Virtual Church and Real Church

Virtual Church or Real ChurchToday we have a choice between virtual church and real church. D.J.Soto quit his job at a megachurch in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 2016 to start a virtual congregation, a “fully computer-generated religious institution.” Members of Soto’s church use virtual reality headsets and tap into Altspace VR’s social media platform that provides digital meeting spaces for avatars. The worship service includes a lecture with computer-driven graphics and pictures. The Easter service included walking into Jesus’ tomb and taking a tour of the cross. There is even a baptismal service in which avatars, which are icons that represent people, are baptized.

Other ministers are using variants of Soto’s methods. Jay Kranda of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, uses livestream services and apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook. Some of the people using these electronic church services call themselves “bedside Baptists” and “pillow Presbyterians.” Churchhome Global is another electronic church with Judah and Chelsea Smith using prayer emojis to engage congregational members.

For those whose concept of a worship service is to be a spectator with only a minimal personal involvement, virtual churche may be attractive. Not getting out of the house on Sunday is attractive, especially in bad weather. The problem with all of this, however, is that it misses the purpose of worship.

The biblical concept of the Church has never been that people come as spectators. Worship is not just one dimensional. We praise God and encourage one another. The communion we share is not only vertical as we thank God for the sacrifice of Christ and the cleansing nature of His blood. It’s also horizontal as we share our unity and love for one another as we participate together. The Church is not a social club. It is a gathering of people who share their resources, their lives, and their desire to serve. When you read Acts 2:41-47, you see activities that are not to entertain, but to serve people and God.

The virtual church may enable people to escape the problems of American denominational worship. However, it doesn’t begin to approach the biblical concept of the purpose and conduct of worship and living out the faith together. See James 1:27 and 5:13-20.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from USA TODAY, May 7, 2019, page 1B.

Gallup Poll on Evolution 2019

Gallup Poll on Evolution 2019The latest Gallup poll on evolution was conducted June 13-16, 2019, with 1015 adults 18 and above in all 50 states. Gallup used the same questions they used in a similar poll in 1952, and others since then. Here is a summary of what they found this time:

40% of those in the survey said they believed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

33% said they believed that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.”

22% said they believed that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”

Atheists have made a point of the fact that the report of the Gallup poll on evolution stated that the 40% group were “associated with lower educational levels, Protestantism and weekly church attendance.” The message that atheists are putting out from this Gallup poll is that those who believe in God are poorly educated recluses who hide in their church buildings and refuse to look at the evidence.

There are so many mistakes in what is being popularized that it is hard to know where to start. The poll was conducted by “telephone interviews.” The sampling of what kinds of telephones the pollsters used radically alters the numbers. The results for landlines will be different from that for cell phones. “Protestantism” is a very poorly defined term. The Young Earth view that humans have been unchanged in the physical history on this planet is not held by most of the major Protestant denominations. Assuming that the 40% represented all those who attend church weekly is a very bad assumption.

The most critical problem with the report of the Gallup poll on evolution is that it only focuses on the development of the physical characteristics of humans without defining what those characteristics are. The phrase “less advanced forms of life” is so ambiguous that we don’t know whether they are talking about an amoeba or Homo erectus. The report includes a graph of the changes to the way these questions have been answered since 1952. Whether the changes are because people have more facts or because the media have indoctrinated them is open to debate.

The Does God Exist? Ministry is an effort to show that science and faith are friends and not enemies. We do not represent any denomination and try to be open to all kinds of evidence – scientific and biblical. We have materials at all educational levels, and our college-level correspondence course is available on our doesgodexist.org website. You can watch our video series covering questions of creation and God on our doesgodexist.tv website. All of these materials are free.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

You can see the report on the Gallup website.

Who Created God?

Who Created God?We have often heard the question, “Who created God?” One of the main arguments we make for the existence of God on our websites and in our courses and books is a logical sequence of choices. Each of those choices has scientific data to support the argument we make. It is very simple.

All evidence indicates that there was a beginning to time, space, and matter/energy. Atheists have tried for a very long time to avoid that conclusion, but all of the new data supports it. From quantum mechanics to astronomy, science shows there was a beginning. You can read this discussion on our websites, in our books, or in our video series on doesgodexist.tv.

If there was a beginning, one has to decide whether it was caused or not caused. To maintain that the beginning was not caused throws the discussion into areas outside of science such as virtual reality. It also violates all conservation laws of science. Discussions about why there is something instead of nothing have not resolved this issue for most of us.

If there was a cause, then remaining discussions are about the nature of the cause. The evidence for design in the creation and the statistical improbability of chance as a causal agent strongly suggest that intelligence was the causal agent.

If you say that the cause was God, then the logical come-back is to ask, “Who created God?” The problem here is a failure to understand what the nature of the causer has to be. If there was a beginning, then everything associated with the beginning had to be created as well. That would include time, space, and matter/energy in some form. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around how there can be any kind of existence in which there is no space and no time. That is because we live in a three-dimensional world.

In our math classes, we learn about x, y, and z axes. In basic physics, we learn that we can plot time against each one of those. Time is referred to as the fourth dimension. Modern scientific discoveries are telling us that apparently there are dimensions beyond the four we can comprehend. String theory, for example, shows us mathematically that there could be eleven spacial dimensions. However, there are some 500 different possible solutions to the equations presented by that theory, and they seem to be un-testable.

For those of us who have some science background and believe in God, the notion of a God outside of space/time is easy to comprehend. We can also document it biblically. Old Testament passages like Jeremiah 23:23-24 describe God as filling heaven and earth. Second Chronicles 2:6 tells us that the highest heavens cannot contain God. In the New Testament Acts 17:28 tells us that “..in Him we live and move and have our being.” Passages like 2 Peter 3:8, Psalms 90:4, and Psalms 102:27 tell us that God exists outside of time.

So the bottom line is that God was not created. God is a being who exists in dimensions far outside our own. He created space, time, and matter/energy and did much of this before time began. (See Proverbs 8:22–36.) He will ultimately stop time and dissolve the cosmos. (See 2 Peter 3:10-11.) Those of us who have become obedient followers of Jesus Christ accept the statement of Revelation 21:4: ”He will wipe away every tear from their (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has (will have) passed away.” The limitations of time and the physical dimensions we experience now will be gone.

We have two booklets on the doesgodexist.org website that go into this in more detail. One is “A Help in Understanding What God Is” and the other is “Who Created God?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

If God Should Go On Strike

If God Should Go On StrikeToday we want to share a little poem we found. It was originally published in “This England” by an anonymous author.

IF GOD SHOULD GO ON STRIKE

How good it is that God above has never gone on strike.
Because He was not treated fair in things He didn’t like.
If only once He’s given up and said, “That’s it, I’m through
I’ve had enough of those on earth, so this is what I’ll do.
I’ll give my orders to the sun ‘Cut off the heat supply!’
And to the moon – ‘Give no more light, and run the ocean dry.
Then just to make things really tough and put the pressure on,
Turn off the vital oxygen til every breath is gone.
You know He would be justified if fairness was the game,
For no one has been more abused or met with more disdain
Than God, and yet He carries on supplying you and me
With all the favors of His grace and everything for free.
Men say they want a better deal and so on strike they go.
But what a deal we’ve given God to whom all things we owe.
We don’t care whom we hurt to gain the things we like;
But what a mess we’d all be in if God should go on strike.

We think the message is worth considering.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Your God Is Too Small

Your God Is Too SmallMany years ago J. B. Phillips wrote an excellent book titled Your God Is Too Small. The thesis of the book was that there are things we consider impossible because we think we are too small, or too weak, or too poor. The problem with that line of thinking is that we are not figuring God into the equation. That thinking is still alive. Because of our own limitations, we believe that God is incapable of doing great things in America today. Sometimes we have more confidence in Satan as the destroyer than we do in God as the creator.

Judges chapters 6-8 tell the story of Gideon. He was a man who had huge doubts about God. He wanted to believe, and he stepped out on faith a time or two. When Satan opposed him, he backed away, and his father had to save him. Then Gideon tested God. When one test that he devised worked, he refused to accept it, and he gave God a bigger challenge. Don’t you know that the people around Gideon thought the whole thing was nuts? “You’re looking at 135,000 soldiers, and you’re going after them with an army of 300? That’s insane!!” Read the story. Gideon didn’t win; God did.

So here we are surrounded by a sea of hate, violence, war, abuse, and poverty. At the same time in America, God has blessed us with enough to eat, comfortable places to live, and enough money to make a difference in the world. Do you say that you aren’t rich? Americans are rich by the standards of most countries in the world. Instead of pouring money into selfish toys and paying for expensive entertainment to support the lavish lifestyles of Hollywood icons and athletic heroes, we need to use what we have to solve the world’s problems. Those who believe in the “survival of the fittest” mentality will oppose this, but following the teachings of Jesus Christ can make it happen. We can, with God’s help, change the world.

You say, “That’s crazy.” My response is, “Your God Is Too Small.” We need more Gideons, fewer Nebuchadnezzars, and a greater faith that God can do anything.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Richard Dawkins Description of God

Dawkins Description of God
Yesterday we quoted the Richard Dawkins description of God from his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

For the past two days, we have looked at the misunderstandings involved in the statements like the one above that are made by atheists to justify denying God’s existence. We want to make it clear that an argument based on not liking something the Bible says about God ignores the positive evidence that God does exist. In spite of that fact, the Dawkins description of God reflects a level of theological ignorance that is quite astounding. We examined some of the points yesterday, but here are some more examples:

RACIST– It is essential to distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament in terms of the system that they teach. The Old Testament was a political system as well as a religious one. Israel came out of Egypt as a new nation with a leader and a code of conduct that was political as well as religious. When Jesus came, He brought a new system. It was not a political system, and Christ made that clear many times. When Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” people had a hard time comprehending what He was saying. The Crusades were a product of not understanding that Jesus taught a non-physical kingdom. What is more significant is that Jesus lived what he taught. The classic example is the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4. The writer even points out that fact (John 4:9), and we see Jesus staying in that Samaritan city for two days.

SADOMASOCHISTIC – The notion of getting sexual pleasure by hurting someone else is the exact opposite of the biblical teaching. Genesis 2:24 introduces the concept of “one flesh” and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 refers to women’s sexual needs being met on the same level as the man’s needs. The Bible does report the history of horrible human violence against women. For example, Judges 19:25-20:7 reports a gang rape that ends in the death of a woman. We have pointed out previously that reporting on a historical event doesn’t mean endorsing it.

Throughout the ages, God has given humans a guide for how to live. To get the best of life, sex, food, friendship, family, and peace, we must all make the right choices. In the Old Testament, those choices were couched in the teachings of Moses and were designed for a primitive people in a wild and difficult environment. The Dawkins description of God misses the point.

With the coming of Christ, the situation in the world changed. It was time to break down political fences and build a system that would include all humans, all cultures, and all physical circumstances. The concept of love that was not self-serving and not sexual in its expression became a part of the message of Christ. The human tendency to act selfishly and violently means that the teachings of Christ are always up against a world of sin and rebellion. Rational human beings, however, will see the wisdom in what Christ taught. They will understand that this wisdom is a product of the Creator, not an accidental experiment in human behavior.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Theological Atheism

Theological AtheismBiologist Richard Dawkins expressed his theological atheism in his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

Yesterday we discussed atheists’ use of the Bible to defend their denial of the existence of God. We pointed out that they are ignoring all of the scientific evidence of a Creator. Bad theology dominates the other biblical arguments to reject God’s existence. Not separating the history of human actions from the commands of God is bad theology. Sloppy reading of what God tells us about hell and the human soul is another cause of theological atheism. The above statement by Dawkins highlights some other errors of those who reject the existence of God because they don’t like biblical statements about God’s actions and attitudes. Some examples are these:

JEALOUS – God is a jealous God. Passages like Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21; and 1 Kings 14:22 state that fact. All of those statements are in the context of infidelity and are statements of a broken heart. None of them show a childlike “you have something I want” context.

UNJUST ETHNIC CLEANSER- The usual reference to this claim is 1 Samuel 15 n reference to the destruction of the Amalekites. The question, in this case, is what was the cause and why was such drastic action needed? The Amalekites were a bloodthirsty pagan tribe that attacked Israel as they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It is a historical fact that these people participated in everything that violated God told His people not to do. They participated in cannibalism, bestiality, pedophilia, all kinds of immorality. The result of this hygienic catastrophe was clear. We have seen HIV decimate human populations in places today where similar actions have taken place. In a primitive society, there was no remedy available outside of complete sterilization. This was not a political situation, but a hygienic one. Even the livestock were burned to stop the spread of disease.

MISOGYNISTIC- To suggest that God is a woman-hater is to ignore not only human history but also the changes brought by the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, many women were honored for their heroic roles – Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther are just a few examples. In the life and teachings of Jesus, women were elevated beyond any other religious or political system on Earth. Christ stated in Matthew 19:4-8 that it was the hardness of men’s hearts, not God’s will, that caused the demeaning of women. Galatians 3:28 clearly states what Jesus practiced, that there is: “no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Dawkins is a brilliant biologist, but he is not a theologian. His theological atheism shows his lack of understanding of the Bible and God as revealed in the Bible. A better-informed atheist like Michael Ruse has said that Dawkins makes him “embarrassed to be an atheist.”

Tomorrow, we will deal with more of the Dawkins description of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Theological Objections to God’s Existence

Theological Objections to GodMany times what we present in this daily column is a function of our mail and what we hear from you, our readers. In addition to believers with questions, we also hear from atheists and skeptics who have theological objections to God. They say they simply don’t like the God they read about in the Bible. Here is an example:

“How can I believe in a God who creates people against their will, doesn’t allow them the freedom to live as they wish, and condemns them to eternal hell when they don’t conform to his desires.”

This is a person who is willing to reject all evidence of God and deny any hope of life beyond our physical existence because of his interpretations of the Bible. This person’s theological objections to God amounts to what I call theological atheism. I would suggest that this person has misconceptions and misunderstandings. Let me highlight a few:

#1) This person is assuming that in a previous existence, people could have had a choice as to whether to be created or not. There is no evidence of a prior existence of any kind. Assuming people would prefer non-existence to life is an assumption that is poorly supported.

#2) Bible events that skeptics attribute to God are often actions of humans. The Bible is reporting the events that transpired, not what God desired to happen. God did not tell Joseph’s brothers to throw him into a pit and sell him as a slave. God used an evil action of men to accomplish good. Most of the Old Testament is a record of the events that happened, not what God caused or commanded to happen. Humans consistently do horrible, stupid, violent, abusive, sinful things by choice. The consequences of those bad choices are not the will of God. The Bible honestly reports what happened, and God’s ultimate response to the needs of humanity.

#3) God gives humans complete freedom. You are free to jump off a cliff any time you choose to do so. What God does not do is to step in and remove the consequences of whatever free choice you make. God doesn’t turn off gravity for you no matter who you are. Actions that you choose have consequences.

#4) Hell is not a torture chamber, and physical interpretations miss the mark. The passage that is misused by atheists and some Christians alike to support hell as a torture chamber is Luke 16:19-31. This is a parable in a series of parables with the name “Lazarus” literally meaning” without help.” We have discussed this previously. People who use hell to portray God as an evil demagogue who takes delight in seeing innocent people scream in agony for eternity misunderstand God, human nature, and what is intended by the descriptions of hell. Matthew 10:28 indicates that the soul can die, and that would mean that a person is put back into the non-existence from which they came. That doesn’t deny the judgment and punishment for those who reject God.

Theological objections to God’s existence are poorly thought out, and they are often based on bad theology. We will continue examining theological atheism tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Day Was Jesus Crucified?

What Day Was Jesus Crucified?We get questions from people challenging the accuracy of the Bible. One of those challenges is whether Jesus really rose from the grave in three days as Matthew 12:40 states. To answer that, we must ask, “What day was Jesus crucified?”

The problem people point to is that if Jesus died on Friday, the numbers don’t add up. We can solve that problem if we don’t assume that Jesus died on Friday. The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew “Shabbat” meaning to rest from labor. In addition to the seventh-day Sabbath, the Jews were commanded to observe a special Sabbath at the Passover. (See Leviticus 23:4-8 and Exodus 12:16.) Most people are familiar only with the seventh-day Sabbath, so people have assumed that this is the Sabbath associated with the death of Jesus. That would mean He was crucified on Friday.

John 19:31 tells us that the day after the crucifixion was a high Sabbath or special Sabbath. That would mean it was the Passover Sabbath. That Sabbath would have been observed on Friday followed by the seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday. That would indicate that Jesus was not crucified on Friday as generally assumed. He would have been crucified on Thursday. John 19:14 also supports the Thursday crucifixion by stating that it was the preparation day for the Passover.

There is a book titled Prelude to Glory written by Wayne D. Leeper which goes into this in much more detail. Not only does it deal with the question of what day was Jesus crucified, but it also explains many other details of the crucifixion and resurrection. You can borrow a copy from this ministry or purchase it HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Sexual Behavior and Civil Rights

Sexual Behavior and Civil RightsThe political arm of the GLBTQ lobby has caused the media and much of the American public to confuse sexual behavior and civil rights. They are telling us that presenting biblical views on moral issues is a violation of someone’s civil rights. But Christians cannot be silent on moral issues since the New Testament says more about moral issues than it says about religious ceremony.

Attacks on the Bible’s position on sexual issues are increasing and becoming more widely accepted by the general public. Sexual behavior and civil rights are not the same. It is totally erroneous to suggest that skin color is the same thing as GLBTQ choices for the following reasons:

1-Skin color is a biological condition that is not under the control of the individual. Whether you are black or white was not a choice you made. Any sexual act is a choice made by the individual. If it was not a choice, then it was rape or a criminal act made by someone else. Sexual behavior and civil rights for people of color cannot be compared.

2-Sexual preferences and sexual acts are two different things. Some men are sexually attracted to men, and some women are attracted to women. Guy Hammond’s book Caring Beyond the Margins (Illumination Press) deals with this problem. Hammond is a man with homosexual tendencies who is not acting on that preference. No matter what the cause of GLBTQ desires, just as any other sexual behavior, the individual chooses to act on those desires.

3-Racial prejudice is wrong and is condemned by the Bible because it is destructive. The fact that a person is black or white does not affect their life expectancy or quality of life unless violence or neglect results from the prejudice. The data is clear that most of the GLBTQ choices are destructive to people’s health and shorten their life expectancy. Transgender surgery, for example, condemns the patient to a life of drugs to sustain the hormonal condition and those drugs shorten life expectancy. Most homosexual acts have a negative effect on life expectancy. The life expectancy of GLBTQ participants is significantly lower than the national average.

God has given us instructions on how to use the gift of sex in the best and most productive way. Condemnation of alternatives to God’s instructions is because those alternatives violate the design God built into our bodies. Instructing someone in the best way to use a gift they have been given is not abusive. The individual still has the right to decide whether they will follow the instructions.

Passages like Genesis 2:24; and 1 Corinthians 7:1-17 make it clear what God had in mind when He gave us the gift of sex. We must lovingly encourage others not to reject God’s instructions. God has called Christians to love even those who reject and abuse us (Matthew 5:38-48). No Christian should ever practice abuse of a GLBTQ person. Our job is to teach in love.
— John N. Clayton © 2019