Skeptical or Religious Bigotry?

Skeptical or Religious?
Atheists have frequently written about the bigotry of people who believe in God and refuse to accept a fact that contradicts their religious belief. In the January 2018 issue of Scientific American, atheist Michael Shermer devotes his monthly column to this skeptical or religious bigotry.

In the article, Shermer quotes Asheley R. Landrum, a psychologist at Texas Tech and an expert on the factors influencing public understanding and perception of science, health, and emerging technologies. Studies conducted by Landrum showed how people look at data concerning climate change. The study showed that Republicans and Democrats reacted in very different ways to the content. A study that was skeptical of climate change data was not read by many of the Democrats while it was much more readily accepted by the Republicans.

Landrum concluded that, “We are good at being skeptical when information conflicts with our preexisting beliefs and values. We are bad at being skeptical when information is compatible with our preexisting beliefs and values.”

It has been my experience that the same thing happens when atheists and agnostics are confronted with data that supports the existence of God and the validity of Christianity. Trying to get some of my atheist friends to read scientific material by Dr. Francis Collins or Dr. Alister McGrath or even our own material has been almost impossible. It doesn’t matter if the authors are highly trained scientific researchers because they also believe in God, the material is off limits to many atheistic skeptics. In the same way, many of my religious associates have not read any of the scientific material produced by Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer.

Frequently atheists have told me that they have no answer to a presentation that I have given. However, they don’t want to believe in God, and so they won’t believe no matter what the evidence is. Atheists with that kind of bias are not being skeptical, but rather they have built their own religion and don’t want to look at any fact that might conflict with it. Christians frequently do the same thing.

Maybe the starting place for discussions with a relative or friend who has rejected the existence of God is to ask whether there is anything that would change their mind. The question is whether they are being merely skeptical or religious. Has their unbelief become a religion? At the same time, we should be open to their skeptical questions, but we need to be sure that we are “ready to give an answer to anyone who asks of the reason for the hope that is within us, but do it with gentleness and kindness” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Science and Biblical Apologetics

Science and Biblical Apologetics
Every so often we get a negative comment from someone suggesting that this ministry is misdirected. We deal with science and biblical apologetics in an attempt to show that science and the Bible are friends and not enemies. The negative comments are, “You just have to believe” or “Any attempt to use human intelligence to build faith is an exercise in futility.”

Such a view is out of touch with the needs of people living in the twenty-first century, and it also contradicts what the Bible teaches. Jesus frequently used scientific knowledge as the basis of a parable. In Matthew 16:2-3 Christ uses the fact that people can look at the sky in the evening and the morning to forecast the weather. Much of Proverbs chapter 8 tells about the role of wisdom in the creation. Romans 1:18-22 speaks of learning from the design seen in everything around us. Psalms 19 tells us that God’s handiwork in the heavens declares His glory.

One of the most interesting apologetic teachings of the Bible is seen in Job’s statement to his friends in Job 12:2-13:
“And who does not know such things as these?… But now ask the beast, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you; or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Does not the ear test words, as the palate tastes its food? Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding. With Him are wisdom and might, to Him belong counsel and understanding.”

In Job 38-41 God confronts Job concerning his complaints about his suffering. God begins with an apologetic discourse on the scientific answers to the creation of the world that we see around us. Job responds with a reflection on our limitations as humans: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things that are too wonderful for me to know… my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you …” Job 42:3-6.

Science and biblical apologetics have been important in ancient times, and they are even more important today.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Educational Programs of Does God Exist?

Educational Programs of Does God Exist?
The Does God Exist? ministry is heavily involved in educational programs. Right now we have 3600 students taking our correspondence courses in apologetics. Most of those students are confined to prisons all over the country. With our financial assistance, twelve of the students have gone on to receive college degrees.

Every year we have offered $1000 scholarships to graduating seniors to help them attend a university program. Students are selected based on their writing a paper on the compatibility of science and faith. Many of those papers have appeared in our printed journal.

We hope to offer another “Canyonlands Field Trip” this fall. This trip is also an educational program because it includes a college-level course in the geology and geomorphology of the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.

In 2015 the “Clayton Museum of Ancient History” opened at York College in York, Nebraska. It displays artifacts collected by Foster Stanback. Foster selected the name for the museum as a token of appreciation for this ministry. Amber Soderholm has been the museum designer and curator. She has built a program of interactive learning for children in the museum and developed a program with 15 “Junior Docents” which meet each week. The museum also features temporary exhibits, like the current one on Martin Luther. Thanks to Amber’s hard work, 10,000 visitors have come to the museum since it opened. For more about the museum go to www.claytonmuseumofancienthistory.org.

We receive emails from people who attend the museum and who have questions in our area of expertise. York College has excellent scholars who help with technical questions of a historical nature. We are sorry to say that Ms. Soderholm has taken a new position with the Grove Museum in Tallahassee, Florida. However, we trust that the educational programs of the Clayton Museum will continue under new leadership.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Dark Energy and Creation

Dark Energy and Creation
One of the great mysteries of cosmology is the fact that the cosmos is speeding up as it expands. Scientists explain this acceleration by an invisible pressure called dark energy which makes up about 70% of the energy in the cosmos.

This explanation is based on an assumption called the Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric which took Einstein’s equations and applied them to a universe they assumed to be homogeneous and isotropic. In other words, it assumes a smooth universe. Science has determined that the universe is not smooth. It is made up of great voids separating networks of dense galaxy clusters and filaments.

Emily Conover writing in Science News for November 25, 2017, (page 22) said, “If the universe were soup, it would be more of a chunky minestrone than a silky smooth tomato bisque.” When the equations are applied to a universe that is not isotropic and homogeneous, the acceleration of the cosmos seems to be explained without the need for dark energy. By the very nature of the lumpy design of the cosmos, its collapse is avoided.

It is interesting to note that the cosmos was created in such a way that its very existence contains the fingerprint of a design that allows great stability over an infinite amount of time. The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.

Many aspects of the creation we may never understand, but as our instruments get better and data accumulates, we understand that we have, in the words of Issac Newton, “found a pebble of knowledge while an ocean of truth lays before us.”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is really all we need to know. Seeing His power, wisdom and design bolsters our faith in the fact that “The Lord possessed wisdom at the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old: wisdom was appointed from eternity from the beginning. Before the world began…” Proverbs 8:22-23.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Freudian Ideas Die Hard

Freudian Ideas Die Hard
Those of us who had a college major or minor in psychology in the mid-twentieth-century received a heavy dose of “Freudian Theory” and Freudian ideas die hard. We learned that there are forces that explain human psychology called libido, destrudo, and thanatos which refer to sexual, aggressive, and death forces. I was an atheist when I was taking my psychology courses. Since Sigmund Freud was not only an atheist but also a promoter of drug dependence and sexual manipulation in psychological treatments, I swallowed his theories and promoted his views.

After I became a Christian, it was obvious that Freud’s treatments didn’t work. I saw modern psychology in the late twentieth century promoting ideas that were compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In recent years private letters Freud wrote to Martha Bernays, his fiancee, and research by Frederick Crews have shown the depravity of Freud. In Crew’s words, “…the product of a mind that conjoined illogical and bizarre ideas with misogyny, prurience, and cruelty.”

The problem is that Freudian ideas die hard. We still see his ideas and words used in discussions of psychological disorders. We have seen articles and letters containing Freudian ideas and vocabulary like dissociative reaction, conversion reaction, anxiety hysteria, conversion disorder, and somatization disorder.

Christian principles give the best foundation for psychological stability. However, the resistance to Christianity has made Freud’s ideas go on far longer than they should given Freud’s history and the lack of success of those who tried to use his methods.

Frederick Crews has written a new book titled Freud, the Making of an Illusion (Holt Metropolitan Books, New York © 2017). Crews documents falsified clinical observations by Freud and negative outcomes that were never revealed. Meanwhile, there has been a growth of Christian psychological services and programs that are benefiting many people, but Freudian ideas die hard.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Avoiding God of the Gaps Explanations

God of the Gaps
One of the better arguments that atheists make is the claim that “god” is something that humans have invented to explain what they didn’t understand. This is known as the God of the gaps approach to explaining things. When people didn’t understand what makes a volcano work, they invented a god or goddess to explain volcanoes. When people didn’t understand what produces weather, gods or goddesses were invented to explain everything from lightning to wind. The names of these gods and goddesses have endured, and they show up in the video games our kids play such as Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Minerva, etc. The atheist argument is that in time they will find scientific answers that disprove any notion that a divine being was responsible.

There are two major weaknesses in the God of the gaps charge that atheists are making. The first is that just because we can propose a possible natural way to explain things that does not mean the explanation is true. Years ago there was a discovery that a female praying mantis after being fertilized by the male turns around and eats him. Promoters of neo-Darwinism developed elaborate theories about how this behavior was a product of evolutionary processes. Some of the explanations sounded fairly plausible. Later it was discovered that this behavior happens in captivity, but not in the natural world. What is proposed is frequently not what happened.

The second weakness of the God of the gaps accusation is that it ignores the probabilities against the natural explanation. For example, there are 10^500 different possible solutions to the string theory equations. (That’s one followed by 500 zeros.) By carefully choosing which equation you use, a scientist can propose one step in the formation of tangible matter. Many more steps are required to get matter that is stable, and multiple steps have to be accomplished before you can get a single atom of hydrogen. When statistics are applied to this model, the probabilities are prohibitive.

When you put all the probabilities together, the final answer makes it clear that chance is a very weak explanation for what we see in the world around us. Romans 1:18-22 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. We don’t invent God to explain anything. We ask for a reasonable acceptance of evidence that stands not only on an intuitive level but also on a mathematical level.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Evidence for God’s Existence

Evidence for God's Existence
Something that amazes me as I answer the questions and hate mail from our website is the incredible ignorance of not only the Bible but of the evidence for God’s existence.

Atheists are fond of saying “there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence.” Then they attempt to vilify Christianity by pointing to things done by people who claim to be Christians. With the growing number of atheist websites and the increasing participation of the media in these claims, people have embraced the idea that these notions are true.

You can find evidence for God’s existence in virtually every discipline of science. Genesis 1:1 gives us a series of choices that we must focus on to support faith in God. The account tells us that the universe had a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that God caused it. The first two statements are scientifically addressable. Science has shown that there was a beginning. The evidence that time, space, and energy are not eternal is overwhelming. In our printed magazine, on our websites, and in our courses, we offer evidence for these statements. These choices do not require the Bible or any assumptions about God, so the assertion that we are just “spouting scripture” is not true.

Whether the cause of the beginning was God is a more complex issue because it is rooted in understanding God’s nature. Quantum mechanics, the work of Einstein, and modern work in physics have given us wonderful tools to understand the cosmos. The Bible becomes a necessary tool as we consider whether the biblical description of God fits the evidence that we see in the science disciplines. Most people have not fully grasped the concept of a being outside of time and space with the capacity to design intelligently all that we see around us. Their concept of God is simply too small, and that is true of atheists and believers alike.

Our primary goal is to encourage people to examine the evidence for God’s existence with an open mind. If people realize that materialism and naturalism may not hold all of the answers to the mysteries of creation, they may gain a mustard seed of faith that can move the mountain of disbelief.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where Is God When Natural Disaster Strikes?

Where Is God?
Many times atheists and skeptics use natural disasters as proof that God doesn’t exist. The argument is that an almighty and loving God would not allow these things to happen, so therefore God doesn’t exist. That is a faulty argument that assumes we know more than an omniscient God could know. When faced with the current disaster of flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the United States Gulf Coast, even those who believe in God often ask, “Where is God?” They want to know why the God they believe in would allow such things to happen.

So where is God? Why doesn’t He do something about the suffering? God is there, and He is doing something. God is working through His people. We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When tragedy strikes, even those who don’t have a good relationship with God begin to show a little bit of that image as they reach out to help. Those of us who are Christians should be the most willing and eager to show God’s love. We not only bear the image of God, but we also remember what Jesus did and what He said about helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Rick Stedman posted an opinion essay on the Fox News website that answers the question about where is God when a natural disaster strikes. We recommend that you read it. We could not have said it better.

We also encourage you to help those in need in any way you can. If you can donate to help the flood victims in Texas and Louisiana, please do so. But make sure you are giving your support through a trustworthy organization. You want your money to go toward helping the people in need and churches and Christian relief funds are the best a doing that.

Where is God when natural disasters strike? He is working through His people who are demonstrating God’s love to those who need it the most. There is no better time for you to witness to those who need to know that God loves them.

If you have questions about why God allows pain and suffering, we invite you to visit our website www.whypain.org.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

South America Apologetic Outreach (Part 2)

South America Apologetic Outreach
Yesterday I started to describe what we found on our South America apologetic outreach during our recent lectureships in Colombia. As we spoke with people on the street, both men and women told me that they know the “Church” is a fake. They cite the failure of the Catholic Church to improve the standard of living of “common people” in countries like Colombia in spite of the enormous wealth the church holds. Several of them had suffered abuse at the hands of a church leader, and their expressions of pain were suppressed only by the church’s control.

The Colombian young people had seen the conflict between what they learned from television and on their computers and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was warned that if my lessons contained material in opposition to Catholic teaching, I would experience chastisement. At one point while our group was singing in the plaza, a Catholic priest came out of the church building and took one of our handouts. It seemed obvious that he was taking notes, and I gave him a business card for “Does God Exist?’ We have not heard from him as yet.

Atheists have taken note of all of this. Richard Dawkins has challenged the Catholic Church to a series of debates In December of 2017 at three universities in Colombia. Father Gerardo Remolina, a Vatican-trained scholar, has accepted Dawkin’s challenge. We hope to monitor these debates. Also, Dawkins has offered a competition to the young people of Colombia. He challenged them to watch the BBC program “Beautiful Minds” and write a five-page paper on why the life of an atheist is the best way to live. Dawkins will choose ten winners, and he will give them a personal tour of the British Museum.

In our lectureships in Ecuador and Colombia, we found intense interest in our approach. Young South Americans are rejecting Roman Catholicism. They are resenting the abuse, hypocrisy, and lack of constructive use of the Roman Catholic Church’s great wealth. They no longer are willing to live by an irrational faith based on tradition. Being told to THINK, to study the evidence for themselves and to believe that science and faith are friends and not enemies is a message they are eager to hear and accept.

We were blessed in our presentations in Ecuador and Colombia with two men who have lived in those countries for much of their lives and could translate our material accurately. We now have our videos subtitled in Spanish, and we hope to expand the outreach of our booklets and children’s material by translating them into Spanish. Unfortunately, we are a very small voice in a very large mission area. Dawkins and his associates are making their main thrust to reach university students, and those are the people who will control the moral and financial future of these countries. Already the Health Minister of Colombia, who is an atheist, has vowed to make abortion legal in his term. He states his atheist belief as the reason for that goal.

People in Ecuador and Colombia are eager to establish a meaningful relationship with God. They have seen the violence and murderous actions of drug warlords and the cartels who deny the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. They have also experienced the apathy, abuse, and politics of organized religion through the Catholic Church. The need is great for a South America apologetic outreach. The people are anxious to learn a new way of living guided by God. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

South America Apologetic Outreach

South America Apologetic Outreach
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.

Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.

One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.

As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.

One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.

In both Ecuador and Colombia, we have seen the need for a South America apologetic outreach teaching people the evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. People did not want to hear about “church” because to them that was a rehash of Roman Catholicism. Pray for the people of that great country as they are hungry to know how they and their children could believe in God, and how they could bring God into their lives. We will share more of our experience in Colombia in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017