Most Important Question

Most Important Question
In his classic book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, “When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most.” What is that most important question, and why does it matter?

Lewis, an Oxford professor and author of many books including The Chronicles of Narnia became an atheist because of the early death of his mother and the atrocities he saw as he served in World War I. He could not believe there was a God when he saw all of the evil in the world. But through the influence of Christian friends such as J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), he became a Christian believer.

C. S. Lewis gave up trying to persuade himself that “most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most.” What question is that? The question is whether God exists. That is the most important question because it leads to others. “Is there a reason why I am here?” “Is there an ultimate purpose in life?” “Is there any hope?” Answering the first question “no” logically leads to a “no” answer for the others. A “yes” answer to that first question leads to “yes” answers to the other questions.

The vast majority of all people who have ever lived have believed in some form of a higher power. If you don’t, then you have to ask yourself if you are actually one of the smartest people who have ever lived or one of the most confused. Why does the universe exist? Is life merely the product of blind, random forces with no design and no purpose? Could time and space, matter and energy, and the information-packed DNA of life have all come into existence without a cause?

Think about this question. Did matter come first and then accidentally arrange itself into a mind that asks these questions? We say that there is a rational basis for believing that Mind came before matter.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Conflict Between Science and Faith

Conflict Between Science and Faith
People on both sides have their minds made up. Debates have been conducted more for scoring points than for seeking the truth. The supposed conflict between science and faith is often caused by either bad science or bad theology–or both.

Scientists who say the physical universe is “all there is or was or ever will be” have contributed to the problem because that is a statement of faith, not science. The conflict between science and faith has also been caused by theologians who tell us to “put on your Bible glasses” and ignore the plain facts of science.

The truth is that the Bible doesn’t tell us how old the universe is. The truth is also that 14 billion years is not long enough for all life on this planet to have evolved without any intelligent direction. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. It does not tell us how. Science can tell us how God formed the elements in the stars, but it can’t tell us how all matter/energy and space/time came from nothing. Science also cannot tell us how lifeless chemicals became complex, living cells.

Centuries ago some theologians wrongly believed that planet Earth was the center of the universe, but they were only following what earlier scientists had believed. The theologians interpreted the Bible to say something that it didn’t say, and it was hard for them to give up their mistaken idea. It was also hard for the scientists to accept the fact that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It was scientists who were also Christian believers who first pushed the idea of a heliocentric system in spite of the disapproval of the established church leaders.

Three thousand years ago Moses recorded in Genesis 1:1 that the universe had a beginning. From the time of Aristotle, science insisted that the universe was eternal. Not until the early twentieth century did science begin to get a clue that there was a beginning. Then it was hard for scientists to give up their mistaken idea. The truth of a beginning was finally confirmed near the end of the twentieth century and reconfirmed in the twenty-first century.

Obviously, both scientist and believers have made mistakes. Bad science and bad theology have caused the continuing conflict between science and faith. Science and faith in God and the Bible, when correctly understood, are friends and not enemies. For more on this, we invite you to watch the series of videos on our website DoesGodExist.tv.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Existence of God Market Research

Existence of God Market Research
The existence of God is not a question that market research can answer. Most people believe there is a God, but unbelievers have become more vocal in recent years. Nobody can say with absolute certainty that there is no God unless they know everything there is to be known. Of course, nobody knows everything. The most brilliant genius who ever lived does not know everything. Science is discovering new things every day, but the more answers scientific research uncovers, the more questions it creates.

One of the major arguments against the existence of God says that a good God would not allow pain and suffering. If you use that argument, you are saying that you know that there is no possible reason for God to allow pain and suffering in this world. But a good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God could have a good reason for allowing bad things to happen in this temporary existence. Unless you know everything, you can’t say that there is no possible reason. (If you carefully examine the Bible, you will find that there is a reason.)

Finding evidence for or against the existence of God requires observing the universe, the solar system, planet Earth, and the complexities of life in all its forms. After looking at that evidence, you have to make a decision. Is it more probable that everything could have come into being out of nothing by pure, random accident? Or is it more probable that everything we see and even our own bodies, gives evidence of the wisdom of an intelligent designer?

If a person has already determined that God cannot exist, then no amount of proof will change that person’s mind. There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat in spite of indisputable evidence of a spherical planet. People believe what they want to believe in spite of the evidence. The rational person makes decisions based on the weight of the evidence.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Dawkins-Remolina Debates in Colombia

Dawkins-Remolina Debates in Colombia
If you have followed this ministry for a while, you will recall that in the summer of 2017 John Clayton spent several weeks in Colombia giving many presentations on evidence for the existence of God. He was invited to speak there preceding debates between atheist Richard Dawkins and Catholic priest Gerardo Remolina. Remolina is a leading scholar at the Jesuit Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, where the first debate took place. We received a newspaper account of the first debate, and we hope to eventually have a chance to review reports of the Dawkins-Remolina debates at Medellin and Cartagena.

It was interesting that in the first debate there was almost nothing said about the existence of God. Remolina suggested that the age of the universe was 14 billion years and that the age of the Earth was around 5 billion years. Dawkins said he agreed but stated that 40% of the American public thinks the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Dawkins said that is equivalent to believing that the North American continent is only 8 meters wide. Dawkins continued to maintain that belief in God is due to ignorance on the part of believers, and Remolina made no response to Dawkins claims.

Dawkins stated the atheist belief that life evolved mechanically and that the Bible was a collection of diverse myths. Remolina agreed that Adam and Eve are a myth but said that the myth is a structure of thought and does not pretend to explain anything. Dawkins claimed that the Bible was not historical because there is no evidence of the events it describes. Remolina could have given massive evidence for the historical validity of the Bible, but instead, he stated that science uses myths. He quoted Carl Sagan’s statement that the “Big Bang” was a myth because science cannot duplicate it in the laboratory. Dawkins attacked the Catholic tradition of original sin ridiculing the teaching that children are born sinful.

We are reading a translated newspaper report which may be incomplete. The fact is, however, that the debate was about Catholic traditions and opinions of Dawkins on the history of life. The fundamental arguments for the existence of God–cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, moral arguments, ontological arguments, and philosophical arguments–were barely mentioned and evidence was not presented by either side. We hope that later Dawkins-Remolina debates will approach the real questions and the weight of the evidence29. Stay tuned.
–Roland Earnst & John N. Clayton © 2018

Hershel Shanks and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Hershel Shanks and the Dead Sea Scrolls
In 2017, Hershel Shanks retired. He was the founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society and the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review for 42 years. Shanks is important to those of us interested in apologetics because he caused the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls to become available to the general public. He also has been useful in getting material supporting belief in the Bible as the Word of God into the hands of the public. A recent example is evidence that David was, in fact, the historical figure the Bible depicts–a belief biblical minimalists have challenged.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the late 1940s, and thousands of fragments were housed in the Palestine Archaeological Museum which is now called the Rockefeller Museum. A scroll publication team with an editor-in-chief supervised the assembling and reproduction of the scrolls. However, virtually no reproductions had been made available so research on the contents of the scrolls not possible.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were unavailable for study, skeptics attacked the Bible, and the media carried all kinds of claims about what the scrolls contained. One story was that the scrolls said that Jesus was “the great teacher of the Essenes.” Some people made claims that the scrolls showed that apocryphal books should be validated as part of the biblical canon. Shanks began a public campaign to make the scrolls available to researchers, students, and the general public. Hebrew University professor, Emanuel Tov, became the editor-in-chief of the publication team and during his tenure over 100 scholars contributed to the release of the scrolls’ contents.

Hershel Shanks published a preliminary edition of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls in 1991, and a landslide of demands for full disclosure of all of the documents followed. Today the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed in a special building in Jerusalem called “The Shrine of the Book.” They are also available to view in high definition for free on the internet. To see them click here.

The scrolls provide great support for belief in the Bible as the Word of God. You can read many articles that we have published over the years showing archaeological support for the Bible on our journal archives at doesgodexist.org.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April/May/June 2018, Vol. 44, numbers 2 & 3, page 24.

How Many Atheists?

How Many Atheists?
How many atheists are there in America? This ministry has existed for 50 years, and throughout most of that time, Church members have told us that there is no such thing as an atheist. They have said that we are wasting our time trying to convince people that God does exist.

Atheists claim that as people become better educated they realize that “God” and religion are just products of ignorance. This ministry was begun by a man who came to faith in God through science and did so late in his scientific education. Because of that, our approach has been different from what most Christians can relate to and understand. That difference has its advantages, but it also makes us a lightning rod for some denominational leaders.

In the April 2018 issue of Scientific American (page 77), Michael Shermer devoted his regular column to the subject of how many atheists there are. He concludes that in America alone there are 64 million atheists. Shermer is an atheist himself, even though he graduated from Pepperdine University where he studied religion. We might be suspicious about his claims, but the article quotes a variety of valid data-gathering sources including a Harris Poll, a Pew Research Center poll, the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, and the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Shermer ends his article by saying that the number of atheists in America is:

“…a staggering number that no politician can afford to ignore… we should be thinking about the deeper implications for how people will find meaning as the traditional source of it wanes in influence. And we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.”

Some of us have already tried reason and science as a source of morals and values. It didn’t work and led us to realize that only Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). I would not wish that rough road of experience for anyone.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

One Strange Rock

One Strange Rock
The March 2018 issue of National Geographic features an article with the title One Strange Rock. A NatGeo TV presentation by the same name premiers today. The subtitle of the magazine article says: “13 things that make life on Earth possible.”

For many years we have presented these variables in our videos and audios, books and articles. While new data has expanded these concepts, the fundamental design features of the cosmos remain an excellent argument for the existence of God and His role in the creation. Here are the 13 variables that National Geographic presented to support the idea that Earth is one strange rock:

“#1. OUR PLANET RECYCLES LIFE-FRIENDLY CARBON OVER TIME.
#2. WE HAVE AN OZONE LAYER TO BLOCK HARMFUL RAYS.
#3. WE HAVE A BIG MOON TO STABILIZE OUR AXIAL WOBBLE.
#4. EARTH’S VARIED SURFACES SUPPORT MANY LIFE FORMS.
#5. OUR MAGNETIC FIELD DEFLECTS SOLAR TEMPESTS.
#6 WE’RE AT JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE FROM THE SUN.
#7. WE’RE SITUATED SAFELY AWAY FROM GAS GIANTS.
#8 THE SUN IS A STABLE, LONG-LASTING STAR.
#9. WE HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF TO HOST A DYNAMIC CORE.
#10. WE HAVE GIANT PLANETS THAT PROTECT US FROM AFAR.
#11. OUR SUN OFFERS PROTECTION FROM GALACTIC DEBRIS.
#12. OUR GALACTIC PATH STEERS US CLEAR OF HAZARDS.
#13. OUR LOCATION IS FAR FROM STELLAR CROWDS.”

We encourage you to view our video series which begins by looking at these variables and showing the probability factors for these and other variables. The point of our discussion is that when you calculate the odds of these things happening by chance, you end up with a probability that is statistically unacceptable.

The conclusion of National Geographic in the article is:

“Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it. The product of some 4.6 billion years of cosmic construction, our planet is flush with life thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions, from the optimal chemical makeup of our planetary core to our safe distance from the hidden black hole at the heart of our galaxy.”

Construction suggests an intelligence doing things in a logical order. Blind chance is not a method, and chance produces as much chaos as order. These 13 variables are just astronomical parameters. There are also design features seen in the creation of physical laws and the laws of quantum mechanics that allow stable atoms to exist. Planet Earth is far more than one strange rock.

The more we know of the creation, the more we know of the Creator. Our knowledge is increasing daily which means the evidence for God’s existence also grows daily.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Blessings from Natural Disaster

Blessings from Natural Disaster
Yesterday I began to tell about lessons from a flood. In February our area experienced what has been called a 500-year flood. We have lived in our home on the St. Joseph River for 20 years without a problem—until now. You can read more about it here. I want to continue to explain how it is possible to receive blessings from natural disaster.

Natural disasters are not an evil act of God. Skeptics often say something like, “How can you believe in a God who…?” They are demonstrating a failure to understand some key characteristics of God’s nature and how God functions. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” I personally have a hard time understanding man’s inhumanity to man. I will never understand the holocaust. I can’t comprehend the atrocities by ISIS that I have seen in recent years. These are not vindictive acts of God, but they are the evil actions of humans. What do we expect God to do? Should God strike every Hitler-like leader dead when they decide to do some evil act? Should He afflict every politician with a fatal disease when they vote for something that hurts innocent people? The history shown in the Bible is that God allows natural consequences to come about, but He does not threaten us with physical punishment as an immediate reaction.

We are learning more and more every day about the consequences of our own actions. Is the flooding I have suffered a result of human failure to take care of the “garden”- planet Earth (Genesis 2:15)? That is likely but unproven. The failure to follow God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused more suffering than any “natural disaster.” Abuse is not caused by God, but by humans who fail to follow the instructions of God in Ephesians 5:28-33.

What appears to be a disaster always has some beneficial aspects to it. For Christians, good always comes from these events. Romans 8:28 may be one of the most important passages in the New Testament–“For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” First of all, we are called to understand that God’s purposes are different from ours. Job and his friends struggled with this issue. Solomon tried everything and came to understand God’s purposes were what gave satisfaction and meaning to life (Ecclesiastes 1-5). One of our friends has a line on this. I call it “Ethyl Louise Knight’s gospel of life”–“If it isn’t of eternal significance, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Someone might ask, “Well what possible benefit could come from your 500-year flood?” The answer to that comes in many forms. A neighbor and I were looking at the river whizzing by our houses with uprooted trees, hundreds of Styrofoam cups, plastic wrappers, and tubs of all kinds and shapes carried to the next dam where they would accumulate. We have been working for years to clean up the trash in the river, and it will be gone with this flood. Remember that the Nile River flooding every year for centuries made Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world.

In addition to these physical blessings, there can be huge spiritual blessings from natural disaster. Our neighborhood has been drawn together on a spiritual level as we face the challenges of flooding. I celebrated my birthday on the day when the river reached its peak, and as friends and family made February 22 special, I was able to focus on what really matters in life. There truly are blessings from natual disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lessons from a Flood

Lessons from a Flood
As I write this, I am in a state of shock at what has happened to me during the past five days. Our home and main office are located on the banks of the St. Joseph River. The front door of the house is normally 20 feet above the surface of the river, and in the 20 years we have lived here, we have never had a problem with flooding. Many years ago we had water in our basement, but it was only 1 or 2 inches, and outside of wet rugs there was little damage. This time I have learned some lessons from a flood.

In early February of this year, we had some very heavy snow and the third week of February we had record rains as well as record warmth. The result of all that water was what is now being called a 500-year flood. My library, recording studio, fossil collection, and packing area are now full of water in spite of three new sump pumps operating at full capacity. It will take many months and some expense to get back to full operating capacity.

Our local television personalities have done a lot of hand-wringing, and I have heard more than one reporter say, “Why did God let this happen?” One religious writer proclaimed that the flooding of our area, which included a movie theater, was God’s retribution for the theater showing x-rated movies. Several years back there were those who explained flooding of the Mississippi River as God’s punishment for floating casinos on the river. Ridiculous as most of these claims are, there are some apologetic arguments and theological points that need to be understood.

God does not use natural disasters as disciplinary tools. There is a difference between physically afflicting someone and allowing the natural consequences of something to happen. When I was a child, my parents took me to the Indiana State Fair. I wanted a big cone of cotton candy, but my mother loudly told me I couldn’t have it. After a lot of whining and pouting, she finally said, “Ok, go get it but it will make you sick, and you’ll regret it.” I was allowed to suffer the consequences of my action, but I was not physically prevented from eating it.

In Deuteronomy 28, God does the same thing with the Israelites. In the first 14 verses, He tells Israel the blessings of living as God calls them to live. In the next 54 verses, God tells them of the consequences of rejecting His teachings. God doesn’t physically strike Israel, but He allows the natural result of human choices to happen.

There are more lessons from a flood, and I will continue my thoughts tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Virtual Faith

Virtual Faith - Cat with Mirror
Atheist virtual faith reminds me of virtual images. I am an old physics teacher. One of the fun discussions that I used to have with my students was when we got into optics and began talking about virtual and real images. Real images are actually formed by light rays. When you take a convex lens or a concave mirror you can project an image of a candle onto a screen. The image is inverted, but it is there. You can block sections of it with your hand, and you can enlarge or reduce the image by changing the distance from the object to the projecting lens or mirror.

The other type of image is a virtual image, which is an illusion. When you look into a plane mirror, you see an image of yourself. The image is not real. It is not actually formed by the light rays, and it cannot be projected. Watching an animal see itself in a plane mirror is always interesting because the animal can be fooled by the realistic virtual image. We all know that magicians can fool us with virtual images as well.

When atheists want to get around questions concerning the existence of God, they frequently bring the word “virtual” into their discussion. Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time evaded the logical consequences of the second law of thermodynamics by inventing something he called “virtual time.” Lawrence Krauss in his book A Universe from Nothing claims that empty space is actually “a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles that are popping in and out of existence on a time scale so short that you cannot see them.” This new definition of “nothing” is based on virtual particles.

Like the virtual image in a plane mirror, all of this is unreal! It is an unscientific proposal because it cannot be falsified or scientifically tested in any way. It is invented purely to justify the rejection of God as the creator. Krauss is fond of saying that there is no need for an intelligent being to will anything into existence because the means for this was already there and available. If you want to invent a religion that believes in unreal particles popping into existence, you are certainly free to do so. That gives the atheist a virtual faith. The problem is that he or she has to believe that from the “boiling bubbling brew” everything necessary for stable matter to exist came about by chance.

We have a booklet “Evidence for Design In the Universe” available on our doesgodexist.org website or from us on request. It contains a list of 47 physical design features that must be present for a planet like ours to exist. We would claim that all of this makes our faith real, and the rejection of God’s existence virtual faith.
–John N. Clayton © 2018