Curse of Sin – What Is It?

The Garden and the Curse of SinMany Christians don’t have a clear understanding of the curses described in Genesis 3. God told Eve in verse 16, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” To Adam He said, “…cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” What exactly is the curse of sin?

We struggle with this account because of our assumptions about what life was like in the Garden of Eden and how it changed. Some have assumed that the environment changed and that humans were no longer gatherers, but that they had to develop agriculture to survive. Some have suggested that Eve underwent a physiological change so that the pelvic opening was reduced, causing increased pain in the birthing process. Some have felt that the Garden of Eden was essentially heaven, with no pain and no problems or work of any kind. That is not only a poor understanding of what heaven is about; it also raises more questions than it answers.

The Garden of Eden was a physical existence. Genesis 2:10-14 identifies a physical location with known rivers. Being physical means that the laws of physics and biology were in place. Adam and Eve were not in heaven, and they had work to do. In Genesis 2:15, God told Adam to take care of the Garden. The fact that thorns and thistles are mentioned in the curse tells us that they were in existence. The law of entropy was in existence, so things did age and die. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 that God created every creature “to be received with thanksgiving … for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” Pitcher plants ate bugs, and bats and lions were not vegetarians.

The message of the curse of sin is not primarily physical. Thorns, thistles, and sweat are more than just a complication to those involved in agriculture. They are symbols of pain and the difficulty of life away from God. It has been said that the least amount of pain a woman has is the birth process. The struggle and pain of raising a child to adulthood can far exceed the pains of labor and birthing. Eating the forbidden fruit was not just a physical action but disobedience to God. The separation that it produced between humans and God also caused separation in human relationships. Cain killing Abel was a part of the curse of sin. The adage known as Murphy’s Law, “if something can go wrong, it will,” applies to far more than the failure of mechanical things.

Revelation 22:3 gives some pictures of our heavenly existence. Notice the simple statement, “No longer will there be any curse.” In 2 Peter 3:11-13, we read that the physical world with its thorns, thistles, pain, and sweat will be dissolved. There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth. We will be free from the curse of sin and enjoy the blessings of being back in the presence of our Creator. That existence will truly be Heaven.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Magnetism and Life

Magnetism and LifeOne of the things that beginning chemistry students run into very early is the fact that magnetism plays a vital role in the way electrons and atoms work. I remember one of my favorite students who whined and complained when we talked about paired electrons and their dependence on magnetism. He said, “Why does chemistry have to be so terribly complicated? I could function very nicely without magnetism, thank you.” My response was that not only could he not function without magnetism, but he could not exist without magnetism. There is an inseparable bond between magnetism and life.

Most of us are aware of magnetism in only a vague way. We know that magnets stick things to our refrigerators, and we are familiar with magnetic compasses. We have some awareness that the Earth has a magnetic field, although we don’t know how or why. The simple fact is that, without magnetism, we would not exist. In addition to that, much of what allows us to live as we do depends on magnetism. Our appliances and electronic devices work because of magnets and magnetic principles. In fact, magnetism generates the electricity we use.

Earth’s magnetism and life are connected in a way that most people don’t understand. As charged particles come toward us from the Sun and other objects in space, Earth’s magnetic field deflects them away. Without this protective shield, radiation would be so high on the Earth’s surface that life would have a very difficult time surviving. Also, magnetism is an active force in living things. Many animals migrate from one geographic area to another using Earth’s magnetic field as a guide. We have even found that tiny magnets inside our bodies can be used to see things that are invisible to X-rays and ultrasound. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important tool available to modem science.

The reason magnetism works is because of the design of the electron. Electrons possess a magnetic field. Each electron has a north and a south magnetic pole caused by the electron’s spin. We don’t know exactly how this works, but we do know that for chemical reactions to take place, electrons must have their magnetic field in a specific alignment. This magnetic property of electrons controls all chemical reactions and makes a variety of other chemical processes possible. If an electron had all of its electrons paired up magnetically, all of its energy fields filling the atom would be totally stable. Elements that have that arrangement are called inert, and examples are helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon.

In some materials, there are large numbers of unpaired electrons. The energy of unpaired electrons allows these elements to be very active, and we use those materials for a variety of special purposes. Atoms strive to have all magnetic fields balanced and closed, and that is the basis of modem chemistry. When electrons flow through a wire, their alignment causes their magnetic fields to add and grow. That is the basis of the electromagnet and the Earth’s magnetic field which protects us.

The design of the atom and the way magnetism is built into elements allows the existence of matter, life, and the protective system that sustains life on Earth. The connection between magnetism and life and the complexity of this system tells us that chance is not the guiding mechanism. There are intelligence and purpose in the system that makes life possible. The design of the cosmos that functions year after year speaks eloquently of the wisdom and power of its Creator.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ocean Treasure House

Ocean Treasure HouseOceans are essential for life on Earth. As we learn more about the oceans, we realize more and more how important the ocean treasure house is to our survival.

Fish, shrimp, and lobsters are some of the blessings that come from the oceans. Those vast bodies of water contain a great wealth of biomass that can address human food needs. The very fact that these forms of life lay millions of eggs that can provide massive amounts of food quickly is a testimony to the vast ocean treasure house. As humans conserve and farm these resources, we see the potential for food production with minimal environmental impact.

But food is only one of the blessings that come from the oceans. The oceans of the world provide water for the land. Evaporation lifts massive amounts of water from the oceans. The moisture condenses and falls on the continents providing the vital water needed by all land forms of life.

The oceans also moderate temperatures on the land. When Earth is closest to the Sun, its tilt exposes the Southern Hemisphere to the direct radiation of the Sun. Since oceans mostly cover the Southern Hemisphere, the water reflects much of the radiation, and the rest is absorbed and stored in the water. The water carries this heat toward the polar areas of the planet, moderating temperatures and allowing life to exist in abundance at the higher latitudes.

When the Earth is at its farthest distance from the Sun, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun, exposing the land to the Sun’s radiation. The land surface absorbs more heat radiation and reflects less of it. The waters in the Southern Hemisphere moderate the climate by using their stored energy to supplement the heat from the Sun.

In addition to their thermodynamic uses, the oceans also control the gases that are critical for life on Earth. Photosynthetic processes taking place in the oceans produce most of our oxygen. The oceans are a significant carbon sink, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that would be in our atmosphere if the oceans did not exist. This not only restricts the adverse greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide but also recycles carbon in ways that benefit the entire planetary ecosystem.

Another ocean treasure house is the minerals they hold. The salt in the ocean is not just sodium chloride (regular table salt). The oceans contain a wide variety of elements that are critical to humans. They include iodine, magnesium, copper, and copious trace elements of biological importance. People who live far from the oceans benefit from these mineral resources because ancient oceans have deposited those minerals on land. Oceans gather and store the elements that humans need. While we have mined these ocean-deposited resources on land, we are now learning to take them directly from the ocean.

As science looks for life elsewhere in the cosmos, it is not likely that we will find it unless we find a planetary environment with oceans comparable to those on Earth. The ocean treasure house is a beautiful feature unique to planet Earth in our solar system. As science observes other stars and other systems, it becomes increasingly clear that planets like ours are exceedingly rare at best. God has provided the ocean treasure house that speaks eloquently of the Creator’s wisdom and power.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Formation of the Grand Canyon

Formation of the Grand CanyonFor many years science has studied the formation of the Grand Canyon. No single event produced the carving of the canyon. The north rim is higher than the south rim because the whole area has been bowed into what is called a monocline. Such flexing weakens rock just as bending a stick will weaken it at the point of maximum bending. In addition to bending and cracks which weaken sections of rock, water in the area is flowing toward the sea. The Colorado River flows in a path that wanders and winds through the area scouring its bed as it goes. Streams flow into the Colorado flow along the faults through weakened rock materials carving deeper and deeper. All of these things contribute to the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Another obvious contributor is time. How much time did it take to carve the canyon? Some science books will point out that the Colorado River is currently eroding one-half foot of rock every 1,000 years. Then they suggest that if you take the 5,000 feet of vertical rock missing from the canyon and divide it by .5 feet, it would take 10,000 of the 1,000-year-periods. In other words, it would take 10,000,000 years to carve the canyon.

What is wrong with that estimate? Well, first of all, the river is in granite now, which is harder than the sedimentary rocks above it. More important is the assumption that the volume of water in the canyon has been constant. In the past, glaciers melted, producing massive volumes of water in the canyon. Today with the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell controlling the flow (except in a simulation of spring floods), no such volume takes place. Estimating the time required to carve the canyon based on present erosion rates is a self-evident case of bad science.

Another example of bad science comes from creationists who point to Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington as an indication of the time required. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 blowing out massive amounts of ash, scoria, pumice, and other extruded volcanic rocks. Erosion produced vast canyons on the flanks of the mountain in a few years. Those who say that proves large canyons can be carved in a short time are overlooking the fact that the volcanic rocks are relatively light, easy to erode, and highly porous. To make comparisons between the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens is like comparing butter with steel. (For more on this, click HERE.)

So how long did the formation of the Grand Canyon take? No one can answer that question, just as no one can tell you the date of Genesis 1:1. Only those willing to add to the Word of God will give a date. Many denominational creationists will do this to defend their human creeds and traditions, but I suggest that it is a dangerous thing to do.

What we see in the Grand Canyon is an incredible testimony to the power, patience, wisdom, and design of God. In His creation of the Earth, God has produced the elements He knew we would need. He has engineered a planet that processes and redistributes those materials in such a way that they are always available. The Grand Canyon gives us a glimpse of the inside workings of this great machine we call Earth. Genesis 1:1 tells us God created it, not how or when – or how it works. But God has given humans a curiosity, so we look for answers to the formation of the Grand Canyon. The important thing for us to remember is, “God saw all he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Creation Method for the Moon

Gods Creation Method for the MoonAstronomy magazine (November 2019, page 44) has an interesting article on some of the facts about the Moon. The information is based on the 842 pounds (382 kg) of rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. Every time an issue of this magazine comes out, I have two groups of people who like to write to me with their analysis of the meaning of an article in the magazine. (We also have several who do the same thing with other scientific magazines and journals.) The discussion of the letter writers has to do with God’s creation method.

One of the people wrote that this Moon data clearly shows that God had nothing to do with the creation of the Earth or the Moon. The other person tried to deny the data maintaining that God “spoke the Moon into existence,” and it was not a natural process. Both of these writers miss the point.

First, there is no reason for believers in God to challenge the scientific data in the article. In this case, the ratio of the isotopes of oxygen in Earth rocks and Moon rocks are the same. The average high school physics student can tell you how that measurement is made and how reliable it is. Earth’s spin axis and the Moon’s orbit are related, and once again, basic physics equations can verify that data. There is no reason to question the data. That data led to the impact hypothesis that the Moon was formed when a Mars-size body impacted the Earth and threw off debris which coalesced into the Moon. There is no reason to feel that somehow those facts deny the existence of God or the description given in the Bible.

The Bible simply says that God created the heaven (“shamayim” – the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1) and the Earth (“erets”). It does not describe God’s creation method. Verse 14 tells us, “God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky…” In verse 16, this is expanded with the words, “God made (“asah” in Hebrew meaning He made or fashioned what already existed) two great lights …” Then it says that He “…let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” The material is created in verse 1, where “bara” is used indicating an act that only God can do. The fashioning “as signs to mark seasons and days and years” in verses 14-18 uses the Hebrew “asah,” not “bara.” Genesis 2:3 tells us that God “rested from all his work which God created (bara) and made (asah).” Both processes are involved.

What science is trying to do is understand God’s creation method to fashion the Moon, which is discussed in verses 14-18. This Astronomy article is not trying to understand what He did in verse 1. Sound waves coming from the voice of God did not create the Moon. Whether God spun the Moon out of the cloud of matter from which He formed the Earth, or whether He formed the Moon by a collision, is still being debated by scientists. Whatever opinion one might hold is an opinion of God’s creation method – how He did what He did. It does not in any way reflect negatively on His power and creative ability or on the biblical description of what God did to give us “two great lights.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How the Elements Were Created

How the Elements Were CreatedScience has made significant progress in understanding many things about the universe and our planet and the life on it. However, there are many, many things that we have not yet begun to understand. There are also many things we think we understand, but we are still working on better understandings. One question involves how the elements were created.

At the time of the cosmic creation event (widely called the “big bang”), there were atoms with one proton and one electron and some with twice that many. We call simplest element hydrogen, and two hydrogen atoms combine to form helium in the process of nuclear fusion. More and more fusion took place and still is happening in our Sun and other stars. The process requires intense heat and pressure to fuse the atomic nuclei into a heavier atom.

In stars much more massive than our Sun, heavier elements up to iron can are being formed by fusing more and more atoms together. When you go beyond iron, and all the way up to uranium, even the biggest, brightest, and hottest stars can’t squeeze those atoms together. Scientists believe that the heavier elements are created in exploding stars known as supernovae. When they explode, the theory goes, ripples of turbulence form as the supernovae toss their stellar material into the void of the universe. The forces in that turbulence press more and more atoms together to make the heavier elements. As those atomic elements fly off into space, gravity pulls them into lumps which eventually become planets, such as the one on which we live.

A problem with that explanation is that when the atoms are blasted from the supernovae, they are all traveling in the same direction at perhaps the same speed. How can that produce enough force and heat to fuse them together? An alternate explanation is that the explosion within the supernova is not symmetrical, creating areas of greater density. Ultradense and ultrahot regions concentrated in small areas of the exploding mass perhaps give a better explanation of how the elements were created. (See a paper on that published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.)

Carbon is the basic building block of all living cells. Nitrogen and oxygen, which are the next steps above carbon, bond with it along with other atoms to form living molecules. A little higher on the atomic scale are sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other elements which are essential to life. Iron, nickel, copper, and other metals are in molecules within our bodies, and we use them in pure form to build our homes, cars, and electronics. The heavier radioactive elements such as uranium deep within the Earth generate the heat that creates a molten iron core that generates a magnetic field which surrounds and protects us. This is a very simple explanation of a very complex system that makes it possible for us to be here.

Science is only beginning to understand how the elements were created and how they are continuing to be created. How did this amazing, complex system come into being with the precision that put life on this planet? We could declare a god-of-the-gaps to say that we don’t understand it and therefore, God did it. It is much better for us to learn HOW God did it. As we begin to see the wisdom required to put this incredibly complex universe together, we become more in awe of the Creator. We don’t have a god-of-the-gaps who “zaps” things into existence like a magician. Our God is an engineer craftsman who creates complexity and beauty that leaves us without excuse. (See Romans 1:20.)
— Roland Earnst © 2019

God’s Environmental Solutions

God's Environmental SolutionsWith a growing human population, environmental toxins, the warming of our planet, and the shortages of potable water, we recognize that Earth is under stress. News reports tell of people dying because of ecological problems. It is essential to understand that all of this pain, death, and turmoil are unnecessary. When God created planet Earth, He built into it many self-correcting tools for survival. If you name a major problem that threatens the long term existence of humans, I believe there is a built-in device that can correct the problem. God designed the Earth to withstand even the abuse that selfishness, ignorance, and greed have brought upon it. Here are a few examples of God’s environmental solutions:

Carbon dioxide and global warming. Several greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but the main one is carbon dioxide. Not only do animals exhale carbon dioxide, but fires produce it, so human-caused fires are a contributor. God beautifully designed planet Earth with tools to contain carbon dioxide. Plants take it out of the air and release oxygen as a product of photosynthesis. This system is highly efficient as a single tree can take care of the carbon produced by one human. Plants in the ocean do the same thing. Human deforestation of both the land and the sea thwarts the system God put in place to sustain life on Earth. God’s environmental solutions are there if we will use them.

Water. Oceans cover roughly 3/4ths of Earth’s surface, but water shortages plague a significant percentage of the world’s population. The obvious problem is that because of minerals in the water, ocean water cannot be consumed directly by humans or most animals or plants. But the 50-quadrillion tons of minerals in the oceans, including 4.5 billion tons of uranium, have 14,000 industrial uses. God’s environmental solutions not only provide enough water for every living thing on the planet but also a wealth of minerals to sustain an advanced society.

Toxins. In the past five years, science has discovered that a Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata) can survive on arsenic. Arsenic is a significant pollutant poisoning millions of people in the world, causing skin lesions, cancer, and other illnesses. Finding a plant that removes arsenic from the environment is a significant breakthrough. Over the past several years, we have mentioned other plants that provide environmental cleansing. Scientists have found bacteria that eat plastics and others that consume crude oil. These are more of God’s environmental solutions to tackle the plastic trash and oil spills in the ocean.

We need to allocate research funding to learn more about God’s environmental solutions to counter ecological problems. God has given us resources to repair the damage we have done to the environment. Maybe the problems we see around us will bring us to accept what God has provided and have the heart to think beyond our own selfish interests.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, September 2019, page 18.

Elephant Ecology or Extinction

Elephant Ecology or ExtinctionThere are those who like to change things, even if they have not investigated all the ramifications of that change. When God’s creation is involved, there are especially drastic proposals that are sometimes a product of ignorance. There is an ongoing battle between those who want to preserve elephants as a species and those who say that elephants are an ecological disaster. Instead of elephant ecology, they believe that elephants need to travel the road to extinction.

Those who want to allow elephants to go the way of the dinosaurs say that the volume of plants they need to survive makes them too destructive to justify their existence. To support such claims, they show pictures of areas decimated by elephants and tell stories about the invasion of elephants into agricultural regions. Elephants, they say, have threatened the survival of whole communities of subsistence farmers by eating the plants humans depend on.

On the other side of the fence is the “Save the Elephant” campaign in Kenya. They maintain that there is interconnectivity in the natural world between all organisms. They argue that elephants provide a variety of connections to various African ecologies. Elephants are ecosystem engineers. Scientists tell us that elephants knock over trees, trample brush, prune branches, and disperse seeds, which increases the biodiversity of the areas in which they live. Elephant ecology helps to maintain the savannas and forests.

A recent discovery connects the largest animals in the African ecology with the smallest. Herpetologist Dr. Stephen Platt has been studying the Nay Ya Inn wetland in Myanmar (Burma). He found that frogs depend on elephants in a very surprising way. As elephants travel in wetland areas, they leave Jacuzzi-size pools in the ground that stay full of water during the dry season. Frogs depend on these pools to lay eggs and develop tadpoles to maintain their populations in a fragile environment. Platt says there other small organisms that also depend on these pools for their survival. In Platt’s words: “Such microcosms of life are probably commonplace, but almost no one has bothered to look before.”

Earth’s history has been full of examples where large animals supported an ecosystem that produced not only life, but also resources for humans. Dinosaurs were huge for a reason, and it was not to make movies. Like the elephant, dinosaurs provided for humans by being the ecosystem engineers of their day. Without them, we would not have the coal, gas, iron, and many other resources that make our modern world possible.

God has provided for us in some incredible ways, and elephant ecology has opened our minds to a whole new way of seeing that.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, September 2019, page 16.

Arranging Books on a Shelf

Arranging Books on a ShelfMy wife recently did some major rearranging of the books in our library. We have a large number of books, and we needed to downsize and make it easier to find what we are looking for. She asked for my advice about arranging books on a shelf. This brought to my mind a column in Astronomy magazine in January of 2013. In Bob Berman’s “Strange Universe” column, he often presents some interesting facts, and we have referred to his articles previously. In that particular column, he wrote about what random events or “chance” can or cannot accomplish.

The connection with library books goes like this. If you have 4 books on a shelf, how many ways can you arrange them? The answer is “4 factorial,” which is 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply it out, and you find that there are 24 possible ways. However, what if you have 10 books to arrange? That would be 10 factorial, which is 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply those numbers, and you will find there are 3,628,800 different ways to arrange 10 books on a shelf. We have way more than 10 books in our library, and I am not going to compute how many possible arrangements there are. Neither my calculator nor my brain could handle it.

When my wife asked for advice on arranging books on a shelf, she didn’t realize what a difficult question she was asking me. However, I had no problem giving a suggestion because I have enough intelligence to know what books should go together by topic. But if you were to put 10 books on a shelf at random, the chance that they would all be in alphabetical order would be about one in 3.6 million. Try it blindfolded and see how long it takes for you to get it right.

Why am I talking about arranging books on a shelf? What’s the point? There are many more than 10 options when it comes to designing any part of the complex universe in which we live. What are the chances that they all came together without any intelligent direction? The possibility would be far lower than for all of the books in our library to be in alphabetical order, or even in topical order, if we just randomly put them on the shelves. The question then becomes: “Can anyone believe that this universe, our solar system, planet Earth, life, consciousness, and intelligence all happened by chance?” My library disproves that theory.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Bible Age of Earth

Bible Age of Earth - Misleading ClaimsOne of the most destructive teachings of denominational creationists is teaching that the Bible says the Earth is a very young planet. That is a human denominational tradition that has no biblical basis. The Bible gives no age of the Earth.

Let me repeat that nowhere in the Bible is there any statement about the age of the Earth. Those who twist the Bible to force an age on the Earth ignore references that suggest the Earth is old. In James 4:14, for example, we read, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for an instant and then vanishes away.” If the Earth is 6,000 years old and Methuselah lived 969 years, that is hardly a vapor. The Bible is not a clock, and twisting scripture to support a human belief system always results in misleading teaching.

Young people who are well-educated about the scientific evidence, have a massive problem with “scientific” claims made to support Young Earth denominationalism. Recently a publication carried five “global evidences” that the Earth is very young. All of them have glaring scientific weaknesses. Very briefly, they are:

Continental erosion. It is claimed that the rate of the erosion of the continents is so great that if the Earth were more than 6,000 years old, all of the land would have been eroded away. Dirt erodes quickly, but rock does not, and new land can be formed quickly, as recent volcanic activity in Hawaii demonstrates.

Ocean salinity. Salt is continually added to the oceans, so it is claimed that if the oceans were old, their salt content would be huge. The salinity of the world’s oceans is remarkably constant at 35 parts per thousand. This is accomplished because marine life removes sodium and calcium at a rate that maintains the constant ratio. The fact that the beaches in Florida are all made of seashell material demonstrates how efficient this system is.

Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field of the Earth is decreasing and would be zero in an old Earth. There is copious evidence that, like that of the Sun, Earth’s magnetic field reverses periodically. There are over 20 magnetic reversals preserved in the rocks of the mid-Atlantic ridge.

Radiocarbon. Carbon 14 exists in fossils, and it has a short half-life. There is no carbon 14 in any of the fossils that I have personally studied. I have read that contamination has been an issue in some fossils. Scientists never use carbon 14 to date ancient specimens, and they never use radiometric dating for mineral specimens.

Helium in zircon crystals. Creationist Russell Humphreys published a study on this topic indicating that the Earth could not be millions of years old, but no peer review has verified the work.

Since the Bible gives no age of the Earth, the issue is not whether the Earth is old or young. God doesn’t need time to do what He has done. The real issue comes when someone makes a human denominational claim about the Bible and tries to support that claim with invalid evidence. That wounds the faith of intelligent, seeking, well-educated young people. Unfortunately, that is what is happening in the world today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Acts and Facts, July 2019, pages 10-13.