Avoiding God of the Gaps Explanations

God of the Gaps
One of the better arguments that atheists make is the claim that “god” is something that humans have invented to explain what they didn’t understand. This is known as the God of the gaps approach to explaining things. When people didn’t understand what makes a volcano work, they invented a god or goddess to explain volcanoes. When people didn’t understand what produces weather, gods or goddesses were invented to explain everything from lightning to wind. The names of these gods and goddesses have endured, and they show up in the video games our kids play such as Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Minerva, etc. The atheist argument is that in time they will find scientific answers that disprove any notion that a divine being was responsible.

There are two major weaknesses in the God of the gaps charge that atheists are making. The first is that just because we can propose a possible natural way to explain things that does not mean the explanation is true. Years ago there was a discovery that a female praying mantis after being fertilized by the male turns around and eats him. Promoters of neo-Darwinism developed elaborate theories about how this behavior was a product of evolutionary processes. Some of the explanations sounded fairly plausible. Later it was discovered that this behavior happens in captivity, but not in the natural world. What is proposed is frequently not what happened.

The second weakness of the God of the gaps accusation is that it ignores the probabilities against the natural explanation. For example, there are 10^500 different possible solutions to the string theory equations. (That’s one followed by 500 zeros.) By carefully choosing which equation you use, a scientist can propose one step in the formation of tangible matter. Many more steps are required to get matter that is stable, and multiple steps have to be accomplished before you can get a single atom of hydrogen. When statistics are applied to this model, the probabilities are prohibitive.

When you put all the probabilities together, the final answer makes it clear that chance is a very weak explanation for what we see in the world around us. Romans 1:18-22 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. We don’t invent God to explain anything. We ask for a reasonable acceptance of evidence that stands not only on an intuitive level but also on a mathematical level.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Eating Blood: Is It Moral and Wise?

Eating Blood
We have received several questions about whether Christians should practice drinking or eating blood, eating afterbirth, or injecting or eating animal hormones. This goes back to Genesis 9:3-4 where God told Noah not to eat blood, and the prohibition about eating blood continues throughout the Old Testament (See Leviticus 17:10-11). In the New Testament, we see a prohibition about eating blood in Acts 15:20-29.

There are two different things involved here. One is the question of religious significance, and the other is what is hygienically wise. In the Old Testament blood was a major part of the daily religious life of the Israelites. To offer blood as a sacrifice for sin was to “give up life” for sin, and thus eating blood was a form of idolatry. It was like saying that God was not needed as the life giver and that the eater had power over life. In Acts 15:20 the restriction of not eating blood was included with “abstaining from the pollution of idols” for the reason of the connection to idolatry.

The hygienic issue of eating blood should be obvious. Any disease an animal had could be passed on through the animal’s blood. The warning against eating a thing strangled (Leviticus 17:13-16 and Acts 15:20) was because the blood remains in the flesh instead of being drained out as in the practice of butchering. When Paul wrote to the Christians in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, he advised them when having a meal with an unbeliever, “…whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question.” But then he goes on to point out that Christians must be concerned about how their choices affect others.

In today’s world, we may have hygienic reasons for not eating something, but food prohibitions are not a part of the teachings of Jesus or His apostles.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

E-Cigarettes and Human Suffering

E-Cigarettes
Some are pushing e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. The facts don’t support that claim.

One of the major challenges that we all face is how we reconcile the fact of human suffering with the biblical concept of God. Atheists harp on the question of why God allows suffering, and why we were created in such a way that we have a huge list of diseases and maladies. We all have our “why me” moments as well, and many times we have to admit we don’t understand why certain things happen. Atheists have no alternative to offer, and “survival of the fittest” isn’t much help when you are not the fittest.

The issue is very complex, but a major part of the answer to the problems of human suffering is the fact that we do an incredible number of things to ourselves that result in massive suffering. Sometimes we do it in ignorance. A good example of this is the use of tobacco through the centuries. A hundred years ago we had no idea of how damaging cigarette smoking is. Today anyone who smokes is doing so in defiance of massive evidence that it will bring suffering to them and those around them.

In spite of what some are claiming, e-cigarettes are also terribly destructive to smokers. Chemists at the University of Connecticut have found that e-cigarettes cause damage to human DNA. e-cigarettes use an electrochemiluminescent (ECL) agent. The damage it causes to human DNA is as bad as unfiltered tobacco cigarettes. Non-nicotine e-cigarettes also do damage similar to tobacco cigarettes. The bottom line is that our lungs and our DNA were not designed to handle smoke, and the chemicals it contains.

Genetically caused or triggered diseases have increased enormously in the past fifty years. Some of the most insidious diseases are caused by man-made carcinogens. This isn’t the sole answer to the problem of human suffering, but it is a major factor. God does not cause this kind of problem, and our design is not at fault. The Bible says that our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and it warns us to take care of that temple. Contaminating it with chemicals that harm us and those around us is not a fault of our Creator.
Data from Discover Magazine. December 2017, page 14.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Scopes Monkey Trial Nonsense Continues

Scopes Monkey Trial
In July of 1925, a silly trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee. A school teacher named John Thomas Scopes had broken Tennessee law by teaching evolution. People call it the Scopes monkey trial.

On the prosecution side was William Jennings Bryan, the spokesman for fundamentalist advocates of the Bible. (Bryan is sitting on the left side of the picture.) Clarence Darrow was the humanist opponent arguing for the defense. (You can see him standing on the right questioning Bryan. The judge had moved the trial outside because of the heat in the packed courtroom.) At the time, people called it “the trial of the century.” After eight days of the trial, it took the jury nine minutes to convict Scopes, and the judge fined him $100.

The problem was that no one bothered to define “evolution.” Nobody took the time to see what the Bible really said. The weaknesses of denominational teaching were attacked, not the evidence or understanding of what science and the Bible actually say on the subject. Both sides claimed a win, but in reality, neither side won. Books, theatrical productions, and movies have perpetuated the story, and it has given great promotional value to the little town of Dayton.

The latest example of how this battle goes on appeared on July of 2017 when a statue of Clarence Darrow was dedicated on the Dayton courthouse lawn. The dedication drew an organized protest by fundamentalists who already have a statue of William Jennings Bryan in the area. The newspapers billed it as a “religion versus science” debate. A recent Gallup poll shows that the number of Americans who believe that evolution is the only possible answer to the origin of all living things has grown from 9% in the late 1980s to 19% today.

Science and faith are friends and not enemies. That has to be true because the same God who created the universe and life gave us the account of what He did. If there is a conflict, we either have bad science or bad theology. The lesson of history and the Scopes monkey trial is that we have had a lot of both.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Fire Ant Towers

Fire Ant Towers
Those who live in areas where fire ants are active can tell you about fire ant towers. The ants will encircle a rod, stick, or tree to build a tower that is wide at the base and narrows as it goes up. You can watch this behavior on a video posted here.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology were interested in how the ants do this without crushing the ants at the bottom. What they found was that the ants form rings around the structure at the center using their sticky feet to cling to each other. The rings are all concentric, but they get smaller as the tower grows. Ants near the bottom only stay there for a short time, backing off to take a break and then climbing up to the top to rejoin the structure to keep the tower standing. These towers are temporary, but they shield the colony from outside forces.

This behavior of fire ants cannot be learned. It is certainly not the product of trial and error but is clearly programmed into the ant’s DNA. Many insect behaviors are characteristic and peculiar to a certain species of insect. These built-in skills strongly suggest that the programming was done by an intelligent Creator to enhance the survival of the insects.

Proverbs 6:6 tells us, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.” While the passage is about being active in providing for the future and avoiding poverty, the message also comes to us today to see the handiwork of God in even His smallest creatures. Scientists are studying these ants to learn how they work together and build fire ant towers so that science can apply that intelligence to program robots.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Stretched Out Gravity Waves and the Nobel Prize

Stretched Out Gravity Waves
One of the interesting words in the Old Testament dealing with space and its creation is the Hebrew word natah–usually translated stretched out.

This word describes God’s act of creating space/time. Natah suggests that the cosmos is a like fabric that can be stretched. It could also mean stretching out as when we pull the cord of a lawnmower or outboard motor. (For uses of the word natah, see: Psalms 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1)

Three United States scientists won the Nobel physics prize in October of 2017 by detecting ripples of gravitational waves traveling through the universe. In September of 2015, these scientists and others detected gravitational waves for the first time confirming a part of Einstein’s predictions.

The bottom line is that space is not empty, and objects in space are not isolated. The creation is like a garment that can have ripples in it. Stretched out gravitational waves fill the universe.

The next step for scientists will be to learn how to use gravity waves to study cosmic phenomena that they can’t observe by light or other electromagnetic radiation. Gravity waves will help us to learn more about God’s creation, and they are another verification of the biblical description of the nature of the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Powerful Forgiveness

Powerful Forgiveness
We have come across a story that shows the strength of some Christians, and how their ability to apply powerful forgiveness can bless others and bring about healing.

Carla Willmon was a junior at Harding University in 1995. Two men kidnapped and murdered Carla and were incarcerated for that terrible crime. In 2015 Carla’s parents, Roy and Jeanie Willmon wrote to each of the men. The Willmons expressed their forgiveness and their desire to study the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s forgiveness with them.

That kind of forgiveness is beyond the ability of most people to understand. Our natural reaction is to want revenge, to retaliate, and to build a dossier of hate. The problem is that the death of your child and the loss you have sustained is only made worse by building up all of those negative feelings.

After several months of correspondence and study, both men were baptized into Christ Jesus, and both are actively teaching others. These men have reached several other inmates with the gospel. The Willmons continue to send books and teaching materials to them.

Some of us talk the talk, but here is a couple who have lived it remarkably. God’s way works. The teachings of Jesus have the potential to make good come out of the most horrible situations. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Powerful forgiveness that grows from powerful faith can change lives.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

How to Stop the Aging Process

Stop the Aging Process
It’s scientifically impossible to stop the aging process. That is the conclusion of a new study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 25, 2017. You can read the full report here.

The problem is defined mathematically in that report. It involves two forces that take place in multicellular organisms, such as humans. As cells reproduce, mutations accumulate causing the cell functions to become sluggish and lose function. The result is wrinkled skin, gray hair, weakened bones, and many other things. When the body’s cells are young, they cooperate to weed out imperfect cells. With age, there are more cells with imperfections, and the body can’t keep up with removing the bad ones. At the same time, some cells start to reproduce uncontrollably. We call it cancer. Either we have sluggish cells or out of control cell reproduction.

Removing the sluggish cells leaves more room for the out of control cancer cells. Removing the cancer cells leaves the sluggish cells. A balance between the two is not mathematically possible to sustain. Eventually, the math catches up with us and death results. According to the report, scientists who are looking for the cure for aging are not going to succeed. Of course, we all know that lotions, creams, vitamins, and health foods have limited success in keeping us looking and feeling young. According to the research, either your cells will become more sluggish, or they will become cancerous. There is no other option. There is no fountain of youth. You can’t stop the aging process.

But wait! Genesis 2:9 tells us about the trees in the Garden of Eden, and mentions two of them by name. God commanded the first couple not to eat from only one of those two. The other one that they could eat from was called the Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve were banished from the garden that God had prepared for them, they were cut off from the Tree of Life. God said that if they ate from it, they would live forever (Genesis 3:22). For them to live forever in their fallen state, separated from God, would be worse than death. On that fateful day, Adam and Eve died spiritually, and their bodies began to die physically. Ever since then, humans have tried to cheat death and live forever. The result has been a long history of failure.

But God had a better plan. He prepared a way to restore the descendants of the human race to Himself. He hinted at it in Genesis 3:15. The plan was revealed and completed by Jesus Christ. He set out to finish the task of restoration (John 4:34 and 5:36), and He did (John 19:30). We read in Revelation 22:1-2 about the River of Life flowing from the throne of God. Growing along the sides of that river we find the Tree of Life. No longer will it be out of reach. Until then–according to this scientific report–scientists are searching in vain to find a way to stop the aging process and death.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Different Shades of Brown

Different Shades of Brown
Racial prejudice based on skin color is a function of ignorance. I am amazed that promoters of violence against black-skinned people have daughters who are using tanning booths to get darker. There is no inferior race, and there are no different species of humans. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” We are all just different shades of brown.

Many years ago the preacher of the Central Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama, invited me to participate in a television panel discussion. The format was a call-in where callers could ask questions for the panel to answer. On the panel with me was the black president of a small African-American college in East Texas.

The discussion took place during the time of racial strife in Birmingham. A caller asked if black people were evolved apes and white people were created by God in His image. I responded by pointing out that apes and white people have more features in common than apes and black people. This includes hair texture, jaw shape, skull shape, and even skin color when you look under the hair. This produced some antagonism from our host but was followed by the question of why black people are black and white people are white.

I took my hand and laid it on a white sheet of paper and asked if I was really white? The answer, of course, was that I wasn’t white like the paper. I was light brown. Then I asked my black friend to lay his hand on the same sheet of paper, and I asked if he was really black? The answer was obvious. He was just a darker shade of brown. I then made the point that we are all just different shades of brown, and we are all equally created in God’s image.

My black friend leaned over and whispered in my ear as we looked into some rather hostile people at the TV station. He said, “Ain’t neither one of us getting out of here alive.” I am glad to say that we did.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Medical Teachings of Moses

Medical Teachings of Moses
Roy Nance of Murphreesboro, Tennessee, has spent a lifetime investigating the scientific credibility of the Torah. One of the areas he has specialized in is the medical teachings of Moses in the context of the time and culture in which he lived.

In his lectures, Nance discusses the Egyptian medical journals discovered by archaeologists over the centuries. Lee Strobel has discussed many of these in his books, and also Dr. S.I. McMillan discussed some of them in a book he wrote over 50 years ago titled None of These Diseases.

The Egyptian list of medicinal materials includes lizard blood, the blood of worms, swine teeth, putrid meat, pig ear moisture, goose grease, and the excrement of various animals. Moses grew up in the Egyptian culture that used these materials in medical treatment. In spite of his Egyptian education and the culture in which he was raised, Moses gave hygienic laws and practices that not only contradicted the teachings of his day but are correct by today’s standards.

The results of treating infections and cuts of all kinds with animal products had to be catastrophic, and the writings of Moses contain none of that. We understand the list of “unclean” animals in Leviticus 11. We see the importance of burying waste instead of throwing it into the street. Other hygiene standards presented by Moses are correct.

One of the most interesting of the teachings of Moses is the instruction for the timing of circumcision. Infants have two chemicals that develop in their bodies to allow clotting. Vitamin K is one, which at birth is at only about 20% of the adult level. The other is prothrombin which is at about 30% of the adult level by the fourth day of life. It isn’t until the eighth day that these two chemicals reach the adult level. Leviticus 12:3 says to circumcise boys on the eighth day. The timing couldn’t be better.

Skeptics have tried to minimize the credibility of the hygienic and medical teachings of Moses. In our day of epidemics of STDs and a variety of cancers endemic to certain lifestyles, the wisdom of Moses continues to shine. We would suggest that is because his instructions came from God–not by trial and error.
–John N. Clayton © 2017