In 2013 we had a news item in our printed journal about Walt Tutka, a teacher in New Jersey who was fired because he gave a Bible to a student. After four years, this teacher Bible case is settled.
Tutka said to a student, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” The student asked him where that came from. Tutka showed the student the statement in the Bible, and the student asked Tutka for a Bible of his own. Tutka is a member of Gideon’s International, an organization that distributes Bibles to hotels and hospitals. Naturally, Tutka gave the student a Bible. The school system fired him.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission backed Tutka saying that the school system had unfairly discriminated against him based on his religion. The case was going to be filed as a federal lawsuit in May, but the school district decided to settle out of court. Mr. Tutka is now back in the classroom.
When I was teaching in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana, groups brought books explaining their faith to the schools and gave them to kids who requested them. There were never any problems over that, but times have changed. We have even heard of cases where a teacher had a Bible in their book rack on their desk in a public school and was told to get rid of it or be fired. If a teacher had a copy of The Humanist Manifesto, that would be OK, even though it is a statement of faith–atheist faith.
Government and Christianity have not always been in harmony. Christianity began under the rule of the Roman government, which abused human rights and promoted immorality. Although persecuted, the Christian faith grew strong and brought many people to the realization that our real hope lies not in government, but in God. In spite of the oppression by the Roman government, the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to honor those in authority (Romans 13:1-6) and to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1,2).
We have always pointed out that Christianity is not an American institution. When we argue for the validity of Christianity and attempt to provide scientific support for the existence of God, we do not bring American politics into the discussion. In spite of that, the Christian faith has played a vital role since the founding of this country and even before that.
God blessed the United States with a standard of living higher than the world had ever seen. We argue for the truth of Proverbs 14:34 which tells us, “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” We sing “God Bless America” as a hymn to ask God’s continued blessing on our nation. We place “In God We Trust” on our money. But today America seems determined to reject God and His teachings.
Righteousness in our government seems to be eroding and several groups have been formed to fight against that trend. One of those groups is Judicial Watch (www.JudicialWatch.org). This organization seeks to expose corruption in the American government and in organizations that have government connections. It is bipartisan in its efforts exposing both Republican and Democrat corruptions.
Judicial Watch publishes a magazine, and in their July issue, they have a report of abuses in the Veteran’s Administration. Those who are interested or active in American politics may find this a useful resource. Paul wrote that “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4). Christians can serve to remind those in authority of their sacred duty. Government and Christianity can work together to benefit all Americans as well as those in other countries.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst
If you watch program #7 in our video series, you will see a number of quotes by well-known atheists indicating why they reject the existence of God. One of the recurring statements is the claim that religion and religious warfare threaten to destroy all of humanity. They claim that religion is evil. They even equate Christianity and violence. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book with the subtitle How Religion Poisons Everything in which he blamed religions for violence and warfare, and he made no distinction for Christianity.
There is no question that war and violence have plagued the human race since the time of Adam, and many times religion has been at least a catalyst to the violence if not the cause of it. Unfortunately, there is much in the history of religion to connect it with violence. Atheists claim that a million people were murdered by the Catholic Church in the Crusades and the Inquisition.
The New Testament makes it clear that the followers of Jesus should be peacemakers. Matthew 5:25-48 and Romans 12:9-21 show that Jesus opposed war and violence. Passages like Ephesians 3:10-12 and 6:12 tell us that our real battle is spiritual warfare.
Would getting rid of religion eliminate violence? If somehow we could eliminate every religion, would we see peace and love and goodwill everywhere? John Lennon’s famous song Imagine had the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below us… nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” The song suggested that getting rid of religion would bring peace and harmony on Earth.
The truth is that the most violent and war-like leaders in history had no religious beliefs at all. Hitler murdered 190 million people. Stalin and Mao killed even more. Unbelief seems to be more dangerous than even the most violent of organized religions.
We have written about “Truth” before, and our point has been that truth is never 100% sure when you deal with humans. When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), he was giving us the only thing we can fully trust, and that is God’s Word.
There is an interesting story from history about the Duke of Brunswick in Germany. In the early 1600s, he challenged the connection between torture and truth. He requested the assistance of two Jesuit scholars who had been using torture to extract information about witches. He had a confessed witch who was being stretched on a rack, and he invited the Jesuits to join him in watching her torture.
With the two Jesuits watching, the Duke said to the woman “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch. I suspect these two men (the Jesuits) of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack executioners.”
The woman cried, “No, no! You are quite right…They can turn themselves into goats, wolves, and other animals…Several witches have had children by them…The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” The Duke turned to the Jesuits and said, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”
One of the Jesuits she accused of being a warlock was Friedrich See who helped to end witch hunting by writing a book in 1631 titled Cautio Criminalis. The book demonstrated that torture was not a tool for obtaining useful information because humans will say anything to stop the pain. We have all seen children say preposterous things to get out of a jam, but adults do the same thing on a different level.
When Pilate questioned Jesus in John 18:37, Jesus said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” How Jesus lived and what He taught can be trusted because it is not of human origin. Over the centuries when people follow Christ’s teachings, their truthfulness has been demonstrated. Pilate’s response to Jesus was, “What is truth?” Soon after that, Pilate told the Jews he could find no fault in Jesus.
Torture and truth do not go together. Truth stands on its own. It cannot be manufactured or forced. People make false claims about Christianity, but just as Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, today no one can find fault in what Jesus taught or how He lived.
Reference: Scientific American, May 2017, page 77.
Most of us have had some experience with lightning. The chances are that our experiences have been terrifying and destructive, and we may view lightning as a bad thing. You may wonder if we need lightning. The short answer is, “Yes.” Lightning is a good thing, and there are many things we are still learning about it.
Lightning helps produce the nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that are needed by all living things on Earth. The process is called “nitrogen fixation, ” and it is vital to our very existence. Water droplets in the air carry an electric charge. That charge can accumulate to dangerous levels unless there is a way to neutralize it. That’s where lightning comes in.
One of my favorite demonstrations as a physics teacher was to get a very small flow of water going from a faucet and then bring a charged rod up to the column of water. The stream of water will bend in response to the charge. That is because the polar nature of the water molecule allows it to have electrical properties. Because of water’s electrical property, lightning is generated to release nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the crust of the Earth as nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that plants need to grow. The plants then feed and protect the animals and us.
Low Earth orbit satellites and high flying airplanes have recently made us aware of other properties of lightning. We have learned that red sprites occur and they have been photographed above large thunderstorms. Other upper atmosphere lightning phenomena include blue jets and terrestrial gamma flashes. Scientists are studying the highly complex nature of lightning to understand how the system works.
The Bible makes many comments about lightning. It tells us that lightning is made with water (rain) even though people at that time totally ascribed lightning to supernatural causes. (See Jeremiah 10:13 and 51:16). Lightning is referred to as a tool of God. (See Job 28:26; 36:30; 37:3, 11, 15; 38:24, 25, 35.)
Yesterday I started to describe what we found on our South America apologetic outreach during our recent lectureships in Colombia. As we spoke with people on the street, both men and women told me that they know the “Church” is a fake. They cite the failure of the Catholic Church to improve the standard of living of “common people” in countries like Colombia in spite of the enormous wealth the church holds. Several of them had suffered abuse at the hands of a church leader, and their expressions of pain were suppressed only by the church’s control.
The Colombian young people had seen the conflict between what they learned from television and on their computers and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was warned that if my lessons contained material in opposition to Catholic teaching, I would experience chastisement. At one point while our group was singing in the plaza, a Catholic priest came out of the church building and took one of our handouts. It seemed obvious that he was taking notes, and I gave him a business card for “Does God Exist?’ We have not heard from him as yet.
Atheists have taken note of all of this. Richard Dawkins has challenged the Catholic Church to a series of debates In December of 2017 at three universities in Colombia. Father Gerardo Remolina, a Vatican-trained scholar, has accepted Dawkin’s challenge. We hope to monitor these debates. Also, Dawkins has offered a competition to the young people of Colombia. He challenged them to watch the BBC program “Beautiful Minds” and write a five-page paper on why the life of an atheist is the best way to live. Dawkins will choose ten winners, and he will give them a personal tour of the British Museum.
In our lectureships in Ecuador and Colombia, we found intense interest in our approach. Young South Americans are rejecting Roman Catholicism. They are resenting the abuse, hypocrisy, and lack of constructive use of the Roman Catholic Church’s great wealth. They no longer are willing to live by an irrational faith based on tradition. Being told to THINK, to study the evidence for themselves and to believe that science and faith are friends and not enemies is a message they are eager to hear and accept.
We were blessed in our presentations in Ecuador and Colombia with two men who have lived in those countries for much of their lives and could translate our material accurately. We now have our videos subtitled in Spanish, and we hope to expand the outreach of our booklets and children’s material by translating them into Spanish. Unfortunately, we are a very small voice in a very large mission area. Dawkins and his associates are making their main thrust to reach university students, and those are the people who will control the moral and financial future of these countries. Already the Health Minister of Colombia, who is an atheist, has vowed to make abortion legal in his term. He states his atheist belief as the reason for that goal.
Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.
Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.
One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.
As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.
One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.
A battle over space Bibles that has been going on in Texas and Oklahoma for years. But I will explain that in a moment.
One of the main thrusts of this ministry is to show people that the Bible is, in fact, the Word of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so the man (or woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is a mountain of evidence to support the truth of that statement. However, that does not mean that the bound paper book you have printed in English (or any other language) is sacred even if it has a black cover. It is the message that is sacred, not the physical book.
A group calling itself the Apollo Prayer League placed hundreds of microfilm Bibles on Apollo 13 to go to the Moon. The disaster on Apollo 13 prevented it from landing, and it only orbited the Moon and returned the Bibles to Earth. On the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell carried 100 of the Bibles to the surface of the moon and returned with some of them. Through a complicated chain of events that you can read about here, John Stout, a retired NASA chaplain who lived in Texas, gave some of the “ Lunar Bibles” to an author named Carol Mersch who lives in Oklahoma.
Stout’s adopted son brought legal action to get the Bibles back. Through suits and counter-suits the case went all the way to both the Texas and Oklahoma supreme courts. In the meantime by court order, the Bibles were locked up in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, vault. The state of Texas finally withdrew its suit on May 4, 2017.
As I read about the battle over space Bibles, a thought came to mind. If we could get people as excited about the message contained within those books as they are about the physical microfilm books, we might be able to solve some of the world’s problems.
About 2300 years ago in ancient Greece there lived a man named Epicurus. He spent his time thinking about things and taught others about the things he was thinking. One of the things Epicurus thought about was death. That’s not unusual. There has never been a living human being who has not thought about death at one time or another. But Epicurus was a professional thinker (also known as a philosopher), so his thoughts were influential. What do we hear from Epicurus on death and fear? In his thinking, he concluded that death was the end of body and soul. When we die, we just cease to exist and therefore, he said, death should not be feared.
Epicurus died in 270 B.C. at the age of 72 in great pain because of kidney stones. However, he wrote a letter in which he said it was, “a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life.” Since Epicurean philosophy says that death is nothing to be feared, why do people still fear death? Perhaps it’s because most people think that Epicurus was wrong.
What is the source of the greatest joy and fulfillment in life? Isn’t it love? The relationships we have with others bring us happiness and give us purpose as well as joy. Loving and being loved by family and friends is the greatest of human experiences. God never intended for us to be alone. (See Genesis 2:18.) Being rejected by those we love is the source of the greatest pain. Interestingly, Epicurus believed that a happy life is one in which friends surround us. We know that nothing makes us as sad as the loss of those we love. Death is the most permanent form of separation and loss. Death steals away those we love one-by-one if we manage to live long enough. Death gives us much to fear, and then finally death comes to take us.
If Epicurus is right, then death is the end of love. If there is no existence beyond the grave, there is no love. If you believe that death is the end of existence, seeing a loved one dying is the most fearful and terrible experience in life. But what if death is not the end? What if love goes on? Genesis tells us that death was not part of God’s original plan for humans. Death is a consequence of human sin. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus out of sympathy for Mary and Martha. He must also have been weeping over what sin had done to the human race. Grief and anger over the mess brought on by human disobedience touched the emotions of the human Jesus.
But Jesus was more than human. He is also God. He had the power to bring Lazarus back from the grave and restore him to the sisters who loved him. But that resurrection was only temporary. Lazarus, as well as his sisters, died at some later time. Soon after raising Lazarus, Jesus conquered the power of death once and for all. His death brought both fear and grief to those who loved him. But as Timothy Keller wrote in Making Sense of God, “…the darkness of death swallowed Jesus, he entered it, but then he blew a hole out of the back of it.” The pain of those who wept was turned to joy as Jesus was alive again. When Jesus conquered death, he brought not only joy but also hope. Death is not the end of love and relationships. Love goes on.
Everyone knows that if you add the three angles of a triangle, the total equals 180 degrees. So how can you have a 270-degree triangle? This question can be applied to the much tougher challenge of understanding what God is.
Many of the struggles people have in understanding God are rooted in our inability to understand how God functions and what is the nature of God. Questions we hear are like: “What race is God?” “What sex is God?” “How can God hear the prayers of many different people in many different places all at once?” “Who created God?” “Why does God allow awful things to happen?” These questions are a reflection of our inability to understand God’s nature.
The Bible gives us many pictures of God’s nature. So what does the Bible say God is like? All of the biblical descriptions portray God as a being who exists outside of time and space. Since God is not limited by the dimensions that restrict us, then the rules that are inviolable in our dimensions create no barriers for God.
To illustrate, I suggest that you take a flat sheet of paper and draw a triangle that has three right angles of 90 degrees for a 270-degree triangle. You may reply, “It is not possible. Triangles have 180 degrees. Don’t you know the rules of Euclidian geometry?” I then suggest that you visualize this. On a globe of the Earth, start at the North Pole and draw a line down the Prime Meridian to the Equator. Then to make the first 90° angle, go west along the Equator to 90° west longitude. From that point make a second 90° angle by going straight north to the North Pole. That line will be perpendicular to the first line creating a third 90° angle. By changing from the two-dimensional paper to the three-dimensional globe, the impossible becomes possible.
Let’s apply that to our understanding of God. How do we, stuck here in our limited dimensions, have the power to comprehend God who is not limited to our dimensions? The answer is, of course, that we cannot! To answer the most profound questions about God, we have to be willing to enlarge our understanding of the nature of God. We must accept the fact that God is not limited to our dimensions. When we do that, we realize that the questions we asked earlier are meaningless. They come from the fact that we cannot see all of the dimensions of God’s existence. A 270-degree triangle is possible when it is not limited to two dimensions. For a dimensionless God, all limitations are gone.