Names for God

Names for God
We have received a number of emails asking why we use various names for God and for Christ. Different translations of the Bible also vary in their use of names. I suspect God is more concerned about how we follow His instructions for living than which of the respectful names for God we use.

David Thurman wrote an excellent article on this subject in his column in Gospel Minutes for March 23, 2018:

“God said to Moses, ”I AM WHO I AM’; and he said, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14). The name of God is “I Am.” The Jews used the letters YHWH to spell this name. In ancient Hebrew, there were no vowels, so when reading Hebrew in ancient times, the reader had to provide the vowels. Over time, the Jews would not pronounce the name of God, afraid that in doing so they would be taking His name in vain. So, they substituted another word, Adonai (meaning Lord) when they spoke Yhwh out loud. Most scholars today believe Yahweh is the closest we can come to “I AM” from the ancient texts. It was later, in the 6th century that scholars of that time inserted the vowels from Adonai into Yhwh. That resulted in an Aramaic version that was later translated into Latin and then English as “Jehovah.” To this day the original vowels are still unknown. All we know for certain is that God’s personal name was Yhwh. Some insert vowels to make it Yahweh, others, Jehovah, depending on which version of the Bible you use. Either is acceptable as long as we use it with honor and reverence to the Lord.”

“Yeshua” is simply the Hebrew word we translate into English as Joshua. It means “salvation is of the Lord.” The Greek (and English) form of this word is “Jesus.” That is why God told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus received His name because He was Savior. If you use “Yeshua” to refer to Jesus, you are simply using the Hebrew form of His name. If you call Him “Jesus” you are simply using the Greek and English form of His name. Both are right and apply equally to Lord Jesus.

The Bible in its various translations used various names for God and for God in the flesh. The important thing is that we always use God’s name in a respectful way.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Donkeys and Horses

Donkey and Horse
There are many obvious physical similarities between donkeys and horses. In their actions, they are very different.

Horses were first domesticated about 4,000 B.C. A horse can carry a rider into or out of a battle with speed and grace. A horse and its rider form a partnership of mutual trust. With a trusted rider on its back, a horse will charge ahead into the danger of a rugged course or a heated battle. Horses have been used in warfare for thousands of years.

Donkeys were domesticated around 3,000 B.C. While a horse can be fearless, a donkey has a much stronger sense of self-preservation. The unwillingness of donkeys to go into dangerous situations has given them a probably undeserved reputation for being stubborn. Donkeys don’t connect with their human riders in the way that horses do. That lack of mutual connection is a major factor in the reason why warriors have never ridden into battle on donkeys. Riding into confrontation on a donkey would indicate surrender.The use of donkeys in warfare has been limited to carrying supplies and carrying the wounded away from the battle.

So donkeys and horses are physically similar, and studies have not indicated a strong difference in intelligence between these animals. The difference between them seems to be in the way they are programmed in their DNA. The Creator understood that and chose a donkey to ride into Jerusalem as Jesus became the sacrificial fulfillment of the Passover Lamb in Matthew 21:1-5. In the final battle when the power of evil is destroyed forever, Revelation 19:11-16 describes Him riding on a horse. It’s easy to see that the donkey is used by the Suffering Servant and the horse is used by the Conquering King.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Being Human

Being Human
One of the oldest debates among scientists is what it takes for an individual to be called “human.” The problem is that each discipline has its own criteria for being human.

A physical anthropologist would likely base his definition on the size of the brain, the shape of the mandible, or the position of the foramen magnum–the opening into the brain through which the spinal column passes. A cultural anthropologist might use community structure or communication techniques. In each discipline, the criteria correspond to the tools that discipline uses in its study. All of them are useful, but none present the full picture.

The biblical definition of being human is that being uniquely created in the image of God–that being possessing a soul. Physical appearance and physical characteristics are not part of the biblical definition. The indicator of being created in the image of God is how those spiritual characteristics are expressed. Worship, artistic creation, the use of symbolism, musical creation, and the ability to feel guilt and sympathy are leading indicators.

The media has portrayed the Neandertals as prehumans. Because they were bulky and jut-jawed they seem to fit the picture of prehuman cavemen. Movies have portrayed them as brutes lacking human characteristics. We have maintained for many years that the Neandertals were a race of humans. Recent genetic studies have shown Neandertal genes in the modern human population.

Recently researchers found artwork in three Spanish caves that are attributed to the Neandertals because they predate the time when other races of humans, such as Cromagnons, came to the area. Dr. Francesco d’Errico who has been studying the evidence for Neandertal artwork in the caves says, “Neandertals took modern humans into caves and showed them how to paint.”

The Bible tells us that God created humans in His image. We don’t know when that took place, or how far and how quickly the descendants of Adam and Eve moved out across the Earth. God designed humans to adapt to all kinds of environments, and climatic stresses led to racial variations. The Bible’s statement that “God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the Earth” is supported by every evidence we have available. However, while being human, our capacity to act like animals and not express our likeness to God’s image cannot be denied.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Science News, March 17, 2018 page 6.

Alcohol and Dementia

Alcohol and Dementia
“Heavy drinking takes an irreversible, long-term toll on the brain, increasing the risk of all forms of dementia.” That is the conclusion of an exhaustive study of alcohol and dementia. The study involved more than a million adults diagnosed with dementia from 2008 to 2013.

Nearly 60% of early-onset dementia cases were associated with alcohol-related brain damage. Alcohol is toxic to brain cells and reduces blood flow to the brain. People who are intoxicated have literally poisoned themselves. The radical increase in dementia in many forms in our culture is a consequence of the persistent use of alcohol.

When you add the use of nicotine, meth, pot, and other recreational chemical agents to the effect of alcohol and dementia, it is clear that we have an epidemic of brain damage afflictions ahead of us. God has told us that our bodies are special. First Corinthians 3:16 tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God.” First Corinthians 6:15-20 warns against the incorrect use of our bodies. These words are not just about religious separation. God has designed our bodies and our brains for the long haul, and taking care of what God has given us is a sacred responsibility we all have.

Not all dementia is a product of individual abuse. We are realizing more and more that our abuse of the environment also brings us great pain of all kinds. The chemicals we get in our food and the polluted air we breathe are also factors. Christians should be leaders in taking care of what God has created. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We are the caretakers of the creation, and we have tended to exploit it rather than to take care of it. The consequences have been disastrous, and that must change.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from The Week, March 16, 2018, page 19.

Bird Migration Data

Bird Migration Data
A fascinating area of study is bird migration. With new technologies, scientists are gathering more bird migration data than ever before.

Arctic terns spend their summers in Alaska and migrate thousands of miles to wintering grounds in South America. Years ago researchers demonstrated that the tern didn’t get the migration information from its parents because terns raised in isolation having no contact with other terns could still make the journey. Terns deprived of visual acuity could still make the journey, so the migration was not by landmarks. The Earth’s magnetic field was not the method because terns equipped with a magnetic scrambler could still make the journey. Similar tests showed it was not by smell or by sound. The researchers concluded that the tern used several navigation tools. If one was lost, the bird would switch to another. We suggested that such a complex system was not a product of chance. It is designed into the tern’s DNA suggesting that God had something to do with the design.

In the March 2018 issue of National Geographic, there is an excellent article titled “Epic Migrations.” Scientists use new tools to collect bird migration data that enables a much more precise understanding of both short and long migrations. Nearly half of all bird species are migratory, so there are a large number of species to study, and scientists are gathering new data continuously.

The long-distance winner of migration is the bar-tailed godwit. One specimen flew 7,150 miles non-stop in eight days from its summering grounds in Alaska to its wintering grounds in New Zealand. In the weeks before migration, godwits build up enormous layers of fat adding more than half their body weight. When they arrive in New Zealand, they have lost all of the fat reserves. Because they do not glide or soar in the journey, their wings are beating all the time. On the way back to Alaska, the birds travel 6,000 miles to China near the Yellow Sea where they spend six weeks. Then they fly 4000 miles back to Alaska. Their departure time for these trips is the same from year to year, influenced only by local weather and winds. They seem to be guided by a precise clock.

Researchers have found an assortment of interesting bird migration data. Studies of frigatebirds in the Pacific show that they sleep while soaring, but only for about 12 seconds at a time for a total of 42 minutes a day. Research shows that half of the bird’s brain is asleep and the other half is awake. Other studies have shown that European starlings use the Sun as a compass and that indigo buntings use stars as a compass. European robins use an internal magnetic compass. When researchers artificially rotated the magnetic compasses by 90 degrees, the birds flew the wrong direction until the Sun came up. Then they reset their magnetic compasses using the Sun for orientation.

Each species of migratory birds seems to have their own built-in devices to make their journeys. The programming of their DNA is incredibly complex and seems to be a designed characteristic built into each species. We can learn a great deal about God by observing the world around us, and truly “we can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

One Strange Rock

One Strange Rock
The March 2018 issue of National Geographic features an article with the title One Strange Rock. A NatGeo TV presentation by the same name premiers today. The subtitle of the magazine article says: “13 things that make life on Earth possible.”

For many years we have presented these variables in our videos and audios, books and articles. While new data has expanded these concepts, the fundamental design features of the cosmos remain an excellent argument for the existence of God and His role in the creation. Here are the 13 variables that National Geographic presented to support the idea that Earth is one strange rock:

“#1. OUR PLANET RECYCLES LIFE-FRIENDLY CARBON OVER TIME.
#2. WE HAVE AN OZONE LAYER TO BLOCK HARMFUL RAYS.
#3. WE HAVE A BIG MOON TO STABILIZE OUR AXIAL WOBBLE.
#4. EARTH’S VARIED SURFACES SUPPORT MANY LIFE FORMS.
#5. OUR MAGNETIC FIELD DEFLECTS SOLAR TEMPESTS.
#6 WE’RE AT JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE FROM THE SUN.
#7. WE’RE SITUATED SAFELY AWAY FROM GAS GIANTS.
#8 THE SUN IS A STABLE, LONG-LASTING STAR.
#9. WE HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF TO HOST A DYNAMIC CORE.
#10. WE HAVE GIANT PLANETS THAT PROTECT US FROM AFAR.
#11. OUR SUN OFFERS PROTECTION FROM GALACTIC DEBRIS.
#12. OUR GALACTIC PATH STEERS US CLEAR OF HAZARDS.
#13. OUR LOCATION IS FAR FROM STELLAR CROWDS.”

We encourage you to view our video series which begins by looking at these variables and showing the probability factors for these and other variables. The point of our discussion is that when you calculate the odds of these things happening by chance, you end up with a probability that is statistically unacceptable.

The conclusion of National Geographic in the article is:

“Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it. The product of some 4.6 billion years of cosmic construction, our planet is flush with life thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions, from the optimal chemical makeup of our planetary core to our safe distance from the hidden black hole at the heart of our galaxy.”

Construction suggests an intelligence doing things in a logical order. Blind chance is not a method, and chance produces as much chaos as order. These 13 variables are just astronomical parameters. There are also design features seen in the creation of physical laws and the laws of quantum mechanics that allow stable atoms to exist. Planet Earth is far more than one strange rock.

The more we know of the creation, the more we know of the Creator. Our knowledge is increasing daily which means the evidence for God’s existence also grows daily.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Incredible Human Brain

Incredible Human Brain
As more and more scientific data becomes available, the incredible complexity of the cosmos and our world becomes clearer. A classic example of that is the incredible human brain.

The human brain is not exceptional on a chemical basis. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen are the fundamental materials that are present in all brains with traces of various metals also contributing a small part. What is remarkable is the design of the brain and what it can do.

Recent measurements show that the human brain can hold about one petabyte of data. That would be equivalent to a million one gigabyte flash drives. The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body, but it is only 2% of our total body weight. There are 52 sections to the human brain, each one containing different cells allowing us to do the different things we can do. Every neuron contains about .07 volts of energy. Since a human brain has 86 billion neurons that adds up to about six billion volts–equivalent to 477,777,777 car batteries.

The brain is 75% water, weighs about three pounds with half a pound of that being fat. The incredible human brain is a designed structure that we still have much to learn about it. Our brains speak eloquently of God’s design and the wisdom of God’s creation.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Popular Science, Spring 2018, page 6-7.

Blessings from Natural Disaster

Blessings from Natural Disaster
Yesterday I began to tell about lessons from a flood. In February our area experienced what has been called a 500-year flood. We have lived in our home on the St. Joseph River for 20 years without a problem—until now. You can read more about it here. I want to continue to explain how it is possible to receive blessings from natural disaster.

Natural disasters are not an evil act of God. Skeptics often say something like, “How can you believe in a God who…?” They are demonstrating a failure to understand some key characteristics of God’s nature and how God functions. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” I personally have a hard time understanding man’s inhumanity to man. I will never understand the holocaust. I can’t comprehend the atrocities by ISIS that I have seen in recent years. These are not vindictive acts of God, but they are the evil actions of humans. What do we expect God to do? Should God strike every Hitler-like leader dead when they decide to do some evil act? Should He afflict every politician with a fatal disease when they vote for something that hurts innocent people? The history shown in the Bible is that God allows natural consequences to come about, but He does not threaten us with physical punishment as an immediate reaction.

We are learning more and more every day about the consequences of our own actions. Is the flooding I have suffered a result of human failure to take care of the “garden”- planet Earth (Genesis 2:15)? That is likely but unproven. The failure to follow God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused more suffering than any “natural disaster.” Abuse is not caused by God, but by humans who fail to follow the instructions of God in Ephesians 5:28-33.

What appears to be a disaster always has some beneficial aspects to it. For Christians, good always comes from these events. Romans 8:28 may be one of the most important passages in the New Testament–“For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” First of all, we are called to understand that God’s purposes are different from ours. Job and his friends struggled with this issue. Solomon tried everything and came to understand God’s purposes were what gave satisfaction and meaning to life (Ecclesiastes 1-5). One of our friends has a line on this. I call it “Ethyl Louise Knight’s gospel of life”–“If it isn’t of eternal significance, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Someone might ask, “Well what possible benefit could come from your 500-year flood?” The answer to that comes in many forms. A neighbor and I were looking at the river whizzing by our houses with uprooted trees, hundreds of Styrofoam cups, plastic wrappers, and tubs of all kinds and shapes carried to the next dam where they would accumulate. We have been working for years to clean up the trash in the river, and it will be gone with this flood. Remember that the Nile River flooding every year for centuries made Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world.

In addition to these physical blessings, there can be huge spiritual blessings from natural disaster. Our neighborhood has been drawn together on a spiritual level as we face the challenges of flooding. I celebrated my birthday on the day when the river reached its peak, and as friends and family made February 22 special, I was able to focus on what really matters in life. There truly are blessings from natual disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lessons from a Flood

Lessons from a Flood
As I write this, I am in a state of shock at what has happened to me during the past five days. Our home and main office are located on the banks of the St. Joseph River. The front door of the house is normally 20 feet above the surface of the river, and in the 20 years we have lived here, we have never had a problem with flooding. Many years ago we had water in our basement, but it was only 1 or 2 inches, and outside of wet rugs there was little damage. This time I have learned some lessons from a flood.

In early February of this year, we had some very heavy snow and the third week of February we had record rains as well as record warmth. The result of all that water was what is now being called a 500-year flood. My library, recording studio, fossil collection, and packing area are now full of water in spite of three new sump pumps operating at full capacity. It will take many months and some expense to get back to full operating capacity.

Our local television personalities have done a lot of hand-wringing, and I have heard more than one reporter say, “Why did God let this happen?” One religious writer proclaimed that the flooding of our area, which included a movie theater, was God’s retribution for the theater showing x-rated movies. Several years back there were those who explained flooding of the Mississippi River as God’s punishment for floating casinos on the river. Ridiculous as most of these claims are, there are some apologetic arguments and theological points that need to be understood.

God does not use natural disasters as disciplinary tools. There is a difference between physically afflicting someone and allowing the natural consequences of something to happen. When I was a child, my parents took me to the Indiana State Fair. I wanted a big cone of cotton candy, but my mother loudly told me I couldn’t have it. After a lot of whining and pouting, she finally said, “Ok, go get it but it will make you sick, and you’ll regret it.” I was allowed to suffer the consequences of my action, but I was not physically prevented from eating it.

In Deuteronomy 28, God does the same thing with the Israelites. In the first 14 verses, He tells Israel the blessings of living as God calls them to live. In the next 54 verses, God tells them of the consequences of rejecting His teachings. God doesn’t physically strike Israel, but He allows the natural result of human choices to happen.

There are more lessons from a flood, and I will continue my thoughts tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Virtual Faith

Virtual Faith - Cat with Mirror
Atheist virtual faith reminds me of virtual images. I am an old physics teacher. One of the fun discussions that I used to have with my students was when we got into optics and began talking about virtual and real images. Real images are actually formed by light rays. When you take a convex lens or a concave mirror you can project an image of a candle onto a screen. The image is inverted, but it is there. You can block sections of it with your hand, and you can enlarge or reduce the image by changing the distance from the object to the projecting lens or mirror.

The other type of image is a virtual image, which is an illusion. When you look into a plane mirror, you see an image of yourself. The image is not real. It is not actually formed by the light rays, and it cannot be projected. Watching an animal see itself in a plane mirror is always interesting because the animal can be fooled by the realistic virtual image. We all know that magicians can fool us with virtual images as well.

When atheists want to get around questions concerning the existence of God, they frequently bring the word “virtual” into their discussion. Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time evaded the logical consequences of the second law of thermodynamics by inventing something he called “virtual time.” Lawrence Krauss in his book A Universe from Nothing claims that empty space is actually “a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles that are popping in and out of existence on a time scale so short that you cannot see them.” This new definition of “nothing” is based on virtual particles.

Like the virtual image in a plane mirror, all of this is unreal! It is an unscientific proposal because it cannot be falsified or scientifically tested in any way. It is invented purely to justify the rejection of God as the creator. Krauss is fond of saying that there is no need for an intelligent being to will anything into existence because the means for this was already there and available. If you want to invent a religion that believes in unreal particles popping into existence, you are certainly free to do so. That gives the atheist a virtual faith. The problem is that he or she has to believe that from the “boiling bubbling brew” everything necessary for stable matter to exist came about by chance.

We have a booklet “Evidence for Design In the Universe” available on our doesgodexist.org website or from us on request. It contains a list of 47 physical design features that must be present for a planet like ours to exist. We would claim that all of this makes our faith real, and the rejection of God’s existence virtual faith.
–John N. Clayton © 2018