Nebraska Passport 2019 App Lists Clayton Museum

Nebraska Passport 2019 App

The Nebraska Passport 2019 App has added the Clayton Museum to the list of interesting places to visit in Nebraska.

A few years ago a historical artifacts collector by the name of Foster Stanback made arrangements to build a museum at York College in York, Nebraska. The purpose was so that the general public could enjoy seeing the items in the Stanback collection. John Clayton and Foster Stanback have a long history together, and to honor that relationship Foster named it the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.

The museum is not only informative and educational, but the design of the museum and the quality of the exhibits is exceptional. The museum is devoted to the history of the ancient middle east and the Roman Empire. Since the museum opened, it has added a children’s interactive section. Young people and adults from all over come to the museum to learn and to be strengthened in their faith and knowledge of Old and New Testament history.

More than 10,000 people have visited the museum. The number of visitors will increase in 2019 because the Nebraska State Tourism Commission has selected the Clayton Museum of Ancient History as a Nebraska Passport Site for the Nebraska Passport 2019 app.

You can read more about this state program at NebraskaPassport.com. You can visit the Clayton Museum website HERE.

On your app store for iPhone or Android search for Nebraska Passport 2019 app. (Minimum requirement Android 6 or iOS 10.)

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Self-Defeating Materialism and John Lennox

Self-Defeating Materialism and John Lennox
Dr. John C. Lennox

This ministry is designed to reach out to the common man, not the intellectual giants of our time. By “common man” I mean men and women who work every day, raise families, and live from paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have a Nobel prize or a Ph.D., but they pay taxes and vote, and they don’t fall for self-defeating materialism.

One of the intellectual giants of our day is Dr. John Lennox, and he has something important to say. Dr. Lennox is an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has written several books on the compatibility of science and religious belief. A recent quote from Dr. Lennox was a response to atheist writer Peter Atkins. Atkins had claimed that “there is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”

Lennox referred to this as “a self-defeating materialism.” Here is his explanation:

“The scientist’s confidence in reason ultimately depends on the existence of a rational and purposeful Creator. Otherwise, our thoughts are nothing more than electro-chemical events, the chattering of soul-less synapses. If you take the atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic view, you’re going to invalidate the reasoning process, because, in the end, you’re going to say that the brain is simply the end product of a blind, unguided process. If that’s the case, why should you trust it? The materialist view inevitably gives birth to a form of determinism that appears to mock our essential humanity. Biological determinism robs human beings of any claim to dignity and freedom. Free will, we are told, is an illusion.”

You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand the point Dr. Lennox is making about self-defeating materialism. If you want more wisdom from John Lennox, we recommend that you read his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Operating on Faith

 Operating on Faith - Eratosthanes

Philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) told the story of a king who refused to eat until he knew with certainty that his food had not been poisoned. The more he thought about how little he knew with certainty about his chef and his attendants, the more concerned he became. He finally starved to death. This story makes the point that everyone is operating on faith.

Atheists ridicule Christians for operating on faith not realizing that they depend on faith, and so does science. A classic example was a Greek scholar named Eratosthenes of Cyrene born in 276 BC. Eratosthenes noticed that on a specific day of the year, the Sun was positioned so that it illuminated the bottom of a well where he lived. From that fact, he had faith that the Earth was spherical.

On the day that the Sun shone to the bottom of the well in Syene (modern Aswan, Egypt), Eratosthenes placed a vertical rod in the ground at Alexandria and measured the angle of its shadow. Using the difference in angle of the Sun’s rays and the distance between the two locations, he calculated the circumference and diameter of the Earth with high accuracy. He even established the concept of latitude and longitude from his measurements. Scholars of Eratosthenes’ day ridiculed his idea because everyday experience suggested the Earth was flat and endless. They indicated that he was mistaken or his measurements were wrong. Their criticism did not sway the strong faith of Eratosthenes in what he believed.

A modern-day Eratosthenes would be Albert Einstein. His radical ideas were still not accepted by many in the scientific community some 40 years after he originally proposed them. The critics were silenced only when Einstein’s ideas could finally be tested and proven correct.

For many scientific discoveries in the past, that pattern has been repeated. A scientist operating on faith expressed a hypothesis based on his or her observations. The hypothesis could not be tested when the concept was proposed, but from that faith, something important was eventually discovered.

The definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 fits this scientific concept of how discoveries are made: “Faith forms the solid ground of things hoped for, perceiving as real what is not revealed to the senses.” (Amplified Bible).

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Moon’s Golden Handle

Observing the  Moon's Golden Handle

If the sky is clear tonight (March 16, 2019), you will have an opportunity to observe an interesting phenomenon known as the Moon’s Golden Handle.

The Sun’s light will strike a mountainous area of the Moon at a shallow angle. The Moon will be in what is known as the waxing gibbous phase. Waxing means that more of it is becoming visible as sunlight increasingly illuminates the surface. Gibbous means that it is not yet a full moon, but it is more than a half moon. At this exact angle, the sunlight will illuminate the Jura Mountain Range, and the mountains will appear as an arc on the upper left side of the Moon’s visible surface. The arc resembles a tiny handle on the side of the Moon, so it has been called the Moon’s Golden Handle.

Galileo (1564-1642) observed this phenomenon as he looked through an early telescope. You can see it with a pair of binoculars. If you have a small telescope, you can get an even better view. The angle of the light gives a unique opportunity to get an idea of what the surface of the Moon is like. Not only does the Moon have mountains, but it has lava flows and numerous craters from bombardment by meteors.

The fact that we can predict when lunar eclipses will take place and when phases of the Moon will occur shows how much precision God has built into His creation of the cosmos. We know when the Moon’s Golden Handle will be visible because we can depend on that precision as we depend on God. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).

–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2019

Moral Compass Lost

Moral Compass in the Bible

The lack of a moral compass in America has become apparent. In the first part of 2019, various states have legalized recreational drugs and approved prostitution. Now the New York State legislature has allowed the abortion of a baby up to the time of birth. There was a standing ovation in the legislative chamber when they announced the result of the vote. Two states are now considering the abortion of a baby after birth if the child has “significant health issues,” whatever that means.

I am being bombarded with emails and phone messages from atheists saying that I need to see what significant changes can take place when religion no longer controls America. Religion has not controlled America for a long time, if ever.

This ministry is not about religion – human attempts to find God. This ministry is about education and seeing the evidence to support faith in God and the Bible as His Word. I appreciate the challenges of atheists and skeptics because I can raise questions from a scientific standpoint to show the intellectual bankruptcy of their abortion ideology. When we remove God from the equation, the moral compass is gone. You have no basis of making any law that has moral ramifications. The existence or nonexistence of God plays a major role in issues like these:

When is a fetus a human?

Can medical intervention change the criteria of what is moral?

Is “survival of the fittest” a valid standard to support whether someone should be allowed to live?

I have argued for over 50 years that one of the best evidences for God’s existence is the wisdom and practical value of the teachings of Jesus. I believe we can see God’s hand in the Bible’s writing which gives us answers to the tough questions. Science can provide data, but it cannot answer how its discoveries should be used.

We try to give logical answers that provide a moral compass to a confused world. Our answers are not from one man’s wisdom, but from what God has given us in His Word and in His creation. The moral argument for God’s existence gains strength as the world sinks into a quagmire of doubt and conflict, but the Bible’s fixed value system has worked and continues to work when it is applied.

For more on this subject, click HERE and watch programs 21 and 22 in the Does God Exist? series for free.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Cannibalism in the Bible

 Cannibalism in the Bible

Atheists and skeptics often take passages out of context as evidence that the Bible is merely the opinions of people and not the teachings of God. One such claim that we have seen in recent articles is the suggestion that the Bible endorses and encourages cannibalism. It is true that there are historical reports of cannibalism in the Bible. Second Kings 6:28-29 is the most commonly used passage where cannibalism takes place. Other passages are Deuteronomy 28:53, Isaiah 9:20, Jeremiah 19:9, and Lamentations 2:20 and 4:10.

It is essential in any question about the Bible to look at who wrote the passage in question, what the purpose of the writing was, to whom it was written, and how people of the time in which it was written would have understood it. This passage and all of the others cited above are merely a report of history. If you read the front page of a modern newspaper about a murder, do you assume that the person who wrote the article is the one who committed the crime? Of course not. A news reporter reports the news. They don’t do the event on which they are reporting. The fact that there are reports of cannibalism in the Bible does not mean that it endorses the practice.

The passage in 2 Kings 6:24-29 tells about King Benhadad who was the King of Syria invading Samaria. The people in Samaria ran out of food, and we are told that “an asses head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver.” Two women who were starving to death agreed to kill their two sons and eat them. The first son was killed and eaten and the second woman reneged on allowing her son to be killed and eaten. This is a news report, not ordered or sanctioned by God. The report is made to demonstrate how severe the starvation was.

There is no report of cannibalism in the Bible where it is approved, but the Bible does accurately record history. In the New Testament, the body is considered to be the temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Human life is sacred in the New Testament, and the teachings of Jesus are teachings of love, forgiveness, compassion, and care. Tomorrow we will discuss suicide in light of these teachings of Christ.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Hebrew Language Evolved

Hebrew Language Evolved

One thing that confuses both atheists and fundamentalists is understanding the evolution of language. Atheists like to point out “mistakes” in the King James Version, and fundamentalists sometimes say it is the only accurate translation. The English language is continually evolving, and the Hebrew language evolved also.

In the early history of Hebrew, words were not written with the vowels we see today. Over time, vowels were added. That means there are variant spellings in the texts translators use. The word “Jerusalem,” for example, appears 660 times in the Hebrew Bible. Five times the spelling includes an extra vowel (Jeremiah 26:18, Esther 2:6, 1 Chronicles 3:5,2 Chronicles 25: 1 and 32:9). Those books were written later than other passages where the vowel “yod” is not present. The difference is between the older “Yerushalem” and the later “Yerushalayim.” Today in Israel the city’s name is “Yerushalayim.”

On October 9, 2018, archaeologists at the Israel Museum unveiled a recently discovered stone column with a Hebrew inscription. The inscription is around 2000 years old, and it shows that Jerusalem in Hebrew was spelled and pronounced “Yerushalayim” in the time of Christ. That is the spelling used in those five instances in the Old Testament.

Biblical Archaeological Review reported this discovery in their January/February 2019 issue on page 6. The ancient inscription deals only with the spelling of Jerusalem, but other Hebrew words have changed over the centuries by adding vowels to make reading easier. All of this is of no consequence for you and I casually reading our Bibles. However, when we get into discussions of translations of the Bible and the meaning of words going all of the way back to the Genesis account, we have to dig a little deeper. Just like English, the Hebrew language evolved.

By the way, here is an example of the evolution of English. The “yod” vowel is only a small mark. Jesus referred to it in Matthew 5:18. The King James translators transliterated it into a new English word. We still use that word today to refer to a small mark or something written quickly. The word is “jot.”

–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

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