What Makes Us Human?

What Makes Us Human? Are crows human?

One of the significant points of contention between those who believe in God and those who don’t is the concept of what makes us human. The biblical position is that humans are that form of life created in the image of God. Our spiritual makeup allows us to create art and music, worship a supreme being, feel guilt, be sympathetic, and have a form of love that is self-sacrificing and has nothing to do with survival. The atheist response to this is that our intelligence and brain structure accounts for these characteristics. The atheist insists that they are totally a product of our evolution.

What does the evidence show? That is a complicated question, and one we frequently address as science makes new discoveries. National Wildlife magazine (June/July 2020) published an interesting article about crows and research by John Marzluff at the University of Washington. For the past ten years, researchers at the university have been putting on caveman masks and catching and tagging crows. The crows have learned that the caveman face means trouble, and they mob and dive-bomb the researchers. When baby crows learn to fly, they immediately do the same, even though they do not have personal experience with being caught and tagged.

Crows are incredible creatures. Crows will fashion twigs into hooks to reach food in a hollow tree or limb. Other crows will drop nuts on a hard pavement to crack them open. Crows have learned to pay attention to what a farmer has in his hands. They will fly away from a farmer with a gun, but not when the same farmer holds a rake. Crows will help raise younger siblings, and that cooperation causes them to flock together and seemingly communicate with each other.

The point is that intelligence is not a measure of human-ness. The things that make humans different than crows is not our brain. Mentally challenged humans do the things that make us human. Many animals with high intelligence do not engage in those things. What makes us human is being created in the image of God. Having that image makes humans unique and special, and gives us value and purpose in our existence. Human life is sacred, and that hasn’t changed despite our abuse of one another.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

We see a similarity between the writings of Hitler and Richard Dawkins. In 1941 Adolph Hitler, in his book Table Talk wrote:

“Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.”

Richard Dawkins has written:

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

Both Hitler and Dawkins have attacked Christianity based on morality. If there is no such thing as good or evil, as Dawkins has written elsewhere, and if natural selection is the law we all live by, then survival depends on who is fit and who is not. In that case, there is no way to justify Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount or the content of Matthew 25. It means that we are all doomed to violence, suffering, and war. Dawkins would suggest that we should be indifferent to the atrocities of humans destroying other humans. It isn’t easy to see how Hitler and Richard Dawkins would disagree philosophically.

Atheism is both a philosophy and a religion. It is hard to believe that after a person looks at the history of atheism, they would deny God’s existence. The atheist, however, would point to religious wars as a demonstration that religion doesn’t do any better than Hitler’s beliefs. That is why this ministry does not defend any religion that can be defined as “human attempts to reach God.” This ministry only claims that there is evidence for God’s existence and that applying the teachings of Jesus Christ would bring peace and well-being to all of humanity.

Adolph Hitler and Richard Dawkins share the same perspective. Hitler claimed that Christianity cultivated human failure. Atheism claims life is purposeless, and by Dawkins’ admission, life cultivates violence and war. That is the fulfillment of what Hitler called “the law of selection.” The contrast between Christianity and atheism is crystal clear when we read the writings of Hitler and examine the history of his application of atheistic beliefs.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The quotations above are in Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019, pages 24-25, ISBN 975-1-939358-22-6.

God Will Provide a Way Out

God Will Provide a Way Out

We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13.

Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”

This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.

First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.

Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.

There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Many years ago, we had an article in our printed periodical titled, “When Does Ph.D. mean Post Hole Digger.” The point of the article was that being well informed in one field does not make you an expert in all fields. Famous Ph.D. scientists can make serious mistakes when speaking or writing outside of their areas of expertise.

Science writers Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov wrote articles and books against Christianity and the Bible. Their training and knowledge in science were excellent, but their theology was very limited and, therefore, full of errors. In today’s world, we see well-known atheists like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writing books and making speeches about God. His understanding of what God is and what the Bible actually says is full of errors. If he were not famous for his scientific knowledge in biology, his theological discussions would not get any coverage in the media.

In the May/June 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the cover article is titled “The Nobel Disease – When Intelligence Fails to Protect Against Irrationality.” The article points out that even a Nobel Prize winner is not an expert in all fields. As a result, they have presented some very destructive teachings and beliefs. The discoverer of the transistor was William Shockley, who received a Nobel Prize in 1956. Shockley maintained that blacks were genetically inferior to whites and should be paid to volunteer to be sterilized. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, received a Nobel prize in 1962. Watson maintained that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites and that exposure to sunlight increases sexual urges.

Many Nobel Prize winners promoted ideas and procedures that were not only incorrect but were sometimes dangerous. Our point here is that it is not valid to use an expert in one area to prove something in an area outside of their field. We are not merely talking about personal belief systems but scientific concepts and principles that control what people do and influence national political policy. A Ph.D. In science in an area of science does not make one an expert in all fields.

Many Nobel Prize winners are believers in God. We have a column in our quarterly journal titled “Scientists and God” which quotes many of those famous believing scientists. The purpose of that column is to show that being a scientist does not preclude personal faith in God. The aim is not to scientifically prove anything or to promote any action or political policy. We simply want young people to know that a good scientist doesn’t have to be an atheist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Army Chaplains from Overseas

Army Chaplains from Overseas

A recent article in Christianity Today (April 2020, page 19-20) said that roughly 1/5th of today’s Army Chaplains were born outside of the United States. One example is Army chaplain Sebastian Kim who was born to Korean parents in Argentina and then moved to Brazil at the age of 7. This makes us ask why such a high percentage of Army chaplains were not born in the United States?

Raja Kandanada, who was born in India, now works at the Pentagon as a family-life chaplain. He says that although he was born in India, he was born again in the United States. Although he experienced discrimination in India because of the caste system there, he has come to understand the meaning of God’s love in America and the debt he owes to his adopted country.

As America veers away from belief in God, those who have lived elsewhere see the effect of faith in this country, and they want to be a part of it. Today’s military is not made up of people who were drafted. Today’s soldiers are people who see the value of being Americans and want to serve others and serve God. Cornelius Muasa, an Army chaplain from Kenya, says, “My job as a chaplain is to empower those who fight evil.”

These Army chaplains stand out and fit the description in Philippians 2:14-16, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of life…”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize on the Nature of the Cosmos

The evidence is massive that there was a beginning to the cosmos. The cosmological argument for God’s existence is that there had to be a cause of that beginning and that the nature of the cause was an intelligence. The phrase “big bang” was invented to describe the beginning, but the big bang theory never tried to answer the question of what banged and who banged it. The April 2020 issue of Scientific American (pages 4-7) carried an article about the work of Alan Guth, who received the Kavli Prize in astrophysics in 2014. The main objective of the Kavli Prize is to honor, support, and recognize scientists for outstanding scientific work in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

Alan Guth’s work has been to develop the theory of cosmic inflation to show that the universe is eternal and had no beginning. The chief problem with any suggestion that the universe is eternal is something called entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder. Whenever energy is expended in any way, disorder is introduced to the system. Unless organizing energy is applied externally on the system, the disorder will grow until there is no available energy left. We call that “heat death.”

A simple example might demonstrate this. If you took a bottle of hydrogen into a room that was completely isolated from the outside and opened the container, the hydrogen would escape and spread throughout the room. If you now wanted to get the hydrogen back into the bottle, could you get every atom back? The answer is “no,” because some of the hydrogen would have morphed into something else. Protons have a half-life, and other changes could take place. The measure of what couldn’t be put back in the bottle is called entropy.

Guth gets around the need for a beginning by saying that there is no difference between the present and the past. Using black holes, dark matter, and probabilities, he proposes a model that avoids a beginning. Alan Guth received the Kavli Prize because of his imaginative, creative thinking. The fundamental problem with Guth’s proposal is that it is not testable. No experiment can be done, and no evidence can be examined to test his theory. It is not falsifiable, and thus it really does not qualify as science. Guth is a brilliant scientist speculating on what he calls “a backward world where the past is the future and where infinite parallel pocket universes pop into existence without cause.”

While Guth’s work is interesting, it is of no apologetic significance. If God has created many pocket universes, they are so isolated from us that they do not impact our lives. Guth relies on probabilities to make many steps in his theory. When we apply probabilities to what we see in the world around us, the strong suggestion is that an intelligence has been at work to produce the cosmos.

In addition to the design we see in creation, our spiritual makeup and our creativity are not connected directly to how we got to this point in time and space. Quantum theory is based on probability, and the article ends by saying, “We had better know what they (the probabilities) mean.” We would suggest they mean, “In the beginning (of our cosmos) God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Pandemic Fear and Faith

Pandemic Fear and Faith

We are all going through changes as the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, and many people seem to have pandemic fear.

In my lifetime, I have seen several disease epidemics. I find it interesting how differently people are responding to this than they did when I was a child, and polio was running wild. Polio was a much more serious issue than COVID-19 ever thought of being. If you got polio in 1952, you were either going to die, be paralyzed, or be in an iron lung for the rest of your life. For those who are younger, an iron lung was a huge tin can that breathed for you, because polio could stop you from breathing on your own. If you were put in an iron lung to preserve your life, the chances are that you would be in that large tin can until you did die. It was awful, but we did not have the pandemic fear.

Even though polio was much worse than the current virus, my classmates were not absorbed with fear and extreme measures to avoid getting polio. We were told that flies carried polio. I remember my mother stringing flypaper all over the place, and going bonkers if she saw a fly in our garage. I was not allowed to go to outdoor events for fear of polio. Still, there was no panic from the media and no cancellations of anything. That is a huge contrast with what has happened in 2020 as we face this virus. That is even though most people who get the virus do not die or have any long-lasting effects. What is the difference?

In my childhood years, being an atheist was unique. I was the only openly atheistic person in my high school class. Our family went to Brown County State Park every Sunday to swim in the park swimming pool. We had the pool to ourselves because everyone else was in church. I had friends who did contract polio. Outside of a sign which said “quarantine” being placed on their front door, not much else happened.

The panic that has gripped our culture today is amazing. According to the CDC ordinary, run of the mill flu killed 61,000 Americans last year and over 12,000 this year so far. But the pandemic fear of COVID-19 far exceeds the fear that has been with us before.

I would suggest to you that as our culture has drifted away from God, the fear of the unknown has grown exponentially. At least part of the pandemic fear is our lack of faith as a society about life and death and who or what is in control.

One fundamental message of Jesus Christ is that Christians should not be driven by panic and fear of the unknown. In Mark 4:36-41, we read the wonderful story of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm in a small boat. Jesus is asleep, and they wake him up. Christ quiets the storm and says to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (verse 40).

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible calls believers not to be driven by fear. Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid. Psalms 23:4 talks about walking through the darkest valley. Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…the Lord your God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5-8 tells us that the Lord is our helper, so we should not be afraid. Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you believe that this life is all you will ever have, then you will fear anything that threatens this life. If you believe that there is something better coming, then nothing that happens in this life is of great consequence. However, I have an instinct to survive and knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), I will do what I can to avoid premature death. I am washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and following the other guidelines. Still, I can relate to Paul’s discourse in Philippians 1:21-24, where he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am in a struggle between having a desire to leave and be with Christ, but I know I should abide in the flesh, which is more needful for you…”

We want the life God gave us to be fruitful and meaningful. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Let our love of God cause us to relax and avoid pandemic fear. This can be our living message to a lost, dying, and fearful world.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Suicide Prevention Hotline 988

Suicide Prevention Hotline 988

The Federal Communications Commission is working to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline. It will use the number 988, comparable to 911 for other emergencies. The reason for this new emergency number is a surge in deaths by suicide over the past ten years. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt to kill themselves annually.

You might think that the reason for an increase in suicide is poverty or hunger, but that is not the case. According to the experts at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the common denominator is a lack of hope. As a former atheist, I can verify that kind of thinking. As an atheist, when I no longer was the “fittest,” my moral foundation built on “survival of the fittest” collapsed. That’s when I reached the point of attempting to end my life. There is no hope when everything around you is collapsing, and you are no longer in control.

The word “hope” occurs 135 times in the Bible. Life has meaning when we have faith in Christ and believe that this life leads to something better–even when we are not the fittest. Christ’s teaching and the New Testament repeatedly refer to joy. That joy leads to loving life and looking forward to the future no matter how bleak our circumstances are now.

The 988 number of the suicide prevention hotline is good because just having someone to talk to may help a person contemplating suicide. But it may be 2021 before the number is in service. The greatest message of hope comes from the Bible, and it’s available now. The real source of hope comes from finding new life in Christ, as Romans 6 describes in glowing terms.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Washington Post, December 13, 2019.

Pyramids and Bricks in Egypt

Pyramids and Bricks in Egypt

The “Does God Exist?” ministry is concerned about education. We try to draw on factual evidence and the best scholarship available to inform people who are willing to learn, but we do not claim to know all the answers. Much of the disagreement between atheists and believers is rooted in misunderstandings by both. One misconception involves pyramids and bricks.

We recently heard an atheist rant about the fact that there is no evidence that the Israelites built the pyramids. He claimed that proved the Bible stories about Joseph, Moses, and the exodus were all just silly myths. There are several mistakes in that statement. First of all, it is true that the Israelites did not build the pyramids. The pyramids were built hundreds of years before the time of Abraham. They were made of native stone and were built by native Egyptians who specialized in stone construction. There are even inscriptions on some of the pyramid stones identifying the primary engineer of the structure. Stone was used because it was permanent and not affected by weather or environmental change.

The other building material used in Egypt was mudbricks made from Nile alluvium which contained clay and sand. The amount of clay determined the properties of the bricks. If the amount of clay was low, the bricks tended to fall apart. By adding straw, the clay content could be low, and the bricks would not fall apart as they dried. Making bricks was a job done by slaves. Slaves were not allowed on the pyramids because of the significance of the structure, but they made bricks for use in building storage depots and other logistical structures.

Exodus 1:11 tells us that the Israelites built “storage cities” for the Pharaoh. In Exodus 5:7-13, we read of the Israelites being told that straw for the bricks would not be made available to them. There are reliefs found in many places in Egypt that show slaves gathering straw, making bricks, and building temples and houses with them. The evidence indicates what the Bible says about brick-making is correct. We should not confuse stone pyramids and bricks.

Biblical Archaeology Review has published several articles on brick construction and Israelite slavery. See “With and Without Straw: How Israelite Slaves Made Bricks” in March/April 2014. Also, “Brick by Brick” in the Spring issue 2020 pages 54-57.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Christian Women in Science

Christian Women in Science

We are pleased to see a report about Christian women in science. A typical attack against Christianity is the claim that it views women as second-class citizens. Critics use Scripture references such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which urges women to learn in silence and not to usurp the authority over men. Another passage they use is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which tells women to keep silent in the assembly and to ask their husbands at home if they want to learn anything. Atheists and skeptics have not only quoted these passages, but they have sometimes been used by males in the Church as control devices over women.

It is essential to consider to whom those instructions were written, why they were written, and what the circumstances were when they were written. The critics ignore the fact that Galatians 3:28 tells us that there was no such thing as male or female in the Church because we are all one in Jesus Christ. All of this misunderstanding has been catalyzed by what has taken place in the world as a whole. Women have been mistreated in every aspect of life, both in their secular roles and in the Church.

The March 2020 issue of Christianity Today carried an excellent article on the roles of women in science. For the report, the magazine interviewed twelve Christian women who are respected scientists and highlighted their accomplishments. These women are part of the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization made up of scientists of both genders that integrates science and faith.

We recommend this information about Christian women in science, especially to young women and their parents. It is encouraging to see so many women of faith having success in the secular world of science.

— John N. Clayton © 2020