Loving and Praying

Loving and Praying for Enemies

On Valentine’s Day, the word “love” gets overused. When people around the world are demonstrating hatred for one another, do we even understand what love is? I am reminded of two incidents that happened in 2015 that involved loving and praying.

In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, many people posted that they are praying for the people of France. However, an international affairs columnist for a major Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail got media attention when he tweeted that praying for the French people was both “cruel” and “selfish.” He said that “modern European values were built on the ending of religion.” He blamed the mass murders on “religion” in general. He said that “cheering on the belief system that’s causing murder” by urging people to pray was “selfish and inappropriate.” He also wrote, “I am sure the guys in there attacking are praying. To the same God, too.”

Much could be said about the statements of that columnist, but were the attackers really praying to the same God? If the God who created the Earth and the people on it wanted to kill masses of innocent people why would He need terrorists to do it? Couldn’t He destroy anyone He didn’t like? I think the terrorists must be praying to a different god. The god of destruction must be different from the God who created us. I choose to be loving and praying to the God of peace for everyone to come to know His love.

A second incident occurred that same year. After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the New York Daily News ran a cover story with the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The story was critical of Republican presidential candidates who expressed sympathy and prayers for the people affected by the tragedy. The newspaper was taking the view that God can’t fix the problem of hatred and violence that is destroying our civilization.

So what was the solution suggested by the editors of the New York Daily News? They suggested that the solution was more laws. But we have tried laws. We have laws against murder, and we have hate-crime laws. Laws don’t get to the real problem. The problem is in the hearts of men and women, and only God can fix that. (See Romans 8:3.)

Jesus gave us the solution, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Then He told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to show that our neighbor is anyone we can help and serve. In other words, the neighborhood has no limits! Then He showed us the true extent of God’s love through the ultimate sacrifice of Himself.

Those who serve a “god” of hatred and killing as they seek to destroy anyone they don’t like or don’t agree with, are really only serving themselves. The Creator gave us life, a beautiful Earth to live out that life, and the instructions for how to live. Let’s accept God’s solution to our destructive behavior. Start by allowing Christ to change your heart and then loving and praying for others—even for your enemies. Tomorrow we will look at the New Testament words for “love.”

–Roland Earnst © 2019

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil Church Yard
The Week magazine in their January 18, 2019, issue has a story about “sacred clay.” It is soil found in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Church in the Boho Highlands of rural Northern Ireland. For over 200 years people have used the Sacred Heart miracle soil as a remedy for a variety of ailments.

Scientists have been studying the soil and have found that it can halt the growth of the top six superbugs, including MRSA. The researchers discovered a previously unknown strain of streptomyces bacterium that is responsible for the soil’s seemingly miraculous ability. One of the problems of treating diseases like MRSA is that pathogens develop a resistance to common drugs, and science needs to find new antibiotics to control them. The Sacred Heart soil has a natural antibiotic.

The U.K. Times magazine reported on the Sacred Heart miracle soil. It quoted the key researcher Gerry Quinn in reference to folk cures. Quinn said, “Some of these cures might have been perfectly effective but the people just didn’t have any knowledge of the scientific principles or biochemistry behind them.” Science can help us to know the difference between bogus medical claims and treatments that really work.

The question of how this particular antibiotic got into the churchyard soil will stir debate. One of my friends who is a Catholic priest maintains that God has sent many cures through the Catholic Church, but people don’t want to believe in God’s activity on the Earth today. We would suggest that in all areas of nature there is balance, because God designed it that way. If scientists continue to look to nature they may find natural cures for most human maladies. They may even find them not only in church yards but in the yards of leading atheists.
–John N. Clayton ©2019

Are Science and Faith Enemies?

Are Science and Faith Enemies?
Fifty-nine percent of the American public says that science and religion are often in conflict according to Pew Research in a survey conducted in 2015. Are science and faith enemies?

The report said that “Some 73% of adults who seldom or never attend religious services say science and religion are often in conflict, while half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say the same.” The interesting thing is that just half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say science and religion are often in conflict. Apparently, the people who are not religious see a conflict between science and faith more than religious people do. Perhaps that is the reason they reject faith in God. They have been told that science rules out the possibility that God exists. That is not true.

The point of the DOES GOD EXIST? program is to show that science and faith are friends, not enemies. The problem is that both believers and unbelievers would rather throw stones than resolve issues. Both sides have become entrenched in their own doctrines and refuse to follow the facts wherever they lead. There are Christians who build museums and insist that the universe cannot possibly be more than 10,000 (or even 6,000) years old. Some scientists write best-selling books saying that the existence of God has been disproven by evolution. Both cannot be right. However, but both could be wrong.

Are science and faith enemies? We say, “Absolutely not!” We suggest that the supposed conflicts between science and faith in God (and the Bible) have often been caused by bad science, or bad theology, or both. There has been a lot of both.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Reference: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/22/5-facts-about-the-interplay-between-religion-and-science/

Design Is an Illusion – Not

Design Is an Illusion – Not
If you read our posts and publications regularly, you probably know that we are continually talking about design in the universe, on our planet, and especially in living things. We think that it is impossible to look at life and say that we see no design. However, some people can see the same things and say design is an illusion. They are willing to accept on faith that everything came into existence out of nothing and evolved by pure accident with no intelligence involved.

One person who refuses to see design in nature is a very well-known evolutionary biologist. Richard Dawkins has written several best-selling books that are supposed to be on the subject of biology. However, they are actually books on theology. The high point (or low point) of his books on theology is The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin 2006). He travels the world giving lectures on theology, under the guise of biology.

Dawkins’ field of study is biology, not theology, so we take his pronouncements with a grain of salt. However, even Dawkins has to admit that his biological studies appear to show design. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” However, he then goes into theology by stating that design is an illusion and there is no designer. That means there is no ultimate purpose in life beyond day-to-day survival. In River Out of Eden Dawkins wrote, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good…”

No design, no purpose, no evil, and no good—that’s the way Dawkins describes the living things he has spent his life studying. Life, of course, includes human beings—you and I. If Dawkins is right, why should he study living things, or why should we? What is the purpose of using our purposeless lives to study purposeless things? Perhaps Dawkins has found his purpose in theology as he endeavors to convince everyone that there is no God.

As we think about this, we have to be amazed at how incredibly ironic the Dawkins delusion is. In the meantime, we will continue to admire the design we see in the world and pay homage to the Designer. Faced with the Dawkins challenge that design is an illusion, we choose to believe our eyes–and our common sense.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Giving Something of Value

Giving Something of Value
Giving something of value (such as money) to someone for an item of equal value is buying and selling.

Giving something of value to someone without requiring anything in return, while expecting that person to give something of similar value is creating an obligation.

Giving something of value to someone who has done something to deserve it is compensation.

Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, but who will appreciate it is love.

Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, and who will perhaps not appreciate it is “agape.”

Agape” is the Greek term used in the Bible to describe God’s kind of love. It’s the “I don’t care if you spit in my face, I will still love you” kind of love. It’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when, as he was being crucified, he openly forgave those who were doing it. The gift of Jesus coming to Earth to live among those who would eventually despise and kill him is true “agape.” The gifts we give are lame by comparison.

The story of Jesus from birth to death and resurrection is a story of giving. It is indeed the most amazing concept we can imagine, and a story nobody would dare to make up. The Creator of the universe takes the form of one of His creatures to bring them to Himself. I can see why many people refuse to believe it. It’s incredible, but I believe it’s true.

When we realize it is true, we must ask ourselves, “What can I give in return?” We should not hold back anything–but we do. God is the one who gives without holding back, but our giving has strings attached. We should say with the Jewish King David, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.” In fact, we should offer to God that which costs us everything. That would still not match God’s gift to us.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Wicca Religious System Growing

Wicca Religious System
Wicca is recognized in America as a Pagan religious belief system which includes a wide range of extreme views including witchcraft. The latest demographic studies indicate that the Wicca religious system has 1.5 million American followers.

Since Wicca has no central authority to set doctrines or practices, those who practice Wicca vary widely in their beliefs. They include those who subscribe to witchcraft, pantheism, polytheism, goddess worship, and celebration of cycles of the Moon and Sun. Our experience has been that the average age of people in Wicca is between 25 and 35.

For 50 years this ministry has warned people that they must have an evidence-based faith. One’s faith must be based on solid evidence not on emotions and psychological extremism. Emotion and unsupported ideas will not stand up in the challenging world in which we live. That prediction is being supported strongly by the number of people subscribing to various branches of the Wiccan religious system and rejecting Christianity.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

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