The Influence of Christian Parents

How important is a Christian education to a child? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I recently read J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity in Conflict. This is being read for school and if I read something for school, I don’t really want to do a book plunge on it for the most part. Machen in his day was one of the most influential New Testament scholars and was revolutionary here in America.

Machen wrote about the virgin birth, which I do affirm, especially and so much that even a 100 years later, we’re still talking about what he wrote. He was a man of great learning and one of the great Princeton Theologians. He also went and studied abroad in Germany.

The book is largely an autobiography of his and he does touch lightly on the education he got in the secular schools growing up, but if there’s one aspect of his life that was influential on him remaining a strong Christian, it was his parents. His parents were devout Christians and also very learned Christians. His father was a lawyer who in his 80’s started learning Italian and reading Italian authors just for the fun of it. I don’t think as much was said about his mother, but her character shone through and through.

Both of them encouraged Machen to read and learn and both of them encouraged him to ask questions. They were not people who shied away from doubts and Machen did often times have doubts. However, as time goes by, he gets more and more help in getting a higher education, but one can see throughout his life, the great influence his parents had.

When he studied abroad in Germany, he was not in a conservative environment at all. He was in one where he was challenged every day and yet, he held on and argued his case well and read all he could of his opponents. What really helped him so much? The preparation he had at the feet of his parents.

Christian parents. This is for you. Please never lose sight of the influence that you can have on your children. For all you know, you could have another Machen growing up in your household.

That means that you do take them to church regularly, but don’t just do that. Educate them in your home. Make Christianity something you live seven days a week and not just on church days. Do not be afraid of your kids having questions and if you don’t know the answer, go and find it.

I am sure some atheist readers could say something about indoctrination, but the reality is I expect most parents will somehow raise their children up with their values. I suspect Muslim parents, Mormon parents, Jewish parents, and atheist parents all do this. You don’t really want to force your kids, but if what you believe about ultimate reality really matters to you, you will pass that on to your children.

If you’re wondering some on how to do that, I have a resource for you. I recommend you check my friend Elizabeth Urbanowics’s program Foundation WorldviewHer work is aimed to help extremely young children start to learn about the Bible and how to think and about what it means to be a Christian.

Raise your children well. Welcome their doubts and questions. Be there to support them. Our world is not a safe place and you will have more influence than anyone else.

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

Abstinence and the Virgin Birth (Which I do affirm)

Is there a problem with holding to abstinence and the virgin birth (Which I do affirm)? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This one has been going around Facebook a bit and as the main virgin birth guy (Which I do affirm), I figure I should be the one to address it. Looking at this, I do wonder what the main contention is. As is the problem with memes, it’s rarely clear.

So let’s consider if it’s a moral objection. Can you believe in the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and still believe in practicing abstinence? Yes. You recognize that this is a miracle that has taken place and that Mary herself did nothing wrong in this case.

By the way, along those lines, all Christians know that there are other forms of birth control. What we do know also is that when practiced, abstinence is the only one that is 100% effective. For most of the world today, it’s just incredible to think of a person going through life without having sex. The premise of a movie like the 40 Year-Old Virgin is meant to be obvious.

So let’s go the more likely route. It’s meant to poke fun at us for believing in something that is unscientific. After all, this involves a miracle and don’t we know that those never happen.

At this, I think even the most hardened skeptic would not want to try to take on the burden that there has never been a miracle in history and have to demonstrate this. How could you even begin to do that? What is more likely to be argued is that we do not have sufficient evidence to believe that a miracle has taken place in history.

Thus, we get to the first problem. There is really no way to establish that a miracle has never taken place in history so why should it be treated with incredulity that a miracle has taken place. I actually call this the argument from incredulity. The problem is it only works if you accept a worldview at the start that says miracles never happen.

Imagine if I made a similar argument.

Christians: We know Christianity is true.

Atheist: How?

Christian: Because Jesus rose from the dead.

Atheist: And how do we know that?

Christian: Because Christianity is true.

If you take at the start that a naturalistic philosophy is true and a miracle has never taken place, then obviously, a virgin birth, which I do affirm, has never taken place. However, that is the very claim under question. Has a miracle ever taken place?

If you affirm the existing of God and have reasons for believing in such, then you have a basis for believing that a miracle has taken place or at least could take place. If someone wants to mock that because atheism is true or some version of metaphysics that denies miracles, then they need to establish that. Whatever your worldview, it does not work to go to the other side and say “Your position is laughable because it disagrees with my position.”

In the end, I see no reason you cannot both affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and consistently practice abstinence. Issues about birth control can be debated among ourselves. This is just more of the type of argument from incredulity that works on those with the mindset already of materialism, but not much of anyone else. It has strong rhetorical pull, but nothing logical behind it.

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

Virgin Birth (Which I do affirm) debate

How did the debate go? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Not a lot of reading today, but some viewing. Check out a debate I did with John Richards on the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

You can watch it here.

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

ETS 2021

What did I think of the conference this year? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So the reason there wasn’t a blog last week is that I was at ETS and way too busy to do a blog. ETS is the Evangelical Theological Society and they have a meeting every year. This year, it was held in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This was the second time I had ever gone to ETS and the first time I had gone to Texas.

So at the start, what I saw of Texas, I loved. The people were really nice and the layout of the area I was in was beautiful. I could walk down the streets and feel very safe and there was not really a lot of traffic either. If things in our country get really bad, I wouldn’t mind moving to Texas someday.

On a historical note, the hotel we stayed at was also the last place JFK stayed at before he was assassinated. The area of the convention also used to be known at the start of the last century as Hell’s Half-Acre. It was called such because there were several businesses allowed to run that shouldn’t have, but they supported the economy so the law was more lenient. Gamblers like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp came through, but so did villains like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and it was referred to as a Den of Sin. Now here we are over a century later and evangelicals have redeemed it for a conference.

Also, when I said we stayed at a hotel, I shared a room with Mike Licona. My former father-in-law thought it would also send a good message to the society that there’s no bad blood between us. We got along well, although we did have to get used to him being an early bird and my being a night owl, but we managed to adapt well and I slept fine through the night.

Now a benefit of ETS is certainly getting to hear great talks. I really liked one I heard on the resurrection and does the body keep score. Could we have disabilities still have the resurrection? Will we remember the evils that we went through in this life? That might be a theoretical question for some of you, but for someone like myself on the spectrum, it isn’t. If anything, I would hope I can keep some of my Aspie traits even in a new and glorified body. I also went to a panel discussion Mike was part of on the minimal facts and talks on Aquinas and on Muslim relations and one on if Christ knew He was impeccable.

The bookstore is also a great place to go there as many books are there and on sale. I also had a good friend of Deeper Waters who showed up and told me to go to the bookstore and buy what I wanted. Even then, I tried to not get a whole lot. I didn’t want to take advantage. He also provided to have them FedExed back to my house and they were waiting when I got here.

That brings me to the best thing about ETS. The people. I found it easy to interact in the crowds of others and to chat. Many of my Aspie traits were just not as relevant then as they normally are. There were plenty of people on a humorous note who came up to me and told me that they affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and several have started saying that. On a more personal note, many people also came up to me and told me they were praying for me and sorry about all that I went through with the divorce and am going through. Two of them prayed right there with me.

Every day was a blessing to be there and when Thursday night came that matters were wrapping up, I started to have the sadness come to me. It’s like the letdown you have when you’re a kid and you wait for Christmas so eagerly and after it’s gone, you miss that time. I really do. Saturday when I was back here in Tennessee and back at work, I was already hating it again. It’s again why I would love to be doing the kinds of things I was doing at that conference full-time. (Although, Shiro has had a talk with me about how he never wants to see me leave for that long ever again)

Now as for the people, I know I will leave some out, but I remember being at the bookstore and seeing Mike Winger and getting to talk to him about how much I appreciated his video series on divorce. Bob Stewart and I had several interactions and I always told him how handsome he is. I don’t remember how that joke got started, but I remember Mike sharing it with me and I don’t forget a joke.

Ed Komoszewski and Rob Bowman and I had several interactions. Ed and I have talked multiple times together about the divorce. It was also good to meet Sam Shamoun and I ran into David Wood and Tim Stratton. Speaking of Tim, Tim McGrew and I met one time and he greeted me with a big hug, one of few people I would allow to do that without reservation. I also had some time with Paul Copan. On the plane to Dallas/Fort Worth, I sat next to Christian Cuthbert who I had never heard of before but saw he had a theological book and asked if he was going to ETS. He’s a scholar on Jonathan Edwards so I pried him with several questions before our plane took off. Matt Jenson gave the talk on the resurrection body and he and I and a couple of others went to lunch together after to talk about it and to affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm. I also saw Craig Blomberg, Ken Wolgemuth, Hugh Ross, Greg Koukl, Brett Kunkle, and got to meet others like Robert Plummer, Bill Mounce, and Jonathan Pennington. I am sure I left some people out. Please don’t take offense at that if you were one.

Next year it will be in Denver with the theme of holiness. I am planning on submitting a paper on divorce and the spectrum. Why don’t you consider coming to? It would be great to meet you as well.

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

A New Resource

How do you best defend the virgin birth, which I do affirm? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there’s any blog post that I have to put up and share the most on Facebook, it’s the one I wrote about how the whole thing got started with affirming the virgin birth, which I do affirm. From there, the virgin birth, which I do affirm, is something I have become known for with some interviews and requests to write on the topic. Eventually, it was suggested to me that I get a web site on the topic.

So I did.

I then decided beyond humor, take this site and turn it into a real resource. You can go there and find many resources on the virgin birth, which I do affirm. We have books you can buy, ebooks that are free that you can download, articles, videos, debates, podcasts, interviews, etc. I am still gathering more and more for those who are interested.

Also, I created a Facebook group. This does emphasize the virgin birth, which I do affirm, but it will also be a place I hope for discussing anything related to apologetics. If you want to have another great group to belong to, come and help us get started.

Where do we go from here? Right now, I am doing a lot of reading on the topic of the virgin birth, which I do affirm, because I will be writing an ebook called I Affirm The Virgin Birth. Not only that, but when I am done, I plan to keep on going and write other books in a kind of series. Here is what I have so far.

I Affirm The Life of Jesus which will be a response to mythicism.

I Affirm The Crucifixion of Jesus which will be a response to ideas like those of Muslims that Jesus was never crucified.

I Affirm The Burial of Jesus which will be a response to claims like those of Ehrman that Jesus was never buried.

I Affirm The Resurrection of Jesus which will be my case that Jesus rose again.

I Affirm The Rule of Jesus which will be my defense of Orthodox Preterism.

The good news also is that these are easy titles to keep going on with many other topics I could write about. Consider this just a start, but a start that can keep me busy. It has really been a lot of fun diving into these topics. Nowadays, aside from my just for fun going through the Peanuts collection and reading books for my personal well-being, including audio books while driving, I am really only reading about the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

I hope you want to help with this. If you do, there’s a Patreon link on this blog post and on the new web site. The more someone can give, the more it gives me time to do that reading and frees me up as I can then have enough to live on and continue this path. Going with that, I hope to someday then get back to doing the podcast as well. If that really interests you, please consider it. I do have some donors, but it would mean so much more to get enough to keep dong this. Every donor shows me how much you do believe in this work and want to see it come around. Please do make a regular donation again.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll return to more regular material including Kindle books that I listened to on my Tap (Not on the virgin birth, which I do affirm, since I couldn’t highlight passages while listening). and giving you my thoughts on them.

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

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/6/2020

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

When I was growing up playing games on the regular Nintendo, we were told that if your cartridges aren’t working, just blow into them. That will clear out anything and the game will work fine. Most all of us did that. The thing is, it worked. It made sense. Now years later we’re finding out that that really doesn’t work.

Also, before the days of the internet, we had numerous rumors flying around about games. I still remember trying to find the Artemis esper in Final Fantasy VI. How many Pokemon players were trying to move that one truck in an attempt to get Mew?

The age of the internet has made it easier and harder with these kinds of things. With some things that can be easily checked, it’s easy to see that some claims are just false. The claim about Mew would never get off the ground today, and this is even in an age where people can easily fake YouTube videos.

Yet some myths are harder to deal with. Many atheists think today that the idea about whether Jesus existed or not is a hot debate in New Testament scholarship. Not even among atheists is it a debate. Conspiracy theories run amok on the internet.

Even among Christians, there are urban legends. Is Jeremiah 29:11 really a great verse to use in your testimony? Does Isaiah 14 describe the fall of satan? Is Genesis 3:15 really a prophecy of the virgin birth? (Which I do affirm.)

To discuss these and other urban legends of the Old Testament. The book is itself called Urban Legends of the Old Testament. The co-author is Gary Yates and he will be my guest.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Professor of Old Testament at Liberty University School of Divinity for the past 17 years and have taught at the undergrad and grad level for 20 years. I also currently serve as the Pastor of Living Word Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia. 
I have a ThM and PhD in Old Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary and did my dissertation on the book of Jeremiah (looking at the primarily narrative portion of the book in Jeremiah 26-45). 
I have authored or co-authored Urban Legends of the Old Testament, The Message of the Twelve, 30 Days to Jeremiah/Lamentations, and the Essence of the Old Testament and have contributed to numerous other works, including the soon-to-be released, Baker Illustrated Bible Background Commentary. I have published in multiple journals and have contributed to two study Bibles. 
My wife Marilyn and I have been married for 35 years and have three adult children. 

We are nearly caught up on old podcasts. I just really have to get around to uploading them. That blame lies with me. I hope you all are looking forward to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Born Divine

What do I think of Robert Miller’s book published by Polebridge Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Miller’s book is a book looking at the birth narratives with an emphasis on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm). It reminds me of what I read in Richard Shenk’s book on the topic that the virgin birth is really a shibboleth. If you want to know someone’s ultimate worldview and how they see Jesus, this is one question to ask. Was Jesus born of a virgin? Larry King was once on David Letterman’s show and asked if he could interview one person past or present who would it be. He immediately answered Jesus Christ. When asked what he would ask he said, “I would ask if He was born of a virgin. For me, the answer would explain all of history.”

So it is in Miller’s book. I certainly agree that most people don’t approach the doctrine of the virgin birth apart from all the others. It is more based on other doctrines. I hold to the resurrection, for instance, and with that, the virgin birth naturally follows. The resurrection shows that Jesus’s claims to be the Son of God and fully God and fully man are true and if so, then the account of the virgin birth fits.

Miller does speak often about how a miracle needs to be public, but I think that misses the point of the virgin birth. The virgin birth was not done as a public sign I think just so much as it was done so that Jesus could not be at all an adopted Son of God. He really is a unique human being with both natures fully in Him. I do not agree either with early church theologians who said it was done this way because sex is something fallen and Jesus didn’t need to come about through that.

Sometimes, Miller gives criticisms of the birth narratives that strike me as weak. Consider that there is often a repeated claim that the angel tells Joseph to return the boy to Israel from Egypt because those who were seeking His life are dead. Miller will tell us there were no those. There was only Herod. I don’t find this convincing at all since when Herod says he wants the child dead, I have no reason to think Herod himself went all around Bethlehem looking for boys and murdering them. Those would refer to soldiers of Herod that were sent to do the job.

Miller also speaks some about how Matthew interpreted prophecy. He gives about a paragraph to how Qumran did the same, but this strikes me as highly insufficient. Why is there no interaction with Jewish exegesis at the time? Why not reference the work of Longenecker that has been done on this topic?

By the way, that brings me to another concern I had. Miller’s bibliography is written on just two pages. I see this as the sound of one hand clapping. Why not look and see what someone like Keener or Witherington has to say in response to some claims? Sure, those two could be wrong, but isn’t it best to interact with them?

Consider as an example his look at the slaughter of the infants. Why should we not consider it? Miller tells us the story can’t stand apart from Matthew’s writing. Since the magi and the star are fictions, so is the slaughter. Also, Jesus would have to be born in Bethlehem, which he was most certainly not. Finally, the story fits perfectly with Jesus being the new Moses.

I find this as somewhat circular. If you don’t see the accounts as historical, they are not historical. Miller does look at the accounts of the magi, but I think there is a lot lacking. Who are they? Where did they come from? These are questions that needed more. I find it odd that when the narratives disagree, there is a problem, but when they agree, such as Jesus being born in Bethlehem, there is still a problem. As for Jesus being the new Moses, if you are a believer in God who is working behind the scenes, this really isn’t a problem.

There is something on history and miracles. He quotes N.T. Wright who talks about people who come with a high view of a closed continuum and everything being in the system so there can be no outside interference. Wright rightly says that this is something we cannot know ahead of time and gives the impression of a mouse sitting up on its hind legs and looking down on the elephant.

Miller says that this sounds open-minded, but it is intending to belittle people with the opposite view and make them look foolish. I find this amusing since this is exactly what is often said about those of us who believe in miracles. I also think Wright is correct. This attitude is right there in many scholars who assume that miracles can’t happen.

Miller replies to this saying that if we want to go the route of openmindedness and say Jesus had no human father, you must be open also to Plato, Pythagoras, Augustus, and others. Why yes indeed! As historians, we must be open! Let’s compare the evidence for them to the evidence for Jesus and see who comes out better!

Miller says we don’t believe in those stories because we don’t believe in those gods anymore, but too many Christians will say their God is real so the story is real. The question I have to ask here is why do we not believe in those gods? We don’t believe in them because they were more glorified superhumans. One God is overall a far better explanation and many of us have arguments that lead us to believe that there is one God, such as the Thomistic arguments that I prefer, though we could happily say that demons could take on the guise of any Greek or Roman god.

Miller also says that belief your God is real is religious and not historical. Sure, but my belief is not outside of history as it is my belief that this God acted in history and that cannot be ruled out at the outset. There is an attempt to compare this to the Muslim denial that Jesus died on the cross based on the Qur’an. I would ask in reply to see what non-Muslim scholars will grant is true in the Qur’an and compare that to non-Christian scholars on the New Testament.

One good benefit of Miller’s book that will be fascinating is that he lists several birth narratives in other works about Jesus outside the New Testament, such as infancy Gospels. These were very interesting to read, but at the same time it is quite astounding to realize how many people treated them as historical in church history.

Overall, I am unpersuaded by the counterarguments. I still hold that Jesus was truly born divine based on the evidence of the New Testament. Rest assured all that I still affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/8/2018: Richard Shenk

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

A little over 2,000 years ago, a young Jewish woman was approached by the angel Gabriel and told that she would give birth to a son who would be named Jesus. She was told some of the great wonders about who this child would be. The woman was named Mary. What made the event so interesting was that Mary was a virgin and she conceived while she was a virgin.

So goes the story of the virgin birth, which I do affirm. This is the story that begins the account of Christmas. The story is meant to be good news for the world, but is it really? What makes the virgin birth such a big deal? Is it even an accurate account? Is the virgin birth just God pulling a neat trick to show what He can do? Was it a way to protect Jesus from unnecessary defilement?

To answer these questions, I’m bringing on someone else who also affirms the virgin birth, which I do affirm. He affirms it so much he wrote the book The Virgin Birth of Christ. He will be my guest to discuss how it is that we believe in this doctrine and then more importantly, what a difference it makes. His name is Richard Shenk.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Wheaton College (BS – Physics-Bible; 1979)
    Engineering-Physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Lab (1979-1986)
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MDiv;1984)
    Pastor with Baptist General Conference; Ogallala, NE, 1986-1991); Mundelein, IL, 1992-2007)
    Pastor with Evangelical Free Church; Maple Plain, MN (2007-2018)
University of Wales, Lampeter (PhD; 2008)
    Adjunct Professor, Theology; Bethlehem College & Seminary (2009-2017)
    Assistant Professor, Theology; Bethlehem College & Seminary (2017-present)
Dr. Shenk and I will be starting with a discussion, since this is an apologetics podcast, about the case for the virgin birth, which I do affirm. Isn’t it a mark of incredulity to believe in such a thing? Is this doctrine really a doctrine that divides the lines of battle as it were? Why is it seen as such a shibboleth in the world today?
Then we’ll be discussing reasons given for what a difference it makes that are not really plausible. Was this done to avoid sexual lust conceiving Jesus? Was it done because sin passes down through the paternal line and therefore Jesus needed to not have a human male father to avoid having a sinful nature? What is wrong with these ideas?
We’ll also discuss ideas such as the prophecy of Jeconiah and how he would be childless and what a difference that makes. We’ll discuss why adoption should matter to Christians. We’ll also be talking about how the virgin birth shows that God is active in the world and we’ll discuss how God is going to bring about a new birth for us. The doctrine is far more multi-faceted than is realized.
I hope you’ll be looking for this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review. You all know by now that I love to see them!
And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Virgin Birth of Christ

What do I think of Richard Shenk’s book on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm) published by Paternoster books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Readers of my work and friends of mine know that one of my favorite subjects to refer to is the virgin birth and about my constant statement about affirming the virgin birth, which I do affirm. I figured it was about time I did a podcast on the topic and that I called in someone who would do that. A quick search on Amazon led me to this book by Richard Shenk.

The virgin birth, as Shenk points out, is often a shibboleth of sorts. It’s a test. It’s where the battle lines are drawn. For Christians, the virgin birth is a sort of test of orthodoxy. Once that one falls, so many other pillars will just start falling. For atheists and non-Christian skeptics, it’s a test of incredulity. The virgin birth is obviously something stupid to believe.

That last part is, of course, ridiculous. I often like to ask skeptics about this who claim we know so much better in the age of science, at what point in history did men and women realize there was a connection between sex and babies? Believe it or not, we knew it pretty early on in our history. Joseph was not a biologist and we know a whole lot more about pregnancy than they did back then, but he knew enough to know what it took to make a baby and he knew he hadn’t done that.

Shenk says that this is one of the first great gifts of the virgin birth. It blows right through naturalism if true. It shows that God has acted in the world in a unique miracle.

Yet there’s more. We want to know why a virgin birth took place. For many of the church fathers, there were two reasons. One is to avoid Jesus being born of concupiscence. Many of you might not be familiar with that word. Fortunately, he tells us what it is. On p. 33, he refers to an evil concupiscence as the fulfilling of evil desires. For some in the early church, sex was purely for procreation. To use sex for other reasons was to give heed to evil desires.

We can’t have Jesus come that way, but such a view does not find a home in the Scriptures. How can you have such a view when Paul says in 1 Cor. 7 that married couples ought not to abstain from sex for a time except for prayer and by mutual consent and even then for a short time only. Nothing at all says, “Come together and have sex only when you want children.” Sex is presented as a great good throughout the Bible to be enjoyed by husband and wife.

Well, maybe it’s to avoid original sin. Still, there’s nothing in the Scriptures that really demonstrates that sin passes down through a paternal line. It’s an interesting theory, but Shenk doesn’t think it holds up.

Yet there’s also another problem with Jesus’s birth. What about the sin of Jeconiah? He was said that he would be childless and his descendants would not rule? I personally think this applied to only his immediate descendants and that we see a reversal in Haggai 2 when Zerubbabel is given the signet ring to show ruling again, but Shenk works with this to argue a virgin birth helps bypass that. It’s a long theory and best explained by reading the book. There’s also a theory that God chose this route to hide from the devil who the seed would be in Genesis 3:15. I’m not convinced, but it is interesting.

Shenk says one real purpose of the virgin birth is to show that Jesus is fully God and fully man. If Mary had not known a man and gave birth, then this is showing that this is no ordinary child. This child can truly be said to be conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Shenk also compares old creation and new creation at this point. In Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters preparing for God to act in the world. In the birth of Jesus, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary preparing for the new birth of the Messiah in her.

Many church fathers and Catholics see the relation between Eve and Mary as well. This is a reversal in that Mary succeeds where Eve fails. The information on 2 Timothy 2:11-15 is quite fascinating at this point and worth considering for those who read it. Basically, Shenk thinks that Paul is seeing Mary as redeeming the mistake of Eve and thus restoring honor to the women.

There’s also the honor of adoption. Joseph is an adopted father of Jesus in the text and this is the method used by God to get Jesus into the royal lineage. Adoption is something that we should be concerned about in an age of abortion.

And finally, there is also our virgin birth. Oh not that we will be physically conceived without the help of a man and a woman together, but that we will be conceived spiritually not that way, but by a new birth in Christ. Christ gives us a new birth without the aid of our parents at all, though of course parents can help, but they are not essential to a child becoming a Christian. The virgin birth reminds us that a birth from above is given to all of us in Christ.

This book will give you a newfound appreciation of the virgin birth. It is also a relatively short book. There is a slight section on perpetual virginity, but aside from that even most Catholics and Orthodox I think could appreciate it.

And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus Part 4

Are there false Messianic Prophecies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue our look at Asher Norman’s book, we come to a section on prophecies. I’m not going to cover everything in this one, especially when we get to matters of atonement and such that need a high knowledge of Judaism. I often tell people with that that if you don’t understand the atonement so you can’t be a Christian, that it’s a secondary matter. If you understand Jesus’s claims and that He died and rose again, that’s all you need.

The first section we’ll look at is that the Christian Bible employed a number of techniques to shoehorn Jesus into the text. The main one he looks at is the prophecy of the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm of course) The mistake is that Norman could here win the battle and lose the war.

Norman starts off saying there is no prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. With this, I agree. I know of no tradition that the Jews were expecting a virgin born Messiah. At the same time, I do not think Matthew and Luke made up the event. So what’s going on?

The oddity is that this is where Norman goes into a lot of linguistic analysis. Note that when he goes after the New Testament, looking into the languages just doesn’t really matter. He states repeatedly that this was really a young woman (And he’s right) and this was in Isaiah’s time (and he’s right) and that this was about the Syro-Ephraimite war (And he’s right).

Interestingly, one defense he has is that this was likely Isaiah’s son since Jesus was never called Emmanuel. However, if the son born to Isaiah is the one described in the next chapter, that one wasn’t called Emmanuel either. Apparently, Norman doesn’t realize that it was entirely possible to have two names. We could point out that Jacob was called Jacob and Israel both and that Moses’s father-in-law is known by two different names as well.

When we get to the claim that the Messiah wasn’t to die before fulfilling His mission, Norman doesn’t realize that this kind of thing is actually what makes the Christian argument so compelling. Jesus wasn’t a cookie-cutter Messiah. He went against the grain. If the Jews were making up a Messiah figure, they would not make up Jesus.

Norman’s first point is that Jesus said He would die to fulfill Scripture, but that there is no such Scripture. No doubt, Norman has in mind a kind of chapter and verse idea. If so, then he is badly mistaken. Jesus is speaking about more of the whole message of Scripture, the same kind of idea we see in 1 Cor. 15.

Norman also thinks there’s something impressive about the disciples not understanding. Not at all. The disciples would have thought that Jesus was to be the king of Israel without dying. Dying wasn’t on the agenda. It would be just as shocking to hear someone running for president today and talking about what will happen once he gets to office and dies. That’s never the agenda for a campaigning president.

It’s quite amusing when the cup analogy shows Jesus didn’t wish to die. Norman says that the verses make clear that Jesus didn’t want to die but would do so if the Father required it. Yeah. That’s kind of the point. The whole submitting your will to God thing.

Norman also thinks this is problematic for Christian theology. Can we say Jesus intentionally died for our sins if it was not His will? Second, if Jesus is a “member of the Trinity” and each person has the same essence, shouldn’t they have the same will? Unfortunately, Norman is a little over 1,300 years behind the times. Christianity already had this talk. It was the Monothelite controversy. It was asking if Jesus had one will or two wills. The church resolutely said that He had a human will and a divine will.

The answer to the obvious question is, no. Norman hasn’t read any real church history at all.

Norman goes on to say Jesus tried to talk Pilate out of crucifying Him. This would seem more convincing if we had Jesus begging for mercy or something like that. We don’t. At this point, Norman is just trying to use anything He can to make a case.

Finally, Norman thinks that he’s struck gold again by pointing out that Jesus says “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me!” on the cross. Norman points out that Christian missionaries try to rationalize this by saying that Jesus is quoting a Psalm. This is dismissed by Norman without argument, which is a shock because it sounds perfectly proper for a Jew to quote a Psalm. Not only that, this Psalm is highly Messianic in the early church and while it starts with defeat, it ends with glorification and vindication. That is quite appropriate for Jesus.

Next time, we’ll be looking at what Norman has to say about Saint Paul.

And again, it only gets worse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

%d bloggers like this: