What Christianity Is Not

What Christianity Is Not and What It Is

It is interesting to read atheist websites and realize the basis for their atheism. In many cases, atheists say the reasons they don’t believe in God are the same reasons I had when I was an atheist. If those reasons were valid, I would still be an atheist today. Let’s consider what Christianity is not:

JUDAIZED CHRISTIANITY: Many of us do not care for ritual or ceremony. We also have little or no use for those who claim their position in life makes them of greater importance than others. The biblical concept of Christianity also rejects those things. In Acts 15:5, some wanted to force religious rituals on the gentile Christians. Verse 10 tells us the leaders rejected that idea. In Matthew 15:1-9, Christ soundly rejected human caste systems and traditions. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, we read that God takes us wherever we are in life. Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that in authentic Christianity, everyone is equal no matter what their race, sex, or ethnicity.

LEGALIZED CHRISTIANITY: As an atheist, I saw Christianity as a long list of “don’ts.” Everything I wanted to do was a “no no,” and if you engaged in it, you had massive piles of guilt heaped upon you. It took me a long time to understand that you don’t earn salvation in the Christian system. It is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). In 1 Corinthians 13, we find that there are three things a Christian should have – “faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love.” Legalism is what Christianity is not.

LAWLESS CHRISTIANITY: Closely related to legalized Christianity is “lawless Christianity,” in which a person or a group of persons spell out what is okay and what is not okay. There is no written authority in lawless Christianity. Instead, the rules are laid down and interpreted by a religious leader. The “clergy/laity” system is not logical or biblical. Humans are not only selfish and ignorant, but they are prone to power struggles. In many cases, lawless Christianity has turned the Christian system into an entertainment business. I can get better entertainment in the secular world than any human or group of humans can produce in a church building.

Don’t reject God because of what Christianity is not. Read James 1:27, Matthew 25:31-40 ,and Acts 2:38-47. There you will see that Christianity changes people, makes the world a better place to live, and fulfills one of the most important needs we all have. That is the need for a reliable and functional spiritual experience, because we are created in the spiritual image of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Deliberate Denial of Evidence

Deliberate Denial of Evidence

One characteristic of many people today is the deliberate denial of evidence. In a recent discussion with a big-name pro-abortion politician, I asked when he believed a fetus became a human – conception, birth, or somewhere in between. He responded that he had not considered the question. I asked if he would be willing to consider scientific evidence that could answer the question. Again, he responded that he would not.

Some of my female friends who are loud proponents of “a woman’s right to choose” have given me a similar response. How can you make a decision about abortion if you don’t know when a fetus is a human?

This deliberate denial of evidence is not new. People in Jesus’ day watched Him perform miracles, but still rejected and even killed Him. I have presented many atheists with credible evidence that the God of the Bible is real. In a recent discussion with a young college student, she proudly declared she was an atheist. When I presented a series of facts to show there is a God, she jumped up and screamed at me, “I just don’t want to believe!” There was a deafening silence, and I saw tears streaming down her face. She was desperate to justify her disbelief.

Jesus was aware of the human tendency toward deliberate denial of evidence that we don’t want to accept. Mark 9:17-24 tells the story of a man who brought to Jesus, his son who had a convulsive spirit. The man said that Jesus’ disciples could not drive out the spirit, and Jesus indicated the reason was a lack of faith. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus responded by repeating the man’s words, “If you can?” Then he told the father that he needed to have faith, to which the father replied, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”

Humans want to maintain control over what they believe, even if it requires a deliberate denial of evidence. Like the father who brought his son to Jesus, a person must be open to the evidence and willing to accept it, rather than denying the evidence and even refusing to hear or see it.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Christmas Facts and Fiction

Christmas Facts and Fiction
What’s wrong with this picture?

The “Does God Exist?” program is an effort to show that science and faith are friends and not enemies. At this time of year, atheists and skeptics criticize the celebration of Christmas and say the facts are not consistent with scientific evidence. Most of the complaints we see are about things that show up in TV shows and Christmas cards but are not actually in the Bible. The biblical account of the birth of Christ comes from two sources. They are the Jewish writer Matthew (Matthew 1:18-2:23) and the gentile writer Luke (Luke 1:26-2:20). Mark and John do not record the birth of Christ. We need to separate Christmas facts and fiction.

Many of the complaints about the Christmas story revolve around the star of Bethlehem. The shepherds of Luke 2:8-20 never saw a star, nor did Herod. Matthew 2:1-12 tells about the star and the “wise men from the east.” The “wise men,” or “magi” in the original language, were Persian astronomers or priests. Magi were present in Arabia, India, Assyria, and Persia, and they were most likely astrologers. We don’t know how many there were, nor do we know their names. They went first to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. The Jewish priests knew from Micah 5:1-2 where the Messiah would be born, but they didn’t know when, nor did Herod.

In Matthew 2:9-10, the star led the magi to a house (verse 11), not a stable. A celestial star would not lead to a particular house, and the Christ child was no longer in a manger but a house. The Bible records several times when people were led by what the Bible calls a “Shekinah,” which was a pillar of fire or cloud. (See Exodus 13:21, 24:17, 40:38; Ezekiel 1:28,10:18-19, 11:23). This was a purposeful miracle of God, not a celestial event. In other words, the image on your Christmas card is almost certainly not accurate.

Separating Christmas facts and fiction, there are two uncontested facts in the biblical account. One is that Jesus Christ came to save all people, and the magi were Gentiles, so this was not just a Jewish event. The second is that Christ fulfilled prophecies written long before His birth. Isaiah 7:14 repeated in Matthew 1:23 and Micah 5:2 repeated in Matthew 2:6 are clear. The prophecy of Hosea 11:1 was repeated in Matthew 2:15. Jeremiah 31:15 was repeated in Matthew 2:18. Isaiah 40:3 was repeated in Matthew 3:3.

When we separate Christmas facts and fiction, it takes considerable faith to believe that the fulfillment of those Bible prophecies was just a hoax. Trying to find ways to reject what the Bible says and live in defiance of God offers no reward and no incentive to live constructively. However, believing in Jesus and acting on that faith can bring blessing and purpose to our lives.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Santa Claus and Jesus Christ

Santa Claus and Jesus Christ

In my radio debate with Jon Murray, he said that he didn’t believe in God for the same reason he didn’t believe in Santa Claus. I understand where he is coming from because many folks equate Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. The sad commentary is that many who claim to be Christians cannot tell you why they believe what they believe because they have only a shallow, inherited faith.

The Santa character originated from a 4th century Greek Catholic bishop in Lycia. He came into the western culture in 1823, and a 1930 Coca-Cola ad popularized him as a man in a red suit. Here are some contrasts between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ:

1) Santa lives at the North pole and Christ is omnipresent (Acts 17:24-28)
2) Santa rides in a sleigh, and Jesus walks on water.
3) Santa is oblivious to our problems, and Christ has lived them (Hebrews 4:15).
4) Santa comes once a year while Christ is with us 24/7/365 (Matthew 28:20).
5) Santa gives us stuff we don’t need. Christ gives us everything we really need (Matthew 7:7).
6) Santa invades while Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20).
7) You stand in line to see Santa. Jesus is always accessible (Acts 17:28).
8) Santa asks your name while Jesus knows your past (Psalms 139:15).
9) Santa chastises (better not cry) while Jesus offers help (Matthew 11:29).
10) Santa makes toys while Jesus makes new life (Romans 6).

This is not just a cute comparison. It is where we all live. Do we want new toys (a boat, car, TV, etc.), or do we need healing, an easier burden, and freedom from the problems our toys bring us? If you want an inflatable 15-foot Santa in your front yard, have at it, but remember, those are just toys.

The evidence for Jesus being the Son of God is massive, and you can see it especially in the effect it has had on the lives of men and women for many centuries. Santa is about physical things in a material universe. Jesus is about spiritual things in an eternal universe. Equating Santa Claus and Jesus Christ causes us to deny reality and miss a great answer to the real issues of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Women Had to Wear a Head Covering

Women Had to Wear a Head Covering

We recently heard from a female skeptic who said that no woman could accept the biblical teaching that women had to wear a head covering or a veil that hid their face. She was referring to 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 where Paul writes, “Every woman that prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame on her head, for that is to make herself like one of the shameless women who shave their heads. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair, but since to cut her hair short, or shave it off, marks her as one of the shameless women let her be covered.”

This is an excellent example of what any reader of ancient documents needs to understand. You must look at who wrote the document, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people to whom it was written would have understood it. For example, the Greek culture of that day demanded that women had to wear a head covering when out of their home. Otherwise, she was advertising that she was a prostitute.

Paul wrote the Corinthian letters to a particular group in a specific culture. Even today, when we visit a culture that attaches a particular understanding to what a person wears, Christians need to be sensitive to what their clothing conveys. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul also cautions Christian women to avoid “pearls or costly dresses.” He says he would not eat food that would offend someone if doing so would cause a person to be misled by his example (1 Corinthians 8:8-13).

In those same verses, he points out that Christians have the freedom to eat anything. However, being concerned about how our dress and actions affect others must have a higher priority than expressing our freedom. That is a lesson the American culture needs to learn today.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Is Satan Real?

Is Satan Real?

Is Satan real? When you hear the name “Satan,” what do you visualize? Some people think of a man in a red bodysuit, with horns, and holding a pitchfork. Many years ago, the movie “Damn Yankees” presented Satan as a human who wore a three-piece suit and made deals with humans. Charlie Daniels had a hit song titled “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” in which he told of a fiddle contest between “Johnny” and the “Devil.” Great music, but very little theological credibility. The comic strip “Far Side” frequently had a picture of Satan and people in hell, making it a childish belief to ridicule.

The biblical concept is very different and very real. The Hebrew word “satan” comes from a word meaning adversary or accuser. First Chronicles 21:1 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and excited David to take a census of Israel.” This is clearly not a physical person but a spiritual being with a purpose to incite David to oppose God’s will. In Job 1 and 2, Satan afflicts Job not as a physical person but by causing natural forces to bring pain and misery.

In the New Testament, two Greek words in Greek become relevant.Diabolos” is translated as the devil. “Beelzebub” means “Lord of the flies” and is based on the name of a pagan Philistine deity. The Jews of Jesus’ day used it to refer to the chief among evil spirits. They accused Jesus of doing miracles by Beelzebub (See Matthew 12:24, 27). Ephesians 2:2 and 43 other passages, Satan is used to describe the sinful ways of the world. Is Satan real? The answer is YES, and here are five biblical concepts of Satan that we need to understand:

# 1. There is a war going on between good and evil. Atheists such as Ricard Dawkins deny that good and evil exist, but most of us have seen it first hand. Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12 tell us that God’s purpose for the Church is to join the spiritual conflict between good and evil.

#2. Angels are not a useful tool for this war. In 2 Peter 2:4, we find that some of them sinned, but they cannot repent since repentance needs time, and they don’t experience time.

#3. Satan’s attacks are primarily spiritual, not physical. Matthew 16:23 tells us that Satan entered Peter, and Luke 22:3 says the same about Judas. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Satan masquerades as an “angel of light,” and his servants masquerade as “servants of righteousness.”

#4. Satans methods involve lying and sowing bad seeds.
(See Matthew 13:24-30.) He also imitates and twists God’s blessings – sex twisted to porn, faith twisted to politics, drink twisted to intoxication, etc. James 4:7 tells us resisting Satan makes him flee, and God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there will always be a way of escape for Christians.

#5. Is Satan real? Logic and common sense make it foolish to deny Satan. Good and evil do exist. There is a spiritual force in evil. However, God is also real. First Peter 5:6-9 tells us that we have a purpose for our existence. Atheistic denial of evil leaves no purpose for human existence. Revelation 21:3-5 describes the ultimate result of following Christ. For those who oppose God, there is no future beyond the present.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Hunger in the World and How Much Food Is Wasted

Hunger in the World and How Much Food Is Wasted

I added up the number of letters I received begging for financial help to address hunger in the world. I received 116 letters in September of 2021. They all displayed pathetic, horrible pictures of starving children, women holding emaciated babies, or men looking at barren fields due to drought or war. It is wonderful that people have set up various organizations to meet the pain and anguish of deprived people worldwide. But, the fact is that all of this shouldn’t be necessary. 

The October 2021 issue of Scientific American contained a report of how much food is wasted. The article reports that 40% of all food produced is lost across the supply chain from farm to table. Each year 2.7 billion metric tons of food are lost—enough to fill 2,860 curbside trash tote bins every second. The article breaks down how much food is wasted in the various food groups, including seafood, meat, dairy and eggs, oilseeds and pulses, roots and tubers, cereals, and fruits and vegetables. 

In addition to not meeting the hunger in the world, a significant amount of water and energy are wasted. We see skeptics complaining that if God existed, He wouldn’t allow this pain. Advocates of population control say the Earth can’t feed all of the people living on it. Some people have advocated eradicating the “unfit” mentally ill or physically incapacitated because they use resources that the “fit” need. 

The fact is that God has blessed the Earth with the ability to produce more food than we can use with our present population. It’s human wastefulness and failure to wisely use God’s blessings that cause the pain and suffering of hunger in the world. Therefore, it is encouraging that various Christian organizations are working to prepare and transport food that would otherwise go to waste. They are also drilling wells and showing people in under-developed countries make better use of the resources available to grow crops and preserve food. 

Matthew 25:35 shows Christ telling His followers that in the judgment, we will all be commended or condemned partly based on how we met the need of others. “Then shall (Jesus) say to those on his right hand ‘Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.’” The passage goes on to show people asking when they did those things, and Jesus replied, “Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me” (Verse 40). 

Let each of us support works that address the issue of hunger in the world and the shortage of clean water. That may mean directly supplying those essentials or helping people in undeveloped areas of the world learn how to make better use of what God has given them. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “Massively Reducing Food Waste Could Feed the World” in Scientific American October 2021, pages 77-78.

Check the Credentials of Online Teachers

Check the Credentials of Online Teachers

It is essential to check the credentials of online teachers in science or religion. Some people can lead you astray with false teaching in areas they don’t really understand.

We have pointed out many times that there is a difference between factual evolution and various theories of evolution.
Many evolution theories have to do with humans evolving from lower life forms. However, the facts of evolution are what drive modern agriculture. Scientists have developed cattle that grow faster, get bigger, and have less fat. They have developed new strains of corn with higher protein content. We have a vast variety of roses that growers have developed. Evolution is change over time, and it can be natural or human-caused. For example, we all know today that viruses can mutate naturally as well as by human manipulation.

Some have quoted Sir Johnson Anane of Ghana as a source of proof that evolution is not true. However, when referring to evolution, Johnson Anane makes no distinction in what he means. Furthermore, he claims that the teaching of evolutionary theory has been banned in five states in the United States (which isn’t true). Recently, he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Ghana to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools of that country.

When we say to check the credentials of online teachers, that applies to Anane. He claims to be a college professor but is actually an assistant lecturer at Sunyani Technical University with a bachelor of science degree in wood technology and management. He also teaches that the Earth is flat, doesn’t move in space, doesn’t rotate on its axis, and is not a planet.

Johnson Anane is not the only false teacher getting attention from people writing in religious journals. Before you buy into any claim, check the person making the statement. Just as it is easy to find false teachings on the internet, the internet also makes it easy to check the credentials of online teachers. The Bible tells us, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: You can find many references to Johnson Anane on the web.

God Commanded the Israelites to Commit Genocide

God Commanded the Israelites to Commit Genocide

One of our atheist friends asked why God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide in 1 Samuel 15:3. “Now go and attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

The atheists say there was no reason to kill babies and innocent animals in retribution for what the Amalekites had done to Israel. With that argument, many atheist and skeptic articles and websites use this passage to prove that the God of the Bible is a violent, merciless, abusive, genocidal tyrant. Is that a valid argument? Is it true that a ruthless God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide?

Before they entered the promised land, God warned the Israelites to avoid the practices of the people who lived there. You can read that in Deuteronomy 18:9-13. Leviticus 18:1-30 goes into more detail about what practices to avoid. The actions warned against include sacrificing their children by fire to pagan gods.

God also commanded the Israelites to avoid divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spiritualists, and black magic. The passage in Leviticus also warns Israel against illicit sexual relationships, including sex with animals. The passage concludes by saying, “This is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. For all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you and the land became defiled … Do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came.”

Archaeological studies have confirmed what was going on in these cultures. Excavations in Gezer and Carthage have shown that children were placed alive and screaming in pain into the fire as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. Archaeologists have found tombstones and headstones detailing how people died. The forensic studies of bones and burial tissue confirm STDs in the people and animals. Our recent battle with COVID should make it easy for us to understand how disease transmission from animals to humans could happen. The moral instructions, dietary practices, and quarantine commands God gave to Israel avoided those diseases.

So how could God take care of the awful situation? As terrible as it was, the only solution was to completely destroy the practices and all possible diseases of the Amalekite society. God had no choice. Even today, with all of our medical knowledge and expertise, we are having great difficulty managing STDs, COVID, and destructive dietary practices.

God is a God of love and mercy. The first and second of the ten commandments involved love, and Jesus taught that people would know His disciples by their love. (See John 13:34-35.) Those who argue that God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide don’t know the whole story. The tragic consequences of ancient pagan living required a drastic response. It was not abject cruelty but an unfortunate necessity.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Truth Does Not Grow Old

Truth Does Not Grow Old - Charles Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon 1834-1892

Truth Does Not Grow Old – by Thayer Salisbury
It has been over 120 years since Spurgeon put these words in print, but they are as true and relevant as this morning’s newspaper. In fact, there may be more truth in this one paragraph than in many full broadsheet newspapers (to say nothing of the tabloids).

“Fontenelle used to say that, if he could only get six philosophers to write in its favour, people could be made to believe that the sun is not the source of light and heat; and I think there is a great deal of truth in the remark. We are told, ‘Well, he is a very learned man, he is a Fellow of Brazenface College, and he has written a book in which he upsets the old dogmas.’ If a learned man writes any nonsense, of course it will have a run, and there is no opinion so insane but, if it has the patronage of so-called scientific men, it will be believed in certain quarters.” –Charles Spurgeon

A whippersnapper told me the other day that a well-established and proven fact could not be true because “that is what people believed in the 1980s.” He offered no evidence that the fact was not a fact. He simply denied it on the basis of its age.

I suppose that fellow does not believe in gravity because it was described and explained in the 1600s. And he must refuse to ride in a car because cars use wheels, and somebody invented the wheel longer ago than anyone can document.

Truth does not grow old. A fact is a fact, even if we do not like it and even if it has been around for centuries. Sadly, falsehood just needs a well-known sponsor or two, and it spreads like wildfire. Stupidity only needs a few to shout it in the popular media, and masses will rush to accept it.

Thayer Salisbury © 2021

We want to thank Thayer Salisbury for allowing us to share this thought with you. Today, many say that faith in God is an old idea, but the new truth is that science explains everything. However, science does not explain the origin of the universe from nothing or the origin of life from non-living matter. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Truth does not grow old.

Reference: https://archive.spurgeon.org/misc/aarm05.php