Blaming Evil on Demon Possession

Blaming Evil on Demon PossessionCBS television has a new series titled “Evil.” The show deals with blaming evil on demon possession. In the first episode, a person tried to avoid responsibility for a crime by claiming to be demon-possessed. The story-line involves a psychologist trying to determine whether crimes were committed due to demon possession or psychological problems.

We need to say again that demon possession does not happen in the modern world. As we posted before, the priest who was the adviser in the making of the 1973 film “The Exorcist” explained his view of demon possession. He said that the demon-possessed “victim has had their freedom of choice taken away. The victim is no longer responsible for their actions.” That assertion is illogical and against all the evidence, and it is not what the Bible teaches. In both today’s discussion and tomorrow’s, we want to look at this subject.

First of all, let us point out that freedom of choice is a primary teaching of the Bible. God has always allowed humans to decide whether they are going to serve Him or serve Satan. There is a fundamental reason for this. Love cannot exist if there is no choice. That is true of all kinds of love. If there is sexual “love” without choice, we call it rape, and it has nothing to do with love. It is the exploitation and abuse of another human being. For someone to love you with any kind of love, there has to be the choice NOT to love you. God has always allowed humans to reject Him, and that is still true today.

When God came to Earth (John 1:14) in the form of Jesus Christ, there had to be a way for humans to reject Him. Christ performed miracles and gave people powerful tools for understanding. So that humans still had a choice, God allowed Satan to have extended power. In the Old Testament, there was no demon possession. The Hebrew word for demon (shaidim) is found twice–once in Deuteronomy 32:17 and once in Psalms 106:37. Both of those cases had to do with idol worship, not demon possession. Demons were a tool of Satan to provide a choice for humans. Freedom of choice was not taken away.

The spiritual battle continues, but Satan’s power is limited because Jesus is not here in the flesh, but the Holy Spirit is present in God’s people. Ephesians 6:12 spells this out, and Ephesians 3:10 talks about God’s plan to mount a war against Satan through the Church.

We cannot excuse our actions by blaming evil on demon possession. So how do we know that demon possession doesn’t happen today? We will consider that question tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Marriage Versus Cohabitation

Marriage Versus CohabitationA U.S. Census Bureau report released September 25, 2019, says that the number of unmarried partners living together has tripled in the past two decades. The report says that the number went from 6 million in 1996 to 19.1 million in 2018. There are all kinds of editorials about this data, with some writers referring to it as “increasing normalization.” The report comments that people who cohabitate are “older, better educated, more likely to earn higher wages and more racially diverse.” The report also says that cohabitation is “an alternative to marriage for low-income and less educated people.” What is the truth about marriage versus cohabitation?

Why government reports find it necessary to attempt to explain data escapes me. Interpreting the data in an atheistic way is not only illogical but raises more questions than it answers. What was the population from which the data was taken?  How many of the people cohabitating have children, and what effect is the cohabitation having on the children? How does cohabitation provide a viable alternative for low-income people? My wife and I were eligible for public assistance when we got married. We had no money, and I was a public school teacher making $4300 a year. Working as a team, we lifted ourselves out of that poverty and provided a stable home for our three children. On my own, none of that would have been possible.

Another vital aspect the report doesn’t mention is the role of sex in marriage and cohabitation. First Corinthians 7:1-6 describes the concern married Christians should have for the sexual needs of their mates. Every expert from Masters and Johnson to modern specialists has shown that a committed relationship provides the best in sexual satisfaction and the most fulfilling relationship for both men and women. Cohabitation may satisfy the immediate sexual gratification of some, especially males. It does not meet the real needs of both men and women in the long term.

It is no wonder that many young people are embracing alternative living arrangements. They have been lied to by their culture and often influenced by the bad examples set by their parents. Also, they have had no instruction or education in God’s teaching on the divine plan for sex and marriage. The collapse of the nuclear family leaves children struggling with life and with increased learning disabilities. The result to fill the void they feel is the increasing use of drugs and a radical increase in suicide. When it comes to marriage versus cohabitation, God’s plan works. The alternatives do not.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Textual Criticism and Biblical Inerrancy

Textual Criticism and Biblical InerrancyOne of the frequently asked questions that we receive is whether or not we believe that the Bible is inerrant. The problem with the question is that rarely does the questioner explain what they mean by the term “inerrant.” It has become fashionable to use the issue of biblical inerrancy to ridicule Christians. Fundamentalism claims to be a blind belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, and apparent errors in fundamentalist teaching call into question the credibility of the Bible. What is the relationship between textual criticism and biblical inerrancy?

Scholars have used a process called “textual criticism” to evaluate the biblical text. The translators of the King James Version of the Bible used what was called the Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”). That refers to the dominant manuscript in Greek published in 1516 and available to the King James translators. Since 1516, there have been numerous discoveries of new manuscripts and fragments. In many cases, they are older than the text used by the King James translators. There have also been better understandings of what words mean and how the culture of the time understood those words. Sometimes the translators’ understanding of what the original writer was trying to say may have been affected by the translators’ cultural biases. Comparing the older and more credible manuscripts with the ones used by the King James translators shows some differences (errors), and that is what textual criticism is all about.

It is important to understand that this process of textual criticism does not make major changes in the meanings of words. In the New Testament, only about one word in 1,000 is in any way different between the Textus Receptus and the newer manuscripts. Even when there is a difference, it is rarely of any consequence. Sometimes it was because of a copying error. Sometimes a copyist put a comment in the margin as they translated and printers inserted it into the manuscript. Making the comparisons allows us to get better and better translations, and that is a good thing.

The problem is what we understand biblical inerrancy to mean. Inerrancy does not mean that a particular translation is without mistakes. It does not mean that one specific set of English words have biblical credibility, while others do not. Textual criticism and biblical inerrancy need not conflict.

The notion that those of us who believe the Bible is the Word of God have something to fear from textual criticism is misguided. It is the same kind of error that has caused some people to claim that a particular translation of the Bible is the only one that we can use. We can trust God’s Word, but we have to work to overcome the problems of culture and time. We must consider the changes in word meanings as well as mechanical issues of translation and reproduction. It may take some work, but we need not question the fact that “All Scripture is given by God and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be perfect, completely furnished to every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17 from a combination of various translations).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?Recent events have led us to consider the question, “Has society lost the value of human life?” There were two events in the news this past week that certainly seem to indicate where society is going.

One of those events took place at a town hall at a public library in Queens, New York. The freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has been in the news for her “Green New Deal,” and other things, was holding the event. A woman stood up to ask a question and complement the congresswoman on her interest in climate change. The woman said, “Because of the climate crisis, we only have a few months left. Getting rid of fossil fuel is not going to solve the problem fast enough.” She went on to say, “Your next campaign slogan has to be this, ‘We got to start eating babies.’

She then removed her jacket to show her T-shirt which had the slogan, “Save the Planet, Eat the Children.” She looked around at the people in the room and said, “All of you, you know you are pollutants.” She also said, “Even if you would bomb Russia, we still have too many people, too much pollution, so we have to get rid of the babies.” It was shocking that someone would bring up such an idea in a public meeting. It makes me ask, “Has society lost the value of human life?”

Also shocking to me was the fact that the audience around her did not seem shocked or outraged. Neither did Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of saying that the woman’s idea was disgusting and unethical, her reply was, “One of the things that’s very important to us is that we need to treat the climate crisis with the urgency that it does present…There are a lot of solutions that we have.” You can see the exchange on YouTube using THIS LINK. If that video is removed, the entire town hall is on C-Span at THIS LINK. You will find the question at 1 hour 48 minutes into the video.

The other news item was from CBS News. It was a report on the newest abortion facility of Planned Parenthood. Missouri has placed some restrictions on abortion, and Illinois has passed the “Reproductive Health Act,” making access to abortion a “fundamental right.” Because of that, Planned Parenthood secretly constructed this new facility in Illinois, just outside of Saint Louis. According to CBS News, it is an “18,000-square-foot mega-clinic” able to “serve up to 11,000 patients a year.” Planned Parenthood set up a shell company to purchase an abandoned medical clinic and secretly convert it into “one of the largest abortion clinics in the country.” The secrecy was to “avoid protesters and delays.” You can see the CBS News report HERE.

So now the states of Illinois, New York, and Virginia have opened up the law to allow abortions up to, and perhaps even beyond the moment of birth, and eating babies to control climate change is being suggested. Has society lost the value of human life? What is the purpose for saving the planet if we kill the people because they are “pollutants?” The only thing that can reverse this trend is an understanding of the value of each person as we are made in the image of God and loved by Him with incredible love. See John 3:16.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Promise and Hope of Christianity

Promise and Hope of ChristianityWe can’t win with the atheist press, because atheists attack us for anything we do or anything we don’t do. If Christians are not involved in the latest natural disaster relief effort, atheists criticize that non-involvement. They ignore the fact that virtually no atheist organization has ever consistently engaged in disaster relief. When Christians are involved, critics question their motives and challenge their financial involvement. The atheist critics are overlooking the promise and hope of Christianity.

Our small congregation here in Michigan has a food pantry that serves around 100 people in our area. We and are constantly reminded by the state that we cannot allow our name to be on anything we give people because that is considered to be self-serving.

An atheist spokesman recently told me that he would never become a Christian because he wanted to enjoy life and be happy. He said he wanted no part of being poor and miserable by giving everything away. He was very familiar with Matthew 25:31-36 where Jesus says that service to others is a measurement by which we will be judged. The Bible urges Christians to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), to do good to all (Galatians 6:10), and to be helpful to the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16).

What atheists and many believers alike are forgetting is the promise and hope of Christianity. Jesus came “that (we) might have life, and that (we) might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Bible teaches that we should take care of our bodies. Ephesians 5:29 tells us, “No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it…” The body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and God’s Spirit lives within us ( 2 Corinthians 5:5). Acts 2:40 finds Peter telling the crowd at Pentecost, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

The Bible is concerned about more than our physical well being. A more significant threat to an enjoyable life and happiness is our mental condition. Jesus cured extreme mental illness in the wonderful story of Luke 8:26-40. Psalms 139 and Psalms 23 provide the viewpoint of a child of God who is mentally stable, satisfied with life, and confident about the future. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 -7 provides ways of living at peace with good mental health. Romans 8:28 gives a level of confidence no atheist can comprehend. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul expresses a view all Christians can have. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, to be content. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

I have lived as a vocal, campaigning atheist, and I have been with loved ones who lived and died as atheists. Atheism is not a happy philosophy or religion, and it makes no promises about the future but eternal blackness at best. If I found there is no God, I would still want to live as a Christian, because the promise and hope of Christianity now and in the future is priceless. The peace that the Holy Spirit brings assures me that God is real.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Would E.T. Live by the Bible?

Would E.T. Live by the Bible?The movie E.T. has been getting a revival of interest because of a renewed interest in UFOs and claims of alien visitation. The media has given much attention to exoplanets – planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. With all this attention to life in space, it is no wonder we get the question of whether they would follow the teachings of Christ. “Would E.T. live by the Bible?” is mostly idle speculation, but there is a point to be made.

We have made the argument that the teachings of Jesus show wisdom and design beyond that of mere humans. You can’t take the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 and not see that if all humans lived by those standards the Earth would be at peace and most of our problems would be gone. Even from a purely intellectual standpoint, it seems that an advanced civilization would have come to the point of realizing that war, fighting, selfishness, and greed are destructive and should be weeded out of the culture. Would E.T. live by the Bible? He would if he is smart.

I am reminded of a radio debate I had many years ago in Washington D.C., moderated by Larry King. The atheist representative was advocating humanism, but he and I were finding a lot to agree on. The show came to a halt when a listener called in and asked the atheist, “What would you do if a little green man landed in the Whitehouse lawn in a flying saucer, got out with a Bible in his hand and said ‘Has Jesus Christ been here yet?’” My atheist friend responded, “Punt.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Great Auk and Human Stewardship Failure

Great Auk and Human Stewardship FailureIt was a flightless North Atlantic bird that stood upright 30-33 inches (75-85 cm) tall and weighed 11 pounds (5 kg). Its small wings were less than 6 inches (15 cm) long. It’s also the story of the great auk and human stewardship failure.

The fact that the great auk couldn’t fly and that it was large enough to provide a meal for hungry sailors is a major reason why it became extinct. People also killed them for their feathers. As the great auk was nearing extinction, people killed the last ones to stuff their skins and display them as trophies in museums and private collections.

Though the great auk couldn’t fly in the air, it did fly underwater. Some might say this bird was poorly designed with its large body and small wings. But underwater, those wings became fins to pursue and catch fish. Larger wings would have been a hindrance underwater. The large size of this bird gave evidence that it found abundant food and had no need to fly in the air.

Great auks had few predators, but since they couldn’t fly and were slow on land, they became easy prey for humans. When it was evident that they were becoming extinct, great auks became more valuable. Collectors wanted a stuffed bird for a trophy, and museums wanted one for display. At last, there was only one breeding pair and one egg left on Eldey Island off the coast of Iceland. On July 3, 1844, three men climbed up on Eldey Island, killed the last two birds, and smashed the egg. The great auk was no more.

The picture shows a monument to the great auk in Iceland facing toward Eldey, the rocky island where the birds made their last stand. It tells the sad story of the great auk and human stewardship failure. God gave humans the duty to care for His creation. He commanded Adam and Eve to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Jesus told us that God cares for the birds. (See Matthew 6:26 and Luke 12:6.) The Apostle Paul in Romans 13:4 talks about human rulers. He wrote that they are “God’s servants for your good.” I think we can apply that concept of rulers to our duty toward the living creatures God created. We are stewards entrusted with caring for the world God gave us, including the living creatures.

Today there is a lack of regard even for human life. For the sake of convenience, people kill babies before they are born. Others set out to kill as many people as possible using guns or vehicles. The great auk and human stewardship failure is a reminder of how many times humans have failed to keep God’s commands. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by Grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 CSV).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Formation of the Grand Canyon

Formation of the Grand CanyonFor many years science has studied the formation of the Grand Canyon. No single event produced the carving of the canyon. The north rim is higher than the south rim because the whole area has been bowed into what is called a monocline. Such flexing weakens rock just as bending a stick will weaken it at the point of maximum bending. In addition to bending and cracks which weaken sections of rock, water in the area is flowing toward the sea. The Colorado River flows in a path that wanders and winds through the area scouring its bed as it goes. Streams flow into the Colorado flow along the faults through weakened rock materials carving deeper and deeper. All of these things contribute to the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Another obvious contributor is time. How much time did it take to carve the canyon? Some science books will point out that the Colorado River is currently eroding one-half foot of rock every 1,000 years. Then they suggest that if you take the 5,000 feet of vertical rock missing from the canyon and divide it by .5 feet, it would take 10,000 of the 1,000-year-periods. In other words, it would take 10,000,000 years to carve the canyon.

What is wrong with that estimate? Well, first of all, the river is in granite now, which is harder than the sedimentary rocks above it. More important is the assumption that the volume of water in the canyon has been constant. In the past, glaciers melted, producing massive volumes of water in the canyon. Today with the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell controlling the flow (except in a simulation of spring floods), no such volume takes place. Estimating the time required to carve the canyon based on present erosion rates is a self-evident case of bad science.

Another example of bad science comes from creationists who point to Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington as an indication of the time required. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 blowing out massive amounts of ash, scoria, pumice, and other extruded volcanic rocks. Erosion produced vast canyons on the flanks of the mountain in a few years. Those who say that proves large canyons can be carved in a short time are overlooking the fact that the volcanic rocks are relatively light, easy to erode, and highly porous. To make comparisons between the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens is like comparing butter with steel. (For more on this, click HERE.)

So how long did the formation of the Grand Canyon take? No one can answer that question, just as no one can tell you the date of Genesis 1:1. Only those willing to add to the Word of God will give a date. Many denominational creationists will do this to defend their human creeds and traditions, but I suggest that it is a dangerous thing to do.

What we see in the Grand Canyon is an incredible testimony to the power, patience, wisdom, and design of God. In His creation of the Earth, God has produced the elements He knew we would need. He has engineered a planet that processes and redistributes those materials in such a way that they are always available. The Grand Canyon gives us a glimpse of the inside workings of this great machine we call Earth. Genesis 1:1 tells us God created it, not how or when – or how it works. But God has given humans a curiosity, so we look for answers to the formation of the Grand Canyon. The important thing for us to remember is, “God saw all he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Creation Method for the Moon

Gods Creation Method for the MoonAstronomy magazine (November 2019, page 44) has an interesting article on some of the facts about the Moon. The information is based on the 842 pounds (382 kg) of rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. Every time an issue of this magazine comes out, I have two groups of people who like to write to me with their analysis of the meaning of an article in the magazine. (We also have several who do the same thing with other scientific magazines and journals.) The discussion of the letter writers has to do with God’s creation method.

One of the people wrote that this Moon data clearly shows that God had nothing to do with the creation of the Earth or the Moon. The other person tried to deny the data maintaining that God “spoke the Moon into existence,” and it was not a natural process. Both of these writers miss the point.

First, there is no reason for believers in God to challenge the scientific data in the article. In this case, the ratio of the isotopes of oxygen in Earth rocks and Moon rocks are the same. The average high school physics student can tell you how that measurement is made and how reliable it is. Earth’s spin axis and the Moon’s orbit are related, and once again, basic physics equations can verify that data. There is no reason to question the data. That data led to the impact hypothesis that the Moon was formed when a Mars-size body impacted the Earth and threw off debris which coalesced into the Moon. There is no reason to feel that somehow those facts deny the existence of God or the description given in the Bible.

The Bible simply says that God created the heaven (“shamayim” – the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1) and the Earth (“erets”). It does not describe God’s creation method. Verse 14 tells us, “God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky…” In verse 16, this is expanded with the words, “God made (“asah” in Hebrew meaning He made or fashioned what already existed) two great lights …” Then it says that He “…let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” The material is created in verse 1, where “bara” is used indicating an act that only God can do. The fashioning “as signs to mark seasons and days and years” in verses 14-18 uses the Hebrew “asah,” not “bara.” Genesis 2:3 tells us that God “rested from all his work which God created (bara) and made (asah).” Both processes are involved.

What science is trying to do is understand God’s creation method to fashion the Moon, which is discussed in verses 14-18. This Astronomy article is not trying to understand what He did in verse 1. Sound waves coming from the voice of God did not create the Moon. Whether God spun the Moon out of the cloud of matter from which He formed the Earth, or whether He formed the Moon by a collision, is still being debated by scientists. Whatever opinion one might hold is an opinion of God’s creation method – how He did what He did. It does not in any way reflect negatively on His power and creative ability or on the biblical description of what God did to give us “two great lights.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

That’s Not Fair

Thats Not Fair“That’s not fair!” We hear that not only from adults but even from young children. It seems that the concept of fairness is something that we don’t have to learn. It’s built into us. We see injustice in the world or in our personal space, and we cry out, “That’s not fair.”

Where do we get that concept of fairness and justice? Could it be that our Creator placed it within us? In the DOES GOD EXIST? ministry, we talk about evidence for the existence of God. We see design in the universe, in living things, and in our own bodies. Is it possible that we can also see evidence of God’s existence in our desire for justice? Could it be that the God who is just and loving has placed the passion for justice within us? After all, He created us in His image. One of the great frustrations we face is our inability to rid the world of injustice. But more than that it seems that we can’t even rid ourselves of injustice. We often act in our own self-interest even when it causes undesirable consequences for others. It’s easy for us to see injustice in other people but difficult to see it in ourselves.

Christians have often been champions of justice in the abolishing slavery, in the struggle against human trafficking, and in helping the poor and oppressed around the world. When we demonstrate a passion for justice, we are emulating the life of Jesus. He was concerned about the poor and oppressed, the suffering, the neglected, and the outcast. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus as He could see the pain and injustice that sin had brought into the world. The Bible records Jesus weeping again as He approached Jerusalem for the last time. He wept because He pondered the fact that the people had not learned His message of love and justice. They were seeking someone to forcefully overthrow their evil Roman occupiers without realizing that Satan occupied their hearts.

The suffering of Jesus on the cross was the greatest injustice in the history of the world, but He did not say, “That’s not fair.” He demonstrated the greatest act of love by crying out, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus overcame injustice with love as He prayed for those who crucified him. If those of us who claim to be Christ-followers can learn to show love and seek justice for others, we will be the greatest possible witness for God’s existence. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
— Roland Earnst © 2019