Reliability of the New Testament

Reliability of the New Testament

Atheists are desperate to attack the reliability of the New Testament. Bart Ehrman wrote that the biblical stories about Jesus “were changed with what would strike us today as reckless abandon. They were modified, amplified, and embellished, And sometimes they were made up” (Bart Ehrman in his book The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend, page 269.)

Atheist scholars like Ehrman assume that the average person is too ignorant to understand why such a statement isn’t true. They assume that most people won’t take the time to find the answer to a challenge like this one. Thankfully some Christian scholars have responded. Dr. Timothy Paul Jones explains why Ehrman’s statement is false.

The accounts of Jesus’ life and teaching emerged among eyewitnesses shortly after the events occurred. Can we trust the New Testament accounts to be true? How about the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul summarizes the story of Christ’s resurrection with two Greek words – paradidomi and paralambano. When these two words were used together, ancient Greek readers understood that the writer was citing oral history. Paul wrote in Greek, but in that passage, he called the apostle Peter by his Aramaic name “Cephas.” Paul also used a Greek word to describe an Aramaic method for joining clauses. What that means is that the oral history was originally in Aramaic. People in Galilee and Judea spoke Aramaic, and Paul must have received this oral history in Aramaic.

What that tells us is, Paul heard the story of Jesus from eyewitnesses (Galatians 1:18) who conveyed it to him in Aramaic. In 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul reminds the Corinthians of what he had told them three years earlier. Paul carried this message everywhere he went, meaning that it was unchanged as it spread across the Roman empire. Clearly, the story of Jesus’ resurrection was not made up long after He died. The account was not “changed with reckless abandon”.

We can trust the reliability of the New Testament. The average person may not have the knowledge to see the fallacies in every atheist statement, but there are scholars who can. This information came from Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus by Timothy Paul Jones, published by Intervarsity Press.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Creating Life in the Laboratory

Creating Life in the Laboratory - Miller-Urey Experiment
Miller-Urey Experiment

A graduate student named Stanley Miller at the University of Chicago conducted an experiment in 1952, and it became news headlines in 1953. The news reports suggested that scientists were creating life in the laboratory. That was a bit of an exaggeration, or what might be called “fake news.”

The Miller-Urey Experiment, as it came to be known, was intended to show that life could arise spontaneously from non-living chemicals. In a sealed system, Miller attempted to duplicate what was then thought to be the composition of the early Earth’s atmosphere. An electric spark discharge inside the system resulted in the formation of some amino acids. Amino acids link together to form proteins, which are the building blocks of life.

Scientists thought they had made a breakthrough to show how life began, but amino acids are a long way from living cells. Since then, science has found many problems with the Miller-Urey Experiment. One of them is that the gases inside the device were nothing like the early Earth’s atmosphere. Probably the biggest roadblock to life creating itself (abiogenesis) is that amino acids have two geometric configurations, known as right-handed and left-handed. To combine into proteins, all of the amino acids must be left-handed. Amino acids in nature are a mixture, and there is no natural source for all left-handed amino acids. Besides that, all DNA and RNA molecules are connected by sugars that must all be right-handed. Natural sugars exist in mixtures of right- and left-handedness.

Since the 1952 experiment, scientists have continued working hard to solve the question of how life could emerge spontaneously. The solution has only gotten more complicated as they have learned more about the amazing design in every living cell. In 2007, an Associated Press news release said, “Scientists Believe Artificial Life Will Be Possible in 3 to 10 Years.” Sensational headlines sell, but the news reporters don’t know what the scientists know.

It has been 68 years since the Miller-Urey experiment, and the goal of creating life in the laboratory is still a dream. Perhaps, someday scientists will achieve that goal. What will they have proved? They will NOT have shown that life can emerge from non-life on its own. They will have demonstrated that great intelligence with the proper resources can create life. That is what the Bible has been telling us for thousands of years.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Sentinel Duty in Animal Behavior

Sentinel Duty in Animal Behavior

During my seven years in the army, I was in a survey crew. Our job was to go out into the wilderness and survey objects to be fired upon by the artillery unit. Because we were accustomed to being on our own and concealing our movement with the terrain and natural objects, we were frequently assigned sentinel duty. That meant our survey crew was deployed around the perimeter of where our unit was sleeping for the night. We were there to watch for any enemy coming close to our unit. In combat, we were especially vulnerable, because we had no protection ourselves, and were frequently in enemy territory. Sentinel duty was essential for the survival of the whole unit, but it was a dangerous duty.

Animals also practice sentinel duty. Birds are especially adept at having sentinels during their migratory journeys when they are vulnerable to hawks, wolves, foxes, cats, snakes, and a wide variety of mammals. Studies have shown that most birds migrating in groups have a single bird to watch for predators while the other birds in the flock are foraging. Because sentinels are by themselves, easy to identify, and further from a place of safety than the rest of the flock, they are frequently the first to be eaten.

For humans, giving your life to protect the group is considered a moral responsibility. Why would a bird serve as a sentinel? If you believe in “survival of the fittest,” then being a sentinel makes no sense at all. You and your progeny can be quickly removed from the population, and any beneficial DNA you may have had is gone forever. Sentinel duty does not select the most fit of the flock and allow them to survive and produce more offspring.

Many animal behaviors in the natural world do not promote the survival of the individual but contribute to the group’s advancement. Sentinel duty seems to be built into life-forms to allow survival in a constantly changing environment. God has designed a wide variety of behaviors into living things to enable Earth to be full of every kind of living creature. Sentinel duty is one of those genetically programmed behaviors.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Look Through a Telescope

Look Through a Telescope

Modern technology has given all of us a chance to look through a telescope and see what is in outer space. In the “old days” the only people that could look outside our solar system were astronomers who had access to powerful telescopes. Now all of us can look out and see what lies beyond our solar system without buying a telescope because the pictures are available to us on the web. If you go to apod.nasa.gov you can see pictures taken through the world’s largest telescopes. The picture for August 7, 2020, is of the Pipe Nebula. As I stare at the picture, I am awestruck by the number of stars in the cosmos.

Why are there so many? Why is the cosmos so big? If you believe that God created it all, why did He create billions of stars in billions of galaxies? If Earth is the only place with life, why are there other planets, other stars, other solar systems? Why is space full of matter like the Pipe Nebula? Obviously no one knows the answers to all these questions. Anyone who gives a dogmatic answer that invalidates the existence of God is claiming to have more knowledge than the rest of us. Those who claim the pictures are fakes or artistic works have not taken the trouble to go to an observatory and look through a telescope. Most observatories have arrangements that allow the general public to do that. We have no excuse for doubting the credibility of the pictures.

Whether you are an atheist or a religious fundamentalist, your viewpoint makes massive assumptions. Here are a few things you should know, that may make you uncomfortable:

No observation made has ever challenged the basic biblical claim that there was a beginning and that it was caused. You can argue about what the cause was, but attempting to deny that there was a beginning, puts you at odds with the observations and the laws of physics–even at a quantum level.

There is no support for the assumption that planet Earth is the only place in the universe where life exists. If there is life elsewhere, God created it, and the Bible does not say the Earth is the only place where God created life. However, the distances are so huge that we will never know if this is the only place–at least not in our lifetimes. Many years ago, I debated an atheist on a talk show with Larry King. A listener called in and asked the atheist and me “What would you two do if a space ship landed in plain sight and a little green man got out and asked, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” That raises all kinds of issues, but it makes the point. By the way, the atheist’s answer was, “Punt.”

As we look through a telescope we are looking into the distant past light-years ago. No one knows what the distant future holds. Could it be that God wants humans to colonize the cosmos? Perhaps our vision of God’s kingdom is too small. Every time I look at one of those pictures of star fields or look through a telescope, I am reminded of Psalms 8:3-4 “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained: What is man, that you are mindful of him?”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Butterfly Wings and Rain

Butterfly Wings and Rain

Look around the world of living things, and you will see a system that has been carefully designed. Not only the system, but the individual life-forms could not exist without careful engineering. Countless problems had to be anticipated and solved in the creation process, and one of those involves butterfly wings and rain.

One of my favorite memories of my wife Phyllis, before she passed away, was the last trip, which included a visit to a butterfly house. I went through the screened-in house in 20 minutes and waited outside for Phyllis to join me. After waiting for what seemed like a long time, I went back in to find her. She was sitting on a large rock, literally covered with butterflies. As they fluttered around, they kept landing on her. An attendant came up to me and asked me if my wife was diabetic. When I said she was, the attendant said, “That explains it. Her blood sugar must be high.” Later my wife described the sensation of delicate wings dancing all over her head and arms. She was afraid to move for fear of injuring those delicate wings.

That raised the question in my mind about butterfly wings and rain. How could something so delicate survive a heavy rainstorm? Recently, Cornell University posted an article addressing that question. Butterfly wings have tiny bumps that break up incoming drops of water into small droplets that don’t damage the wings. In addition to that, the wings have a water-resistant wax coating, so the droplets slide off, making the wings essentially dry, even in the rain.

Similar features to what we see in the design of butterfly wings also occur in other living things such as plant leaves and feathers. Those features must have been present from the very beginning of the existence of those life-forms. Otherwise, they would never have survived to produce offspring and pass on the genetic information.

Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The design of butterfly wings and rain is one more example of how we can build our faith as we see God’s creative wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Spreading Life Throughout the Earth

Spreading Life Throughout the Earth - Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

An amazing fact is that the creation is designed for continually spreading life throughout the Earth. That isn’t always a good thing for humans.

Several years ago, a friend of mine built a large pond on his farm. He planned to stock the pond with desirable fish, avoiding carp and sunfish, which he considered to be trash fish. He stocked it with largemouth bass, and some minnows used as food for the bass. Later, when I was visiting him, I decided to do a little fishing in his pond. The first fish I caught was a large carp, and a whole school of sunfish converged on a grasshopper or worm I used as bait.

My friend was horrified and promptly wanted to accuse an enemy of putting trash fish in his pond. I noticed a great blue heron wading through the shallows of the pond picking off minnows, and immediately I knew how the sunfish got there. Herons wade through areas where fish have built nests of eggs during their spawn. The eggs are sticky and adhere to the Heron’s legs. When the Heron goes to another pond, it carries the fish eggs along.

Recent research has discovered another way in which fish are designed to spread from place to place. A study in Hungary has shown that some fish eggs can pass through the digestive system of a duck, and a small percentage of the eggs have baby fish still alive inside.

The wisdom of this system in the natural world is apparent. A new body of water will usually be sterile. To get a functional ecological system going, the bottom of the food chain must be established quickly. Birds are facilitators in getting a fish population in operation, and now we know of at least two ways they do it.

The implications for humans are significant. Biologists trying to keep a species of carp out of the Great Lakes have a huge problem. The design of fish and birds makes it almost impossible to keep any fish population isolated. God has created many designs for spreading life throughout the Earth, even into sterile places.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News, August 1, 2020 page 13.

Pandemic Pods and Education

Pandemic Pods and Education

Home Schooling has expanded dramatically as public schools struggle with how to open in the face of the pandemic and the difficulties of online classes. Now parents are organizing into “pandemic pods” where they form groups of five to ten children and hire a teacher for that group.

For working parents, this may seem to be an answer to the school situation.
The problem is that only families with enough money to hire a good teacher will be able to form these pandemic pods. This sends us back to a segregation issue. Families who join together are likely to be families with similar social backgrounds. This arrangement excludes families living in poverty.

As a public school science teacher in South Bend, Indiana, I saw firsthand another issue that should be considered. I would see students transferred during the school year from a nearby large Catholic high school to Riley High School, where I taught. These were always kids who were discipline problems. One of my friends who taught at the Catholic school told me that their ultimate threat was, “If you don’t behave, we’ll send you to Riley.”

We must remember that these are kids who need an education. Virtual learning and online classes work for highly-motivated students who want to cooperate. What about the kid who is not motivated, has a bad family situation, doesn’t want to be in school at all, and is poor? The coronavirus has given people another excuse to separate their kids from those who are different, racially, socially, and/or morally.

Those making decisions about schools must recognize the importance of educating our children. Parents must make their child’s education a priority. Education isn’t just facts, but it’s also how to get along with people who are different from you. The pandemic pods idea might work if they contain heterogeneous student populations supported by tax money and available equally to all. Allowing parents to segregate children to free themselves from the responsibility of educating them is not an answer.

For those who choose homeschooling, the Does God Exist? ministry has materials that can be helpful in areas of faith and science. Through the years, many homeschoolers have used our video series, which is available to watch free on DoesGodExist.tv or to purchase at THIS LINK. Also, our website DoesGodExist.org has various links and mail-in courses. For science, our Facebook page has daily postings telling about various animals and plants.

— John N. Claton © 2020

Reference: The Week magazine for August 7, 2020

What Is Christ?

What Is Christ?

People in Christ’s day did not understand what Christ was. The same is true today. Jesus himself highlighted this issue when He asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13). The disciples gave the same kind of answers that we see people giving today. One response was that Christ was a mystic ghost. In this case, they thought He was the ghost or resurrected form of John the Baptist. (See Matthew 14:2.) Some said Christ was the resurrected prophet Elijah who had come to lead Israel. (See Malachi 4:5.) Today we have people claiming that Jesus appeared to them in a ghost-like visit. Who or what is Christ?

After hearing what others were saying, Jesus asked His disciples, “But whom do YOU say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded by saying that God Himself revealed it to Peter (Verse 17). John 1:1-14 spells this out as clearly as humans can comprehend. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” “Word” in Greek is “Logos” and refers to the person of God.

The one “Godhead” is made up of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the intellect of God, seen in wisdom and design (See Proverbs 8 and Romans 1:20.) In Jesus, we see the personality of God called the Logos by John. The message of John 1:14 is not that a man became God, but that God became a man. Colossians 1:16 says concerning Christ that “all things were created by Him, and for Him.” When Jesus spoke, He spoke the words of God.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said: “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Is being a Christian always easy physically? How many times was Paul beaten? What happened to Stephen? We, too, have a terrible physical battle to maintain our faith. Jesus is not talking about physical burdens but the peace, confidence, freedom, security, and joy that comes from being in Christ. It is a tragedy that some preachers make the burden hard by adding a bunch of human requirements to the yoke of Jesus.

Jesus was God in the flesh. That flesh died on the cross, but you can’t kill the Logos. Jesus was not just a good man or a myth or a ghost. What is Christ? He is God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Is Truth Today?

What Is Truth, Anyway?

Jesus told Pilate that everyone who follows the way of truth listens to His voice. Pilate replied, “What is truth?” That was a rhetorical question. He said it because he didn’t think there was such a thing as ultimate truth, and his worldview was like that of many moderns. What is truth today? “Truth is what you make it.” “Your truth is not my truth.” “I don’t believe anyone has ultimate truth.”

In today’s world, people are confused by many contradictory “truths” presented by politicians, religious leaders, and social media. It is amazing how two people can look at the same fact and reach opposite conclusions. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb, He told His disciples that He would soon be crucified. Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify our name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (See John 12:27-29.) The crowd of people who heard it reached different conclusions. Some said it was thunder, and some said it was the voice of an angel. When Peter and the apostles spoke to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, some said they were drunk while others repented of the grave injustice they had done to Jesus. (See Acts 2:5-13, 38-41.)

It has always been possible for people to reach completely different conclusions while looking at the same evidence. In our posts and publications, we often show design in living things, on planet Earth, and in the universe. We see that design as evidence of a Designer. Others see it as a pattern of accidental coincidence created by random chance. Paul said we can know there is a God by the things He has made. (See Romans 1:20.) He explained the inability of many to see that truth by saying, “In their case, the god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

What is truth today, and why is it often difficult to tell from lies? Experience has shown that when a lie is told repeatedly and often, people will eventually believe it. In our post-modern age, we have social media spreading lies. We also have “fact checkers” who have their own agendas and biases, which slant the way they look at “What is truth?” It can be hard to know whom to believe.

The term “fake news” has entered our vocabulary in a big way. We have seen news reports of “peaceful protests” while behind the reporter, fires are burning. In cases like that, we can see that the facts don’t fit the description. However, modern technology has created ways to fool our senses. We have posted examples of various kinds of fakery HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

The fakery is only getting worse to the point where we can’t always believe our eyes and ears. Artificial intelligence has made it possible to create very convincing fake videos. You won’t believe your eyes if you watch THIS FAKE VIDEO of president Richard Nixon eulogizing the Apollo astronauts who died on the Moon. Of course, we remember that it did not happen, but the video can almost bring tears to your eyes. The creators of this fantastic fake video were not trying to fool us but to show us how dangerous video fakery has become.

So what is truth today? Jesus is truth. The Bible is truth. The point we are making is that we must be skeptical when it comes to history or politics, or religion. Make sure your sources for faith topics are reliable and test them against God’s word. Fake news can be dangerous, but false religious teaching is the most dangerous of all.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

God of Hope in Troubled Times

God of Hope in Troubled Times

We live in a time of chaos and uncertainty. One of the things that make humans different from all other living things on this planet is that we require hope. Animals do not require hope to be in a state of good health. They live moment-by-moment as long as their immediate needs are met. If an animal has food, shelter, and perhaps companionship, they need nothing else. Humans are different; we wither away in the absence of hope. Christians receive that from the God of hope.

Catherine Madera describes why we need hope: “Hope connects us to the future and prevents us from becoming stuck in past history or present challenges. It projects out, like a beam of light, illuminating things on the horizon to look forward to. Hope is defined as a feeling of trust and expectation, a desire for a certain thing to happen.”
(From Guideposts Strength and Grace, August/September 2020, page 58)

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Even with discouragement, depression, illness, loss, frustration, and failure, we can trust in God and that His Spirit will eventually work things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

God doesn’t just give hope; He is the God of hope. This is one of the great blessings of being a Christian. We can always have hope that answers will come, and having that hope gives us a measure of joy, peace, and contentment–even in troubled times like these.

— John N. Clayton © 2020