We have reported on challenges to freedom of religion in the United States. A growing number of religious freedom challenges have taken place on college campuses, specifically orchestrated to attack Christianity.
At Florida Atlantic University a student named Ryan Rotella refused to participate in a class exercise in which students were to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then stomp on it. He was suspended from the class and told not to return.
At Missouri State University Emily Booker was required to write to state legislators urging passage of homosexual adoption laws. She refused, and the university threatened to withhold her degree.
Several graduate-level counseling programs require students to counsel homosexual couples rather than refer them to other therapists for relationship counseling. At Missouri State University and Eastern Michigan University, students were expelled from the programs if they referred homosexual couples to another counselor.
You can read about those cases in Citizen magazine for October of 2017 (page 30).
Another case that is very disturbing involves Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland. A young man named Brandon Jenkins applied for admission to the radiation therapy program. Even though he exceeded the minimum requirements, the college denied him admission because he was a Christian. When an interviewer asked him what was the most important thing in his life he said that God is. When Jenkins asked why he was denied, the director and coordinator the radiation therapy program told him, “this field is not the place for religion.”
Something that amazes me as I answer the questions and hate mail from our website is the incredible ignorance of not only the Bible but of the evidence for God’s existence.
Atheists are fond of saying “there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence.” Then they attempt to vilify Christianity by pointing to things done by people who claim to be Christians. With the growing number of atheist websites and the increasing participation of the media in these claims, people have embraced the idea that these notions are true.
You can find evidence for God’s existence in virtually every discipline of science. Genesis 1:1 gives us a series of choices that we must focus on to support faith in God. The account tells us that the universe had a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that God caused it. The first two statements are scientifically addressable. Science has shown that there was a beginning. The evidence that time, space, and energy are not eternal is overwhelming. In our printed magazine, on our websites, and in our courses, we offer evidence for these statements. These choices do not require the Bible or any assumptions about God, so the assertion that we are just “spouting scripture” is not true.
Whether the cause of the beginning was God is a more complex issue because it is rooted in understanding God’s nature. Quantum mechanics, the work of Einstein, and modern work in physics have given us wonderful tools to understand the cosmos. The Bible becomes a necessary tool as we consider whether the biblical description of God fits the evidence that we see in the science disciplines. Most people have not fully grasped the concept of a being outside of time and space with the capacity to design intelligently all that we see around us. Their concept of God is simply too small, and that is true of atheists and believers alike.
A newly released study indicates the dangers of long-term marijuana use. The bottom line is that it alters brain cells.
The study was published in Jneurosci (The Journal of Neuroscience) on October 16. The researchers focused on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. Dopamine and serotonin receptors are concentrated there. Those receptors give a person the sensation of pleasure.
The scientists conducted the study on mice in their “teen” and “adolescent” stages of life. The mice received injections of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) every day for a week. THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana (as well as opioids and alcohol) stimulates the VTA to release dopamine resulting in an experience of pleasure and the desire for more. There is a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) cell in the VTA which acts as an inhibitor. When the brain releases GABA, it serves to restrain the desire for pleasure and keep it under control.
In the week of receiving THC, the GABA neurons lost their ability to control the desire for pleasure. They were in a state of “long-term depression” (LTD). This caused the dopamine to remain longer in the VTA giving a sense of being “spaced out,” and leading to addiction.
The researchers stated that the long-term effect of the THC was to remodel the brain’s synapses resulting in reduced “synaptic plasticity.” The synapses carry electrical or chemical signals from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. This “synaptic modification” is changing the brain at the cellular level.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is the standard reference used by mental health professionals at all levels. The current edition is DSM-5. It defines cannabis (marijuana) use disorder as a “problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”
On October 6 NASA’s daily space news website apod.nasa.gov contained pictures of a Martian global aurora. Because Mars has virtually no magnetic field, the radiation level goes sky high during solar storms. In the latest storm, radiation levels doubled–which would have been dangerous to life on Mars.
Earth’s magnetic field is very strong, and deflects radiation coming from the Sun. The radiation is deflected toward the poles, which is why we see the auroras near the poles. By deflecting the radiation, the magnetic field protects life on the Earth from dangerous levels. The more we learn about the cosmos, the more we see factors that make life possible on Earth. Our magnetic field is one more example of the design of our planet.
Looking for life in space is not just about whether there is water on a planet. There are a huge number of other factors that must be present. A strong magnetic field to shield from radiation is just one of those factors. Of course, an atmosphere suitable for life is also a requirement. NASA has a space probe called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiting Mars. The purpose is to find out if Mars lost its atmosphere due to not having a strong magnetic field.
We have two important books—the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. We believe they both have the same Author. By studying both books, we can learn about God.
In Psalms 19 of the Book of Scripture, we read about the important message of the Book of Nature. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge.” The Psalmist tells us that the Book of Nature is more than written words. It’s a book that actually speaks.
He continues in verses 3 and 4, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth; their words to the ends of the world.” We have to translate the written words of Scripture into the languages of the world’s people. The language of the Book of Nature is universal and even speaks to the illiterate. Since the Book of Nature speaks in all languages, Paul could write, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Of course, the Book of Nature can’t tell us everything we need to know. Nature tells us that God exists and it tells something about His qualities. Salvation comes through hearing the Scriptures (Romans 10:17). The Bible tells us about Jesus–God in the flesh. It tells us of His sacrifice for our sins. It tells us what we should do to receive the free gift God offers.
The important point to remember is that nature points beyond itself. The more we learn about the natural world, the more the Book of Nature speaks to us. It tells us there is a powerful God of wisdom to create such a complex, fine-tuned, dynamic universe. Nobody can honestly say they don’t know the language. “Their voice goes out to all the earth.” Since the language is universal, those who refuse to listen are “without excuse.”
One of the problems both skeptics and believers have to deal with is the meaning of words. Words have different meanings depending on where you live and when you live. The phrase “he is gay” has a whole different meaning today than when I was in high school in 1955.
The July issue of Reader’s Digest carried an article about the differences in English word usage and meanings in today’s America. The magazine gave examples of words that mean different things in different geographic locations.
There are also different words used for the same thing in different parts of the country. While in some areas the phrase is “you all” in the south it is more commonly “y’all, ” and in Pennsylvania, it’s “yinz.” In the west, it’s called a drinking fountain, while easterners tend to call it a water fountain, and in Wisconsin, it’s a bubbler. In the west, they are fireflies while in the east and south they are lightning bugs. While in other areas of the country they may be traffic circles or roundabouts, in Massachusetts they are rotaries. In some areas it’s soda, and in others it’s pop. There are many other differences, but you get the idea.
Can you imagine the trouble we have in trying to understanding the full meaning of the Hebrew or Greek words of the Bible texts? It reminds us that when we are dealing with Scripture, we need to consider some important things. We must keep in mind who wrote it, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of that time and place would have understood it. Failing to consider those things has caused many misunderstandings.
It never ceases to amaze me how some skeptic attacks never seem to go away. One of the more bizarre has to do with Noah’s son Ham. Some atheists claim that the story of Ham was invented to justify the persecution of people of color and the use of slaves.
They base their attack on the story recorded in Genesis 9:20-29. After the flood of Noah, Ham discovered his father drunk and naked. Ham told about it, exposing his father to ridicule. Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, discretely covered their father to avoid embarrassment. When Noah recovered his sobriety, he cursed Ham and blessed Shem and Japheth. Some skeptics claim that the name Ham means “dark or swarthy” and that this is an attack on people of color.
However you interpret the story of Ham, it has no relevance to Christianity. Jesus did away with all such boundaries. Passages like Galatians 3:28 make that clear by telling us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is highly unlikely that the intent of the name of Noah’s son Ham referred to skin color or that such characteristic would be passed on to all his progeny.
One of the things high-school chemistry students have to learn is how to use a periodic table of the elements. As we worked with the chart, I almost always had a student ask me how the natural elements of the periodic table came into existence. Our textbook simply said that the elements were produced by “the event that produced the universe.”
Dr. Timothy C. Beers is the chair of astrophysics in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Magazine for Autumn 2017 contains an interesting article about his efforts to understand the processes that formed the natural elements of the periodic table. Dr. Beers calls it “Galactic Archaeology.”
Beers was the first scientist to identify “carbon-enhanced metal-poor stars.” These stars appear to have formed very early in the creation of the universe, and thus they give a window into the past. When the universe was created, only hydrogen and helium were present. Beers and his fellow researchers are working to understand what is called a rapid neutron-capture process. When neutrons bombard the lighter elements, some of those neutrons latch on and create heavier elements. As we watch that process taking place, we see that producing the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium requires a more complex process than anyone could imagine.
The Bible simply says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens (outer space) and the earth (elements that make up our planet).” God doesn’t tell us how He did it, but Genesis 2:3 tells us that God created (did a miraculous event that humans cannot do) and made (did an event that we can do and understand). The team that Dr. Beers leads is trying to understand how God did it.
Understanding how God created the stuff that makes up our bodies is a part of seeing the handiwork of God. Dr. Beers says, “I think human beings want to know the story,” and he says that his work will surely produce a religious response. The design of the natural elements of the periodic table is amazing. Learning how God formed them is a rich source of data about God’s design and creative wisdom.
DOES GOD EXIST? maintains a Facebook page with daily postings. We often get skeptic challenges and questions from those who are seeking for answers. We want to share the following conversation from Facebook:
SKEPTIC: Maybe instead of “Does God Exist?” you should call your page “straw man arguments that I just made up and took no time to research.” Proteins collected, microorganisms slowly developed, they grew, became more developed, and developed very slowly into animals we recognize today. It really isn’t something you can’t Google whenever. But if you think everything is designed by your interpretation of the Jewish/Christian god, what designed him? Does the designer of the designer have a designer? Does it just go on forever in a ridiculous infinite cycle?
DGE?: You are on very shaky ground with that narrative of life coming together from non-life. But the real mistake you are making is thinking that God had a beginning. God created time and space, matter and energy at the moment often referred to as the “big bang.” Since God created time, he is not confined to the dimension of time. Since God is outside of time, he has no beginning. We are so confined to understanding things in the time dimension that it is difficult for us to grasp that concept. We think that everything has a beginning because that is true of the world we live in.
SKEPTIC: Isn’t it really easy to just say something exists outside of space and time and therefore doesn’t need to follow the laws of physics? What if I said that the creator of the universe is a giant, two-headed penguin? What if I were to say that the giant penguin exists outside of time and space (and that he wants you to give me money)? Would that be any less valid than what you’re asserting?
DGE?: Scientists say that space/time, as well as matter/energy, had their beginning at the singularity known as the big bang. Whatever created time (as well as space, matter, and energy) must exist outside of those dimensions. Some have tried to argue that the universe just happened without a cause. However, that is not a scientific statement because it cannot be tested. Sorry, it could not be a penguin because penguins (especially giant ones) have mass and therefore they are matter. As the Bible says, with scientific accuracy, “God is a spirit.”
SKEPTIC: To say that the universe having no cause is unscientific, while claiming the existence of some god living outside of physics, is hypocritical to say the least. If it’s necessary for everything to have a cause, what caused your god? If the universe HAS to have a cause, why not carry that same logic to the god you’re claiming?
DGE?: You are right that claiming the existence of God as the creator of space/time and matter/energy is not a scientific statement. The reason being that it cannot be scientifically tested. All we can know scientifically is that at the moment of creation space/time and matter/energy came into existence. That means that whatever caused those things to come into existence has to be outside of the space/time dimension and cannot be made of matter/energy.
We also know that since the cause is outside of space/time, it cannot be limited by space/time. That means it had no beginning in time, so it had no cause. It always existed. Those things can be proven logically and scientifically. From there we have to rely on faith since this is outside of the realm of science. I choose to believe that the creation was by an intelligent God. You may choose to believe that the creation was by and out of NOTHING. (Which is what some otherwise intelligent scientists have suggested.) Whether you choose the intelligent God hypothesis or the Nothing hypothesis you are acting on faith. I think that God is a more rational explanation.
SKEPTIC: It isn’t rational to believe things on faith. I’m not claiming “nothing” created the universe. I’m saying we don’t know, so we shouldn’t fool ourselves. You can’t claim to be reasonable if you 1) claim it is reasonable to say “we both don’t know, so I guess I’m right” 2) think something existing outside of time and space is plausible, but bacteria slowly forming from proteins in water is crazy talk.
DGE?: Okay, you are not saying that Nothing created the universe. However, I am sure you understand that the universe was created FROM nothing. I am sure that you understand that whatever did create the universe created time/space and matter/energy and therefore cannot be limited by or be made of those things. So the question is whether the thing which created time/space and matter/energy was Something or Nothing. Something seems more reasonable to me.
SKEPTIC: There’s no proof that “something” exists outside of the universe. It is, by definition, impossible for something to exist outside of reality. If it exists outside of reality, it doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. It’s imaginary. You’re providing logical proofs that not even a 4-year-old would buy. You first say that you have a specific something. You then say that this something must exist, solely on the grounds that we have stuff and not no stuff. When challenged on it, you say that it must exist, because what else would create the universe? Okay. What created your something? Another something? What created that something? Oh, it exists outside of time and space? And you have no evidence? Great. Just wonderful. You’ve won me over.
DGE?: How do you define this “reality” that you refer to? You have brought that word into our conversation, and you seem to be defining it as that which we can detect with our senses. Do you believe that nothing is “real” unless we can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell it?
SKEPTIC: If you cannot detect something in any way, it isn’t real. This isn’t exactly hard to understand. But you’re dodging around the fact that something cannot exist outside of reality, let alone create it. When you provide evidence that your particular interpretation of a particular deity is real, you may have some ground to stand on.
DGE?: You seem to have difficulty understanding that many (or should I say most) scientists believe that time began at the big bang. If that is the case, then whatever caused the bang has to exist outside of time. (Also it has to exist outside of space, since time and space are inter-related, and space began at the big bang also.) Either you have to say that Nothing created everything we see, or you have to say that Something outside of time created everything.
The only other idea posited is that the universe is cyclical and the big bang came from a previous universe that had compressed itself into a tiny point that exploded into a new universe. This theory has been rejected by scientists because nobody today believes that the universe will start to compress into a point and explode again. The expansion rate of the universe is increasing, not slowing down, and the energy will eventually dissipate. Also, the cyclical idea still doesn’t explain where it all began.
All we have left then are two possibilities. Either Nothing created the universe or Something outside of time and space created time and space and matter and energy and everything we see. Some scientists (Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss) have suggested that the universe came from Nothing because Nothing is unstable and therefore it morphs into a more stable state. I don’t see how that can be called a scientific theory unless it can be tested. I also think it takes more faith to believe that life (including human intelligence and creativity) came from Nothing than to believe that these things came from an intelligent Designer.
SKEPTIC: Again, I’m NOT SAYING “NOTHING” CREATED THE UNIVERSE! We don’t know what created the universe, or if the universe always existed somehow, but to say that you’re right because you can’t imagine “nothing” creating the universe is fundamentally flawed. If you think something created the universe, demonstrate what it is, then demonstrate that it exists, then demonstrate that it is your god (I’m guessing you’re a Christian, I apologize if I’m wrong). But if you cannot demonstrate that your god made the universe, or even that he exists, you should not expect anyone to believe you. But again, just because you think “something” made the universe, that doesn’t mean that it should be exempt from the laws of physics. Show your proof.
DGE?: You say we don’t know “if the universe always existed somehow.” You would have a hard time finding any reputable scientist today who would say that the universe always existed. Discovery of the microwave background radiation from the cosmic creation event put the final nail in the coffin of that idea. So, since the universe had a beginning, the only choices seem to be that it had a cause, or it did not have a cause. It either created itself out of Nothing, or it was created by Something. That Something has to be outside of time and space, or it could not have created time and space. You can call it God or you can just call it Something. Science cannot go back beyond the big bang, so there is no scientific way to prove what that Something is.
SKEPTIC: There’s no way to prove there is anything outside of reality, but again, by definition, NOTHING CAN EXIST OUTSIDE OF REALITY. It isn’t plausible. You’re using circular logic.
DGE?: You are saying that reality is only the 4-dimensional world that you know and that nothing can exist outside of those four dimensions because that is all you know. And you are accusing me of using circular logic.
SKEPTIC: Who brought up four dimensions? Are you trying to use pseudoscientific terms to try to sound smart?
DGE?: In case you didn’t realize it, the four dimensions we live in are width, height, depth, and time. (Or X, Y, Z, and T, if you prefer.)
SKEPTIC: Riiiiight… Well, you literally can’t have something existing outside of reality. You think I’m wrong? Show me your god.
DGE?: You are avoiding the issue. You continue to use “reality” as things you think are real and anything you don’t think is real is outside of “reality.” Your reality is too small. As you know, it is not possible to prove scientifically that God exists, and it is not possible to prove scientifically that God does not exist. Nobody has ever seen the so-called “dark matter,” but scientists believe it exists because they see its effect on the galaxies. Nobody has ever seen an electron, but we believe electrons exist because without them our computers would not work, and we would not be carrying on this conversation.
Likewise, even though we cannot see God, we see the universe around us. We know that the universe had a beginning and there had to be a cause of the beginning. You can choose to believe that there was an intelligent Creator or you can believe that it just happened out of nothing and by Nothing. You can also believe that electrons and dark matter don’t exist. Your computer works by magic, and the galaxies are held together by imagination. Each person decides what to believe, and I suggest that you keep an open mind.
SKEPTIC: As common sense and centuries of logical thought have proven, you should not believe in things that cannot be detected. I cannot detect magical leprechauns in my garden, but what else would cause my plants to exist? Well, I must be right, right? That’s proof enough for you, right? Look, I know you know I’m winning. That’s why you’re making it personal by accusing me of being closed-minded, which is highly inappropriate. Shame on you. You’ve lost. No one who is winning an argument will attack the other person. If you want an intelligent discussion, then that’s wonderful. I encourage it. But if you think it’s okay to say someone’s closed minded when they disagree with the same tired argument, then shame on you. I have no time for people who can’t maintain their arguments on their points’ own merits and resort to accusations of closed-mindedness.
DGE?: You say you won and I lost. I didn’t know this was a contest with a winner or looser. I thought it was an intelligent discussion about important things. In fact, I would say eternally important. You say that one should not believe in things that can’t be detected. Then I would expect that you would take issue with the many scientists who believe in dark matter which they have not been able to detect. Look it up on Wikipedia. They believe it exists because it explains things that they cannot explain otherwise.
I also suggest that you look up a book written by Edwin Abbot in 1884 titled “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.” It’s available on Amazon for only a few dollars, and the Kindle edition is free. It is pretty much required reading for students of math, physics, or engineering. It’s a satirical novel about a man who lives in a two-dimensional world called Flatland. He is unable to believe that there could be a third dimension when a sphere shows up in Flatland and challenges his thinking. You don’t seem to be open to anything that challenges your way of thinking.
It has been interesting discussing these matters with you. I wish you well. I would say, “God bless you,” but that would probably offend you. So I will just say, “May the Force be with you.”
DOES GOD EXIST? MINISTRY CELEBRATES 50 YEARS WITH CANYONLANDS TRIP
Our first lectureship was in the fall of 1968, and our first Grand Canyon trip was in the winter of 1970.
WE WILL CELEBRATE THOSE EVENTS WITH A CANYONLANDS TRIP September 9-14, 2018
– We will visit Sunset Crater, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Lake Powell boat trip, Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, and Petrified Forest by Air Conditioned Bus.
– As we travel, Alan Doty and John Clayton will give lectures on the things we are seeing and how they support the biblical record.
– This will be a trip for believers. Prayers and singing will be a part of every day’s activities.