Struck Blind – How to Keep Things in Perspective

Struck Blind - How to Keep Things in Perspective
John 9:1-41

I have learned in my long life that every experience, good or bad, can teach you a lesson if you allow it to. I think this is why Paul gave Timothy qualifications for congregational leadership that a young man simply couldn’t have had time to experience. They included having children in subjection, not being a novice, and having a good reputation in the community (1 Timothy 3:4-7). I know that the death of my two younger brothers, my wife, and my son in a short period of time taught me a lot about life. It taught me how to keep things in perspective and help those facing the death of a loved one.

Now I have been taught about another struggle that humans have–blindness. In the Bible, we see the loss of sight as a major affliction that altered the lives of biblical characters. In some cases, like Samson, enemies used blindness to retaliate and punish (Judges 16:21). In John 9, Jesus restored a blind man’s sight to teach and confound His critics. Several miracles of Christ were centered around restoring sight to someone who was blind.

I recently got a taste of what it would be like to lose my sight. I awoke on August 25th, unable to see out of my right eye and with only limited vision in my left eye. No amount of rubbing or washing affected my loss of sight. It is hard to describe the panic I felt, and you can imagine what my prayer life was focused on at that point. With what little sight I had left, I painfully struggled to grade the day’s correspondence courses and managed with great difficulty to prepare two classes and one sermon I was scheduled to give in four days. In addition, trying to read a large number of emails was difficult, and I kept asking myself, “What will I do if this gets worse?”

I now understand Paul’s reaction as he suddenly was struck blind and had to be led by the hand. I can imagine how for three days, he tried to make sense of what had happened to him. I didn’t want to eat, which Paul also experienced, as dread, anger, and confusion swallowed up my appetite. But, like Paul, I was led to a restoration of my sight. Like Paul, it has changed my view of life and my mission on Earth. Once again, it has shown me how to keep things in perspective.

My medical diagnosis is that I have a very rare kind of cataract that can grow in a matter of days. Thankfully, surgery can correct it. However, living with virtually no vision for several days has taught me a great deal. I now understand why my son Tim who was blind from congenital cataracts, mentally challenged, and rendered physically challenged by COVID, could only talk about soon being able to see. He would soon see his mother, who had passed away years before. He understood that he was about to die, but that paled in the face of regaining his sight.

I better understand why my dear friend Glynn Langston, who has been blind from birth, struggles with my very visual presentations. He tells me that my verbal descriptions don’t help much. I can understand why Samson after his enemies blinded him, had the courage to tear down their building ending his own life.

What has happened in your life that may have been a tragedy to you but can open a door of empathy and give you a unique opportunity to serve others? What has helped you learn how to keep things in perspective? God is constantly molding our character, and life’s experiences are the tools He often uses.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Christian Concept of God

The Christian Concept of God from the Bible

We have been examining the Christian concept of God for the past several days. The Bible tells us that God is beyond time, space, and matter/energy because He created them. As science goes deeper into understanding the structure of matter/energy, it becomes increasingly evident that there are forces beyond our familiar physical laws. Quantum mechanics and studies of the nature of matter show that creation has not been merely a physical process.

Heaven and hell are not physical places with physical rewards or punishment. When we die, our soul, that part of us created in God’s image, will no longer be limited by time. All the bad things that time brings will be gone, “…there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

We struggle to understand metaphors in the Bible that use physical pictures of things that are not physical. The result is that when we approach them with a physical understanding alone, we become confused. If we understand the biblical Christian concept of God, these metaphors become much clearer, and our freedom as Christians is greatly enhanced. Christ’s promise of life after our physical life is over gives us joy and comfort beyond physical understanding. We can rejoice in knowing that the things that afflict us in this life will be gone, and our future will be secure and filled with joy in spiritual union with our Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

An Earthly Kingdom

An Earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem?
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

For the past few days, we have been looking for the biblical Christan concept of God. We have observed that atheists, and even people who call themselves Christians, fail to understand what God is. We are familiar with the physical world, so we look for God to bring a physical earthly kingdom.

The New Testament calls for us to understand that Christians serve a God who is not a man—or woman. Galatians 3:28 tells us that “there is neither male nor female” in Christ’s kingdom, the Church. This same message appears in Romans 10:11-13 and Colossians 3:11. In John 18:36-39, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” making it clear that He was not bringing in a physical earthly kingdom. Yet, even today, some Christian groups interpret Christ as a military leader who will defeat all other belief systems and establish a physical kingdom in Jerusalem.

This struggle to understand God goes back to Genesis 1:1, describing the creation of time, space, and matter/energy. When Peter describes the end of the world in 2 Peter 3:3:10-12, he says that time will end and the physical cosmos will “dissolve in fervent heat” (verse 12). God is in a higher dimension than time or the material cosmos. He created the human soul in His image–not our physical bodies.

In 1 Corinthians 15:35-55, Paul conveys the concept of a kingdom not of this world. People in that day didn’t understand it, and still today, many Christians don’t understand it. The fact that Christ’s kingdom is not an earthly kingdom makes it, unlike any human system. That brings us back to the biblical Christian concept of God, and that is where we will conclude tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Things We Pray For

The Things We Pray For

Yesterday, we said that understanding what God is and what He desires for us can help us understand the meaning and importance of prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying to God for our physical needs. You can see that in the model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). However, it is illogical and unbiblical to get upset when God doesn’t answer our physical requests in the way we desire. Failure to receive the things we pray for is rooted in a failure to understand what God is and what He desires for us.

When I was an atheist playing football in high school, one of my teammates asked God for victory in every game. We played a team from a Christian high school late in the season. One of their team members told me that he knew they would beat us because they had prayed to God for victory. Unfortunately, we lost that game, and my teammate, who had been praying for us to win, decided he needed to be an atheist like me because, clearly, God didn’t answer prayer.

There have been wars between cultures that worshipped the God of the Bible. Examples are the American Civil War and the Irish wars between Catholics and Protestants. Both sides prayed to the same God for victory. However, winning a victory would mean killing people who were Christians on the other side of the conflict.

When I gave my lectures in Ireland, people expressed great interest in my message that science supports belief in God. However, many people wanted nothing to do with the Church because of the history of religious warfare. A Catholic priest in full clerical garb attended one of my lectures and informed me that he was an atheist. He was still conducting mass because that was the source of his income, but he didn’t believe in God. The things we pray for reflect our concept of God.

It becomes clear that even “religious” people often do not understand the Christian biblical concept of God. We will continue with that thought tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

What Is God?

What Is God?

What is God? Is God male or female? What race is God? Is God bisexual, lesbian, trans, homosexual, or heterosexual? Is God on the Earth or in the stars or the air? Does God dwell in animal life? Are animals reincarnated humans who are in the image of the natural gods? All of these questions are ones we have received and have done our best to answer.

Part of the confusion problem is due to what people say about God on television or radio, in books and magazines, and how movies and video games portray God. Some world religions present gods active in sexual relationships or military conflicts. Some people propose God as a solution to climate or agricultural problems, disease pandemics, or infertility. Others present God as a cause–or solution–to losses or victories in war or athletic competition.

Is there any wonder that many people don’t believe in God? Why is there so much confusion and people asking, “What is God?” The Bible plainly shows the Christian concept of God. We will examine that tomorrow.

John N. Clayton © 2022

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

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.

Human Suffering Disproves God

Human Suffering Disproves God

One of the main contentions of atheists is that human suffering disproves God because a loving and merciful God would not allow it. Some Christian leaders have tried to counter this by promoting a prosperity gospel in their megachurches. But unfortunately, those efforts are misguided and demonstrate a poor understanding of what Jesus came to do and why God created us. The result is that when many people lose their faith when they don’t experience the promised “health and wealth.”

The fact is that when a population has massive suffering, the Christian population grows. In his book On Guard, William Lane Craig gives three examples of this (pages 164-5):

China – Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution killed 20 million Chinese and generated massive persecution of the Church. However, since 1977 Christianity has grown more than ever in history. Researchers say there were as many as 75 million Christians in China by 1990. Craig calls Mao “the greatest evangelist in history.”

El Salvador – A 12-year civil war, earthquakes, and market collapse caused 80% of the population to live in poverty. As a result, the percentage of Christians in El Salvador grew from 2.3% in 1960 to 20%.

Ethiopia – In 1960, Christians made up 0.8% of the population, and war, repression, and famine killed millions of people. Christian martyrs who tried to address the problems of that country were numerous. In 30 years, the Christian population grew to approximately 13%.

In all three of these examples, people found that atheistic forces in their countries were causing the suffering, and Christians were the one group trying to alleviate human suffering. In addition, Christians realize that the war between good and evil is the primary purpose of our existence, and what happens in this life is not significant in the framework of eternity.

People who believe human suffering disproves God turn to survival of the fittest as the only purpose in life. However, they may lose their will to survive when confronted with human greed, selfishness, and materialism. Christianity has the only answer to pain and suffering in this life.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Apologetics Is Not Apologizing For Faith

Apologetics Is Not Apologizing For Faith

In his book “On Guard,” William Lane Craig tells about a remark a woman made to him when she learned he teaches Christian apologetics. She remarked indignantly, “I’ll never apologize for my faith.” I have had similar experiences several times. In a society where we see a significant denial of God’s existence and the credibility of the Bible, apologetics is not apologizing for our faith.

The word” apologetics” may sound like “to apologize,” but it is not telling someone you are sorry that you are a Christian. “Apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means defense, as in a court of law. Craig says that Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.

Many Christian preachers and Church members feel that there is no reason to be involved in apologetics. In their view, giving evidence in apologetics weakens faith. “If you have faith, you don’t need evidence” is a statement I frequently hear. The fact is that the Bible account shows that Christ and the apostles used apologetics. Examples of Jesus using evidence are when He appealed to miracles and fulfilled prophecy to prove that what He said was true. Read Luke 24:25-27 and John 14:11 to see this. When Jesus dealt with “Doubting Thomas,” His method was to show him the evidence.

When Peter gave his sermon in Acts 2, he appealed to the miracles of Christ in verse 22. In verses 25-31, he appealed to fulfilled prophecy, followed in verse 32 by using the resurrection of Christ. The apostles showed that apologetics is not apologizing when they used the handiwork of God to prove His existence (Acts 14:17). Romans 1:20 finds Paul referring to the evidence seen in the natural world. Paul also used eyewitness testimony of the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

The world has entered what scholars are calling “the post-Christian era.” As a result, Christianity is becoming a minority belief system worldwide. In Europe, the number of Christians compared to the general population is very small – estimated to be under 25% and going down. In the United States, statistics show it is under 40%.

Apologetics is not apologizing, and the need for it is massive. This apologetics ministry believes that science is a tool to show the nature and actions of God and is not an enemy of faith. That message is biblical and logical. It is the purpose of this website. We hope you will see the need for apologetics in today’s society.

— John N. Clayton © 2022