Folks who wind up on this page usually want to know one (or more) things: (1) Who’s behind this site?; (2) What are you trying to accomplish with the site — and all the associated podcasts, books, videos, and other websites?; and (3) What is it you believe — what drives you? So, in that order …
Who am I?
My name is Mike Heiser, and I’m a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., Ancient History) and the University of Wisconsin- Madison (M.A., Ph.D., Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies). I have a dozen years of classroom teaching experience on the college level and another ten in distance education. I’m currently a Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software, a company that produces ancient text databases and other digital resources for study of the ancient world and biblical studies. You can get a more detailed answer to my academic background by reading through my CV.
Why do I do what I do online?
In a nutshell, my homepage, podcasts, other websites, and writing all aim to produce quality content for people who want certain things:
- Serious academic content for understanding the Bible in its own context, unfiltered by creeds and traditions — but made decipherable to those who don’t live in the ivory tower. In other words, I view it my duty as a biblical scholar to make scholarship comprehensible to the interested non-specialist. I believe it’s a critical need in the Church (and outside it, too). Every church has five or six people in it who are desperate for content — who are withering from content malnutrition. I’m here to help. If you sense that there’s got to be more to the Bible than self-help platitudes and Sunday School lessons with adult illustrations, who’d love to be taught something more than the basics of the gospel, and who hope that Jesus is more than a cosmic life coach, you’re in the right place. I write at the Naked Bible blog and teach through the Naked Bible Podcast with you in mind. You’re also the person I had in view when I wrote The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. The book is a bestseller, despite the fact that it’s not available in stores. That was deliberate. You know that no one walks into a Christian bookstore looking for serious content. I know it, too.
- Serious academic critique of the cyber-twaddle you find on the internet about the Bible and the ancient world. Think “Ancient Aliens” nonsense and you get the idea. This is why I was in the YouTube documentary Ancient Aliens Debunked (millions of views). It’s why I blog at Paleobabble. It’s why I critique the ideas of the late ancient aliens theorist Zecharia Sitchin, whose books have been translated into over twenty languages and sold tens of millions of copies. Someone has to say something. It’s why I do interviews on fringe / alternative history talk shows.
- Serious Christian engagement with modern alternative worldviews and the paranormal. Our culture is fascinated by ghosts, psychic phenomena, near death experiences, UFOs and extraterrestrials, and conspiracy theories. Movies featuring superheros, vampires, artificial intelligence, and mutants are the rage. Why? They constitute an alternative to theism and Christianity. Science fiction and the paranormal capture the imagination by offering a means to our own divinity and glimpses of other realities. Space is heaven without the biblical God. The paranormal offers an escape from deterministic materialism and spirituality without centralized authority. It all satisfies the yearning for the transcendent and a destiny of becoming more than human, whether by modifying our bodies (transhumanism) or evolving with supernatural assistance that isn’t an angry deity. The message is simple and ancient: we will be as gods. Rather than belittle those who have rejected Christianity in favor of this new religion or denying someone’s anomalous experience, my goal is to help people consider that perhaps the problem isn’t the Bible, but the inside-the-box (or head-in-the-sand) thinking that often characterizes Christian approaches to these subjects. This is why I blog at UFO Religions, speak at UFO conferences, write sci-fi paranormal thrillers (The Facade, The Portent), and host the Peeranormal podcast.
What do I believe?
While I’m not anti-creedal or opposed to denominations, I am opposed to using creeds and denominational preferences to filter the Bible. Creeds are selective, historically-conditioned, limited by their context and the resources available to their formulators, and often agenda-driven. I’m more concerned with what the text says and what it can sustain in terms of interpretation than I am with creeds and mission statements. Every post-first century religious context is foreign to the Bible, and therefore is not the context of the Bible. The right context for interpreting the Bible is the context that produced it — the worldview and cognitive frame of reference of the biblical writers. I’m a trained biblical scholar, but I also have what I think is a healthy disdain for the trendiness of academia and its own brand of self-assured dogmatics. I’d be a happier guy if every graduate student in biblical studies and theology was forced to take courses in logic and critical thinking. I once said that out loud in a doctoral class. I didn’t win hearts and minds that day.
Getting More Specific
For the sake of brevity (I really am trying to be brief), I’m leaving gaps even in what’s here. As an academic I’m well aware of where other academics would want XYZ question addressed. But this is my site and no one else’s, so you’ll need to deal with the truncation. If you want a research bibliography on the points that follow, I could give you one, but that would be sad.
Broadly speaking, my own beliefs flow from some pretty simple presuppositions, all of which have stood the test of time intellectually.
For example, I’m a theist. It’s more coherent than atheism. That is, the idea that there is a supreme intelligent Being has more explanatory power for things we know and experience than does the absence of that Being.
As a theist, it makes more sense to me to think that if a God exists, that God would actually be capable of doing things, and interested in doing things (as opposed to merely existing and doing nothing). I’m not a deity and I’m not that mindless and uninteresting. I have to think God has intelligence and the desire to use that intelligence.
Continuing, I think it’s more reasonable to believe that things that exist had a cause as opposed to having no cause. When it comes to the material creation, it either (a) created itself, (b) was always there, or (c) was created by an external force. Options A and B are ruled out by the Big Bang (cosmological science) and by logic. They are also ruled out by revelation like the Bible, but if you think you need the Bible to hold this position, you’re sadly uninformed.1 Lots of intelligent people who assign no importance to the Bible hold position C. And although position A has adherents (setting aside the position’s infinite regress problem that has one universe burping another one into existence, thereby explaining why our universe bears the marks of a beginning) anyone who embraces a Big Bang has to (ultimately) reject it. I was taught in high school that there was no such thing as spontaneous generation of matter within a closed system. It made sense then, and it still makes sense. God seems a good candidate for the external cause to the material creation, and that is quite independent of what one thinks about Genesis.
Since I accept theism and the need for a creative event, I think God could do lots of things that, to me, seem of smaller magnitude. For example, he can probably influence people to write stuff down (I can do that one) that would eventually get collected and made into a book (the Bible). He could even oversee the process and make sure they don’t screw it up, and if they did, he could bring along an editor to fix it. Again, that isn’t hard. This God could also become incarnate and decide to give himself as an atonement for human sin – basically, to offer forgiveness for the moral and spiritual failings he sees in his creatures by putting the onus on himself, not them, to fix the problem. If I were God, I not only could do that, I’d want to, especially if there was no way my creations could do that themselves.
I am also a Christian because it’s the only religious approach that makes any sense for solving the fundamental problem all religions are supposed to address: right relationship to God. All other religions require perfect performance of imperfect people to please a perfect being. That’s impossible (and deeply incoherent). Christianity has the perfect being becoming incarnate in imperfect flesh (i.e., it could bleed, age, and die) to communicate to imperfect people that he had come to pay the penalty his own demands had placed on them (after all, he has the right to make demands of his own creatures – you do that if you have kids, and I’m guessing you don’t think it’s unreasonable). In other words, God, through Christ, becomes the solution for a problem we cannot solve. His motive? John 3:16. The requirement to have that applied to us? Faith — Trust the solution, people. That’s it. No endless and futile effort to appease an angry deity. The deity solves the problem himself on your behalf. That’s pretty nice of him, especially when you’re helpless to fix the problem yourself.2
That’s good enough for this space.
To contact me, please use the Contact form. I apologize ahead of time for the disclaimer that accompanies it.
- Philosophical materialists and atheists would opine here on how this is unscientific, somehow never bothering to explain scientifically why so many credentialed scientists would disagree. ↩
- And incidentally, for those Jesus revisionists out there who say that Jesus is really a pagan deity . . . it’s cheating to charge the New Testament writers with borrowing from paganism and exclude a bodily resurrection (not a cadaverous one, either) and the gospel message from your comparison. ↩