Mental Health and Faith

Mental Health and Faith

One of the challenges we face in 21st century America is the growing rate of mental illness cases. Every day the media informs us of a tragedy caused by someone who is mentally ill. Closer to home, many of us have had a loved one afflicted with some form of mental illness. Is there a connection between mental health and faith?

Mental illness has many causes. A small percentage of mental illnesses result from a medical condition. For example, my son’s schizophrenia resulted from a congenital condition. Because he was adopted, we don’t know all of the factors leading to his multiple illnesses, but his birth mother had German measles during pregnancy. Brain injuries and drug abuse can also result in mental illness.

A far more common cause of mental problems involves life experiences. Some of us were forced to witness the horror of war, and many others have suffered abuse. Those things have caused a variety of mental issues. We frequently hear atheists claim that religion causes mental illness by heaping guilt on people over something they have done in their lives. Indeed, some preachers have used guilt to motivate people to change behavior or convert to a doctrinal view.

The reality is that there is a connection between mental health and faith. Christianity is a guilt-removing belief system. The Christian message is designed to free people from guilt and promote a healthy and mentally stable lifestyle. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 gives guidelines to a healthy mental attitude. There you will find these keys to mental health: loving others, not exacting revenge or retaliating, caring for others (even your enemies), not being religious for show, and not being obsessed with material things.

We all fail in life, but the Christian system brings forgiveness. When Peter asked Christ how often he had to forgive, Christ’s answer indicated forgiveness should be infinite (Matthew 18:21). Carrying a grudge can cause enormous mental pain, which John compares to walking in darkness, but loving others brings us into the light (1 John 1:7-11). James gives insight into how we can endure hardships and help one another gain a positive perspective on life (James 5:10-16).

As Americans turn away from the teachings of Christ and rely on pop psychology and drugs to achieve sound mental health, the result has been the opposite. Pill popping and drug use have skyrocketed, and so has the number of people in desperate mental stress. Living the Christian life brings stability and fulfillment and the knowledge that there is a place of peace and love when this life is over. Mental health and faith in Christ go together.

— John N. Clayton ©2021

You Should Not Exist

You Should Not Exist

Do you realize that from virtually every standpoint, you should not exist? Philosophers debate the question of, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” However, the physics of your existence is much more of an issue than a philosophical debate.

Modern scientific discoveries have added to the evidence that you should not exist.
We know that matter and energy are directly related. We can turn matter into energy, as evidenced by the atomic bomb. Scientists have now shown that energy can be turned into matter. Einstein’s equation E = mc2 can work forward and backward.

The complicating factor is that two kinds of matter are always produced when energy is turned into matter. In addition to the ordinary matter we are made of, there is also a mirror image of it called “antimatter.” Antimatter consists of positively charged electrons (positrons) and negatively charged protons (antiprotons). When matter and antimatter are combined, they destroy each other, reverting to the energy from which they came. The cosmic creation event should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. How did they not destroy each other?

Another physics principle that says you should not exist is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It says that in a closed system, things tend to move to disorder. This law allows diffusion to happen. It is why we, and everything else, fall apart with age. The cosmos, by definition, is a closed system. Carl Sagan used to say, “The cosmos is everything that is or ever was or ever will be.” The physical world is slowly dissolving, and disorder (called entropy) is increasing. The stringent conditions needed for you to exist are becoming less and less likely.

The Bible writers recognized this fact.
Isaiah wrote, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the Earth beneath. The heavens will vanish like smoke, the Earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die like flies, but my salvation will last forever…” (Isaiah 51:6). The spiritual realm is not affected by entropy, but the physical realm is. We exist because God created us. How He separated matter and antimatter is a mystery to science. How life came into being with the massive increase of order can only be explained because God designed our existence for a purpose.

When you take the position of the atheist, you should not exist. Existence is a vast mystery that philosophers and scientists can’t answer. From a biblical perspective, we are major players in the struggle between good and evil. (Read the book of Job.) We have a purpose, and we exist to fulfill that purpose. Being created in the image of God answers many of our questions. COVID, climate change, and the struggles between good and evil in our world remind us that our existence is temporary. There is a new existence coming that will verify why we exist in the present.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Overdose Deaths are Increasing

Overdose Deaths are Increasing

Deaths due to drug overdoses have skyrocketed. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that in 1970 there were fewer than 7,000 deaths in the United States due to drug overdoses. In 2019 there were 72,000, and in 2020 there were 93,000. Whether or not there is a problem is not the issue, but people question why overdose deaths are increasing?

Some suggest that it is because of the availability of painkillers, especially opioids. When I graduated from high school in 1955, many drugs were available, and I knew people who had died from overdoses. Even in those days, we learned how to get whatever drugs we wanted. There were those available on the street and others we could make ourselves. For example, I remember a cough syrup named “Hadacall” that we used to get high because it contained a higher alcohol content than the booze we could get. Harder stuff was available if you looked for it.

We suggest the fundamental reason why overdose deaths are increasing is the removal of Christian values from our culture. If you do not see a purpose for your life and things go wrong, what is the natural response? For the Christian, there is the promise of Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good to those that love God and who are called according to His purpose.” Christians know that whatever happens to them has some kind of purpose or connection to a purpose. There is also the ultimate hope which is beyond this life. When you discard that, what is left?

We don’t always understand what good can come from tragedy in our lives
. But, as Christians, we know that if we hang on, we may eventually see a purpose or at least some ultimate good in our loss. Opioids and drugs provide an escape for unbelievers from whatever bad things have happened in their lives. Therefore, overdose deaths are increasing because they feel that life without purpose or hope is not worth living.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Associated Press release by Mike Stobbe for July 15, 2021. In South Bend Tribune page 12A.

Singing is Good for Your Health

Singing is Good for Your Health

A Finnish study has found that singing is good for your health. In addition, it showed better verbal fluency in elderly singers compared to non-singers. The study says that these findings make sense because singing requires regulation of attention, versatile information processing, linguistic output, learning, and memorization.

Several New Testament passages talk about singing, including Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:9, and 1 Corinthians 14:15. The New Testament presents singing as part of worship, and everyone should participate in worship. Merely being entertained by someone who is blessed with great musical talent is not participating in worship.

In our day of four-part harmony, it is easy for everyone to learn to sing in their comfort range. In the Old Testament, the Psalms were songs. Music for worship in Jesus’ day mainly consisted of chants that everyone could join.

A person can be tone-deaf and still participate in singing in Christian worship. Although many religions use singing as a part of their worship activities, group participation is unique to the worship system of Christians.

Singing is not what takes place in the meetings of atheists. When I was an atheist, the only songs I remember were songs that carried a pornographic or comedic message. Music was not something we all participated in, but it was a vehicle of entertainment.

Making melody in your heart” (Ephesians 5:19) is a proven way to improve your mental health. Furthermore, like everything God tells us to do, it has a purpose and benefits our well-being. Therefore, singing is good for your health, both physical and spiritual health.

— John N, Clayton © 2021

Reference: Readers Digest. September 2021, page 58.

The Myth of UFOs

The Myth of UFOs

Anytime the media has run out of things they think will draw readers or viewers, they fall back on the myth of UFOs. For example, the May 10, 2021 issue of The New Yorker magazine carried an article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus titled “The UFO Papers: Why Did We Start Taking Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Seriously?” The article was a combination of bad science and bad journalism. The bad science was that the writer reported UFO sightings’ size, altitude, and speed based on people’s estimates, not precise scientific measurements. The bad journalism involved the people the writer chose to interview. 

Mick West, a British-American science writer and skeptical investigator who debunks the myth of UFOs, has offered plausible explanations that don’t involve aliens or paranormal explanations. In addition, Scientific American magazine ran an article titled “Experts Weigh in on Pentagon UFO Report.” One featured astronomer, professor Andrew Fraknoi, commented, “…there has been a flurry of misleading publicity about UFOs (based upon military reports). A sober examination of these claims reveals there is a lot less to them than first meets the eye.” 

The atheist community is interested in any evidence that might suggest alien visitation. Some atheists have implied that if aliens have visited Earth, they must be the cause of all the evidence for God. They claim that Jesus was an alien who came to Earth to try to get humanity on a more reasonable approach to reality. The miracles of Christ are simply high-tech displays by the aliens. The absurdness of this is obvious. If the aliens can do all the atheists claim, they certainly can evade any efforts by humans to see or detect them. 

Despite all the books and articles UFO proponents have written to support the myth of UFOs, no tangible evidence supports alien visitation. Scams such as the Roswell, New Mexico, claims and attempts to deny archaeological evidence that Jesus was what He claimed to be will prove to be false. Robert Sheaffer, who has written extensively about UFO claims, says, “There are no aliens here on Earth. And so, the government cannot ‘disclose’ what it does not have. Some people think the government knows more about UFOs, or UAP, than the public, but it’s clear they know less on the subject than our best civilian UFO investigators, not more.” 

We are not saying that there is no life anywhere in the cosmos except on Earth. What we do say is that if there is life out there, God created it. I always enjoy telling the story of an interview I did with Larry King early in my career. It was a radio talk show, and he had an atheist on with me. A caller asked my atheist friend, “What would you do if an alien landed on the Whitehouse lawn, got out of his flying saucer with a Bible in his hand, and said, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” All the atheist said was, “Punt.” I think that says it all. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The Design of Death

The Design of Death

It may sound strange to talk about death in a positive way. The truth is that the design of death is part of the creation. The second law of thermodynamics, in simple terms, says that in a closed system, things move toward a condition of disorder. That principle is built into the fabric of the physical universe. It allows the diffusion of resources, the circulation of air, the transfer of energy from one form to another, and multiple other physical processes. It also means that our human bodies are in a constant movement toward decay.

The Bible contains a statement of this law in Isaiah 51:6: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell in the earth shall die in a like manner.” Thus, the design of death applies to the universe and everything in it.

Is our death just a piece of collateral damage to the second law? For those who are Christians, death is not the ultimate tragedy. My son Tim lived his whole life with multiple handicaps, including muscular dystrophy, blindness, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia. Despite those handicaps, his life was full. When COVID-19 took away his ability to swallow, talk, sit up, stand or walk, he could still hear and communicate with me. For him to be unable to die would have been insanely cruel. Isaiah 57:1-2 describes this well: “For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”

For a Christian, death removes us from evil and brings us into peace. I look forward to freedom from politics, pollution, illness, global warming, and pain. In 2 Peter 1:15, Peter talks about his death using the Greek term “exodos,” which means to depart. It is the word from which we get the name of the book of Exodus that describes Israel’s departure from Egyptian bondage.

So far in 2021, I have lost my son, my brother, and three of my close friends to death. They were all Christians, so I am happy for them. I take to heart 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, which tells me not to grieve “as others do who have no hope.” Psalms 116:15 tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The word “saint” here refers to “one set apart” as members of God’s family of believers–Christians.

When I was an atheist, death offered me no future. As a Christian, I see death as an entrance into a far better existence than I have now. We have an instinctive desire to live, and any change we make can be scary. That is especially true of departing this life. Paul said in Philippians 1:21-23, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” Death can be beautiful, and the design of death is a reality for the world in which we live.

John N. Clayton © 2021

Charity and Faith in God

Charity and Faith in God

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy conducts research on donations to charity in the United States. Their recently released figures show that charitable giving in the United States declined between 2000 and 2018. This data is before COVID, so the reduction in giving is not due to the pandemic. Instead, there is evidence for a connection between charity and faith in God. The statistics show that as faith in God declines, so does charitable giving.

In the year 2000, 66% of United States households donated to charitable organizations. In 2018 that figure had dropped to 49.6%. However, the total amount of giving in 2018 was greater than in 2000. So even as fewer people were giving, those who were giving gave more. The study shows that the percentage of Americans giving to religious causes has declined along with the percentage of Americans attending worship services. A disturbing trend is that only a third of households headed by someone under the age of 40 gave anything to charity.

My parents were atheists, and I can remember their argument when my father’s employer put pressure on the workers to give to United Way. Of course, my father didn’t want to give anything, but for social reasons, my mother wanted her name on the list of donors that the employer published.

The numbers are somewhat surprising when you realize that campaigns to raise funds for various causes have become more and more aggressive in recent years. Nearly half of the large volume of mail we receive is solicitations from organizations wanting donations. We have also seen a significant increase in phone calls pressuring us to contribute to various causes.

As our society becomes more secular, it has become more materialistic. Rejecting the teaching of Jesus that it is more blessed to give than receive is reflected in the charity data. We also suggest that this trend explains why marriage is becoming less common and why there is an increase in frustration and lack of satisfaction in sexual relationships. Giving is not just a physical action. It is also a shaper of how we think and how we approach relationships.

There is a connection between charity and faith in God. The Christian system of desiring to give and finding joy in giving works. Rejecting God and the biblical way of life brings unfortunate results for all people.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Associated Press by Haleluya Hadero for July 28, 2021.

Trusting God in Difficult Times

Trusting God in Difficult Times

For the past two days, we have looked at one of the struggles everyone faces– trusting God in difficult times. Of course, the atheist will claim that a loving, caring, just God would not allow innocent people to suffer terrible disasters in their lives. However, most of us have had a “why me?” experience where a problem afflicts us that we feel is unfair and which we beg God to remove – and frequently, He doesn’t.

Life often presents situations that require trusting God in difficult times. I am not suggesting that I know all the answers, but I see three reasons why we sometimes fail to trust God. First, we looked at how faulty thinking and reasoning can erode our trust in God. Secondly, we saw that not having a reason to live and thus seeing no value in the problems we face contributes to our lack of trust in God. We want to look at a third reason today:

REASON # 3 – We fail to trust God because we think that everything must have an answer that we can understand. Someone said, “If I can understand the thinking of God, then God isn’t God.” My experience in dealing with people who are immersed in a problem indicates that they don’t want a theological or philosophical answer to their problem. What they want is to be free of the problem. After many years of dealing with this issue, I have learned that the best thing I can say is, “I don’t know the reason, but I care.”

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God..” In the book of Job, God never reveals to Job the answer to why his problems exist. It is evident that there is a war going on between good and evil in this world. I don’t understand all that is involved, but just looking around, we can see the struggle. I can give theological answers to questions about this war, but you don’t care about theology or philosophy if you are hurting. You want to have a solution to your pain.

After God speaks, Job concludes, “I have heard of you by the hearing of my ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Job came to realize that he is not smart enough or powerful enough to understand it all. Neither are we.

Trusting God in difficult times is our choice to make or not. However, learning to trust God fills our lives with purpose and direction. The promise of Acts 2:38 and John 14:26-27 is enough to make my life worth living, even with its pain and frustrations.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Human Sexuality and God’s Design

Human Sexuality and God’s Design

Human sexuality has been a concern of people throughout time, and the Bible deals with the subject extensively. When I was in college, I worked under the direction of Mrs. Wardell Pomeroy. Her husband was a co-worker with Alfred Kinsey, founder of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. At that time, I was an atheist, as was Kinsey, so I considered him a hero. One of Mrs. Pomeroy’s sons became a Christian minister, and that precipitated numerous discussions.

Kinsey had no place for God in his research. His view was that since humans are just mammals, we should be able to enjoy sex with any other mammal of our choosing. The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky said it well: “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” As belief in God has decreased in western culture, Kinsey’s view of human sexuality has become widely accepted.

The New Testament teaches that the healthiest, most meaningful, most satisfying, and most pleasurable sexual experience is with a single marriage partner. Furthermore, the marriage should be a covenant of love, loyalty, care, and faithfulness. In Matthew 19:5, Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The Greek word translated “cleave” in the King James Version is “proskollao,” which means to “glue to” or “adhere to.” It is absolute and total unity, not just a physical union. God created human sexuality as a cleaving apparatus.

So what does the evidence show as working in human sexuality? Does the atheist view expressed by Kinsey and Pomeroy work? Every study on this subject has demonstrated that sexual activity outside of the biblical concept of marriage does not work. Here are some examples:

The National Survey of Counseling Directors – A study of 6500 sexually active adolescent girls found that they are three times more likely to be depressed. As a result, they are nearly three times as likely to attempt suicide as peers who are not sexually active.

The National Health and Social Life Council – Their most recent survey found that sexually active singles have the most sexual problems and get the least pleasure from sex. It also showed that couples in long-term marriages were the most satisfied demographic group.

The prominent scholar J.D. Unwin studied 86 civilizations and found that all 86 demonstrated that sexual fidelity was the most important predictor of a society’s ascendancy and strength. Unwin was not a believer and expressed amazement at his own findings.

Atheists are forced to conclude that sex is an evolutionary product and that human sexuality functions the same as that of any other mammal. The biblical view is that sex in humans is not just to produce offspring. Additionally, Human sexuality is a designed tool to assist and promote human relationships and provide stability in civilization. A great deal of the unrest and conflict in America today is rooted in society’s acceptance of the atheist view of sexuality.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Statistics from Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019.

Why Do Churches Have Buildings?

Why Do Churches Have Buildings?

We frequently get letters or calls from atheists and skeptics complaining about the amount of money churches spend on buildings. Those conversations never last very long because I agree with the atheist challenges on this issue. The critical question is, “Why do churches have buildings?”

In the Old Testament, there was great emphasis on a building as a place for God to dwell. However, knowledgeable people even then realized that God could not be confined to the “Temple.” In 1 Kings 8:27, Solomon said this about the Temple he built, “The whole sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you. Certainly this Temple that I built cannot contain you either.” In Jeremiah 7:1-11, the prophet deals with what people were doing and what God wants. His reference to the Temple at the end of his discussion is, “the Temple is nothing more to you than a hideout for robbers.”

John 4 describes a discussion between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. She was concerned about where people ought to worship. In verse 20, she points out that the Samaritans were worshiping on Mt. Gerizim, and the Jews were worshiping Mt. Moriah. She wanted to know which was the right place. Jesus responds that neither place is the answer for true worship because “a time is coming and has come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Biblical worship is not just something that happens in a building on Sunday morning. Throughout the New Testament, we see worship described in other terms. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians3:17; Acts 9:31.)

So why do churches have buildings where they meet and worship God? Buildings are vehicles to help Christians address the needs of others and to stimulate and motivate each other to be about their lives and work as Christians. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, the worship service was used to collect resources to meet the needs of others. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, Paul writes about communion. It is not just between the believer and God but between the members of the family of God as well. Paul says that without the mutual acts of communion, “many of you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”

Meeting together for worship allows us to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19-20). Colossians 3:16 also tells us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” Finally, Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Paul then goes on to emphasize the importance of meeting together by saying, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some of you are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…”

God does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands as if He needed anything … for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:24-28). Worship is 24/7, not just on Sunday mornings. Why do churches have buildings? Buildings help Christians meet in worship and encourage each other to go out and spread God’s love to the world. Using massive amounts of money to provide a building where Christians can be entertained is painfully ignorant of the true nature of God and what God wants His children to do.

— John N Clayton © 2021