The Irrationality of Hell

The Irrationality of Hell

Atheists and skeptics often refer to “the irrationality of hell.” The main problem with this challenge is that they fail to study what the Bible actually says and take it literally. The simple truth is that hell is not a physical place but a condition. Therefore, we must understand the biblical descriptions as showing us what hell is like but not understanding it in physical terms. Furthermore, the description should convince us that we want to avoid hell’s “eternal punishment.”

Much of the biblical language concerning hell is a metaphor of the Valley of Ben Hinnomben hinnom in Hebrew and gehenna in Greek. It was a deep and narrow ravine south of Jerusalem that had a long and sordid history. In that valley, parents sacrificed their children as burnt offerings to the pagan god Molech (2 Kings 23:10). It was also known as “the valley of slaughter” because of human sacrifice carried on there (Jeremiah 7:31-32; 19:2,6; 32:35). The valley became the Jerusalem garbage dump where people incinerated waste materials and dead animals, and the fires continually smoldered. The New Testament refers to it 12 times as a place of wickedness. That includes eleven times by Jesus and once by James. Modern translations render it as “hell.” (See Matthew 5:22, Mark 9:43-47, Luke 12:5, and James 3:6.)

The biblical references describing hell use the worst descriptions humans can imagine. It is called “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15; 21:8), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Brimstone is sulfur that produces toxic “rotten egg” fumes as it burns. In Mark 9:46-48, Jesus said that in hell, “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” The word used for worm here refers to a maggot that feeds on dead things. When Jesus described hell, He said that those in hell will be “gnashing their teeth” (Matthew 13:42 and 50). This is not a reference to pain but an expression of anger. (See Acts 7:54 and Job 16:9.)

Hell is essentially God’s garbage dump, and like any garbage dump, it is a place of destruction. The destruction in hell is eternal and everlasting, as you can see in passages such as Matthew 10:28 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9. The irrationality of hell is why anyone would choose to go there.

–John N. Clayton © 2021

For more see “A Traveler’s Guide to the Afterlife” by Dr. Timothy Gordon pages 109-122. ISBN 9781082882593. Read our review HERE.

Some Form Of Life Can Exist Anywhere?

Some Form Of Life Can Exist Anywhere?
Mount Shackleton in Antarctica

We read the media reports about efforts to find life on Mars, on various moons in our solar system, or planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. These reports often give the impression that some form of life can exist anywhere we look in the cosmos. For example, on Earth, we find life in sea vents on the ocean floor and geysers in Yellowstone National Park, leading people to suggest that some form of life can exist anywhere. Add to that the presence of organic molecules in asteroids, and they say that life is out there if we just look in the right places and in the right way.

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. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: Science News for August 28, 2021, and Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences

The Myth of UFOs

The Myth of UFOs

Anytime the media has run out of things they think will draw readers or viewers, they fall back on the myth of UFOs. For example, the May 10, 2021 issue of The New Yorker magazine carried an article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus titled “The UFO Papers: Why Did We Start Taking Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Seriously?” The article was a combination of bad science and bad journalism. The bad science was that the writer reported UFO sightings’ size, altitude, and speed based on people’s estimates, not precise scientific measurements. The bad journalism involved the people the writer chose to interview. 

Mick West, a British-American science writer and skeptical investigator who debunks the myth of UFOs, has offered plausible explanations that don’t involve aliens or paranormal explanations. In addition, Scientific American magazine ran an article titled “Experts Weigh in on Pentagon UFO Report.” One featured astronomer, professor Andrew Fraknoi, commented, “…there has been a flurry of misleading publicity about UFOs (based upon military reports). A sober examination of these claims reveals there is a lot less to them than first meets the eye.” 

The atheist community is interested in any evidence that might suggest alien visitation. Some atheists have implied that if aliens have visited Earth, they must be the cause of all the evidence for God. They claim that Jesus was an alien who came to Earth to try to get humanity on a more reasonable approach to reality. The miracles of Christ are simply high-tech displays by the aliens. The absurdness of this is obvious. If the aliens can do all the atheists claim, they certainly can evade any efforts by humans to see or detect them. 

Despite all the books and articles UFO proponents have written to support the myth of UFOs, no tangible evidence supports alien visitation. Scams such as the Roswell, New Mexico, claims and attempts to deny archaeological evidence that Jesus was what He claimed to be will prove to be false. Robert Sheaffer, who has written extensively about UFO claims, says, “There are no aliens here on Earth. And so, the government cannot ‘disclose’ what it does not have. Some people think the government knows more about UFOs, or UAP, than the public, but it’s clear they know less on the subject than our best civilian UFO investigators, not more.” 

We are not saying that there is no life anywhere in the cosmos except on Earth. What we do say is that if there is life out there, God created it. I always enjoy telling the story of an interview I did with Larry King early in my career. It was a radio talk show, and he had an atheist on with me. A caller asked my atheist friend, “What would you do if an alien landed on the Whitehouse lawn, got out of his flying saucer with a Bible in his hand, and said, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” All the atheist said was, “Punt.” I think that says it all. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Bible Horror Stories

Bible Horror Stories

We sometimes get mail from skeptics referring to “Bible horror stories.” That indicates the writer does not understand the biblical message. For example, a recent letter referred to the “horror story of a guy cutting up a woman and mailing her body parts to people all over the world.” This is a classic example of an atheist lashing out at the Bible without thinking or understanding the biblical account.

We need to remember that the Bible reports history as well as giving God’s instructions.
The fact that your local newspaper reports a murder does not mean that the newspaper did the killing or endorsed it.

The passage that the skeptic referred to is Judges 19-20. This is a horrible story of a woman companion of an unnamed Levite who is raped and murdered by a group of men. The Levite cuts up her corpse and sends it to the 12 tribes of Israel to motivate them to retaliate against the murderers. This mutilation was not something the Levite did as a command of God.

At the time of this Bible horror story, there was no justice system in place.
The book of Judges ends with the statement, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). There was a code of conduct but no legal system to enforce it.

Colossians 2:12-23 tells us that Jesus Christ did away with the legalistic rules that no one could follow completely. The teachings of Christ in Matthew 5–7 are in stark contrast to the violence and power struggles in the Old Testament. The Bible horror stories are accurate records of evil actions. We learn from history, so we don’t repeat the mistakes. The New Testament is NEW!! There is no horror in the gospels except what evil men did to Christ.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Cruel Deaths of Animals

Cruel Deaths of Animals

One of our regular readers has raised a good point about our discussion of why predators are essential to the survival of life on Earth. He said, “Your article reasoned why there must be predators: ‘to keep nature in balance.’ But that doesn’t answer the question. It was ‘why must animals undergo such cruel deaths?’”

The question of “cruel deaths” raises many issues and assumptions. We tend to assign human values to animals and assume they have the same feelings and emotions we have. This complicates the question and causes responses that are not consistent with the evidence.

The phrase “cruel deaths” is the real issue in this discussion. Has God designed anything in animals that reduces the pain animals perceive in being killed? First, we need to understand that there is a difference in the physiology of different kinds of animals. All animals have a nociception response to pain. You have a quick response when you touch something hot. It is essentially a reflex response to pain. It is obvious that to avoid a negative sensation, animals must know when something is injuring them.

The real issue is pain that comes about by some other means. Only primates, including humans, have a neocortex area in their brain in which we can realize the sensation of pain. The neocortex receives signals from group C nerve fibers, allowing pain sensations to travel from an affected area to the brain. In humans, nerve fibers connect 83% of the body’s extremities to the neocortex area. On the other hand, fish have only 5% of the group C nerve fibers, and they are smaller in diameter, meaning that there is a low nerve conduction velocity. The bottom line is that animals do not feel pain as humans do. Another interesting fact is that animals have an instinctive drive to eat food containing analgesics (pain-killing substances).

We have to understand that it is a delicate balance to design an animal with the necessary nociception response to pain required for survival without having a neocortex response to pain. We can’t imagine the pain of having our stomach torn open by a predator, but even for humans losing a lot of blood, leading to death may not be a painful experience.

It is easy for humans to criticize the Creator’s design of an animal until we try to design one ourselves. What God has done is to build living things, so they do not suffer in the way humans do. We must be careful to avoid anthropomorphizing animals—thinking of them in human terms—suggesting cruel deaths.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data for the above came from a variety of websites in a search for “animals and pain.”

Human Precursors in the Fossil Record

Are Neanderthals Human Precursors in the Fossil Record?
Neanderthal Man in London Museum

Bible skeptics claim that God did not uniquely create humans because scientists find human precursors in the fossil record. Instead, they say that Darwinian evolution can explain all human traits, and we are just more advanced animals.

The Bible defines humans in terms of spiritual characteristics, not physical attributes. Our capacity to create art and music, worship, show empathy, and display guilt indicates that we are unique. Our use of language and symbolism and our ability to be taught to think define humans from a biblical perspective. The critical factors are not brain size, the shape of the mandible, or standing erect.

Skeptics often use the fossil remains of Neanderthals to show that there are human precursors in the fossil record leading to human evolution. We have maintained that the properties of the Neanderthals are racial variations and not a different species from humans. Paleontologists have found Neanderthal fossils buried with religious artifacts. Scientists recently used computerized tomography (CT) scans to study Neanderthal specimens. Their findings suggest that the hearing and speaking organs of Neanderthals should give them language and communication abilities “…as efficient and complex as modern human speech,”

The descendants of Adam and Eve had the genetic code to enable them to adapt to whatever climate and conditions they encountered. So, while the racial variations were striking, the fact is that they were clearly human.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: World Archaeology Magazine # 107 page 9.

God Must be Cruel – Or Not

God Must be Cruel – Or Not- Lions with Prey

Skeptics often argue against the existence of a compassionate God. They say that God must be cruel because there is so much cruelty in nature. Television documentaries give us gory videos of lions ripping apart a beautiful impala or wolves tearing apart a baby moose. There are countless examples of situations in the natural world where a predator violently eats a helpless animal. These images even affect human diets in which some people choose not to eat meat because it means someone killed a defenseless animal.

In the past several years, studies have shown that nature has a design that involves “keystone species.” These are animals essential to a local environment. That means without them the entire ecosystem would collapse. Here are some examples that scientific studies have documented:

Sea otters eat sea urchins. When fur hunters removed otters, the urchins reproduced in massive numbers and eventually ate all the ocean plants, so fish, clams, and squid died. The area became void of life.

Army ants eat leaf cutter ants. When army ants were removed from a jungle area, leaf cutter ants ate all the plants, and the jungle became a desert with bird and animal life gone.

When people have removed wolves from an area, deer reproduced in excessive numbers and ate all plant life within their reach. The result was that when old trees died, the forest ceased to exist and became a barren wasteland. In Yellowstone National Park, the introduction of wolves has resulted in the reduction of deer and elk populations. Then new trees and bushes came back, allowing all animal life to flourish.

When people fished largemouth bass out of a lake, minnows reproduced in massive numbers and ate all the plants and microscopic life. As a result, everything in the lake died, including the minnows.

Scientists refer to the elimination of keystone species as “downgrading.” Those who say God must be cruel are not seeing the whole picture. What humans might interpret as unnecessary cruelty is actually necessary for life to exist. We anthropomorphize living things by attaching human values to animals. The design built into creation allows life of all kinds to exist. Therefore, it is not cruel but a part of a wise God’s design for balance in living things.

— John N. Clayton E 2021

Reference: “Keystone Species” by PBS on July 22, 2021.

Trusting God in Difficult Times

Trusting God in Difficult Times

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Trusting God When Things Go Wrong

Trusting God When Things Go Wrong

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Beyond Reasonable Doubt Video Series

Beyond Reasonable Doubt Video Series

Our recent Does God Exist? Journal featured our new Beyond Reasonable Doubt video series. You can read the journal online HERE.

The Beyond Reasonable Doubt video series deals with the archaeological support for the biblical record and the validity of the Christian message. The nine-lesson series is available to watch for free on YouTube and our DoesGodExist.tv site. Here are the links:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPrSDKT6AwSXX4TBs9JPaRg

On our website: http://doesgodexist.tv/beyond-reasonable-doubt-video-series/

You can also get the DVD set on loan, or you can purchase the set directly from us for our cost, which is $15.00. We have a teacher’s guide for class use which is another $5.00. You can also purchase the Beyond Reasonable Doubt video series DVD set online for $20.00, including a teacher’s guide and free shipping from the PowerVine Store at THIS LINK

— John N. Clayton © 2021