Torture and Truth

Torture and Truth
Torture Rack

We have written about “Truth” before, and our point has been that truth is never 100% sure when you deal with humans. When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), he was giving us the only thing we can fully trust, and that is God’s Word.

There is an interesting story from history about the Duke of Brunswick in Germany. In the early 1600s, he challenged the connection between torture and truth. He requested the assistance of two Jesuit scholars who had been using torture to extract information about witches. He had a confessed witch who was being stretched on a rack, and he invited the Jesuits to join him in watching her torture.

With the two Jesuits watching, the Duke said to the woman “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch. I suspect these two men (the Jesuits) of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack executioners.”

The woman cried, “No, no! You are quite right…They can turn themselves into goats, wolves, and other animals…Several witches have had children by them…The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” The Duke turned to the Jesuits and said, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”

One of the Jesuits she accused of being a warlock was Friedrich See who helped to end witch hunting by writing a book in 1631 titled Cautio Criminalis. The book demonstrated that torture was not a tool for obtaining useful information because humans will say anything to stop the pain. We have all seen children say preposterous things to get out of a jam, but adults do the same thing on a different level.

When Pilate questioned Jesus in John 18:37, Jesus said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” How Jesus lived and what He taught can be trusted because it is not of human origin. Over the centuries when people follow Christ’s teachings, their truthfulness has been demonstrated. Pilate’s response to Jesus was, “What is truth?” Soon after that, Pilate told the Jews he could find no fault in Jesus.

Torture and truth do not go together. Truth stands on its own. It cannot be manufactured or forced. People make false claims about Christianity, but just as Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, today no one can find fault in what Jesus taught or how He lived.
Reference: Scientific American, May 2017, page 77.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Summer Snow in Michigan

Summer Snow
Eastern Cottonwood Seeds

Recently my driveway was covered with Michigan summer snow. The temperature was 92 degrees, and the snow was falling at an alarming rate. I didn’t get out my snow blower, but I did get out my leaf blower.

Michigan summer snowflakes are one-to-two inches in diameter. Contained within each snowflake is a seed. These snowflakes can travel for miles when the wind is blowing because they are carefully engineered so that their density is the same as the air here in Michigan on a hot early summer day. They only stop when they hit an obstruction, but even a dandelion or a tall weed can stop them. The cotton that surrounds the seed is highly soluble in water. As soon as it rains or the sprinkler system comes on, the cotton will dissolve, and the seed will fall to the ground and try to become a new cottonwood tree.

The eastern cottonwood is the state tree in Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. It can grow as much as six feet in one year and can become one of the largest trees in North America. Because they grow so fast, the wood of cottonwood trees is not very strong. But when you have a tree 190 feet tall, there is a great deal you can do with it. The Native Americans made canoes from the trunks of cottonwood trees. They used the bark of the tree as forage for horses, and the sprouts for food and medicinal tea.

Cottonwood trees come in both male and female varieties with different life cycles. The males don’t make seeds. In the spring the female trees have tiny red blossoms. When the females are pollinated by the male trees, they form a spherical cotton ball with a seed inside. The volume of the cotton is exactly enough to give buoyancy to lift the seed off the ground, but not so enough for it to be lost in the atmosphere. The cotton balls with their seeds flow across the landscape in the same way that cold air blows snow in winter. The seeds can be so thick that we can’t see across our street.

It is a wonderful thing to see all the different methods that God designed into trees to allow them to reproduce. Maple trees use tiny helicopters to lower seeds to the ground. Oak trees use acorns to entice squirrels to bury their seeds. Squirrels have enough memory space in their brains to remember where most of the seeds are, but not all of them. Cottonwoods create summer snow.

Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. Our Michigan summer snowstorm is just one more example of that truth.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Supreme Court Decision vs. Atheist Foolishness

Supreme Court Decision on Church Playground
Sometimes when atheists attack churches and people who believe in God, their arguments border nonsense. In an earlier post, we told about a state program for child safety in Missouri that was denied to a church solely because it was a church. A Supreme Court decision finally settled the matter.

The state had instituted a grant program which allowed owners of playgrounds to make them safer by purchasing rubberized playground surface material made from recycled tires. In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, needed to replace the gravel on their playground with the safer material. The state denied their grant application saying that public funds cannot be given to religious organizations according to the Missouri state constitution. The case went to an appeals court where it ended in a tie vote. It was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 26, 2017, the court decided in favor of the church.

This case may sound frivolous, but it is an important issue. Churches run food banks, women’s shelters, street kitchens, relief agencies, counseling centers, and many other programs to help people. Churches provide those services more efficiently at less cost than government programs. The services that churches provide relieves the burden from taxpayers while providing more help for more people in need. If the government penalizes the work of the churches simply because they are “religious,” everyone suffers. Atheists provide none of those services to any great extent, if at all. We see foolish cases like this one increasing because of blind hatred for God.

The Alliance Defending Freedom represented Trinity Lutheran in this case, and they argued that Missouri’s “…religious exclusion sends a message that Trinity’s children are less worthy of protection simply because they play on a playground owned by a church.” The ADF also stated that “People of faith shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens–every child’s safety matters. The government shouldn’t make children in religious preschools less safe on playgrounds than other children.”

You will find the details of the ruling on the SCOTUS Blog. The complete text of the Supreme Court decision is posted on the court opinions page as Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. vs. Comer.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Moderate Drinking and the Brain

Moderate Drinking
Does moderate drinking cause physiological problems? We see a lot of misleading information in the media about the effects of alcohol. There have been studies linking consumption of alcohol to longer life expectancy. We have pointed out that the agents causing health benefits from drinking wine are the flavonoids in grapes. Alcohol is not the agent of health benefits.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal reports that long term studies show a negative effect in the brain of moderate drinkers. The study defined moderate drinking as weekly doses of 8 to 12 small glasses of wine, bottles of beer, or shots of liquor. It followed 527 British citizens for 30 years, and the subjects were “predominantly white middle-class men.”

The study showed that moderate drinkers were more likely than nondrinkers to develop brain changes that might precede or accompany memory loss. They also were more likely to show a more rapid decline in a language fluency test. Moderate drinkers were three times more likely than nondrinkers to show shrinkage of the hippocampus area of the brain–a change that accompanies dementia. Heavy drinkers showed the most shrinkage.

Claims that moderate drinking is healthy and improves the quality of life are simply not true. Alcohol continues to be the most destructive recreational drug.
Reported in USA Today, June 7, 2017, page B1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

We Need Lightning to Survive on Earth

We Need Lightning
Most of us have had some experience with lightning. The chances are that our experiences have been terrifying and destructive, and we may view lightning as a bad thing. You may wonder if we need lightning. The short answer is, “Yes.” Lightning is a good thing, and there are many things we are still learning about it.

Lightning helps produce the nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that are needed by all living things on Earth. The process is called “nitrogen fixation, ” and it is vital to our very existence. Water droplets in the air carry an electric charge. That charge can accumulate to dangerous levels unless there is a way to neutralize it. That’s where lightning comes in.

One of my favorite demonstrations as a physics teacher was to get a very small flow of water going from a faucet and then bring a charged rod up to the column of water. The stream of water will bend in response to the charge. That is because the polar nature of the water molecule allows it to have electrical properties. Because of water’s electrical property, lightning is generated to release nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the crust of the Earth as nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that plants need to grow. The plants then feed and protect the animals and us.

Low Earth orbit satellites and high flying airplanes have recently made us aware of other properties of lightning. We have learned that red sprites occur and they have been photographed above large thunderstorms. Other upper atmosphere lightning phenomena include blue jets and terrestrial gamma flashes. Scientists are studying the highly complex nature of lightning to understand how the system works.

The Bible makes many comments about lightning. It tells us that lightning is made with water (rain) even though people at that time totally ascribed lightning to supernatural causes. (See Jeremiah 10:13 and 51:16). Lightning is referred to as a tool of God. (See Job 28:26; 36:30; 37:3, 11, 15; 38:24, 25, 35.)

We are just beginning to understand the design of Earth’s atmosphere and why we need lightning. It continues to be obvious that the more we know of the creation, the closer we get to understanding the power and wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

World’s Largest Snake- TITANOBOA

World's Largest Snake
It was the world’s largest snake. Fortunately, it is extinct. The computer-generated picture shows what it might have been like if a human had ever confronted a Titanoboa (Titanoboa cerrejonensis).

One thing that many creationists and evolutionists forget is the fact that Earth’s climate in the past was much different from what it is today. To produce animals of massive size, Earth’s climate would have to be much warmer. The temperatures would have been so high that mammals could hardly survive. Cold-blooded (ectothermic) animals in tropical areas today tend to be larger than ectothermic animals found farther from the equator.

While giving lectures in Colombia, South America, we learned about the snake named Titanoboa. Fossils of more than two-dozen of these snakes were discovered in coal mines in northern Colombia. The name means “titanic boa,” and that seems fitting because it measured 48 feet (14.6 m) long and would have weighed 2500 pounds (1,135 kg). For a snake of that size to live, the climate must have averaged 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). It is difficult to comprehend how any mammal, especially humans, could survive in such temperatures.

Why would God have given this planet such an extreme climate? It was needed to support the world’s largest snake, other huge animals, and the massive vegetation they required. What was the purpose of those animals and plants? That environment made possible the coal, petroleum, and other resources that would later be needed by humans to support an advanced civilization. This is one more indication that the prehistory of the Earth had conditions uniquely designed by God to prepare the planet for human habitation.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Pornography Impacts the Church

Pornography Impacts the Church
Sex is a beautiful creation of God. The complexity of human sexuality is enormous because the sexual experience is not just physical. Sex also involves the emotions as well as the spiritual nature of humans as beings created in the image of God.

Like everything else that God created, Satan can take something beautiful and purposeful and corrupt it and make something evil from it. The role of intimacy in marriage and the special nature of oneness which it binds in love and sharing seems to be lost in today’s world. Pornography impacts the Church also.

We have seen how evil sex can become in the pedophile behavior of some Roman Catholic priests. The media has seized on this abuse and attempted to make it appear to be the norm for Christianity. Church leadership seems to be in denial on this subject, and yet recent studies show that 68% of men who call themselves “Christians” view pornography on a regular basis.

The internet allows men to view pornography at home or in the privacy of their office. In an article in Christianity Today (August 2017) titled “Pornography is Paralyzing the Church” Luke Gibbons wrote, “When men view porn, they become stricken with guilt and shame which leads to feeling unworthy to lead and afraid to speak out. Their secret sin becomes a dead-weight in their lives. They avoid ministry opportunities and begin to suffocate spiritually.”

Pornography impacts the church when it encourages child predators. Jimmy Hinton is a man who knows that from first-hand experience. We worked with him to create a DVD series and booklet to help churches protect themselves from child predators. The title of the material is “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” It is available on loan from our ministry, or to purchase from www.churchprotect.org or the PowerVine Store.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Evolution “The Road to Homo Sapiens”

Human Evolution the Road to Homo Sapiens
Around 1970, Time-Life Books published a mural of human evolution “The Road to Homo Sapiens.” It became a monstrous success. It was a foldout in a book titled Early Man. It was also laminated and sent to teachers in public schools. This mural became the basis of several movies and even cartoons. What most people don’t realize is that it was quite inaccurate. The artists who made the drawing created the impression that it was a chronological sequence of human history. Actually, the dates were misrepresented, and the drawings were pretty much fictional. In spite of that fact, much of the American public accepted “pliopithecus-to-modern-man” as a proven fact.

Half-a-century later, the picture is much more complicated and highly contested. Recently in Europe scientists found older fossils of what were considered to be the earliest ancestors of modern humans. Others found fossils of a group of small-brained individuals apparently ritualistically buried in a cave complex in southern Africa. This find violated the theory that there is a relationship between brain size and human-like activities. Discovered in Indonesia is a very small hominid that supports the view that there is no relationship between brain size and humanism. Names like Homo floresiensis or Hobbits, and Homo naledi or Naledi, and Graecopithecus fill the literature today.

Debates rage among the leading anthropologists about whether brains became larger as Homo species evolved, or whether brain size came first and increased physical size came later, or whether brain size has nothing to do with evolution at all. It is interesting that some of the great geniuses of the past 100 years had very small brains.

The major source of problems here is the failure to have a good definition of, “What is a human?” The biblical account defines humans as those beings created in the image of God. That does not refer to brain size or any physical characteristic. In reality, we have no idea what Adam looked like, how big his brain was, or any other physical characteristic.

The Bible tells us that “God formed the man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word yatsar is translated “formed.” It is a term used to refer to someone shaping pottery from clay. It’s different from the Hebrew word bara which is used in Genesis 1:27 to indicate how humans were created in God’s image. Bara is a word used only in reference to what God can do, and that is what makes us unique. You can form a man out of plastic and put clothes on him and put him in a department store window. The body may resemble a man, but it does not have the breath of life, and it does not have a soul.

The fossil record shows us that there were many creatures in the past who may have had some resemblance to humans. The same could be said today. You can visit a zoo and see gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, spider monkeys, Japanese snow monkeys, and others. The fact that there are some common features does not mean we are related.

The anthropological definition of humans deals only with physical characteristics. From the standpoint of human evolution, the road to homo sapiens is very bumpy indeed. The biblical definition of beings created in the image of God gives humans a special identification and a unique role in the world. It’s a role that has eternal significance and should also help us function in a constructive way in the affairs of this life. Humans can act like animals, but no animal can be human. Only humans are uniquely created in God’s image, now and for eternity.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

References: Science News June 10, 2017, page 6, The Week, June 23, 2017, page 20, Science News June 24, 2017, page 9.

South America Apologetic Outreach (Part 2)

South America Apologetic Outreach
Yesterday I started to describe what we found on our South America apologetic outreach during our recent lectureships in Colombia. As we spoke with people on the street, both men and women told me that they know the “Church” is a fake. They cite the failure of the Catholic Church to improve the standard of living of “common people” in countries like Colombia in spite of the enormous wealth the church holds. Several of them had suffered abuse at the hands of a church leader, and their expressions of pain were suppressed only by the church’s control.

The Colombian young people had seen the conflict between what they learned from television and on their computers and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was warned that if my lessons contained material in opposition to Catholic teaching, I would experience chastisement. At one point while our group was singing in the plaza, a Catholic priest came out of the church building and took one of our handouts. It seemed obvious that he was taking notes, and I gave him a business card for “Does God Exist?’ We have not heard from him as yet.

Atheists have taken note of all of this. Richard Dawkins has challenged the Catholic Church to a series of debates In December of 2017 at three universities in Colombia. Father Gerardo Remolina, a Vatican-trained scholar, has accepted Dawkin’s challenge. We hope to monitor these debates. Also, Dawkins has offered a competition to the young people of Colombia. He challenged them to watch the BBC program “Beautiful Minds” and write a five-page paper on why the life of an atheist is the best way to live. Dawkins will choose ten winners, and he will give them a personal tour of the British Museum.

In our lectureships in Ecuador and Colombia, we found intense interest in our approach. Young South Americans are rejecting Roman Catholicism. They are resenting the abuse, hypocrisy, and lack of constructive use of the Roman Catholic Church’s great wealth. They no longer are willing to live by an irrational faith based on tradition. Being told to THINK, to study the evidence for themselves and to believe that science and faith are friends and not enemies is a message they are eager to hear and accept.

We were blessed in our presentations in Ecuador and Colombia with two men who have lived in those countries for much of their lives and could translate our material accurately. We now have our videos subtitled in Spanish, and we hope to expand the outreach of our booklets and children’s material by translating them into Spanish. Unfortunately, we are a very small voice in a very large mission area. Dawkins and his associates are making their main thrust to reach university students, and those are the people who will control the moral and financial future of these countries. Already the Health Minister of Colombia, who is an atheist, has vowed to make abortion legal in his term. He states his atheist belief as the reason for that goal.

People in Ecuador and Colombia are eager to establish a meaningful relationship with God. They have seen the violence and murderous actions of drug warlords and the cartels who deny the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. They have also experienced the apathy, abuse, and politics of organized religion through the Catholic Church. The need is great for a South America apologetic outreach. The people are anxious to learn a new way of living guided by God. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

South America Apologetic Outreach

South America Apologetic Outreach
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.

Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.

One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.

As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.

One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.

In both Ecuador and Colombia, we have seen the need for a South America apologetic outreach teaching people the evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. People did not want to hear about “church” because to them that was a rehash of Roman Catholicism. Pray for the people of that great country as they are hungry to know how they and their children could believe in God, and how they could bring God into their lives. We will share more of our experience in Colombia in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017