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

Evolution Has Multiple Meanings

Evolution Has Multiple Meanings

Yesterday, I mentioned that I sometimes get people to think by saying that I believe in evolution. For some, the word only brings to mind the concept of “man from monkey.” However, evolution has multiple meanings. We looked at three of them yesterday, and none of the definitions say anything about the existence of God. So here are two more evolution concepts.

#4. MICROEVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. These are changes in a biological population over time, usually in response to environmental factors. We see this in viruses evolving to become resistant to drugs. Humans have created new breeds of dogs and cattle through microevolution. In the Bible, Jacob used microevolution in dealing with Laban’s flocks. (See Genesis 30:31-42.) Microevolution, change within a species, is the basis of modern agriculture.

#5. MACROEVOLUTION. This is a process of change from common descent. The key word is “process” and describes how, over time, it can lead to a new species. In microbiology, a microbe may get its DNA mixed up with the DNA of another microbe and produce a new species. Farmers in California can tell you about insects that evolved with the ability to cause damage to crops. Some plants have changed to the point where they are no longer fertile with the original plant from which they came. Fish have also speciated.

Is macroevolution a tool God uses to produce the massive numbers of new species in the world today? To suggest that macroevolution happens only by chance requires more faith than believing that God built a system allowing new plants and animals to exist on a changing Earth.

So, we see that evolution has multiple meanings. But, no matter what definition we use, it simply describes how God has operated and continues to operate. So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. As we noted yesterday, everyone believes in some form of evolution, but that does not disprove God’s existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

I Believe in Evolution

I Believe in Evolution

I have, on occasion, made the statement that I believe in evolution. My purpose for saying that is to get people to think. What does “evolution” mean? For many people, the statement means “man from monkey,” and that is as far as they go. There are at least five ways in which people use the word” evolution.” None of them have anything to do with the existence of God. Think about the ways people use the word “evolution.”

#1. ANY CHANGE OVER TIME. We talk about stars evolving from blue hot stars to red dwarfs. We speak about an athletic program evolving. This is simply change over time and has no relevance to our faith.

#2. CULTURAL EVOLUTION. A cultural group may change radically over time due to many things. America has evolved from a country made mostly of immigrants to a country made of people born in this country. Our nation has evolved, and even our vocabulary recognizes this. When I was a kid, America was perceived as a “melting pot” where we could all be one and leave our ethnicity behind. That has evolved into a pluralistic society where people determine their ancestry and try to retain it. That evolution has brought enormous political implications,

#3. PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTIONARY REVELATION. Our understanding of the atom has evolved in my lifetime. My chemistry class in high school and college taught me that the atom had a nucleus with electrons orbiting it in concentric circles around that core. Now, when I teach chemistry, I talk about orbitals and electrons moving in figure eights and cloverleaf patterns in various numbers. Knowledge can change understanding, and that is evolutionary revelation. The Bible uses evolutionary revelation, with the Old Testament introducing the nature and operation of God and progressively revealing the nature of Jesus Christ and the future of believers.

So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. If anyone says they do or don’t believe in evolution, ask them to define what they mean by “evolution.” The truth is that everyone believes in some form of evolution. Tomorrow, we will look at the two remaining primary uses of the word.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Gay Lifestyle and Monkeypox

The Gay Lifestyle and Monkeypox

Skeptics often say that the Bible is loaded with racial, homophobic, and judgmental condemnations, but these assertions are invalid. Jesus and the apostles were totally opposed to racial prejudice. Jesus demonstrated that in John 4 when he spoke with the Samaritan woman. Paul makes it clear in Galatians 3:26-29 that Christianity has no room for racial prejudice. The gay lifestyle is another issue.

You can’t read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 -7 and not see that He taught against any violence or malice toward those who reject God and the biblical admonitions on how we should live. By the same token, you can’t read Romans 1:18-32 and not see a rejection of the destructive, immoral behaviors that people practiced. It is true that LGBTQ and gay lifestyle choices are harmful, and one of the consequences of those lifestyles is a vast number of diseases.

In the past, we have seen HIV transmitted from animals to humans
by animal/human sexual relationships and then spread by gay lifestyle sexual practices. Now we are witnessing monkeypox cases on the rise. This is a DNA virus related to smallpox discovered in monkeys in 1958, with the first known human case in 1970. Medical researchers are now seeing cases in the western world, including the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control, on May 23, 2022, revealed that most of the cases in the U.S. have been in men who identified themselves as gay or bisexual. In Spain, the cases have been linked to a Pride celebration and in Belgium to a fetish celebration.

The virus does not spread easily but can be spread by skin-to-skin sexual contact. People with the virus may only have lesions in their mouth and throat, which transmit the virus from person to person during sexual relationships. Although not actually an STD, monkeypox is connected to sexual relationships. This shows again that God’s plan for marriage and sexual relationships is the best way to avoid the virus.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News, June 18, 2022, pages 6 – 7.

Did Pharoah Have Horses?

Did Pharoah Have Horses?

Biblical minimalists and skeptics are always looking for ways to discredit the Bible and support their claim that it is a useless collection of ancient myths. For example, skeptics claimed that the mention of horses in passages like Genesis 47:17, Exodus 9:3, and 14:9-23 could not be accurate because horses had not been domesticated at that time. So, did Pharoah have horses or not?

Previous studies had shown that domesticated horses arrived in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC, so they considered any claim of horses before that time to be in error. Recently, researchers from the Jaques Monod Institute in Paris led by paleogeneticist Eva-Maria Geigl have laid that claim to rest.

Sumerian scribes wrote about “kungas”–a type of horse in the equid family, but unlike today’s domesticated horses. Researchers had not studied these animals until recently when they sequenced the genomes of kunga skeletons found in Syria. They discovered that kungas were a hybrid of an extinct wild ass called a “hemippe” and a female domesticated donkey. Dr. Geigl explained that the ancient Mesopotamians deliberately hybridized these animals to create “fast, strong equids that they could train to carry soldiers into battle.”

This is another case where skeptics have taken erroneous understandings of the practices of ancient people. The use of equids by people at the time of Joseph and the Egyptians was accurate. Breeding animals for specific purposes involved high levels of understanding, and this is “the earliest known evidence of animal hybridization.”

Did Pharoah have horses? Yes, he did, but they may have been different from modern horses. The historical accuracy of the Bible continues to be verified by discoveries using new techniques that science makes available.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Archaeology Magazine for May 2022 page 12 and archaeology.org.