Helping Prisoners Restore their Lives and Faith

Helping Prisoners Restore their Lives and Faith

Today we are doing something different, but we feel this is an area of apologetics that needs attention. In this day and time, Christians getting involved in prison work is an excellent evidence of the existence of God. Atheists are not going to spend time and money helping prisoners restore their lives.

We have over 4,000 students in our “Does God Exist?” correspondence course, and a vast percentage of them are in prison. They tell of losing their faith in God and immersing themselves in activities that landed them in prison. They take our courses in the hope that their faith can be rekindled, and they can rebuild what is left of their lives.

One of the programs that has assisted us is the Kings Crossings Prison Ministries in Corpus Christi, Texas, directed by Buck Griffith. They have a program called “NewLife Behavior Ministries” and a study called Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA). Substance abuse is a major issue in America today, and many of our students have had substance abuse problems.

Buck Griffith has written a manual titled Loosed and Forgiven which describes how to start and grow a jail ministry. The manual has 151 pages, and it is the best resource we have seen on the mechanics of prison work. Helping prisoners restore their lives, and faith is a great way to demonstrate the love of Christ.

If you are interested in prison work, I recommend that you purchase Buck’s book. The cost is $14.95 plus shipping. For more information, contact NewLife Behavior Ministries, PO Box 270720, Corpus Christi, Texas 78427-0720. Their phone number is 361-855-3372, and their email is nlbcasa@yahoo.com. You can find more information on their website www.nlbm.org.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Makes Us Human?

What Makes Us Human? Are crows human?

One of the significant points of contention between those who believe in God and those who don’t is the concept of what makes us human. The biblical position is that humans are that form of life created in the image of God. Our spiritual makeup allows us to create art and music, worship a supreme being, feel guilt, be sympathetic, and have a form of love that is self-sacrificing and has nothing to do with survival. The atheist response to this is that our intelligence and brain structure accounts for these characteristics. The atheist insists that they are totally a product of our evolution.

What does the evidence show? That is a complicated question, and one we frequently address as science makes new discoveries. National Wildlife magazine (June/July 2020) published an interesting article about crows and research by John Marzluff at the University of Washington. For the past ten years, researchers at the university have been putting on caveman masks and catching and tagging crows. The crows have learned that the caveman face means trouble, and they mob and dive-bomb the researchers. When baby crows learn to fly, they immediately do the same, even though they do not have personal experience with being caught and tagged.

Crows are incredible creatures. Crows will fashion twigs into hooks to reach food in a hollow tree or limb. Other crows will drop nuts on a hard pavement to crack them open. Crows have learned to pay attention to what a farmer has in his hands. They will fly away from a farmer with a gun, but not when the same farmer holds a rake. Crows will help raise younger siblings, and that cooperation causes them to flock together and seemingly communicate with each other.

The point is that intelligence is not a measure of human-ness. The things that make humans different than crows is not our brain. Mentally challenged humans do the things that make us human. Many animals with high intelligence do not engage in those things. What makes us human is being created in the image of God. Having that image makes humans unique and special, and gives us value and purpose in our existence. Human life is sacred, and that hasn’t changed despite our abuse of one another.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

One of the challenges atheists frequently raise to belief in God is the question of evil. The argument is that if God exists and if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? If there is evil, according to the atheist view, then that God does not exist. The truth is that the existence of evil challenges atheism.

The presence of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than it is for Christians. From a Christian perspective, evil is a product of the rejection of God. The Bible portrays human existence is as a battleground between good and evil, between God and the forces of Satan. The book of Job is the clearest example, but the Bible covers this theme again and again.

The existence of evil challenges atheism as the famous philosopher Alan Plantinga describes:

“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness if there were no God and we just evolved? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live… A secular way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness and not just an illusion of some sort, then you have a powerful argument for the reality of God.” (From Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God pages 26-27)

Atheism has no way of giving a purpose for human existence. That leads atheists like Richard Dawkins to maintain that there is no such thing as good or evil (see Dawkin’s book River Out of Eden, page 133). If an atheist rationally believes that evil does not exist, they negate their challenge to belief in God. Therefore, the existence of evil challenges atheism.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

We see a similarity between the writings of Hitler and Richard Dawkins. In 1941 Adolph Hitler, in his book Table Talk wrote:

“Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.”

Richard Dawkins has written:

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

Both Hitler and Dawkins have attacked Christianity based on morality. If there is no such thing as good or evil, as Dawkins has written elsewhere, and if natural selection is the law we all live by, then survival depends on who is fit and who is not. In that case, there is no way to justify Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount or the content of Matthew 25. It means that we are all doomed to violence, suffering, and war. Dawkins would suggest that we should be indifferent to the atrocities of humans destroying other humans. It isn’t easy to see how Hitler and Richard Dawkins would disagree philosophically.

Atheism is both a philosophy and a religion. It is hard to believe that after a person looks at the history of atheism, they would deny God’s existence. The atheist, however, would point to religious wars as a demonstration that religion doesn’t do any better than Hitler’s beliefs. That is why this ministry does not defend any religion that can be defined as “human attempts to reach God.” This ministry only claims that there is evidence for God’s existence and that applying the teachings of Jesus Christ would bring peace and well-being to all of humanity.

Adolph Hitler and Richard Dawkins share the same perspective. Hitler claimed that Christianity cultivated human failure. Atheism claims life is purposeless, and by Dawkins’ admission, life cultivates violence and war. That is the fulfillment of what Hitler called “the law of selection.” The contrast between Christianity and atheism is crystal clear when we read the writings of Hitler and examine the history of his application of atheistic beliefs.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The quotations above are in Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019, pages 24-25, ISBN 975-1-939358-22-6.

Sunlight Affects Life Cycles

Sunlight Affects Life Cycles

One of the wonders of life on planet Earth is the influence of sunlight. As winter fades away and summer approaches, we see all kinds of changes in life. As scientific research continues into the wonders of the animal and plant kingdoms, we see more carefully designed biological systems. Here are some examples of how sunlight affects life cycles:

COCCOLITHOPHORES: These are tiny phytoplankton plants that live in the ocean. As the season changes and the Sun warms the waters, those organisms increase their rate of reproduction. They would smother themselves with overcrowding except for the fact that they give off dimethyl sulfide. That chemical rises into the atmosphere and oxidizes into solid sulfate particles. For raindrops to form, there must be moisture, cool temperatures, and condensation nuclei. The solid sulfate particles provide the condensation nuclei, and the rising air cools the moisture from the sea resulting in clouds. The clouds block the sunlight, thus cooling the sea and slowing down the reproduction rate of the coccolithophores and avoiding a massive die-off. This phytoplankton literally manipulates the weather to ensure its own survival.

SALMON. These fish know when to return to the waters of their birth to spawn. Built into their bodies is a pineal gland that stimulates the pituitary gland, triggering an urge to spawn. Navigation tools designed into the salmon allow them to find the place of their origin where they spawn and die.

BEAN APHIDS AND OTHER ANIMALS. Bean aphids give birth when the length of the day reaches 14 hours and 55 minutes, assuring that the offspring will have warmth. Similar triggers by sunlight affects life cycles, allowing muskox to shed their insular undercoat, mallard ducks to shed their winter down, and snowshoe hares to change their color from white to brown before all the snow melts.

FROM FRUITFLIES TO HUMANS. Fruitflies shed their pupal husk an hour before dawn even when kept in the dark. Even when kept in total darkness, hummingbirds slip into torpor at dusk, allowing them to conserve energy. A poppy folds its petals at dusk, even in a dark box. Both the hummingbird and the poppy will resume operations at dawn, even in the darkness. Scientists are still researching what triggers these changes even without sunlight. Medical researchers are also studying how humans respond to a lack of sunlight, causing seasonal affective disorders (SAD).

Studying the incredible ways in which sunlight affects life cycles on Earth is a great way to grow in appreciation for the creation process. We marvel at the careful design built into all living things. David looked at himself and his world and remarked, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works…” (Psalms 139:14).

John N. Clayton © 2020

These examples were found in National Wildlife magazine Volume 32 # 1.

Evidence for Design in Symbiosis

Evidence for Design in Symbiosis
Nymphidium leucosia caterpillar being tended by Crematogaster ants

The natural world is full of examples of two species living together in a way that each benefits the other. This mutualistic relationship is known as symbiosis. In some cases, the species are totally dependent on the relationship for their survival. In many plant/animal relationships, the animal depends on a plant for food, and the plant depends on the animal for pollination or the spreading of seeds. We see evidence for design in symbiosis.

One of the most interesting symbiotic relationships is between ants and butterflies. Scientists refer to the caterpillar in this relationship as being myrmecophilous, which means “ant-loving.” Dr. Philip Devries has written several articles in scientific journals about the caterpillars of certain butterfly species and their symbiosis with ants. The caterpillars feed on the nectar of croton trees, but they have a mortal enemy in the form of wasps. The wasp will find a caterpillar, kill it by stinging and then eat it. If ants are present, they will drive off the wasp and protect the caterpillar. Devries has covered some croton trees with ants, and they will have many caterpillars, but trees without ants will have very few caterpillars.

So the ants benefit the caterpillars, but what do the ants gain from this relationship? The caterpillars have organs on their posterior which extrude a clear liquid containing amino acids but virtually no sugar. The croton tree has a secretion that is 33% sugar but has very little nutritional value. The ants get vital nutrition from the caterpillar even though what they get is not sweet.

The caterpillar has other ways of attracting ants, including an organ on its back that secretes an ant pheromone that chemically attracts them. The caterpillar also has an organ that attracts ants by sending sound vibrations through the wood of the tree. Because of this feature, Dr. Devries coined the term “singing caterpillars.”

One of the great challenges to evolutionists is explaining how such a complex system of symbiosis happened by chance mutations. The more we study such relationships, the more different systems of design we see in the natural world. The more relationships we see, the more difficult it is not to recognize evidence for design in symbiosis. It speaks to us about God’s wisdom and design that allows the biological world to exist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

An article by Dr. Devries appeared in Scientific American, October 1992, pages 76-82.

Nitrogen Fixation and Life

Nitrogen Fixation and Life

There are many chemical wonders in our world, but few are as important and complex as the chemistry of nitrogen. Nitrogen makes up 78% of our atmosphere. It combines with oxygen to form nitrates and with hydrogen to produce ammonia, both of which are essential for growing our food. Nitrogen fixation, which is how nitrogen gets from what we breathe to what we eat, is an amazing demonstration of design.

First, let us review a little high school chemistry. The atoms of all elements have electrons which give them their properties for forming compounds. The electrons are arranged in pairs with their magnetic poles designed so that in a stable arrangement, one electron’s north pole is matched with its neighboring electron’s south pole. The electrons have various orbitals with different energy levels. The atom is stable and chemically inert if an orbital is filled with all the paired electrons it can hold. For example, neon has 10 electrons. The first two orbitals each have two paired electrons, and the last orbital has six electrons in three pairs. This pairing of electrons makes neon an inert gas which does not combine chemically with other elements.

Nitrogen has an uneven number of seven electrons. So how does nitrogen become chemically stable? The answer is that two nitrogen atoms share three electrons, giving them stability. The two nitrogen atoms bond together to form a diatomic molecule that cannot be easily pulled apart to bond with other elements. How strong is the bonding? To break up a nitrogen molecule into two nitrogen atoms requires temperatures of 400 to 500 degrees Celsius and pressures of 200 atmospheres. So with nitrogen as the dominant element in our atmosphere, the atmospheric gases are stable and inert. Also, nitrogen is not a greenhouse gas that could threaten our temperatures on Earth. How then has God built a system that takes these stable nitrogen molecules and breaks their triple bonds to produce nitrates and ammonia?

If you think this isn’t an important subject, ask yourself where your food comes from? The answer is that 50% of the American diet is produced using artificial fertilizers containing nitrogen, which has been “fixed.” Nitrogen fixation combines that inert gas with oxygen and/or hydrogen to supply the soil with the chemical needed to grow the plants we eat, and which the livestock eat to provide us with meat.

Bacteria accomplish God’s method of nitrogen fixation. The bacteria turn nitrogen into ammonia, which is a nitrogen atom sharing electrons with three hydrogen atoms instead of with another nitrogen atom. Plants known as legumes such as soybeans and peas, as well as bayberry and alder trees, attract bacteria which concentrate in nodules on the plant’s roots. The bacteria turn nitrogen gas into ammonia and nitrates the plants can use. Cyanobacteria in the ocean and cycad plants on the land are also major nitrogen fixers. Scientists are also discovering tropical plants that contribute to the wealth of nitrogen compounds in the soil.

Most of our fertilizers have nitrogen fixed by a method called the Haber-Bosch process. It uses massive amounts of energy to break the triple bonds of nitrogen gas. Producing 500 degrees and 200 atmospheres is expensive, and that is why you pay so much for the fertilizer you use in your garden. God’s methods are free. Scientists are trying to figure out how to recreate God’s nitrogen fixation method to save energy and produce more food.

Many bacteria are beneficial in various ways, and nitrogen fixation is only one of them. This is a great apologetic for God’s wisdom and design in preparing the Earth to provide food for us to eat.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

An excellent article on this topic titled “Out of Thin Air” was published in Science News, April 12, 2008. It is available online at THIS LINK, but a subscription is required to read it.

Religious Anti-Science Rhetoric

Religious Anti-Science Rhetoric

For the 51 years of this ministry, we have confronted religious anti-science rhetoric. Our critics are those who feel that science is an enemy and that you can’t be a good Christian and embrace science. We are now in a period when the issue of whether people can meet together for worship services has become an issue of science and politics. Some politicians oppose churches resuming worship services saying there is strong scientific evidence that it will expose participants to the COVID-19 virus. Many religious leaders insist that this is an attempt by the government to restrict religion. They say that this scientifically-based objection is destroying the right of people to worship together.

In previous articles, we have pointed out that a great deal of ignorance is involved in rejecting science. According to the dictionary, science is knowledge. Knowledge is always neutral. The critical thing is how we use it. When new scientific knowledge gave us lasers, the question was how we would use lasers. Would they be weapons that cause massive destruction, or would they be medical tools to heal eyes?

We now understand how the COVID-19 virus spreads from one person to another. Will we use this knowledge to stop the progression of the illness, or will we use this virus to destroy whole masses of people? The bubonic plague from 1347-1351 killed 200 million people, which was nearly half of Europe’s population. Religious anti-science rhetoric today has the potential to create a catastrophe.

It isn’t our knowledge about the COVID-19 virus that is a threat to freedom or to worship. The reality is that science will eventually develop a vaccine that will allow everyone to worship together. Smallpox was killing 400,000 people a year in Europe, and it only stopped when scientists developed a vaccine. It is hypocritical for religious people to vilify science while they: 1) enjoy modern technology in their entertainment 2) go to medical facilities for treatment of disease, 3) use scientific advancements to grow and prepare their food, 4) use new scientific discoveries in their businesses, and 5) use science in their homes to improve their standard of living.

Proverbs 8 makes it clear that God has used science (wisdom) in all He has done. Psalms 19 and 139 refer to God’s creation, and Romans 1:19-20 points out that science reveals God’s existence through the things He has made. The following verses, Romans 1:21-32, point out that human moral and political choices cause the pain and destruction we see in our world.

Christianity doesn’t need to violate social distancing to worship and to practice our faith. James 1:27 defines true religion, and Jesus made it clear that He is there when just two people come together in His name (Matthew 18:20). First Timothy 6:20 tells Christians to avoid scams and religious claims called science. Ignore the religious anti-science rhetoric and know that God and science are friends. Don’t listen to politicians and religious hucksters and rely on evidence and the message of proven researchers. Join together in prayer and worship in our homes on Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, or whatever method you choose. Rejoice that, through science, God has given us new ways to come together, encourage each other, and glorify Him even in the middle of a pandemic.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Discover magazine, June 2020, page 11.

Christian Concept of Hope

Christian Concept of Hope

We read in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three. But the greatest of these is love.” How can hope be listed as a foundation of being a Christian? The answer is that the Christian concept of hope does not mean “wish.”

The lexicon tells me that the word translated hope literally means to expect, to look for, to await. It is not to wish for something to happen. In Romans 4:16-22, Paul speaks of Abraham being the father of many nations, and he says Abraham “believed in hope”? Does that mean Abraham hoped that God did not lie to him about his future? That is absurd. Verse 19 tells us that Abraham believed and was not weak in faith. Abraham’s hope was looking for what was about to happen.

The Christian concept of hope does not depend on what we possess, what we can do for ourselves, nor what any other human may do for us. We don’t hope (wish) that we will go to heaven. We look forward to it. Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and see if you think Paul expresses the WISH that heaven awaits him. He looked forward to heaven.

Over and over, we see this Christian concept of hope in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 1:10, Paul wrote, “On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.” He did not say we wish He could or would. Colossians 1:27 speaks of the “hope of glory.” Not that we wish it was, but that we are waiting for it. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul refers to Christians and repeats the message of our key passage in 1 Corinthians 13:13. He wrote, “Let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for the helmet the HOPE of salvation.” Notice that this is a covering for the head, the most sensitive part of our bodies. Notice it is not the “wish of salvation.” It is “the hope of salvation.” It is the expectancy, the things we are waiting for.

In Hebrews 6:17-20, we see this stated again. Read the passage. Notice that there are two unchangeable things. One is that God cannot lie. The other is that our HOPE is an anchor for us. That is our promise of salvation. In Romans 15:13, we see God referred to as the “God of HOPE.” The God of promise. The God we can look forward to. Not the God of “maybe” or “possibly” or “could be.” Things like the current pandemic can be approached fearlessly by Christians because we have the assurance that something better is coming – guaranteed!!

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Many years ago, we had an article in our printed periodical titled, “When Does Ph.D. mean Post Hole Digger.” The point of the article was that being well informed in one field does not make you an expert in all fields. Famous Ph.D. scientists can make serious mistakes when speaking or writing outside of their areas of expertise.

Science writers Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov wrote articles and books against Christianity and the Bible. Their training and knowledge in science were excellent, but their theology was very limited and, therefore, full of errors. In today’s world, we see well-known atheists like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writing books and making speeches about God. His understanding of what God is and what the Bible actually says is full of errors. If he were not famous for his scientific knowledge in biology, his theological discussions would not get any coverage in the media.

In the May/June 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the cover article is titled “The Nobel Disease – When Intelligence Fails to Protect Against Irrationality.” The article points out that even a Nobel Prize winner is not an expert in all fields. As a result, they have presented some very destructive teachings and beliefs. The discoverer of the transistor was William Shockley, who received a Nobel Prize in 1956. Shockley maintained that blacks were genetically inferior to whites and should be paid to volunteer to be sterilized. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, received a Nobel prize in 1962. Watson maintained that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites and that exposure to sunlight increases sexual urges.

Many Nobel Prize winners promoted ideas and procedures that were not only incorrect but were sometimes dangerous. Our point here is that it is not valid to use an expert in one area to prove something in an area outside of their field. We are not merely talking about personal belief systems but scientific concepts and principles that control what people do and influence national political policy. A Ph.D. In science in an area of science does not make one an expert in all fields.

Many Nobel Prize winners are believers in God. We have a column in our quarterly journal titled “Scientists and God” which quotes many of those famous believing scientists. The purpose of that column is to show that being a scientist does not preclude personal faith in God. The aim is not to scientifically prove anything or to promote any action or political policy. We simply want young people to know that a good scientist doesn’t have to be an atheist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020