Holy Kiss Greeting Benefits

Holy Kiss Hugging
On at least five occasions the Bible encourages Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss. (See Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26 and 1 Peter 5:14.)

The Greek word used for kiss here is “philema.” It refers to a token of friendship as opposed to a kiss with sexual purposes. The holy kiss was a standard greeting in the world of Jesus’ day, but other greetings and salutations have the same emotional effect.

Some people think that a kiss or a hug is a way to spread cold germs from one person to another. The Carnegie Mellon Institute has been conducting studies as to the collateral effects of a kiss or a hug. They are seeking to learn what physiological or psychological value there might be. They concluded that this activity protects the participants from a common cold by alleviating stress and by bolstering the immune system. Carnegie Mellon Institute’s Michael Murphy reported the results of the study. He said, “A warm hug on the same day as an argument can boost positive feelings and reduce bad ones.”

Most of the things God calls us to do as we interact with each other have a practical value in dealing with life. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 if you want to see more ways to make life better. A holy kiss or a hug should be easy, but the things Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount are much more difficult.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Saturday Evening Post, January/February 2019, page 67.

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil Church Yard
The Week magazine in their January 18, 2019, issue has a story about “sacred clay.” It is soil found in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Church in the Boho Highlands of rural Northern Ireland. For over 200 years people have used the Sacred Heart miracle soil as a remedy for a variety of ailments.

Scientists have been studying the soil and have found that it can halt the growth of the top six superbugs, including MRSA. The researchers discovered a previously unknown strain of streptomyces bacterium that is responsible for the soil’s seemingly miraculous ability. One of the problems of treating diseases like MRSA is that pathogens develop a resistance to common drugs, and science needs to find new antibiotics to control them. The Sacred Heart soil has a natural antibiotic.

The U.K. Times magazine reported on the Sacred Heart miracle soil. It quoted the key researcher Gerry Quinn in reference to folk cures. Quinn said, “Some of these cures might have been perfectly effective but the people just didn’t have any knowledge of the scientific principles or biochemistry behind them.” Science can help us to know the difference between bogus medical claims and treatments that really work.

The question of how this particular antibiotic got into the churchyard soil will stir debate. One of my friends who is a Catholic priest maintains that God has sent many cures through the Catholic Church, but people don’t want to believe in God’s activity on the Earth today. We would suggest that in all areas of nature there is balance, because God designed it that way. If scientists continue to look to nature they may find natural cures for most human maladies. They may even find them not only in church yards but in the yards of leading atheists.
–John N. Clayton ©2019

Surrogate Motherhood and Abortion Find Common Ground

Surrogate Motherhood and Abortion vs Loving Family
Surrogate motherhood is becoming more common. In a surrogacy contract, a woman agrees to allow someone to rent her body to have their child. The parents do that because of an issue that the mother cannot carry the baby, or because they just don’t want to go through the inconvenience of a pregnancy and birth. We have read of movie actresses who do this to avoid having to be off screen for 9 ½ months. Some fertility specialists are selling surrogacy as a part of their offering.

The January/February 2019 issue of Citizen magazine (page 13-15) reported the case of a surrogacy contract running into difficulty. The surrogate mother had agreed to deliver twins–a boy and a girl. A male embryo and a female embryo were implanted into her body. At that point, complications arose. The female embryo failed to implant, and the male embryo split into male twins. The surrogate mother developed pre-eclampsia, and her organs began to shut down forcing delivery of the baby boys ten weeks early. This caused the boys to battle for their lives in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The couple who had paid to have a boy and a girl became hostile because they weren’t getting what they had paid for. The couple were not interested in the boys, but the surrogate mother bonded with the twins. When they were placed in the neonatal unit, she was left “with a deep sense of emptiness, anxiety, and regret.” She is now advocating for a ban on surrogate motherhood.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear two cases on surrogacy issues. In both cases, the surrogate mothers wanted to keep the children. In one case the woman was carrying triplets for a single man who wished to abort at least one due to financial concerns. The other was a mother who learned that the couple she was working for had strong racial prejudices. In both cases, the surrogates lost. There are no national laws that deal with surrogacy, and every state is different. A documentary last fall titled “Big Fertility: It’s All About the Money” pointed out that the practice of surrogate motherhood exploits low-income women and families. We would suggest that surrogacy is wrong on a moral basis.

Like some other modern issues, the Bible doesn’t address surrogacy. The fact that the Bible does not condemn something doesn’t mean we can’t judge whether it is compatible with God’s will. The connection between mother and child during the pregnancy is unique. As the parent of three adopted children, I can tell you that the love we have as a family is massive. However, the relationship between my wife and my two girls was not the same as their relationship with their children born naturally. Data shows that babies bond with their birth mothers during the pregnancy.

Abortion advocates maintain that a baby is merely an extension of the mother’s body. So she has the right to exterminate the baby because it is just an unwanted part of her body. Surrogate motherhood assumes that the baby is a singular physical entity that can be engaged or terminated at the will of the adults involved, for any reason.

The Bible tells us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God. The baby possesses a soul and is fully human. Luke 1:41-44 tells us that when Elizabeth saw Mary who was pregnant with Jesus, the unborn John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. The significance of motherhood is emphasized all through the Bible. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women “shall be saved in childbearing.” That doesn’t mean that women must have babies to be saved, but that the role of being a mother is sacred and unique.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Membrane Structure and Water – A Response

Membrane Structure and Water
In our January 10, 2019 post we discussed attempts to redefine life. Some scientists are doing that to justify the assumption that there are massive amounts of life in the cosmos. Is that true? We have pointed out that the Bible is silent on this subject. However, this question brings up some other issues about membrane structure and water. Dr. Phillip Eichman is a scientist with a Ph.D. in biology who has written many articles for our printed journal. He also wrote a book titled Understanding Evolution: A Christian Perspective. He made this observation of our previous post.

“I found your blog about the search for non-water-based life forms interesting. I took a course at IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis) called “Biological Membranes.” We spent a whole semester studying the structure and function of different types of biological membranes. It was one of the best courses that I have taken, and it really helped to pull a lot of things together.

“The professor had been a student or post-doc of Sidney Fox and was very critical of his proteinoid microsphere theory. He (my prof) believed that any life form must have a lipid membrane to survive.

“If you think about it, water is as essential to the formation of a membrane as are the phospholipids. It’s that hydrophobic/hydrophilic interaction that allows the membrane to form. Those compounds you mentioned are all aliphatic hydrocarbons and are nonpolar, so they won’t form any type of membrane like what we know about on Earth.

“When I was teaching even basic courses like Fundamentals of Biology, I spent a lot of time on the nature of the water molecule and also on membrane structure. Biology just doesn’t make sense without understanding those things.

“They may find something out there with a different type of membrane, but I will wait to see it myself. I used to tell my students that the membrane keeps the inside in and the outside out. Without that, a cell as we know it just won’t work.

“P.S. I wrote a short article on membrane structure 20+ years ago. It has been cited several times even though it was in an obscure journal. It is still accessible even though it is probably dated now. Here is the link: http://shipseducation.net/9-2/membrane.htm

–John N. Clayton and Phillip Eichman © 2019

Alien Life Without Water

Is Alien Life Without Water Possible?
For all of my life, there have been articles, videos, and public presentations claiming that there must be life elsewhere in the universe. Now that we know there are thousands of planets in the creation, we see attempts to maintain that with so many planets there must be life somewhere. Scientists are even speculating alien life without water.

We need to remember that the Bible doesn’t say that this is the only planet where God created life, so this is not a biblical issue. The latest attempts to expand the window of what life is has rejuvenated the need to show the design built into the development of life. Life on Earth is based on carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The National Science Foundation has just funded a three-year program at Saint Louis University to explore what building blocks might be used to make a different kind of life. The chemicals they are considering are hexane, ethers, and chloroform. There is particular interest in whether these materials can form membranes that could be considered life.

The first problem is the definition of life. Life has traditionally been defined as “that which can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli and reproduce.” An extraordinary chemistry is necessary to meet all of these criteria. Water is the basic substance of life on Earth. The water molecule is polar, meaning that one end of the molecule is negative and the other end is positive. Oxygen is the negative end. Oxygen’s bonding orbitals allow the attachment of two hydrogen atoms making that end positive. This polarity allows water to dissolve other molecules. Salt, for example, is made up of sodium which is positive and chlorine which is negative. When you put salt in water, the sodium is attracted to the oxygen end of the water molecule, and the chlorine is attracted to the hydrogen end of the molecule because unlike charges attract each other. This pulls the salt molecule apart and allows the salt to dissolve. Alien life without water seems impossible.

Hydrocarbons like methane have four hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atom symmetrically. That makes the molecule non-polar and unable to dissolve salt. Numerous experiments are underway to circumvent this problem including the use of vinyl cyanide (also called acrylonitrile) which has been found in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. Coming up with a formula for alien life without water will be difficult. How a substitute for oxidation would work has not even been publicized, so respiration would be an equally great challenge.

Chris Butch, a chemist of the Earth Life Institute, says “It’s like trying to build a car in your backyard out of lawnmower parts, versus having the Maserati factory build a supercar.” As science looks for something that can be called life elsewhere in the solar system, we should be impressed with the wisdom involved in the original building of life on planet Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy magazine, February 2019, page 29-35.

Rest of the Story on Gene Editing

Rest of the Story on Gene Editing
Many years ago there was a well-known radio news personality named Paul Harvey. He made a career out of digging into details on stories that were not publicized by the media. He called the reporting “The Rest of the Story.” People close to Harvey said that he got some heat from media people who felt he had made them look bad by revealing details they missed. With the general public, however, he was very popular. We want to examine the rest of the story on gene editing.

There has been a great deal of media reporting about CRISPR-Cas9 which is a tool for editing DNA introduced in 2012. Researchers hope that science can treat a wide range of genetic diseases by altering human DNA. The problem is that our understanding in this area is very primitive. Bioethicists writing in the Wall Street Journal (December 15, 2018, page C3) report, “scientists have only begun to understand what the tens of thousands of individual genes do. Moreover, they are far from unraveling how those genes interact with each other.”

When researchers deleted a gene that limits muscle growth in rabbits, the rabbits had enlarged tongues. Doing the same thing with pigs produced additional vertebrae. In calves the change caused the calves to die prematurely. Lambs grew too large in the womb to be born naturally. Lisa Moses who is a bioethicist at Harvard says, “Humans have a long history of messing around in nature with all kinds of unintended consequences. It’s really hubris of us to assume that we know what we are doing and that we can predict what kinds of bad things can happen.”

There are lessons to learn here. CRISPR has the potential to correct damage to DNA caused by human carelessness, pollution, and mismanagement. The rest of the story on gene editing is still to be written. When a Chinese scientist claims to have produced the first gene-edited human babies, there has to be immediate condemnation by the scientific community. Over the years, outstanding scientists have pointed out that science lacks the capacity to determine the use of its discoveries.

We desperately need Christians who are capable scientists using their faith in God to determine those uses. Will CRISPR be used to eliminate genetic diseases, or will it be used by political demagogues to produce pathogens that kill millions of innocent people? The Nobel Peace Prize was started by a man who discovered dynamite and was appalled at the way it was being used to fight wars. That kind of sensitivity is needed in today’s genetic research to write the rest of the story on gene editing.

Another lesson in all of this is that the complexity of the genetic code of life cannot be the result of chance – a blind watchmaker as some have suggested. Wisdom calls out in Proverbs 8, “O you simple ones, understand wisdom … for wisdom is better than rubies; and all things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. I wisdom dwell with prudence and find out knowledge of witty inventions … The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old … Hear instruction and be wise and refuse it not.”
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Thinking Outside the Brain

Thinking Outside the Brain
Our bodies feed sensory information into the brain, sort of like a keyboard, mouse, or scanner feeds data into a computer. There is a school of psychology known as “embodied cognition” which suggests that not all of our thinking takes place in the brain. They suggest that we do some of our thinking outside the brain.

Those scientists say that the body helps the brain decide what to do with the data it receives. In one test, volunteers were directed to stand at the bottom of a hill and estimate how steep it was. The answers given correlated with the physical condition of the volunteers. Those who were not physically prepared to climb the hill estimated it to be steeper than it was. Those who were carrying a heavy backpack estimated the hill to be steeper than those who were not carrying a load. A physical challenge of any kind may look easy to a person who is physically ready for the challenge. To a person with disabilities, the same task looks much different.

The way we perceive the world is linked to our physical state. The idea of facing a new day is difficult for a person who is in pain. To a healthy person, the new day may be filled with exciting possibilities. A happy person may thank God for blessings. To a person who is discouraged or depressed the concept of a loving God may be hard to accept. Our bodies may be giving our brain a discouraging message.

Sometimes we need to be thinking outside the brain — even outside our bodies. We need to allow faith to tell us something more than our eyes can see and more than our bodies can feel. Another test by those investigating embodied cognition showed that looking upward influences people to think of others who are more powerful than they are. We suggest that looking up to God and putting faith in Him can change our perspective on the challenges of each day.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Christianity Changed the World

Christianity Changed the World
We thought the following article titled “How Christianity Changed the World” was an excellent summary of what we have been saying. It was printed in Citizen Magazine, November 2018, page 30. We are sharing it here by permission:

Do you sometimes think our culture is at the crossroads, tipping toward the gates of Hell? If so, you’re not the first to wonder if the Church will make a difference in a pagan culture.

Jesus began building His Church in a dark and depraved world that devalued life and denigrated marriage. The Greco-Roman culture of that day was brutish and violent; mercy, pity, and compassion were viewed with contempt.

Into this environment, early believers brought a message of God’s deep love for people. Empowered and transformed by the Holy Spirit, they modeled a gospel of grace and compassion. Along the way, they transformed the world.

Be encouraged that what our generation faces today is not new. The Church has been here before, and it prevailed. Here are some key ways the Church made a difference:

Christianity taught and demonstrated the dignity and sanctity of human life. The gladiator “games” vividly depict the Romans’ callous disregard for human life. Crowds of bloodthirsty spectators watched as slaves, prisoners, and criminals fought to the death or were torn apart by wild animals. Christians were vocal in their opposition to these horrific spectacles and encouraged believers not to attend. After hundreds of years, as Christian influence grew, the games were finally shut down. Christians also displayed their value for life in positive ways, helping the sick and needy, eventually building hospitals, hospices, institutions for the blind and homes for the elderly.

The early church advocated for children. Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were common in the ancient world. The early Church carried the biblical belief that children are made in God’s image and are a gift from Him. Jesus’ followers fought to protect life with their teaching and their actions. They practiced their faith by rescuing abandoned children, providing care and adopting them into families.

Christians proclaimed God’s good design for sexuality and marriage. In the folklore of the time, pagan gods and goddesses engaged in art kinds of sexual immorality. Not surprisingly, their worshipers followed their example. The Church rejected this decadent ethic and elevated the importance of sexuality and marriage. Scripture taught that God ordained marriage and that it was a picture of Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church. Men were called to sacrificially love their wives and wives were to respect their husbands.

Christianity also elevated the status of women. In a world where many wives were treated almost like slaves, the early Church included women in leadership. Women played a vital role in supporting the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. The Church grew as women were drawn to a faith where they were valued and respected.

The world is immeasurably different thanks to centuries of Christians living out their faith. Their example should be an inspiration to us today as we lift up the values of human life and God’s design for marriage.

As we end this year and look forward with hope to a new one, we want to thank Citizen Magazine for allowing us to share these thoughts about how Christianity changed the world. We would add to this essay the fact that skeptics like to point to the errors of organized religion in the past. Those errors occurred because humans did things the Bible didn’t endorse or command. The broader picture shows a hugely positive action in Christianity when Christians have followed God’s teaching and Christ’s example.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Human Gene Editing

Human Gene Editing
We have written about human gene editing using the technique known as CRISPR. (Read more about it HERE and HERE.) One of the fears of those who are opposed to uncontrolled use of the CRISPR technique is that it will be used to produce “made to order” babies.

CRISPR could be used to treat a person with a genetic disease, but that is a different scenario from controlling a baby’s athletic skills or eye color. The big problem is that once we apply human gene editing, whatever was changed is passed on to future generations. That includes whatever errors might be made in the process.

He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, announced in early December 2018, that he had altered the DNA of two embryos to make them resistant to HIV. He then placed them in their mother’s womb resulting in a successful live birth. Marc Thiessen writing in the Washington Post said, “Gene editing is here, and it poses an enormous threat to humanity.” The problem is that there is no way of telling what other characteristics were altered in the process, or what it could lead to. Thiessen says “If science continues down this road, we will cross a moral line from which there may be no return.”

Science cannot determine the use to which its discoveries, such as human gene editing, will be applied. Will CRISPR be used to eliminate diseases that are produced by genetic change? On the other hand, will it become a way for scientists like Jiankui to make large amounts of money by producing made-to-order babies? The belief system of the scientists is what will determine this. An atheist has no reason not to use CRISPR to make a fortune for himself no matter what it does to the human race.

We need Christians who believe God is our Creator. We need scientists and medical practitioners who accept God’s view of humans that we are special, created in His image and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16.)
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Life Expectancy and Despair

Life Expectancy and Despair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released its latest annual report on American life expectancy. The report shows that for the third year life expectancy in the United States has not grown and has declined. The last time that this happened was in World War I when a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people.

The report says that drugs and suicide are the main culprits now with the overdose rate up 356% since 1999. The 2017 death toll is 70,237 far outstripping the total American fatalities in Vietnam.

It is interesting that everyone studying this life expectancy issue seems to agree on what the cause is, and what the solution is. The NationalReview.com says that “we are facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem.” An AARP study found that one-third of Americans report chronic loneliness and conclude that isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” David Brooks writing in the New York Times says “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing social catastrophe; it’s human relationships and a society that cares about people more than money.”

We suggest that people need to read and follow the example in Acts 2:41-47. People had a common faith in God, and they took care of each other. They “CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD” and spent time together focusing on meaningful relationships. The result was that “they had favor with all the people.”

This reminds me of a comment I heard Carl Sandburg make when someone asked him what he thought about Christianity. His response was “I don’t know, I have never seen it tried.” Christianity is not a legalistic way of restricting human behavior. It is a way of life that blesses everyone who is a part of it and everyone around those who live it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: The Week, December 14, 2018, page 17