If God Should Go On Strike

If God Should Go On StrikeToday we want to share a little poem we found. It was originally published in “This England” by an anonymous author.

IF GOD SHOULD GO ON STRIKE

How good it is that God above has never gone on strike.
Because He was not treated fair in things He didn’t like.
If only once He’s given up and said, “That’s it, I’m through
I’ve had enough of those on earth, so this is what I’ll do.
I’ll give my orders to the sun ‘Cut off the heat supply!’
And to the moon – ‘Give no more light, and run the ocean dry.
Then just to make things really tough and put the pressure on,
Turn off the vital oxygen til every breath is gone.
You know He would be justified if fairness was the game,
For no one has been more abused or met with more disdain
Than God, and yet He carries on supplying you and me
With all the favors of His grace and everything for free.
Men say they want a better deal and so on strike they go.
But what a deal we’ve given God to whom all things we owe.
We don’t care whom we hurt to gain the things we like;
But what a mess we’d all be in if God should go on strike.

We think the message is worth considering.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Placing Blame for Gun Violence

Placing Blame for Gun ViolenceThe National Center for Health Statistics reports that 39,773 Americans lost their lives to firearms in 2017. Since 1968, 1,625,000 Americans have died from gunfire. That is more than all American deaths in all wars since the founding of America more than 200 years ago. From 2008 to 2017 there were 342,439 deaths by firearms and 374,340 deaths caused by motor vehicles. It is hard to believe that guns are nearly equal to cars in their careless use. These numbers are facts, not opinions. The opinions come when people are placing blame for gun violence.

Everyone from the NRA to the WTA wants to explain why this is happening, and we would add another voice to the discussion. The trend in firearm deaths is evident. In 1968 the number of deaths due to firearms in the United States was roughly 24,000. In 2017 the number of fatalities was roughly 40,000. In almost 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase that no one can deny. That leads to people placing blame for gun violence.

What else has changed in those 50 years? We have only cited the years for which we have numbers. Before 1968, deaths due to firearms would have been much lower. As a teenager in the 50s, I can remember that when someone died due to a firearm in our half of the state, it made the front page of every newspaper.

Some say that mental illness is the cause of the increase. I would suggest that we have always had the mentally ill with us. Until the mid 20th century, there were virtually no medications that relieved the symptoms of the mentally ill. I can recall classmates in high school who were mentally ill, and none of them resorted to violence with a firearm.

Some say that gun availability is the cause of this, but I bought my first gun when I was 12 years old. I had a hard time deciding between a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 rifle. In southern Indiana, it seemed that every pickup truck had a gun rack behind the driver’s seat. There was usually more than one loaded gun in the rack. The trucks were never locked so any five-year-old could have climbed in, grabbed a loaded gun, and started shooting.

So when placing blame for gun violence, we cannot completely point to those factors. The one thing that has changed in the same time period is our country’s fundamental faith in God. When you read all of our historical documents, even those written by those who may have had doubts about God, you see a basic declaration of the importance of living by God’s principles. Even though my father was an atheist, he grew up with a father who was a minister, and he believed and lived by the basic teachings of the Bible.

In the last 50 years, we have been saturated with the doctrine propagated by the media and the educational establishment that humans are just animals. Along with that, goes the belief in survival of the fittest as the basic rule by which we should live. In the animal world, you generally don’t see the notion that the less fit should be cared for and looked after by those who are fit.

The idea of caring for the less fit has been denigrated among human beings by people like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They vocalize what much of our culture wants to believe. Everything from abortion to euthanasia is radically affected by what we believe about the worth of a human being. If educated leaders in the secular world want to eliminate those they see as unfit, how can we expect a mentally ill person not to embrace the same idea? The problem is how they identify the unfit.

“We then that are are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). That is a principle of Christianity and should be applied to both spiritual and physical weakness. In Matthew 25, when Jesus describes the basis of judgment by God, He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you visited me…”

Perhaps society is placing blame for gun violence on the wrong things. It is only when a person accepts the biblical concept that ALL human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore, ALL human life is sacred, that we can hope to see a change. It is only then that we can have a psychological foundation that allows even the mentally ill to understand that they have value and that people care about them and want to help them. There is no-one “unfit” in the sight of God. Violence will only increase as our children play video games and watch movies that glorify those who are strong destroying the weak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Your God Is Too Small

Your God Is Too SmallMany years ago J. B. Phillips wrote an excellent book titled Your God Is Too Small. The thesis of the book was that there are things we consider impossible because we think we are too small, or too weak, or too poor. The problem with that line of thinking is that we are not figuring God into the equation. That thinking is still alive. Because of our own limitations, we believe that God is incapable of doing great things in America today. Sometimes we have more confidence in Satan as the destroyer than we do in God as the creator.

Judges chapters 6-8 tell the story of Gideon. He was a man who had huge doubts about God. He wanted to believe, and he stepped out on faith a time or two. When Satan opposed him, he backed away, and his father had to save him. Then Gideon tested God. When one test that he devised worked, he refused to accept it, and he gave God a bigger challenge. Don’t you know that the people around Gideon thought the whole thing was nuts? “You’re looking at 135,000 soldiers, and you’re going after them with an army of 300? That’s insane!!” Read the story. Gideon didn’t win; God did.

So here we are surrounded by a sea of hate, violence, war, abuse, and poverty. At the same time in America, God has blessed us with enough to eat, comfortable places to live, and enough money to make a difference in the world. Do you say that you aren’t rich? Americans are rich by the standards of most countries in the world. Instead of pouring money into selfish toys and paying for expensive entertainment to support the lavish lifestyles of Hollywood icons and athletic heroes, we need to use what we have to solve the world’s problems. Those who believe in the “survival of the fittest” mentality will oppose this, but following the teachings of Jesus Christ can make it happen. We can, with God’s help, change the world.

You say, “That’s crazy.” My response is, “Your God Is Too Small.” We need more Gideons, fewer Nebuchadnezzars, and a greater faith that God can do anything.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Richard Dawkins Description of God

Dawkins Description of God
Yesterday we quoted the Richard Dawkins description of God from his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

For the past two days, we have looked at the misunderstandings involved in the statements like the one above that are made by atheists to justify denying God’s existence. We want to make it clear that an argument based on not liking something the Bible says about God ignores the positive evidence that God does exist. In spite of that fact, the Dawkins description of God reflects a level of theological ignorance that is quite astounding. We examined some of the points yesterday, but here are some more examples:

RACIST– It is essential to distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament in terms of the system that they teach. The Old Testament was a political system as well as a religious one. Israel came out of Egypt as a new nation with a leader and a code of conduct that was political as well as religious. When Jesus came, He brought a new system. It was not a political system, and Christ made that clear many times. When Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” people had a hard time comprehending what He was saying. The Crusades were a product of not understanding that Jesus taught a non-physical kingdom. What is more significant is that Jesus lived what he taught. The classic example is the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4. The writer even points out that fact (John 4:9), and we see Jesus staying in that Samaritan city for two days.

SADOMASOCHISTIC – The notion of getting sexual pleasure by hurting someone else is the exact opposite of the biblical teaching. Genesis 2:24 introduces the concept of “one flesh” and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 refers to women’s sexual needs being met on the same level as the man’s needs. The Bible does report the history of horrible human violence against women. For example, Judges 19:25-20:7 reports a gang rape that ends in the death of a woman. We have pointed out previously that reporting on a historical event doesn’t mean endorsing it.

Throughout the ages, God has given humans a guide for how to live. To get the best of life, sex, food, friendship, family, and peace, we must all make the right choices. In the Old Testament, those choices were couched in the teachings of Moses and were designed for a primitive people in a wild and difficult environment. The Dawkins description of God misses the point.

With the coming of Christ, the situation in the world changed. It was time to break down political fences and build a system that would include all humans, all cultures, and all physical circumstances. The concept of love that was not self-serving and not sexual in its expression became a part of the message of Christ. The human tendency to act selfishly and violently means that the teachings of Christ are always up against a world of sin and rebellion. Rational human beings, however, will see the wisdom in what Christ taught. They will understand that this wisdom is a product of the Creator, not an accidental experiment in human behavior.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Theological Atheism

Theological AtheismBiologist Richard Dawkins expressed his theological atheism in his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

Yesterday we discussed atheists’ use of the Bible to defend their denial of the existence of God. We pointed out that they are ignoring all of the scientific evidence of a Creator. Bad theology dominates the other biblical arguments to reject God’s existence. Not separating the history of human actions from the commands of God is bad theology. Sloppy reading of what God tells us about hell and the human soul is another cause of theological atheism. The above statement by Dawkins highlights some other errors of those who reject the existence of God because they don’t like biblical statements about God’s actions and attitudes. Some examples are these:

JEALOUS – God is a jealous God. Passages like Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21; and 1 Kings 14:22 state that fact. All of those statements are in the context of infidelity and are statements of a broken heart. None of them show a childlike “you have something I want” context.

UNJUST ETHNIC CLEANSER- The usual reference to this claim is 1 Samuel 15 n reference to the destruction of the Amalekites. The question, in this case, is what was the cause and why was such drastic action needed? The Amalekites were a bloodthirsty pagan tribe that attacked Israel as they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It is a historical fact that these people participated in everything that violated God told His people not to do. They participated in cannibalism, bestiality, pedophilia, all kinds of immorality. The result of this hygienic catastrophe was clear. We have seen HIV decimate human populations in places today where similar actions have taken place. In a primitive society, there was no remedy available outside of complete sterilization. This was not a political situation, but a hygienic one. Even the livestock were burned to stop the spread of disease.

MISOGYNISTIC- To suggest that God is a woman-hater is to ignore not only human history but also the changes brought by the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, many women were honored for their heroic roles – Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther are just a few examples. In the life and teachings of Jesus, women were elevated beyond any other religious or political system on Earth. Christ stated in Matthew 19:4-8 that it was the hardness of men’s hearts, not God’s will, that caused the demeaning of women. Galatians 3:28 clearly states what Jesus practiced, that there is: “no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Dawkins is a brilliant biologist, but he is not a theologian. His theological atheism shows his lack of understanding of the Bible and God as revealed in the Bible. A better-informed atheist like Michael Ruse has said that Dawkins makes him “embarrassed to be an atheist.”

Tomorrow, we will deal with more of the Dawkins description of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Theological Objections to God’s Existence

Theological Objections to GodMany times what we present in this daily column is a function of our mail and what we hear from you, our readers. In addition to believers with questions, we also hear from atheists and skeptics who have theological objections to God. They say they simply don’t like the God they read about in the Bible. Here is an example:

“How can I believe in a God who creates people against their will, doesn’t allow them the freedom to live as they wish, and condemns them to eternal hell when they don’t conform to his desires.”

This is a person who is willing to reject all evidence of God and deny any hope of life beyond our physical existence because of his interpretations of the Bible. This person’s theological objections to God amounts to what I call theological atheism. I would suggest that this person has misconceptions and misunderstandings. Let me highlight a few:

#1) This person is assuming that in a previous existence, people could have had a choice as to whether to be created or not. There is no evidence of a prior existence of any kind. Assuming people would prefer non-existence to life is an assumption that is poorly supported.

#2) Bible events that skeptics attribute to God are often actions of humans. The Bible is reporting the events that transpired, not what God desired to happen. God did not tell Joseph’s brothers to throw him into a pit and sell him as a slave. God used an evil action of men to accomplish good. Most of the Old Testament is a record of the events that happened, not what God caused or commanded to happen. Humans consistently do horrible, stupid, violent, abusive, sinful things by choice. The consequences of those bad choices are not the will of God. The Bible honestly reports what happened, and God’s ultimate response to the needs of humanity.

#3) God gives humans complete freedom. You are free to jump off a cliff any time you choose to do so. What God does not do is to step in and remove the consequences of whatever free choice you make. God doesn’t turn off gravity for you no matter who you are. Actions that you choose have consequences.

#4) Hell is not a torture chamber, and physical interpretations miss the mark. The passage that is misused by atheists and some Christians alike to support hell as a torture chamber is Luke 16:19-31. This is a parable in a series of parables with the name “Lazarus” literally meaning” without help.” We have discussed this previously. People who use hell to portray God as an evil demagogue who takes delight in seeing innocent people scream in agony for eternity misunderstand God, human nature, and what is intended by the descriptions of hell. Matthew 10:28 indicates that the soul can die, and that would mean that a person is put back into the non-existence from which they came. That doesn’t deny the judgment and punishment for those who reject God.

Theological objections to God’s existence are poorly thought out, and they are often based on bad theology. We will continue examining theological atheism tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Day Was Jesus Crucified?

What Day Was Jesus Crucified?We get questions from people challenging the accuracy of the Bible. One of those challenges is whether Jesus really rose from the grave in three days as Matthew 12:40 states. To answer that, we must ask, “What day was Jesus crucified?”

The problem people point to is that if Jesus died on Friday, the numbers don’t add up. We can solve that problem if we don’t assume that Jesus died on Friday. The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew “Shabbat” meaning to rest from labor. In addition to the seventh-day Sabbath, the Jews were commanded to observe a special Sabbath at the Passover. (See Leviticus 23:4-8 and Exodus 12:16.) Most people are familiar only with the seventh-day Sabbath, so people have assumed that this is the Sabbath associated with the death of Jesus. That would mean He was crucified on Friday.

John 19:31 tells us that the day after the crucifixion was a high Sabbath or special Sabbath. That would mean it was the Passover Sabbath. That Sabbath would have been observed on Friday followed by the seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday. That would indicate that Jesus was not crucified on Friday as generally assumed. He would have been crucified on Thursday. John 19:14 also supports the Thursday crucifixion by stating that it was the preparation day for the Passover.

There is a book titled Prelude to Glory written by Wayne D. Leeper which goes into this in much more detail. Not only does it deal with the question of what day was Jesus crucified, but it also explains many other details of the crucifixion and resurrection. You can borrow a copy from this ministry or purchase it HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Sexual Behavior and Civil Rights

Sexual Behavior and Civil RightsThe political arm of the GLBTQ lobby has caused the media and much of the American public to confuse sexual behavior and civil rights. They are telling us that presenting biblical views on moral issues is a violation of someone’s civil rights. But Christians cannot be silent on moral issues since the New Testament says more about moral issues than it says about religious ceremony.

Attacks on the Bible’s position on sexual issues are increasing and becoming more widely accepted by the general public. Sexual behavior and civil rights are not the same. It is totally erroneous to suggest that skin color is the same thing as GLBTQ choices for the following reasons:

1-Skin color is a biological condition that is not under the control of the individual. Whether you are black or white was not a choice you made. Any sexual act is a choice made by the individual. If it was not a choice, then it was rape or a criminal act made by someone else. Sexual behavior and civil rights for people of color cannot be compared.

2-Sexual preferences and sexual acts are two different things. Some men are sexually attracted to men, and some women are attracted to women. Guy Hammond’s book Caring Beyond the Margins (Illumination Press) deals with this problem. Hammond is a man with homosexual tendencies who is not acting on that preference. No matter what the cause of GLBTQ desires, just as any other sexual behavior, the individual chooses to act on those desires.

3-Racial prejudice is wrong and is condemned by the Bible because it is destructive. The fact that a person is black or white does not affect their life expectancy or quality of life unless violence or neglect results from the prejudice. The data is clear that most of the GLBTQ choices are destructive to people’s health and shorten their life expectancy. Transgender surgery, for example, condemns the patient to a life of drugs to sustain the hormonal condition and those drugs shorten life expectancy. Most homosexual acts have a negative effect on life expectancy. The life expectancy of GLBTQ participants is significantly lower than the national average.

God has given us instructions on how to use the gift of sex in the best and most productive way. Condemnation of alternatives to God’s instructions is because those alternatives violate the design God built into our bodies. Instructing someone in the best way to use a gift they have been given is not abusive. The individual still has the right to decide whether they will follow the instructions.

Passages like Genesis 2:24; and 1 Corinthians 7:1-17 make it clear what God had in mind when He gave us the gift of sex. We must lovingly encourage others not to reject God’s instructions. God has called Christians to love even those who reject and abuse us (Matthew 5:38-48). No Christian should ever practice abuse of a GLBTQ person. Our job is to teach in love.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Rapture Theology and Science

Rapture Theology and SciencePeople sometimes attempt to find scientific support for a teaching of their denomination, such as rapture theology. They write us wanting to use black holes or quantum mechanics to support a doctrinal interpretation. We have used scientific evidence to talk about the validity of biblical statements and the wisdom that we see in the Bible. However, is an error to look for scientific support for a denominational belief that is not biblical. God spoke through Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” ( Isaiah 55:8-9).

People look for scientific support for something called “the rapture.” The word “rapture” is not found in any credible, heavily-used translation of the Bible. The word comes from a Greek term “harpazo” meaning “caught up.” First Thessalonians 4:17 shows that it developed from the Latin word “raptus” and was in the Vulgate a fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible. This use eventually evolved to the middle Latin word “raptura” and to the middle French “rapture.” Promoters of rapture theology refer to Acts 1:9-11 where Jesus was “taken up.” They even identify a place in Jerusalem where they claim this happened, but there is no archaeological support for that. The Greek word used in this verse is “epairo” meaning to be “taken up” not “harpazo” to be caught up.

Other passages where “harpazo” is used are Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2 and Revelation 12:5. If you read through those verses you will see that what they describe is not a physical act or condition, but a spiritual one. In the 2 Corinthians passage, Paul expresses confusion about what he experienced, but making clear it was not a physical event. Whatever your view of what will happen when Jesus Christ comes again, you should not look for scientific support for it from archaeology, quantum mechanics, relativity, or any physical process. Rapture theology is not scientific.

Owen Olbricht in his book The Kingdom of the Messiah (ISBN 978-0-89916-853-1) says it well: “Our conclusions will determine what we believe concerning Jesus’ return, the end of the world, the judgment, and the nature of Jesus’ kingdom.” (Page 146).

He also comments on why this should not be an issue for us: “Even if we do not agree on teachings about the rapture, differing views should not divide us; for our understanding of the events that will take place when Jesus returns will not determine our eternal destiny. What will happen will happen, regardless of what we think. Understanding what we must do to prepare to face Jesus, when He comes to judge the living and the resurrected dead (2 Timothy 4:1), is what is important. Jesus said, ‘You too, be ready: for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.’ (Luke 12:40).” (Page 145.)

The message of the second coming is a spiritual message, not one to be investigated from any scientific field. The end of time and the dissolving of the physical cosmos may have cosmological implications, but the message is still spiritual.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Natural Selection as Creative Agent

Natural Selection as Creative Agent - Polar BearsYesterday we pointed out that both evolutionary naturalists and many creationists believe that, given enough time, anything can happen. They assume that once the first life-form came into being (which cannot be explained by natural selection) that time and natural selection would create all the vastly different forms of life. There are many reasons why natural selection as creative agent will not work no matter how much time you give it. We presented three reasons yesterday. Here are three more:

1-Natural selection tends to produce over-specialization. One of the fundamental laws of biology and evolution is Dollo’s Law. The French biologist Louis Dollo proposed that law in 1890. It says that once evolutionary characteristics have evolved, they cannot revert to the form from which they came. We now know why that is true by our advances in genetics. What it tells us is that as natural selection lets an animal become more and more specialized, it can not revert back to what it was before. Polar bears that have evolved by natural selection to their present state cannot return back to the black bear genetics of their ancestors. That may mean that they will become extinct if global climate change continues. Natural selection as creative agent won’t work because it is pretty much a one-way process.

2-Natural selection deals only with survival. The development of beauty does not always involve survival. Some coloration in birds, for example, does not aid their survival but results in incredible beauty. Jesus talked about the lilies of the field and birds of the air as blessed with beauty and function. While this has significant meaning for us aesthetically, sometimes the beauty of plants and animals may actually threaten their physical survival. We have discussed this point many times in our “Dandy Designs” column and elsewhere.

3-Natural selection stands at odds with the concept of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that in any closed system, things tend to move from a condition of order to a state of disorder. One can argue that the Earth is not a closed system because the Sun is adding energy. When living things eat, they add energy in the form of the chemicals in the food they consume.

The fact is, however, that in all biological systems, there is a tendency for life to become disordered. We call it aging. My body continues to produce a higher and higher level of entropy (disorder) as the years go by. All biological systems do this. To suggest that biological systems become more and more specialized by natural processes violates the very basic laws of physics and chemistry. The cosmos itself is moving towards disorder. Unless intelligence can add organizing energy and reverse the natural tendency to age, everything is doomed from our bodies to our planet.

God built the cosmos with laws that function to allow life to exist. He created life itself and built into it certain characteristics that caused Paul to write: “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). Natural selection is one of the things God has made, and it allows nature to function. Natural selection as creative agent cannot explain the beautiful, complex world around us. It only applies to those changes which improve the chances for life to survive. Time is not a friend to aging or complexity. The older my car gets, the more likely it is to break down. That is true of my body and the natural world around me as well.
— John N. Clayton © 2019