You Don’t Have To Know It All

Is it necessary to answer everything? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I saw a discussion going on based on a video from Cosmic Skeptic where he thinks the hardest question Christians have to answer is about animal suffering. We can debate that point if we want, but it’s secondary. I really don’t think it’s a defeater question, but that’s neither here nor there.

When I jumped in the thread some, I stated that my arguments for God are convincing enough for me as are my reasons for believing in the resurrection of Jesus. A worst-case scenario for me on this question would be “I don’t know.” That is not the case as I do have my own reasons, but the point to establish is that not knowing one answer doesn’t overrule knowing what you do know.

One mistake you can make if you get started in apologetics is to think that you have to know everything. You don’t. You can learn some about anything you want to, but don’t expect to be an expert on all issues. Why is that?

Let’s consider each topic you could want to go through. You could want to go the route of science. Which science? Are you specializing in evolutionary science or astronomical science or perhaps medical science dealing with sexual ethics questions?

Maybe you want to specialize in the Bible. Okay. Which testament? Which part of that testament? Do you want to specialize in a specific doctrine? Do you want to specialize in the history of the Bible or the textual criticism of the Bible?

Maybe you want to study other religions. Which one? Maybe a cult like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormonism. Do you want to study Islam and if so, all of Islam or a specific sect? Hinduism? Buddhism? Scientology?

Maybe you want to deal with philosophical issues. Which ones? The existence of God? Do you want to answer questions about epistemology? Do you want to answer about the relationship between science and theism? How about ethics?

If ethics, what kind? Do you want to go with sexual ethics? If so, abortion or the redefinition of marriage or transgender issues? Do you want to look at court cases in America’s history to see about right and wrong there? Do you want to go Divine Command or some other mode of ethics?

Keep in mind, all of this is off the top of my head. There is absolutely no way any one person can have an answer for everything out there. If you think that you will, you are just fooling yourself. In my own experience, I have no problem tagging someone else on Facebook who knows the subject better than I do or including someone in email better than I do.

For example, I don’t argue science as science. If someone asks me about evolution, I say that I don’t know and I don’t care. I have chosen to not specialize in that area. It’s fun to discuss and think about, but I am not going to treat myself or present myself as an authority.

To be fair, this also means our intellectual opponents don’t have to know everything, which is true. A Muslim, Mormon, atheist, etc. don’t have to know everything about their worldview and can’t. However, the moment they show up actually arguing for a position or presenting it as an argument in some way, they should certainly know something about the topic and be willing to engage on it.

Which means in that case, you’d better seriously study it. Just raising an objection isn’t enough. You need to know your objection and how to answer responses to it. This is true regardless of your worldview.

If anyone is a violator of that last one, it is Jesus mythicists. The overwhelming majority you encounter read no historical scholarship and hold to conspiracy theories about Jesus that the overwhelming majority of non-Christian New Testament scholars would look at with derision.

If you’re studying apologetics though, please rest assured that you don’t have to know it all. You should seek to know what you can, but the whole enterprise does not depend on you. This body has many parts. Learn what you can and leave the rest to others. They can handle it for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

What Is Your Opponent Reading?

How important is good reading to a discussion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am a strong supporter of good reading. As it stands, right now I’m going through Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament which is a very big book. Why? Because I want to be more informed on the matters that I talk about. I am of the mindset that those who do not read will always be at the mercy of those who do.

Yet I also want to encourage a look at the opposite approach. Sometimes when I am in dialogue with a non-Christian, I will ask them when was the last time they read a book on this topic that disagreed with them. I’m not surprised that I really can’t think of one time that that question was answered well.

If you want to go out there and talk with people who disagree with you, it helps you greatly to know what they really think. You can get some of that from reading comments or maybe watching videos or articles and blogs on the internet, but the fullest treatment to be found is often in the books. Not only should you read books, but you should read books by the best minds that you can find.

Most scholars don’t put out their work for free because like most of us, they have bills to pay as well. If you watch a YouTube video or debate of one of them speaking, you will, in essence, get a picture and a paragraph. You will get a Reader’s Digest version of what they think and why. The fullest treatment to be found is in the books.

When I meet a non-Christian who is not willing to read, I just don’t take them seriously. It’s not a shock that usually the arguments they have then arguments from outrage or arguments from incredulity. Many people who claim to be on the side of reason honor it with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

Let’s also consider the irony here. These are people who often talk about Christians living in their own little bubbles and not wanting to have anything to do with a contrary thought. Sadly, sometimes they are right about that. The problem is when they refuse to read the best books that disagree with them, they’re doing the exact same thing. They are refusing to consider any contrary thought and what a shock that they don’t change their minds.

If you are someone who is out there in the field and doing debates with skeptics, I urge you to know their material well. I urge you to know it so well that if you had to, you could put on the skeptic hat and make a better presentation for their side than their opponents could. If you don’t know a subject matter, don’t argue about it. You’re being just as bad as your opponents are then. Make sure you’re doing the reading about what you believe, but read about what you don’t believe as well. It will help you in the long run.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Theology

Are we staying in the shallow end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife has been looking into Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy lately. This was really an area I never wanted to get involved in, but now I am. I want to know what claims she’s hearing and if I think they’re accurate or not. As it stands, I still remain a convinced Protestant, but I am noticing something.

While I think we Protestants have excelled at Bible Study, we’ve often neglected theology. We don’t really know much about what to do with our doctrine of God. We seem to treat the Trinity as this nice little doctrine that we keep around and we get out when we need to address Jehovah’s Witnesses.

My blog has been called Deeper Waters from the beginning because I think we have too often gone shallow. This has largely been due to a lack of discipleship on our part. We place a big emphasis on conversions. I really don’t like that term at all.

Imagine if we said we wanted to see more marriages. We worked to get people to the altar and to say their “I do” statements and then did nothing with them. Hypothetically, those people went back to live with their parents and never interacted at all.

We often do the same kind of thing with conversion. The goal is to get someone to walk down the aisle and say a prayer and make Jesus their savior. There is no investing in them. There is no training in them. There is no discipleship.

This isn’t an across the board condemnation. Of course, there are some churches that do this. There are far too many who do not. This is especially needed in an age where Christianity is being questioned left and right and most people don’t know how to make a basic defense of what they believe let alone know the basics of what they believe.

We often go to churches and sing songs about how Jesus is so important to us. Apparently, He’s so important that we don’t study anything about Him, learn about Him, read the Scripture that tells about Him, or think about Him much at all, except, you know, those times when we need something. Our Christianity is all about what Jesus does in our lives instead of what we do in His.

This is so even with our salvation. Many times, the goal of Christianity has been to get people to go to Heaven. While there, you will live forever and get to see your loved ones again. Oh yeah. God is there too, if that interests you and all. There is nothing about building up the Kingdom of God here. There is nothing about the difference salvation makes in this life. Paul said that if it is only for this life we have hope, we are above all men to be pitied. Paul knew we have hope for this life. Today could it be that Paul would write “If it is only for the next life we have hope….”?

What’s the solution?

It’s a really easy one. Return to deeper theology and study. This isn’t the area of only other traditions. Protestants in the past have done this. I suspect most of it is that here in the West, we have grown more individualistic and all about us. We spend so much time “listening for the voice of God” that we don’t really consider who it is we’re “listening” to.

At the Orthodox church, the priest told me to borrow if I wanted to learn from the library a book called The Orthodox Way. I have been going through it and wondering “Aside from a few secondary details, what about this is specifically Orthodox? I have no problem believing this about God as a Protestant.” I wonder how many people see this and don’t realize that other traditions can have the same views of God as well.

Our Christianity is supposed to be the central defining feature of our lives. Let’s make it that way. Let’s not drop our intellectual weapons. We can better know the God we say we love and serve by studying Him. A good spouse seeks to understand the other spouse so they can better love them. Should we not treat God even better?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Arguing What You Don’t Understand

When should you speak and when should you be silent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I notice many times in debates with skeptics that they are often not really attacking Christianity as it is, but rather as they perceive it. If they want to critique the Bible on faith, they look at what they think people mean by the word faith today. What has happened that people have discussions like this?

The great problem we have is that people no longer read what they argue about. Instead, in the age of the internet, it is too easy to believe things that agree with you and be a skeptic of everything that disagrees with you. As a conservative in the last election, I saw many people sharing myths about Obama and Hillary that I could show were false with some brief searching. No one seemed to care. It’s not just conservatives. Liberals do the exact same thing.

Tell a Christian that there are chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea despite it being of highly questionable credibility and it will be believed and trumpeted as proof immediately. Tell them that there could possibly be evidence for evolution, and it will be ruled out automatically. Tell an atheist that Jesus is a copycat of Mithras, even though you found it on a website of someone with no credentials in the field and it will be believed. Tell them that there’s archaeological evidence backing the book of Acts, and here comes the skepticism.

I dare say that as a Christian, I think I am more of a skeptic than many skeptics that I meet. I will happily investigate claims that benefit my own viewpoint before sharing them. My father-in-law is a New Testament scholar who is a Christian and yet I have investigated many of the things that he’s told me before going off and sharing them. That’s just basic fact-checking.

This can also be seen by how willing you are to read. Suppose you’re like me and on a tight budget. If I get told about a book that argues against Christianity, normally, I go to the library and see if I can order it immediately. I have often asked skeptics when was the last time they read an academic work on Christianity that disagreed with them. I don’t remember the last time I got an answer.

Here’s a basic rule of thumb. If you are not willing to seriously study an issue, don’t argue it. If you are a Christian not willing to study evolution, but you want to argue against it, then don’t. You will end up saying things that are not taken seriously by your critics and damaging your witness to them. In the same way, skeptics wanting to argue against the New Testament need to read the best scholarship they can on both sides of the New Testament. If they’re not willing to do that, then they should not argue against it.

The reason we have this is that we live in an age that we think being fair means everyone has equal authority in their opinion and there is no specialized knowledge. If you think this is true, next time you’re sick, go see your mechanic instead of going to your doctor and let him perform an examination on you. If you think that sounds utterly ridiculous, then congratulations on waking up.

I hope to someday soon see a world where people will read and then argue. At least if we disagree, we can then have better informed disagreements. I am instead seeing too many people think they are authorities by virtue of having an opinion and saying things that make the experts cringe, on both sides.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Use Your Library

How does one go about doing research? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’d like to give a tip to my fellow apologists and those starting out in the field. If you’re in this field, you’re not in it for the money. I live on a budget like many of you do and I have to make every penny count. It’s not a secret really that many of the books I get for my podcast are review copies sent to me for that purpose, but that’s not everything. What’s a guy to do?

If you have a Kindle, one thing you can do is subscribe to groups and newsletters that let you know about free and discount books. This can be a great gift to help you out. A Kindle or a Kindle App is a wonderful tool. My wife likes to go to bed early so I will stay there with her so she can feel safe and read my Kindle usually for a couple of hours before I’m ready to go to sleep. Many Kindles have an option that you can check out a book for a short time.

One other great suggestion is for you to learn to use your local library. Too many people forget this. You might not have the money to read that book, but your library has the book for free. You just have to read it in time and be able to return it in good condition.

If you use the library, it’s tempting to look on the catalog there and see if the book is there and if it isn’t, to just give up. Don’t. Many libraries have a way that you can search through interlibrary loan. When you do this, you access all libraries in the network, including ones at universities, and you can order books that will come. Normally, these books cannot be renewed, but that’s okay if you’re an avid student. You can read it in time.

Many times if I’m in a Facebook discussion and a skeptic recommends a book for me to read, I go to the library immediately and look and see if I can find it. There are some of you that don’t want to give money to atheists and others by buying their books. For my part, I consider the amount I give them worth it in exchange for what I’m able to do with the information. (I have in fact known some Christians who have donated to Richard Carrier because he’s doing so much damage to atheism and doesn’t even realize it!)

If you don’t want to buy it permanently, interlibrary loan is the way to go. This way you can read the book for a short time. I do recommend that you write up something about the book afterward so that you should never have to reinvent the wheel and get it again.

Also, if you can find a college or university library near you, this is even better. It can work great if this is a Seminary or Bible College. In our field, they will often have the books that you are wanting. This is also a far better option than the one many internet atheists are taking and that’s just to Google.

Of course, you will need to learn how to pick out good books in research. I have written some on this and it’s relation to being a thinking Christian, and I could consider writing more in the future, but get books by publishing houses that have a good record for the most part. They have a reputation to uphold and don’t want to publish books that will damage that reputation.

Make sure the Ph.D., if you read a book by someone with one, is relevant in the field as well. Dawkins does have a Ph.D. in an area related to evolution, but that doesn’t carry over to writing about theology or philosophy or Biblical interpretation. A New Testament scholar like Mike Licona or N.T. Wright has a Ph.D. in New Testament, but that doesn’t make them an authority on evolution.

If all of this still seems difficult or intimidating, just go and ask your librarian for help. Many of them know just what you need and are equipped to help you. Librarians many times, especially at theological libraries, are often very well-read individuals and can point you in the right direction.

And of course, enjoy the journey!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are There Easy Answers?

How do you determine if an answer is true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this field, you often get emailed questions. Many times, people want an answer and often, they want an answer and they don’t want the books to read or the talks to listen to to get the answer. They just want the answer. Is this really possible to do?

Here’s a simple answer.

No.

Often times, I have seen this kind of event happen where someone asks me questions and before too long, I realize I’m doing the argument for them. If you want to succeed in apologetics, this is not going to do any service for you. In the end, you will know what the conclusion is but you will not know how you got to that conclusion or why the conclusion is the true conclusion.

People also often want to know how they can be absolutely certain that their answers are true. If I’ve looked up something as an answer to a question, how do I know it’s true? Is there a way to be absolutely certain?

Again, a simple answer.

No.

Now some might be asking how you can believe in Christianity and hold this, but the real question to ask is how can you believe in anything and hold this? The only areas we often have absolute proof in are math and logic. That doesn’t stop us from holding beliefs and holding them incredibly strongly. Some beliefs are much more backable than others. This isn’t even saying something like scientific beliefs are much more capable of having known answers than religious beliefs. In every area, there are degrees of assurance.

The truth is that you will just have to work. This is something many people do not like to hear today and by the way, you have to work on both sides. If you’re a Christian, you should not go around and say “The Word of God says XYZ” and expect audiences to take you seriously. If you’re an atheist, you don’t need to do an atheistic presuppositionalism where you say “Dead people don’t come back to life!” and think that you’ve made a killer argument that no one in Christianity has ever thought of.

If you are a Christian doing a debate, you need to read and study what you are debating. When I talk with Muslims for instance, for the time being, I don’t discuss Islam as Islam. I will discuss what it has to say about Christianity or the claims Muslims make about the New Testament, but I won’t present myself as an authority on the Koran, because I am not. I will not present myself as an authority on science, because I am not. If I speak without study, as soon as I encounter someone who actually is studied, I am prone to embarrass not only myself, but the Gospel.

If you are an atheist, what I call a presuppositional atheism will not help you. You will actually need to study the religion you’re going after, which is usually Christianity. Some people think reading the Bible is enough, but you need to see what learned Christians have said about the Bible. I often ask many atheists I debate when the last time was they read an academic work on religion that disagreed with them. I can’t remember the last time I got an answer. It won’t work to presume you are smarter because you’re an atheist or automatically rational or that all Christians are automatically gullible. It might surprise you, but I kow many Christians who I consider more skeptical than atheists.

One key example of this I see is Jesus mythicism. Atheists who hold to mythicism have no basis going after Christians who question evolution or who hold to a young Earth. (I have no problem with evolution and with an old Earth.) The view of mythicism is in fact held by fewer authorities in the field than the view of Young-Earth Creationism. Too many I think believe in mythicism because it seems like you possess the secret knowledge no one else knows, you’ve seen through the miasma that the scholars have been hiding, and you know a secret truth. It’s really a way of thinking like a conspiracy theorist.

In all honesty, it looks like too many atheists will believe anything because it argues against Christianity. On the other hand, too many Christians will believe anything because it agrees with Christianity. Neither are willing to investigate the claims. (The exception is April 1st, the one day of the year people actually check claims before sharing them on Facebook.)

The bottom line is that in any case, if you want to debate, you will need to study. Many Christians tell me they don’t have the money to buy books or go to Seminary. Fine. There’s a place you can go and get books for free. You can’t keep them, but you can hold on to them long enough to read them. That place is called a library. Use it well. Learn to use Interlibrary loan. I use it constantly to get books.

Listen to podcasts. Of course, I’m biased, but I happen to think my podcast, the Deeper Waters Podcast, is a great source of information. Other shows include Unbelievable? where you can actually hear a debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. If money is an excuse, don’t let it be one.

Then finally, I’m all for time for play and relaxation. I have a wife. I can’t read all the time. We often want to watch a show together or go out on a date. Still, take some private time to read and learn that which you need to learn.

Also, if you’re just starting in this field, try not to be intimidated. Everyone who got where they are started where they were. It will take time. It will take practice. You will get beat a number of times. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Just spend more time preparing yourself.

It will be worth it.

Christ is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

I Don’t Have Time For Apologetics!

Do you have the time to study the apologetics you need to learn? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had said that we would talk about the time constraints that people have with apologetics. Many of you are saying “I work a 9-5 job and I get home and there are kids to take care of and then it’s off to bed and I do the same thing the next day. I just don’t have time.” I hear you, but let’s consider some other aspects of your life.

Do you have time, for instance, to watch a sporting event that you want to watch? Do you have time to go and exercise at the gym? Do you have time to binge watch that series you want to see on Netflix? Do you have time to spend an hour scrolling Facebook and commenting on discussions that we know are pointless? The question is not really so much of time, but the question is one of importance. How important is this to you?

Now of course, you might not have the time to read a big big book, but you can read something small. Many books that can help you are about 100-200 pages. That’s not as intimidating as you think. If you can read about 10 pages a day, you’ll be doing well. No one is expecting you to read 3-4 books every week.

There are also other ways to help you out. If you have a long commute, get an audio book. Read it on the way. If you have a good lunch hour and you’re by yourself, bring a book with you and read it. If you take the kids somewhere and you just have to watch them, bring that book with you. Get in a little bit.

The question is not if you have enough time, but how are you going to redirect your time? I’m not asking you to cut back on time with your spouse or time with your children, but you probably have more discretionary time than you realize. Perhaps it could help you to turn off the TV every now and then.

The reality is every moment of your time, you are saying that something is important to you. I’m not getting after you for wanting to have some pure leisure time. I have my favorite TV shows I like to watch and my games I like to play, but you can’t devote your life to those. If you think Christianity matters, then surely you can devote some time to learning about it. If you want to tell people about your favorite TV show or sports team, you make sure you know about it so you can tell them. If you say Christianity is the most important aspect of your life, what do you know about it when it comes time to tell other people about Christianity?

Ultimately, it will come down to what’s important. How are you going to spend your time? If you want to spend it all in bringing yourself pleasure, you will be a very shallow person at the end of the day. If Jesus matters to you, give some time to Him beyond just church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Knock At Your Door

What do you do when the other side comes knocking at your door?

Wednesday as my wife and I were heading out, we saw some women standing near our car. Now I’m not normally an outgoing type, but I push myself at times and I did this time because I could recognize by the way they were dressed and that they were carrying books that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I asked them about their books so they could confirm my suspicions. They told me that they were Bible Students and waiting for some others. Bible Students is often another way of saying Jehovah’s Witnesses so I had my findings confirmed. I invited them to stop by.

This morning, they did just that.

This is also why you study your Bible and why the church needs to have people studying their Bibles. If these people knock on your door and you are not prepared, they will turn you inside out. These people know several several verses that you probably do not know. These are verses that are not taught in your average church service.

When was the last time you heard a sermon in church on the Kingdom of God? Yeah. That’s what I thought. That’s especially sad since this was one of the greatest emphases of the historical Jesus. When was the last time you heard a message about the Trinity? How about the nature of the resurrection?

Well guess what. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a lot to say about all of those and if all you have is what you usually hear in churches on Sunday, unless your church is the rare exception, you are not prepared. Think you’ve got those pet verses you like to use to show the Trinity? Well guess what. Jehovah’s Witnesses have an answer to those. Now I think the answer is wrong and is based on poor hermeneutics, but it is still an answer and if you don’t have a reply ready for them, it will not go well for you.

And you know what? You can’t get that answer right when they knock on your door. You have to have it ready then.

I had my answer ready then. Many passages they brought out such as Psalms 37 with the meek inheriting the Earth and such, I agreed with. When they asked about miracles and that we don’t have them going on, I was ready to point them to Craig Keener. My favorite was to talk about the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught and tie it in to Matthew 24 with my understanding of orthodox Preterism. They didn’t really care for that and it was quite a problem for them.

Now you might think some of my responses are wrong, but I want to point something out. These people are going around doing evangelism, like we’re supposed to be doing. These people are studying in their evangelism, like we should be doing. These people are confronting those who disagree with them, like we should be doing. These people are being more serious about a false gospel than we are often being about the true gospel and you know who they want to reach? You and your family and your neighbors.

Some of you might want to study when they show up, but that’s like preparing for combat when the enemy shows up at your house. You have to be ready then. You have to be prepared at all times. If you are not being prepared, start. If you do not have a well-grounded theology that can handle the objections that are presented, start.

One point I did stress is that I read books that disagree with me. They wanted to avoid saying that they did this and just pay some lip service to the idea. This is a great weakness of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are very selective in what they’re allowed to read. Don’t be like that. Read what you can. That’s just good humility.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and others should be a lesson to us all. We need to prepare. Imagine how the church would be if we were as true to the true Gospel as Jehovah’s Witnesses are to a false one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Avoiding The Echochamber

Could you be making a mistake in your quest for truth? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m a part of the Unbelievable? forum on Facebook and on there I’ve seen someone posting material from Answers in Genesis. Now I’m not a YEC at all, though I tend to not be dogmatic about it, but I saw the debate going on afterwards with those who were non-Christians stating about how evolution is a fact and asking their opponents if they’d ever read anything on evolution. It was apparent that they hadn’t. All they could say over and over was “No evidence of evolution.” Now again, I am not someone who studies the case, but I am convinced that any evolutionary biologist would give what he says is evidence for evolution. Now to be fair, he could be wrong in his assessment. It could be poor evidence or it could be insufficient evidence, but make no mistake that it is evidence.

Now if you’re a Christian, picture how it looks to you when the atheist that you encounter says there’s no evidence for the existence of God or there’s no evidence for the existence of Jesus. How much does it faze you? If you know what you’re talking about, the answer should be not a bit. Your immediate impression will be that this is someone who you shouldn’t take seriously. After all, if you are debating this, you have your reasons for what you believe. Now again, it could be your evidence is poor or insufficient, but make no mistake that you do indeed have evidence for your position.

My great concern is not with the evolution debate as that is just an example, but with the idea that many people have on both sides of theism vs atheism or most any other debate that they live in an echochamber. They don’t know what the other side believes aside from what they’ve read in their own side. Unfortunately, this is not the way to do debate. If you want to debate a position, you need to read what you can on both sides. Frankly, when I meet someone who challenges Christianity and talks about a book I should read, I’m going to my local library web site immediately to see if I can find that book.

This gives you an advantage in that if you are doing this right, you should know your opponents argument better than they do and in fact, you could if you had to make a positive case for it. When I was in Charlotte once in Seminary, a member of our church had to do a project on a social issue and he chose abortion. He wanted a debate to be recorded at his church and there was going to be a student from the local university who was pro-choice who was going to come down and argue for abortion. Unfortunately, the day of the debate, he got sick and they called me at the last minute and asked if I could do it. Did I? Yep. In fact, I went and made the best argument for abortion that I could. Anyone watching it could be very well convinced that I was a pro-choicer, and I am definitely not. I think abortion is one of the worst evils that there is, but I think it’s important to know the other side.

Now of course, you can’t study everything in-depth. That’s why the main area I stick to is New Testament studies these days and I try to read what I can on both sides of the issue. When Bart Ehrman has a new book coming out, I really want to get my hands on it and read it as soon as I can. When someone messages me about a book in my area that is giving them grief, I try to get a copy and go through it. Reading the other side can be a very eye-opening experience. You get to see them in their own words and you can often correct misunderstandings in your own worldview. I can say there have been things I’ve read in Ehrman for instance that led to me changing my viewpoint on some matters because there are some cases I think he does make a sound case for his position on certain interpretations. Just because someone is a non-Christian does not mean that they are wrong in everything.

Frankly, with all the time we spend doing so many other things, we could all bear to spend some more time reading and learning. We especially who are Christians should be trying to do this. After all, if there is anything in this world worth learning about, it’s the revelation of God in Christ. I can often go to sleep at night looking forward to what I can learn about and study the next day. As a Christian also, a good reader will grow in their love of Christ more and more the more they strive to know about Him.

Please try to avoid the echochamber. Whatever side you are on in a debate, it is easy to be convinced of it if you only listen to that which already agrees with you. If you want to argue, learn what your opponents really believe. If you do not do this, you simply end up looking ridiculous to them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Audience Participation Needed

Are you really playing your part? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re a sports fan, chances are you’ve gone to a stadium or similar venue and seen a game before. At the end of the game, you go home. You might buy some memorabilia or if possible get some autographs but other than that, your part is done. You can easily imagine doing the same if you attend a concert of your favorite band sometime. Another place you can picture your part being done is when you attend the Sunday service at your local church.

Wait. That last one doesn’t fit.

Unfortunately, too many Christians do think that they’re doing their full duty by attending a church service. Some think they’ve upped their duty by attending Bible Study as well. Believe it or not, while many of us hold to the spiritual gifts, there is not a spiritual gift of “Keeping a seat warm in a church.”

Many of you are looking at the world around you and wondering where things went wrong. If you are wondering that, then look in your mirror. That is where you will find the problem. What has gone wrong in our world is not that the world has been the world. That’s what we would expect. What has gone wrong is that the church has not been the church. A large part of it is this idea that we don’t want to offend anyone because if we offend people, well we’re not really showing them the love of Jesus.

You know, the Jesus who called out his opponents in public, shamed them greatly, called them broods of vipers and white-washed tombs, and was such a challenge to that culture that they ended up crucifying Him.

That Jesus.

Too many of us treat Christianity like a spectator sport and our duty is to go to church and then be a good person. (Because you know, so many people in this world avoid the goal of being a good person.) If you think you’re really contributing to the cause of Christ if you do those two things, quite frankly, you’re not. Many people also have an idea that they just need to worry about themselves and their children and forget the rest of the world. You also are part of the problem.

If you were a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. you would be one constantly. You would seek to live in a way that conformed to your political beliefs and many of you would want to be informed on your beliefs. You would not be one of those just one day a week. If you were a vegan or a vegetarian, you would not lose sight of that if you went to a restaurant. You would remember what you eat and don’t eat and act accordingly. If you’re a husband or a wife, you are not those one day of the week. You are them every day. (And I fear many treat their marriages as a case of giving the bare minimum.) If you’re a parent, you are not a parent just one day of the week. You are constantly a parent.

And yet, Christianity is supposed to be the most important commitment in your life and so many people give it less attention than all of the above.

So what can you do?

Here are some steps.

First off, support. Give your support to the people who need and deserve it. Let’s start with your pastor. Believe it or not, being a pastor really is a hard job, that is, if you’re doing it right. You have administrative duties of the church, budgets to work on, counseling to have to give, preparation all week for a sermon, your own personal study, taking care of your family, and your own spiritual life has to be fed. You know how rare it is to get appreciation as a pastor? That’s why I’ve made it a note to let my pastor know that I appreciate him from time to time. Do it every week and it will likely become something expected. Just out of the blue though, send an encouraging email to your pastor and let him know you appreciate him. It could be the boost that he needs in the day.

This also applies to the people you respect in other fields. There are many of us who look at certain people that we interact with as valuable ones in what we do, and we so rarely take the time to thank them for what they have done in our lives. Don’t assume that it is known. It might not be known. Even if it is known, that little note that shows up from time to time is quite a boost. (I in fact have followed the advice of my own pastor and made a folder called “encouragement” where I put encouraging notes and emails and such that I get so that when I get in a slump later on, I can review them.)

Second, give. There are many ways that you can give. Don’t stop with the bare minimum. First off, give to your local church. They’re trying to serve Christ in your community. Next, give to those outside of the church. Don’t waste those finances on these prosperity preachers you see on TBN and elsewhere. Give to ministries that you see are producing real fruit. You would be surprised how much your favorite ministries could do with some small support. Don’t think what you give is too small. It’s not. Creflo Dollar made a scandal in the church by asking 200,000 people to donate $300 so he could get a jet.

With our expenses here, we would be set if we had just 5 people donating $300 a month. We could probably do less, but just consider that an approximation. When you support ministries like this, you are saying you want the person to be able to devote a large portion of their time and energy to their ministry. (I say a large portion since to be clear, a person has to take care of their own family and their own spiritual life as well) To speak in small amounts, the above numbers could be altered to speak of 300 people donating $5 a month. Many other ministries could likewise do well with just a large contingent of small donations.

Many can’t give financially, but you can give in other ways. You can share the work of the person that you admire and be their biggest fan. You can offer your services in other ways, such as we have a team here of people who volunteer to keep this web site running. You can talk to your pastor about seeing if they can come and speak at your church or seeing if your pastor would consider them as a ministry worthy of your support.

What else do you do after this? Study. Learn something about Christianity. If you think this should be the most important facet of your life, learn about it. Many know more about their favorite sports team, TV show, band, or political party than they do about their Christianity. This is a great shame. You are not doing your Christian duty just by going and enjoying your worship service. Make it a point to really learn something about your Christianity. I imagine the Gospel would be better shared here in America if we all at least had a basic apologetic beyond our personal testimony.

Teach your children about this as well. Many of our young people are growing up and looking at issues like redefining marriage and don’t have a single clue why this should be a great area of concern for them. If they grow up with a light faith that consists of being an individualistic all about me walk, well don’t be surprised if they jump ship as soon as something comes along that offers better benefits to them. Of course, that won’t happen in college at all. Not a chance. Your children will only experience a culture of people drinking and having a lot of fun doing it and getting to have rampant sex with anyone who comes along and as we know, young people are not at all tempted by alcohol and sex.

Honor your family as well. Following those principles in Ephesians and Colossians on running a family will work great for all involved. If we want to find out why the world isn’t honoring marriage today, it’s because the church failed to honor it first. Live your life in such a way in accordance with Biblical values in marriage and parenting. If you’re single, then follow a similar principle. No sex. If you plan to marry, date someone of the opposite sex because you want to find out if they’re someone to marry. Never treat someone of the opposite sex as if they’re someone to just fulfill your desires.

After all of this, really walk the walk. If it’s not being uncomfortable for you, you’re doing it wrong. Treat your Christianity like a lifestyle. Treat it as you are living in service of the King, because you are. Learn about this and see how it applies in every single area of your life.

Christianity is not a spectator sport. You’re either helping the Great Commission or you’re hindering it. There is no middle ground.

In Christ,
Nick Peters