Freedom of Moral Convictions

Freedom of Moral Convictions and Voting

The political free-for-all that is going on in America now has all kinds of implications for people of faith. The problem is not whether people have the right to adopt any sort of moral stand but whether those people have the right to pass laws that discriminate against others who make different moral choices. Therefore, we must preserve the freedom of moral convictions in our words and actions.

In the past, laws made homosexual activity illegal
, prohibited interracial marriage, and restricted people of Asian descent from owning a business or land. Outdated laws also declared that blacks were humans but not persons and therefore had no rights. Those laws have been removed, but there is a danger of new laws against Christain moral values.

According to the Washington Post, 55 transgender candidates are running for public office this election year. That source also says that 20 gender nonconforming and 18 non-binary candidates are running. They have every right to seek public office. An old cliché says, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Unfortunately, that is no longer true in many cases. Every day we read about public figures who express their opinion and are threatened with a lawsuit or physical harm by someone who feels offended.

We know first-hand about the threat to the freedom of moral convictions. We have pointed out many long-term negative consequences of the LGBTQ lifestyle, especially if drugs and/or surgery are involved. Stating those facts has resulted in threats of lawsuits as well as personal threats against your editor. Christians who openly say that they believe God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman are facing threats of violence or loss of employment in today’s America. If the LGBTQ community succeeds in getting enough representation in our government, will they pass laws outlawing Christian moral beliefs?

Jesus spoke loudly and clearly about the separation of Church and State. Both sides of this issue need to understand the consequences of allowing moral or religious beliefs to determine who makes and enforces the laws. We must not repeat history or expect recompense for past sins.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for 8/14/22, page 16.

Misunderstanding the Concept of Prayer

Misunderstanding the Concept of Prayer

We often find both atheists and believers misunderstanding the concept of prayer. Atheists see prayer as a crutch and an exercise in futility. Madalyn O’Hair, the leading atheist in the late 1900’s, was fond of saying, “No god ever answered any prayer at any time, nor ever will.” Other atheists have said that a god who needs his ego fed by the constant praise of humans isn’t worth having. For many believers, prayer is a crutch to lean on when you are in trouble.

A friend of mine tells the story of being with a family when one of their members was dying. The dying man took his last breath, and then there was silence. One of the family members said, “So what do we do now?” Another said, “I guess we should pray.” To that, the first family member said, “Does anyone here know how to pray?” They were misunderstanding the concept of prayer.

Some religions view prayer as a payment to their concept of god. They see prayer as something their god commands as a price of membership or payment for blessings received. The Christian prayer, as presented in the Bible, is very different. There are multiple admonitions for Christians to pray, but it was never given as a command to all people.

The Christian concept of prayer is not to boost God’s ego or to inform Him about a situation. Instead, Matthew 6:8 tells us, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus followed that statement with a model prayer acknowledging God’s power and glory, recognizing that everything we need comes from Him, and seeking His forgiveness as we forgive others.

Because prayer is integral to spiritual health, it is also a huge contributor to good mental health. Humans need to look to a higher power, which is part of most 12-step recovery programs. Passages like Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 11:9-10, and John 14:13-14 don’t promise physical comfort but spiritual results. James 4:2-7 makes it abundantly clear that prayer is not a selfish request for physical pleasure.

There are 85 original prayers in the Old Testament, and 60 of the psalms are prayers. When you look at who does the praying, why, and what the ultimate result of the prayer is, you don’t see self-seeking requests to an ego-driven god who needs praise to maintain his self-image. What you see is people realizing their dependence on the Creator and seeking a relationship with Him. Those who don’t see their prayers answered may be misunderstanding the concept of prayer.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Never Stop Learning

Never Stop Learning - Paul Debating Epicureans and Stoics in Athens
Paul Debating Epicureans and Stoics in Athens

Ty’Ann Brown writing in Guideposts magazine, made an excellent point about old age and learning. She writes, “Getting older does not automatically mean we are getting wiser. We have to work at it.” I can’t tell you how often I have heard someone with gray hair say, “I never heard that before,” in response to a concept I presented in a class or lecture. They sometimes make the statement with the idea that since they have never heard it before, it could not be accurate. It’s essential that we keep an open mind and never stop learning.

I share Ms. Brown’s view that learning never stops, and God does not want us to stop being students. When you read the life of Jesus Christ, you see that we should never stop learning. At age 12, Jesus sat in the temple, and the scholars were amazed as He was both asking and answering questions (Luke 2:46-47). In Matthew 8:5-10, Jesus came in contact with a centurion, and verse 10 tells us that “Jesus marveled” at his faith. The apostles were adults when Christ called them, but they learned from Him. Paul was a fully educated teacher when the Lord appeared to him, but he still had much to learn.

When Paul spoke with the Epicureans and Stoics in Acts 17:16-34
, he was learning about their religious traditions. In Acts 15, we see the entire Church learning and growing in their understanding. The world was changing, and they had to learn how to evangelize a world in flux. We live in a changing world, but we still face the issues of feminism, racism, prejudice, and nationalism that Jesus dealt with in John 4. Luke 8:26-40 shows Christ dealing with mental and spiritual issues that Satan was using to keep people under his control.

We can no longer be satisfied with traditional answers as we face today’s new challenges. Never stop learning. Learn how to use a concordance and Bible dictionary for a careful word study of the scriptures. Realize that some more recent translations of the original language may offer valuable insights that we don’t get from our old familiar translations. (I am talking about Bible translations, not paraphrases.) Second Timothy 2:15 tells us, “Study to show yourself approved by God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” That message is not just for the young preacher Timothy but for all of us as well.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Back to School” by Ty’Ann Brown in Guideposts magazine, August 2022.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Phillip Yancey quoted a writer named Monika Hellwig in an article on the beatitudes. She listed the “advantages” of being poor, and Yancey suggested we take it one step further by applying those same statements to the rich. In our age of materialism, these are some ideas worth considering:

HELLWIG: The poor know they are in need of redemption.
YANCEY: The rich do not know they are in urgent need of redemption.
HELLWIG: The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.
YANCEY: The rich rest their security not on people, but on things.
HELLWIG: The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
YANCEY: The rich feel they are of great importance and strive to protect themselves from anything they think might threaten it.
HELLWIG: The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.
YANCEY: To the rich, it is a dog-eat-dog world – look after number 1.
HELLWIG: The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
YANCEY: To the rich, everything is a necessity.
HELLWIG: The poor can wait because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence,
YANCEY: The rich want it now.
HELLWIG: The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
YANCEY: The rich go to pieces when hardship does come their way.
HELLWIG: When the poor have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not a threat or a scolding.
YANCEY: The rich hear the gospel as a threat and an attempt to put them on a guilt trip.
HELLWIG: The poor can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.
YANCEY: The rich feel that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

In Matthew 19:23-24, we find Jesus saying, “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and again I say to you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” When his disciples questioned this statement, Jesus went on to say, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible (verses 2-26).”

We can debate the whole question of who is rich and who is poor, but in comparison with most people on this planet, everyone in America is rich. Reading the things Hellwig listed, you probably realize that you struggle with some of them. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the poor.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Jesus is not concerned with our gross income but our attitude toward what God has blessed us with and how we use it.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Hellwig and Yancy quotes are from Following the Call, edited by Charles Moore, Plough Publications © 2021 ISBN 978-1636080048

Another Virus Is Spreading

Another Virus Is Spreading - Monkeypox

Here we go again! Another virus is spreading and has begun to infect large numbers of people, and the LGBTQ community has borne the brunt of those infections. That data has led to hatred and polarization. This reminds us of the situation with AIDS in 1984 when over 7,700 people became infected with AIDS, and over 3,500 died. There was a great deal of finger pointing and some violence, as vividly displayed in the 2005 movie “Brokeback Mountain.”

On May 7, 2022, British health officials discovered the monkeypox virus and announced it occurred primarily in LGBTQ men. In July of 2022, infections have been found in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. At this time, infections approach 1500, with California and Illinois having more than 100 cases and New York with more than 400. The virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with rash lesions or body fluids. Men having sex with men provide an easy pathway for the virus, so as another virus is spreading, some blame the LGBTQ community.

Those who delight in attacking Christianity have claimed that Christians are fueling hatred against the LGBTQ community, but that claim is simply incorrect. It is true that the Bible teaches us not to engage in sex outside of marriage, but it also tells us not to use alcohol or other substances harmful to the body. Christians are concerned about people doing things that hurt themselves or others. For Christians, the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Therefore, we urge everyone not to engage in destructive lifestyles, including the use of all recreational drugs and the practice of aberrant sexual activity.

We also oppose any violence against others. Anyone who abuses, brings harm to, or verbally condemns others is not following Christ’s teaching. Instead, he told us to love our enemies, go the second mile, and turn the other cheek. (See Matthew 5:38-48.)The teachings of Christ are unambiguous, but not everyone who claims to be a Christian follows them.

Another virus is spreading as people engage in the activities of the LGBTQ community, putting themselves and others at risk. There is no question about the wisdom of the Bible’s teaching about sexual conduct. But unfortunately, every alternative to God’s way has caused injury to the participants and others, and monkeypox is just one more evidence of that truth.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: USA Today by Boris Q’va for July 18, 2022.

The Biblical Gospels and Apocryphal Gospels

The Biblical Gospels and Apocryphal Gospels

The message of Christ threatens many people, including some scholars and parts of the general public. To counter this threat, skeptics have written many books trying to deny that Jesus was anything more than a strange aberration of history. Some of these books are written by authors who claim to be experts, and many of the writings have been promoted in the tabloids or on television as revealing some new discovery about Jesus from sources outside of the biblical gospels known as the apocryphal gospels.

We have seen claims that Jesus was a peasant cynic philosopher, a leader of a hallucinogenic cult, or married to Mary Magdalene. The authors base those claims on the so-called apocryphal gospels such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Hebrews, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Philip. It is essential to understand that none of these apocryphal gospels have any validity compared to the biblical gospels we have in the New Testament.

The apocryphal gospels appeared in the second half of the second century, influenced by pagan gnostic philosophy competing with the true gospel. By comparison, consider how much has changed in the past 200 years in secular writing about people’s views of race, homosexuality, the rights of women, and beliefs about democracy? Even in the past two decades, there has been a massive change.

In contrast to those late manuscripts, the biblical gospel writers lived during the lifetime of Christ and in the formative years of the Church. Archaeology has verified the characters and many of the events described in the gospels. Things described in the gospels fit the known historical facts that can be verified from various other sources.

Perhaps the clearest demonstration that the biblical gospels are reliable while the apocryphal books are not is the writers’ motives. Modern books are written and marketed in a way that brings financial gain to the authors. Cult writings, books on UFOs like the Roswell incident, claims about Nostradamus, and claims of alien visitation to Earth have all been money-makers for their authors. The biblical gospel writers not only didn’t make money or fame from what they wrote, but they even risked losing their lives.

You can trust the biblical gospels and believe they are accurate and contain the Word of God. Any attempt to discredit them fails in the face of the evidence and the weakness of claimed alternatives to the message they contain.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Note: We have a video series on this subject called “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” with John Cooper. You can purchase the series on DVDs with a study guide at this LINK or watch them for free on
An excellent reference on this subject is On Guard by William Lane Craig, David C Cook Publisher Chapter eight. ISBN 978-1-4347-6488-1.

Christ Confirmed His Message by Miracles

Christ Confirmed His Message by Miracles
Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead

Many things are unique to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Among those is the fact that He never endorsed force or war and established no power structure for humans to follow. Also, the fact that Christ confirmed His message by miracles is another unique feature of the teachings and life of Christ. Unfortunately, some people look for miracles today to solve life’s problems, but they misunderstand the purpose and nature of Christ’s miracles and those of the apostles.

The miracles of the apostles were meant to establish who spoke for God and who was a fraud. Neither Christ nor His followers sought to remove the reality of life and death. If becoming a Christian would solve all of life’s problems, people would come to Christ solely to solve physical or emotional pains. New Testament Greek used two words to indicate the nature of a miracle. One was “dunamis” used to show power (Mark 9:39, Acts 2:22). The other was “semeion” dealing with a sign (John 2:11, 2:23, 3:2, 4:54, 6:2, etc.) Christ confirmed His message by miracles.

The Bible records miracles of Christ that show His power over the problems humans face. Studying these miracles demonstrates the absolute ability of Christ to meet all the needs of humans. Look at this list:

Power over things in the natural world: Matthew 8:23-27
Power over disease: Matthew 8:1-1, Luke 17:11-19
Power over spiritual forces: Mark 1:23-26 Matthew 9:32-33 and 12:22-29
Power over human disabilities: John 5:1-16, Matthew 9:1-7, John 9
Power over mental issues: Matthew 8:28-34 Power over death: Luke 7:11-17 and 8:40-56, John 11:1-46

Notice that Jesus didn’t randomly remove all of these things from human existence. Each miracle had a purpose, and it was not to eliminate all human problems on the planet. In today’s world, all of these problems still exist because people still have illnesses and die. However, Christ has provided a way for everyone to deal with the maladies in this life and ultimately be free of them. Christ confirmed His message by miracles. The Bible spells out the war between good and evil and the purpose for our existence. God helps us in this life in many ways, but the perfection of heaven is not yet available to us while we live in the flesh.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Bible Ages and Time

Bible Ages and Time - Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel

One of the major issues in understanding the Genesis account is the issue of Bible ages and time. Any attempt to bring the biblical account in line with the scientific evidence has to deal with the time when creation occurred and when God created humans. A careful study of the Hebrew words used in Genesis 1 makes it clear that being dogmatic about Bible ages and time creates a conflict with the evidence and is not taking the original language literally.

One of our readers pointed out that we need to recognize that there are three different ages to consider. They are (1) The age of the universe, (2) The age of man, and (3) The age of civilization. We have often pointed out that the Bible does not tell us the universe’s age. That’s because Genesis 1:1, which deals with the creation of time, space, and matter-energy, is undated and untimed.

When considering Bible ages and time, are the ages of humans and civilization the same? The biblical answer is apparently “no.” Genesis 1 and 2 describe the creation of Adam and Eve and the animals people were familiar with. Genesis 2:8-9 tells us God planted a garden and made the trees grow. In verse 15, the man is assigned the task of dressing and keeping the garden. It would be logical to assume the planted garden grew, and Adam had to take care of it as it grew. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us how long that was.

In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel are born in another time period as they raise crops and livestock. When Cain kills Abel, God places a curse on him. Cain says, “…I will be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth and everyone who finds me will slay me” (Genesis 2:14). There must have been other humans around, or that statement is meaningless. In verse 17, Cain builds a city, but you can’t have a city without a population. In Genesis 2:20-22, we read about the first formation of musical instruments and the smelting and working of copper, brass, and iron. These are items of civilization, and they are all undated and untimed.

Conflicts of Bible ages and times are resolved if we assume that Adam and Eve may not be the first humans God created. It appears that either humans were born in the Garden of Eden or God created them at an earlier time and place. Cain got his wife from those individuals, and they are the ones who would have been a threat to Cain. This also resolves the issues connected with the remains found of humans going back long before Adam and Eve. The age of civilization may be in the 6,000 to 10,000-year time frame, but the age of the cosmos certainly is not.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible

The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible

To take the Bible literally, one needs to look at who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. One especially interesting and complex area is the meaning of numbers in the Bible.

Throughout the Bible, numbers are used in different ways.
In the Old Testament, numbers become confusing when we look at the patriarchs’ ages, the number of people involved in an event, and the timing of events. In the New Testament and much of the Old, prophecy is rooted in symbolic numbers. Many bizarre interpretations of the book of Revelation result from a mistaken understanding of the meaning of numbers in the Bible.

The Mesopotamians were the first people to develop writing, astronomy, algebra, geometry, logarithms, a calendar, and accounting. Archaeological evidence shows that Mesopotamians used numbers for architecture as early as 5500 B.C. In these ancient cultures, people used real numbers for everyday business, but they had sacred numbers with a different base for religious purposes. For example, Sargon II wrote, “I built the circumference of the city wall 16,283 cubits, the number of my name.”

We see the symbolic use of numbers in many ancient documents. In Egypt, for example, the number “110” was used to commemorate a life considered to be “perfect,” meaning lived selflessly and benefitting others. Moses, Joseph, and Joshua are said to have died at age 110, which could be an Egyptian tribute to their character, not their longevity.

The writers of the Hebrew Bible gave special meanings to numbers. The number 3 symbolized completeness, while 7 and 70 exemplified fullness and completion. The number 12 and multiples of it, such as 144, had special meaning. The number 40 usually represented a generation.

There is still debate about the ages of the patriarchs. Was Methuselah’s days of 969 a real number or symbolic? If you say it was a real number, then you have all kinds of contradictions between the ages of the patriarchs and the time of Noah’s flood. Few would suggest that Methuselah died in the flood and that Abraham and Noah lived concurrently for 58 years. However, assuming real numbers produces those conflicts.

How the ancients used numbers and what the authors of the Bible intended for people of their day to understand about the significance of the numbers is a matter of debate. The ancients understood what their culture meant by the given times and ages, but for us to understand requires careful study. God could have performed a miracle and let Methuselah live 969 Gregorian calendar years. However, forcing modern time measurement on ancient writings is not taking the Bible literally. Tomorrow, we will look at Bible ages and times.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: A Worldview Approach to Science and Scripture by Carol Hill, Chapter 4. Kregel Academic Publisher.

Emotional Debate on Abortion

Emotional Debate on Abortion - Adoption Alternative

With all the emotional debate on abortion, people are giving very little attention to finding a positive solution. Those who are pro-life give minimal attention to solutions other than expecting a woman to raise a child she doesn’t want. Those who are pro-choice loudly proclaim that a woman has a right to determine what happens to her body, even though the baby is not her body.

The data shows that for many women who choose abortion, the emotional and mental consequences of killing a child last a lifetime. Removing a fetus is not like removing tonsils or an appendix. Attempts to say that a fetus is an extension of the mother’s body are so at odds with all the scientific evidence that a thinking woman will know that the child she put to death was not a vestigial structure.

No one says this situation is easy, no matter what choice a woman makes. Both abortion and adoption tug at the heartstrings of a woman and are emotionally challenging. Adoption requires the strength to carry the child for nine months and then give it up to another family. However, that is an act of love because it involves self-sacrifice. By contrast, taking away a child’s life is entirely different from giving it a better life.

The debate between pro-life and pro-choice often ignores adoption. The latest numbers show that 36 families are waiting to adopt a child for every child available for adoption. Those of us who have adopted a child (and I have adopted three) have had to wait years for the child while wading through the adoption process. The Center for Disease Control reports that 57% of couples with fertility issues are willing to adopt, but the children are simply not available.

The Bible gives a picture of our relationship to God as an adoption. Galatians 4:1-8 and Romans 8:14-17 point out that we are the adopted children of God, and Ephesians 1:4-5 repeats that concept. Instead of the selfish and emotional debate on abortion, we need a solution, and adoption is a neglected alternative.

— John N. Clayton © 2022