Halloween in History

Halloween in History

Have you ever taken the time to check out the history of Halloween? Halloween is not a satanic holiday, and witches or warlords did not invent it. The actual origins began in the Catholic Church in Ireland and Scotland, and it also has Celtic roots.

The original name was “All Hallows Day.” In Ireland and Scotland, it celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. The Celtics commemorated the holiday with a feast and with games based on food. In A.D. 606, Pope Boniface made it a celebration of the martyrs, and later, Pope Gregory IV initiated praying for the dead.

Over time, the Catholic Church brought “All Hallows Day” into their doctrine so that in 1200, churches rang bells to get people out of purgatory. In various western countries, people celebrated Halloween in unusual ways. In France. People prayed and left dishes of milk by graves. In Italy, people left a whole meal for the “spirits” of relatives. In Spain, people left pastries for dead relatives. None of these practices are biblical, nor are they connected to any satanic belief system.

By the end of the 19th century, people in Scotland and northern England began “guising” by wearing masks and disguises. For many, this involved wearing a costume to make fun of Satan. In 1911 this caught on in America, and by 1915, there was a combining of “guising” and providing pastries. By 1950, this had evolved into the familiar house-to-house trick-or-treat routine. For 90% of us, trick-or-treating was a fun time, and my children made it part of our family time. For my mentally challenged son, this was one of his favorite times because no one knew of his limitations, and he got the same treats as everyone else.

Satan has used Halloween as a time to bring bad things to people. A teacher friend had a very fair blond-haired daughter that Satanists tried to kidnap, allegedly for human sacrifice. We began to see stories of people putting anything from LSD to razor blades in the treats they gave to kids. The evil in the world has made Halloween suspect for many people.

Sorcery and witchcraft are as old as civilizations.
In Exodus 7, we see that Egypt had sorcerers and magicians, and Exodus 22:18 mentions witchcraft. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 describes horrible things that were happening in the countries which ancient Israel invaded. In Acts 8:9-10, Simon used sorcery to gain political power.

Christianity opposes evil and the power of Satan. We see that in 1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:15, and James 4:7. The Bible tells us that Satan cannot remove our freedom of choice. Hollywood and Disney World have given us ghost images that may terrify some, but death is a one-way street. No one comes back as a ghost, and we have nothing to fear on Halloween except what evil humans might do to us. However, that danger is always with us 24/7/365 – not just on Halloween.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff.

Ghosts, Werewolves, and Vampires

Ghosts, Werewolves, and Vampires

A survey by YouGov.com reveals that Americans have a strong belief in supernatural beings such as ghosts, werewolves, and vampires.

According to the survey, two in five Americans believe ghosts exist, and one in five say they have seen one. It also indicates that 43% of adults believe demons exist, and 11% say they have encountered a demon. Belief in werewolves comes in at 8% and vampires 9%, with 3% saying they have seen a vampire. By vampires, we don’t mean a bat, but a humanoid that drinks blood. By demons, we aren’t talking about spiritual issues. We mean physical beings that can walk and talk.

If you believe the results of this survey, you have to recognize that many people in this country believe in supernatural claims. However, the truth is that there is no evidence that ghosts, werewolves, and vampires exist, even though many scammers have used these ideas to enrich themselves.

People in Jesus’s day held similar beliefs, even the disciples of Christ. In Matthew 14:22-27, when Jesus came walking on the water, the immediate response of his disciples was, “They were troubled saying, it is a spirit, and they cried out for fear” (verse 26). When people are under duress, they are likely to see just about anything. If they don’t know what they are looking at, the response may be fear and attributing it to a ghost.

Many years ago, I escorted eight girl scouts and two adult chaperones down a trail after dark in Ontario. It was so dark that we had everyone hold hands as we walked. Suddenly the northern lights flared up, and the sky to the north of us was ablaze with something the girls had never seen. There was a large, dead tree by the trail right in front of us. It had two holes side by side about 20 feet up the trunk, and one big hole below that. The tree was white, and when the auroras flared up, it looked like a face with two eyes and a mouth. The girls panicked and began screaming and running in every direction. It would have been a simple matter to convince them that they had seen a ghost.

Many years later, I was on a paranormal tour of the Queen Mary, a luxury ship in service from 1936-1967. It is now a hotel in Long Beach, California. Some people claim it is haunted. However, like the tree ghost, everything about the ship that is supposed to be evidence of haunting has an easy, natural explanation. However, dozens of tourists swallow the paranormal story.

Many people turn away from faith in God and the teachings of Jesus because they directly affect how we make choices and how we should live. Believing in ghosts and other supernatural beings makes no demands on a person and gives no instructions on how to live life successfully. In past days, people did terrible things when they believed in witches, ghosts, werewolves, and vampires. Things haven’t changed much. We still have people who want to replace God with some evil being or force that makes no demands on their life choices.

— John N. Clayton 2021

Reference: USA Today for October 29, 2021.

What the Brain Allows Us to Do

What the Brain Allows Us to Do

Of all of the parts of your body that radiate design and complex structure, the brain is probably the most amazing. When we compare what the brain allows us to do and human efforts to build a computer to duplicate those things, we realize the incredible nature of the brain’s creation. No computer can do everything your brain does and probably never will.

A big question in understanding the brain is what controls intelligence. For example, a blue whale has a giant brain, almost five times as big as ours, but there is no evidence that they have superior intelligence. However, brain size is a factor in how much energy it uses. Our brain is about 2% of our body weight, but it consumes 20% of our energy.

Studies have shown large variations in brain size within the bird family. For example, ravens have bigger brains than the much larger ostriches, and they also demonstrate greater intelligence. On the other hand, some fish have tiny brains. For instance, bony-eared assfish have the smallest brain-to-body mass ratio of any vertebrate, but they require only a few simple functions to survive in their deep ocean environment.

Research has shown that different parts of animal brains are different sizes depending on the animal’s needs. For example, owls have a more extensive section of their brains related to sight than other birds that don’t hunt at night. Crows and parrots have the largest brain size compared to the bodyweight of all birds. They are also considered to be the most intelligent of all birds. It is quite clear, however, that brain size is not a primary factor in intelligence. On average, male human brains are larger than female brains, and no one would suggest that males are more intelligent.

The bottom line is that brains are tailor-made to fit what the individual needs to survive. Also, the critical factor isn’t the size of the brain but the size of the brain section the animal requires for survival. In humans, the ability to create art and music does not seem to be related to the brain. Mentally challenged humans frequently create marvelous works of art and compose beautiful music. The human capacity to worship and to believe there is more to existence than this life do not seem to be related to any brain response.

What the brain allows us to do is an incredible demonstration of God’s wisdom and design. However, it is not our brains but our spiritual make-up that makes humans different from other living things. We are created in the image of God, allowing us to do things and understand things that are beyond all other life on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: American Scientist, November/December 2021 pages 352-359.

Hunger in the World and How Much Food Is Wasted

Hunger in the World and How Much Food Is Wasted

I added up the number of letters I received begging for financial help to address hunger in the world. I received 116 letters in September of 2021. They all displayed pathetic, horrible pictures of starving children, women holding emaciated babies, or men looking at barren fields due to drought or war. It is wonderful that people have set up various organizations to meet the pain and anguish of deprived people worldwide. But, the fact is that all of this shouldn’t be necessary. 

The October 2021 issue of Scientific American contained a report of how much food is wasted. The article reports that 40% of all food produced is lost across the supply chain from farm to table. Each year 2.7 billion metric tons of food are lost—enough to fill 2,860 curbside trash tote bins every second. The article breaks down how much food is wasted in the various food groups, including seafood, meat, dairy and eggs, oilseeds and pulses, roots and tubers, cereals, and fruits and vegetables. 

In addition to not meeting the hunger in the world, a significant amount of water and energy are wasted. We see skeptics complaining that if God existed, He wouldn’t allow this pain. Advocates of population control say the Earth can’t feed all of the people living on it. Some people have advocated eradicating the “unfit” mentally ill or physically incapacitated because they use resources that the “fit” need. 

The fact is that God has blessed the Earth with the ability to produce more food than we can use with our present population. It’s human wastefulness and failure to wisely use God’s blessings that cause the pain and suffering of hunger in the world. Therefore, it is encouraging that various Christian organizations are working to prepare and transport food that would otherwise go to waste. They are also drilling wells and showing people in under-developed countries make better use of the resources available to grow crops and preserve food. 

Matthew 25:35 shows Christ telling His followers that in the judgment, we will all be commended or condemned partly based on how we met the need of others. “Then shall (Jesus) say to those on his right hand ‘Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.’” The passage goes on to show people asking when they did those things, and Jesus replied, “Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me” (Verse 40). 

Let each of us support works that address the issue of hunger in the world and the shortage of clean water. That may mean directly supplying those essentials or helping people in undeveloped areas of the world learn how to make better use of what God has given them. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “Massively Reducing Food Waste Could Feed the World” in Scientific American October 2021, pages 77-78.

Check the Credentials of Online Teachers

Check the Credentials of Online Teachers

It is essential to check the credentials of online teachers in science or religion. Some people can lead you astray with false teaching in areas they don’t really understand.

We have pointed out many times that there is a difference between factual evolution and various theories of evolution.
Many evolution theories have to do with humans evolving from lower life forms. However, the facts of evolution are what drive modern agriculture. Scientists have developed cattle that grow faster, get bigger, and have less fat. They have developed new strains of corn with higher protein content. We have a vast variety of roses that growers have developed. Evolution is change over time, and it can be natural or human-caused. For example, we all know today that viruses can mutate naturally as well as by human manipulation.

Some have quoted Sir Johnson Anane of Ghana as a source of proof that evolution is not true. However, when referring to evolution, Johnson Anane makes no distinction in what he means. Furthermore, he claims that the teaching of evolutionary theory has been banned in five states in the United States (which isn’t true). Recently, he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Ghana to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools of that country.

When we say to check the credentials of online teachers, that applies to Anane. He claims to be a college professor but is actually an assistant lecturer at Sunyani Technical University with a bachelor of science degree in wood technology and management. He also teaches that the Earth is flat, doesn’t move in space, doesn’t rotate on its axis, and is not a planet.

Johnson Anane is not the only false teacher getting attention from people writing in religious journals. Before you buy into any claim, check the person making the statement. Just as it is easy to find false teachings on the internet, the internet also makes it easy to check the credentials of online teachers. The Bible tells us, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: You can find many references to Johnson Anane on the web.

God Commanded the Israelites to Commit Genocide

God Commanded the Israelites to Commit Genocide

One of our atheist friends asked why God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide in 1 Samuel 15:3. “Now go and attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

The atheists say there was no reason to kill babies and innocent animals in retribution for what the Amalekites had done to Israel. With that argument, many atheist and skeptic articles and websites use this passage to prove that the God of the Bible is a violent, merciless, abusive, genocidal tyrant. Is that a valid argument? Is it true that a ruthless God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide?

Before they entered the promised land, God warned the Israelites to avoid the practices of the people who lived there. You can read that in Deuteronomy 18:9-13. Leviticus 18:1-30 goes into more detail about what practices to avoid. The actions warned against include sacrificing their children by fire to pagan gods.

God also commanded the Israelites to avoid divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spiritualists, and black magic. The passage in Leviticus also warns Israel against illicit sexual relationships, including sex with animals. The passage concludes by saying, “This is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. For all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you and the land became defiled … Do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came.”

Archaeological studies have confirmed what was going on in these cultures. Excavations in Gezer and Carthage have shown that children were placed alive and screaming in pain into the fire as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. Archaeologists have found tombstones and headstones detailing how people died. The forensic studies of bones and burial tissue confirm STDs in the people and animals. Our recent battle with COVID should make it easy for us to understand how disease transmission from animals to humans could happen. The moral instructions, dietary practices, and quarantine commands God gave to Israel avoided those diseases.

So how could God take care of the awful situation? As terrible as it was, the only solution was to completely destroy the practices and all possible diseases of the Amalekite society. God had no choice. Even today, with all of our medical knowledge and expertise, we are having great difficulty managing STDs, COVID, and destructive dietary practices.

God is a God of love and mercy. The first and second of the ten commandments involved love, and Jesus taught that people would know His disciples by their love. (See John 13:34-35.) Those who argue that God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide don’t know the whole story. The tragic consequences of ancient pagan living required a drastic response. It was not abject cruelty but an unfortunate necessity.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Truth Does Not Grow Old

Truth Does Not Grow Old - Charles Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon 1834-1892

Truth Does Not Grow Old – by Thayer Salisbury
It has been over 120 years since Spurgeon put these words in print, but they are as true and relevant as this morning’s newspaper. In fact, there may be more truth in this one paragraph than in many full broadsheet newspapers (to say nothing of the tabloids).

“Fontenelle used to say that, if he could only get six philosophers to write in its favour, people could be made to believe that the sun is not the source of light and heat; and I think there is a great deal of truth in the remark. We are told, ‘Well, he is a very learned man, he is a Fellow of Brazenface College, and he has written a book in which he upsets the old dogmas.’ If a learned man writes any nonsense, of course it will have a run, and there is no opinion so insane but, if it has the patronage of so-called scientific men, it will be believed in certain quarters.” –Charles Spurgeon

A whippersnapper told me the other day that a well-established and proven fact could not be true because “that is what people believed in the 1980s.” He offered no evidence that the fact was not a fact. He simply denied it on the basis of its age.

I suppose that fellow does not believe in gravity because it was described and explained in the 1600s. And he must refuse to ride in a car because cars use wheels, and somebody invented the wheel longer ago than anyone can document.

Truth does not grow old. A fact is a fact, even if we do not like it and even if it has been around for centuries. Sadly, falsehood just needs a well-known sponsor or two, and it spreads like wildfire. Stupidity only needs a few to shout it in the popular media, and masses will rush to accept it.

Thayer Salisbury © 2021

We want to thank Thayer Salisbury for allowing us to share this thought with you. Today, many say that faith in God is an old idea, but the new truth is that science explains everything. However, science does not explain the origin of the universe from nothing or the origin of life from non-living matter. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Truth does not grow old.

Reference: https://archive.spurgeon.org/misc/aarm05.php

Suffering Disproves God – Or Does It?

Suffering Disproves God – Or Does It?

We often get objections from atheists who say that suffering disproves God. They say that God cannot exist because there is pain and suffering in the world. Actually, the opposite is true. Suffering makes more sense under the Christian concept of reality. Therefore, suffering does not disprove God.

For atheists to make the moral judgment that suffering is bad, they are deciding what is good and bad while at the same time saying that in reality, there is no ultimate good or bad. The atheist is only saying that he does not like things that he has determined are “bad.” Since suffering is bad, suffering disproves God.

People, in general, seem to assume that if there is a God, then His purpose is to make us happy as if God is our servant. On the contrary, Christians believe that the primary purpose of life is not happiness but knowing God. Human suffering may not make us happy, but it may very well give us a deeper knowledge of God and His love.

In times and places where the hardships have been the greatest, faith in God and Christianity have grown the most. Also, we have to realize that humans are in rebellion against God and His purpose. As long as people are in rebellion against God, there will be evil in the world, and we will all suffer as a consequence.

If God is not limited by our time dimension, then His purpose for us will not be limited to this present world and the life we are living. As someone said, we are in the cramped entrance foyer opening into the Great Hall of Eternity. If there is a God, as I believe there is, to know Him is the greatest of all goods. Any suffering in this life cannot compare with the good that God has in store for us.

While the atheist says that suffering disproves God, Christians can face the problems of life and say, “God is good all the time!” Perhaps there is no “earthly” reason for the catastrophes we face. But perhaps there is a “heavenly” reason that we are not yet equipped to see. As John Clayton has often said, “For the atheist, this life is the best he will ever experience. For the Christian, this life is the worst we will ever have to endure.”

— Roland Earnst © 2021

We have a website dealing with pain and suffering – www.whypain.org.

Shrimp with a Powerful Punch

Shrimp with a Powerful Punch

The peacock mantis is a colorful shrimp with a powerful punch. These crustaceans have front appendages they use as clubs to cripple their prey or defend themselves from predators. Their punch is so quick that researchers studying it had to use a high-resolution camera shooting 20,000 frames per second.

Biologists have been wrestling with whether this is a learned behavior or if it is innate and designed into the shrimp’s genetic makeup. A new study by Duke University researchers has found the answer. Using peacock mantis shrimp captured in the Philippines and the high-speed camera, they studied the shrimp’s larvae. These larvae are about the size of a grain of rice and have transparent exoskeletons. Unlike the opaque exoskeleton of an adult mantis shrimp, researchers could see the internal working of the larvae.

The scientists found that the shrimp larvae began practicing their punches only nine days after hatching and without adult shrimp contact. They determined that the shrimp’s behavior is innate, not learned. That means the design of the genome of the peacock mantis shrimp contains addresses that produce not only the club-like appendage but also the behavioral instructions on how to use it. In other words, these shrimp with a powerful punch were designed that way.

The more you study the specialized abilities of animals, the more you see that very little of their behavior is learned. Most living things are designed with the equipment they need to survive and the skills that allow them to use that equipment. From the monarch butterfly to the whales to tiny crustaceans, the world is full of incredible life forms equipped for survival and designed with built-in instructions for using that equipment. Everywhere we look, we see evidence of God’s design.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: NATIONAL WILDLIFE magazine for October/November 2021, (page 8).

We have previously written about the peacock mantis shrimp’s powerful punch HERE.

We have also written about this shrimp’s amazing eyesight HERE and HERE.

A Chimp Named Washoe

Chimpanzees - A Chimp Named Washoe

In the 1960s, a husband and wife team conducted an experiment with a chimp named Washoe. R. Allen Gardner was a psychologist, and his wife Beatrix was a zoologist. They took a young chimpanzee and attempted to raise it like a human child. The name came from a native American tribe and Washoe County, Nevada.

The couple taught Washoe American Sign Language (ASL), which they said he learned very quickly. Over time, Washoe learned 350 words and used them in combination, such as “Gimme Sweet.” R. Allen Gardner recently passed away, and his work has been revived in several popular magazines and journals.

When Gardner published the report about raising a chimp named Washoe, some people used it to say that chimps are merely less developed humans. They said the Gardner’s had to use ASL because the anatomical structure of a chimpanzee’s mouth and throat was simply inadequate to speak in human language. Furthermore, Washoe taught a bonobo named Kanzi to use ASL. Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, had a department called The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute which closed in 2013. Washoe died there in 2007.

Scientists have conducted many experiments on the interaction between chimps and humans. Sometimes they had negative results when the chimps reverted to their normal behavior as seen in the wild. Animal rights proponents have pushed to have chimps receive the same rights as humans. Some evolutionists would point to this as proof that humans and chimpanzees evolved from a common ancestor.

While the research is interesting and the creativity of the Gardners is impressive, there are some important things to point out. There has never been a question about whether animals can mimic human sounds. A parrot can rattle off human words and even phrases. There have even been dogs that could make a sound that resembles human words. Learning sounds and putting them into a form that elicits the desired response is not language. Webster defines language as “a system of communication which consists of a set of sounds and written symbols used by the people of a particular country or region for talking or writing,”

Mimicking a sound is not language. A chimp named Washoe using ASL is not human language. Humans project ideas, feelings, and artistic expression of life in music and art using language. The evidence supports a vast difference between animals and humans, as described in the Genesis account.
The Bible tells us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That refers to our spiritual makeup expressed in language and may or may not include sound. Baby humans learn to mimic, but it isn’t until they reach some level of maturity that they express spiritual creativity. Humans express the image of God in morality and the structure of society, as well as in language, art expression, and appreciation of beauty. The more we learn about animals, the more we appreciate how well-designed they are, but they are not humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

We previously reported that Koko, the gorilla raised by Penny Patterson, also mastered ASL. You can read about that HERE and HERE.