Collateral Benefits of Worship

Collateral Benefits of Worship

When dealing with people who have no church affiliation, we often hear the line, “I don’t need to go to church to be good.” This frequently comes from someone who has had a bad experience with the hypocrisy of a church-goer. However, new research data shows collateral benefits of worship and involvement in a church. The study by Johns Hopkins researchers shows a connection between being socially isolated and dementia.

The study involved 5,022 dementia-free U.S. adults aged 65 or older with an average age of 76 and not living in a residential care facility. The data showed that socially isolated adults have a 27% higher chance of developing dementia than those who are not socially isolated. The study defined social isolation as “having few relationships and few people to interact with regularly.” That included whether the person attended religious services or participated in social events. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that social isolation is responsible for other serious health conditions, including heart disease and depression.

These studies are not designed to validate attendance at worship or involvement in church activities. However, they show the collateral benefits of worship in a corporate setting. Meeting together in a church setting meets the criteria for preventing social isolation. Worship and Bible study are always on a regular schedule, so participation is not sporadic and allows a person to associate with the same group of people regularly. If the group is following the instructions of Jesus and the example of the first-century Church, participation provides the ideal environment to avoid social isolation.

Galatians 6:2 tells Christians to “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In Acts 2:42-47, we read that the early Christians were together daily (verse 46) and shared food and fellowship. The acts of worship encourage people not to be socially isolated. Singing together (not listening to someone else) is a recognized tool for avoiding social isolation. Who hasn’t enjoyed singing with others around a campfire? The communion service is not just vertical with Christ but horizontal as we join in a common act of spiritual oneness.

Tragically, many churches have fallen into the same trap as the Corinthian Church did by letting human power struggles produce social isolation. (See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.) According to the Bible, true worship provides a way to be at peace with God while living with others and avoiding isolation. God has given us many ways to improve our lives, and we should not overlook the collateral benefits of worship and avoiding social isolation.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: NPR.com and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Conflict Between Faith and Science – Or Not?

Conflict Between Faith and Science – Or Not? - Museum of the Bible

A new “Scripture and Science” exhibition has opened at The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. The exhibit shows that the Bible has encouraged and nourished science. Curator of the exhibition Dr. Anthony Schmidt, explained, “While there is this persistent myth that there is this ongoing conflict between faith and science, we highlight the ways that the Bible has left an impact on some of history’s greatest thinkers – scientists [and] natural philosophers.” The exhibition points out that the Bible has not been an impediment to science but has encouraged and nourished science.

The exhibit is organized around six key questions: (1) How did it all begin? (2) What keeps the universe running? (3) How did life begin? (4) What makes me human? (5) What can we accomplish? (6) How will it all end? These are all questions that swarm around the supposed conflict between faith and science.

The exhibit quotes prominent scientists, including Robert Jastrow, Arno Penzias, Arthur Holly Compton, Fred Hoyle, Charles Townes, Guillermo Gonzalez, Leslie Wickman, Deborah Haarsma, and the Discovery Institute staff. Many of these are Nobel Prize winners.

In the section on “What makes me human?” Nancy Pearcey, the author of the book Total Truth, explains how our concept of human dignity stems from the biblical concept that we are created in the image of God. Also in that section, a display shows how that biblical understanding challenged scientific racism. It tells the story of a young African man, Ota Benga, who was put on display at the Bronx Zoo as an evolutionary link. That ended when Christian leaders objected, led by African-American minister James Gordon who said, “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”

Faith did conflict with scientific racism. However, this exhibition debunks the myth of the conflict between faith and science. It will continue at the Museum of the Bible until January 15, 2024.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Museum of the Bible’s website and evolutionnews.org

Asking a Computer if God Exists

Asking a Computer if God Exists

Years ago, I heard a joke that went something like this. Scientists developed a massively powerful computer that could answer any question. The researchers asked the computer, “How did the universe begin?” The computer whirred, lights flashed, and out popped this answer: “See Genesis 1:1.” That joke originated when computers filled a large room, had spinning reels of tape and flashing lights, and used punch cards. Now, computers are small, use keyboards and monitors, have voice recognition, and speak in many languages. Soon we may have quantum computers with capabilities only dreamed of today. Have you ever tried asking a computer if God exists?

A topic that has received much publicity in recent months is artificial intelligence (AI). As computers become more humanlike with their ability to speak and answer questions, we are coming to depend on them more and more. Knowledgeable people suggest that the growth of AI will dramatically affect business, medicine, and entertainment. Other areas expected to face major changes because of AI are work, war, and education.

Recently, I have seen articles concerning a new AI development that worries educators. It’s called ChatGPT. This app can do more than answer questions. It can write essays. A student with an assignment to write a 500-word essay on a subject can input the topic and let ChatGPT write the paper. I decided this would be a good opportunity for asking a computer if God exists.

Going back to that old story, I asked the computer, “How did the universe begin?” ChatGPT responded with a 237-word essay on the Big Bang that agreed with current scientific theories. It was nicely worded, grammatically correct, and would probably satisfy a school teacher. However, it didn’t fully answer the question, just as the Big Bang theory does not.

Then I asked ChatGPT to write an essay about proving the existence of God. The result was 430 words that read in part:

“One of the most commonly cited arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. This argument states that the universe had a beginning, and that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Therefore, it is reasoned that the universe must have been caused by something that exists outside of the universe, and that this cause is God. This argument is based on the principle of causality, which states that for every effect, there must be a cause.
Another argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument. This argument states that the universe is complex and ordered, with many intricate systems and processes that work together in harmony. This complexity and order is argued to be the result of an intelligent designer, which is God. The design argument is based on the idea that the universe is too complex and ordered to be the result of chance, and that it must have been created by an intelligent being.
A third argument that is often used to prove the existence of God is the moral argument. This argument states that humans have a moral sense, and that this moral sense must come from a higher being, which is God. The moral argument is based on the idea that moral laws and values cannot be explained by natural causes, but must be the result of an intelligent and moral being.
Some people argue that the existence of God can be known through personal experience, through faith. They believe that God can reveal himself in personal experiences, such as through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices. They argue that the existence of God is something that can be known through a personal relationship with God, and not something that can be proven through reason or science.”


That summarized the arguments for God’s existence. Then, however, I decided to make the question more direct by asking a computer if God exists. So I asked ChatGPT, “Does God exist?” The answer came back in 195 words that concluded with:

“Ultimately, the question of whether or not God exists is a matter of personal belief and faith. It is important for individuals to form their own opinions on the matter based on their own experiences, beliefs and personal understanding of the world.”

Since ChatGPT never referred me to Genesis 1:1, I decided to ask, “What do we learn from Genesis 1:1?” I received this response:

“It teaches that God is the creator of all things, including the heavens and the earth. Additionally, it implies that God’s creation of the universe was a purposeful and deliberate act, rather than the result of chance or natural processes.”

I certainly can’t argue with that. I conclude that asking a computer if God exists will never result in a definitive answer to the question. Each of us must reach our own conclusion based on examining the evidence with an open mind.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: ChatGPT from OpenAI

BabylonBee Satire with a Message

BabylonBee Satire with a Message

I often enjoy the posts on the satirical website BabylonBee.com. Many times the BabylonBee satire relates to Christian faith, and that is true of the one posted on October 8, 2022. It tells the fictional story of two friends named Brad and Vince. Brad was suffering after losing his job and being diagnosed with lupus. Vince tried to “comfort” him by saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle in life.” Brad was suspicious that “Vince isn’t real accurate with these Bible quotes.” I agree with Brad that we can misuse the Bible when trying to comfort someone.

Vince was apparently using I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (ESV) First, let me point out that the verse does not say that God gives you these trials and temptations. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” In other words, God does not “give” us “more than we can handle in life.”

With that clarified, we can agree that the tempter, Satan, certainly tries to give us more trials and temptations than we can stand. In the BabylonBee satire, Brad decided to check the Bible for himself. His reaction was, “Wow. Like half the characters in here just lay down and beg to die at some point…Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job – all tell God they wish they could just cash it in. Then you have the Psalms of David – the man apparently lived half his life in total despair.”

As Brad realized, even though God doesn’t give us the bad things in life, He doesn’t always protect us from them. God gives us the good things. James 1:17 says, “Every good give and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” The problem comes when we blame God for the bad things and then try to face them on our own. Again, James 1:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I like the way the BabylonBee satire ends. “Brad was sharing with Vince the good news that sometimes, the place where you are completely crushed and defeated is the easiest place to hear God speak.” That’s it! God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but if we allow it, those things can bring us closer to Him as we realize we can’t handle them by ourselves.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: BabylonBee.com/news

The Pool of Siloam Affirms Scripture

The Pool of Siloam Affirms Scripture

The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel National Parks Authority, and the City of David Foundation celebrated the new year by announcing that in 2023, the Pool of Siloam will be open to the public for the first time in 2,000 years. The Pool of Siloam is where Jesus healed the blind man in John 9:1-7 using the pool to test the man’s faith and demonstrate Christ’s power to restore his sight. Skeptics have challenged the biblical account on several levels, but the Pool of Siloam affirms scripture.

The archeological excavation of the pool and its location in the southern portion of the City of David verifies the accuracy of the Biblical account. It was built as part of Jerusalem’s water system in the 8th century B.C. This construction is related to the work of King Hezekiah, described in 2 Kings 20:20. Archeological work and further excavation of the site will continue.

The Pool of Siloam affirms scripture and is now part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, where it will be open to the public. This is another verification of the biblical record and adds more support to those of us who believe in the accuracy of the Bible as the Word of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Fox News

Survival Requires Change

Survival Requires Change - Giant Panda

We are entering an interesting time of change for living plants and animals on planet Earth. We are in a period of rapid climate change, and for many living things, survival requires change. However, for some life forms, this is not an issue. For example, omnivores, animals that eat a wide variety of foods, can change their diet to whatever is available. For example, bears in Alaska eat salmon, but if that is not available, they eat insects, nuts, plants, rodents, and marine shore life such as clams.

For other animals, the situation is much more complicated. For example, giant pandas rely on bamboo for food. Not only is their digestive system designed to eat only bamboo, but even their hands and fingers are designed to modify the bamboo so they can eat it. Polar bears rely on ice flows to get the seals that make up most of their diet. With much of the ice in polar areas melting, the bears cannot secure food, and starvation threatens many of them.

Survival requires change, and for some animals, that means migrating to a different place where they can find their dietary needs. As the oceans warm, cold-water fish migrate to northern areas. Some corals are establishing new colonies in different places as conditions where they have lived for centuries no longer meet their needs. On the other hand, animals with specialized equipment, such as pandas, will face extinction. Humans can step in with temporary solutions, but eventually, some forms of life will cease to exist. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

The fossil record shows us that survival requires change. A significant change in the climate caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, that eventually provided a climate and atmosphere where humans and the animals we depend on could thrive. Asteroid material did not directly destroy the dinosaurs, but the asteroid collision changed the climate. That change produced an environment in which dinosaurs could not survive, but it led to the formation of a climate ideal for humans.

Genesis 1:2 is an interesting passage. A possible translation of the verse is, “And the earth became wasted and emptied, and darkness was upon the face of the deep place.” That would indicate a change in Earth’s condition. God has used such changes to accomplish His will. The flood of Noah was not primarily an environmental act but a response by God to the sinfulness of humans at that time. Climatic change is another tool God has used in the past. In geologic time, there have been periods of hot and cold, and survival requires change. The current change in Earth’s climate is not solely caused by humans. We may contribute to the process, but humans are not the sole cause.

God’s creative processes don’t involve “magic tricks.” Instead, God uses natural methods to shape and mold planet Earth. Some animals, such as dinosaurs, have played essential roles in contributing to the resources that humans would need. When they had completed their mission, a change brought about their extinction. The Bible doesn’t tell us how God did what He did, but the more we study the creation, the more we understand some of His processes. Climate change has been one of them and may be so again.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

New Year Celebrations Around the World

New Year Celebrations 2023

New Year celebrations are, for the most part, worldwide. In ancient Thailand, people fired guns to frighten off demons, thinking that would make the new year demon free. In ancient China, people used firecrackers to repel the forces of darkness. Church bells in Italy rang to repel evil forces while the Swiss beat drums for the same purpose. The origin of using sirens and party horns in America was to repel evil demons. 

Food and drink have been part of new year celebrations. In Spain, revelers stuffed their mouths with 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock. In the southern part of the U.S., people thought eating black-eyed peas and pork would bring good fortune in the coming year. In some cultures, people believed that eating a ring-shaped treat such as doughnuts symbolizes “coming full circle” and would bring good fortune. Dutch homes served fritters called “oliebollen,” and the Irish enjoyed “bannocks.” In India and Pakistan, people believed that eating rice would bring prosperity in the new year. 

New year celebrations bring the hope that the coming year will be better than the past year. The things that can prevent that from happening are human selfishness, greed, abuse, and power struggles. Jesus Christ addressed this in Luke 12:16-34 when He told the parable of the rich man and his treasure. Jesus summarized the parable in verse 21 by saying, “The man who hoards things for himself and is not rich toward God remains a pauper in God’s sight.” He then tells His disciples that life is more than food and the body is more than clothes (verse 23). He ends the teaching by warning His disciples not to set their hearts on food and drink. He said, “Pagans make food and drink their aim in life … but rather let your chief care be for the kingdom of God” (verses 29-31). He ends the discussion by saying, “Your heart will be where your treasure is” (verse 34). 

This New Year’s Day is a great time to take stock of what you value in life and where that will take you in 2023. Christians do not have to worry about demons or food or drink because their focus is on spiritual matters. While having another year of life is a good thing, having eternal life is even better. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2022.

The Authority of the Bible

The Authority of the Bible
In the final days of 2022, we are looking back at some of the major topics we have previously covered.

On this final day of 2022, we consider the authority of the Bible. We have been looking at God’s revelation in His creation. As Romans 1:20 tells us, “For the invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God’s creation reveals His eternal power and divine nature. God’s revelation in His written word reveals His love and the plan He designed for you and me. The authority and reliability of the Bible is a topic we have often emphasized. Here are some links to examples:

We have dealt with the authority of the Bible in many more articles. The emphasis of the Does God Exit? ministry is on the existence of God and the Bible as His Word. We desire to show that science and the Bible are friends, not enemies. As John Clayton often says, you don’t have to disengage your brain to be a Christian. You can go to the DoesGodExist.today website and use the search box to find more information on any topic we have covered over the years. We invite you to continue following our daily posts as we enter the new year of 2023.

Christmas Antagonism and Value

Christmas Antagonism and Value

During this Christmas season, some people are trying to produce division. Some of the Christmas antagonism has an element of truth to it. December 25 is most certainly not the date when Jesus was born. The shepherds would not have been in the hills with their sheep in December. Critics say Christmas is just a commercial holiday, which is true for many people. Some businesses make their entire yearly profit in December. 

Some religious people say, “This is just a human-created holiday and is not in the Bible.” It is true that no biblical command or example compels Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ. Others say that the winter holiday has roots in pagan rituals. That is true, but we do many things and celebrate special days that are rooted in cultural and national traditions. 

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14 that some people esteem one day while others do not. The essential point is that we live in harmony and do all to the glory of God. He points out that “he that observes these things serves Christ and is acceptable to God and approved of men” and that Christians need to “follow after the things that make for peace and things by which we can edify one another.” (See verses 1-9.) 

The Jewish people in the time of Christ observed celebrations that God did not command, and Jesus participated in these. For example, God did not command Purim, which celebrated the Jewish people’s deliverance, as revealed in the book of Esther. Likewise, Hanukkah celebrates the cleansing of the temple, and Jesus participated in the observance (See John 10:22.) 

Many good things come from the Christmas observance. Here is a partial list. Christmas is…

1) …a catalyst for artistic expression in music and art.

2) …a motivator to the joy of giving. (See Acts 20:35.)

3) …a catalyst for unity. (See John 17:11 -23.)

4) …a reminder of the importance of family.

5) …a cure for midwinter depression.

6) …a catalyst for gratitude.

7) …a reminder that God cares about us. (See John 3:16.)

8) …to remind us of why we exist. (See Isaiah 45:18, Ephesians 3:9-11 and 6:12.)

While Christmas antagonism emerges every year, having a time when the world focuses on Christ’s coming, purpose, and message is worth the struggle with Satan’s attempts to corrupt the holiday. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Drugs and Highway Safety

Drugs and Highway Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on drugs and highway safety (December 2022) showing data from seven level-one trauma centers and four medical centers around the country. Of 7,279 road users tested, 20% of drivers had blood alcohol levels of .08% or higher, exceeding the legal limit in every state. However, they also found that 20% of those tested were positive for two or more drugs, so alcohol was only part of the problem. The studies also found that over 50% of injured pedestrians and just over 43% of injured bicyclists had a drug in their bloodstreams.

In addition to recreational drugs making highways unsafe for all of us, new studies released by the American Lung Association show the effect of long-term marijuana smoking. Data gathered at Ottawa Hospital in Canada show that 93% of older marijuana smokers had developed emphysema. That is higher than the rate in cigarette smokers, which was 67%. However, the data on non-smokers that have come out over the years suggests that emphysema is not a significant concern unless a person is around second-hand smoke.

Addiction to recreational drugs, including alcohol, is not just a problem for the users. Last week, here in Niles, Michigan, a friend was driving on Main Street with her child in a car seat. A person pulled out of the local marijuana distribution shop without looking, hitting, and totaling my friend’s car. I was putting groceries in my car at the local supermarket when a guy drove into the parking lot at high speed, doing wheelies and forcing me and several others to run into the grocery store to avoid being hit. The policeman later told me the driver had just come from the marijuana store and was using the drug as he drove.

This issue goes beyond drugs and highway safety. The further our society goes away from God, the more pain, suffering, disease, and abuse we can expect to see. Christians know that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we should take care of them. Therefore, bringing the gospel of Christ to our society is not just a spiritual issue. It is also a clear road to a better and safer life for all of us.

— John N. Clayton © 2022