Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer
The term Christian Atheism seems like a contradiction. However, that was the theology of Thomas J. J. Altizer. On November 28, 2018, Altizer died at the age of 91.

Thomas J. J. Altizer was the theologian who in the 1960s promoted the idea that God was real but had passed away leaving humans to find the sacred on their own. Time magazine on April 8, 1966, gave Altizer’s teachings a boost when they ran a cover that in big red letters said: “Is God Dead?” That issue was devoted to the theology of Altizer which incorporated the teachings of various philosophers including Hegel and Nietzsche. Other religions, especially Buddhism, capitalized on Altizer’s teachings and he gained quite a following.

Altizer himself expressed remorse at the effects of his teaching. Time magazine quoted him in the December 17, 2018, issue (page 11) saying that today people are empty of the joy that we once celebrated. The reason we are empty is that humans cannot find the sacred on their own.

The biblical adage of Solomon certainly applies here: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When we discard God, we have nothing that can take His place. Materialism doesn’t work. No philosophy works. Christian Atheism doesn’t work. Only the joy that we find in the teachings of Jesus Christ has worked and still does work today.

Some people want to kill God and do so in their own minds. However, the evidence for God’s existence remains strong and continues to grow. Altizer didn’t kill it, and he came to emptiness in his own life. God is a living, moving entity, and the more we learn of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will
Yesterday we stated that a careful study of the Bible and some common sense make it clear that you and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon. In other words, demons cannot make us act against our will. We have free will to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true:

#1) Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was tempted in ALL points as are we.” You don’t need to be biblical scholars to know that Jesus was never tempted by being demon possessed and never needed an exorcism.

#2) There is no warning to the early Church in scriptures about demon possession. The New Testament is full of warnings about things. Read Acts 20:27, Acts 20:31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, and 1 Peter 1:3. These are realistic threats, and ones that we have seen become a problem. Nowhere is there a warning about demons. We see people do horrible things, and we see greed and selfishness express themselves in terrible events. We have also seen mental illness cause suffering. Those things are the result of human weakness, abuse, or neglect. They are not involuntary takeovers by demonic forces.

#3) The Bible gives us cures for Satan’s attacks on us. James 4:7 tell us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Ephesians 6:12-18 tells us that God has given us armor “that you may be able to withstand the evil day having done all to stand.” God has never put us into a situation where he could not resist evil. Demon possession even occurred in defenseless, innocent children in biblical times. (See Matthew 17:18 and Mark 9:24).

#4) God has promised Christians protection from anything that could cause us to lose our soul. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us nothing can happen to us that hasn’t been experienced by others and that there is always a way out of anything that could destroy us. Demon possession is certainly not “common to man.” Revelation 20:1-3 gives us assurance that God can control Satan and make good on the promise that demons cannot make us act against our will.

#5) The methodology of exorcism in the Bible is nothing like what happens in today’s world. The exorcisms that I have seen took hours and involved incredible psychological pressure on the “possessed.” In biblical times the process took seconds and generally involved one command. There were no regressions in people who experienced exorcism. In today’s world regression is very common.

#6) Perhaps most importantly is the fact that demon possession violates the entire Bible in that it defeats our capacity to choose. It violates our free moral choice. Joshua said, “Choose you this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). That admonition is violated if a person involuntarily is forced to obey Satan and evil. Philippians 2:12 tells us to choose to find salvation, but leaves it up to us to do it. Demons cannot make us act against our will.

Every judgment scene revealed in the Bible shows people answering their judgment by how they lived and what they chose to obey. (See John 20:31 and Mathew 25:31-46.) From Job to Paul we see the principle of freedom of choice. Demons cannot make us act against our will. Nobody at the judgment will be able to say that they had no choice, or as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” We make our own choices, and God does not allow us to foist our imperfections off on something over which we had no control.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today
An often discussed biblical subject is whether demons can possess people today and whether certain religious leaders can perform exorcisms. The Catholic priest, John J. Nicola, who was the adviser to the 1973 film “The Exorcist” gave what is perhaps the best definition of demon possession: “In the case of demonic possession the use of free will and intellect has been suspended. The person is no longer responsible for his or her actions.” What about demon possession and exorcisms today?

When someone does something horrible, like the recent shootings that have taken the lives of innocent people, are they possessed by demons? Is this a risk for you and I in today’s world? I have personally witnessed exorcisms and have talked to people who sincerely believed they had been demon possessed. This discussion is not about whether or not these things happened in the time of Christ and the apostles. Miracles and events the Bible describes cannot be repeated and tested. Demon possession and exorcisms are among them. The question is whether they occur today. What does the Bible actually say about this subject?

Demon possession was a New Testament phenomenon and is not present in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for demon is “shaidim” and is only used twice in the Old Testament – in Deuteronomy 32:17 and in Psalms 106:37. The context of both of these passages is about idols. In the New Testament the Greek word used is “deimonion” and is used several times to describe many symptoms – some violent and some passive such as in Acts 16:16-19. People sometimes notice these descriptions sound like things that happen today, such as epileptic seizures or mental illness.

At the beginning of the Church, the apostles needed to demonstrate that they had knowledge of and authority over all realms of human experience. That included the spiritual world. When people tried to provide fake exorcisms, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16). Once the Bible was available to answer spiritual questions, there was no need for exorcisms or miracles for that matter.

The prophecies of the Old Testament and the statements of the New Testament indicate that demon possession and exorcisms would end. (See Zechariah 13: 1-4, Colossians 2:15, and 1 John 3:8.) First Corinthians 13:8-10 indicates that when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. Second Timothy 3:15-17 says that the Word of God is perfect. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven to have contact with God’s perfect will.

Demon possession and exorcisms have no place in the lives of people today. A careful study of the Bible and some common sense make that clear. You and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon with the power to remove our ability to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true, and we will examine those reasons tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Earth Is Not Flat

Earth Is Not Flat
There is a myth that when Columbus set out on his famous voyage, people believed he would sail off the edge of the Earth. According to the myth, only the voyage of Columbus convinced people that the Earth was not flat. That myth is not true, and Earth is not flat.

The myth came from an early historical fiction work by Washington Irving in 1828. At the time of Columbus in 1492, educated Europeans knew that our planet is a sphere. The Greek philosopher Aristotle recognized that fact in 330 B.C. He observed that when lunar eclipses occurred, the shadow Earth cast on the Moon was always a semicircle. That could only happen every time if the Earth were a sphere. Also, it was easy to observe that when a ship came into shore over the ocean, the first part to be visible was the top of the sail. As it came closer, the lower part could be seen. That shows the curvature of the ocean surface.

In the early Church period, the view of a spherical Earth was widely accepted. The Christian theologian and philosopher Augustine (354-430) recognized that Earth was spherical. Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) acknowledged that physics, astronomy, and mathematics had proven that Earth is a sphere.

However, the Quran (609-632) says that the Earth was “laid out,” “spread out,” or “made flat” depending on how it’s translated. In the sixteenth century, a Sunni commentary stated that most Muslim scholars took those words to mean the Earth is flat. Chinese society did not let go of the concept of a flat Earth until the seventeenth century when Jesuit scholars brought their teaching to that country.

In spite of the evidence some people today insist that the Earth is flat. There is another persistent myth that science and the Bible are enemies and that they contradict each other. We believe that true science and the Bible correctly understood cannot contradict each other because they have the same Author. Earth is not flat, and science and the Bible are friends, not enemies.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Mormon President Disavows the Mormon Name

Mormon President Disavows the Mormon Name
In August of 2018, the president of the Mormon church, Russell M. Nelson, claimed that God personally revealed to him that names such as “LDS” and “Mormon” were offensive to Him. The Mormon president disavows the Mormon name because he says that these nicknames are offensive to God and are a “major victory for Satan.”

One of the problems with human-made churches is that they have a hard time naming themselves. Martin Luther did not want those who followed his teachings to call themselves “Lutherans” but his followers did not heed his plea. Many denominational names of religious groups identify their belief system such as “Methodist” or “Pentecostal.”

The name “Mormon” comes from a fictional character in the Book of “Mormon.” Many of us have heard of the “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” and programs like the “I am a Mormon” campaign. The “Meet the Mormons” movie began playing in Temple Square in 2014. The website for the denomination has been “Mormon.org.” That title has not been questioned until now. We have to wonder about why now and what the collateral consequences will be.

As the Mormon president disavows the Mormon name, he says the correct name for the Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” However, he says that “The Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ” or “The Restored Church of Jesus Christ” are acceptable to God.

Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to the early Christians to call themselves by any title. Acts 11:26 tells us that the disciples were called “Christians” first at Antioch and that title is referenced only three times in the New Testament. Its use may have been a derogatory reference by the enemies of the early church. (See Acts 26:28.) It was a name given to them, not something they selected although Peter used it in 1 Peter 4:16.

The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry is not a product of any denomination and is not funded by any denomination. We are simply individuals trying to serve God by presenting evidence and encouraging people to do what the Bible says. The “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” teaches and practices many things not consistent with the teachings of Christ and the apostles. For that reason, we do not associate with that sect or encourage people to follow their teachings. We urge people to simply follow Jesus and practice what is revealed in the New Testament.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Salt Lake City Messenger November 218 from the Utah Lighthouse Ministry www.utlm.org.

Modern Moral Belief

Modern Moral Belief
A recent Barna research study shows that two-thirds of American adults now believe that morality is relative to circumstances. This attitude says that what is right depends on the situation. It also says that what is right for me may not be right for you and what is right for you may not be right for me. This modern moral belief conflicts with absolute moral standards.

We have often said that if you are an atheist, you have no case to make for ANY moral standards. If there is no God and no existence beyond this life on Earth, why shouldn’t I do anything that I think will bring me pleasure? It appears that if this survey is correct, a majority of Americans support that view.

Our society continues to approve any form of sexuality that one wishes to engage in. We have pointed out that experts in ethics and morality like Peter Singer at Princeton, are suggesting that our society should approve the euthanizing of humans who cannot contribute to society and who put a drain on our nation financially. This would include the mentally challenged, the mentally ill, and people who have physical limitations due to paralysis or other physical impairment. It would have included killing people like the late Stephen Hawking or other notables with high intelligence but severe disabilities.

We cannot overemphasize the importance of showing people that God exists and that the Bible is His word. A person who accepts those facts realizes that we are responsible for how we live. Modern moral belief can’t stand up against absolute moral standards from God and His word. Having absolute moral standards from God makes all the difference in the way we must live. How we live makes all the difference in what kind of world our children and grandchildren will live in.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data: OneNewsNow

Being Rational About Creation

Being Rational About Creation
In response to our postings, we often receive messages like these: 1) “There is absolutely no proof that any god exists!” 2) “Belief in a god is not rational.” 3) “There is no evidence of any ‘Creator’ (whether it’s God or an Advanced Alien or Magic Unicorn).” We asked the people who posted each of these comments, “Are you absolutely sure that there is no evidence of any Creator?” Being rational requires comparing options to see which is most reasonable.

A basic fact is that anything that begins to exist has to have a cause. Science has proven that the universe had a beginning, therefore, what was the cause? According to science, the cosmic creation event (better known as the “big bang”) was the beginning of matter/energy and space/time. If whatever caused the universe created matter, then that Cause has to be non-material, and not under the restraints of the physical laws of the material universe. If the Cause of the universe created time, then that Cause must be outside of the time dimension in which we are bound.

Science, by its very nature, cannot investigate, prove, or disprove anything that lies outside of the dimensions of matter, energy, space, and time in which science operates and which it investigates. Modern science suggests that there are other dimensions beyond the three spatial dimensions and the one time dimension that we experience. If anyone says that scientific, empirical evidence is the only way to know reality, that person is making a faith statement, not a scientific statement.

All reasoning begins from certain faith commitments that we cannot reach by pure reason. Being rational requires being open to the available options. A person who believes that “God created the heavens and the earth” is acting on faith. So also is the person who says, “There is no evidence of a creator.” Which of these two ideas is more “rational?”

1) The universe began to exist without a cause.

2) A Cause/Creator outside of time and space and not restricted by the physical laws of matter/energy brought the universe into existence.

The truth has to be one of those two options.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Is Hell a Physical Place?

Is Hell a Physical Place?
The October issue of Smithsonian magazine (page 14) contains a book review and discussion of portrayals of hell dating back to 400 BC. The pictures in the magazine are horrible scenes of torture and suffering with many of the images related to Catholic teachings on purgatory. All of the pictures reflect a belief that hell is a physical place with physical torture techniques applied to those rejected by God. But is hell a physical place?

We see the same portrayals in our newspapers with cartoons showing little men with horns and pitchforks doing nasty things to those condemned to eternal torture. We get frequent letters from unbelievers and people with doubts questioning the concept of hell. They argue that it is impossible to believe in a God who would punish anyone with eternal physical torture, especially those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Because the media continues to feed those images to the public, a high percentage of our population believes that the Bible teaches this physical abuse.

There is no question that the Bible clearly indicates that there is eternal punishment for those who choose to reject God. But there is a difference between eternal punishment and eternal punishing. A person executed for a crime is penalized eternally, but the execution is not eternal torture.

Jesus spoke of the difference between these two in Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” There are numerous other passages which speak of hell as a separation from God and all that goes with God–love, peace, joy, etc. Torturing is not something God does. Then is hell a physical place or is it more likely an eternal separation from God and everything that is good and pleasing?
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Does God Exist?

Does God Exist
Perhaps the most important question you will ever ask is, “Does God exist?” The answer you give to that question determines your purpose and outlook on life.

When we look at our universe, our galaxy, and our planet rich with life, we are looking at things that were designed for a purpose. Design gives evidence of a Designer. Purpose gives evidence of a reason for our existence. To believe that everything in the universe came into existence and achieved its present state by chance requires more faith than believing in an intelligent Creator God.

Fifty years ago this month a former atheist, John N. Clayton began the DOES GOD EXIST? project. John is a professional science teacher who came to believe in God as a result of his study in science. The project has continued for half-a-century through lectureships, seminars, publications; and, most recently, websites.

Three years ago, we began a Facebook page which reaches people all over the world with a daily reminder of the amazing design and purpose in the world. In January of 2017, we began daily postings on this website DoesGodExist.tody? About a year ago we started sending weekly emails to those who request to be on our email list. The emails are called “The Best of the Week from DOES GOD EXIST?” They feature links to the previous week’s most popular posts on our Facebook page and this website. This gives people who may not have time to read our posts every day a chance to see what others think are the six best posts from the previous week.

DOES GOD EXIST? is a non-profit program that never asks for money, although we gladly accept donations. This project has continued through the faithful support of many people who believe that God does exist and that Jesus Christ came as God in human flesh to open the way to a relationship with our Creator. If you like our daily Facebook postings, there is just one thing we ask–click the “share” button to share our posts with your friends. If you like our daily posts on this website, tell others about them. We also have other websites and a quarterly printed publication.

We want to continue to remind people daily that there is meaning and purpose in life because we were created by a God who loves us and put us here for a purpose.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
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