Road to Enlightenment

Buddhist Road to Enlightenment
A Buddhist monk in Japan is suing his monastery for making him work too many hours. Buddhism has traditionally taught that “the road to enlightenment” involves enduring hardship. When a young man decides to enter a monastery, he understands that he will learn discipline through hardship. He knows that an austere regime will be part of the road to enlightenment. That doesn’t sit well with many people in the world today. Without faith in God, they may not be willing to take that road.

The teachings of the Dalai Lama released in June of 2001 stated that “There is no God or Supreme Creator.” The “Four Noble Truths” and the “Noble Eightfold Path that leads to Nirvana” depend on individual effort. There is no concept of a Holy Spirit to assist one in making the journey. When your belief system excludes a personal relationship with a power higher than yourself, self-discipline and sacrifice just don’t work.

In contrast to the Buddhist beliefs, Christianity promises help from God on a personal level. Acts 2:38 speaks of receiving the Holy Spirit when one is baptized into Christ, and Jesus repeatedly promised to be with the individual to the very end. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). The idea of traveling the road to enlightenment without God is outdated.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Jerboa by Design

Jerboa by Design
One of the things that scientists have studied in some detail is food chains. We now understand that for life to proliferate in harsh environments, it sometimes takes a highly specialized animal that is unique to that environment to fill the niche of food that other animals need. The deserts of northwest China, southern Mongolia, northern Africa, and the Arabian peninsula are good examples of harsh environments. The creature at the foundation of the food chain for higher forms of life is the jerboa by design.

This animal is about three inches (7.6 cm) long but has a tail that is over six inches (15 cm) and is flared at its end. The body is mouse-like, but the ears are a third longer than its head. The snout is like a pig’s, and its back legs look like a miniature model of a kangaroo. The back feet are elongated and very powerful and are covered with tufts of stiff hair. The front legs are very short, just barely able to reach its mouth.

The jerboa uses all of its unusual characteristics in a way that allows it to survive in an environment where most animals couldn’t last a day. The tufts on the feet enable it to walk on sand. The large ears are sensitive to very low volume sounds to hear predators approaching. The tail is a prop for standing still, and it gives stability when the animal jumps. It’s like a rudder in the air. When chased by a predator, the jerboa will change directions quickly and often to avoid capture. It can hop at up to 15 miles (24 km) per hour.

The jerboa ‘s diet is almost entirely insects, and it plays a major role in controlling the insect populations. The jerboa is a primary food source for birds of prey. The jerboa’s unique features enable it to survive even though it has many predators.

There are elaborate evolutionary explanations as to how this animal developed, but we see the jerboa by design. So many characteristics are unique to the jerboa that it requires a good imagination to derive a possible evolutionary scenario. God has designed creatures to fill even the harshest environments. Their capacity to adapt to those environments is further testimony to the wisdom built into the creation everywhere we look.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Flight 370 Is No Mystery Anymore

Flight 370 Is No Mystery Anymore
In 2014 a Malaysia Airlines flight on its way to Beijing disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. UFO advocates have maintained that the plane was zapped out of the sky by extraterrestrial agents since the aircraft was never found. However, flight 370 is no mystery anymore.

Last week a report was released in Australia by aviation experts led by Simon Hardy and Larry Vance who are air crash investigators. They used military radar records to retrace the plane’s path. The pilot was Zaharie Ahmad Shah. The investigators say that after Shah flew the plan over the island of Penang where he was born. He then flew across the Malaysian and Thai airspace where he knew that radar could not detect the aircraft. Then he deliberately crashed the plane. Possible pieces of the plane have been found in Africa in places that fit the explanation. There is little doubt about the fate of the aircraft and the 239 people on board, and for that reason, flight 370 is no mystery anymore.

We continue to emphasize that there is no reason why finding life in outer space would be of concern to those who believe in God or the Bible as His word. People who wish to substitute aliens for God have made repeated attempts to explain current and past events with no evidence to support their beliefs. Every time an incident takes place that cannot be easily explained, there is a rash of articles and books claiming extraterrestrial causes. Time and investigation always show that we are not under the control of aliens.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers

Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers?
Time magazine and Time.com published a picture of a shrine to Jesus Malverde considered the patron saint of drug traffickers in Culiacan, Sinaloa, northwest Mexico. In attempting to contact the managers of the shrine we were told that it was under the auspices of the local bishop and that he would answer any questions we had. We have not been able to get a response from anyone connected with that area of Mexico.

I inquired about this from a good friend of mine who is a Roman Catholic priest (and wishes to stay anonymous for obvious reasons). He told me that clergy in the Catholic church throughout the ages have chosen to serve the spiritual needs of people they were ministering to even if that person was engaged in behavior the priest didn’t accept or sanction.

It is interesting that in some wars there have been clergy on opposing sides of the conflict, both ministering to the people in their area. The difference in this case is that there is no political ideology involved in the question of drugs. I know of no religious person who would maintain that drugs are a good thing or that the Church should be supporting people who traffic drugs.

Those who wish to charge believers in God with being ineffective in stopping evil in all cultures have a good point. That is why this program we call “Does God Exist?” is not a part of any denomination or cult. The fact that religious people make mistakes, and may even stand up for something that is wrong and sinful does not make it right. When believers try to defend immoral behavior, it is a human making a human mistake.

We cannot defend what humans have done in the past, or what they continue to do today. God’s existence is not related to human inadequacy. The credibility of the Bible is not dependent on any theologian or scholar. The New Testament makes it clear that the human body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), and that it must be cared for and not abused (1 Corinthians 3:17). There is no defense for anyone who would protect or promote drug trafficking be they atheists or religious leaders. The idea of a patron saint of drug traffickers is indefensible because Christians have a special reason for opposing the use of recreational drugs.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Boy Scout Dilemma

Boy Scout Dilemma
When I was a young man, some 70 years ago, I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. My parents, who were atheists, were not enthusiastic about the idea because the Boy Scouts met in the facilities of churches. Also, there was an emphasis, in my parents’ minds at least, on religion. To them, that was the Boy Scout dilemma.

The truth is that many of the merit badges were on morality, faith, worship, and leadership in spiritual matters. I avoided those so not to irritate my parents. In retreats and camping, there were talks and classes on issues of concern to a young teenage boy. Those included sexual matters and the concept of keeping “purity” as a virtue. Our leaders were men who demonstrated how to live as good citizens, fathers, and husbands.

In the past five years, the Boy Scouts have eroded most of that. Openly gay and transgender boys can become Boy Scouts. The ban on openly gay adult leaders has been thrown out. Now the word “Boy” is being dropped, and the organization will admit girls.

Recently, one out of every five Boy Scouts was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The Mormon Church has announced they are ending their partnership with the Boy Scouts and they are forming their own youth program. I have friends who are active in the Boy Scouts who say they are refusing to continue camping trips or summer camps because they cannot control the dynamics of a sexually mixed group in a wilderness setting. The Boy Scout dilemma today is much different from what it was in the past.

It is likely that lawsuits will ultimately come from this debacle. The question arises of whether any group has the right to exclude anyone from any activity on the basis of gender or morality. That could have implications for the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Clothes Make a Difference

Clothes Make a Difference
In our days of concern over human rights, there has been a continuing argument over whether anyone has a right to tell others what to wear. In my years as a teacher and my teaching of Bible principles, the question of clothing comes up with great regularity. Dress codes at school or Church are almost universally failures. A point to remember is that clothes make a difference.

In Genesis 38:12-18 there is a story of a woman named Tamar who was a widow and was wearing widow’s clothes. She needed a favor from a man named Judah who was not living a moral life. She put on clothes which suggested she was a harlot and was successful in getting Judah to sleep with her. In 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3 Christian women were told some things not to do with their attire and jewelry because of what it would say to others about them.

In my younger days, there were lengthy debates about what women should wear, and they usually degraded into who had the right to say anything about dress to anyone else. The issue re-surfaced in May of 2018 when an attractive 18-year-old white, non-oriental girl named Keziah Daum wore a Chinese style dress to her prom. The dress she wore is called a cheongsam similar to the one in the picture. As you can see the dress is very modest with a high neck–and it has a long skirt.

After she posted on Twitter photos of herself wearing the dress, the social media went wild. A man named Jeremy Lam suggested that her wearing the cheongsam was an offense to the Chinese culture because she is not Chinese. Many accused her of racism. One interesting statement was from Eliza Anyangwe who said, “Clothes are part of the way we communicate with the world.” She also said, “ cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she’s the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want.” After 42,000 retweets, people are now accusing “culture police” of creating the controversy.

All of this goes to show that clothes make a difference. The message of the New Testament is that Christian women should radiate their morality and religious beliefs by dressing modestly. Obviously, the world is watching how we dress and how we live. Acts 24:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:32 talk about Christians not giving offense to anyone, and focusing on how we can bring men and women together in peaceful lives that bring happiness and stability to all.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Ken Ham Entangling Doctrine and Creationism

Ken Ham and the Ark Encounter
The May 2018 issue of the Christian Chronicle carries a major article by Bobby Ross titled “Ken Ham on God, Creation and the Earth’s Age.” Ken Ham is the founder of the Ark Encounter theme park in Grant County, Kentucky, and also the Creation Museum in Peterson, Kentucky. In 2014 he had a highly publicized broadcast debate with science guy Bill Nye.

At first glance, it might seem that a museum and theme park to teach biblical history would be a good thing. However, denominational doctrines presented by these venues conflict with teachings of the New Testament and include a great deal of bad science. Ham and his associates give an incomplete view of Earth’s history and the plan of salvation.

In the article by Ross, Ken Ham presents the plan of salvation as simply: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. Romans 10:9. In other words, salvation is conditioned on faith in Christ. Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.” Although this correctly quotes Romans 10:9, it is an incomplete view of salvation. It ignores all of the passages that talk about the necessity of confessing Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized for the remission of sins such as Acts 2:37-40 and Romans 6.

When considering the age of the Earth, Ken Ham accepts the 6,000-year chronology of 17th-century Archbishop James Ussher and ignores the literal meaning of the words used to describe the animals in the creation week. He also fails to take Genesis literally by considering who wrote it, who he wrote it to, why he wrote it, and how the people of the time would have understood it.

Atheists use the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum to discredit the Bible. Ham’s debate with Bill Nye was a disaster for believers, and atheist groups have printed transcripts of the debate and encouraged people to distribute them at the attractions. In addition to the bad science in some of the displays, there is an association with dispensationalism which is also based on an incomplete view of the Bible.

The Does God Exist? program is about education. We are surprised that the Christian Chronicle, which is associated with the Church of Christ, would uncritically give full credence to Ken Ham and his denominational teaching of Bible history and the plan of salvation. We encourage our readers to go to the articles we have published on the errors of denominational creationist materials such as HERE and HERE and on the errors of dispensationalism you will find HERE.

We must not accept denominational interpretations of the Bible, but consider what the Bible actually says. To get a better understanding of Genesis 1 by examining the original language, we suggest that you read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.” It’s available in printed form HERE or free online HERE.

As we reach out to the secular world and to family and friends who are struggling with their faith, we need to be careful not to use bad science or bad theology. Denominational creationists like Ken Ham have a great deal of both.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Returning from the Dead

Returning from the Dead
Throughout human history there have been bizarre stories of people returning from the dead. Whether it is zombies or ghosts or a person who miraculously returns from the dead, the stories fascinate people, and frequently they become enlarged and expanded with each telling.

In our day people have written books claiming that a person returned from the dead. Kevin Malarkey wrote a best seller about his son Alex who was involved in a car crash in 2004. He claimed that Alex died and went to heaven and met Jesus Christ. Alex, who was left paralyzed by the accident, is now suing the publisher for damages over the book. Alex says his story was totally fabricated by his father and that money made by the selling the book was not shared with Alex. The lawsuit demands that Alex’s name be “completely disassociated from the book.” You can read more about it HERE.

We suggest that all claims made in recent times about someone returning from the dead should be treated with extreme skepticism. What about the biblical claims? In 1 Samuel 28:7-25 we read of Saul going to the witch of Endor who “had a familiar spirit” to ask her to bring Samuel back from the dead. The woman who appears to be running a séance scam. When she performs her ritual she is shocked that Samuel actually shows up. Verse 12 tells us that “When the woman saw Samuel she screamed in a loud voice.” It appears she didn’t expect her seance to actually work, and she is terrified when it does. This seems to be a unique act of a miraculous nature.

There are also biblical cases where someone was brought back to life such as Lazarus in John 11:30-45. The resurrection of Lazarus was so that the followers of Jesus would “see the glory of God” (John 11:40) and believe that Jesus was sent by God. The miracle of the resurrection of Christ is presented as a fact of history. It was a miracle in the most graphic way that Jesus was who He claimed to be. We don’t explain miracles. You either accept the fact that they happened, or you reject them.

In today’s world any claim of returning from the dead would not serve the purpose of the biblical miracles. Hebrews 9:27 tells us “.. it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” All of us will die physically, and returning from the dead is not an option. We should be concerned that we not die spiritually.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Existence of God Market Research

Existence of God Market Research
The existence of God is not a question that market research can answer. Most people believe there is a God, but unbelievers have become more vocal in recent years. Nobody can say with absolute certainty that there is no God unless they know everything there is to be known. Of course, nobody knows everything. The most brilliant genius who ever lived does not know everything. Science is discovering new things every day, but the more answers scientific research uncovers, the more questions it creates.

One of the major arguments against the existence of God says that a good God would not allow pain and suffering. If you use that argument, you are saying that you know that there is no possible reason for God to allow pain and suffering in this world. But a good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God could have a good reason for allowing bad things to happen in this temporary existence. Unless you know everything, you can’t say that there is no possible reason. (If you carefully examine the Bible, you will find that there is a reason.)

Finding evidence for or against the existence of God requires observing the universe, the solar system, planet Earth, and the complexities of life in all its forms. After looking at that evidence, you have to make a decision. Is it more probable that everything could have come into being out of nothing by pure, random accident? Or is it more probable that everything we see and even our own bodies, gives evidence of the wisdom of an intelligent designer?

If a person has already determined that God cannot exist, then no amount of proof will change that person’s mind. There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat in spite of indisputable evidence of a spherical planet. People believe what they want to believe in spite of the evidence. The rational person makes decisions based on the weight of the evidence.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Flat Earth Believers Are Resilient

Flat Earth Believers
Most of our readers seem to be pretty well convinced that the Earth is round. When I mention flat Earth believers, I get mail indicating that most of our readers believe that the flat Earth subject is a joke. Most of our readers also believe that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around. As an earth science teacher in the public schools for 41 years, my students did simple lab exercises to show that the Earth orbits the Sun. However, these simple facts seem to have escaped significant numbers of people in our twenty-first century world as you can see by a web search for flat Earth believers.

The Does God Exist? ministry was founded on the belief that good science and good biblical study produce a conclusion that science and faith support each other. The problem is that there is a great deal of bad science and biblical misunderstanding out there, and the web has made it available to large numbers of people. People ascribe many beliefs to the Bible that are not actually in the Bible. Also, many scientists have allowed their anti-religious antagonism to cause them to see science and faith as enemies.

The answer to the science-faith conflict is education. We need people with a scientific understanding to clarify what science actually says when it appears to conflict with faith. We also need people with some biblical understanding to present what the Bible actually says, not what denominational views teach.

We do not claim to understand all of science or all that the Bible says. However, we have attempted to put together a team of workers who have some training and understanding. We hope to provide educational information that will reduce the hostility in the minds of those willing to look at the evidence. The Sun does not orbit the Earth. The Earth is not flat. The Earth is not 6,000 years old. The climate is changing, but humans are not the sole cause of this change, and climatic cycles have occurred throughout history. Furthermore, the Bible cannot be used to disprove any of these statements. Ignorance dies hard, and instilled beliefs are resilient. Join us as we investigate, explore, and learn together.
–John N. Clayton © 2018