Grand Design and Stephen Hawking

The Grand Design
In our March 15 article on this site, we mentioned the death of Stephen Hawking. We noted some of the amazing things that Hawking accomplished. We have received some mail about Hawking and his role as an atheist. How much Hawking’s battle with health issues affected his view of God is hard to answer, but his resistance to believing in God is undeniable as shown in his book The Grand Design.

In his otherwise excellent book A Brief History of Time (Bantam Books, 1988), Hawking did a masterful job of explaining the second law of thermodynamics. He even intimated that the second law was supportive of the existence of God. That was something Hawking didn’t want to do, so at the end of the book he invented something he called “virtual time.” He couldn’t define virtual time, and it is not testable and therefore is not science. By accepting virtual time, Hawking was able to deny that there was a beginning and that the beginning had to be caused by an entity outside of space/time.

Hawking’s first wife was a believer in God and expressed concern about the integrity of the virtual time argument. Many have suggested that Hawking’s belief system was all that the last chapter of the book was trying to defend.

In his 2010 book The Grand Design, Hawking declared that God is not needed to explain the existence of the universe. In an interview, he said, “There is no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” That was a statement of faith based on the imaginary concept of virtual time. Virtual means unreal. A grand design based on virtual time is not real.

Hawking was an outstanding thinker in cosmology, and he overcame enormous challenges to continue to live a productive life far beyond what was expected. It is sad that he allowed bias to shadow his thinking in areas outside of his specialty. A friend of mine with a Ph.D. in physics says, “My Ph.D. in every-day life really stands for post hole digger.” Like Richard Dawkins and other popular atheists, Hawking was incredibly ignorant in spiritual matters, but a genius in his own field of expertise. Let us admire and praise his professional accomplishments, but not attach much significance to his religious opinions. Tomorrow we will examine “virtual faith.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Sexual Child Predators

Sexual Child Predators
The lead article in the March 2018 issue of The Christian Chronicle is titled “Sexual Abuse Victims ‘Fed Up’ with Silence,” written by Bobby Ross. It tells the story of Jimmy Hinton whose father was a gospel preacher who was a sexual child predator at the same time that he was working for congregations of the Church of Christ.

When Jimmy discovered his father’s behavior, he reported it to authorities and his father is now in prison. Jimmy has taken his tragic experience and formed a ministry to help churches protect themselves from sexual child predators, and help victims recover from the abuse they have suffered.

Several years ago the “Does God Exist?” ministry became acquainted with Jimmy’s work because we encountered people who had been sexually abused by a person claiming to be religious. We saw how vital Jimmy’s work was, and we worked with him to make a DVD series for churches to use. The DVD series is titled “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” There are five sessions, and we included a teacher’s guide with the series.

This series can be borrowed free of charge from our ministry or purchased from us for $60.00 postpaid. It is not available on our video website. To borrow or purchase the series, please contact us. For questions Phone 269-687-9426 or email jncdge@aol.com. To order call 574-514-1400 or email marcusen@michiana.org. You can also write us at 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles, MI 49120. You can also obtain the series from jimmyhinton.org. Help us stop sexual child predators in the churches.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Down Syndrome Abortions

Down Syndrome Abortions
In February, Ohio governor John Kasich signed into law a measure relating to Down Syndrome abortions. Under the law, unborn children cannot be aborted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Ethics professor Peter Singer of Princeton University and other leading atheists have tried to make abortion mandatory for babies who are known to have congenital birth defects. The usual reasons for such actions are the cost factor, refusal of insurance coverage, and refusing admission to state-funded schools and care centers. All if this, in the view of some, makes financial sense for aborting.

As the parent of a child born with multiple birth defects including blindness, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation I can understand the emotional and financial stresses involved. More to the point is the fact that a Down Syndrome child is a human being with a spiritual makeup. In a time of great emphasis on the value of diversity, it seems odd that a state would need to enact such a law. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser says, “In a time of growing acceptance of human diversity and rejection of outdated biases against people with different abilities, such extreme intolerance stands out as a great injustice.”

Recently an abortion proponent suggested to me that autism should be eliminated by abortion, using the same argument as the proposal to have mandatory Down Syndrome abortions. The obvious implication of this is the “slippery slope” issue. Where do you stop? Racial and ethnic cleansing proponents can make the same argument.

The Christian view is that all humans are of equal value because we are created in the image of God. That means we treasure every life. We applaud the leadership in Ohio for their actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Citizen magazine, March 2018 page 9.

Anti-Christian Challenges to Free Speech

Anti-Christian Challenges to Free Speech
The number of seemingly ridiculous anti-Christian challenges to free speech by state schools and atheist groups just keeps growing. Here are some recent examples.

NEW YORK: The board of trustees rejected a “Students for Life” attempt to register at Queen’s College, while other groups were approved. The trustees gave no reason, but ultimately the policy was changed when the students took legal action.

MAINE: The Augusta school board threatened dismissal of special education teacher, Toni Richardson, for telling a co-worker she would pray for him. They attend the same church! Legal action stopped the dismissal, but saying that phrase when students can overhear it will still cause dismissal.

MICHIGAN: Students promoted the free market ideas of a group called “Turning Point” by dressing up as dinosaurs and passing out literature. Because the literature mentioned that the ideas were based on the Bible, they were disciplined and restricted by the administration of the Macomb Community College in Detroit. A lawsuit is pending.

NEW JERSEY: A Franciscan bishop conducted a “bless the animals service” at the Bergan County Animal Shelter in Teterboro, New Jersey. It was a huge success according to personnel at the shelter. Local atheist Candice Yaacobi picked the day of the highly publicized blessing to show up at the shelter and claims that she was “traumatized” when she was “confronted by the sight of a priest in full Franciscan vestments.” She is now suing the animal shelter. The point here is not that there is any significance in blessing animals, but that professional atheist groups want to silence any view but their own.

Citizen magazine reported these cases in the March 2018, issue (pages 9-10). Our files are full of other examples of atheists’ anti-Christian challenges to free speech. The Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family are leading the fight to stop this kind of abuse.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Isaiah’s Signature Found

Isaiah's Signature Found
The prophet Isaiah is often called the “Messianic Prophet.” In his lengthy (66 chapter) book of the Old Testament, he told of the coming Messiah. We have his words, but now we may also have Isaiah’s signature.

In 2015 archaeologists found the royal seal of King Hezekiah stamped in a clay seal at Ophel, the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Written on the seal is a Hebrew inscription which reads “Belonging to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah.”

Now in the same location, a new seal has been found. This one appears to belong to the prophet Isaiah. The March-June issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (pages 64-73) has pictures and an explanation of the find. Because there is some damage to the seal, or bulla, the final judgment will have to come after scholarly review. If the scholars give their approval, they will make a formal announcement.

For years biblical minimalists and skeptics have attacked the accuracy of the Bible’s historical information. As archaeologists make more discoveries, it becomes increasingly more difficult to refute the accuracy of the Bible. Isaiah’s signature would be one more evidence that we can have confidence in the inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Bible.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Turtle on a Fence Post

Turtle on a Fence Post
If you see a bird sitting on a fence post, you don’t have to think about how the bird got there. You assume that it flew in and landed on the fence post. However, if you see a turtle on a fence post, then you have to question how it got there.

I think it should be obvious that the turtle could not have climbed up onto the post by itself. Someone must have put it there. If you look around and don’t see anyone, do you change your mind and conclude that the turtle put itself on the post?

Another possible option is that the turtle hatched and grew there. If so, how did the turtle egg get on the fence post? Could the egg have been blown there by the wind or is it more reasonable to think that someone put it there?

After thinking about those possibilities, you conclude that perhaps the turtle isn’t really there. Maybe you are just imaging that the turtle is on the fence post. Perhaps it’s an optical illusion, and your senses fooling you.

After you have considered all options, you eventually conclude that the rational answer is that someone placed the turtle on the fence post. You can’t see the person, but you know that person must exist because of the evidence.

We look at the amazing design in the world around us from the DNA in our cells to the fine-tuning of the universe, and ask ourselves: “How could this be? Could it happen by accident? Is design merely an illusion? Did all of these things put themselves together out of nothing without any intelligent direction?”

Some scientists have suggested that life on Earth come from outer space. If so, how can you explain the origin of that alien life? If you can’t see the cause, do you conclude that there isn’t one?

Before you reject the idea that God exists, ask yourself how rational it is to believe that everything came into existence out of nothing, by nothing, and for no reason. Remember the turtle on a fence post.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Stephen Hawking’s Death

Stephen Hawking's Death
On the morning of March 14, news media carried the news of Stephen Hawking’s death. His family announced, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.”

Hawking was a brilliant physicist and cosmologist and probably the best-known living scientist. He wrote the book A Brief History of Time which was published in 1988. That book holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for being on the Sunday Times (London) bestseller list for an amazing 237 weeks. The book has sold ten-million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. Along with Roger Penrose, Hawking devised the theory that the universe began with a singularity in what has come to be known as the “Big Bang.” In his 2010 book The Grand Design he declared that God is not needed to explain the existence of the universe. In an interview, he said, “There is no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Stephen Hawking lived a remarkable life for a person with a form of ALS, a motor neuron disease. He was diagnosed at age 21, and the doctors gave him two years to live. He survived until age 76 but spent most of those years in a wheelchair unable to move. He could only talk with the aid of a computerized voice.

We are saddened to know that Hawking was never able to accept the Christian faith of his first wife. In the announcement of Stephen Hawking’s death, his three children said, “We will miss him forever.”

We have recently published two postings about Stephen Hawking, and we encourage you to read them by clicking here and here.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Just Imagine

Just Imagine
In 1971 former Beatles singer/songwriter John Lennon released the song “Imagine” on an album of the same title. The song became a hit when it was released and then again when it was re-released in 1981 after Lennon’s death. The song challenges the listener to “Imagine there’s no heaven” and “no hell” and “no religion too.” Just imagine the consequences of Lennon’s Imagination.

Rolling Stone magazine called the album and song Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world.” Lennon told Rolling Stone that the song was “anti-religious,” but he admitted that it had “sugar on it” to make it more acceptable. He didn’t directly say, “Imagine there’s no God,” but that’s the real message of the song. The song is saying that without belief in God there will be peace and harmony in the world because “the world will be as one.”

So let’s imagine there is no heaven, no hell, and no God. That would mean that there is no reward for doing good. Then why devote your life to helping others? Why do anything good for anyone unless it directly benefits you in some way? If there is no hell, then why restrain yourself from doing what benefits you in this life, even if it hurts or kills others. No crime against humanity will ultimately be punished. Terrorists who kill innocent people are the ultimate winners. Those who sacrifice their lives to save others are the losers. Furthermore, if your life is not going well in this imaginary world, you might as well end it.

The kind of world Lennon imagined is not worth imagining. Now just imagine everyone in the world living according to the example and teaching of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5-7. Treat others with love and respect. Be faithful to your spouse. Love your enemies. Give to the needy. Go the extra mile for others. Don’t worry. Trust God because He does exist, and He cares for you. A world of people living like that is something truly worth imagining.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Searching for Other Worlds

Searching for Other Worlds
In 1999 astronomers detected the first exoplanet–a planet in another solar system. The number of planets detected orbiting around stars other than our Sun has grown to more than 3,500 today. There are billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy so searching for other worlds is just getting started.

NASA’s main tool for finding exoplanets has been the Kepler space telescope. The method of detecting those planets is watching for occlusions. If there is a planet orbiting a star, it will sometimes pass in front of that star from our viewpoint causing an occlusion or mini-eclipse. The planets are too small for us to see, but we can see a small dip in the light coming from the star. If the dip comes on a regular interval that means it might be an orbiting planet. The amount of the dip in light level indicates the size of the planet in relation to its star. Using this method of detection, astronomers have compiled a catalog of detected planets.

As I said, until now the Kepler telescope has been the method for finding most of these planets, but it will soon end its life. However, 2018 will be the beginning of new opportunities to look for exoplanets because of two new satellite-based observatories. Very soon NASA will launch TESS. That stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. By the end of the year, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch CHEOPS or Characterising Exoplanet Satellite. (Aren’t you glad we have acronyms.)

The Kepler telescope was very good at searching for other worlds, but only in a small area of the sky. TESS will take a much wider view with the hope of finding many more. For obvious reasons, so far most of the planets detected are giant planets. TESS will be targeting bright stars in the hope of finding smaller planets that more closely resemble Earth. Astronomers will be able to target TESS more precisely toward selected stars.

It will be interesting to see what new discoveries will come from the investment of time and more than a quarter of a billion dollars. So far there have been no more than a dozen planets that even come close to being possible outposts for life. As we have said before there are many parameters required to sustain any kind of life and even more to support advanced life. We have also said many times before that whether there is life anywhere else in the cosmos has nothing to say about whether God exists. A God who is great enough to create the cosmos can create life anywhere He chooses. We are just glad He chose planet Earth so scientists can continue searching for other worlds.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Letters in the Sand

Letters in the Sand
What do you see in this picture? Look closely, and you will see evidence of letters in the sand.

Notice the waves that were caused by wind blowing across the desert. Then notice the really surprising thing the wind has done! The wind has created some lines in a very interesting pattern. The lines seem to spell out the name of the world’s largest hot desert—SAHARA. Yes, the Sahara Desert covers most of northern Africa and to find something this amazing that the natural forces have “written” on the sand is truly unusual.

Wait a minute! Are you suggesting that those letters are not the effect of the wind and natural forces? Are you thinking that maybe an intelligent being actually wrote in the sand? Consider carefully the fact that the Sahara is huge and there are vast areas of sand. Given enough time and the proper wind directions why couldn’t this word show up by natural forces alone? Surely somewhere in that desert there must be a naturally formed letter—maybe an “S.” Surely in all of that area it is possible that natural forces could have formed the other letters. Given the billions of grains of sand and enough time they could just happen to line up in the proper order to spell a word. Couldn’t they?

Okay, you are not buying my story. Perhaps an intelligent being was involved in the formation of this word in the sand. But if you won’t believe me concerning the six letters in the sand, would you believe three-billion letters? That’s how many letters came together in the proper order to form the DNA strands in every cell of your body. That DNA code gives the complete blueprint for YOU. You can read S-A-H-A-R-A in seconds. If you were to read the three-billion letters of the DNA from one of your cells at the rate of one per second, every second of every hour of every day, it would take 31 years. Do you believe that the DNA code came into existence in a completely natural and unguided way?

Oh, you are suggesting that it all started out with something simple and then evolved into what it is today. Sorry, but fossil evidence shows that even the simplest bacteria that emerged shortly after the Earth came into existence had extremely complex DNA codes. Life just can’t exist without the code. The code is information and information is the product of intelligence. We suggest that just like those letters in the sand, life can’t happen without an intelligent Creator.
–Roland Earnst © 2018