently had a friend in ministry message me asking if I had two months to teach on a specific topic for apologetics purpose, what would I choose. Without hesitation, I said sex and marriage. I was told he wanted two months worth and I said that would be two years worth. Most Christians do not have a biblical worldview of either and our young people especially get the message of the world for at least six days and the one day we have to teach them normally, we don’t.

Meanwhile, pray for this family. They definitely need it.

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

Some Thoughts On PornHub and Sex Trafficking

How should we view women today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A news story is out about the FBI looking into groups like PornHub for sex trafficking. For those of us who know something about the porn industry, that sex trafficking is involved is not news to us. It’s not to say that all women in the industry are victims of sex trafficking, but I have no doubt that some are.

So let’s talk a bit about porn and why it should be shut down.

Now in the past, if you wanted to look at pornography, you had to go somewhere secret and be discrete. You had to go to the magazine stand or to the video store and there was a chance you could be caught. Unfortunately, with the good of the internet came the evil of porn and then rule 34. That states that if it exists, there is porn of it on the internet. No matter how innocent you think something is, there is porn of it out there somewhere.

As I drive around Atlanta, I listen to talk radio. Everyday practically, I will hear a commercial about erectile dysfunction. It’s constant. Why is this? I always tell my wife the same thing. I suspect it happens so much because so many men have watched porn for so long that they can’t easily be aroused by a real woman. They only go with a fake one.

This is not to say that all causes of erectile dysfunction are due to pornography. Saying women in porn videos are fake is not to say they are not real people. It is to say that what is presented is a false idea of what women and sex are meant to be.

As a man in charge of a group for guys on Facebook who are Christian and married, engaged, dating, or hoping to date and marry, when I meet a man about to marry, I ask him if he would like to talk about what to expect. This is something every guy (And every girl) needs if they haven’t had sex before their wedding night. One thing I always tell them is to think back to what you have seen on TV and movies. Think back to all the sex you have experienced on there. Now throw it out because none of it is realistic at all.

In the movies and I am sure in porn, everything works flawlessly. There are no mistakes. There are no accidents. No one has to put down a towel. No one gives a touch that is not liked. The woman and the man have perfect ecstasy together and they both orgasm at exactly the same point and everything is wonderful.

Sorry. Real sex will involve trial and error for some time and you will always be learning.

So men get a false idea of what sex is.

Not only that, it leads to a consumer mentality of women. Women are objects just to be wanted for their bodies. The purpose of a woman is to parade before a man in all her naked self and let him glorify himself in her. On porn, the woman on the other end is irrelevant. You don’t have to know her name or care about her or do anything for her whatsoever. She is your servant entirely.

Now I am not at all knocking the idea that a woman is beautiful. I saved myself for marriage and when I see my wife’s body in all her glory I am utterly amazed and mesmerized. After nearly ten years of marriage, Allie is still the woman out there that totally turns my head. She is my great gift and I will jump at any chance I can to see her body.

That’s the way God made it too.

You see, the beauty then inspires me. If I want to have the joy of Allie’s body, I need to treat her right. I need to love her. I need to honor her. Now even if I don’t feel those things at the start hypothetically, which I think happens in arranged marriages, by doing those actions over and over, I come to love and honor her because it becomes habitual and habits change your thinking. For me, loving Allie is really second nature now.

I don’t go and say “I can’t see Allie’s body now for reason XYZ” and jump on to porn instead. That treats her body like a consumable good. I can say that when I see her body, I do see her physical form and I am amazed, but the beauty I see goes beyond the physical. It is not just her body in a transcendent way. It is as if I am seeing her. I am seeing not just her form, but I am seeing vulnerability and trust. I am seeing her. How she is to be with me and me with her is how we are to be before God.

Pornography will teach you that the purpose of the woman is to serve you. If you are married though, your purpose is to serve your spouse. Women are to seek to please their husbands, as so many husbands like to say, but husbands are to seek to please their wives. It doesn’t just mean doing something on Valentine’s Day or anniversary or birthdays or special events like that. It means doing something every day that you can. Believe it or not guys, it wouldn’t kill you to get out the vacuum cleaner every now and then.

Pornography cheapens the people in your life and will make it harder for you to love. In sexuality, it’s important to know what pleases you or else your spouse won’t know how to bring you the happiness they should want to bring you, but your main goal should be to please your spouse. Many a guy will say that despite the idea that sex is all they want, they are not really pleased with sex if they do not think they have pleased their wives. That is their real goal.

Now I realize that women also struggle with porn. This is not to diminish that, but as a man, it is easier to write to the men. The women can find their own parallels, but if you struggle with porn, please get help. Get an accountability partner. Get some software on your computer and other devices that can hold you accountable. Join a group like Celebrate Recovery and get some help. This will not be an easy battle, but it is worth it.

Remember on those videos also, that girl on there is someone’s daughter as well. She deserves to be treated respectfully and with dignity. Women, for you, please never lower yourself ever to win the heart of a guy. If you have to lower yourself, he is not worth it. You are worth more than that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Pornography Beautiful?

If the human body is beautiful, why isn’t porn? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week was my debate. While I am pleased with it, I will leave it up to you to decide what you think about it whenever I get a link to it. Yesterday at church, someone who was there mentioned an atheist couple he was sitting near during the debate and when I made a remark about the problems of pornography one person of the couple said to the other, “That shows he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Pornography is beautiful.”

It might be easy to make a connection. The human body is a beautiful thing. Pornography is a display of the human body. Therefore, pornography would be beautiful. This makes sense. Right?

It does, but there are some distinctions to make.

Let’s start with the first point. The human body is a beautiful thing. Yes, indeed. I am married to my wife of nearly nine years and I can assure any guy out there that I am amazed by the beauty of the female body and think God did an excellent job when He fashioned the human female form.

So surely, if I am a great lover of the female body, wouldn’t I want more of that body? Wouldn’t I want to see more women like that? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to see more women like that?

That’s where we get to the differences.

For you guys out there who struggle with pornography (And I know women struggle, but I can’t speak from the experience of a woman), you’re really robbing yourself. To click a button on your mouse and bring up an image really requires nothing of yourself. There is no work in wooing a woman and winning her heart and earning her trust.

In a marriage relationship though, there is work. If one wants to have intimacy with the Mrs., one needs to be on good terms. This requires that you rise up and actually be the man and treat her the way she deserves to be treated as your one and only spouse. When that woman then shares her glory with you, there is really nothing like it. It is a message to her of not just showing you her body, but showing you her body is showing you how much she loves and trusts you and desires you.

Porn will also show you lies about sexuality. When I talk to guys who aren’t married and are about to marry and the question of sex comes up, I tell them to think to what they have seen in movies and television. Then forget every bit of it, because it just isn’t accurate. Most of the time, sex won’t take place like it will on the big screen. There will be mistakes and confusion and you can often put down a towel first. Watch a TV show and the only point of the dating relationship of a couple seems to be that they can have sex. Sex is a hugely important part of a married couple connecting, but it is not the only part.

It also won’t show you what a woman really wants because every woman is different. What will excite a woman one day might not excite her the next. Learning to love a woman involves adapting to change and coming to know each other better. In porn, there is no love involved.

You just see a girl on a screen. You don’t have to know her name. My concern for many men is it can instill cowardice in them in that they think that this is the best way they can get a woman and won’t go out there and do the work of getting a real woman. It will also instill in them a tendency to treat women like objects in their only purpose is giving them sexual gratification.

The human body is beautiful, but porn takes that sacredness of the human body and reduces them from being a person to being a body. Sexuality is something beautiful and it’s meant for a marriage union where the passion it has can be properly harnessed and used for the good of the couple together. Keep in mind also guys that if you are married and you do use porn, many times you could devastate the woman you’re with if she finds out. No woman likes to get the message that she’s insufficient to please you in the bedroom and you need to go and look at other women. I also suspect that many reasons I hear commercials around here for ED is so many men have got that way because porn has changed their body’s natural response system.

The human body is beautiful. Sex is beautiful in a marriage covenant. Porn is never beautiful. It is treating the human person like an object and degrading to the user and the performer both.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Saving Truth

What do I think of Abdu Murray’s new book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Murray is writing about a situation that I have thought for a long time has plagued the church. It is that we live in a post-truth society. Nowadays, the truth doesn’t even matter. How someone feels about a claim matters or how well it serves an end-game is what matters.

This isn’t the fault of the world alone. The church is also to blame. The church determines truths based on feelings just as much as the world does. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about doing something as you “feel led.”

There’s also the fact that Christians can just as easily spread false information. Last night, I had to deal with a family member who shared a news story that I could tell in less than a minute was false. Going further, I found that the website also held to the idea that 9-11 is an inside job. Yep. Real reliable source there.

I get greatly bothered when I see something like this happen. We have the job of trying to convince people that Jesus rose from the dead, a fact that they cannot check the veracity of immediately, but we will so easily share stories that can be easily seen as fake? Doesn’t that damage our witness of the Gospel?

Murray also writes about our misunderstanding of freedom. We think by freedom that there is a certain something that has no hold on us. That is true to an extent, but it like saying being literate means that you can decipher symbols in an alphabet. Yes, you can, but you need to able to do more. You read so you can learn much more that there is to learn. You read so that you can be a better person.

In the same way, you are free not to pursue whatever you want to do, but you are free so that you can pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. You are free to live for something greater than yourself. Freedom is not about you get to do whatever you want, but you are free to do as you should.

Murray also talks about issues of human dignity, what does it mean to be a human? Do we treat human beings as objects more in this day and age? What about issues of abortion?

Issues of sex and gender are definitely on the stage. Murray begins this chapter with a question a woman asked in an open forum about Christianity and homosexuality. It dominates the landscape in this chapter as Murray keeps thinking about it. Murray deals with the purpose of sexuality and questions relating to transgenderism as well. What does it mean to be a man or a woman?

Murray also deals with questions of science and of pluralism. Both of these are issues that strike our epistemology. Science is seen today as the only way to truth. Pluralism is seen as rude and exclusive.

There are many issues discussed in Murray’s book. Each of them in itself is worthy of a book-length work. Murray’s book is a good look at these topics and often shared from the perspective of an ex-Muslim who had to realize that truth mattered more than anything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Beauty, Order, and Mystery

What do I think of Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is about a Christian view of human sexuality based on a pastor’s conference on the topic. At the outset, I think it’s awesome that pastors are meeting among themselves and having serious talks on these matters. Now if only we could convince those pastors in the pulpit to start also talking about this material to their parishioners.

The book is a series of essays each dealing with a specific topic. Not just marital sexuality is discussed, but also homosexuality and transgenderism. How is the church to deal with these kinds of issues today? Each of the writings goes in-depth in making the case that it does.

Wesley Hill’s is one that I want to touch on. Wesley Hill is a celibate homosexual Christian who is an assistant professor at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Hill wants to remind us that not everyone who identifies as a homosexual or someone on that spectrum has some innate hatred for Christianity. Many of them would like to be Christians. Of course, there are some that are anti-Christians, but we should not paint with a broad brush without knowing the person first.

Hill’s essay answers the question of who do homosexuals love. He argues against the idea that marriage should be redefined and then the answer is a really simple one. A homosexual should love their neighbor as themselves. Sex is not the only way to love someone as we all know.

Joel Willitts essay was especially moving as he deals with the dark side of sexuality. For him, it is more of a curse than it is a blessing and this is said even as he is a married man. Willits writes about being abused when he was growing up and how that has damaged his sexuality from that time forward. We should all realize that when we’re in the church, there are a number of people who have been hurt sexually.

Willitts takes a look at addiction and pain then and I shared many of his thoughts with my own wife. He suggests looking at addiction not so much as a curse, but more of an indicator that something is wrong. There is a problem that needs to be worked out. It doesn’t mean that you give in to the addiction. It means you see what it is pointing to and work on the root of the problem.

Daniel Brendsel also has a chapter on selfies and how the world lives in a day and age where we too often market ourselves and think that knowing someone on Facebook tells you all that you need to know. At times, the selfies have got so extreme that there have been a number of fatalities. The other dark side is that a lot of teenagers are doing what’s called sexting, where they’re sending sexually explicit photos of themselves. Of course, it’s more women who are doing this, but I think this is not because women are more perverted, but because women are by far, even to other women I don’t doubt, much more appealing to the eye.

This touches on pornography which is talked about a number of times. Pornography has damaged our culture so much that women can often think they have to do something like sexting to compete. Many men are no longer turned on by real women because they have been looking too much at fake women in pornography.

The book ends with Matt O’Reilly’s essay on what makes sex beautiful. I have to say that while I do agree with the great theology in the essay and he brought out aspects I had not yet considered, I found this one a bit disappointing. Yes. Sex is very theological, but why does the average man on the street think that sex is just so awesome and the woman’s body especially is so beautiful? It is not because he is thinking about theology, but because something in the sex itself beyond what it points to. I think this is something the church needs to seriously think about. What do people want when they want sex? They don’t want it just for the sex, but for some other reason, be it pleasure, intimacy, etc.

Regularly also it was said in the book that the church needs more than just a negative message on sex. We need a positive message. We give so many messages of do nots that we don’t give any messages of when to do and why to do. Our view of sexuality is extremely negative and we don’t embrace the joy and beauty of sex like we should.

Anyone who is interested in areas relating to Christianity and sexuality would be blessed by reading this book. Churches who have pastors who are addressing these topics are indeed blessed. In an age of extreme confusion about sexuality, hopefully we’ll heed the call to have more serious discussion and in our own marriages, more serious enjoyment of sexuality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/2/2017: Rebecca Lemke

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

Many of us tend to think in extremes. We’re either too conservative or too liberal. This happens in Christian circles as well. We either go all in with something that is wrong and join the culture, like many progressives, or like some conservatives, we go all out and practically avoid anything just because we don’t want to be thought of doing anything wrong and can easily create a guilt culture.

So when it comes to sexuality, we tend to think the same way. Many of our progressives have taken wrong stances. Pre-marital sex is okay! You can live together before you get married! Some even have no problem accepting the historical position of the church on homosexuality. Many of us realize that this is a problem.

Yet can we go too far the other way? Perhaps we can. Perhaps in an eagerness to rightly avoid falling into sin, the purity movement has gone too far. Of course, this is not to undermine sin. Sin is sin still. It is to say that maybe not everything we think of as sinful is. Maybe it could also be that if we do sin along the way, we are not ruined for life.

My guest this Saturday went through the purity movement and was greatly hurt by it. Today, there is no animosity towards Christianity or the movement itself as she continues to be a Christian woman encouraging other Christian women how to honor God and stay holy without being in the purity movement. Her name is Rebecca Lemke, author of The Scarlet Virgins.

So who is she?

Rebecca Lemke is the author of The Scarlet Virgins. She has appeared on The Federalist, Huffington Post, Iron Ladies, and To Love Honor and Vacuum, in addition to speaking on live radio about the topics in her book.

Many of you might remember the book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye, which was in many ways another book of the Bible for a lot of people. The author has since even admitted he could have been wrong on a lot of it. It’s easy to understand that sex before marriage is a big mistake, but even a kiss before marriage was viewed as a big mistake.

For many women, the ideas of maintaining purity meant you had to dress every way to avoid being desirable to the great big walking hormones out there known as men. It also meant that if you gave in and had sex before marriage, you were damaged goods. In the end, on your wedding night you would have nothing to give your husband. Women were not taught how to properly think about sex. It’s not much of a shock then that the wedding night can be awfully hard for some women as they have to somehow immediately flip a switch from off to on.

Guys don’t have as hard a time with that switch, but if there is something I think guys struggle with, it’s the question of lust. If a guy thinks a girl is attractive, is he guilty of lust? Is it wrong to ever think about sex? We have rightfully avoided much of the sins of progressivism, but we have often gone to the other extreme and turned into a guilt culture that I think Scripture never intended.

Join me this Saturday as we talk about the purity culture. How can young people stay “pure” without being part of the purity movement? How can we properly teach our youth about sex and sexuality? We don’t want to say anything goes, but at the same time, what boundaries should we be setting?

Be watching for the next episode and please do go on ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/22/2017: Sam Andreades

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

Gender. What is it? Is it a social construct? Is it just this idea that culture has thrown onto us? Or could it be something that is an objective reality in each of us? Is there something really to being a man and something really to being a woman?

And what about our sexuality in response? Is homosexuality just another lifestyle, or does it point to a problem that a person has? If a homosexual man were to marry a woman, would he be living a lie? Does loving the homosexual mean that we don’t desire any change for them? Is that what acceptance is about?

I decided to bring on someone who really understands gender and sexuality. He also understands how this story plays out in the Bible. His book on the topic of gender and sexuality is one of the best I’ve read on the topic. His name is Sam Andreades and the book is Engendered.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

“Rev. Andreades is senior pastor of Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, serving a congregation in what he affectionately calls The Shire. His previous pastoral work put gender issues front and center. He was pastor for ten and a half years of the Village Church in Greenwich Village, New York City, and is the founder of Higher Ground (originally called G.A.M.E. [Gender Affirming Ministry Endeavor]), a New York City ministry of Christian discipleship serving men and women with unwanted same-sex attraction. He went on to do a doctoral dissertation on emotional intimacy in Christian marriage in light of gender distinction, a qualitative study of men with a history of same-sex attraction and unions who are now in long time marriages to Christian women. He has counseled scores of engaged and married couples as well as church members in their relationships with one another.

Dr. Andreades draws on an extensive formal education in his teaching. He holds a B.S. in Geology & Geophysics with a minor in Biblical Studies from Yale University (1984), where he was awarded the Yale Geological Hammer Award for Thesis Research in sonic wave measurement through granite. He earned an M.Div. in Pastoral Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary (2001), as well as an M.S. in Computer Science from New York University – Courant Institute (1997). Building on historical geography study at Jerusalem University College (2008, 2014) in Israel, he obtained a D.Min. in Urban Mission and Ministry at Covenant Theological Seminary (2013).  In 2015, he wrote a book, enGendered, to fill the need he saw to speak about gender as God’s gift. It is described on the “The Book” page of this website.  But most valuable is how he has brought this education to four decades of serious study of the Bible.

Sam grew up with three older sisters who have constantly challenged him in his understanding of what it means for him to be a boy. He has been married for twenty-six years to his wife, Mary K., whom he describes as the truest woman he knows, and without whom he says he could not do what he does. Together they have raised three sons and one daughter, and now have a daughter-in-law. Submission to the body of Christ has always been an important part of Sam’s Christian walk. As a member of a local church since becoming a Christian at seventeen years old, he has bonded to brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Being a Presbyterian pastor means ministering in relationship. It requires working closely with his session (the church’s board of elders), which affords Sam some of the most meaningful friendships of his life. Chairing the Shepherding Committee of his presbytery (a collective of local ministers and elders) in New York also afforded him important people-linking lessons. His favorite Bible verse is Luke 23:43, Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross. Sam hears through these words the Lord’s amazing forgiveness of Sam’s own sins.”

I hope you’ll be looking for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I’m looking forward to this interview in getting to talk about marriage, gender, and sexuality. Please also consider leaving a positive review on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Love By The Book

What do I think of Walter Kaiser’s book published by Weaver Book Company? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There are some subjects that are often deemed too risque to talk about at church. One of those is sex. This is quite unusual since we have a whole book of the Bible dedicated to marriage and sex, which is, of course, the Song of Songs. Even in the past, it was considered something that you should be fully mature before you read the book. Some rabbis suggested waiting until you were thirty years old.

Kaiser thinks we need to look at this book again. We live in an age where the culture wants to redefine marriage and where sexual virtues are going out the window fast. The church needs to be living out what was meant by marriage. His contribution to this is to look at this beautiful love story in the Bible.

For many of us who read the Song of Songs, it can seem a bit disjointed. Who is saying what? What is going on? One of the first mistakes Kaiser wants us to move past is reading it as an allegory. Could we say in some ways it’s a story of the love of God and Israel or Christ and the church? Perhaps, but let’s not get so caught up in the allegory that we miss the non-allegorical reading, it’s a celebration of true marital love.

Kaiser also says the more historical interpretation has been to see it as a story. The story involves this beautiful little shepherd girl who Solomon sees one day as he’s touring his country and decides to take into his harem. He woos her with all the best that he has and the other ladies of the harem, the daughters of Jerusalem are all there. Everyone is stunned. This girl is not giving in to the king. Why? Because she is in love with her shepherd-boyfriend back home.

The story then becomes one of faithful devotion. The girl will turn down the allure of the king in order to be with the one that her heart truly desires. Nothing can destroy the passionate love that she feels for this man. In the end, Solomon decides to let her go. She is in essence “The one that got away.” He ends up writing this song, the greatest of songs, about this love of his who he failed to seize because she had sold her heart to a shepherd boy already.

Kaiser’s book is short. It could be read in an evening if one wanted to. It also is good for small groups as it has several discussion questions. The book is friendly enough that it could be read easily without causing much embarrassment. Each chapter has discussion questions that a group could discuss together. I think it would be optimal for a small group that consists of married couples to read this together and discuss the commitment that they have to their own marriage.

I have long been an advocate of the idea that if we are going to restore marriage truly to the church, we have to live it. A proper understanding of sex and marriage is something we really need for that. Kaiser’s book is something that is needed for such a time as this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Openness Unhindered. Further Thoughts Of An Unlikely Convert On Sexual Identity And Union With Christ

What do I think of Rosaria Butterfield’s book published by Crown & Covenant Publications? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know the story. A person lives their life struggling with sin and then, they come to Christ. They pour out their heart in repentance to Him and God forgives them and frees them from the shame of the past. No more are they hindered by the chains that kept them bound. They walk in newness of life free from the past temptations entirely.

Or…..maybe not.

In fact, a lot of people would wish that was the case. Sometimes some will be thinking that God betrayed them or lied to them. If we have become new creatures in Christ, why is it that the past is still an issue? Why do we not experience deliverance from all the struggles of the past? How can I be a new creature in Christ and still struggle mightily with a sin?

Rosaria Butterfield knows about this quite well. She had been a professor living in a lesbian relationship when a pastor gently responded to an article she wrote about the Promise Keepers. This pastor was a pushback to her, but also was not in her face. She, in fact, notes that the first time she visited him and his wife, they did not give her the Gospel or invite her to church. In fact, she appreciated that greatly.

She began studying the Bible on her own and in fact studying it as a postmodern. Romans 1 was quite a difficult passage for her, but one she could not escape. What if instead of gay pride, she was just really having pride? What if what she took pride in was in fact really a form of rebellion? The questions came at her fast and furious.

One day, she just reached her breaking point. She wound up admitting that God was God and becoming a Christian. From then on, she knew things had to change. Much of her book is about dealing with this. Indeed she did change. She is now the wife of a reformed pastor in North Carolina, but she has a heart for those who are struggling with many issues.

One of Butterfield’s key themes is identity. Our identity when we come to Christ and even before is not to be based on our sexual orientation, as the term is used. Our identity is greater than the people we are attracted to or share a bed with. One of her main points she wants to have raised is we should not use terms like “gay Christian” even when we speak of Christians who agree that homosexual activity is wrong and want to live a celibate life. Why take an adjective that describes a condition that the Bible refers to as sin and making it part of your identity just like Christian is in your identity? Taking it as an identity is in some way clinging to it and holding on to it, as if it’s something central to who you are.

She does realize that some Christians disagree with this and in fact, she has an example of that in the book. She talks about her friend Rebecca who still struggles with same-sex attraction. Butterfield makes an important point that for some people, sanctification does not necessarily mean being delivered from the sinful temptations. Heterosexuality is not the goal of sanctification, but holiness is and you can just as much be a sinner as a heterosexual as you can a homosexual. For some people, the sign of their sanctification could be living with these sinful desires and NOT giving in.

To the rest of us, she says part of the danger we have could be what she calls the gag reflex to homosexuality. We can describe homosexual acts as if to get the response of “ewww. Yucky.” What we end up doing can be saying “I’m so thankful I don’t do that!” or for those Christians who are struggling with same-sex attraction, putting thoughts in their heads. We can end up having a sort of superiority complex to the homosexuals who do this “shameful behavior.” Now I do believe the Bible describes it as shameful, but that is not because of something being gross. Our problems with a behavior should be with the moral status of the behavior and not the personal taste status of the behavior.

For an analogy, imagine a pastor at a church describing the evil of an affair. Rather than state that a sexual affair is an evil thing, he goes into great detail of a man meeting a woman at a hotel room and describing what goes on behind closed doors. Is he really helping anyone? No. We all know what goes on behind closed doors. If anything, most men in the audience are now suddenly having to deal with a temptation as they are having a fantasy play out in their minds.

Butterfield also stresses that for a Christian, life should be a life of repentance. We should be watching ourselves to see where we are falling short. Butterfield does write with the heart of a counselor. At times, sometimes the reformed aspect can shine through a bit brighter so if, like me, you don’t hold to a Calvinistic position, that can be difficult, but either way, those of us who don’t still do agree with repentance and we do still see God as sovereign even if we don’t understand how that works out.

She also stresses the importance of community. Community should be a way we come together and pray for one another and if anyone does struggle with unwanted attractions, they can find comfort in having people who will hear them. They might not be able to do anything beyond that, besides pray of course, but they can be listeners.

Butterfield’s book is a good one. If there was one area I would change, it’s that there is talk about dealing with unwanted sexual attractions and such, but at the same time, I always want to see that there is a positive message about sexuality. A true sexuality is something God gives us to enjoy and celebrate. It would have been good to have heard Butterfield’s thoughts on that.

Still, this is a book that will leave you thinking and hopefully get you more in tune with thinking about holiness. Repentance is a word much more on my mind since reading this. I also wouldn’t mind seeing more community as described by Butterfield and will definitely be watching to check for the gag reflex approach to homosexuality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters