Christ and Creation

Christ and CreationOne of the more difficult ideas for humans to grasp is the concept of what God is. Closely related to that is the problem of how Christ could be divine and yet live as a man in the flesh here on Earth. We need to examine how the Bible presents Christ and creation.

First, we must understand that God is a non-physical being existing in a higher dimension. The fact that Jesus was divine is a critical issue to the Christian system. Since Jesus was divine, His existence (like God’s) must not be physical even if He manifested Himself for a short time as a man. A popular idea in secular and even religious circles today is that Jesus was just a very good man and moral teacher. That modernist idea compromises the concept of Jesus dying to save a lost world of sinners.

The Bible presents Christ and creation by making it abundantly clear that Jesus existed before the creation. It portrays Him as independent of the limitations of time. Beginning in John 1:1, we read:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. …. (verse 14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”

To understand this passage, we must understand the real meaning of the word translated “Word” in these verses. The word used in the original Greek is “logos.” To Greek philosophers, this word meant the first cause of all things. The fact that the first cause became flesh clearly indicates that Jesus is the subject of the verses.

In John 8:58, Jesus further illustrates this point by saying, “…Before Abraham was, I am.” John 16:28 indicates Jesus came into the world by coming forth from the Father, thus indicating His existence prior to that coming forth. John 17:5 makes it even more evident when Jesus says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Colossians 1:15-17 deals with Christ and creation by identifying Jesus’ role in the creation with these words:

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the sovereign of all creation. For in him all things were created, both in the heavens and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

If we understand the nature of God, all of this makes a great deal of sense. God, being the Creator of our three-dimensional world, can interact with the world in any way He wishes. We can manipulate and totally comprehend the markings on a two-dimensional sheet of paper because we exist in a higher dimension. So it is with God and us as Acts 17:28 indicates “we live and move and have our being” in God. This is our relationship to the Creator and clarifies how God can do the things He has done in human history.

Jesus was in the form of God (Philippians 2:6) but came to Earth and became flesh to provide a bridge between God and us. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” We do not have a God who is removed and remote from our problems. We will not be able to say on the day of judgment, “Lord, you don’t know how it is on Earth.” God bridged the gap and eliminated that excuse. Jesus felt every temptation we feel! We can see the wisdom of God in this, and it should excite us and encourage us as we strive to follow the example Jesus gave.

The more we understand of Christ and creation, the more we comprehend the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. As we understand the beauty and wonder of creation, we are awe-struck by the excellent planning and wisdom. Let us praise our great God who loves us and has bridged the gap as only He could do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Intellectually Honest Skepticism

Intellectually Honest SkepticismAs I speak on college and university campuses, a large number of people (both atheists and religious) find a statement I like to open with to be astounding. The statement is, “You can intelligently and logically and rationally believe in God.” There is an immediate air of doubt in the minds of many who cannot or do not want to believe it. I don’t know how many of them change their minds in the course or our lectures. Skepticism abounds today, but what we need is intellectually honest skepticism willing to seek the truth.

Certainly one major factor has been that various churches, groups, and individuals have dogmatically forced a creed of creationism upon all members. Those creeds frequently fly in the face of both science and common sense. The more capable and clearest thinking young people who refuse to be force-fed this dogma, simply leave the church. Many of the leading atheist speakers in the United States today came from a church background.

The growth of aggressive atheism is another factor leading many to think that intelligent, logical belief in God is impossible. Attractive websites and high budget, colorful printed materials promote naturalism, if not downright atheism. Saturated with scientific materialism and locked into a mindset that anything religious is automatically wrong, they claim to be the only voice of reason, logic, and competent science.

Instead of skepticism referring to a healthy, scientifically rigorous approach to issues and solving problems, the word has become synonymous with an anti-religion mindset. It is evident that, in a great many cases, the atheist community has completely taken over the concept of skepticism.

I want to suggest that intellectually honest skepticism is Christian in nature, and it is the approach Jesus used in His ministry and teachings. In fact, the Bible condemned religionism more strongly than atheism. The Bible makes only fleeting references to atheism. (See Romans 1:19-23.) The strong condemnation statements of Christ, and the Bible writers in general, come down on the religious leaders who force their traditions on the population. The teachings of Christ focused on attitudes and how we treat each other. The religious establishment constantly criticized Christ because He did not adhere to their traditions. His teaching was logical, practical, and pragmatic not built on the traditions of the past. He asked questions and awaited logical responses.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th Edition) defines a skeptic as “one who carries a critical or incredulous attitude into his inquiries.” Skepticism is defined as “the doctrine that all knowledge is uncertain.” This does not mean that skeptical minds reject anything that is not physical. Limiting our belief system to only what we can see, smell, touch, feel, and hear precludes all kinds of things. A vast percentage of nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, relativistic physics, and even some mathematics depends upon knowledge that does not involve the senses.

Intellectually honest skepticism demands inquiry and also recognizes that knowledge is uncertain because humans are uncertain. This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth. It just means that skeptics should be aware of their own limitations and of the human capacity to misjudge. Intellectually honest skeptics know the danger of preconceived ideas and their approach should be humble, open, and careful. Being skeptical does not mean that a person has no beliefs, morals, or convictions. I can have strong convictions and beliefs and can communicate those to others and still have the ability to change my beliefs and understandings.

Unfortunately, skepticism in today’s American culture is at least as dogmatic as ultraconservative, fundamentalistic religion. Any skeptics who would question Darwin, would likely be castigated by their peers. There is a need for intellectually honest skepticism in the world. I am a skeptic in approach, but there are some basic things that my skeptical approach has led me to believe strongly. If we reason together in an open, skeptical way, we can learn. Blind, closed skepticism and blind, closed dogmatism are impossible to tell apart to those who are seeking the truth.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Take the High Road

Take the High RoadSeveral years ago, I was giving a lecture on the existence of God in a university science auditorium in downtown Chicago. I had shown the strong evidence that the cosmos was not the product of chance. At the beginning of the question/answer session, an atheist jumped to his feet, ran to a window on the edge of the auditorium, drew open the curtain, and pointed to the ghetto that surrounded the university. “If there was a God,” the atheist shouted, “He would never let a mess like this exist!” He then went into details about the pain, disease, loneliness, and poverty that was so dominant in inner-city neighborhoods. A huge sign left over from an inner-city high school career day hung in the auditorium where we were meeting. The sign said, “Take the High Road out of the Neighborhood-Get an Education.”

I asked the atheist about the meaning of the sign. He responded that it meant that the university offered programs that would help young people develop their talents so they could get a job and work their way out of poverty. “Does it take any effort or involvement on the part of the young people themselves?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. I replied, “God has never done for us what we could do for ourselves. If you want to take the high road out poverty, drugs, abuse, prostitution, or any other destructive behavior, you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

The road to destruction is a road of inactivity. It’s a road where we expect God or other people to solve our problems with no activity on our part. If we follow the low road, it won’t solve the problems. It will lead to a lack of appreciation, lack of satisfaction, lack of identity, lack of commitment, and poor self-esteem. There are many applications of this to welfare, foreign aid, and other problems of our government.

When people look at the problems of society today and ask why God doesn’t solve them, two fundamental principles apply. The first is that God is not the source of our problems. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there is a spiritual battle going on between good and evil. Galatians 6:7-8 also tells us that a large percentage of what happens to us is our own doing. The purpose of our existence requires us to have the choice between good and evil, but with that choice comes negative consequences when we choose evil.

The second principle is that God expects us to be involved in overcoming the destructive forces in our lives. I firmly believe that my journey out of atheism and my ability to cope with a severely damaged child did not happen because of my own strength. But God did not step in and force a solution on me in either of those situations. I had to make an effort and do what I could. Once I had done all I could and gone as far as I could go, God did the rest. You will not see a single case in the Bible where God forced a person to take the high road.

A large percentage of the good things that are happening in the ghettos and substance abuse clinics is because the people doing them have tapped into God and believe that He will make things happen when they do all that they can. Deciding to take the high road to the solutions to human problems involves work and allowing God to supply what you cannot do yourself. If you have not sincerely tried it, please do not knock it, because it works.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Biblical Giants and Fake Giants

Biblical Giants and Fake GiantsOne of the enduring religious myths of all cultures is the myth of giant humans. Jack and the Beanstalk is just one of the great folk tales that frequently have religious roots. There is great confusion concerning biblical giants and fake giants.

The truth is that nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to humans two or three times the size of modern humans. Furthermore, there is absolutely no factual find of a giant human skull or body. There have been fakes, scams, hoaxes, and money-making frauds but no factual support for giant humans.

Concerning biblical giants, here are the Hebrew words that the King James Version translated as “giant”:

“Gibbor” Job 16:14

“Rapha” Deuteronomy 2:11, 20; 3:11,13; Joshua 12:4; 13:12; 15:8; 17:15; 18:16; 2 Samuel 21:16, 18, 20, 22 ; 1 Chronicles 20:4, 6, 8.

“Nephilim” Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33.

A careful study of these three words shows that none of them refer to the stature of the individual. Any Hebrew dictionary will explain what the words meant when they were written. I use The New Bible Dictionary published by Eerdmans. Here are the meanings:

“Gibbor” Refers to a mighty man or hero. It is translated that way in most cases, such as in Genesis 6:4, Joshua 1:14, and 1 Samuel 9:1. However, as you can see above, the KJV also translated it as “giant,” which is misleading.

“Rapha” Usually refers to descent from Rephaim of Deuteronomy 2:20 etc. Historical and archaeological records show humans that were roughly the size of humans today. The average height of humans at that time was close to five feet. In Jesus’ time, a man five feet three inches tall is referred to in some literature as a man of great stature. Goliath, by the way, is never described as a “giant” in the Bible. First Samuel 17:4 give Goliath’s height, but there is some confusion as to whether it 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) or 9 feet 9 inches (2.97 m).

“Nephilim” Literally means “fallen ones” and the context of Genesis 6:4 is clearly referring to people who had rejected God and were pagans who violated God’s laws and guidance. Israel’s constant drift into paganism and idolatry is what the passage deals with, not aliens or spirit creatures.

As to fake giants, there have been many. One of the most famous was the Cardiff Giant in 1869. George Hull was a scammer who repeatedly went after religious people. He took an eleven-foot block of gypsum from a quarry and sculptured it into a giant that looked like a petrified human. He buried the “giant” on a farm and over a year later hire some people to dig a well at that spot. The diggers uncovered the “giant,” it got widespread media attention, and eventually, it sold for what would have been $600,000 today.

There are biological reasons why an 11-foot human couldn’t survive. A man named Robert Wadlow grew to eight feet eleven inches, but only lived to age 22 and was in very bad health. The Bible does not talk about giants of 12 feet or so, and there is no evidence that giants have ever lived. We need to study the text to see what the Scriptures say about biblical giants, and fake giants should arouse our skepticism.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Skeptic magazine. Volume 24 #2 2019, pages 64-73.

Human Genetic History

Human Genetic History and Denisova CaveAs more and more people have their genetic history analyzed to find out where their ancestors came from, interest has increased in the origins of human genetic history. There has been a lot of speculation on this question, and some skeptics have tried to claim that the Genesis account is incompatible with the human genome, and particularly with the very early specimens of ancient humans including Denisovans and Neanderthals.

Science News (June 8, 2019) published an interesting article by Bruce Bower about recent finds of these hominids and how they may fit into human genetic history. The first point we want to make is that the Bible has an economy of language on this subject. We do not know anything about the appearance of Adam and Eve or their offspring from the biblical account. We don’t know when they lived, or where they went as they left the Fertile Crescent where they were created. People whose denominations have established a doctrinal view on these questions do so with no biblical support.

Recent finds of the Denisovans in the Tibetan Plateau show that great migrations had taken place because the name “Denisovan” comes from the original discoveries made in Siberia’s Denisova Cave (shown in picture). Anthropologists have also found remains of the Denisovans in China. Modern humans in Asia, Melanesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea have some Denisovan DNA. In fact, these populations show protein sequences which are more closely related to the Denisovans than the Neanderthals.

There is an old battle that has been going on among scientists for at least the last 100 years. It’s the battle between the “splitters” and the “lumpers” and how they handle human genetic history. The splitters are those who tend to put a new species identification on every new find. In this case, they have identified each of these groups as being independent of each other, so Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans are each classified as a different species. The lumpers tend to say these are all variations in the original DNA, and they must all be one species since they can and did interbreed.

The biblical account takes a “lumpers” view on this question. There is more support for that view as we see evidence of ancient people doing all the things we do and finding segments of their genetic makeup in our own genome. If modern anthropologists found the skeletons of Adam and Eve, it’s hard to imagine how they would fit them into human genetic history. They certainly lived before all of the racial variations.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Mormon Doctrines Change with the Times

Mormon Doctrines Change with the TimesOne of the unique qualities of the teachings of Jesus and the Bible is the fact that they are timeless. By contrast, Mormon doctrines change with the times.

When you read the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), they are as accurate and relevant today as when Jesus spoke them. There has been no need to bend the teachings of Christ to fit the current issues such as women’s rights and racial prejudice. Jesus treated women, other races, and all people with respect. His dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4 shows how Jesus dealt with both women and racial prejudice. As Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormons) re-write the Genesis account to fit their theology. They have an endowment ceremony called exaltation in the secret temple drama that is open only to the faithful. It depicts the story of Adam and Eve and “their journey from the Garden of Eden to entering into God’s presence.” The instructions, passwords, and handshakes in the ritual are considered necessary for eternal life.

The instructions come from the Book of Moses, which is part of the Mormon scriptures known as the Pearl of Great Price. Women have not been allowed to speak in the endowment ceremony. On January 3, 2019, the Salt Lake City Tribune announced that women will now be allowed to speak. In some parts of the ceremony, women were required to cover their faces with a veil, and that also was eliminated.

The roles of women and Afro-Americans have changed radically in the past 50 years in Mormon teaching. Cults and human religious groups like the Mormon doctrines change with the times, but the biblical teaching remains unchanged. We need to rely on the timeless Word of God, not the writings of religious leaders like Joseph Smith.

For more information, go to www.utlm.org where Sandra Tanner, a former Mormon, has a detailed discussion of Mormon doctrines. It is also available in the May 2019 issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger, 1358 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Real Fathers and Father’s Day

Real Fathers and Father's DayMore than 110 countries around the world set aside various dates to honor fathers. Today is Father’s Day in the United States. While I make a lot of jokes about how Father’s Day compares to Mother’s Day, I am keenly aware of the significance of being a Father. The Bible puts great emphasis on fatherhood. I’m not talking about the conception of a child, but rather the role of real fathers.

As a teacher, I found the existence of real fathers to be a rarity. At PTA meetings, the parents would follow their child’s schedule, and we teachers had 15 minutes to explain what we taught and how we conducted the class. Most of the time, the group I talked to, especially in my basic classes, was 100% women. In my AP Physics class, there would be a large number of men — real fathers. I am convinced that the fathers were one of the main reasons why the students were in my Advanced Placement class. In this day of single-parent families and blurred images of what a father should be, it is important to ask if the Bible message on fathers is legitimate.

My spiritual father was a man named Ward Sullivan. He was an elder in the congregation that I attended in South Bend, Indiana. Ward was always interested in what I was doing, and I could talk to him about anything. When I began the Does God Exist ministry, Ward was the only member of the congregation who encouraged and supported me. My ministry was alien to the experience of most people who had grown up in the Church. They thought it was crazy to talk about how we know there is a God and that the Bible is His Word because everyone should already know that. Ward kept saying to me, “Your heavenly Father knows what He wants you to do with your life, so do it and don’t worry about what mere humans think about it.”

My 41 years in the classroom convinced me that kids with real fathers who took an interest in their child’s life were at a huge advantage over kids without a father in their lives. God created us, and His instructions on what we need to grow up successfully have been born out over the centuries. Hat’s off to those of you who grew up successfully with no father image in your life. You are special and few in number.

On this Father’s Day isn’t it a wonderful thing that we all have a heavenly Father who cares about us, supplies our needs, and provides us with guidance in life? As I read about how God cares for us from the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24-34, it reminds me that God sets an example for real fathers by providing for us and caring about all we do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Bible in the Information Age

Bible in the Information AgeAn article questioning the relevance of the Bible in the information age appeared in the Rochester (Indiana) Sentinel on May 8, 2019. The article was titled “The Bible Versus Information Age,” and in it, Dave Gudeman wrote:

“As long as you have a church that doesn’t question the Bible…you will have a stagnant congregation with little spiritual life…When a pastor is willing to ask what his or her congregation believes about the Bible, about God, about their faith and their beliefs about who Jesus is and then be willing to build their congregations around those beliefs, you would have the fastest growing church in town.”

I don’t question the reality of that statement, but what you would have is a social club, and not the Church Jesus died to establish. Earlier in his column, Mr. Gudeman wrote that many young people questioning the validity of the Bible “…leads me to wonder if the Bible can stand up to the scrutiny and logic of today’s information age of the internet.”

If you are a thinking and questioning adult, you know that the Bible can do more than stand up to the “scrutiny and logic.” The Bible in the information age is the same as it always has been — a tool to help young and old learn what works, what is true, and what is not.

The number of scams and immoral promotions on the internet is massive. A large percentage of the pornography being absorbed by young people today is coming from the internet. We have cited case after case on this website of misinformed or deliberately misrepresented information on the web. Our own array of sites beginning with doesgodexist.org and including “evidence4god” on Facebook has made use of the information age to show the strong evidence for God and to give answers to faith questions people ask.

The difference is whether you want a big church or an informed group of believers who work together to teach and provide accurate information while practicing what Jesus taught. That includes feeding the hungry, clothing those who need clothes, ministering to people in prison, bringing medical care to children. It also includes exposing misinformation such as the idea that somehow, humanity has outgrown the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible in the information age.
—John N. Clayton © 2019

Antimatter Research

Antimatter ResearchRecent discoveries have caused those of us with backgrounds in physics to overhaul our thinking radically. This is especially true in quantum mechanics and how matter and energy interact in the creation. One of the most interesting areas has to do with antimatter research.

When energy is turned into matter, the products are matter and antimatter. When antimatter and ordinary matter are combined, they destroy each other, producing energy. The process can be described by the famous formula E = mc². But it is far more complex than the simple change from one form to another.

One of the basic experiments we do in high school physics is called the double slit experiment. When light shines on a screen with two slits in it, bands called interference patterns are produced on a screen on the side opposite the light. That shows that light has wave properties even though it has properties of particles.  This effect not only happens with visible light, but also with radio waves, Xrays, ultraviolet, and infrared.

In 1924 an experiment by French physicist Louis de Broglie showed that electrons also produce an interference pattern. That means that electrons have wave properties like light. On May 3, 2019, Dr. Marco Giammarchi of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Milan announced that a team of scientists has discovered that positrons, which are antimatter particles, also produce interference patterns. What this means is that antimatter has both particle and wave properties. There is a whole left-handed world out there to match the right-handed world in which we live, and antimatter research will tell us more about it.

All kinds of new understandings are coming from this antimatter research. It may be the answer to clean energy sources – the ultimate fuel that leaves nothing behind except energy. It also is the discovery of another tool of God described in the simple explanation, “In the beginning, God created the heaven (space) and the earth (matter) – Genesis 1:1. Read Proverbs 8:22-23 for more.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ark Encounter Rain Damage

Ark Encounter Rain Damage One of the claims of atheists is that ministries are only religious if it benefits their pocket book. That is the primary reason why everything offered by the Does God Exist? ministry is free. The recent lawsuit over the Ark Encounter rain damage has given atheists ammunition for their arguments.

The Ark Encounter is a replica of Noah’s ark which is owned by the same organization which owns the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Both the museum and theme park promote dispensationalism and a denominational view of Genesis instead of a literal view. They are suing their insurance companies over rain damage that caused failure of an access road to the ark. The owners of those two attractions are asking for $1 million from the insurance company for “tortious injury.” The jokes circulating around the media on this end up raising questions about the accuracy of the Bible and the providence of God. Talk show hosts are getting involved, attempting to discredit God and the Bible.

It seems ironic to us that Ark Encounter rain damage would lead to a lawsuit. The justification for the project is supposed to be educating people about the message of the Bible. The message is getting lost in inaccuracies and now in money matters. This story of the Ark Encounter rain damage has been reported by all the major news media and mocked by many others. Here is a LINK to the Washington Post article.

The Church needs to be known for bringing hope to people outside of Christ, and meeting the physical needs of men and women. It is difficult to see how Matthew 25:31-46 fits with suing an insurance company for damage to a profit-making organization by natural causes.
–John N. Clayton © 2019