Why Would God Do That?

Why Would God Do That?

A Christian friend was looking for help to answer his sons’ questions. One son is in high school, and the other is in college, and they questioned why God would tell the Israelites to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15: 2-3). Why would God do that – requiring total destruction of the Amalekite society?

I shared my thoughts on this question, but first, I suggested he go to our website, doesgodexist.tv, using this LINK. Then scroll down to video #7 in the series titled “Anticipating Some Objections.” Between 11:50 and 15:40 in that video, you will find a very brief answer to the objection of why God would command the killing of all of the Amalekites, including women, children, and livestock.

It seems that in addition to other sins, such as attacking the Israelites in Exodus 17, the Amalekites were sexually corrupt, even including bestiality. That resulted in diseases, even affecting the animals, for which there was no cure at that primitive time. If the Amalekites and their animals were allowed to live in the land God had promised to His people, they would morally corrupt the Israelites and even spread diseases.

God was preparing a people through which He would bring salvation to all people. Why would God do that? Because of His love. Allowing the Israelites to be corrupted by their neighbors could destroy God’s plan to redeem all humanity through Jesus Christ. The gospel came into the world because God had prepared a people who believed in the one true God who created all things. Any other religious system would not work to prepare people to accept Christ’s message.

The Israelites failed to follow God’s instructions to the letter, and that failure returned to haunt them. (See 1 Samuel 30.) Paganism corrupted even Israel’s kings. However, God allowed His chosen people to suffer captivity and punishment. Why would God do that? Allowing His people to suffer eventually led to the Jewish people at the time of Jesus being completely cured of paganism. They had other faults, but they refused to worship any pagan gods. They had the prophecies of the Old Testament and the miracles and message of Jesus to cause many of them to believe and be baptized into Christ’s body, the Church. Although many rejected Christ, those who accepted the gospel became powerful witnesses to the pagans of their day to the point where they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). (Actually, they turned it right side up.)

The Church today would not exist if God had not taken harsh steps that may seem immoral to our modern Christian sensitivities. I believe that without the influence of Christianity in the past two millennia, people would have destroyed civilization and the planet before now. As people reject God today, we are on the verge of doing that. Today, God does not command us to save the world by destroying our enemies but by bringing them into God’s family through His Church. Why would God do that? Because He loves all people. When you consider the entire history from God’s perspective and realize His ultimate purpose, you realize it was because of His love that He commanded the destruction of the Amalekites.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Coordinated Vigilance

Coordinated Vigilance in the family

Research shows that rabbitfish in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef forage for food in pairs using “coordinated vigilance” to avoid predators. The rabbitfish take turns foraging for algae in reef crevices while the partner is on guard duty in “an upright vigilance position.” Researchers said, “Both behaviors are strongly coordinated, and partners regularly alternate their positions.” The researchers say this reciprocity is “thought to require a suite of complex cognitive abilities.” In other words, how could fish that “lack complex social and cognitive skills” have evolved this system?

Scientists have studied cooperative behavior in some mammals and a few birds. Teamwork in fish is almost nonexistent, but God has placed this unique genetic value in rabbitfish. This is especially interesting when you look at humans. In Genesis 2:18-24, God created a helper for Adam. The Hebrew word “ezer” used in these verses does not indicate that woman is inferior to man or of lesser importance. The idea is that a woman can do what a man cannot do for himself. Like the rabbitfish and other life forms, coordinated vigilance is built into the genetics of various living things to allow them to survive.

The New Testament passages Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 indicate that fathers have a role to play in the family in relationship to children. The concept is that God intends for coordinated vigilance with husband and wife to be the foundation of the family. In human societies, when coordinated vigilance is not practiced, the whole structure of culture falls apart. This does not bode well for societies around the world today.

Our nation’s violence and struggles will only get worse as society distances itself from God and His instructions. We promote the Bible as the word of God because the evidence shows that when people follow biblical instructions, society works. When people fail to follow them, the culture disintegrates.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: nih.gov

Does God Answer Prayers?

Does God Answer Prayers?

If you have not read yesterday’s post, please do so. Atheist challenges to prayer are very vocal and common. Madalyn Murray O’Hair stated the atheist position well: “No God ever gave any man anything, nor ever answered any prayer at any time – nor ever will.” God’s response to this statement is well stated in James 4:1 -3, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Does God answer prayers?

Both atheists and believers have many misunderstandings about prayer:
#1) God cannot eliminate our purpose for existing by answering a prayer that takes away the human ability to choose between good and evil.

#2) Galatians 6:7 tells us, “A man reaps what he sows.” There will be consequences when we do what God has told us not to do. If you jump off a cliff, you can’t expect God to prevent you from hitting the bottom.

#3) As humans, we don’t always know what to ask for, and we don’t know the collateral damage of things we ask for. Garth Brooks has a wonderful song titled “Unanswered Prayer.” Listen to the words and be aware of their message.

#4) We tend to experience an answer to prayer by assuming the answer was a product of chance or human wisdom. Does a medical cure for something mean that God had no role in the healing? Most doctors will tell you that they don’t cure diseases. They help the body fight off the cause.

#5) God doesn’t do for us what we can do for ourselves.

What would be the result if God answered every human whim and desire? I was in a church service where a farmer prayed for rain. Later, another member prayed it wouldn’t rain on his daughter’s wedding. During the Civil War, people on both sides prayed for victory for their side.

Does God answer prayers? Most 12-step participants, most of us who have sought a purpose for existing, most of us who have prayed for personal peace and comfort, and most of us who have struggled with our approaching death can tell you that prayer helps in obvious ways. Our misunderstanding of why God wants us to pray prevents us from comprehending the value of prayer.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer?

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer?

It is interesting that the more vocal atheists of our day spend a lot of time talking about prayer. Many of them became atheists because when they were younger, God didn’t answer a prayer as they thought He should. The death of a family member, especially a mother or father, is the most common story we have heard as a reason for not believing in God. The common phrase is, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer? If He really exists, why did He let my child (or mother, father, spouse) die?’

The songbook we use at our worship time contains 45 songs about prayer. Eleven of them promise that God will take care of you and not deny anything you ask. Skeptics have said the song “God Will Take Care of You” by Civilla and Walter Martin “is an outright lie.” Atheists often quote the line, “Nothing you ask will be denied.”

The other side of this issue is what we should legitimately pray for. My wife recently lost a hearing aid. She prayed for several days about the loss, and just when she had given up, the hearing aid appeared on the seat of our car. Does God micromanage our lives to help us find lost objects?

For any Bible promise, we must ask what was said, who said it, why, and how the people hearing it would have understood it. In passages like Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you …” He goes on to say, “Your Father in heaven will give good gifts to those who ask for them.” These passages and many others tell Christians that God will answer prayers. The reality is that physical answers do not always come to us, at least not as we expect.

When my son was born, we had great joy, but we soon realized that he had some medical problems. We prayed for his vision problems, and the doctors told us that he would be able to see well enough to function – but he became blind. We prayed that he would have the intelligence to overcome blindness, but it turned out he was mentally challenged. We prayed his body would be strong, but we learned he had cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and was schizophrenic. I went through a “why me” stage and a period of anger at God for allowing my son to have all these problems. I asked, “Why didn’t God answer my prayers?” My atheist parents attempted to get the state to remove the child from our home. That alienated me from them for many years.

One aspect of prayer that many never understand is that God knows the future. He answers prayers in ways that have eternal implications that allow us to have an unintended purpose in life. My experience opened doors that I didn’t even know existed. My son’s problems have molded and shaped me into a radically different person. I have a mission and a purpose in life that I would never have had without the way my prayers were answered. Perhaps the question should be, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer in the way I expected? We will continue with more thoughts on prayer tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Note: The story of my son is available in a book titled “Timothy, My Son and My Teacher,” available directly from our ministry or powervine.store.

God Used Two Methods

God Used Two Methods to bring everything into existence

In the Spring 2024 issue of God and Nature, Dr. John Carpenter has an excellent article on God’s two methods for bringing things into existence. Dr. Carpenter, a Hebrew and Greek scholar, brings a great understanding of two Hebrew terms in Genesis. Genesis uses the terms “bara” and “asah” to show that God used two methods to bring everything into existence.

The first method that Genesis refers to, “bara,” is creating the physical world and time into existence from nothing. Proverbs 8:22-23 describes this as wisdom and says, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of His works before His deeds of old. I was formed long ages ago at the very beginning when the world came to be.” The Hebrew word “bara” is never used to refer to something humans can do. We find it in Genesis 1:1. It is not used again until Genesis 1:27 to describe humans as being in the image of God, referring to our spiritual makeup. Genesis 2:3 describes the two methods God used: “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created (bara) and made (asah).”

That brings us to the second method God used to bring things into existence. “Asah” refers to things that both God and humans can do. That is to take what has already been created and change it to something new. Everything from Genesis 1:2 to Genesis 1:26 involves God making, not creating. The only other Hebrew word that refers to this process is “yatsar” used in Genesis 2:7. That term describes what a potter would do and is used here to refer to God forming the man’s human body, not his spiritual makeup in God’s image).

God used two methods to “create” and “make.” Humans have duplicated what God has done in making things, including work in genetics and genome projects. What sets humans apart from everything else is not our physical makeup. The difference between human DNA and other primates’ DNA is not huge, but human spiritual makeup is a huge difference.

Unfortunately, many denominations refuse to take the Bible literally and twist it to fit their creeds. Science and the Bible agree 100% in what they say, but bad science and bad theology do exist. No one has all the answers, but the evidence is there for all to see and study. Listen to God and not to human theologies, which were an issue in Paul’s day and are an even greater issue today.

In our booklet “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word,” we echo the same point that the Genesis account, with its use of “bara” and “asah,” demonstrates that God used two methods to bring everything into existence. This understanding, when coupled with a literal interpretation of the Bible, reveals a remarkable harmony between science and the Bible, providing reassurance of their compatibility.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: John B. Carpenter in God and Nature, a publication of the American Scientific Affiliation, spring 2024

The Bombardier Beetle Takes Aim

The Bombardier Beetle Takes Aim

The bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism is a fascinating display of complexity. It defends itself by shooting a very hot (212 degrees F) stream of acidic material at an invading predator. The beetle mixes hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, which would explode in ordinary situations, but the bombardier beetle adds an inhibitor to control the reaction. A catalyst breaks down the peroxide, and a chemical known as peroxidase breaks down the hydroquinones so that the explosion does not occur.

The bombardier beetle has twin tail tubes that swivel like a gun turret to aim the hot, acidic mixture at enemies. Slow-motion photography has shown that the chemistry occurs in separate small bursts, so the beetle is not a one-shot wonder but can shoot repeatedly at a predator. This contrasts with skunks, which usually have one shot and require an extended time to replenish the odor fluid.

While many have proposed elaborate evolutionary theories to explain the bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism, The bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism is a fascinating display of complexity. It defends itself by shooting a very hot (212 degrees F) stream of the concept of intelligent design as a plausible alternative explanation.

Like all forms of life on our planet, the bombardier beetle has been designed with specialized equipment to survive in a world of predation. Proverbs 8 talks about the wisdom of God, and Romans 1:20 speaks of living things as a demonstration that allows us to “know there is a God through the things He has made.” The bombardier beetle seems to be a good example of both of these statements.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

You Just have to Believe

You Just have to Believe

Some preachers and church leaders try to tell you, “Don’t question your faith. You just have to believe.” We never find that kind of attitude in the teaching of Jesus or any of the apostles. It is easy to assume that the people we are talking to believe in God, that the Bible is the true Word of God, and that Jesus is a real person who lived, died, and rose from the dead.

It’s a common misconception that everyone in the church has unwavering faith. In reality, a significant portion of people, including those sitting in church pews, have their own doubts and questions. Over the past decade, our ministry has seen a surge in responses, particularly from teenagers and young adults who are grappling with their faith.

Jesus had to deal with the doubts of people who rejected what He said. The Bible describes multiple cases in which people showed Jesus a lack of faith. In Mark 9:17-27, we read of a father with a son who had an epileptic-like issue. Jesus told the distraught father, “All things are possible for one who has faith.” The father cried out with tears, “Lord, I have faith, help me where faith runs short.” Have you ever had a struggle in which you want to believe but are paralyzed by doubt?

How did Jesus handle people’s doubts? The answer is “evidence.” When Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, Jesus did not condemn or even chastise him but gave him evidence ( John 20:24-29). Verses 30 and 31 tell us that Jesus did many other things which gave his disciples evidence, “These things are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you might have life through His name.”

The purpose of miracles was not to attract a crowd, raise money, or campaign for some particular office. In Matthew 8:24 -27, we see Jesus controlling wind and waves, and His followers’ response was, “What kind of a man is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him.” Miracles served a purpose, and when men tried to duplicate the things Jesus did, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16.)

In our day, evidence is still a key to faith. The creation speaks of God’s existence, and archaeological evidence for the validity of the Bible is strong. All around us, we can see the catastrophe when people reject the teachings of Christ and devise their own plan for living. We present evidence in the courses we offer, our printed publications, and our websites. We have far more reason to believe than did people in biblical times when mass media was unavailable and scientific knowledge was minimal. Romans 1:19-20 says it well, and verses 28-32 tell us the consequences of rejecting the evidence.”

— John N. Clayton © 2024

What Created the Universe from Nothing?

Dr. Robert Jastrow - What Created the Universe from Nothing?
Dr. Robert Jastrow (1925-2008)

At the beginning of the 20th century, many scientists, including astronomers and physicists, believed that the universe was eternal. Since it had no beginning, there was no need to explain what created the universe. In other words, there was no need for God.

That began to change in 1905 with Albert Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. His calculations indicated that the universe was either expanding or contracting, but he could not accept that. He invented a “cosmological constant” to balance the effect of gravity. Other scientists recognized his error, which he later admitted was the greatest blunder of his life. Then Georges Lemaître theorized, and Edwin Hubble confirmed that the universe was expanding. Since it is expanding, going back in time to the distant past, the universe would become progressively smaller until it began as an infinitely small and dense “singularity.” That was the beginning of time, space, matter, and energy.

The concept of a beginning posed a significant challenge for many scientists due to its religious implications. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, science continued to confirm that the universe had a beginning. Robert Jastrow, a prominent American physicist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was one such scientist. Despite describing himself as an “agnostic, and not a believer,” He found the idea of a beginning unsettling as it implied a Creator. In his 1978 book God and the Astronomers, he expressed his discomfort in these words:

“This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth… The development is unexpected because science has had such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Even though scientists have scaled that mountain and made great progress in determining when the universe was created, they still cannot explain what created it from nothing. If there was nothing, how can there be a “what” to do the creating? Many scientists are believers in God, but others need to turn to the Bible to find the eternal Creator, the uncaused cause, the One Who created the universe and us for a purpose.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Animals Do Not Possess Human Values or Empathy

Animals Do Not Possess Human Values or Empathy
Warthog

One result of evolutionary thinking is believing that humans are not unique but just animals at the top of the evolutionary ladder. As a result of that message, many people treat animals as if they are humans, at times even raising wild animals in their homes. The problem is that animals do not possess human values or empathy, and their instinctive behavior may cause unexpected problems.

In some cases, animals have reverted to instinctive drives, causing them to attack their owners. A man named Austin Riley in Boerne, Texas, found a newborn warthog whose mother had died. Riley took the tiny warthog, nursed it, and raised it for five years. He named the pet warthog Waylon after Waylon Jennings, a country singer known for his outlaw behavior. When Riley would lie down and listen to sports radio, Waylon would lie down beside him. Riley would take Waylon to Whataburger to get something to eat, and Waylon would sit in the front seat “happy as can be.” Waylon grew to weigh 250 pounds and was identified with Pumbaa in the popular Lion King movie, with the Swahili expression “hakuna matata,” meaning “no worries.” However, there was something to worry about in this case because animals do not possess human values or empathy.

Warthogs have lower tusks protruding from muscular jaws like blades. The tusks are curved, so the warthog can do incredible damage to any animal or person by twisting its head. Warthogs are designed to protect themselves from lions, their main enemies in their native Africa. On an October evening in 2022, Austin came to Waylon’s pen, and the warthog greeted him happily as he went to the feeding trough. Twenty minutes after feeding Waylon, Austin fed Daisy a potbellied pig he raised from a piglet and then walked to his ATV. Suddenly, Waylon attacked Austin, ripping his legs, wrist, abdomen, and neck. Doctors say that Austin lost half of his blood, and his treatment required ten surgeries. Medical studies of Waylon showed he did not have rabies.

The bottom line is that wild animals are not good pets. Animals do not possess human values or empathy. I have known friends who had snakes, alligators, turtles, deer, eagles, crows, chimps, goldfish, and even sharks for pets. In many cases, a time came when the animals acted aggressively toward their keepers. The point is that humans can behave like animals, but animals cannot behave like humans. Humans are created in God’s image, which is expressed in how we live and care for one another at all stages of life. The world would be a much better place if everyone followed the teachings of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapters 5 to 7.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: boingboing.net and Texas Monthly

What Repentance Means

What Repentance Means

A man recently told us, “I can’t repent because I haven’t done anything I need to repent of!” That statement shows ignorance of what repentance means and what we individually should do about it. 

The Hebrew word translated as “repent” in the Old Testament isnacham,” which means to rue or be sorry, as with a sigh. Genesis 6:6-7 tells us that God repented that He made man, and Exodus 32:14, Judges 2:18, and 1 Samuel 15:11 use the same word as God changes His mind about His intents. The Greek word used in the New Testament is “metanoeo” meaning “to have another mind.” We see “metanoia” used many times, including in Matthew 3:2, 4:17,11:20,12:41, Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, 26:20, and 2 Corinthians 12:21.

As the world sinks deeper and deeper into war, violence, ethnic cleansing, sexism, racism, and immorality, the need for a change of mind among the leaders of all nations is evident. The Old Testament tells us many instances when there was no change of mind, and the results were disastrous. At the same time, It shows that good things can happen when leaders change their thinking. In 2 Kings 23:25, we learn this about King Josiah: “…there was no king before him which turned (repented – changed his thinking) with all his soul and with all his might.” The good that came from that change contrasts with the results of the evil leaders, which is one of the primary messages of the Old Testament.

What repentance means is a change in how we think that will positively influence all we do. Matthew 3:8 tells us to “bring forth fruits which prove your repentance.” In Acts 26:20, Paul tells King Agrippa that all men “should repent and turn to God and live lives consistent with repentance.” Ephesians 4:22-25 urges humanity to learn from their former ways of living by casting off their old nature that produces “deluded passions that grow corrupt” and be “mentally and spiritually remade, clothed with a new nature made by God’s design…”

The call for all of us to repent is not about becoming a ‘goody two shoes’ or claiming to be better than anyone else. It’s about accepting a way of life that leads to peace, confidence, and the best of what life has to offer. This is why repentance is a fundamental part of every biblical call to change ourselves. Acts 2:38, for instance, tells us to REPENT and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you WILL receive the GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. It’s a call to change how we think, and the benefits of that change are immense and eternal.

— John N. Clayton © 2024