Words for Love

Words for Love

One of the most abused and misunderstood words in human terms is the word “love.” Both non-believers and Christians use the word carelessly. Many non-believers use the word love only in a sexual context. “Making love” to many is a synonym for sexual intercourse or at least some kind of sexual experience. The ancient Greeks had multiple words for love, while we have only one.

The Greek language in which the New Testament was written had different words to describe various aspects of love.Eros” refers to an erotic form of love while “phileo” refers to a friendship. “Philadelphos” deals specifically with loving one’s brethren as in 1 Peter 3:8, Hebrews 13:1 or Romans 12:10. “Thelo” refers to a wish and is seldom used in the scriptures. An example is Mark 12:38 where it refers to loving to go out in public wearing long clothing.

In the Christian belief system, the word “agape” (the noun) or “agapao” (the verb) is called “the characteristic word of Christianity.” It is used 114 times in the New Testament. “Phileo,” the next most common of the words for love, is used 18 times. “Phileo” is never used in a command for people to love God. (See the use of “agapao” in Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 8:3, 1 Peter 1:8, 1 John 4:21.)

The classic example of the use of the different Greek words for love comes in John 21:15-17. Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says, “The context itself indicates that agapao in the first two questions suggests the love that values and esteems. It is an unselfish love, ready to serve. The use of phileo in Peter’s answers and the Lord’s third question conveys the thought of cherishing the object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration.”

Passages like 1 John 4:16 “God is Love,” use “agape.”We struggle with “agape” love because outside of Christianity we do not experience it or see it in the lives of others. When “phileo” is used in scriptures, the object of that love is always something material or emotional in nature. Consider these examples:
Matthew 6:5 “love to pray standing in the synagogue…”
Matthew 10:37 “he that loves father or mother more than…”
Matthew 10:37 “he that loves son or daughter more than…”
Matthew 23:6 “loves the uppermost rooms at feasts …”
Luke 20:46 “love greetings in the markets, and …”
John 11:3 “Lord, behold, he whom thou love…”

When “agapao” is used, the object to be loved is spiritual in nature – either a soul or God.
Matthew 5:44 “I say to you, Love your enemies…”
Matthew 22:37, 39 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all …”
Mark 10:21 “Then Jesus, beholding him loved him…”
John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that he gave…”
John 13:24 “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another…”
Hebrews 1:9 “You have loved righteousness and hated evil..”

The New Testament uses these various words for love. When a person has no concept of love except brotherly (“phileo”) or erotic (“eros”), much of the New Testament becomes too strange to believe. The reason Christianity can change people is that they can learn and be guided to act on “agape” love that allows them to live out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). This leads to the “new life” as described in passages like Romans 6. Seeing a person who was dead in sin changed into a loving, serving “new creation” is the strongest apologetic of all. We frequently quote Romans 1:20 in which Paul says, “We can know there is a God through the things He has made.” One of those things is a New Person in Christ.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on love, see yesterday’s post.

Loving and Praying

Loving and Praying for Enemies

On Valentine’s Day, the word “love” gets overused. When people around the world are demonstrating hatred for one another, do we even understand what love is? I am reminded of two incidents that happened in 2015 that involved loving and praying.

In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, many people posted that they are praying for the people of France. However, an international affairs columnist for a major Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail got media attention when he tweeted that praying for the French people was both “cruel” and “selfish.” He said that “modern European values were built on the ending of religion.” He blamed the mass murders on “religion” in general. He said that “cheering on the belief system that’s causing murder” by urging people to pray was “selfish and inappropriate.” He also wrote, “I am sure the guys in there attacking are praying. To the same God, too.”

Much could be said about the statements of that columnist, but were the attackers really praying to the same God? If the God who created the Earth and the people on it wanted to kill masses of innocent people why would He need terrorists to do it? Couldn’t He destroy anyone He didn’t like? I think the terrorists must be praying to a different god. The god of destruction must be different from the God who created us. I choose to be loving and praying to the God of peace for everyone to come to know His love.

A second incident occurred that same year. After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the New York Daily News ran a cover story with the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The story was critical of Republican presidential candidates who expressed sympathy and prayers for the people affected by the tragedy. The newspaper was taking the view that God can’t fix the problem of hatred and violence that is destroying our civilization.

So what was the solution suggested by the editors of the New York Daily News? They suggested that the solution was more laws. But we have tried laws. We have laws against murder, and we have hate-crime laws. Laws don’t get to the real problem. The problem is in the hearts of men and women, and only God can fix that. (See Romans 8:3.)

Jesus gave us the solution, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Then He told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to show that our neighbor is anyone we can help and serve. In other words, the neighborhood has no limits! Then He showed us the true extent of God’s love through the ultimate sacrifice of Himself.

Those who serve a “god” of hatred and killing as they seek to destroy anyone they don’t like or don’t agree with, are really only serving themselves. The Creator gave us life, a beautiful Earth to live out that life, and the instructions for how to live. Let’s accept God’s solution to our destructive behavior. Start by allowing Christ to change your heart and then loving and praying for others—even for your enemies. Tomorrow we will look at the New Testament words for “love.”

–Roland Earnst © 2019

Williamson Pink Diamond and Apologetics

Williamson Pink Diamond and Apologetics
We sometimes hear traditionalists say that apologetics is an affront to faith. The idea is that you just have to believe and therefore trying to show evidence for God’s existence is misdirected. They insist that nowhere in the Bible is there an attempt to convince people that God is real. There is an interesting story about the discovery of the Williamson pink diamond that illustrates the role of looking at evidence to come to a valid conclusion.

First of all, we would question the assertion that the Bible does not attempt to convince people of God’s existence. Passages like Romans 1:19-23, Psalms 19:1-3, Psalms 139:14-18, and Proverbs 8 certainly make an apologetic argument. In using parables, Jesus called people to look at the creation around them to come to faith.

The Williamson pink diamond is the main feature of the royal brooch of Queen Elizabeth II. It forms the center of a flower with five white diamonds forming the petals. It was a 54.5-carat rough diamond which was cut to a 23.6 brilliant cut diamond.

John Williamson was a Canadian geologist. In 1947 he was driving his Land Rover on a muddy back-country road in what is today Tanzania when he got stuck in the mud. As Williamson was digging the Land Rover out of the mud, he noticed a pink rock that was typical of rocks that contain diamonds. Because of his geology training, he knew rocks and the formations of the area. He carefully extracted the rock and cleaned it up, realizing that it was a very large diamond. That is how he found the flawless pink diamond. At the time of his death from cancer in 1958, Williamson owned a diamond mine at that location and was one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Thousands of people had driven that road and probably saw the rock that contained the pink diamond. Williamson’s training enabled him to realize what the rock was and pushed him to look at it carefully. Being able to recognize evidence is essential. There are some of us who have come to faith through science.

The “Does God Exist?” ministry was started and has been maintained for over 50 years by men and women who recognize the scientific evidence for God’s existence and the credibility of the Bible. Like John Williamson who gave the Williamson pink diamond to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip upon their wedding in November of 1947, we wish to share the evidence that led us to faith. This ministry is a part of our attempt to share the valuable gem we have found through science.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Design Is an Illusion – Not

Design Is an Illusion – Not
If you read our posts and publications regularly, you probably know that we are continually talking about design in the universe, on our planet, and especially in living things. We think that it is impossible to look at life and say that we see no design. However, some people can see the same things and say design is an illusion. They are willing to accept on faith that everything came into existence out of nothing and evolved by pure accident with no intelligence involved.

One person who refuses to see design in nature is a very well-known evolutionary biologist. Richard Dawkins has written several best-selling books that are supposed to be on the subject of biology. However, they are actually books on theology. The high point (or low point) of his books on theology is The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin 2006). He travels the world giving lectures on theology, under the guise of biology.

Dawkins’ field of study is biology, not theology, so we take his pronouncements with a grain of salt. However, even Dawkins has to admit that his biological studies appear to show design. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” However, he then goes into theology by stating that design is an illusion and there is no designer. That means there is no ultimate purpose in life beyond day-to-day survival. In River Out of Eden Dawkins wrote, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good…”

No design, no purpose, no evil, and no good—that’s the way Dawkins describes the living things he has spent his life studying. Life, of course, includes human beings—you and I. If Dawkins is right, why should he study living things, or why should we? What is the purpose of using our purposeless lives to study purposeless things? Perhaps Dawkins has found his purpose in theology as he endeavors to convince everyone that there is no God.

As we think about this, we have to be amazed at how incredibly ironic the Dawkins delusion is. In the meantime, we will continue to admire the design we see in the world and pay homage to the Designer. Faced with the Dawkins challenge that design is an illusion, we choose to believe our eyes–and our common sense.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Are We a Hologram?

Are We a Hologram?
This ministry has been functioning for 50 years, and one of the things we have seen is that atheist and skeptic arguments are cyclical. In the 1960s there was a push by skeptics to say that the physical world doesn’t exist at all and the universe is an illusion. So are we a hologram? Some scientists today seem to think so.

In the New York Times for May 10, 2018, science columnist Dennis Overbye wrote, “The news from some physicists like the late Stephen Hawking is that the universe might be a hologram, an illusion like the three-dimensional images on a bank card. Some cosmologists have argued that it is not inconsistent – at least mathematically – to imagine that the entire universe as we know it could just be a computer simulation as in The Matrix.”

Just because something is mathematically possible does not mean that it is true. You can prove that 1 = 2 if you make the right assumptions (in that case dividing something by zero). On a more practical level, there are certain things that holograms or illusions cannot do. For example, you can’t force an illusion to be taught to think. The whole notion of free will does not fit an illusion hypothesis. Our brains are not a simulation, and the things we do at a spiritual level are not within the reach of aliens.

If your view of the creation is that we are mindless pawns who have no purpose, then the hologram hypothesis may seem reasonable. Are we are a hologram controlled by aliens? For those of us who believe that we are spiritual beings with a purpose for our existence, this is just another silly, desperate attempt to get around being responsible for what we do.
–John N. Clayton

Genealogies of Christ

Genealogies of Christ
Skeptics have criticized the biblical accounts of the ancestry of Jesus. The problem is that Matthew 1:1-17 gives 42 ancestors of Jesus and Luke 3:23-37 has over 50. In addition to that, there are some differences in individuals in the genealogies. How can there be those differences in the genealogies of Christ?

The answer to that question is that Matthew gives the line of Joseph, the legal line. Luke gives the line of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Matthew is a Jewish writer and Jews regarded only the male line of descent. Joseph had to be a descendant of David, or the Jews would not have recognized the genealogy as a fulfillment of the prophecies that Christ would be the Son of David.

Luke was a Gentile writing for Gentiles. He was more particular to give the line that shows that Jesus is indeed the Son of David. So why does Matthew 1:16 say that Jacob was the father of Joseph while Luke 3:23 says that Joseph was the son of Heli? If Mary was the daughter of Heli, especially if an heiress, Joseph, by marriage, would become the “son of Heli.” That there is no contradiction between the two genealogies of Jesus is shown by the fact that the Jews who best understood their genealogies never changed it.

We have said that to take the Bible literally means to look at who wrote it, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. The genealogies of Christ are a classic example of why we must do that.
–John N. Clayton

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Does God Exist?

Does God Exist
Perhaps the most important question you will ever ask is, “Does God exist?” The answer you give to that question determines your purpose and outlook on life.

When we look at our universe, our galaxy, and our planet rich with life, we are looking at things that were designed for a purpose. Design gives evidence of a Designer. Purpose gives evidence of a reason for our existence. To believe that everything in the universe came into existence and achieved its present state by chance requires more faith than believing in an intelligent Creator God.

Fifty years ago this month a former atheist, John N. Clayton began the DOES GOD EXIST? project. John is a professional science teacher who came to believe in God as a result of his study in science. The project has continued for half-a-century through lectureships, seminars, publications; and, most recently, websites.

Three years ago, we began a Facebook page which reaches people all over the world with a daily reminder of the amazing design and purpose in the world. In January of 2017, we began daily postings on this website DoesGodExist.tody? About a year ago we started sending weekly emails to those who request to be on our email list. The emails are called “The Best of the Week from DOES GOD EXIST?” They feature links to the previous week’s most popular posts on our Facebook page and this website. This gives people who may not have time to read our posts every day a chance to see what others think are the six best posts from the previous week.

DOES GOD EXIST? is a non-profit program that never asks for money, although we gladly accept donations. This project has continued through the faithful support of many people who believe that God does exist and that Jesus Christ came as God in human flesh to open the way to a relationship with our Creator. If you like our daily Facebook postings, there is just one thing we ask–click the “share” button to share our posts with your friends. If you like our daily posts on this website, tell others about them. We also have other websites and a quarterly printed publication.

We want to continue to remind people daily that there is meaning and purpose in life because we were created by a God who loves us and put us here for a purpose.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
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Why Poisonous Animals?

Why Poisonous Animals? Eastern Coral Snake
There are 2700 known species of snakes on this planet. Of all those, 412 species, or 15.2%, are poisonous. Five hundred thousand people are bitten every year, and 40,000 of them die. People are afflicted by poisonous lizards (two varieties), frogs, salamanders, and a variety of toxic insects. This brings up the question of why poisonous animals exist if a loving God made all things.

If you or someone you know has suffered an attack by one of these poisonous animals, you know that even when it is not deadly, it’s still a very unpleasant experience. The skeptic and even the non-skeptic is moved to ask why God would create a reptile or amphibian that could cause such terrible discomfort to humans. Why should an innocent child die because of picking up a pretty ribbon that turned out to be a coral snake?

If you have experienced an encounter, no canned explanation will make the pain and loss go away. But can we make any sense of why poisonous animals exist?

We must first begin by recognizing that God may not have created these animals as they are today. God did not create many animals (dog and cattle breeds for example) as they are today. They have changed over the years. It is possible that the same is true of poisonous animals, and their original ancestors may not have been deadly. However, the complexity of the poison systems in reptiles and amphibians seems to make this explanation a little imaginative, if not impossible. Even if true, it does not remove God’s awareness of the situation.

A better answer to this question of why poisonous animals exist lies in the wisdom and planning of God. The Bible says we can know God exists and see His wisdom by looking at the creation. (See Romans 1: 19-23; Psalms 19: 1.) The more we learn about the creation, the more we see God’s design.

One thing we have come to understand is the need for balance in ecosystems. We know that all living things serve a purpose in their natural setting. Animals and insects eat plants which keep the plants from crowding themselves out. Carnivorous animals keep the plant-eaters from wiping out their food supply. Because animals do not fear death as we do, the system is not as cruel and as callous as some would have us believe. In a balanced system, things generally function smoothly and efficiently.

One of the critical factors in maintaining balance is the survival of reasonable numbers of all species. Most reptiles and amphibians are soft-bodied, slow, and generally vulnerable. Camouflage protects some, but the poisonous glands of others are necessary to do the job. Not only does this protect that animal, but any animals that look similar. Poison also helps the animals catch their food. Rats and mice are the primary food source of many snakes, but without the venom, the snakes could never catch them. Very few snakes or poisonous animals of any kind will attack a human. Most bites occur when a person molests a poisonous animal. The obvious purpose of the poison is defense and obtaining food. Accidents do happen, but the poison was not given as a device to be used on humans.

Another important factor is that poisonous animals provide medicines that we cannot secure from any other source. Medicine from snake venom stops the agents which cause rheumatoid arthritis. There are many other examples of ways science has found to use the poisons from animals.

We can see that there are reasons why poisonous animals exist. Venomous animals do not prove that God didn’t thoughtfully and intelligently design the creation. We sometimes have to look a little more closely to see the ultimate wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Evolution Does Not Explain Creation

Evidence from Cosmology
The notion of God as the creator has escaped our world today. We have not understood that there was a beginning, that God caused the beginning, and that His imprint is on all we see around us. We have been told that evolution explains all these things, but in reality, evolution doesn’t address the question. Evolution does not explain creation.

Evolution assumes that time has been created. Evolution assumes that space has been created and that matter/energy has been created within space/time. Evolution assumes that forces we are just beginning to understand shaped the matter/energy in space/ time so that stable physical matter came into existence. It assumes that the properties of matter/energy caused it to become organized into galaxies, and stars, and solar systems.

Evolution further assumes that within one of those solar systems a planet was created within the Goldilocks zone where water could exist as a liquid. On that planet, carbon and oxygen and heavy metals were produced to allow tangible matter to exist for long periods of time. Then evolution assumes that within a limited time these materials came into existence in an environment and with a catalyst that could produce life.

Once all those assumptions have been made, evolution attempts to explain how that first life changed to eventually become us. In other words, evolution tries to explain how once the creation happened, things got to be as they are today. Evolution does not explain creation.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

This post was adapted from “First-Century Athens and the 21st-Century World” by John N. Clayton. We encourage you to read the complete article which appears in the third quarter 2018 DOES GOD EXIST? Journal. If you subscribe to the printed version, you should have received it in the mail. Otherwise, you can read it online at THIS LINK.