Lights of the Seasons

Lights of the Seasons
Genesis 1:14 says that God allowed the “lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night” and to serve as “signs to mark seasons and days and years.” We can call them the lights of the seasons.

Although light is essential for our existence, the Sun, Moon, and stars are intended to serve an additional purpose. In Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the Earth. “Heavens,” or “shamayim” in the original Hebrew, would include the Sun, Moon, and stars. Genesis 1:14 tells us that God lifted the cloud cover (described in Genesis 1:2 and Job 38:9) so that the heavenly lights could be clearly seen to establish the circadian rhythm, give us a way to determine directions, and allow us to mark the passage of time.

Today (December 21) is the time when the Sun reaches its lowest point in the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the shortest daylight and marks the first day of winter. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the most extended daylight which marks the first day of summer. We call it the winter or summer solstice. The word “solstice” comes from two Latin words meaning “sun” and “stand still” because on this day the Sun appears to momentarily stop its southward journey and start back toward the north. (The opposite is true on June 21.)

When Earth has made one complete rotation on its axis, the Sun’s position shows us that one day of 24 hours has passed. When the Earth completes one revolution around the Sun (approximately 365 days), we can see that the Sun has finished one cycle of its apparent north-south swing. We know that one year has passed.

It’s the 23.4-degree tilt of Earth’s axis with respect to the Sun that causes us to have seasons as our planet makes its year-long solar revolution. That tilt makes it appear that the Sun is moving north and south through the sky each year and gives us seasons. Without seasons, only limited areas of Earth would be habitable. Without day and night, one half of the Earth would be baking in the sunshine while the other half would be continually cold and dark. When the Moon has made one revolution around Earth, we can see that it has completed all of its phases and we know that one lunar (or synodic) month has passed.

As we consider these lights of the seasons, keep one thing in mind. When Moses recorded the words of Genesis, people didn’t understand what caused “seasons, days, and years.” Now we do. We can see the full meaning of Genesis 1:14 when God opened the sky to reveal the lights of the seasons. Moses accurately recorded what God revealed to him, but he didn’t understand it. Science allows us to know how God did what He did. We believe that is what science is all about – discovering how God did it. True science and a correct understanding of the Bible are in complete agreement because God is the author of both.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Wicca Religious System Growing

Wicca Religious System
Wicca is recognized in America as a Pagan religious belief system which includes a wide range of extreme views including witchcraft. The latest demographic studies indicate that the Wicca religious system has 1.5 million American followers.

Since Wicca has no central authority to set doctrines or practices, those who practice Wicca vary widely in their beliefs. They include those who subscribe to witchcraft, pantheism, polytheism, goddess worship, and celebration of cycles of the Moon and Sun. Our experience has been that the average age of people in Wicca is between 25 and 35.

For 50 years this ministry has warned people that they must have an evidence-based faith. One’s faith must be based on solid evidence not on emotions and psychological extremism. Emotion and unsupported ideas will not stand up in the challenging world in which we live. That prediction is being supported strongly by the number of people subscribing to various branches of the Wiccan religious system and rejecting Christianity.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Human Gene Editing

Human Gene Editing
We have written about human gene editing using the technique known as CRISPR. (Read more about it HERE and HERE.) One of the fears of those who are opposed to uncontrolled use of the CRISPR technique is that it will be used to produce “made to order” babies.

CRISPR could be used to treat a person with a genetic disease, but that is a different scenario from controlling a baby’s athletic skills or eye color. The big problem is that once we apply human gene editing, whatever was changed is passed on to future generations. That includes whatever errors might be made in the process.

He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, announced in early December 2018, that he had altered the DNA of two embryos to make them resistant to HIV. He then placed them in their mother’s womb resulting in a successful live birth. Marc Thiessen writing in the Washington Post said, “Gene editing is here, and it poses an enormous threat to humanity.” The problem is that there is no way of telling what other characteristics were altered in the process, or what it could lead to. Thiessen says “If science continues down this road, we will cross a moral line from which there may be no return.”

Science cannot determine the use to which its discoveries, such as human gene editing, will be applied. Will CRISPR be used to eliminate diseases that are produced by genetic change? On the other hand, will it become a way for scientists like Jiankui to make large amounts of money by producing made-to-order babies? The belief system of the scientists is what will determine this. An atheist has no reason not to use CRISPR to make a fortune for himself no matter what it does to the human race.

We need Christians who believe God is our Creator. We need scientists and medical practitioners who accept God’s view of humans that we are special, created in His image and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16.)
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Life Expectancy and Despair

Life Expectancy and Despair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released its latest annual report on American life expectancy. The report shows that for the third year life expectancy in the United States has not grown and has declined. The last time that this happened was in World War I when a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people.

The report says that drugs and suicide are the main culprits now with the overdose rate up 356% since 1999. The 2017 death toll is 70,237 far outstripping the total American fatalities in Vietnam.

It is interesting that everyone studying this life expectancy issue seems to agree on what the cause is, and what the solution is. The NationalReview.com says that “we are facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem.” An AARP study found that one-third of Americans report chronic loneliness and conclude that isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” David Brooks writing in the New York Times says “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing social catastrophe; it’s human relationships and a society that cares about people more than money.”

We suggest that people need to read and follow the example in Acts 2:41-47. People had a common faith in God, and they took care of each other. They “CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD” and spent time together focusing on meaningful relationships. The result was that “they had favor with all the people.”

This reminds me of a comment I heard Carl Sandburg make when someone asked him what he thought about Christianity. His response was “I don’t know, I have never seen it tried.” Christianity is not a legalistic way of restricting human behavior. It is a way of life that blesses everyone who is a part of it and everyone around those who live it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: The Week, December 14, 2018, page 17

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer
The term Christian Atheism seems like a contradiction. However, that was the theology of Thomas J. J. Altizer. On November 28, 2018, Altizer died at the age of 91.

Thomas J. J. Altizer was the theologian who in the 1960s promoted the idea that God was real but had passed away leaving humans to find the sacred on their own. Time magazine on April 8, 1966, gave Altizer’s teachings a boost when they ran a cover that in big red letters said: “Is God Dead?” That issue was devoted to the theology of Altizer which incorporated the teachings of various philosophers including Hegel and Nietzsche. Other religions, especially Buddhism, capitalized on Altizer’s teachings and he gained quite a following.

Altizer himself expressed remorse at the effects of his teaching. Time magazine quoted him in the December 17, 2018, issue (page 11) saying that today people are empty of the joy that we once celebrated. The reason we are empty is that humans cannot find the sacred on their own.

The biblical adage of Solomon certainly applies here: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When we discard God, we have nothing that can take His place. Materialism doesn’t work. No philosophy works. Christian Atheism doesn’t work. Only the joy that we find in the teachings of Jesus Christ has worked and still does work today.

Some people want to kill God and do so in their own minds. However, the evidence for God’s existence remains strong and continues to grow. Altizer didn’t kill it, and he came to emptiness in his own life. God is a living, moving entity, and the more we learn of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will
Yesterday we stated that a careful study of the Bible and some common sense make it clear that you and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon. In other words, demons cannot make us act against our will. We have free will to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true:

#1) Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was tempted in ALL points as are we.” You don’t need to be biblical scholars to know that Jesus was never tempted by being demon possessed and never needed an exorcism.

#2) There is no warning to the early Church in scriptures about demon possession. The New Testament is full of warnings about things. Read Acts 20:27, Acts 20:31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, and 1 Peter 1:3. These are realistic threats, and ones that we have seen become a problem. Nowhere is there a warning about demons. We see people do horrible things, and we see greed and selfishness express themselves in terrible events. We have also seen mental illness cause suffering. Those things are the result of human weakness, abuse, or neglect. They are not involuntary takeovers by demonic forces.

#3) The Bible gives us cures for Satan’s attacks on us. James 4:7 tell us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Ephesians 6:12-18 tells us that God has given us armor “that you may be able to withstand the evil day having done all to stand.” God has never put us into a situation where he could not resist evil. Demon possession even occurred in defenseless, innocent children in biblical times. (See Matthew 17:18 and Mark 9:24).

#4) God has promised Christians protection from anything that could cause us to lose our soul. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us nothing can happen to us that hasn’t been experienced by others and that there is always a way out of anything that could destroy us. Demon possession is certainly not “common to man.” Revelation 20:1-3 gives us assurance that God can control Satan and make good on the promise that demons cannot make us act against our will.

#5) The methodology of exorcism in the Bible is nothing like what happens in today’s world. The exorcisms that I have seen took hours and involved incredible psychological pressure on the “possessed.” In biblical times the process took seconds and generally involved one command. There were no regressions in people who experienced exorcism. In today’s world regression is very common.

#6) Perhaps most importantly is the fact that demon possession violates the entire Bible in that it defeats our capacity to choose. It violates our free moral choice. Joshua said, “Choose you this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). That admonition is violated if a person involuntarily is forced to obey Satan and evil. Philippians 2:12 tells us to choose to find salvation, but leaves it up to us to do it. Demons cannot make us act against our will.

Every judgment scene revealed in the Bible shows people answering their judgment by how they lived and what they chose to obey. (See John 20:31 and Mathew 25:31-46.) From Job to Paul we see the principle of freedom of choice. Demons cannot make us act against our will. Nobody at the judgment will be able to say that they had no choice, or as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” We make our own choices, and God does not allow us to foist our imperfections off on something over which we had no control.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today
An often discussed biblical subject is whether demons can possess people today and whether certain religious leaders can perform exorcisms. The Catholic priest, John J. Nicola, who was the adviser to the 1973 film “The Exorcist” gave what is perhaps the best definition of demon possession: “In the case of demonic possession the use of free will and intellect has been suspended. The person is no longer responsible for his or her actions.” What about demon possession and exorcisms today?

When someone does something horrible, like the recent shootings that have taken the lives of innocent people, are they possessed by demons? Is this a risk for you and I in today’s world? I have personally witnessed exorcisms and have talked to people who sincerely believed they had been demon possessed. This discussion is not about whether or not these things happened in the time of Christ and the apostles. Miracles and events the Bible describes cannot be repeated and tested. Demon possession and exorcisms are among them. The question is whether they occur today. What does the Bible actually say about this subject?

Demon possession was a New Testament phenomenon and is not present in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for demon is “shaidim” and is only used twice in the Old Testament – in Deuteronomy 32:17 and in Psalms 106:37. The context of both of these passages is about idols. In the New Testament the Greek word used is “deimonion” and is used several times to describe many symptoms – some violent and some passive such as in Acts 16:16-19. People sometimes notice these descriptions sound like things that happen today, such as epileptic seizures or mental illness.

At the beginning of the Church, the apostles needed to demonstrate that they had knowledge of and authority over all realms of human experience. That included the spiritual world. When people tried to provide fake exorcisms, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16). Once the Bible was available to answer spiritual questions, there was no need for exorcisms or miracles for that matter.

The prophecies of the Old Testament and the statements of the New Testament indicate that demon possession and exorcisms would end. (See Zechariah 13: 1-4, Colossians 2:15, and 1 John 3:8.) First Corinthians 13:8-10 indicates that when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. Second Timothy 3:15-17 says that the Word of God is perfect. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven to have contact with God’s perfect will.

Demon possession and exorcisms have no place in the lives of people today. A careful study of the Bible and some common sense make that clear. You and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon with the power to remove our ability to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true, and we will examine those reasons tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Moon Causes Tides

Moon Causes Tides
Most people know that the Moon causes tides. The gravitational pull of the Moon mostly causes the ocean tides. The tides are essential for cleaning the coastlines and estuaries.

On average, the Moon is 238,900 miles (384,470 km) from Earth. What if the Moon were only half of its present distance from Earth? The Moon half as far away from Earth would create ocean tides eight times higher than they are now. At one-fourth the current distance from Earth, the tides would be sixty-four times higher than they are today. Imagine a world with tides like that! Coastal cities around the world would be in danger. Coastal lowlands would be uninhabitable. The coasts would be eroded away in a short time. Upflowing tidal waters would overpower rivers that flow into the oceans. Floodplains along the rivers would fill and drain with each ebb and flow of the tide.

With a closer Moon, all kinds of aquatic creatures living along the shore would not survive the destructive forces of the tides. In addition to those catastrophes, seawater would deposit salt on the fertile land along the rivers making them barren. Glaciers along the coast of Alaska and Greenland and the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica would be broken up. Icebergs would clog the Atlantic Ocean. Icebergs would sometimes wash ashore with the tides in places far from the cold climates, crushing whatever was in the way.

It all sounds like a plot for a science fiction movie! So the Moon causes tides, but don’t worry. The Moon is not going to move closer to Earth. We can be thankful that it’s is precisely the size and location where it is. It seems as if Someone designed it that way for a purpose.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Amazing Human Eye

Amazing Human Eye
Eyes are among the great challenges to those who insist that unguided, naturalistic evolution created all living things. Eyes are complex devices that display engineering design skill. A significant problem for naturalists is that some very complex eyes appear early in the fossil record, such as the trilobite eye. Each animal has eyes well-designed for the life they live. That is certainly true of the amazing human eye.

Many things about human eyes make them amazing. One of those is the cornea, the clear front covering of our eyes. Corneas must be perfectly clear to allow light to pass through for an unobstructed view of the world around us. Because of the need for complete transparency, they have no blood vessels. Our corneas get their nourishment from the aqueous humor (the liquid inside the eye) and the tear fluid on the outside. They get oxygen from direct contact with the air.

Corneas must be designed to fit a curving surface full of a fluid which maintains the critical pressure inside the eye. However, there is a problem with the cornea being exposed to the air with all of the contaminants it contains – pollen, dust, chemicals, and grit. Corneas can become scratched. Over time, any surface exposed to dirt and grit, and sometimes bumps and blows, can get tiny scratches. How is it possible for corneas to remain transparent with so much abuse?

When you cut your skin, as the cut heals, scar tissue forms. Scratches in our corneas must heal without scar tissue. When the outer layer of the cornea gets scratched, the surrounding cells move toward one another and close the scratch leaving no scar tissue. This is only one feature of corneas which consist of five different layers each having an important function and showing evidence of design.

Think what it would be like if scar tissue formed every time the surface of our corneas got scratched. By the time we reached middle-age, we would certainly be looking through cloudy lenses. If you can read this, you should be thankful for just one of the features of the amazing human eye!
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Stronger than Gravity

Stronger than Gravity
Gravity controls the universe — at least on a large scale. Obviously, gravity keeps you and your possessions from floating away into space. Gravity also holds planets and stars together. It holds the Moon in orbit around the Earth and all of the planets in orbit around the Sun. Gravity holds the galaxies together. But other forces are stronger than gravity.

Four interactions make the universe work: the weak and strong nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity. Gravity is by far the weakest of those forces. The weak and strong nuclear forces are limited to a very short range within the atom. Only the electromagnetic force and gravity reach out to the vast universe. Since the electromagnetic force is so much stronger than gravity, why does gravity control the universe?

Everything is made of atoms and atoms contain electrons and protons. Electrons have a negative charge, and protons have an equal and opposite positive charge. Electromagnetism causes opposite charges to attract and like charges to repel each other. Gravity, of course, pulls anything with mass together.

The reason electromagnetism does not overpower the much weaker force of gravity is a delicate balance between electrons and protons. For each electron in the universe, there is a proton, so the plus and minus electrical forces cancel each other, creating electrical neutrality. Without that balance, we could not exist.

The balance between electrons and protons is so delicate that if you were building a universe and accidentally put in one extra electron for each trillion trillion trillion electron/proton pairs (that’s one followed by 36 zeroes), it would be catastrophic. The electrical repulsion between those negatively-charged electrons would overpower the gravitational force. The result would be that gravity could not pull any mass together. If gravity could not pull masses together, there would be no planets, no stars, no galaxies. Electromagnetic repulsion would create a universe of dispersed particles and nothing else.

Each of the other forces is stronger than gravity. The weak and strong nuclear forces are confined to short distances within the atom, and the electromagnetic force is carefully balanced. Is it possible that this precision is merely an accident? Or do we see evidence of system design? We think this is one more example of fine-tuning in the universe which gives evidence of a Designer.
–Roland Earnst © 2018