God’s Will and Our Free Will

God's Will and Our Free Will

One of the struggles that we all have with our relationship to God is understanding why negative things happen to us. Some say “this is God’s will” in response to COVID-19, but when your loved one dies from it, that isn’t much help. Some of us have been taught a determinist view of God. God’s decretive or determining will is seen as sovereign, universal, and all-inclusive. What can we understand about God’s will and our free will?

One writer has said, “God has a predetermined plan for every life. It is that which will happen. It is inevitable, unconditional, immutable, irresistible, comprehensive, and purposeful. It includes everything–even sin and suffering. So your career, marriage, friends, sicknesses, accidents, income, etc. are all part of God’s determined will but are not revealed to you ahead of time.”

Why does God allow someone to have one tragedy after another that they didn’t cause? Why should a young mother have a severe illness and die? Why do babies die? Anyone who says they have all the answers is a liar because none of us do, and being an atheist doesn’t help either. There are some scriptural clues in the use of four Greek words:

Prothesis” usually translated purpose. See Romans 8:28; 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:9.

Boule” which means counsel. See Acts 2:23; 4:28; Ephesians 1:11.

Eudokia” meaning desire, good pleasure. See Ephesians 1:5;9; Philippians 2:13.

Epitrepo” means to permit. See 1 Corinthians 16:7; Hebrews 6:3.

I hope you will take some time to read through those passages and think about how they are different, and how they may overlap. It seems that God’s will has three primary connotations: purpose, desire, and permission. Jack Cottrell has an excellent treatment of this in his book What the Bible Says About God the Ruler, College Press, ©1984, pp. 299-329.

Cottrell goes into this subject deeply, but here is a simplified explanation. The determinist view has one glaring weakness. It ignores the purpose for which God created humans. We are not robots programmed to a specific end. In revealing God’s will through His purpose, His desire, and His permission, the Bible shows us that we are precious to Him. He allows our free will to love, serve, and obey Him–or rejecting Him. God tells us what is best for us, and He makes it clear what His desire is for us. But He permits us to choose to reject Him and live in destructive ways.

Our free will is the key here, but we need to know we have a purpose in existence and that free will is a part of that purpose. God allows us to have problems and permits us to seek evil solutions to those problems. If our love for God and our desire to have a relationship with Him is strong enough, the problems will not destroy our relationship with Him. God promises us limits (see 1 Corinthians 10:13) and takes the problems and makes good come out of them (see Romans 8:28). These challenges can boost our relationship with God or destroy it. That is our choice.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Is Falsification and How Does it Relate to Faith?

What Is Falsification and How Does it Relate to Faith?

We see misunderstandings of the question of falsification by both atheists and religionists. What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God?

Let us begin this discussion by giving a simple definition of falsification. The Falsification Principle, initially proposed by Karl Popper, is a way of demarcating science from non-science. It suggests that for a theory to be considered scientific, it must be testable and falsifiable. For example, the hypothesis that “all swans are white,” can be falsified by observing a black swan.

It always disturbs me to read a religious writing that claims scientific proof that a faith healer accomplished a miracle cure. An excellent example of this was William Nolen’s studies reported in a book titled In Search of A Miracle released in 1975. Nolen investigated the claims of faith healers Kathryn Kulman and Norbu Chen. He showed that there were observable, natural explanations for what had been called “miracles.” Nolen believed he could test Kulman and Chen’s claims by investigating whether there were other explanations for their claimed miracles. There were, so they could not be scientifically proven to be true. What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God? You can have faith in someone, but you cannot call it science.

The scientific community is guilty of the same kind of error when it promotes an idea that cannot be tested and calls it science. It is fashionable in today’s world for scientists to propose the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes. They use this idea to explain how our universe could be fine-tuned for life. With a nearly infinite number of universes, we just happen to be in the one with all of the right stuff for life. Multiverse proposals say that quantum pops create universes and that an infinite number of pops would eventually produce every possible set of properties, including ours.

That is an interesting fantasy, but it is just that. There is no way to falsify that proposal, and so it is not scientific. Skeptics will be quick to point out that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is also not falsifiable, and that is true. But look at the logical outcome of these two choices. If God created the universe and placed humans in it, then there is a reason there is something instead of nothing, and there is a purpose for our existence. If the faith statement of the multiverse is true, the question of why we exist remains unanswered, and any purpose for the “pops” is pure fantasy.

Romans 1:20 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The Bible, as a whole, brings us understanding that we are part of a struggle between good and evil and that God is love and wants to have a relationship with us. We can’t offer scientific proof of that, so it is a statement of faith. But it is far more full of meaning and purpose than to speak of what we see in the cosmos as “quantum pops” of something without a cause or purpose. So the question we all have to entertain is, “What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God?” The proposed multiverse alternative to God is not falsifiable, and therefore it is faith and not science. In what do you place your faith?

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God Is Not the Enemy Giving Us Alzheimer’s

God Is Not the Enemy giving us Alzheimer's Disease

One question we hear from a wide range of people is, “Why did God do this to me?” My answer to that statement is always the same, “God didn’t do it to you!!” James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God. God cannot be tempted with evil, and He does not tempt any man.” James speaks of moral temptation, but the principle laid down is true in a wide variety of areas. James says it is our own lust that causes us to sin, which ultimately leads to death. The fact is that every bad thing that happens to us came from someone’s lust. It may be a lust for money, for power, or for dominance. But it is not because God chose to give us something bad. God is not the enemy.

One of the most frustrating examples is mental problems, especially dementia and Alzheimer’s. What can be more painful than having your own mother or spouse not know who you are? It is especially difficult when a disease like Alzheimer’s happens to some people and not to others. I recently stood next to a woman whose mother didn’t know her. That mother was an elder’s wife. She had blessed countless others and had been a teacher of children both in Bible classes and in the public schools.

In the same room was a foul-mouthed, abusive woman who spent much of her life in prison. She was busily writing a legal defense of why her current conviction on selling porn pictures of children should be thrown out of court. She was the same age and yet was very capable and mentally alert. I engaged her in an academic discussion of why quantum theory didn’t invalidate Genesis, and she knew her subject.

“Where is God?” my friend asked as we left the facility. My response was that He was with her mother because even though her physical body was with us, in my opinion, her spiritual self was not. God is not the enemy.

The fact remains that we need to understand why scenarios like this one happen. A recent study of 131,000 people in London, England, aged 50-79, showed that high exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a common pollutant in cities, more than doubled the incidence of Alzheimer’s. Also, exposure to particulate matter from traffic, even in small levels, increased the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s. High concentrations more than doubled it.

More and more studies of irresponsible disposal of chemicals in rivers, lakes, and oceans is causing the worst of human diseases. The London study also showed that ozone reduced the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s. Ozone is part of the structure of the atmosphere which reduces the amount of ultraviolet light from the Sun reaching Earth’s surface. Most of us will remember the problem of the atmosphere’s ozone hole a few years ago, which endangered life on the planet. It was caused by manufactured chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). That led to a worldwide ban on CFC production in 1987.

I am reminded of the old statement in the Pogo comic strip by Walt Kelly. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” We reap what we sow. It may be by our own actions, but for many of us, the pain is from the greed and selfishness of others – but it isn’t from God. God is not the enemy.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Scientific American, May 2020, page 45.

Moral Dilemma of Atheism

Moral Dilemma of Atheism

One of the difficulties of atheism is that when you deny God’s existence, you leave yourself with no real basis for making moral decisions. Norman Geisler, in the book The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, tells a wonderful story about a philosophy student and his professor that illustrates the moral dilemma of atheism.

“The student wrote a research paper arguing that there is no God; consequently, he went on to argue, there can be no objective or absolute moral principles. Judged by the paper’s research, scholarship, and argumentation, most would have agreed it was easily an A paper. The professor, however, wrote these words on the paper: F – I do not like this blue folder.

The student stormed into the professor’s office, waving his paper, protesting, ‘This is not fair! This is totally unjust! Why should I be graded on the color of the folder? It should have been graded on its contents, not its color!’

Once the student had settled down, the professor asked quietly, ‘Was this the paper which argued that on the basis of the godless universe in which we live, there are no objective moral principles such as fairness and justice? Did you not also argue that everything is a matter of one’s subjective likes and dislikes?’

‘Yes … yes …’ the student replied hesitantly. ‘Well then,’ said the professor, ‘I do not like blue folders. The grade will remain an F.’ Abruptly, the face of the young man changed. It struck him that he really did believe in objective moral principles such as fairness and justice. As the professor changed the grade to an A, the student left with a new understanding of the objective nature of morality. It is easy to proclaim that there is no God, but it is impossible to live consistently and honestly within the resulting atheistic framework.”


The moral dilemma of atheism is only one of the issues discussed in the book, which is a collection of essays by leading philosophers and scientists. It was published by Gateway in 1984 but is still available on Amazon.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

One of the challenges atheists frequently raise to belief in God is the question of evil. The argument is that if God exists and if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? If there is evil, according to the atheist view, then that God does not exist. The truth is that the existence of evil challenges atheism.

The presence of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than it is for Christians. From a Christian perspective, evil is a product of the rejection of God. The Bible portrays human existence is as a battleground between good and evil, between God and the forces of Satan. The book of Job is the clearest example, but the Bible covers this theme again and again.

The existence of evil challenges atheism as the famous philosopher Alan Plantinga describes:

“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness if there were no God and we just evolved? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live… A secular way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness and not just an illusion of some sort, then you have a powerful argument for the reality of God.” (From Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God pages 26-27)

Atheism has no way of giving a purpose for human existence. That leads atheists like Richard Dawkins to maintain that there is no such thing as good or evil (see Dawkin’s book River Out of Eden, page 133). If an atheist rationally believes that evil does not exist, they negate their challenge to belief in God. Therefore, the existence of evil challenges atheism.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

We see a similarity between the writings of Hitler and Richard Dawkins. In 1941 Adolph Hitler, in his book Table Talk wrote:

“Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.”

Richard Dawkins has written:

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

Both Hitler and Dawkins have attacked Christianity based on morality. If there is no such thing as good or evil, as Dawkins has written elsewhere, and if natural selection is the law we all live by, then survival depends on who is fit and who is not. In that case, there is no way to justify Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount or the content of Matthew 25. It means that we are all doomed to violence, suffering, and war. Dawkins would suggest that we should be indifferent to the atrocities of humans destroying other humans. It isn’t easy to see how Hitler and Richard Dawkins would disagree philosophically.

Atheism is both a philosophy and a religion. It is hard to believe that after a person looks at the history of atheism, they would deny God’s existence. The atheist, however, would point to religious wars as a demonstration that religion doesn’t do any better than Hitler’s beliefs. That is why this ministry does not defend any religion that can be defined as “human attempts to reach God.” This ministry only claims that there is evidence for God’s existence and that applying the teachings of Jesus Christ would bring peace and well-being to all of humanity.

Adolph Hitler and Richard Dawkins share the same perspective. Hitler claimed that Christianity cultivated human failure. Atheism claims life is purposeless, and by Dawkins’ admission, life cultivates violence and war. That is the fulfillment of what Hitler called “the law of selection.” The contrast between Christianity and atheism is crystal clear when we read the writings of Hitler and examine the history of his application of atheistic beliefs.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The quotations above are in Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019, pages 24-25, ISBN 975-1-939358-22-6.

God Will Provide a Way Out

God Will Provide a Way Out

We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13.

Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”

This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.

First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.

Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.

There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Many years ago, we had an article in our printed periodical titled, “When Does Ph.D. mean Post Hole Digger.” The point of the article was that being well informed in one field does not make you an expert in all fields. Famous Ph.D. scientists can make serious mistakes when speaking or writing outside of their areas of expertise.

Science writers Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov wrote articles and books against Christianity and the Bible. Their training and knowledge in science were excellent, but their theology was very limited and, therefore, full of errors. In today’s world, we see well-known atheists like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writing books and making speeches about God. His understanding of what God is and what the Bible actually says is full of errors. If he were not famous for his scientific knowledge in biology, his theological discussions would not get any coverage in the media.

In the May/June 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the cover article is titled “The Nobel Disease – When Intelligence Fails to Protect Against Irrationality.” The article points out that even a Nobel Prize winner is not an expert in all fields. As a result, they have presented some very destructive teachings and beliefs. The discoverer of the transistor was William Shockley, who received a Nobel Prize in 1956. Shockley maintained that blacks were genetically inferior to whites and should be paid to volunteer to be sterilized. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, received a Nobel prize in 1962. Watson maintained that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites and that exposure to sunlight increases sexual urges.

Many Nobel Prize winners promoted ideas and procedures that were not only incorrect but were sometimes dangerous. Our point here is that it is not valid to use an expert in one area to prove something in an area outside of their field. We are not merely talking about personal belief systems but scientific concepts and principles that control what people do and influence national political policy. A Ph.D. In science in an area of science does not make one an expert in all fields.

Many Nobel Prize winners are believers in God. We have a column in our quarterly journal titled “Scientists and God” which quotes many of those famous believing scientists. The purpose of that column is to show that being a scientist does not preclude personal faith in God. The aim is not to scientifically prove anything or to promote any action or political policy. We simply want young people to know that a good scientist doesn’t have to be an atheist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Chimpanzees and Humans

Chimpanzees and Humans

Books and articles have been published indicating that chimpanzees and humans share about 98.7% of the same genes. So some have suggested that chimpanzees should be considered 98.7% human and have all the rights that humans enjoy. There have been lawsuits to remove chimps from zoos or restrictive areas so they can express their “humanness.”

Objective observers who study chimp behavior in detail do not see chimps as human. The Bible makes it clear that only humans are created in the image of God. Being in God’s image leads to attributes that are unique to humans. Those include not only creative ability such as in art and music, but they also include the way we treat one another. In Galatians 3:28, Paul makes it clear that as Christians, there is no distinction between one human and another. Paul specifically includes “no male nor female” in his list of who are equals. The whole notion of marriage (Genesis 2:24) and the role of women (Proverbs 31:10-31) esteem and protects women.

Chimpanzees and humans are not alike. In his book The Human Swarm, Dr. Mark Moffett describes the real life of female chimpanzees. When female chimps reach sexual maturity, they leave their group never to return. Female chimps are beaten up or ignored by males except when they are in heat, and then sex is forced upon them. Female chimps do not befriend each other. They give birth in a private, hidden place to avoid having their babies killed by other females. Male chimps have no role in parenting or protecting the mother and baby.

There is an adage said in jest that we often hear in the break room at the graduate center, “Make sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” It is easy for us to interpret animal behavior as human-like, especially comparing chimpanzees and humans. But we must recognize human uniqueness. We have heard the horror story of a pet chimp turning on and seriously injuring a human. You can remove the chimp from its fellow animals, but you cannot remove the animal behavior from the chimp. We are the only beings created in God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Skeptic Magazine, “The Misunderstood Art of Making Comparisons” Volume 25:1 2020

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize on the Nature of the Cosmos

The evidence is massive that there was a beginning to the cosmos. The cosmological argument for God’s existence is that there had to be a cause of that beginning and that the nature of the cause was an intelligence. The phrase “big bang” was invented to describe the beginning, but the big bang theory never tried to answer the question of what banged and who banged it. The April 2020 issue of Scientific American (pages 4-7) carried an article about the work of Alan Guth, who received the Kavli Prize in astrophysics in 2014. The main objective of the Kavli Prize is to honor, support, and recognize scientists for outstanding scientific work in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

Alan Guth’s work has been to develop the theory of cosmic inflation to show that the universe is eternal and had no beginning. The chief problem with any suggestion that the universe is eternal is something called entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder. Whenever energy is expended in any way, disorder is introduced to the system. Unless organizing energy is applied externally on the system, the disorder will grow until there is no available energy left. We call that “heat death.”

A simple example might demonstrate this. If you took a bottle of hydrogen into a room that was completely isolated from the outside and opened the container, the hydrogen would escape and spread throughout the room. If you now wanted to get the hydrogen back into the bottle, could you get every atom back? The answer is “no,” because some of the hydrogen would have morphed into something else. Protons have a half-life, and other changes could take place. The measure of what couldn’t be put back in the bottle is called entropy.

Guth gets around the need for a beginning by saying that there is no difference between the present and the past. Using black holes, dark matter, and probabilities, he proposes a model that avoids a beginning. Alan Guth received the Kavli Prize because of his imaginative, creative thinking. The fundamental problem with Guth’s proposal is that it is not testable. No experiment can be done, and no evidence can be examined to test his theory. It is not falsifiable, and thus it really does not qualify as science. Guth is a brilliant scientist speculating on what he calls “a backward world where the past is the future and where infinite parallel pocket universes pop into existence without cause.”

While Guth’s work is interesting, it is of no apologetic significance. If God has created many pocket universes, they are so isolated from us that they do not impact our lives. Guth relies on probabilities to make many steps in his theory. When we apply probabilities to what we see in the world around us, the strong suggestion is that an intelligence has been at work to produce the cosmos.

In addition to the design we see in creation, our spiritual makeup and our creativity are not connected directly to how we got to this point in time and space. Quantum theory is based on probability, and the article ends by saying, “We had better know what they (the probabilities) mean.” We would suggest they mean, “In the beginning (of our cosmos) God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2020