Christ and Creation

Christ and CreationOne of the more difficult ideas for humans to grasp is the concept of what God is. Closely related to that is the problem of how Christ could be divine and yet live as a man in the flesh here on Earth. We need to examine how the Bible presents Christ and creation.

First, we must understand that God is a non-physical being existing in a higher dimension. The fact that Jesus was divine is a critical issue to the Christian system. Since Jesus was divine, His existence (like God’s) must not be physical even if He manifested Himself for a short time as a man. A popular idea in secular and even religious circles today is that Jesus was just a very good man and moral teacher. That modernist idea compromises the concept of Jesus dying to save a lost world of sinners.

The Bible presents Christ and creation by making it abundantly clear that Jesus existed before the creation. It portrays Him as independent of the limitations of time. Beginning in John 1:1, we read:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. …. (verse 14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”

To understand this passage, we must understand the real meaning of the word translated “Word” in these verses. The word used in the original Greek is “logos.” To Greek philosophers, this word meant the first cause of all things. The fact that the first cause became flesh clearly indicates that Jesus is the subject of the verses.

In John 8:58, Jesus further illustrates this point by saying, “…Before Abraham was, I am.” John 16:28 indicates Jesus came into the world by coming forth from the Father, thus indicating His existence prior to that coming forth. John 17:5 makes it even more evident when Jesus says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Colossians 1:15-17 deals with Christ and creation by identifying Jesus’ role in the creation with these words:

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the sovereign of all creation. For in him all things were created, both in the heavens and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

If we understand the nature of God, all of this makes a great deal of sense. God, being the Creator of our three-dimensional world, can interact with the world in any way He wishes. We can manipulate and totally comprehend the markings on a two-dimensional sheet of paper because we exist in a higher dimension. So it is with God and us as Acts 17:28 indicates “we live and move and have our being” in God. This is our relationship to the Creator and clarifies how God can do the things He has done in human history.

Jesus was in the form of God (Philippians 2:6) but came to Earth and became flesh to provide a bridge between God and us. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” We do not have a God who is removed and remote from our problems. We will not be able to say on the day of judgment, “Lord, you don’t know how it is on Earth.” God bridged the gap and eliminated that excuse. Jesus felt every temptation we feel! We can see the wisdom of God in this, and it should excite us and encourage us as we strive to follow the example Jesus gave.

The more we understand of Christ and creation, the more we comprehend the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. As we understand the beauty and wonder of creation, we are awe-struck by the excellent planning and wisdom. Let us praise our great God who loves us and has bridged the gap as only He could do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Intellectually Honest Skepticism

Intellectually Honest SkepticismAs I speak on college and university campuses, a large number of people (both atheists and religious) find a statement I like to open with to be astounding. The statement is, “You can intelligently and logically and rationally believe in God.” There is an immediate air of doubt in the minds of many who cannot or do not want to believe it. I don’t know how many of them change their minds in the course or our lectures. Skepticism abounds today, but what we need is intellectually honest skepticism willing to seek the truth.

Certainly one major factor has been that various churches, groups, and individuals have dogmatically forced a creed of creationism upon all members. Those creeds frequently fly in the face of both science and common sense. The more capable and clearest thinking young people who refuse to be force-fed this dogma, simply leave the church. Many of the leading atheist speakers in the United States today came from a church background.

The growth of aggressive atheism is another factor leading many to think that intelligent, logical belief in God is impossible. Attractive websites and high budget, colorful printed materials promote naturalism, if not downright atheism. Saturated with scientific materialism and locked into a mindset that anything religious is automatically wrong, they claim to be the only voice of reason, logic, and competent science.

Instead of skepticism referring to a healthy, scientifically rigorous approach to issues and solving problems, the word has become synonymous with an anti-religion mindset. It is evident that, in a great many cases, the atheist community has completely taken over the concept of skepticism.

I want to suggest that intellectually honest skepticism is Christian in nature, and it is the approach Jesus used in His ministry and teachings. In fact, the Bible condemned religionism more strongly than atheism. The Bible makes only fleeting references to atheism. (See Romans 1:19-23.) The strong condemnation statements of Christ, and the Bible writers in general, come down on the religious leaders who force their traditions on the population. The teachings of Christ focused on attitudes and how we treat each other. The religious establishment constantly criticized Christ because He did not adhere to their traditions. His teaching was logical, practical, and pragmatic not built on the traditions of the past. He asked questions and awaited logical responses.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th Edition) defines a skeptic as “one who carries a critical or incredulous attitude into his inquiries.” Skepticism is defined as “the doctrine that all knowledge is uncertain.” This does not mean that skeptical minds reject anything that is not physical. Limiting our belief system to only what we can see, smell, touch, feel, and hear precludes all kinds of things. A vast percentage of nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, relativistic physics, and even some mathematics depends upon knowledge that does not involve the senses.

Intellectually honest skepticism demands inquiry and also recognizes that knowledge is uncertain because humans are uncertain. This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth. It just means that skeptics should be aware of their own limitations and of the human capacity to misjudge. Intellectually honest skeptics know the danger of preconceived ideas and their approach should be humble, open, and careful. Being skeptical does not mean that a person has no beliefs, morals, or convictions. I can have strong convictions and beliefs and can communicate those to others and still have the ability to change my beliefs and understandings.

Unfortunately, skepticism in today’s American culture is at least as dogmatic as ultraconservative, fundamentalistic religion. Any skeptics who would question Darwin, would likely be castigated by their peers. There is a need for intellectually honest skepticism in the world. I am a skeptic in approach, but there are some basic things that my skeptical approach has led me to believe strongly. If we reason together in an open, skeptical way, we can learn. Blind, closed skepticism and blind, closed dogmatism are impossible to tell apart to those who are seeking the truth.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Mormon Doctrines Change with the Times

Mormon Doctrines Change with the TimesOne of the unique qualities of the teachings of Jesus and the Bible is the fact that they are timeless. By contrast, Mormon doctrines change with the times.

When you read the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), they are as accurate and relevant today as when Jesus spoke them. There has been no need to bend the teachings of Christ to fit the current issues such as women’s rights and racial prejudice. Jesus treated women, other races, and all people with respect. His dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4 shows how Jesus dealt with both women and racial prejudice. As Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormons) re-write the Genesis account to fit their theology. They have an endowment ceremony called exaltation in the secret temple drama that is open only to the faithful. It depicts the story of Adam and Eve and “their journey from the Garden of Eden to entering into God’s presence.” The instructions, passwords, and handshakes in the ritual are considered necessary for eternal life.

The instructions come from the Book of Moses, which is part of the Mormon scriptures known as the Pearl of Great Price. Women have not been allowed to speak in the endowment ceremony. On January 3, 2019, the Salt Lake City Tribune announced that women will now be allowed to speak. In some parts of the ceremony, women were required to cover their faces with a veil, and that also was eliminated.

The roles of women and Afro-Americans have changed radically in the past 50 years in Mormon teaching. Cults and human religious groups like the Mormon doctrines change with the times, but the biblical teaching remains unchanged. We need to rely on the timeless Word of God, not the writings of religious leaders like Joseph Smith.

For more information, go to www.utlm.org where Sandra Tanner, a former Mormon, has a detailed discussion of Mormon doctrines. It is also available in the May 2019 issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger, 1358 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ark Encounter Rain Damage

Ark Encounter Rain Damage One of the claims of atheists is that ministries are only religious if it benefits their pocket book. That is the primary reason why everything offered by the Does God Exist? ministry is free. The recent lawsuit over the Ark Encounter rain damage has given atheists ammunition for their arguments.

The Ark Encounter is a replica of Noah’s ark which is owned by the same organization which owns the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Both the museum and theme park promote dispensationalism and a denominational view of Genesis instead of a literal view. They are suing their insurance companies over rain damage that caused failure of an access road to the ark. The owners of those two attractions are asking for $1 million from the insurance company for “tortious injury.” The jokes circulating around the media on this end up raising questions about the accuracy of the Bible and the providence of God. Talk show hosts are getting involved, attempting to discredit God and the Bible.

It seems ironic to us that Ark Encounter rain damage would lead to a lawsuit. The justification for the project is supposed to be educating people about the message of the Bible. The message is getting lost in inaccuracies and now in money matters. This story of the Ark Encounter rain damage has been reported by all the major news media and mocked by many others. Here is a LINK to the Washington Post article.

The Church needs to be known for bringing hope to people outside of Christ, and meeting the physical needs of men and women. It is difficult to see how Matthew 25:31-46 fits with suing an insurance company for damage to a profit-making organization by natural causes.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?Why does God allow suffering? That is one of the most common questions we hear. Many atheists who comment on our posts try to prove that God cannot exist because there is suffering in the world. They are assuming that if God existed, His purpose would be to give us happiness all the time. Since He doesn’t, that means God can’t possibly exist.

That mindset assumes that we are God’s pets, and His responsibility is to see that we don’t get hurt no matter what we do. There is no doubt that we do many foolish and hurtful things. So why do we think that God should be our servant to keep us always happy as if happiness is the primary goal of life?

However, if God does exist (as we believe He does), He should have a more important goal than taking care to always provide us with what we think we need to be happy. What happens if human parents bow to every whim of their children by always giving them what they want and expect? The result is a spoiled child. Sometimes after warnings to a child, the parent has to stand by and watch the child make bad decisions in the hope that they will learn from their mistakes.

What if the primary goal of human life is not happiness? What if the primary goal is to learn to know and trust God? It is that knowledge of and trust in God that will bring–if not continual happiness–true fulfillment and ultimately, everlasting fulfillment. Why does God allow suffering? Although the suffering in this world may be counterproductive to our happiness, it might help us to gain a deeper knowledge of God and dependence on His love.

We can’t explain suffering in all of its forms. Nobody can. We can’t see the ultimate purpose and outcome from where we stand, but God can. We can be reassured by knowing that God Himself is acquainted with suffering (Isaiah 53:3) and that He cares (John 11:35).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Death and Taxes

Death and TaxesYou have heard it said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. There is no escaping death for everyone and everything.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us everything in the universe is becoming disordered. The disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself, not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you spend your life doing good and helping others, those you helped will also die, and the monuments you built will crumble. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God has entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How is it possible to live beyond death? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter, and energy. Those things do not limit Him because He created them. The second law of thermodynamics does not apply to God. He does not get old or die. The Bible tells us that because of God’s love and grace, you have the choice to believe and accept and live with God in a new creation. Yes, you can live beyond death and taxes. The choice is yours.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.

Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.

I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.

The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”

Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.

So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.

What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?

The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Nature of Heaven and Hell

Nature of Heaven and HellCecil May Jr. had a joke in the winter 2019 issue of Preacher Talk from Faulkner University. It raises serious issues that need to be addressed because of the confusion of both believers and atheists concerning the nature of Heaven and Hell. The joke goes like this:

Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and Jim Bakker all died and arrived at the Pearly Gates at the same time. St. Peter told them, “There is a place reserved here for each of you, but we are in the midst of renovations, and we need to send you to the other place temporarily. We will call you back as soon as we can.” In less than a week Satan called St. Peter saying, “Hey, you’ve got to come and get these guys. Oral Roberts has healed everybody, Billy Graham has saved everybody, and Jim Bakker has raised enough money to air-condition the place.”

Without getting into any of the three people involved or the denominational views they represent, how many errors do you see about the nature of heaven and hell? Here are a dozen leading questions for you:

1) Are there “Pearly Gates” at the entrance to heaven?
2) Does Saint Peter act as the guardian or caretaker of the gates?
3) Does anyone have individual “places” in heaven?
4) Would Heaven ever need renovations?
5) Is hell a second class place to heaven?
6) Would any saint ever be in hell?
7) Does the word “temporary” have any meaning in heaven?
8) Are there weeks in heaven?
9) Does anyone in hell get relief or healing?
10) Is anyone in hell ever going to be saved?
11) Can any physical change ever be made in heaven or hell?
12) Is there money in heaven or hell?
The answer to each of these 12 is “No”!

Here are some biblical considerations:

1) Hell is complete separation from God. Matthew 25:31-46.
2) The Bible describes Hell in pictorial terms which are not physical.
A place of darkness – Matthew 8: 12, Jude 13, Matthew 22:13, 25:30, Romans 13:12 Ephesians 5:8,11.
A place of fire – Jude 7, Matthew 3:12, 5:22, 13:42,49,50, 25:41.
3) Hell is not a torture chamber – a physical place. Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-5.
Luke 16 is a parable, not history.
4) Hell is not a courtroom for debate. Matthew 25:31-46 has explanations, not bargaining or arguing.
5) Nothing physical remains after the second coming. 2 Peter 3:8-13.
6) God’s judgment is sure, fair and logical. Romans 2:2, Luke 16:15, Romans 9:14-16.
We are not the judge, nor is it up to us to tell God how to use His mercy.
7) Do you really believe that this life is all there is?
Have you researched the evidence for God’s existence?
Do you want to take any chance of going to hell?
Do you understand the nature of heaven and hell?

We can start you on the road to being confident about your salvation. Read 1 John 1:5-10.
Go to doesgodexist.org and take lesson # 1 of the free correspondence course.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Democracy Without God Will Not Work

Democracy Without God Will Not WorkWe were sitting on a rock at the bottom of the Grand Canyon talking about how different the world looked in that setting than it does in the realm of politics and human affairs. My friend told of a statement he heard explaining why democracy without God will not work.

The statement was “democracy without moral underpinnings is simply mob rule.” He went on to say, “Suppose you had a society made up of three men and two women. One of the men proposes a new law which says it is acceptable for men to abuse women. The new law is put up to a vote, and the law passes 3 to 2. Is this a democracy? The answer is, ‘No, it is simply mob rule.'”

It is ironical that in the world today the whole human rights issue seems to be integrated with the idea that democracy is the answer to all political problems. While the United States is pushing for democracy overseas, the basis of making democracy work is being systematically removed in America. The only way a balanced, stable, functional political system can work is for everyone to agree on what is right and what is wrong. There was very little controversy about what was right and wrong 200 years ago because people accepted the Bible as a guide for moral conduct. The system was not perfect because people still did things they knew the Bible condemned both on a personal and a political level. But democracy without God will not work.

Today we can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. Much of our population considers all sexual behavior acceptable. People who murder or steal are excused based on bad childhood experiences or chemical problems. The majority of Americans are close to accepting the idea that it is okay to kill an unwanted baby or elderly person.

If you don’t believe in God and in the Bible as God’s plan for how we should live, then what do you use? The answer is mob rule whatever the majority is willing to tolerate. The majority already tolerates abortion, and a landslide of other behaviors are being forced upon us.

If democracy without God will not work, it becomes vital for us to convince our fellow citizens that God does exist. They need to know that they can logically and rationally believe in Him and His Word. It is also vital that we show our young people that the Bible system is not a negative wall of “do not’s” but a positive guide to happiness and successful living.

What is right and what is wrong cannot be left to the legislators and lawyers. It must come from the Biblea proven standard. We encourage you to join us in teaching and motivating others to adopt to a positive, active, productive belief system that enables democracy to exist.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Christ’s Resurrection Celebration

Christ's ResurrectionEach week as Christians meet we remember Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. Annually we remember that at the time of Passover Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) But without the resurrection, the sacrifice would be meaningless. As Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is worthless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Our faith is not worthless, because Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.

How do we know that is true? Some unbelievers argue that the resurrection is just a myth that arose many years later. The evidence against that idea is numerous and strong. The apostles carried the message of Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the Roman Empire for the rest of their lives. That was even though they had nothing to gain except a life of persecution ending in execution. If they had not seen the resurrected Christ, they would not have spent their lives proclaiming the message of the resurrection.

The argument that the gospels were written years later has often been used to “prove” that the resurrection was a myth that developed during those years. However, Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth in A.D. 57, before any of the four gospels were written. In it, he included an oral tradition which gives a summary of the gospel message.

Today we have access to writing materials, books, and computers. We are accustomed to writing things down. In the first century, there were no computers or printed books or pamphlets. Even simple writing materials were scarce and precious. People memorized important things by summarizing them efficiently and then passing them on as oral traditions. The early Christians used that method. Here is the first part of an oral tradition that Paul wrote down in that first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to…”

The oral tradition then goes on to list some resurrection appearances of Christ. Then Paul adds himself to the list of those who saw the resurrected Christ. (You can read it for yourself in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) Of course, the “Scriptures” that Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies of Christ since the New Testament was not yet written.

When did Paul receive this tradition? He probably received it no later than A.D. 36 when he first visited Jerusalem. (See Galatians 1:15-18.) It is possible that he received it earlier than that in Damascus when, as Saul the persecutor, he encountered Ananias and received his sight. Ananias preached the gospel to him and “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Whether in Jerusalem or Damascus, Paul received the oral tradition of Christ’s resurrection no more than five years after the event. That tradition was not a myth that developed years later after the eyewitnesses had died.

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection each week and especially at this time of year, we can trust the story is true. We have that oral tradition written down, but we would do well to memorize it as the early Christians did.
— Roland Earnst © 2019