What Can We Trust?

What Can We Trust?
The October 2018 issue of Scientific American (page 39) contains an article by Brooke Borel titled “Clicks, Lies and Video Tape.” The article begins by stating, “Artificial Intelligence is making it possible for anyone to manipulate audio and video. The biggest threat is that we stop trusting anything at all.” Then what can we trust?

The article tells us that in April 2018 a new video of Barack Obama appeared on the internet in which he spoke looking exactly as he did when he was president of the United States. The image we could all see was Obama facing the camera, and with outstretched hands, he said, “President Trump is a total and complete XXXXX.”

In reality, it wasn’t Obama at all, but an actor named Jordan Peele who used BuzzFeed News to produce a fake video. The technology is now available to make realistic-looking fake videos. They can contain what appears to be known political characters spreading disinformation. In fact, this is already being done.

The first example of fakery was the serpent in Genesis 3, and Satan has continued to use this tool throughout time. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 Paul writes, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The truth is that we cannot trust anything in the physical world. The evening news is full of falsehoods and agents of Satan.

As Christians, we would encourage others to understand that while humans can be bribed, bullied, and deceived. What can we trust? The word of Jesus Christ is true and testable. It can be trusted 100%. What a joy it is to know that we have a rock that is God’s word. If we trust God, all of the deceit and lying of men and of Satan himself cannot mislead us.

“All scripture is given by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness that the man or woman of God may be complete, totally furnished to guide us into all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Genesis 1:1 and the Creation Week

Genesis 1:1 and Zion Canyon
Because it was not God’s purpose to give details of the creation of the universe, Genesis 1:1 covers it in one sentence. “Reshith Elohim bara shamayan erets.” Those are the Hebrew words translated: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a historical statement which says there was a beginning to everything in space and on Earth. Those few words tell us that God was the cause of the creation. The creation included a planet with everything that we would need to exist and flourish–carbon, oxygen, water, coal, oil, nitrates, etc. “Erets” refers to a functional planet–not to a blob of gook.

As we drove through the canyonlands last month (see earlier posts), we saw how God prepared the Earth and the physical, chemical, and biological agents He used. It is interesting to see that dinosaurs, as well as many microscopic forms of life, were the gardeners who allowed all of this to happen. Without dinosaurs, there would have been no agents to process the giant plants of that day and spread their seeds. Without tiny diatoms, there would have been no agents present to form the oil and other fossil fuels that we need. Notice that Genesis 1:1 is untimed and undated! How long did it take? When did it happen? The Bible doesn’t say.

In Genesis 1:2 we see that the earth needed to be formed. The word translated “earth” is the same Hebrew word “erets” found in verse 1. This second usage is clearly different, however, because Genesis 1:9-10 indicates that God separated this earth from the water, meaning that it refers to the earth people live on, not planet Earth.

In the following verses of Genesis, the “days” of the “creation week” give specific explanations of the origin of the plants, water creatures, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks the ancient Israelites knew. Each Hebrew word refers to known and domesticated animals, not unknown animals. Days are used to provide continuity to the sequence in which God created life. How long those days were, whether they were consecutive or had long time-periods between them can be debated endlessly.

The fact is that the first verse describes the creation made by God with the things humans would need to survive on Earth. As we said, that first verse is untimed and undated. All of the studies of geologists and biologist as to how those resources were produced are covered in that one verse of Genesis 1:1. The creation week is a description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals.

On our trip into the canyonlands, we saw the power, wisdom, and planning God used to allow us to exist. Proverbs 8 presents wisdom as the causal agent of creation–not blind mechanistic chance. Theological claims that create conflict between God’s word and the display of His wisdom and design are due to human error, not to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

God’s Engineering Skills

God's Engineering Skills at Sunset Crater
Yesterday we began to tell you about last month’s Canyonlands Educational Tour. It was a week of learning about how God works. In the canyonlands area, we can see God’s engineering skills.

Our trip was a bus tour with 50 people participating. We departed from Flagstaff, Arizona. That area allows us to study the basic rocks from which all other rocks were made, and that is volcanic material. Our analysis of elements in space and the minerals in Earth’s crust show us that all rocks are made of materials found in the interior of the Earth. For example, granite is made up of quartz which breaks down into sand and makes sandstone. Orthoclase is another constituent of granite, and it weathers to produce clay which is a major part of shale. Visiting Sunset Crater (pictured) and seeing the volcanic mountains surrounding Flagstaff allows us to understand the method by which God produced all other rocks.

In the first session of our trip on Sunday evening, before we departed, we pointed out the one basic assumption that underlies our entire trip. That assumption is that God is not a magician who does everything by slight of hand and magic. We see God’s engineering skills as He uses natural processes to produce things in the creation. The Bible tells us that “God planted a garden” (Genesis 2:8) not that He waved a magic wand and a garden appeared. When God created man’s body in Genesis 2:7, he “formed man of the dust of the earth.” The Hebrew word used to describe that process is yatshir which is a word denoting something an artist might do in creating a work of pottery from clay.

God did not “zap” the Grand Canyon into existence with all its many kinds of rocks and embedded fossils. Many religious people want to have God “speaking” these things into existence. The Bible indicates that God commanded the creation elements indicating that other agents were doing the actual work. In our twenty-first century mentality of rejecting scams and con-artists, it is important not to put God into the role of being a trickster. God did His creating process in such a way that we can discover the processes. That is the reason the Bible says we can “know God exists through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). In Proverbs 8, wisdom personified speaks of God’s engineering skills.

We see the evidence of God’s engineering skills in the creation processes, and we read the Scriptures that tell what happened. Our approach to all of the evidence and the Scriptures is that they MUST agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between the scientific evidence and what the Bible says, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. There has been plenty of both.

Tomorrow, we will continue to examine more of the things we saw of God’s engineering skills during our week in the canyonlands.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Canyonlands Educational Tour 2018

Canyonlands Educational Tour
One month ago, on Sunday, September 9, 2018, we began our thirty-sixth Canyonlands Educational Tour. Since 1968 we have been taking what I call field trips into the Grand Canyon and the areas that surround the Grand Canyon. That includes Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National District including Lake Powell, Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and the areas that surround all of those places.

My constant companion and technical expert has been Alan Doty from Sedona, Arizona. He holds advanced degrees in geology and has been a well-known figure in the area and an active Christian. Alan has made over 300 trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and was the first to climb Isis Temple. His knowledge of the area is second to none. Our trips into this area have included four boat trips on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, ten bus trips in which we spend a day at each of the sites of interest, and 16 hikes into points of interest in the canyonlands area. We have prepared field trip guides and have conducted studies and lectures on all of the trips.

Why do we do this? The Does God Exist? ministry is dedicated to providing evidence to convince thinking people that science is a friend of faith in God, and that science and the Bible do not conflict. As educators in the public schools, we have seen a great deal of bad science and bad theology combine to destroy the faith of many young people. There is no area where more bad science and bad theology have been promoted than in the canyonlands area.

Not understanding the evidence and not taking the Bible literally have led to a major source of conflict for many people. By taking the Bible literally, I mean looking at who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how people of the time would have understood it. Having a week of concentrated study in one of the greatest natural science laboratories on Earth is a wonderful way to combat bad science and bad theology. It is also our hope that participants will go back home and use what they have learned in our seminars to build the faith of people in their home congregations. At the same time, we want to prepare them to combat the efforts of local skeptics to discredit the Bible and destroy faith in God.

Over the next few days, we want to give you a glimpse of what we did on this year’s Canyonlands Educational Tour.
–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 that society might deem as “unfit” during His time in the flesh on this planet. 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

Hydrogen Wall and Creation

Hydrogen Wall and New Horizons
One of the interesting hints in the Genesis account is the suggestion that two creations were involved. A new scientific discovery of a hydrogen wall may also suggest that.

Genesis 1:1 uses the Hebrew word erets (earth) in describing the creation of the cosmos. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That would suggest the simple idea that God created everything including all of the galaxies and whatever else exists in interstellar space.

In verses 9 and 10 the same word (erets) is used in a more restricted way: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land earth…” This second creation is what the creation week describes with humans and their domesticated animals as the focus of that week.

As the New Horizons spacecraft was leaving the solar system, it encountered what appears to be a hydrogen wall at the edge of our solar neighborhood. As our Sun moves through the galaxy it produces a stream of charged particles called a solar wind. This “wind” collides with uncharged hydrogen atoms producing a wall of hydrogen. This bubble or wall is about 100 times further from the Sun than the Earth is. The wall indicates that our planet and its solar system are isolated as a unit from the rest of the cosmos.

This new data on a possible hydrogen wall reinforces the biblical picture of God’s action during the creation week as a very special action on a very special planet. God created the cosmos, but then He set Earth apart as a place for those creatures created in His image. That is the primary message of Genesis.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News, September 15, 2018, page 10, or click HERE.

Science Credibility and Media Reporting

Science Credibility
Can you trust scientific reports? The Week for September 14, 2018, featured an article about a two-year study of scientific experiments reported between 2010 and 2015. The purpose was to examine science credibility by seeing if the studies contained bias by the researchers. In other words, were the researchers trying to prove their theories by finding false positives.

The people conducting the study examined 21 high-profile experiments and found further research confirmed only 13 of the 21. The problem here is not science, but the way funding is done and how the media treats research reports. To get funding, you have to get results. The media reports flashy results which people use to back up what they want to believe. A headline describing the results of a research study may appear in the media and get worldwide distribution. When later scientific investigations find the result was incorrect, the media rarely reports that the first study was bogus.

This is actually the way science works. Scientists distribute their findings to other researchers who duplicate the study. If they cannot replicate the results, they report it. The media often picks up the first study but not the later research that disproves the first. An interesting example of this was a report on the beneficial results of drinking alcohol. Several studies suggested beneficial effects from drinking small amounts of alcohol, but follow-up studies showed that as little as one drink a day increases the incidence of health problems.

The same page in The Week that reported on science credibility issues contained the information on alcohol dangers along with follow-up data on the damaging effects of marijuana. Some journals do well in reporting all the new data, and periodicals and websites like this one can point out some of these issues. However, we all need to be careful not to take a sensational headline in a major newspaper as proof of anything until later studies have verified it.

Paul warned Timothy to avoid “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called”(1 Timothy 6:20 ). Any opposition to God will be false science, because the Creator of the knowledge we have will never contradict that knowledge. (Read Proverbs 8:22-36.)
–John N. Clayton © 2018