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

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

Why Would a Good God Create Viruses?

Why Would a Good God Create Viruses?

Think of the many illnesses that viruses cause, such as rabies, polio, Ebola, measles, mumps, yellow fever, influenza, HIV, chicken pox, hepatitis, shingles, rabies, and, of course, COVID. That is only a partial list. Some skeptics use this as an argument against the existence of God. Why would a good God create viruses?

Viruses are diverse and abundant beyond what we can imagine. The truth is that life on Earth could not exist without them. Even though many of them cause harm, they are essential tools in God’s construction of life.

By the usual definition of life, viruses are not alive since they cannot reproduce on their own. Instead, they must enter a living cell and coopt its replication functions to produce more of themselves. First, they hijack the 3D-printing machinery of the cell that turns genetic information into proteins. Then they damage the cell as they break out and spread to other cells. At least, that’s what happens in the case of the diseases mentioned. In COVID, the damage is to the victim’s respiratory tissue cells. So, why would a good God create viruses?

Viruses are present in every species of living creatures. They can be considered parasites, but sometimes they are in a symbiotic, or mutually beneficial, relationship with their host. They may remain dormant or even contribute to adaptive benefits. Problems often arise when a virus from one species enters another species. That is what happened with COVID and many other viral diseases. Most of them are known to have come into the human population from animals.

Scientists have only recently discovered that some viruses serve as food for certain microbes. They found that a single-celled microbe in the genus Hateria can live and grow on a virus diet, eating up to a million viruses per day. In turn, microbes are eaten by larger plankton which are consumed by larger predators which find their way into the stomachs of ever larger creatures going up the food chain to sustain life.

In addition to viruses contributing adaptive benefits to their hosts and providing food for microbes, they also serve other ecological roles. For example, some viruses infect algae. Algae blooms harm marine life, but the invading viruses help to control these aquatic algae blooms. Scientists have also found that viruses have contributed genes to human DNA that assist in embryonic development and help us resist infections and even fight off cancer.

So there are answers to the skeptic’s challenge, “Why would a good God create viruses?” Viruses are not evil, but they are a reflection of the design of the world in which we live. Their complexity allows them to shape and mold every aspect of the design of life.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

References: “Viruses as prey? It’s just one of the surprising roles they play” and “How viruses shape our world” on NationalGeographic.com

Toward a Positive Relationship Between Science and Faith

Toward a Positive Relationship Between Science and Faith

Our mission is to show that science and faith in God are not enemies but exist in a symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, it’s an uphill battle because both those who promote naturalism and promoters of religious fundamentalism are unwilling to think and work toward a positive relationship between science and faith. This is an old problem that has been detrimental to both science and faith in the past.

The ignorance of science in America today continues to be appalling. Here are some examples: 26% of all Americans believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, 60% believe that dinosaurs died out sometime in the last 10,000 years, and 33% believe dinosaurs were on Earth 100 years ago. I had a brilliant student with great science aptitude in science in my high school physics classes. He was the son of a religious figure in South Bend, where I taught for 41 years. At the end of the school year, I asked him where he would go to college and what would be his science major. I hoped it would be physics. He smiled and told me he wasn’t going to college because he didn’t want to give up his faith.

We want to work toward a positive relationship between science and faith. We encourage Christians to go into science because science needs a moral compass. Ninety-five Nobel Laureates were recognized between 1901 and 1930, but only four were Americans. Europeans dominated the winners of the Nobel Science awards. In the 1930’s Americans did somewhat better, taking 28% of the Nobel prizes in science. From 1943 to 1958, Americans won 46% of the Nobel prizes, and since 1959 the number has risen to 57%.

The dictionary defines science as knowledge, and God is the source of all knowledge. Not only has the war between science and faith eroded great talent from the growth of science, but the collateral damage of the war between science and faith has damaged the Church. In 1940, 96% of Americans believed in God, and 75% were church members. Today, 62% of Americans believe in God, and only 47% are members of a church. Thirty percent say they have no religion at all.

If you believe in God and His Word, true science (knowledge) can’t be in conflict with your religious beliefs. If you have a conflict, you either have bad science or bad theology, or both. The lesson of history is that there has been a lot of both. We must work toward a positive relationship between science and faith to advance knowledge for everyone’s benefit. Educating people about God and biblical moral values can benefit everyone. Join us as we work toward that goal. Naturalism cannot tell us why we exist, how we should live, or what our future is. God’s Word answers those vital questions.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Data from Skeptic Magazine, Volume 27 #4 2022, pages 4 -5.

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

UFO Sightings – Real or Bogus?

UFO Sightings – Real or Bogus?

For over 50 years, we have reported explanations for bogus UFO claims. Unfortunately, when researchers have presented natural explanations for claimed UFO sightings, the media rarely reports them. Researchers have written books giving evidence to refute bogus claims of alien visitation to Earth, but they don’t get the attention of the sensational claims.

No thinking person would insist that planet Earth is the only place where life forms might exist. If God saw fit to create life elsewhere, it will be there. However, alien visitation to Earth is poorly supported by the evidence. The distance from Earth to where a life-bearing planet could exist is so great as to rule out any being traveling from another world. UFO advocates claim that aliens are so technologically advanced they can overcome the problem of traveling light-year distances. However, if they are that advanced, they could certainly prevent any detection by earthlings if they choose to do so.

The entertainment industry presents horror movies of aliens using earthlings for food or wars in space between competing alien societies. If you enjoy fantasy, these entertainment presentations may be worth your time. However, for serious students of science or the Bible, this is a useless diversion. We must not become worried or distracted by UFO sightings, thinking that extra-terrestrials are invading us.

Likewise, we need to solve our problems here on Earth and not expect some aliens to come in and do it for us. Besides, aliens could not improve on the message of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. Human greed, selfishness, and exploitation of others will continue as long as humans entertain the notion that God does not exist and that survival of the fittest is our only choice.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Here are some books giving credible explanations of many so-called UFO sightings or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP).
UFOs Explained and UFOs: The Public Deceived by Philip J. Klass
UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth by Charles Ziegler and Charles Moore
The Space Gods Revealed by Ronald Story

LGBTQ Hate Crimes Have No Place in Christianity

LGBTQ Hate Crimes Have No Place in Christianity

Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and those injured in recent shootings. In November 2022, there were six mass killing incidents in the United States. Violence seems to be increasing against people attending LGBTQ clubs, venues, and drag events. Some blame this violence on Christians, claiming that biblical teachings against homosexuality and alternative lifestyles cause senseless violence. The truth is that the teachings of Jesus Christ adamantly oppose violence against anyone. It is a biblical mandate that Christians oppose sin, but it is also Christ’s command that we love the sinner. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7), Jesus explained how Christians should deal with opposition.
In Matthew 5:38, Jesus reminds His listeners that people in the past had said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” In the violent world of primitive people, that way of thinking was common. Unfortunately, that principle is followed by many people today. By contrast, Jesus said, “But I say to you, don’t resist the man who wants to hurt you…” (verse 39). In verses 43-44, He expands that command by saying, “It used to be said to be kind to your friend and hate your enemy. But what I tell you is love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

Skeptics will respond to this by referring to Romans 1:18–2:16, which identifies those who reject God’s plan for human morality. Romans 1:24 tells us, “God abandoned them to impurity, letting them follow the cravings of their hearts, so they degrade their own bodies with one another.” Later verses describe all kinds of aberrant behavior by those who deliberately choose lifestyles of violence and opposition to God.

The first point we need to make about these verses is that they do not describe most LGBTQ practitioners in America today. The more important point is that if you keep reading further in Romans 2, you find it telling Christians to leave the situation to God. It is not the job of Christians to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Leave the judging to God. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity

The reason God opposes LGBTQ behavior is that it is a destructive lifestyle. We don’t know all the causes of homosexual behavior, but they are clearly not the same for everyone. Statistics show that such behavior leads to negative numbers for stability, disease, and life expectancy. However, those affect the individual and are not a direct threat to others. I have gay friends who are the kindest and most creative people I know, and Jesus tells His followers to love all people.

Nevertheless, Jesus must weep with us at the horrible violence that has been part of American life in recent years. It makes no sense to direct violence toward people who have done nothing that would suggest they are a threat to anyone except possibly themselves. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: USA Today Network in South Bend Tribune for 11/22/22, pages 1A and 3A.

How Can You Believe in Angels?

How Can You Believe in Angels?

“How can you believe in angels when so many horrible things are happening in the world today?” That is a typical comment we receive from skeptics. Islam emphasizes the angel Gabriel, and Mormons credit the angel Moroni for their scriptures. A Catholic website claims that all people have guardian angels “to rule and guide.” Around the Christmas season, we are exposed to many stories, movies, and songs based on angel involvement in human affairs. So what is the truth about angels?

The Bible does not suggest that angels are good people who have left this life or that they are robotic agents of God. Angels are beings created by God and not limited to our dimensions of time and space. Being outside of time gives them both abilities and limitations. In Matthew 22:30, Jesus did not say that we will become angels when we die, but we will become like angels with respect to marriage. The Bible tells us that angels can sin and rebel against God. (See 2 Peter 2:4, Galatians 1:8, John 8:44, and Jude 6.) However, angels cannot repent of sin because repentance requires time. If an angel chooses to reject God, there is no turning back – it is a one-way street. Once we leave this physical existence, we will be out of time, and the same will be true of us. We will have no time to change your eternal destiny.

How can you believe in angels? The bottom line is that a war between good and evil is going on that involves both spiritual and physical dimensions. The purpose for our existence is to achieve victory in that war. The book of Job clearly shows that our physical struggle involves spiritual forces. The only recourse for skeptics and atheists is to deny that evil exists, but doing that eliminates the purpose for human existence.

Angels can choose to sin, and the Bible makes it clear that this has happened. (See Revelation 12:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:3-4.) While angels can do what God commands, they cannot remove a human’s ability to choose between good and evil. They also cannot prevent the consequences of bad human choices. (See Galatians 6:7). However, the Bible promises us a way to overcome temptation if we choose to use it. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.)

Angels are real and have served God’s purpose in the war between good and evil throughout history. (See Genesis 18-19 and Judges 6:11-27.) So how can you believe in angels? They have done things we see as miracles as they serve a purpose in God’s plan. Skeptics can deny the reality of God and angels because they have freedom of choice, as all humans do. But wrong choices carry eternal consequences and remove any real purpose for human existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Gifts God Offers for Free

The Gifts God Offers for Free

We live in an age of skepticism about religion in general and specifically about the “church.” There are many churches in America, and their messages frequently contradict one another. At the same time, we are inundated with vast numbers of messages about attractive alternatives to the Church. The word “church” is “ekklesia” in the original language, and it means “the called out.” It does not refer to any denomination or human-made religious body. It refers to individuals who reject the alternatives the world has to offer. The biblical teachings about the “called out” cannot be improved upon, and neither can the gifts God offers to us. Here are some that specifically deal with finding the best life possible.

The word of God cannot be improved. The Bible has been tested over the centuries, primarily by people who were trying to prove it wrong. Having been one of those people, I can testify to the futility of that attempt. As 2 Peter 1: 16-21 tells us, the Bible is not a bunch of fables. It contains prophecies that can be confirmed. The Bible includes just enough history to verify its integrity and just enough science to show it is beyond human knowledge for its day. The philosophy of the biblical narrative has proven to lead to a high quality of life, mentally and spiritually. The problems come with what Peter calls “private interpretations” and when humans try to find a way to make money with it instead of just letting it guide their lives.

God’s instructions on how to live cannot be improved. Take the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5:21 through chapter 6 and think about what kind of world it would be if everyone lived by those teachings. As you read those verses, you will see that this wisdom contradicts what you hear from politicians and secularists. Next, read Galatians 5:19-23 and think about what has caused the misery we see in the world around us. The gifts God offers are free, and all alternatives to God’s instructions fail.

God’s instructions for salvation make sense. Being lost means a relationship has been severed–be it a marriage, a business, or a life. All the pop psychology in the world won’t repair relationships because it has no power. God created us pure, but the world corrupts us, rupturing our relationship with Him. Repairing that relationship is beyond all human efforts. God knows how to restore us (2 Peter 2:9), and Romans 6 tells us how to become a new person with God’s Spirit living in us. This is the ultimate gift of God because it is eternal. Go to a quiet place and allow yourself to think about the gifts God offers. Accepting God’s gifts and living life God’s way works, and it’s the ultimate solution to the human dilemma.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Little Aborted Souls in Heaven

Little Aborted Souls in Heaven

An article by S.M. Hutchens in Touchstone magazine raised the question of what the Redeemer will do with “those little aborted souls … in heaven.” A skeptic recently suggested to me, “If we believe the Bible, Christians should support abortion because those aborted babies automatically go to heaven.” Both of these views miss the point. There will be no such thing as “little aborted souls” in heaven.

When we die, we leave all of our physical existence behind. At the end of time, the physical world will be dissolved and turned back into the form from which it came. (See 2 Peter 3:10-18.) Einstein’s famous equation e = mc2 tells us that mass and energy are really the same thing, and quantum mechanics continues to support that concept. In 1 John 1:5 we read, “God is light.” Light is energy, and the idea is that God took some of His own nature and turned it into matter. That was the start of the creation process.

Revelation 21 tells us that in heaven, we will be free of every negative thing that afflicted us here on Earth. There will be no death, pain, or suffering. As verse 5 says, all things will be made new. Christ will bring all of us who are His into this new existence, including those babies who were killed before they could draw a breath.

The skeptic then says that we should rejoice that these “little aborted souls” are now with God and will never have to experience the trauma of life. That might sound like a reasonable argument, except for something that atheists can never deal with. It is the question of purpose. What is our purpose—why are we here? There is a joke about the skeptic who says to God at the judgment, “Why didn’t you put a stop to COVID?” God responds by saying, “I did, and you aborted it.” That really is more than a joke. It raises a key point in this discussion.

The Bible makes it clear that God had and continues to have a purpose in the creation and a purpose for each of us. We are not just accidents. Ephesians 6:12 and 3:10, as well as the Book of Job, show us that there is a war between good and evil, and we are on the battlefield. Atheists may try to deny this by saying evil doesn’t exist, but that is an irrational view.

Everyone was created with talents and abilities to do something in the battle with the spiritual forces described in Ephesians. Unfortunately, many refuse to participate and end up with lives full of frustration and no direction. Aborted babies never have a chance to do what God created them to do. Those of us who find our niche realize that God put us here for a reason. In that, we find contentment and value in life as we fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “L’Chaim!” in the column “Mortal Remains” by S.M. Hutchens in the November/December 2022 issue of Touchstone magazine