Torture and Truth

Torture and Truth
Torture Rack

We have written about “Truth” before, and our point has been that truth is never 100% sure when you deal with humans. When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), he was giving us the only thing we can fully trust, and that is God’s Word.

There is an interesting story from history about the Duke of Brunswick in Germany. In the early 1600s, he challenged the connection between torture and truth. He requested the assistance of two Jesuit scholars who had been using torture to extract information about witches. He had a confessed witch who was being stretched on a rack, and he invited the Jesuits to join him in watching her torture.

With the two Jesuits watching, the Duke said to the woman “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch. I suspect these two men (the Jesuits) of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack executioners.”

The woman cried, “No, no! You are quite right…They can turn themselves into goats, wolves, and other animals…Several witches have had children by them…The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” The Duke turned to the Jesuits and said, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”

One of the Jesuits she accused of being a warlock was Friedrich See who helped to end witch hunting by writing a book in 1631 titled Cautio Criminalis. The book demonstrated that torture was not a tool for obtaining useful information because humans will say anything to stop the pain. We have all seen children say preposterous things to get out of a jam, but adults do the same thing on a different level.

When Pilate questioned Jesus in John 18:37, Jesus said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” How Jesus lived and what He taught can be trusted because it is not of human origin. Over the centuries when people follow Christ’s teachings, their truthfulness has been demonstrated. Pilate’s response to Jesus was, “What is truth?” Soon after that, Pilate told the Jews he could find no fault in Jesus.

Torture and truth do not go together. Truth stands on its own. It cannot be manufactured or forced. People make false claims about Christianity, but just as Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, today no one can find fault in what Jesus taught or how He lived.
Reference: Scientific American, May 2017, page 77.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Moderate Drinking and the Brain

Moderate Drinking
Does moderate drinking cause physiological problems? We see a lot of misleading information in the media about the effects of alcohol. There have been studies linking consumption of alcohol to longer life expectancy. We have pointed out that the agents causing health benefits from drinking wine are the flavonoids in grapes. Alcohol is not the agent of health benefits.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal reports that long-term studies show a negative effect in the brain of moderate drinkers. The study defined moderate drinking as weekly doses of 8 to 12 small glasses of wine, bottles of beer, or shots of liquor. It followed 527 British citizens for 30 years, and the subjects were “predominantly white middle-class men.”

The study showed that moderate drinkers were more likely than nondrinkers to develop brain changes that might precede or accompany memory loss. They also were more likely to show a more rapid decline in a language fluency test. Moderate drinkers were three times more likely than nondrinkers to show shrinkage of the hippocampus area of the brain–a change that accompanies dementia. Heavy drinkers showed the most shrinkage.

Claims that moderate drinking is healthy and improves the quality of life are simply not true. Alcohol continues to be the most destructive recreational drug.
Reported in USA Today, June 7, 2017, page B1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Pornography Impacts the Church

Pornography Impacts the Church
Sex is a beautiful creation of God. The complexity of human sexuality is enormous because the sexual experience is not just physical. Sex also involves the emotions as well as the spiritual nature of humans as beings created in the image of God.

Like everything else that God created, Satan can take something beautiful and purposeful and corrupt it and make something evil from it. The role of intimacy in marriage and the special nature of oneness which it binds in love and sharing seems to be lost in today’s world. Pornography impacts the Church also.

We have seen how evil sex can become in the pedophile behavior of some Roman Catholic priests. The media has seized on this abuse and attempted to make it appear to be the norm for Christianity. Church leadership seems to be in denial on this subject, and yet recent studies show that 68% of men who call themselves “Christians” view pornography on a regular basis.

The internet allows men to view pornography at home or in the privacy of their office. In an article in Christianity Today (August 2017) titled “Pornography is Paralyzing the Church” Luke Gibbons wrote, “When men view porn, they become stricken with guilt and shame which leads to feeling unworthy to lead and afraid to speak out. Their secret sin becomes a dead-weight in their lives. They avoid ministry opportunities and begin to suffocate spiritually.”

Pornography impacts the church when it encourages child predators. Jimmy Hinton is a man who knows that from first-hand experience. We worked with him to create a DVD series and booklet to help churches protect themselves from child predators. The title of the material is “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” It is available on loan from our ministry, or to purchase from www.jimmyhinton.org.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Evolution “The Road to Homo Sapiens”

Human Evolution the Road to Homo Sapiens
Around 1970, Time-Life Books published a mural of human evolution “The Road to Homo Sapiens.” It became a monstrous success. It was a foldout in a book titled Early Man. It was also laminated and sent to teachers in public schools. This mural became the basis of several movies and even cartoons. What most people don’t realize is that it was quite inaccurate. The artists who made the drawing created the impression that it was a chronological sequence of human history. Actually, the dates were misrepresented, and the drawings were pretty much fictional. In spite of that fact, much of the American public accepted “pliopithecus-to-modern-man” as a proven fact.

Half-a-century later, the picture is much more complicated and highly contested. Recently in Europe scientists found older fossils of what were considered to be the earliest ancestors of modern humans. Others found fossils of a group of small-brained individuals apparently ritualistically buried in a cave complex in southern Africa. This find violated the theory that there is a relationship between brain size and human-like activities. Discovered in Indonesia is a very small hominid that supports the view that there is no relationship between brain size and humanism. Names like Homo floresiensis or Hobbits, and Homo naledi or Naledi, and Graecopithecus fill the literature today.

Debates rage among the leading anthropologists about whether brains became larger as Homo species evolved, or whether brain size came first and increased physical size came later, or whether brain size has nothing to do with evolution at all. It is interesting that some of the great geniuses of the past 100 years had very small brains.

The major source of problems here is the failure to have a good definition of, “What is a human?” The biblical account defines humans as those beings created in the image of God. That does not refer to brain size or any physical characteristic. In reality, we have no idea what Adam looked like, how big his brain was, or any other physical characteristic.

The Bible tells us that “God formed the man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word yatsar is translated “formed.” It is a term used to refer to someone shaping pottery from clay. It’s different from the Hebrew word bara which is used in Genesis 1:27 to indicate how humans were created in God’s image. Bara is a word used only in reference to what God can do, and that is what makes us unique. You can form a man out of plastic and put clothes on him and put him in a department store window. The body may resemble a man, but it does not have the breath of life, and it does not have a soul.

The fossil record shows us that there were many creatures in the past who may have had some resemblance to humans. The same could be said today. You can visit a zoo and see gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, spider monkeys, Japanese snow monkeys, and others. The fact that there are some common features does not mean we are related.

The anthropological definition of humans deals only with physical characteristics. From the standpoint of human evolution, the road to homo sapiens is very bumpy indeed. The biblical definition of beings created in the image of God gives humans a special identification and a unique role in the world. It’s a role that has eternal significance and should also help us function in a constructive way in the affairs of this life. Humans can act like animals, but no animal can be human. Only humans are uniquely created in God’s image, now and for eternity.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

References: Science News June 10, 2017, page 6, The Week, June 23, 2017, page 20, Science News June 24, 2017, page 9.

Epicurus on Death and Fear

Epicurus on Death and Fear
About 2300 years ago in ancient Greece there lived a man named Epicurus. He spent his time thinking about things and taught others about the things he was thinking. One of the things Epicurus thought about was death. That’s not unusual. There has never been a living human being who has not thought about death at one time or another. But Epicurus was a professional thinker (also known as a philosopher), so his thoughts were influential. What do we hear from Epicurus on death and fear? In his thinking, he concluded that death was the end of body and soul. When we die, we just cease to exist and therefore, he said, death should not be feared.

Epicurus died in 270 B.C. at the age of 72 in great pain because of kidney stones. However, he wrote a letter in which he said it was, “a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life.” Since Epicurean philosophy says that death is nothing to be feared, why do people still fear death? Perhaps it’s because most people think that Epicurus was wrong.

What is the source of the greatest joy and fulfillment in life? Isn’t it love? The relationships we have with others bring us happiness and give us purpose as well as joy. Loving and being loved by family and friends is the greatest of human experiences. God never intended for us to be alone. (See Genesis 2:18.) Being rejected by those we love is the source of the greatest pain. Interestingly, Epicurus believed that a happy life is one in which friends surround us. We know that nothing makes us as sad as the loss of those we love. Death is the most permanent form of separation and loss. Death steals away those we love one-by-one if we manage to live long enough. Death gives us much to fear, and then finally death comes to take us.

If Epicurus is right, then death is the end of love. If there is no existence beyond the grave, there is no love. If you believe that death is the end of existence, seeing a loved one dying is the most fearful and terrible experience in life. But what if death is not the end? What if love goes on? Genesis tells us that death was not part of God’s original plan for humans. Death is a consequence of human sin. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus out of sympathy for Mary and Martha. He must also have been weeping over what sin had done to the human race. Grief and anger over the mess brought on by human disobedience touched the emotions of the human Jesus.

But Jesus was more than human. He is also God. He had the power to bring Lazarus back from the grave and restore him to the sisters who loved him. But that resurrection was only temporary. Lazarus, as well as his sisters, died at some later time. Soon after raising Lazarus, Jesus conquered the power of death once and for all. His death brought both fear and grief to those who loved him. But as Timothy Keller wrote in Making Sense of God, “…the darkness of death swallowed Jesus, he entered it, but then he blew a hole out of the back of it.” The pain of those who wept was turned to joy as Jesus was alive again. When Jesus conquered death, he brought not only joy but also hope. Death is not the end of love and relationships. Love goes on.

So what can we conclude about Epicurus on death and fear? Epicurus was right when he said that death should not be feared, but he had the wrong reason. For those who accept the gift offered by Jesus Christ, death is the entryway to eternal life and a love relationship with the One who IS love (1 John 4:8).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Babies and Pain–A New Study

Babies and Pain
One of the areas of medicine that seems to be neglected is pain management. That is true of all ages, but one of the least studied age groups for investigating the experience of pain is what infants experience before, during, and after birth. There are special challenges when studying babies and pain.

Pain assessment in babies is difficult because they don’t talk and it is difficult to know whether they are in pain or whether their crying is due to something else. The use of facial expressions or body jerking or wiggling is likely to be very misleading. The May 3 issue of Science Translational Medicine carried a report on the use of electroencephalography (or EEG). Doctors used a special device called a Cz electrode to pick up brain waves when the baby experienced a painful event such as having its heel lanced to draw blood. The electroencephalogram showed a neural spike immediately after having the poke to the heel.

Babies born prematurely between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation show the same kind of responses to pain. Not all babies have exactly the same response, but there is enough consistency to believe that the babies do in fact sense pain. The babies did not show the same response to loud noises, flashing lights, or non-painful touches.

This research suggests a number of things. Procedures done on babies that could cause pain in an adult seem to be very likely to cause pain in a baby. The use of painkillers and the effect of medical treatment on the brain of a small child needs to be more carefully studied. Medical studies of babies and pain must proceed with care.

The question of whether abortion causes pain in the baby must be considered. The answer seems to be that babies do sense pain and that is also true of premature babies. Women who are considering medical procedures on their babies and especially abortion need to know what the evidence shows.
Reference: Science News, June 10, 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Racism Exhibit at Musee de l’Homme

Racism Must End
A new exhibit has opened at the Musee de l’Homme (French for “Museum of Man”) in Paris. The exhibit is titled “Us and Them” and attempts to explore the science of racism and prejudice. It’s an interactive exhibit that invites visitors to test their own prejudices. Visitors are asked to choose who they would sit next to in an airport lounge using different words to give the options. The exhibit presents the history of racism and the genetic, biological data showing there is no scientific justification for racism.

With the influx of refugees into Europe and immigration in the United States, this is an important issue. The exhibit is needed because all prejudice is the product of ignorance. The only system on planet Earth that is truly void of racial prejudice is Christianity. However, that is not what history shows. People have done horrible racial violence using the name of Christianity including the Ku Klux Klan, the Crusades, slavery, and the persecution of racial minorities in the United States throughout our history.

Racism contradicts the very heart of Christianity, but Christians have failed to live up to their own standards. Atheists continue to use this fact as a means of denigrating Christianity. I remember when I was a very young child and my father wakened me from sleep one night when we lived in Talladega, Alabama. He dragged me to the front window of our house which was on the campus of Talladega State Teacher’s College–an all-black college at that time. He pointed to a burning cross in our front yard. My father was one of two white professors at the school, and as he pointed to the cross, my atheist father said to me, “See, son, that is what Christians do.”

Jesus worked to break down hatred and prejudice of all kinds. In chapter four of John’s gospel, Jesus spent a great deal of time with a person who represented the classic example of racial prejudice. The person he spoke with was a Samaritan. Verse 9 is careful to point out that the prejudice against Samaritans was so intense that “no dealings were allowed with them.” In addition to that, the person was a woman. The Samaritan woman said, “How is it that you, a Jew, are asking me a woman…” In verse 27 the disciples “marveled that he talked with a woman.” There are many other incidents where Jesus broke down religious, sexual, and ethnic prejudice and addressed the needs of people–even if they were Romans or Gentiles.

The first century Church was made up of a mixture of people. In Galatians 3:28 Paul concludes a part of his message in which he condemns the recipients of his letter because they have “perverted the gospel of Christ” by allowing the prejudices and legalism of Judaism to re-enter the Church. His conclusion is that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Christians have missed a wonderful opportunity to be shining lights in the world when they have failed to accept the example and teaching of Jesus. Racism and prejudice have raised their ugly heads again and again. Let us not make the same mistake in the twenty-first century.
Reference: Science News, May 27, 2017, page 28.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Physician-Assisted Suicide and the Christian

Contemplating Physician-Assisted Suicide
One of the new problems people face today is the question of what to do when you have a painful terminal illness. Improved medical treatments have allowed us to live longer with diseases that previously would have ended life. This has led to increased interest in physician-assisted suicide.

As I write this, I am dealing with my younger brother facing the end of life due to a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The disease has changed him from an active, in control, retired military officer to a man confined to a wheelchair, in great pain, and unable to care for himself. He and I have talked about physician-assisted suicide a number of times. Each time we do, the discussion gets more difficult.

Christianity Today (April 2017, page 18) reported that Lifeway Research found that 38% of the American public believes that physician-assisted suicide is morally acceptable when facing a painful terminal illness. Their study shows that 42% agree that physicians should be allowed to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives. Those numbers have been climbing, and they will continue to do so.

It is easy to give simplistic condemnations of those who choose to end their lives in this way. When we are in the situation, it becomes much more challenging. For the Christian, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Do we have any right to end the body’s life? Is a body racked with pain and twisted with a horrible disease a fit place for God’s Spirit? What effect does ending one’s life have on the loved ones? Is there ever a time when a person cannot minister to others even as they battle a horrible disease? These are all hard questions to answer.

It is obvious that our society is moving toward the time when euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide will be widely available. That is already the case in the Netherlands, and several states have passed laws allowing it. While the atheist may feel that human life should be treated like all other kinds of life, the Christian has a higher view of human life. This makes the decision more difficult when the end of life comes, but it also mitigates many of the fears and concerns that death brings. Life isn’t easy, and the end of life can be the most difficult. We need to study and pray together and support one another in these end-of-life issues.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Transgender Bullying

Restroom Sign-Whichever
As our society continues to accept any kind of behavior for the sake of tolerance, equal rights, and personal freedom, are we going to accept transgender bullying? The problem is that sometimes “personal rights” for one violates someone else’s rights.

In Citizen magazine (June/July 2017, page 11), there is a story about a “progressive” blogger by the name of Kristen Quintrall Lavin who had an experience that apparently has caused her to have concerns about the muddled atmosphere of sexual identity. Ms. Quintrall was in the women’s restroom at the Disney theme park when a “big burly guy” walked in. The room was full of a dozen women with kids, and in her words, “Everyone was visibly uncomfortable.” The man simply hung around watching. He knew no one would say anything because they knew the man would identify himself as a woman. She said, “We had been culturally bullied into silence.”

This woman calls herself a “progressive” and says, “I am totally cool with transgender people.” But she also says, “Gender just can’t be a feeling. Gender must be clearly defined to keep women safe. We cannot tell women they don’t know what a man is anymore.” The Bible clearly defines what it means to be a man or a woman. When those definitions and roles are destroyed, the result is abuse and chaos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Space Aliens or God?

Space Aliens
What do people do when they won’t believe in God, but they can’t explain the complexity of the cosmos or the unique nature of humans? A common answer to that question is that they believe space aliens created us. We began our printed periodical in 1968. In that year, proposals of space aliens appeared on the front pages of American newspapers. A man named Eric von Daniken wrote a series of books which he claimed proved that aliens were in control of humans and they had a purpose for our existence. He based his claims on “evidence” from statues on Easter Island and ground paintings in South America.

Recently some on the internet were proposing that ancient art in Catholic churches showed aliens coming to Earth. The subject of the artwork was God coming to Earth in the form of Jesus Christ. Now there is a book by Graham Hancock entitled Magicians of the Gods. He claims that a comet wiped out our ancestors about 12,000 years ago. He says the comet collision was so devastating that all evidence of it was destroyed. He cites evidence of a mass extinction and an arrangement of stone pillars called Gobekli Tepe in what is now Turkey. Hancock cites this as proof that a superior alien civilization created us.

All of these claims are easily disproven. The point is that when people reject the notion that God created the cosmos and gave humans the ability to make impressive structures, the result is bizarre explanations. God gave humans the intelligence and tools to do incredible things. But we resist living in the peaceful, positive, constructive, serving manner that God calls us to. When we search for other ways to explain the creation, the result is violence and selfishness. Rebellious humans invent explanations that are ignorant and unsupported by evidence.

There are no space aliens to help us undo the damage we have done and continue to do physically, mentally, and spiritually. God is the answer to human struggles and the only possible way to find what we all desire.
–John N. Clayton © 2017