Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences published a study of 204 soil samples taken from mountains near the Shackleton Glacier in Antarctica. Scientists had predicted that this soil would contain microbes, as is true of soil samples all over the Earth. Instead, they found that 20% of the soil samples, those taken from the higher and dryer locations, had no detectable microbial life. The study seems to indicate that extreme cold and dry conditions can render an area devoid of life. Noah Fierer, one of the scientists involved with the study, said that this might be the first time scientists have found soils that did not support microbial life anywhere on Earth.
The idea that some form of life can exist anywhere in every kind of environment is an evolutionary assumption that is apparently incorrect. We know that extreme cold and dry conditions exist on Mars and many moons in our solar system. Assuming there is life elsewhere because it is so abundant on Earth and some bacteria do well in extreme conditions does not mean there is no limit to where life can exist.
We have said many times that there might be life elsewhere in the cosmos, but if there is, God created it. This is not a biblical or apologetic issue, but these new discoveries indicate that there are limits to the environments where life can survive.
For the past two days, we have looked at one of the struggles everyone faces– trusting God in difficult times. Of course, the atheist will claim that a loving, caring, just God would not allow innocent people to suffer terrible disasters in their lives. However, most of us have had a “why me?” experience where a problem afflicts us that we feel is unfair and which we beg God to remove – and frequently, He doesn’t.
Life often presents situations that require trusting God in difficult times. I am not suggesting that I know all the answers, but I see three reasons why we sometimes fail to trust God. First, we looked at how faulty thinking and reasoning can erode our trust in God. Secondly, we saw that not having a reason to live and thus seeing no value in the problems we face contributes to our lack of trust in God. We want to look at a third reason today:
REASON # 3 – We fail to trust God because we think that everything must have an answer that we can understand. Someone said, “If I can understand the thinking of God, then God isn’t God.” My experience in dealing with people who are immersed in a problem indicates that they don’t want a theological or philosophical answer to their problem. What they want is to be free of the problem. After many years of dealing with this issue, I have learned that the best thing I can say is, “I don’t know the reason, but I care.”
Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God..” In the book of Job, God never reveals to Job the answer to why his problems exist. It is evident that there is a war going on between good and evil in this world. I don’t understand all that is involved, but just looking around, we can see the struggle. I can give theological answers to questions about this war, but you don’t care about theology or philosophy if you are hurting. You want to have a solution to your pain.
After God speaks, Job concludes, “I have heard of you by the hearing of my ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Job came to realize that he is not smart enough or powerful enough to understand it all. Neither are we.
Trusting God in difficult times is our choice to make or not. However, learning to trust God fills our lives with purpose and direction. The promise of Acts 2:38 and John 14:26-27 is enough to make my life worth living, even with its pain and frustrations.
Yesterday we looked at a struggle that everyone faces— trusting God when things go wrong. We said that faulty thinking and reasoning can erode our trust in God. For example, atheists claim that a loving, caring, just God would not allow innocent people to suffer disasters in their lives. We looked at why that may be faulty reasoning.
Life tends to present situations that cause us not to trust God. The book of Job raises the question of why a “perfect and upright man who feared God and eschewed evil” should suffer massive loss and pain. I admitted that I had faced a problem in trusting God, and I am not suggesting that I have the question solved. In my early days of cynicism and ignorance, I actually said that I had given up on praying because what I prayed for didn’t happen the way I had asked.
So here is another reason for trusting God when things go wrong:
REASON # 2. We tend to think that there is no value in problems. To the atheist, a significant problem can lead to suicide. If things go badly for me and I see no hope that they will ever get better, why should I continue to struggle? If you have no purpose in life other than self-gratification, why go on with pain and problems constantly taking away any reason to live?
For the Christian, the answer to problems is radically different. The Bible is full of statements about problems and suffering leading to good things and joy in life. Examples are Proverbs 3:11-12; Psalms 119:71; James 1:2-3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. In my own life, having a child born who was blind, mentally challenged, afflicted with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia has filled my life with purpose and direction. As my son dealt with those issues, including COVID-19, he radiated joy and purpose to the end of his life.
For the Christian, problems and pain can give purpose and direction in life. But, more than that, they bless those who believe with direct help from God promised in Romans 8:28, John 14:1-3, and 26. In addition, there is the hope and promise that ultimately things will be better, with no pain or tears or death (Revelation 21:4).
A purposeless life is a miserable existence. Trusting God when things go wrong can give us a purpose and a reason to live. Because those problems have strengthened my faith, I can provide help and support to others whose faith is faltering as they face similar issues. Tomorrow we will look at a third point that should help us trust God.
We all struggle with the question of why bad things happen to good people. Atheists claim that a loving, caring, just God would not allow innocent people to suffer huge disasters in their lives.
Most of us have had a “why me?” experience where a problem afflicts us that we feel is unfair. We beg God to remove the problem, and He frequently doesn’t. The Bible is not ignorant of this issue. The whole book of Job is dedicated to why a “perfect and upright man who feared God and eschewed evil” should suffer massive loss and pain.
As one who has faced a problem in trusting God, I am not suggesting that I have it completely solved. In my early days of cynicism and ignorance, I actually said that I had quit praying for God to solve a major issue. It seemed that every time I prayed that something bad wouldn’t happen, it happened. I think there are three fundamental reasons why we don’t trust God or lose faith in God when confronted with the reality of life’s problems.
REASON # 1 – The first reason is faulty reasoning and thinking. We don’t reason very far when we think that everything should be fair. Psalms 73:2-3 talks about believing that prosperity would equate to fairness. Several years ago, singer Peggy Lee sang a song titled “Is That All There Is?” In the song, she spoke about wanting something badly, and then when she got it thinking, “Is that all there is?” We have all bought something we really wanted and then when we got it, we found that we were not enamored with it.
Is it fair that Bill Gates has a lot of money and I don’t? What would I demand in exchange for my wonderful marriage, which apparently Bill Gates didn’t have? Is it fair that I have a disease that you don’t have? Human greed, selfishness, ignorance, and carelessness cause most of our illnesses. Would it be fair for me to ruthlessly contaminate the environment with the result that someone in the future would not have the resources I enjoy?
If all a person would have to do was go to Church to become free of their problems, what would be the result? We would have churches full of people with a temporary, short-term faith that wouldn’t benefit anyone. When we question why bad things happen to good people, ask yourself, “Was it fair for Jesus to die on the cross?” In the heat of a crisis, it is easy to lash out at God. However, if we could look at life unemotionally, unselfishly, and logically, we would see that our anger at God is misplaced.
Faulty reasoning and thinking is the first reason for not trusting God. Tomorrow we will look at reason # 2.
We want to share with you this article by Phillip Eichman about a class in paleontology, the study of the history of life on Earth based on fossils.
Back in the 70s, I was majoring in biology at Wright State University and needed some elective hours to graduate, so I signed up for a course in invertebrate paleontology. I had already taken a year of geology, and this was an upper-level course. However, what I learned in paleontology class when I was a young Christian made the course worthwhile.
I had been interested in rocks since I was a small child. So I began collecting them and found my first fossil before starting school. By the time I was in the fifth or sixth grade, my closet was stuffed with boxes of rocks and fossils, and I had practically worn out my Golden Guide book of Rocks and Minerals.
As a young Christian, I was a little concerned that this course in paleontology might somehow cause me to question my religious faith. But, as it turned out, this was one of my all-time favorite courses.
In the class, we went phylum by phylum, looking at the hard parts, noticing the main characteristics of the group, and learning how to identify the fossils. It was easy to see that the various groups developed, or evolved, over time, but they were still part of that major group. For example, the gastropods were still gastropods, and the brachiopods were still brachiopods. The same was true for the cephalopods, corals, trilobites, and others. There was no confusion caused by a huge number of “intermediate forms” that you hear about so often in the popular media.
This lack of intermediate forms is not consistent with the “amoeba to man” theory of evolution. It is, however, consistent with the biblical account of God creating various “kinds” of living things with the ability to change over time, or evolve, within those groups.
As has been pointed out many times in the Does God Exist? program, science and the Bible are not enemies if we understand both in the proper way. Instead of causing harm to my faith, what I learned in paleontology class and my study of fossils only strengthened my belief in God as the Creator.
People sometimes ask, “Is life worth living?” I recently read a police report of a young man standing on the ledge of a very tall building threatening to jump. He finally said to the police officer who was trying to talk him down, “Can you convince me that life is worth living?” The officer hesitated, not knowing how to answer that question, and the young man jumped. An interesting fact about life on planet Earth is that only humans can commit suicide. (There is a false story that lemmings commit suicide, but we have dealt with that before.)
The year 2020 gave everyone reasons to question the value of life. Disease, loss of loved ones, abuse, political chaos, sexual issues, and various mental issues have combined to cause people to desire a life worth living. One argument for faith is that it provides a reason to live, even when life’s traumas make it difficult.
What does atheism offer to make life worth living when things turn bad? When I was a child, singer Peggy Lee had a song titled “Is That All There Is?” She sang about wanting something very badly, but the result was never as good as what she imagined. It is like buying an expensive new car you have wanted to own for a very long time. Then after having it for a while, wondering why you spent that much money. Everything in life is like that. Even marriage has the familiar half-life. In courtship and engagement, you have the belief that your potential mate is that person with whom you want to spend your life. But once the newness wears off, marriage becomes something that takes effort to keep it working.
What I have described so far applies to all of us. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon, a man with great wealth and power, expressed his struggle with what the world offers. As you read through the book, you see that he does it all and has it all, but he finds it is all meaningless. The Bible is full of stories about men who had opportunities to be very successful. Moses had it made as the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Then Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us that he “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh to see Him who is invisible.” Paul was trained by Gamaliel, a well-known scholar, and was on his way to becoming a leader of Judaism (Acts 22:3). But, like Moses, he found something better. So atheists and Christians face similar problems in keeping an active life worth living. What makes Christianity different, and why does it lead to an optimistic, upbeat feeling about life, even when things go wrong? The answer is that Christians have a purpose for our lives. Solomon wrote as a conclusion to his discussion of life’s meaninglessness: “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That every man may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).
Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8-11 that God had a purpose for his life and an eternal purpose which was accomplished in Christ. In Acts 9:10-19, God tells Ananias about Saul and says that “this man is my chosen instrument.” Having that purpose for his life drove Saul to become Paul and leave his leadership in Judaism to suffer abuse as a Christian.
We are all chosen instruments. Our skills and talents may not be as spectacular as Paul’s, but God created every one of us to do something unique. We must choose whether or not to accept the purpose for which God created us. But having a purpose and fulfilling that purpose makes life worth living, meaningful, and worthwhile. Not only do we find fulfillment in doing what God created us to do, but having purpose means being able to face the problems of life and use those things to accomplishing our purpose.
Being a Christian does not mean we will be immune to the problems that everyone faces. If that were the case, people would become Christians for the wrong reason to escape their problems. Instead, what Christians have is the promise of God that there will be a way of escape from those problems (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, the problems, including death, will be used as part of our service to God.
What do you think of the Bible? That is a critical issue we all must face. For many people, the Bible is a collection of fairy tales. Those who hold this view say that snakes talking, the globe being flooded, heaven and hell, and a shepherd boy with a sling killing a giant are on the same level as Mother Goose. They may be stories appropriate for children but not for well-educated adults.
For other people, the Bible is a great literary work comparable to the writings of Shakespeare or Edgar Alan Poe. Perhaps they might believe that in a few cases, it has moral lessons embedded in the stories. Many religious leaders view the Bible as CONTAINING the word of God but containing a lot of material that is not God’s will for modern-day people.
The Bible itself claims to be God-breathed, sometimes referred to as plenary inspiration. Passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 and John 1:1 claim that the Bible’s message provides all humans with everything they need for completeness and that the Bible is God’s Word for us today. The implications of this understanding for LGBTQ practices, abortion, and marriage are huge.
What do you think of the Bible? Here are some things that can help resolve whatever conflicts we may have with the Bible:
Examine the words in the original language. Anyone can use a concordance to check out the Greek or Hebrew words to see what they meant. The word translated “giant” in Genesis 6:4, for example, refers to “fallen ones” and refers to moral issues and not super-sized humans. It was not a “whale” that swallowed Jonah. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable and the name Lazarus means “without help.”
Look for historical evidence when considering the integrity of a passage. You can use archaeology, historical documents, and fossil evidence to evaluate the correctness of a statement. Many biblical accounts that skeptics challenged were later found to be supported by the evidence.
Be sure to separate the physical from the spiritual. Humans frequently reduce God to our level. God is not an “old man in the sky.” God created humans in His spiritual image, not His physical image. God is not physical, sexual, or racial. He is not limited in space, nor does He have any needs that revolve around food, time, drink, or politics.
Distinguish miracles from things that are unusual but possible. There are miracles in the Bible which are matters of faith and must either be accepted or rejected. Don’t expect anyone to prove that Lazarus or the widow of Nain’s son rose from the dead. Likewise, nobody can prove that Jesus walked on water or fed 5000 people in a desert place. If the Bible claims that a miracle happened, you can’t conduct an experiment to see if the claim is true. Miracles can’t be repeated or tested.
Do not allow tradition or denominational creeds to replace the Bible. The Bible does not give us the age of the Earth, and there is nothing in the Bible about dinosaurs. A person can die spiritually, and hell is eternal punishment, not eternal punishing.
We have addressed all of these issues repeatedly, and our websites, videos, and printed materials are available. What do you think of the Bible? It is “God-breathed,” but humans must apply common sense and serious study to resolve the challenges of skeptics. We have recently learned the importance of the biblical concept of quarantine, but the Bible speaks of many other practical areas of life. Give some serious thought to what you think about the Bible. Believing and applying it to decisions in your life can bring meaning to how you live and how you die.
Christians sometimes make the mistake of devising naturalistic theories to explain biblical events. A classic example of this is explaining the manna of Exodus 16:14-35. It is true that certain insects in the Middle East secrete an edible substance. Some restaurants serve it and claim that it is the same manna that God provided to Israel in the wilderness.
The best-known example of wild explanations of manna was by Immanuel Velikovsky in his book Worlds in Collision, which was popular in the 1950s. Velikovsky claimed that Venus was ejected by Jupiter and became a comet that contained edible fragments containing carbohydrates which provided the manna of Exodus 16. Now we have people claiming that fragments from the ort cloud of material outside our solar system are the source of the manna.
We should first point out that there may be hydrocarbons in space, but there are no carbohydrates. There is a vast difference. The biblical account tells us that the manna could be baked (Exodus 16:23) and that if it was kept overnight, it “bred worms and stank” (verse 20). Baking would ignite a hydrocarbon. The Bible describes the manna as “like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (verse 31). None of those things match the composition of a comet or Venus. We have landed on Venus, and the surface is familiar rock types like ones found on Earth.
Many things in the biblical account can be explained in natural ways. For example, it is not difficult to believe that quail could descend on a population in significant numbers (also described in Exodus 16). Explaining the manna as a product of insects, as it is today in smaller quantities, would not explain its properties and regard for the Sabbath (verse 23). We could only interpret that as an act of God. How the manna was produced becomes an untestable question, and constructing explanations with wild assumptions damages faith instead of supporting it.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Those words were written by C. S. Lewis, a professor of English literature at Oxford University and later at Cambridge University.
He wrote more than 40 books which are still in print even though he died in 1963. His writings have been translated into more than 30 languages. Some of them from the “Chronicles of Narnia” series have been made into movies by Disney.
The quote about being made for another world comes from Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis experienced times when he longed for something that was just beyond his grasp. Haven’t we all had that experience? We look for beauty, but everything has its imperfections. We long for justice, but we find injustice all around us. We long for love, but people disappoint us. We desire peace, but turmoil surrounds us.
This world has many things that seem attractive to us. Food, travel, sex, pleasures of all kinds beckon us. They appeal to our senses and our inner longings, but again and again, when we obtain them, they fall short of our expectations. We say, “There must be something better.”
As we approach Halloween in America, some people ask, “Are ghosts real?” No, ghosts are not real, and there are natural explanations for the stories about ghosts.
The fall 2020 issue of Popular Science (pages 78-87) carried an article by Jake Bittle titled, “Why Do We See Ghosts?” The article explains some famous encounters with Ghosts throughout history starting in 1500 B.C. and including the Amityville haunting in the 1970s. Bittle points out that some people WANT to believe in ghosts and will interpret anything they don’t understand as the action of a ghost.
Those of us who have spent many nights sleeping on the ground have had the experience of hearing sounds in the dark that we cannot identify. When I was in the army, I spent much of my sleep time awake wondering whether the sound I heard came from a human or a natural object or animal–or my imagination. In ancient times, it could be essential to identify a sound you didn’t recognize so that you could avoid being eaten.
Several years ago, I attended a meeting of paranormal experts on the Queen Mary, a ship that some say is haunted. Our guide repeatedly saw ghosts and tried to convince us that they were real. In every case, there were natural explanations for what our guide saw or heard. Nobody in our group saw anything that could be called a ghost.
As technology has advanced, there have been many new ways to produce effects that people could interpret as ghosts. There also have been studies relating ghost sightings to drug use or mental illness. I have friends who had all kinds of ghost experiences when they were using LSD. In those cases, ghosts are not real, even though they seem real.
There is no biblical support for ghosts. Saul’s experience with the witch of Endor was a miraculous act of God that terrorized the witch ( See 1 Samuel 28:5-19). When people reject God, as Saul did, they are desperate to find spiritual guidance of some kind, and they often seek help from ghosts.
There is no support for the existence of ghosts or their interaction with humans. In Mark 6:49, when Jesus came walking on the water, the disciples “SUPPOSED it had been a spirit,” but that is the only reference to ghosts in the New Testament.
God has promised us that we “will not be tempted above that which you are able to bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Bible tells us that we can find truth in God’s word and by looking at the world God has made (Romans 1:19– 20). We need to avoid wild stories and things like Ouija boards when making life decisions because they are products of human fantasy. Ghosts are not real.