Book Plunge: Essential Asatru

What do I think of Diana Paxson’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I always try to be going through at least one book that either directly disagrees with me or is from a worldview that I do not share. In this case, while looking for another one, I remembered how a couple of years ago I had been at Wal-Mart and I think I had a book on the resurrection with me and someone saw it. He then told me that he was a follower of Norse religion.

I had enough experience in the field to recognize this as Asatru. I went to Kindle immediately to see if I could find a good book on the topic really trying to explain it well. It would be easy to find something that didn’t treat it seriously but was more on a popular level, but I wanted something as scholarly as possible.

In the end, I chose Essential Asatru, by Diana Paxton. I started the book then, but just never finished it as other things came up, but when I wanted something new, I decided to go back and start it again. I wanted to know what these people really believed and also why they believed it.

To many of us, it can sound strange to be a follower of Norse religion. Most of us when we hear that think of Thor and then we think of the Avengers. You want to follow a deity who is in a comic book? (That is a topic that never came up in the book. Many followers consider themselves heathens and I would like to have known what they thought of a deity of theirs being a comic book character. Are they allowed to see the movies or read the books and enjoy them or is that sacrilege?)

Yet as I pondered it further, I thought perhaps it isn’t that strange. Areas like Iceland still hold to a lot of tradition such as a large number of people over there believe in elves. If you’re going to believe in some deity or deities, and I contend secularism has left such a hole, and for whatever reason you don’t want to go with the monotheistic faiths, why not go back to the religions that have some historical precedent?

The book has several chapters with each starting with a scene from a get-together in the Asatru religion involving passing around a horn filled with ale of some kind and sharing together. Then each chapter will go into a different point about Asatru and how practitioners worship in it. It is certainly a look into a world unfamiliar to most of us.

Many of this is also a history of beliefs of the people in Scandinavia with many times talking about how Christianity intersected with the culture. There can be a bit of what can look like ancestor worship, but I suspect it’s much more just wanting to honor the great heroes of the past. The closest parallel I can come up with from the Christian perspective is the way Catholics and Orthodox tend to have feasts and days to honor saints, all the while not worshipping them.

Then the book goes into a description of the different deities in Norse religion, which yes, includes Thor. If you are interested in Norse mythology, as I do happen to have an interest in such though mainly in Greek, this could be a fascinating part for you. Loki is included and I found it interesting that different gatherings have different rules on how to treat Loki and it’s best to ask before coming to one’s first meeting.

The final chapter deals with day to day lives of heathens and how they are when they gather together. This includes ethical beliefs as well as how religion is practiced with regard to priests and priestesses and events like weddings and funerals. Would there be such a thing as an Asatru seminary one day? It doesn’t look like there will be any time soon, but the writer herself is a priestess so they do exist.

So in the end, of course, I don’t agree with Norse paganism beliefs, but I am glad I am now more informed about them. I suspect that as time goes on, we will see more and more such beliefs rise up as secularism leaves a hole and many people have too many negative associations with Christianity (Such as supposedly hating people who are same-sex attracted or being anti-science). While we as Christians disagree, we can recognize the clues of the God-shaped hole and the longing of people to seek something beyond themselves.

It’s up to us to give them that.

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



Book Plunge: Christianity At The Religious Round Table

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

In the past, a Christian growing up would likely never encounter a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Muslim, at least in a place like America. Now, you encounter them in a wide number of places. A church my wife and I attend has a ministry to Indian people in the area. Many Hollywood celebrities practice Buddhism. Oprah Winfrey regularly shares Eastern thought on her broadcasts. Islam seems to always be in the news and 9/11 has a permanent memory with many of us.

Even if a Christian lives out somewhere in the boondocks surrounded by Christians, if they get on the internet, they will encounter other worldviews. Nowadays, learning about other worldviews for a Christian is not just an option. It is mandatory.

Fortunately, Timothy Tennent has written a book where he does interact with other worldviews from the perspective of one who has spent some time in serious study of those worldviews. Tennent gives a brief explanation of major ideas in Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic thought. Then he has a dialogue with holders of those worldviews and lets us see how the interaction is to take place.

He also has three bonus sections at the end that aren’t dialogue, but do look at how one interacts with other religions and how some have done it in history. Anyone interested in interacting with this kind of thought needs to go through this area as well. There is also a section beforehand on different views of exclusivism and inclusivism so Christians can see where they fall on the spectrum.

The information in the book is certainly excellent. Be warned that when many of us read sections on Hinduism and Buddhism, self included, it is easy to get lost. This is because you really do get to see how different Eastern thought is from the way that we generally think and the terminology is terminology that we are not familiar with. I don’t think this is the fault of Tennent at all when it’s sometimes hard to follow. I think it’s just that we’re so far away from the system that we don’t know how to process it.

Some people might be surprised that the information on Islam doesn’t cover terrorism. The book was published after 9/11, but I suspect Tennent wanted to focus more on the doctrinal issues than that. That could be a good topic of further dialogue in the future if one is interested.

If anything would be changed, I would have liked to have seen some names attached to the participants in the dialogue and perhaps rather than just long pieces, have more immediate give and take like a conversation. Names would have made the dialogue seem more personable. Perhaps we should have some sections of longer parts and some of shorter parts. For shorter parts, I think of the writings of Peter Kreeft he has, such as those with Socrates.

Still, if you want some good information on these beliefs, this book is an excellent place to go. You will walk away with a better understanding of these worldviews. Again, you have to have this knowledge if you want to be effective today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/30/2019: Timothy Tennent

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

If you grew up in, say, the 1950’s, odds are you could go through life in America without ever really encountering a Buddhist or a Hindu. Fast forward to the 1980’s and you’re probably not as likely, but you will see ideas from the East having much more of a showing here in America. Now as the second decade of the 21st century comes to a close, it’s far easier. Not only can you encounter Hindus and Buddhists, but you don’t even have to leave your house to do so. Just get on Facebook and it’s easy to encounter people of a totally different religion.

When it comes to Islam and Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, we might have an easier time understanding because we share a cultural milleu in that these share a lot in common with Western thought. Not so with Buddhism or Hinduism. These religions can be so foreign to our way of thinking that they are difficult to understand. It has been said you need a Ph.D. in philosophy to really understand Buddhism, for example.

A couple of months ago my wife and I visited a Hindu temple here in Atlanta. I did encounter a foreign world to me and as I left, I realized I needed to do a show on the topic of Hinduism and Buddhism as well. Few of us in apologetics really know how to approach the kind of thinking in these religions. I needed someone who understood both of these well and had a passion for teaching on the topics. I found that person in Dr. Timothy Tennent.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

President Timothy C. Tennent has served as president since July 2009. Prior to his coming to Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Tennent was the Professor of World Missions and Indian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where he served since 1998. Ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1984, he has pastored churches in Georgia, and in several of the largest churches in New England. Since 1989, he has taught annually as an adjunct professor at the New Theological College in Dehra Dun, India. He is a frequent conference speaker around the country and throughout the world, including numerous countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Not only will we be talking about these religions, but I also plan to talk about how to approach other religions in general. It is tempting if we’re apologists to seek to study a religion just to find out what’s wrong with it. Is there a better way to approach a foreign religion? Even if we know the facts about other religions, how is the best way to communicate this to those who hold to those religions?

Please be watching your feed for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the show as well. It really means a lot to me to know that there are so many of you out there that appreciate the work that is being done here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Deeper Waters Podcast 4/22/2017: Ken Samples

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

Is Jesus really unique? We live in a world where there are many religions. Each of them claims to be true. Is there really any way to tell? Why should anyone think that there’s anything special in Christianity as opposed to another view like Islam or Confucianism?

Ken Samples in his book God Among Sages has looked at the religions of the world. He points out positive contributions of each one and ways that we can better understand and interact with adherents of them, but then shows the uniqueness of Jesus. In the end, Jesus does indeed stand out.

This Saturday, we’ll be exploring that claim further. We’ll have an hour together to discuss the matter and we’ll be making the most of it. Still, we need to ask who Ken Samples is. Well….

According to his bio:

Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion for helping people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity’s truth claims. He is the senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe and the author of several books, including Christian Endgame and 7 Truths That Changed the World.

How does someone approach other religions of the world? As Christians, we can tend to be hyper-skeptical of any of them and not really give them the time and attention they deserve if we want to reach their adherents. Islam is one of the major world religions highly impacting our world today, but how many of us have actually read the Qur’an and informed ourselves about it, yet we often have no trouble commenting on daily news stories about Islam itself as if we know what we’re talking about with it.

It can also be tempting to go on full attack mode with other religions, but there’s no need to do that. There are things that will be correct in other religious beliefs. We also don’t need to rule out automatically the religious experiences of people in other belief systems. If we want them to treat Christianity seriously, we need to treat their belief system seriously.

There is also the question in the end of what about those who have never heard. While Samples and I do fall on different sides of the spectrum here, we both fully uphold the idea that the Great Commission needs to be fulfilled. This is an area that Christians can disagree on, but we must never take it as a reason to be lax in our duties with regard to the command of Christ. As I have said before, the Bible never explicitly addresses the question. It gives us our marching orders and says nothing about if we fail the plan. There is no plan B.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and I hope you’ll also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show! It’s always great to see them. Be ready next time to discuss world religions and the uniqueness of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters