You Are a Spaceship with a Full Crew

You Are a SpaceshipOne of the most interesting sites on the web is the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” produced by NASA. This website features a new picture every day, usually of objects in deep space with an explanation of the image. On August 18, 2019, there was a beautiful artistic rendition of a human with a star-filled background titled “Human as Spaceship.” (Because of copyright we can’t show you the picture, but you can see it HERE.) The opening line of the explanation is, “You are a spaceship soaring through the universe.”

The point of the presentation is that as we soar through the universe, we are not alone. We are the captains of our ships, our human bodies because we are not a singular living organism. There are a massive number of separate organisms that exist inside our bodies that do specific things for us. They help digest food, fight disease and infection, and carry vital materials on a liquid highway (your bloodstream) from one end of your body to the other. These organisms are the crew of this spaceship. They are bacteria, fungi, and archaea, and they actually outnumber your own cells. Science still doesn’t know what many of these organisms do, but they have their own DNA, and together they make up the human microbiome. You are a spaceship with a massive crew.

We sometimes seem to view God’s creation of the human body as a process similar to building a machine. To build a machine you would put together pre-manufactured parts in a prescribed way. To build a working and living human body requires a host of communities which do the jobs they were designed to do in ways that science is just beginning to understand.

David said it best in Psalms 139:14: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Are Humans Animals?

Are humans animals like bears?People have sometimes called me to task for referring to humans as animals. The point is well taken that humans are unique, but humans are not plants, and they are not minerals. According to all basic elementary science books, there are three kingdoms – plants, animals, and minerals. Are humans animals? Yes, we are animals.

The problem we seem to have is that we don’t understand what makes humans different from bears, for example. In our correspondence courses, we have questions about what distinguishes a human from other forms of animal life. I find it interesting that the answers my students give are so poorly considered. Some will say that we think, but all animals think. Some say we have emotions, but all animals have emotions. Others will say we stand erect, but kangaroos, birds, and bears all stand erect. Still others say it’s our brain size, but whales have bigger brains than we do, and bears have very large brains.

I recently watched a National Geographic program on bears. The program emphasized that female bears in the wild that give birth to unhealthy or significantly deformed cubs will kill and eat them. AOL News on the web (August 18, 2019) carried a story about two Russian fishermen who rescued two bear cubs from drowning. The mother bear was swimming across a lake with two cubs on her back when she became tired and chilled. Her solution was to shake the two cubs off of her back, leaving them to drown while she continued her journey to the other side of the lake. These are behaviors that would be unlikely in a human mother. What is it that makes humans different? Why do human mothers continue to care for children with deformities or severe health issues? Why do human mothers usually show incredible resilience when their child is threatened?

When someone asks, “Are humans animals?” I reply, “Yes, but not JUST animals. Humans are not driven by “survival of the fittest.” There are characteristics of humans that cause us to care for those who are not “fit.” These human qualities also provide for an innate sense of the love of beauty in art or music or in a natural setting. What is it in humans that causes us to worship, to feel guilt, and to be sympathetic. What causes us to be driven by an “agape” type of love – self-sacrificing, nonsexual, and unrelated to our survival?

It isn’t any physical characteristic that makes humans special. Our spiritual makeup is the source of all those things that set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are created in the image of God. That isn’t just an empty cliché. It is an observable difference between humans and the animal world around us. We can behave like bears if we choose, but bears cannot behave as humans.

Are humans animals? Yes, but not JUST animals. The word the Bible uses to describe the distinctive characteristic of humans is “soul.” It’s the part of us that never dies, and it separates us from all other forms of life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Inconsistency of Abortion Issues

Inconsistency of Abortion IssuesThere are so many problems with the inconsistency of abortion issues in America that it’s hard to know where to start. Where does a woman’s right concerning her body stop and where do the baby’s rights begin? When is abortion infanticide? When is it murder to kill a baby?

On August 2, 2019, a 29-year-old woman in Anderson, Indiana, was shot in the head by her boyfriend. She was 21 weeks pregnant, and her twins died before she did. The boyfriend has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, and two counts of murder and feticide for killing the twins. The dictionary defines feticide as the destroying of a fetus or the causing of an abortion. In Indiana knowingly or intentionally killing a fetus in any developmental stage is murder. As we pointed out in our earlier post, in some states, a baby can be put to death at the time of birth.

The inconsistency of abortion issues is very obvious. It is compounded by the refusal to deal with the evidence and the facts of conception and birth. You cannot defend the position that the fetus is an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness is because the woman’s body knows that the baby is a foreign entity.

When the sperm meets the egg, an individual is formed with a unique genome. Before birth, the unborn child is aware of much of what is going on in the world outside the mother’s body. There are other options available to a woman who has a baby inside her that she doesn’t want to raise. As the father of three adopted children, I know the joy that any child can bring to those couples who want to be parents but are unable to do so for medical reasons.

The emotional, mental, and physical cost of infanticide and abortion is enormous at the time of pregnancy and in the future for all individuals involved. Following God’s Word in marriage, sex, and family would solve the inconsistency of abortion issues. When we fail to follow God’s instructions, compounding the damage by a violent, destructive solution is not wise.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

It IS Worth the Price!

It IS Worth the Price! Timothy Clayton
\We want to continue our thoughts from yesterday’s post. If you haven’t read it yet, you can click HERE. My point was that it IS worth the price to care for those who cannot take care of themselves. The example I used was my son Tim.

Some argue that it is a waste of money. They say that we should euthanize those who have “a low quality of life” or who are in prison for the rest of their lives. As I said before, from a Christian standpoint, that idea is repugnant. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” We believe that ALL humans are created in the image of God, and every life is infinitely valuable.

To add to the points we made yesterday, here are three more objections to the view of the euthanasia advocates:

1) All human lives can be productive. This is truer today in our world of technology than it ever was. Stephen Hawking did much of his work after he was unable to function physically. My son works in a shop that does jobs that require massive human time. Selecting phone parts and putting one of each in a cloth bag may not be a career you want to have, but Tim and his friends at the sheltered workshop thrive on it. Prisoners can train and rehabilitate dogs, cultivate the land and produce crops, do precision manual work, and write and compose amazing stories, music, and art. Prisons can be productive places with decent living conditions, and they can even be self-supporting. No human is worthless except those who choose to be.

2) No human is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit. Our prison ministry has dealt with some hardened criminals who grew up in an environment that made them that way. Can they be changed? The answer is yes, and there are hundreds of cases to prove that. There is a book titled “The Meanest Man in Texas” that you might wish to read for an example. It is worth the price when you see people transformed by the Spirit.

God’s Spirit can help to change a man or woman who seems to be hopeless. My own personal story of “Why I Left Atheism” is available on doesgodexist.org if you want a personal example. Christians never give up on a man or woman. Euthanizing prisoners who are destined to spend the rest of their lives in prison would cut off what may be a tool to help young people who are headed toward violence and abuse. We worked with “Scared Straight” here in Indiana for several years and saw what can be done by someone “who has been there.”

3) There is a Christian industry built around caring for the disadvantaged. Programs like SSI and Medicare provide some money for those who qualify for their support. The actual care for the disadvantaged doesn’t come from the government. It comes from men and women tho don’t make much money, but who believe that the message of Matthew 25:31-46 applies to them. They serve and bless their constituents, bringing joy and love and happiness as they do so. Their work employs large numbers of men and women who would not otherwise have a job. They train and place disabled people in jobs that match their ability and desire.

Yes, it is worth the price. The bottom line is, what kind of a world to we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Do we want a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation of all of those someone deems to be unfit? Or do we want a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. And it is worth the price.
–= John N. Clayton © 2019

To obtain John’s book about Timothy, click HERE.

Is It Worth the Price?

Is It Worth the Price? Yes, Timothy is worth it.
Every Wednesday morning I take my son Tim, who is 57 years old, out for breakfast. Tim is mentally challenged, blind, and has a mild form of muscular dystrophy. He also has cerebral palsy and schizophrenia. All of this has left him wheelchair-bound and with trembles that affect his ability to hold a cup to drink. Various government programs for the disabled have supported Tim since he became of school age. Some people have told me they resent their tax money being used to prolong my son’s suffering. I regularly receive brochures from pro-euthanasia groups promoting legislation that would terminate those who have “a low quality of life.” That brings up the question, “Is it worth the price?”

I suspect that we could reduce the massive amount of government deficit spending if we euthanized everyone in a mental hospital or care facility. We could expand that to include any prisoner who will always be incarcerated. We could also add anyone who is in a vegetative state due to brain injuries or congenital problems caused by disease, injury, stroke, or inadequate care. From an atheistic standpoint, the euthanizing of all of these individuals makes sense. Putting human life on the same level as animal life would allow involuntary euthanasia. The champion of this kind of thinking is Australian Dr. Peter Singer. He is the Ira W. Decamp Professor of bioethics at Princeton University. He is also the Australian Laureate Professor of Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne.

From a Christian standpoint, these proposals are repugnant. To be clear, we are not talking about allowing a dying person to refuse a life support machine with no hope of ever being free of the machine. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” The Christian view is that ALL humans are created in the image of God. That means they have a spiritual makeup which is unique to humans. Christians reject the view that a human, a dog, and a pig are of equal value.

But is it worth the price of caring for those whom Singer and others would eliminate? There are a large number of objections to the views of the euthanasia advocates. Here are a few:

1) The handicapped historically have made significant contributions to all disciples of human activity. Would those who promote involuntary euthanasia suggest that Stephen Hawking’s life should have been terminated when he could no longer function without help? How many great musical composers have had major handicaps? Many times a handicap has led to a unique talent that blesses the lives of others.

2) How do you determine a “low quality of life”? My son has many things that bring him joy. He enjoys food and knows about the different foods of various cultures. He gets great pleasure from hearing about various religious beliefs. He enjoys music and loves to feel different textures. He does not agonize over his blindness or complain about not being able to play sports. He looks forward to my daily phone calls and loves eating out. From his perspective, his quality of life is very good.

3) Ignoring the spiritual dimension of life means not understanding what brings joy to many people. Galatians 5:19-25 describes the physical “works of the flesh,” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” The physical things are animal responses that involve the physical body. Verse 22 lists the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..” My son has all of those. Not only does he have them, but he brings them into the lives of others.

The bottom line is, what kind of a world do we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Should it be a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation anyone that some person or group of people decides are not fit? Or should it be a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. Is it worth the price? You bet it is! More on this tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia
Newborn Baby Girl with Club Foot

There seems to be confusion between abortion and infanticide in Virginia today. State Delegate Kathy Tran introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would permit abortion through the moment of birth, even when the mother shows signs of being in labor. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said this about a baby born with significant physical problems: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines abortion as “the expulsion of a fetus before it is viable.” It is obvious that in Virginia – and also New York – at least, it is now legal to kill a viable fetus. That is not abortion – it is infanticide. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod practicing infanticide to try to avoid the political consequences of the King of the Jews surviving. In ancient Rome, unwanted babies were simply thrown into the street to die. In some nations today, male babies are preferred, and the females are eliminated.

In America, babies are now viewed by many as commodities, and only the best are fit to survive. The unfit – those with physical problems or perhaps the wrong physical features – can be destroyed. Abortion and infanticide are the tools to accomplish that. Science has sequenced and analyzed the human genome and developed techniques to modify the genome. That means we are close to being able to design a child with the features we want. Then we can discard any child that has the “wrong” features.

Christians believe that what defines a human is not their appearance or a set of physical characteristics. The Bible defines humans as beings created in the image of God. No, we don’t look like God physically because God is not a physical being. If God had a physical body, and we were all in created in God’s physical image, we would be identical. God is a spirit, and we are in God’s spiritual image. That means all humans have value, no matter what our physical body is like.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, musicians, and political leaders were people who had physical problems. Before America today is the question, “What do we believe about the worth of a human being?” Do we want to create the super race of physical beings manufactured by human intelligence and designed to be the most fit of all life on Earth? Or do we believe that every human has value and worth? If we want the super race, then abortion and infanticide are the methods by which we can achieve that goal.

Let’s understand it is not only abortion that we are endorsing, it is the killing of infants. If every human has value, then let us work to eliminate the causes of physical problems. Let us focus on life in all of its variety and value, realizing that every human being bears the image of God. That image allows all of us to express beauty in an amazing variety of ways.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Susan B. Anthony List

Philistine People and DNA

Philistine People and DNA
Ashkelon Archaeology Site

One of the main groups described in the Old Testament is the Philistine people. Genesis 10:14 tells us that the Philistines came from Casluhim, the son of Mizraim, the son of Ham. Abraham and Isaac had dealings with the Philistine king Abimelech and his general Phichol.

The Bible goes on to tell us that when the Israelites left Egypt, the Philistines had settled along the coast between Egypt and Gaza (Exodus 13:17-18). There they prevented the Israelites from moving through the area. There were many Philistine encounters after Israel had moved into the Promised Land. We are all familiar with the story of Samson and the Philistine temptress Delilah. David and the Philistine Goliath is also a familiar story. Skeptics throughout the years have tried to suggest that these are all myths and that such characters and peoples never existed.

Scientists recently found the remains of ten individuals buried at the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. Archaeogeneticists used the DNA to compile genetic evidence that supports the biblical account. Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute says that the genetic evidence indicates a seafaring population from southern Europe settled along the eastern Mediterranean coast and inhabited Ashkelon between 3400 and 3150 years ago.

The Philistine people certainly existed, and as scientists gather more evidence, their interactions with ancient Israel seem to be without question. Science continues to confirm the Bible in many ways.

Reference: Science News, August 3, 2019, page 16.

Another Gun Issue to Consider

another gun issueThere is another gun issue which we rarely talk about. It relates in some ways to meteorites.

Many years ago, a lady in Alabama was sitting on her couch with her leg up on the coffee table. Suddenly a large chunk of rock came crashing through the ceiling striking her on the leg and continuing through the floor. It turned out to be a meteorite, a piece of rock from outer space. The rock survived its journey through Earth’s atmosphere and reached the surface to land in the woman’s home. We have had sporadic meteors striking our atmosphere at 79,000 to 130,000 miles-per-hour. Atmospheric drag slows these hunks of rock to 200 to 400 miles-per-hour. Our atmosphere is designed so that larger meteoroids break up about 10 miles above the surface, and the fragments produced rarely get to the ground.

So there is another gun issue in which humans in celebration fire a gun straight up into the atmosphere. That action poses great danger. In Puerto Rico alone, two people were killed and 25 injured on New Year’s Eve because of celebratory bullets that come down on their heads. A bullet has to achieve a velocity of 157 miles-per-hour to penetrate human skin and damage organs. Bullets fired into the air can reach a speed of 400 miles per hour upon their return to the ground.

In Los Angeles between 1985 and 1992 doctors at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center treated 118 people for random falling bullet injuries, and 38 of them died. A 1994 study published in the Journal of Trauma showed that of those 118 people, 77% were hit in the head and had a mortality rate of 32%. Rifle bullets of .30-caliber fired straight-up reach altitudes of 10,000 feet and descend at 300-600 feet-per-second. Even bullets from handguns fired straight-up return to the ground at speeds between 150 and 250 feet-per-second.

So we have another gun issue. Almost always, your safety is more endangered by what humans do than the dangers of the planet God created for our home. I am reminded of the very old line from the Pogo comic strip: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from an article in Astronomy magazine, September 2019, page 14

Nazca Lines and Birds

Nazca Lines and BirdsOne of the enduring UFO claims has been the massive drawings on Peru’s Nazca desert plateau. As far back as Eric Von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods in 1968, there have been those who claim that people on the Earth could not have made the drawings. They claim that the lines marked out landing strips for alien space crafts. It has been proven that people CAN, in fact, make huge drawings visible from space. However, there have not been good explanations as to what the Nazca drawings represent. Masaki Eda, a zooarchaeologist from Hokkaido University in Japan, seems to have found some clues in his recent study of the Nazca Lines and birds.

The large hummingbird drawing, which has been popularized, is an excellent portrayal of a bird known as the long-tailed hermit. Two other drawings that Eda has identified are a pelican and a guano bird. This doesn’t answer all of the mysteries of the Nazca lines, however, because those birds are rainforest or coastal birds, and the Nazca plateau is a desert. Social anthropologists studying the religions and myths of the people of the area may tell us more. There is still much to be learned about the Nazca lines and birds.

As we have emphasized before, the question of life in space is not a biblical issue and has no bearing on the scientific evidence for the existence of God. It is essential to realize that we live in a world that is as God describes it in the Bible, and He has given us the responsibility to care for it. Aliens are not our creators. The evidence does not support substituting UFOs or alien abduction theories for honoring God and living the life Christ calls us to live.
— John N. Clayton ©

Placing Blame for Gun Violence

Placing Blame for Gun ViolenceThe National Center for Health Statistics reports that 39,773 Americans lost their lives to firearms in 2017. Since 1968, 1,625,000 Americans have died from gunfire. That is more than all American deaths in all wars since the founding of America more than 200 years ago. From 2008 to 2017 there were 342,439 deaths by firearms and 374,340 deaths caused by motor vehicles. It is hard to believe that guns are nearly equal to cars in their careless use. These numbers are facts, not opinions. The opinions come when people are placing blame for gun violence.

Everyone from the NRA to the WTA wants to explain why this is happening, and we would add another voice to the discussion. The trend in firearm deaths is evident. In 1968 the number of deaths due to firearms in the United States was roughly 24,000. In 2017 the number of fatalities was roughly 40,000. In almost 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase that no one can deny. That leads to people placing blame for gun violence.

What else has changed in those 50 years? We have only cited the years for which we have numbers. Before 1968, deaths due to firearms would have been much lower. As a teenager in the 50s, I can remember that when someone died due to a firearm in our half of the state, it made the front page of every newspaper.

Some say that mental illness is the cause of the increase. I would suggest that we have always had the mentally ill with us. Until the mid 20th century, there were virtually no medications that relieved the symptoms of the mentally ill. I can recall classmates in high school who were mentally ill, and none of them resorted to violence with a firearm.

Some say that gun availability is the cause of this, but I bought my first gun when I was 12 years old. I had a hard time deciding between a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 rifle. In southern Indiana, it seemed that every pickup truck had a gun rack behind the driver’s seat. There was usually more than one loaded gun in the rack. The trucks were never locked so any five-year-old could have climbed in, grabbed a loaded gun, and started shooting.

So when placing blame for gun violence, we cannot completely point to those factors. The one thing that has changed in the same time period is our country’s fundamental faith in God. When you read all of our historical documents, even those written by those who may have had doubts about God, you see a basic declaration of the importance of living by God’s principles. Even though my father was an atheist, he grew up with a father who was a minister, and he believed and lived by the basic teachings of the Bible.

In the last 50 years, we have been saturated with the doctrine propagated by the media and the educational establishment that humans are just animals. Along with that, goes the belief in survival of the fittest as the basic rule by which we should live. In the animal world, you generally don’t see the notion that the less fit should be cared for and looked after by those who are fit.

The idea of caring for the less fit has been denigrated among human beings by people like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They vocalize what much of our culture wants to believe. Everything from abortion to euthanasia is radically affected by what we believe about the worth of a human being. If educated leaders in the secular world want to eliminate those they see as unfit, how can we expect a mentally ill person not to embrace the same idea? The problem is how they identify the unfit.

“We then that are are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). That is a principle of Christianity and should be applied to both spiritual and physical weakness. In Matthew 25, when Jesus describes the basis of judgment by God, He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you visited me…”

Perhaps society is placing blame for gun violence on the wrong things. It is only when a person accepts the biblical concept that ALL human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore, ALL human life is sacred, that we can hope to see a change. It is only then that we can have a psychological foundation that allows even the mentally ill to understand that they have value and that people care about them and want to help them. There is no-one “unfit” in the sight of God. Violence will only increase as our children play video games and watch movies that glorify those who are strong destroying the weak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019