You can see an amazing collection of artifacts from the time of Christ and earlier in the Clayton Museum of Ancient History. That museum, located on the campus of York College in York, Nebraska, displays artifacts collected by Foster Stanback. One of the first questions we asked when this project began was how he secured the relics. The problem is that many collectors buy artifacts from black-market dealers who have either stolen the artifacts or faked them. Foster Stanback and the Clayton Museum wanted to ensure that items we displayed were secured from government-approved sources and validated by qualified experts.
Biblical Archaeological Review published an article (fall 2020 issue, page 6) about artifacts in the Museum of the Bible collected by Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby. Green spent massive amounts of money to secure artifacts that were “unprovenanced,” meaning that their origin and authenticity were unverified. In April of 2020, a study commissioned by the museum proved that all of the supposed Dead Sea Scroll fragments in its collection were fakes. Around the same time, the museum announced that 11,500 artifacts in their possession had been stolen from Iraq and Egypt and would be returned. Three years earlier, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency seized thousands of artifacts and fined Steve Green three million dollars for illegally bringing them into the United States. Green released a statement saying that when buying the items, “I have trusted the wrong people to guide me, and unwittingly dealt with unscrupulous dealers.”
Unprovenanced relics are an issue for scholars and for people who collect artifacts. You may wonder how all of this affects the Clayton Museum of Ancient History. First of all, Stanback’s collections have all been secured from government-approved sources and have been studied by scholars and proven to be authentic. Foster Stanback and the Clayton Museum are working for educational purposes, not financial interests. In the past two years, the museum has added a children’s interactive section. School groups come in regularly to learn the history of the Roman world at the time Jesus lived and the Church began.
Unfortunately, greed and a desire for fame have invaded the antiquities market. We can be thankful that Foster Stanback and the Clayton Museum seek to help people understand the history of the time in which Jesus lived.
There are billions of stars in the galaxy, so there must be billions of planets in the galaxy. For many years people have speculated that there must be intelligent life out there and even civilizations that have developed space travel. In a casual conversation among scientists in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi asked, “If these civilizations do exist, where is everybody?” That question came to be known as the Fermi Paradox, and it led to the picture, which we will explain.
The Fermi Paradox points out the lack of any evidence for what many see as a high probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. Since no space aliens have landed on Earth and announced their arrival, some scientists decided to search for them by electromagnetic radiation. In 1960 astronomer Frank Drake began a coordinated project which became known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Ever since then, millions (or billions) of dollars and millions of hours have been spent listening for any transmission of any intelligent beings on other planets. The results have been zero. Where is everybody?
In 1995 the SETI Institute established Project Phoenix, which concentrated only on the 800 closest stars and their planets. Working from 1995 until 2004, the project concluded that there is no species as technologically advanced as humans in the universe within 200 light-years of Earth.
Because of the laws of physics and the dangers of space, any space traveler would be limited to no more than one percent of the speed of light. (Exceeding, or even approaching the speed of light is only possible in the movies.) So traveling at maximum speed from the nearest possible location, a space alien would need 20,000 years to reach the Earth. You could add to that another 5,000 years to dodge space objects (including stars, planets, and asteroids) on the trip. So for a space alien to reach Earth would take at least 25,000 years, and probably much longer.
So what is the picture? It’s a digital representation of what is called the Arecibo message. In 1974, scientists sent out a radio message from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. They aimed it a star cluster called M13, which is 25,000 light-years away. If there is any intelligent life there able to receive and decode it, the message tells about planet Earth and humanity. (You can find the “decode” HERE.) Of course, if there are any intelligent beings in M13 wondering “where is everybody,” they should receive the message in 25,000 years.
The Fermi Paradox is still unsolved. As the leader of Project Phoenix, Peter Backus, said, “We live in a quiet neighborhood.” God, on the other hand, being unlimited by time and space (remember that He created time/space and matter/energy) is always near and ready to hear our prayers unless we are unwilling to acknowledge His existence.
Military chaplains were disciplined for mentioning that the Bible had some messages that would be useful in counseling soldiers. A chaplain was relieved of duty and threatened with a dishonorable discharge for counseling a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. A commander reprimanded another chaplain for giving suicide prevention training that included passages of scripture. Lt. General William Boykin has reported these incidents and others.
General Boykin achieved an outstanding record during his 36 years of service in the United States Army. He was the commander of the Army’s Green Berets and one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force. General Boykin spent four years as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. There is no question of his dedication to America or the enormous service he has given to keep us free.
General Boykin sent a letter to believers around the country, saying that what is happening to Christians in the United States military should shock and alarm every person of faith. The main culprit is a group misnamed The Military Religious Freedom Foundation. They succeeded in having the Walter Reed Army Medical Center ban Bible distribution to wounded soldiers in the hospital. Franklin Graham was banned from speaking at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer. A display of the honor oath was removed from the U.S. Air Force Academy because it included “So help me God.”
The Family Research Council reports on incidents when the rights of Christians have been trampled on by atheists and skeptics. Perhaps you have received a copy of the letter from Lt. General William Boykin. Please take the time to read it. You can also find out more about anti-Christian persecution incidents from the Family Research Council at frc.org.
Imagine that you are walking along an unfamiliar street, and you see a sign that says, “Magic Potions from the Periodic Table.” The unusual sign and the look of the store arouse your curiosity.
As you walk in, you notice that the room is dark, and you see a man who looks like the stereotype of a wizard. On shelves lining the walls, there are 92 bottles of chemicals. You see labels on some of them that say “carbon,” “oxygen,” “nitrogen,” “phosphorous,” “zinc,” and other elements. The “wizard” is pouring some chemicals from bottles into some beakers. He looks at you with a smile and says, “What can I mix for you today? I can give you a potion for morality. How about something to make you appreciate beauty? Love—the true, unconditional kind of love is right here. How about letting me mix you up some meaning and purpose in life?”
You are startled and a bit confused because you had chemistry class in school. You realize that putting together the chemical elements you see on the shelves will not give you the things this “wizard” is offering. Even carbon-based molecules cannot supply morality, appreciation of beauty, true unselfish love, or meaning and purpose in life.
Chemistry is not enough. There is something beyond the chemical formulas and covalent bonding that comes into play in humans. The “wizard” is the naturalist who says that chance evolution and chemistry explain everything about our existence. Do we accept his suggestion? Does chemistry explain it all? Can the wizard’s magic potions from the periodic table fully explain what it means to be human?
Shouldn’t we look for an explanation beyond naturalism? We think a better explanation is that there is a God who created us in His image. It seems evident that we are more than bodies made of chemicals assembled by chance.
Some high school and college girls brought to our attention several advertisements for “medication abortions” using an “abortion pill.” A pro-life group called Students for Life Action tells us that Planned Parenthood is sending the chemical abortion medications by mail. This is an attractive means of securing an abortion for a young woman who doesn’t want anyone to know about her pregnancy.
In reality, the abortion “pill” is not a single pill, and taking it is not like taking an aspirin. The chemical abortion involves two different medications. The first is mifepristone which initiates the abortion. The second misoprostol which causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. Cramping and bleeding can last several hours or even several days, and some bleeding and spotting can go on for several weeks.
The promoters of medical abortions are telling people that there is “an abortion pill.” They are not telling them how it works and how traumatic the procedure is. It is easy for a boyfriend to trivialize the chemical abortion process, but cramping, bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dizziness are all common side effects of the use of the two pills.
It is essential to understand that abortions of any kind kill a baby. The child has its own DNA. Morning sickness is the woman’s body telling her that there is a foreign body inside her. The use of chemicals to kill the baby is dangerous to the mother and can have many side effects. Saying that a woman has the right to decide what will happen to her body is true, but she needs to make the decision long before a child is growing inside her.
Selling chemical abortion medications by mail is not a good solution for unwanted pregnancies. God has given us rules for sexual conduct, and the rules work, if we follow them. We oppose abortion at all levels. We believe that education by God through His Word is the only way men and women can make good choices and avoid the pain and consequences of bad decisions.
One of the objections that we hear most often is, “God cannot exist because a good God would not allow evil and suffering in the world.” The argument is that if God is good and all-powerful, He would not allow evil, pain, and suffering. Either God is not good, or He is not powerful, or, most likely, there is no God.
Those who advance this objection are saying that their knowledge of all things proves that they know what God should do. God could not possibly have a good reason for allowing things to run their course based on circumstances and the actions of people. God should intervene to stop people from doing anything that would cause harmful consequences for themselves or others. God should cancel the natural laws at times to prevent accidents and disasters. People who make these arguments are claiming to be smarter than God.
But what if God is smarter than we are? What if God knows more than we know? Suppose that God knows the future because He is not limited by our time dimension. Is it possible that God has a reason for allowing bad things to happen that we, in our limited knowledge, cannot understand? Just because we can’t see a reason for God not to intervene, does that mean God could not have a purpose?
It’s a mistake for anyone to assume that a God beyond our limitations of knowledge and understanding could not exist. A god with our limited knowledge would not be God. George Burns played the role of “god” in the 1977 movie Oh, God! When the character played by John Denver asked him what was going to happen, Burns replied, “How should I know?” When asked for clarification, his response was, “I only know what is. Also, I’m very big on what was. Now, what isn’t yet? I haven’t got a clue.” That describes the limitation of humans—not God.
The Bible tells us that God is not only good (“God is love”) and omnipotent (all-powerful), He is also omniscient (all-knowing). It’s a mistake to say, “God cannot exist because a good God would not allow evil.” The only way you could know that God has no reason to allow evil and suffering in this world is for your knowledge and understanding to be greater than God’s. To believe that is indeed the height of arrogance.
Perhaps the theologian most often quoted by atheists today is Bart Ehrman. Ehrman graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary is a “Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He and has written many books harshly criticizing the Bible. Perhaps his most cited book is Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Atheists reference Ehrman using his credentials and position to declare his credibility. We suggest that Bart Ehrman’s bias relates to his motivation to sell books, not an open-minded search for truth. Here is one example:
“There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament…We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them…in thousands of ways” (pages 10-11). So what are the facts? If one manuscript says “Christ Jesus” and another says “Jesus Christ,” is that an error? Of the 400,000 errors that skeptics claim, most are differences in spelling or the order of words. Scholars studying manuscripts report a 99% agreement between all known manuscripts. None of the existing variations change any crucial element of the Christian faith.
Scholars have over 5700 manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament available to them. Those manuscripts are not from one recent time. Some are from very early, and others are 200 or 300 years later. When you compare the earlier manuscripts with the more recent ones, you don’t find significant changes. This is true even though they are not in the same language. There are more than two million pages of text and yet no significant variations.
Bart Ehrman’s bias is explained in a book by Timothy Paul Jones. The book is Misquoting Truth published by Intervarsity Press.
As we have pointed out before, the followers of Christ spoke Aramaic rather than Greek. The reason for this is that Aramaic was the language of the common people, and Christ dealt with the common people. The better-educated intellectuals of that day spoke Greek. Why then are the New Testament manuscripts written in Greek? Atheists have maintained that the Bible’s human authors were people other than the apostles and eyewitnesses, and they wrote the manuscripts at a later time.
Atheist scholar Bart Ehrman wrote, “It seems unlikely that the uneducated, lower-class, illiterate disciples of Jesus played the decisive role in the literary compositions that have come down through history under their names.” (From Ehrman’s book The followers of Jesus in history and Legend, page 45.)
Jesus and the Church of the first century indeed reached out to the common people. Christianity was not and is not a faith just for intellectuals. Paul certainly handled the academics, as demonstrated in Acts 17, when he carried on the debate with the Epicureans and Stoics in Athens. However, the claim that intellectuals wrote the scriptures later because the early Christians were too ignorant is an uninformed position.
Matthew the tax collector wrote the book of Mathew (Mathew 10:3). Tax collectors were not uneducated people, and the masses did not like them. The Romans required tax collectors to be fluent in several languages. They used a wax-covered wooden tablet called a pinax to record notes, which were then transcribed to papyrus. Luke was a physician, according to Colossians 4:14, and physicians were trained to pull eyewitness accounts into a coherent report as Luke did. (See Luke 1:1-4.) Paul certainly was capable of writing in Greek. Galatians 6:11 and Philemon 1:19-21 indicates Paul could do his own writing, but scribes sometimes wrote for individuals. Paul mentions that in Romans 16:22 and Peter in 1 Peter 5:12.
It is strange that atheists would attempt to denigrate the apostles’ intelligence and writing capacity when people living at that time did not choose to do so. The complaint about the Bible’s human authors was about their message of love and forgiveness free of greed and control. That problem still exists today. We can know the Bible is the word of God and came from God due to its message, not because of the academic pedigree of its human authors.
Before GPS, people found their way with a compass. Many still do. Did you know that finding your way is possible, even if you don’t have any eyes or ears, or even a brain, as long as you have a compass? Magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) use the magnetic field of planet Earth to know which way to go. To do that, they have to build a compass. Realize that these are single-cell organisms that live in marine or freshwater habitats.
Inside the cells of all living things, there are subunits called organelles that perform various functions. MTB have organelles called magnetosomes that contain magnetic crystals. They build the magnetosomes by digesting iron and combining the iron with sulfur to form iron sulfide or with oxygen to form iron oxide. The iron oxide is also known as magnetite, and it’s a powerful magnet.
The bacteria form chains of these magnetic crystals inside their cells. The magnetosome chain acts as a compass needle aligning the MTB to Earth’s magnetic field. In this way, the magnetotactic bacteria can “know” the direction to move. Why do these bacteria need to know directions? They are anaerobic bacteria, meaning that they survive without oxygen. Oxygen can be deadly to them, so they need to find an area away from it. Rather than blindly going around in circles looking for a safe place, they move in a straight line to their anaerobic safe zone.
In 1963, an Italian scientist first noticed certain bacteria aligning and moving in the direction of the north pole. It wasn’t until 2007 that scientists paid much attention to that observation. Without eyes, ears, or a brain, magnetotactic bacteria can find where they need to go. But without a brain, how can they know to do this? And how can a single-cell bacterium build the magnetosome organelles? These magnetic crystals are difficult for humans to create in a laboratory. In fact, scientists have found that the magnetite produced by bacteria is better for some applications than what the scientists can produce in the laboratory. For that reason, they are looking to find a way to mass-produce MTB to obtain their magnetosomes.
Who taught the magnetotactic bacteria this fantastic skill? Did one of them figure it out and then pass that knowledge on to future generations? We don’t think so. A better explanation is that the Master Designer programmed the skill into them.
You can read a scientific paper on MTB at THIS LINK. Leading evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) once said that if you could find a magnetic mechanism as part of a living organism, it would disprove evolution. You can read more about Haldane and his statement at THIS LINK.
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”.