Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer
The term Christian Atheism seems like a contradiction. However, that was the theology of Thomas J. J. Altizer. On November 28, 2018, Altizer died at the age of 91.

Thomas J. J. Altizer was the theologian who in the 1960s promoted the idea that God was real but had passed away leaving humans to find the sacred on their own. Time magazine on April 8, 1966, gave Altizer’s teachings a boost when they ran a cover that in big red letters said: “Is God Dead?” That issue was devoted to the theology of Altizer which incorporated the teachings of various philosophers including Hegel and Nietzsche. Other religions, especially Buddhism, capitalized on Altizer’s teachings and he gained quite a following.

Altizer himself expressed remorse at the effects of his teaching. Time magazine quoted him in the December 17, 2018, issue (page 11) saying that today people are empty of the joy that we once celebrated. The reason we are empty is that humans cannot find the sacred on their own.

The biblical adage of Solomon certainly applies here: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When we discard God, we have nothing that can take His place. Materialism doesn’t work. No philosophy works. Christian Atheism doesn’t work. Only the joy that we find in the teachings of Jesus Christ has worked and still does work today.

Some people want to kill God and do so in their own minds. However, the evidence for God’s existence remains strong and continues to grow. Altizer didn’t kill it, and he came to emptiness in his own life. God is a living, moving entity, and the more we learn of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 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

Beating a Child?

Beating a Child?
Sometimes skeptics of the Bible tell us that the Bible teaches child abuse and therefore is not relevant to the 21st century. In this day of concern about violence and child abuse, they say the Bible is just an abusive, male-dominated book. The passage usually cited is Proverbs 23:13-14. In the KJV it says, “Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Proverbs 29:15 adds, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” There is no question that these passages have been used by angry parents to justify whipping or even beating a child–sometimes brutally. Is that what the Bible tells parents to do?

The answer to that question is definitely “no.” The first point is that Solomon wrote the passage in Proverbs to the people of his day. It was a society in which a man had many wives and many children. In Solomon’s case the number was in the hundreds, but virtually all Old Testament characters had a multiplicity of children. The basis of the society both religiously and politically was the father and his rule.

When Jesus came, he changed things. Jesus said that what God had allowed was “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:8). He reinstituted God’s original plan which was: “A man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” The structure of the family changed under the teachings of Jesus, and the basis of raising children was love, not control. Ephesians 6:4 told fathers, “Provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Colossians 3:21 added, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children to anger lest they become discouraged.”

Does the passage in Proverbs tell fathers to beat a child into submission? Again, beating a child is not what the passage says, and we need to do a word study to see that. There are two different Hebrew words translated as “rod.” One is the Hebrew “matteh” which refers to a piece of wood used as a club, a staff, or a weapon. An example is Exodus 4:2-4 where Moses threw down his rod which became a serpent.

The word for rod that is used in Proverbs is “shebet” which is never used destructively. Isaiah 11:1 is an example: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Rod is used this way many times in Isaiah such as “the rod of his mouth” in 11:4, and “tool of freedom” in 10:15. Jeremiah 48:17 translates “shebet” as “beautiful rod.” Job 9:34 uses “shebet” as “discipline” in modern translations but as “rod” in the King James.

What Solomon is saying is that a child needs discipline, not brutality. The fact that the word normally associated with discipline and promise is chosen in proverbs and not the word that conveys violence and abuse should clarify what Solomon is saying. Proverbs 29:15 would perhaps be more accurately translated “Discipline and reproof give wisdom, but an abandoned child will bring his parents to shame.” Verse 17 of that passage goes on and says, “Correct your son, and He will give you rest, yes he will bring delight to your soul.” Beating a child never accomplishes its purpose and is not a part of God’s plan for raising children.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Harvesting Organs from Prisoners

Harvesting Organs from Prisoners
One of the evidences for the validity of Christianity is the “fruit test.” Jesus said, “By their fruits, you shall know them,” and in Matthew 7:16-20 Jesus talks about the logic of the fruit test. Jesus dealt with the poor, the down-trodden, and those society might deem as “unfit.” One fundamental belief of Christianity is that the individual is of value, no matter what their circumstance. That includes prisoners. The atheist Chinese government’s harvesting organs from prisoners is brutal beyond belief.

Communist China has always been an opponent of Christian values and teaching. It has now been revealed that the organs of prisoners, especially members of the Falun Gong religious movement have been forcibly removed for transplanting into visitors who come to China for organ transplants.

If you view humans as just animals no different from any other, and you consider some have humans to be unproductive in society, why not use them as you would pigs to get organs that can enable the “fit” to live longer? But you don’t have to look to China for this kind of attitude. There are writers and scholars in America who are suggesting the same practice. We have referenced Peter Singer ethics professor at Princeton University as an example of such an advocate. (See our Nov/Dec 2010 issue, Vol. 37 #6 page 26).

First Corinthians 3:16 and 6:15-20 portray the individual as the dwelling place of the Spirit. Christian values are critical in medical ethics. China is an excellent example of what happens when these values are not used, and atheist values are applied. The result is such detestable practices as harvesting organs from prisoners for financial gain.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from The Week, October 5, 2018, page 15.

Is Hell a Physical Place?

Is Hell a Physical Place?
The October issue of Smithsonian magazine (page 14) contains a book review and discussion of portrayals of hell dating back to 400 BC. The pictures in the magazine are horrible scenes of torture and suffering with many of the images related to Catholic teachings on purgatory. All of the pictures reflect a belief that hell is a physical place with physical torture techniques applied to those rejected by God. But is hell a physical place?

We see the same portrayals in our newspapers with cartoons showing little men with horns and pitchforks doing nasty things to those condemned to eternal torture. We get frequent letters from unbelievers and people with doubts questioning the concept of hell. They argue that it is impossible to believe in a God who would punish anyone with eternal physical torture, especially those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Because the media continues to feed those images to the public, a high percentage of our population believes that the Bible teaches this physical abuse.

There is no question that the Bible clearly indicates that there is eternal punishment for those who choose to reject God. But there is a difference between eternal punishment and eternal punishing. A person executed for a crime is penalized eternally, but the execution is not eternal torture.

Jesus spoke of the difference between these two in Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” There are numerous other passages which speak of hell as a separation from God and all that goes with God–love, peace, joy, etc. Torturing is not something God does. Then is hell a physical place or is it more likely an eternal separation from God and everything that is good and pleasing?
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?
An atheist once said, “We are as much a product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.” The other view is that we are the result of design and planning. Do you consider yourself the result of intelligent design or beneficial accidents?

C. S. Lewis, an atheist who became a believer, wrote, “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”

We suggest that you ask yourself this question: “Can I rationally believe that the incredible complexity of my body is the result of mindless forces, or does it indicate design?” If our thoughts are merely accidental byproducts of the movement of atoms in a brain that accidentally assembled itself, then nothing has any real meaning.

At DOES GOD EXIST? we believe that we are not accidents. The human body exhibits evidence of design, not chance accidents. Our thoughts are rational because we are the product of a rational God. Intelligent design or beneficial accidents — which do you choose?
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

This week John Clayton is with a group of people on what we call the Canyonlands Tour. Many times over the years John has taken groups of people to visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion Canyon, as well as other locations in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

The Canyonlands Tour is not just a sightseeing trip. It’s an opportunity for Christians to learn about how God has worked to create those “natural wonders.” John uses his knowledge of geology to explain the many interesting and beautiful features of the “canyonlands” area. Some people try to explain the Grand Canyon by “flood geology.” John explains what the real science of geology actually tells us about the formation of that remarkable Canyon.

With the assistance of Alan Doty who has hiked the canyons many times, the Canyonlands Tour is always an interesting and educational experience. One of the places on the agenda is the “desert view” area overlooking the Canyon. That is the location of a watchtower which visitors can tour.

On a level of the tower, there is a wall which has a plaque attached as you can see in the picture. The plaque contains the words from Psalm 66:4. It says, “All the earth worships Thee; they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to Thy name.” That plaque has been there for years. With atheists demanding the removal of any acknowledgment of God on public property, perhaps the only reason those words are still there is that some might interpret the “Thee” and “Thy” as referring to the Grand Canyon.

However, those pronouns do not refer to the Canyon, but to the One who created it. The process of creating the Canyon was no small feat. It did not happen in one flood. The people on the Canyonlands Tour will learn something about the processes that science still does not fully understand. In the meantime, there are those who say the Grand Canyon disproves God. It does not. It only invalidates a false interpretation of the Bible which many have adopted.

It’s too bad the people who placed that plaque didn’t include verse 3 as well. It says, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you'” (NIV). I am sure that there have been some atheists who have cringed when they read the words of that plaque. I suspect that sometime an “offended” atheist will demand its removal. However, nobody can remove the Grand Canyon and the testimony it gives to the power and glory of God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

China Forces Atheism

China Forces Atheism
Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has launched a drive to subjugate both Islam and Christianity to government control and to limit their activity. China forces atheism by installing Chinese flags wherever there is a minaret or a cross and pressuring people to embrace the Atheist Communist Party. There has been a dramatic expansion of China’s surveillance apparatus using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to weed out religious leaders and to reward loyalty to the Atheist Communist Party.

It is going to be important for religious leaders and missionaries in China to use apologetic material like ours to combat the government propaganda machine. The volume of mail we are getting from Chinese students has dramatically increased. One student suggested that if we would learn Chinese, we couldn’t handle all of the opportunities there would be to teach the gospel. As China forces atheism, we are working on that idea.

Our experience has been that once atheists see the evidence for God’s existence, they are eager to become Christians. An atheist doesn’t have the baggage of someone who is already a member of some religious body or cult, so there is nothing for them to unlearn.

Our video series is available with a Mandarin overdub as well as our regular International Series. Contact us at jncdge@aol.com for more information.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Growing Interest in Astrology

Growing Interest in Astrology
While more and more Americans are denying faith in God, belief in astrology, witchcraft, and sorcery is growing. Astrology academies and internet users of natal charts have produced thousands of podcasts, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, mobile apps, newsletters, and streaming videos. Data crunchers tell us that there are more than two million websites on astrology, and entrepreneurs are using astrological signs as a means of attracting business. There are sun-sign PJs, hotels with a zodiac theme, and offers for foods like a “cuppa zodiac coffee.” There is indeed a growing interest in astrology.

Richard Smoot speaking for the International Society for Astrological Research said, “So much is going on in people’s lives these days, so much pressure to act or react, and they simply want to sort things out.” Astrologers claim that people in crisis are drawn to astrology because they want guidance in matters of love, finance, and career. The astrology site Co-Star says “This generation is wrapping itself in the blanket of the zodiac to try and make sense of a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams.” The most highly rated astrological site in recent months has been “How to find the perfect dog based on your zodiac sign.” There is a growing interest in astrology among millennials who make up seventy-three percent of those visiting that site.

In the ancient world, astrologers and magicians were a major factor in helping people make decisions. In Exodus 7:11 Pharaoh used secret arts to duplicate what Moses did. God condemned the use of astrology, magic, and sorcery from the beginning. In Leviticus 20:6 we read, “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Fortune telling was condemned in Micah 5:12 and in the New Testament every confrontation between the apostles and a sorcerer or magician reveals a rejection of those practices. (See Acts 8 and Acts 13:6.)

Is astrology a harmless game or joke, or is there a reason to reject the mystic arts? The first point we need to make is that there is no scientific support for any of these mystic arts. Studies of astrological claims indicate no support for any connection between the stars and what happens in people’s lives on Earth.

Magic is entertaining, but honest magicians will tell you that even their most amazing acts are sleight of hand and visual tricks. It is enjoyable to watch these talented performers, but we need to realize that they are not using supernatural abilities. Sorcery and witchcraft are dangerous and destructive activities and have a long history of tragedy. The bottom line is that all mystic arts draw people away from the real solutions to their problems.

In today’s world, when people reject the Bible and its teachings they are left with no help in making critical decisions. In that void, they seek out unhealthy and destructive substitutes. There may be a growing interest in astrology as a place for people to find answers in life, but it is as harmful and misleading as ever.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Saturday Evening Post, July/August 2018, page 16.

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians in Western Europe
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.

In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:

1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.

3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.

According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.

Looking at these statistics, we can see that it is possible that some nones can be more religious than Christians. We see that even though faith in God has eroded in the United States, Western Europe is far ahead of us in secularization. All of these statistics give those of us who are committed Christians something to think about.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You can read more about the recent Pew study HERE.