The Bible Contains All We Need to Build a Faith to Live By

The Bible Contains All We Need to Build a Faith to Live By

How do we know that the Bible does not omit some books that should have been included? How do we know that all of the books in the Bible should be there? Skeptics and religious writers frequently raise these questions. The truth is that we don’t have to be in doubt about whether the Bible contains all we need to build a faith to live by.

When someone claims that some “lost book” should be included in the Bible, the simple answer is to read it. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to see very quickly that the books of the Apocrypha should not be part of the canon, or accepted Bible books. The apocryphal books either contain material already covered in the Bible or contradict Paul’s writings and the teachings of Christ.

When the Church decided what books to include in the canon of the New Testament, they used four criteria:

1) APOSTOLICITY – Was the book written by an apostle or companion of the apostles?

2) ORTHODOXY – Is the writing in agreement with the teaching of Christ?

3) ANTIQUITY – Did the writing come from the generation of the apostles?

4) USE – Was the writing widely accepted and used by the early Church?

When a manuscript is not included in the biblical canon, it is easy to see why. A good example is the gnostic writings which include elements of Greek mythology, astrology, food taboos, ascetic practices, and intermediary beings. Gnostics liberalized sexual morals, and some even questioned marriage.

The Bible contains all we need to build a faith to live by. Its clarity and completeness stand unique. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us that scripture provides all we need to be “completely furnished to all good works.” That excludes attempts by opponents of the Bible to dilute or modify the teachings.

— John N. Clayton ˆ 2021

Reference: “Canon of the New Testament” in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Abingdon Press.

Beer Goggles and Young People

Beer Goggles and Young People
Beer Goggles

“Beer goggles” is a slang term that refers to how alcohol consumption lowers a person’s sexual inhibitions. The ignorance of high school and college students about sex and alcohol is appalling. Dr. Miriam Grossman M.D. has written a booklet titled Sense and Sexuality to help college and high school students better understand the relationship between alcohol and sex. It also advises women about “hook-ups” and their ultimate result.

The beer goggles phenomenon is not new. There is a scientific reason why a person seems more physically attractive after you have had a few drinks. Drinking affects the nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain that determines facial attractiveness. Both men and women may be more attracted to a member of the opposite sex at a party serving alcohol. Intimate behavior releases a hormone called oxytocin, which triggers “the biochemistry of attachment” making a person vulnerable.

Grossman references a study from Princeton University in which 91% of women admitted to having feelings of regret about a sexual relationship, and 80% said they wished the sexual experience had never happened. God created sex to be a special bonding agent in marriage. When used as God intended, it makes it one of the most positive experiences humans can have. When it is misused, the result is overwhelmingly negative. First Corinthians 15:33 tells us that “bad company corrupts good morals.” Associating with those who don’t follow God’s intended use of our bodies leads to destructive results.

Dr. Grossman’s book is available from the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women, 112 Elden Street Suite P, Herndon VA 20170. Website cblwomen.org or phone 888-891-4288.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Christian Messages on Face Masks

Christian Messages on Face Masks

As people wear masks during the pandemic, many people place messages on them. There certainly is no problem with that, as long as the message is not vulgar or abusive. We have seen many “Black Lives Matter” mask messages and messages about defunding police, supporting police, supporting political candidates, and women’s rights. It seems that almost any cause can be advertised, except for Christian messages on face masks.

In Mississippi, a 3rd grader named Lydia Booth wore a mask to school that said, “Jesus Loves Me.” She not only was forced to remove the mask, but the school threatened with suspension for wearing it. We have heard from students at the college level who have been disciplined for similar public expressions of faith. If other messages are permitted, Christian messages on face masks should also be.

The founders never intended the First Amendment to curtail public expressions of faith. This third-grader had no financial interest in wearing a mask to express her faith. This reminds us of an incident recorded in Acts 4. The religious leaders commanded Peter and John “not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus” (verse 18). They responded by saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (verses 19-20).

God expects our priorities to be clear, with our faith at the top of the list. That is not only the message of the Bible but also the message of those who wrote the Constitution.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Practical Value of Christ’s Teaching on forgiveness

Practical Value of Christ's Teaching on forgiveness

Many teachings of Christianity offer solutions to the problems we face in the 21st century. Skeptics claim that the Bible is an ancient book of myths with no relevance to life in the modern era. That is not true! The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness speaks to divine inspiration and validates the Christian life.

One area that relates to depression and mental illness is how we forgive people who have wronged us. The evolutionary explanation tells us to live by the survival of the fittest, and getting even is a key to survival. In reality, that doesn’t work, but Christ’s teaching on forgiveness does.

Trying to demonstrate your superiority by getting even contaminates all human relationships. I have seen unbelieving friends and family members spend much of their lives trying to get even with someone who wronged them. People are often estranged from siblings, parents, or children because they follow an unchristian approach to perceived wrongs.

Christ taught a different approach. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told his followers, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive those who sin against you, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.” This is in such contrast to human nature that in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Christ how many times he must forgive a brother. Peter thought he was generous by suggesting a limit of seven times. Jesus responded by saying seventy times seven. He didn’t mean 490 times. He was saying that forgiveness of a brother, friend, or even an enemy is unlimited.

The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness is proven by the fact that failing to forgive will eat you alive, mentally and emotionally. Most of us have no problem forgiving the mistakes of a small child an unlimited number of times. We need to have that same spirit in dealing with family members and others. If you are a Christian and someone has wronged you, don’t carry a grudge and build a wall between you and that person.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our capacity to forgive is one of the most critical demonstrators of that love. If you are not a Christian, I suggest that there is help from God in feeling forgiveness, leading to better mental health and freedom from depression. The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness demonstrates that it is not based on human wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Apathy May Lead to Dementia

Apathy May Lead to Dementia

Because we are living longer, the incidence of dementia has also increased. One form is frontotemporal dementia, which hits most of its victims between ages 45 and 65. There is a gene for frontotemporal dementia, but having the gene does not mean that the person is doomed to have the disease. Keeping our body and brain active may play a role in whether that gene will be expressed. Apathy may lead to dementia.

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that there is a correlation between apathy and frontotemporal dementia. Their studies show that people who are lazy, in depression, or have lost interest in life becoming apathetic toward their daily activities are potential victims of frontotemporal dementia.

God never intended for people to be inert. In ancient times, people struggled for existence, and life expectancy was short enough that dementia wasn’t an issue. In today’s world, that is not the case. Passively watching television instead of getting involved in activities, social interaction, or reading can make a difference in whether our gene for frontotemporal dementia will be expressed.

A person’s role in Church activities may also be a factor in frontotemporal dementia. We have seen “Golden Ager” programs in many churches where we have conducted workshops and VBS programs. The people were active, dynamic, mentally alert, and living into their 90’s with vigor and enthusiasm.

You can retire from your secular employment, but don’t retire from God. Apathy may lead to dementia, but staying active supports mental health and freedom from frontotemporal dementia.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from The Week, January 29, 2021, page 22.

Even Christians Have Abortions

Even Christians Have Abortions

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that killing a baby is a choice women have the right to make. We have pointed out before that it is scientifically impossible to support the view that a fetus is just an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness happens because the mother’s body tries to reject a foreign object. Nearly 50 million babies, each with their own genome, have been aborted in the United States, and even Christians have abortions.

It is easy to carry a sign around opposing abortion or write an article condemning it. The fact is that if a woman finds herself pregnant and doesn’t want the baby, she has an excruciating decision to make. No one should trivialize an unwanted pregnancy or throw stones at a woman who has had an abortion.

It is essential to look at ourselves and see that we don’t become hypocritical when faced with a situation where abortion seems to be the easiest answer – either for us or someone we love. “40 Days for Life” is a pro-life movement claiming the involvement of over 20,000 churches and more than a million participants. Carmen Pate, working with that group, released disturbing statistics that even Christians have abortions. Of the women who have had abortions, 43% identify themselves as Protestants, and 27% identify as Catholic. One in four women has had at least one abortion by age 45.

The abortion dilemma continues to divide America and is a challenging problem to solve. The real answer is to stop endorsing promiscuity and provide better ways for couples who want children to adopt babies. As an adoptive father of three children, I am so thankful that my kids’ biological mothers were strong enough to allow them to live and grow into productive adults.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

On Valentine’s Day

On Valentine's Day

People in many countries observe various customs on Valentine’s Day, February 14, although, in a few areas, it’s celebrated in July. Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday in any country, but it is certainly a cultural holiday.

Saint Valentine’s Day originated as a Christian observance in honor of a saint (or saints) named Valentinus in the third century. It may have been an effort of early Christians to purify a pagan Roman holiday called Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility and occurred around February 14.

In the fourteenth century, Valentine’s Day came to be associated with romantic love. Today it has become highly commercialized due to merchants taking advantage of the giving of gifts to loved ones. Many legends about this day have come down concerning its origin and reason and, many countries have their own customs on Valentine’s Day.

One thing is sure—we need more love in the world.
I am not talking about romantic love, but the kind of love that is meant by the ancient Greek word “agape.” The Apostle Paul used that Greek word in his letter to the church in Corinth in the first century. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Whether on Valentines’s Day or any other day, we can never get too much of that kind of love.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Financial Management and Debt in the Bible

Financial Management and Debt in the Bible

There are many teachings of Christianity that offer solutions to the problems we all face in the 21st century. The claims of skeptics that the Bible is an ancient book of myths that have no relevance to life in the modern era is false. The practical value of Christ’s teaching speak to its inspiration by God and validate the Christian life. No area of life shows this more clearly than financial management and debt.

In the days of Christ, many people had difficulty managing their money. The common people would get themselves in debt to a money lender–sometimes just to buy the necessities of life. Many of Christ’s parables address the issues of getting into debt and settling debts. One option for debtors in those days was to sell themselves into slavery to the person who loaned them the money. The Old Testament law said that the maximum length of servitude was seven years. There were even special times when all debts were forgiven.

People still have trouble with financial management and debt. In today’s world, instead of a person lending the money it is a credit card company. Many people become slaves to them. One option today is to declare bankruptcy. It is interesting that bad credit can be resolved in the same time period as the old Jewish law–seven years.

The teachings of Christ and the early Church revolved around avoiding servitude. The key phrase in the teachings of Christianity is “being content.” In Luke 3:14, Christ told soldiers to “be content with your wages.” Hebrews 13:5-6 tells Christians “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said ‘Never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid of what man can do to me.” Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, stated this principle clearly in Matthew 6:19-34. That passage warns against “laying up treasures on Earth.” It points out that we can’t always change our station in life, but that Christ’s followers should trust God for our needs.

In 1 Timothy 6:8-9, Paul tells Christians to be content if they have food and clothing and that “foolish and harmful desires …plunge men into ruin and destruction.” How much grief, mental anguish, and frustration has credit card debt brought on people today? Later in that passage Paul talks about the uncertainty of wealth (verses 17-21). In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says, “I have learned to be content.” For Christians, the Church is the security blanket to provide basic support, and Matthew 25:34-46 tells Christians how to find what really brings contentment.

The Bible’s wisdom is a great testimony to its divine origin, and gives practical lessons for financial management and debt. Wealthy Christians are told not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth. The Bible tells all Christians to put their hope in God, whether they are rich or poor so they can “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Legal Assault on Christian Values

Legal Assault on Christian Values
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNhGAWtzbTY&feature=emb_logo

One of the things going on in America today is the massive legal assault on Christian values. The Christian view that LGBTQ behavior has unhealthy consequences for individuals is becoming illegal. Christian love and concern compel us to warn a person that a behavior is destructive and unwise, but no Christian would want to put someone in jail or fine them for having an LGBTQ belief or practice. However, LGBTQ lawyers attempt to make Christian beliefs illegal and justify fines and imprisonment for Christian teachings. 

An example of damage to innocent people caused by LGBTQ advocates is the inclusion of transgender participants in girl’s athletics. Now 16 states are allowing biological male transgender people to compete in girl’s sports. Obviously, a biological male can have a huge natural advantage over girls and women in bone density, muscle mass, and lung capacity. Biological males who have chosen to be females have won several athletic events denying capable girls the possibility of scholarships. Even magazines like the New York Post have pointed out the unfairness of this inclusion.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has 300 staff attorneys and a $300 million budget to bring expensive lawsuits against Christians and precipitate laws that afflict them. Planned Parenthood has more than $600 million in taxpayer funding, much of which goes to legal attacks on churches and pro-life organizations. The Southern Poverty Law Center has $500 million to use for similar agendas. Christians must be aware of the legal assault on Christian values and express their concern to their political representatives. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from The Week, February 5, 2021, and Alliance Defending Freedom letter for January 25, 2021.

What Color Is Your River?

What Color Is Your River?

In my lifetime I have spent a lot of time on rivers. Living in Canada, I became acquainted with beautiful blue water with a clarity that allowed you to see the river’s bottom even at 20 feet. When my family moved to Bloomington, Indiana, I became involved with the White River, which was anything but white or blue. What color is your river?

In our 12 trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I saw changes in the water from time to time. The river was sometimes brown and other times crystal blue depending on how much upstream water was being released from the Glen Canyon Dam. I now live on the Saint Joseph River in southern Michigan. I have read the notes of the first explorers who came through this area in which they tell of being able to see the bottom of the river through 20 feet of water. Now you can only see about a foot down. There has been a massive change in Americas’ rivers through the years.

In 1984, Satellites started taking pictures of rivers in the United States. Over 230,000 images have been taken and analyzed by the University of Pittsburgh, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University. The data shows that only five percent of Americas’ rivers are still blue. Twenty-eight percent are green, which in most cases is caused by algae. The remainder are yellow, with 11,629 miles of rivers having become distinctly greener since 1984.

As rivers change from blue to yellow to green, what can live in the rivers also changes. In the Saint Joseph River, where we live in Michigan, the kind of fish that live in the river today are far different from the native trout seen by the early settlers of this area. Today the river has large numbers of suckers and carp. There are some bass and panfish, and we do have salmon from Lake Michigan migrating up the river to spawn. Transplanted fish like walleye are popular, but the whole ecological makeup has changed.

What color is your river? More important is the question of what is causing the rivers to change color? The causes, according to the studies, are farm fertilizer runoff, dams, sewage, and global warming, which has raised the temperature so that cold-water fish cannot live in the river. This is more than the loss of recreational use of waterways. Numerous diseases, including cancer, are related to what is in the water we drink, bathe in, and provide to our animals.

The question of what color is your river leads to asking what you can do about it. Christians need to be vocal in encouraging our culture to initiate significant efforts to turn our waterways blue again. It is interesting that in Revelation 22:1-2, when the inspired writer wanted to portray some of the properties of heaven to mortal humans, he describes “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.” In ancient times, when people wanted to worship and get away from the hassle of human activity, they went to a river. (See Acts 16:13.) Today most of our rivers are not that attractive.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein, January 9, 2021.