Black Lives Matter in the Bible

Black Lives Matter in the Bible

Skeptics seem to use every crisis or injustice to make false claims about the Bible. In several recent references, skeptics have claimed that the Bible does not accept black people as human. That simply isn’t true. Black lives matter in the Bible.

The word “cush” means “black” in Hebrew, and we find it in numerous biblical passages. Most frequently, it refers to a geographical area in Africa. English Bibles often translate references to the land of Cush as Nubia or Ethiopia, and a person from there is called an Ethiopian.

Archeologists have found a wide variety of remains of the Cushite people because they were excellent soldiers and masters of horses and chariots. In 701 B.C., Tirhakah, king of Cush, defended Judah against the Syrian invasion of Sennacherib. His help and God’s hand saved Jerusalem at that time.

The denigration of black people is a modern, western activity. Ancient Greeks, Assyrians, and Egyptians did not show the racism of recent times. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that Ethiopians were the “most handsome of all men.” In Song of Solomon, there is a love song between Solomon and a Shulammite girl in which she tells Solomon not to love her just because she is black.

The Bible and the history of Israel and Judaism do not show any denigration of those with dark skin. The book of Jeremiah credits Ebed-Melech the Cushite as a hero for saving Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:7-13).

When we turn to the New Testament, we find more evidence that black lives matter in the Bible. In Acts 8:26-39, we read of the Holy Spirit sending evangelist Philip to an Ethiopian who was in charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He had come to Jerusalem to worship God and was reading the book of Isaiah as he traveled. Philip explained the gospel and baptized him.

Jesus made a point of dealing with the racial prejudice that existed at that time.
(See John 4.) Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that there were no racial, political, or gender boundaries in the early Christian churches–“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Black lives matter in the Bible just as much as every other life because we are all created in God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference Biblical Archaeology Review, winter 2020.

Benefits of Thanksgiving

Benefits of Thanksgiving

In 1863, the Civil War was in progress when Abraham Lincoln made a Thanksgiving Day proclamation asking U. S. citizens to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise.” Special days of thanksgiving had been observed in the colonies for centuries beginning with the pilgrim thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with the Wampanoag people in 1621. It wasn’t until 1941 that Congress finally designated the fourth Thursday in November as “Thanksgiving Day” thus creating a federal holiday. What are the benefits of thanksgiving, and I don’t mean just the holiday?

A person’s belief system affects how they observe and participate in the holiday. As America has become more prosperous and science and technology have made our lives more comfortable, we have bought into the idea that we are the sole controllers of what we have and what we will have in the future. “Survival of the fittest” has led to a mindset that we must be the fittest in every area of life. Some religions have adopted this mantra to justify the extermination of those who are not part of their faith. Genocide, abortion, euthanasia, racism, and abuse of all kinds are rooted in the mindset that “survival of the fittest” produces.

God has always encouraged His children to view thanksgiving as essential. In Leviticus 22:29, God told the Israelites to participate in a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Jesus Christ in Matthew 5-7. turned the notion of survival of the fittest upside down. He gave statement after statement about behaviors and beliefs that did not promote the survival of the individual but submission to and promotion of others. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul takes all of the loose talk, crudeness, and covetous behavior and says, “Instead let there be thanksgiving.”

So what are the benefits of thanksgiving? I don’t mean just the holiday but the daily and weekly way we think and act? Look at the living things all around and the stars and planets in the night sky. Look at family and friends. Look in the mirror and reflect on how blessed we are to be alive. A person who is not looking to how they can subdue someone else or get what someone else has is a person who is at peace. When Jesus calls us to live at peace with everyone, turn the other cheek, give to others, and show mercy and gratitude to others, He calls us to the real, meaningful things in life.

Nobody likes to be involved in stress, fighting, bickering, and war. As long as “survival of the fittest” is our key to living, those destructive drives will be a part of our makeup. They jeopardize our health, our relationships, and our joy at being alive.

A key to joyous living is one of the benefits of thanksgiving.
An attitude of gratitude should be a daily, hourly activity. Pause to give thanks every time you eat. Spend some time looking at your family and those around you. For the past four days, we have talked about faith in God as a foundation for our lives. With that faith, you can be thankful that God has made you a person who doesn’t have to live in fear of death and dying. Rejoice in the knowledge that this life is only a small snippet of our total existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Examine Your Faith

Examine Your Faith

For the past three days, we have looked at the role of faith in our lives. We have seen that the biblical definition of faith is the “foundation” – that on which we build our lives. We have seen that faith has a role in science, religion, and the practical day-to-day living of our lives. I have shared my journey with you, leaving my family’s atheistic faith and growing a faith in God from the scientific evidence and the Bible. I hope that you will examine your faith. Look at your foundation and how it affects the building of your life. Here are some suggestions:

#1. DEAL WITH CREATION. You have two choices about how the creation came into existence. Either it has always existed, or it had a beginning. As an atheist, I believed that matter/energy was eternal. I thought that it might go through change, but there was no beginning. The Bible clearly stated there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.

As I learned about the laws of thermodynamics, it became increasingly apparent that matter/energy could not be eternal. Now quantum mechanics and relativity have added new evidence that there was a beginning. If there was a beginning, it had to be caused. We can say that we don’t know enough to understand the cause. However, the deeper we go onto the quantum world, the more obvious it is that the creation started from a cause outside of space and time. God is a causer outside of space and time, which He created. The fact that there are purpose and design in the cosmos eliminates chance as a causer. We have a large volume of material on this subject and can make it available to you without cost.

#2. DEAL WITH WHERE YOUR FOUNDATION (YOUR FAITH) TAKES YOU. Where did my father’s faith in education take him? Did it make him happy, secure, and fulfilled? Examine your faith. Does it give you a reason to live, a purpose in existing? Does your faith allow you to deal with the problems that life brings to us all?

All of us know people who have tried to base their lives on the alternatives to faith in God. Does making a lot of money lead to a meaningful life? Does becoming a political leader bring joy, contentment, and peace? Do recreational drugs fulfill us as humans? I have had a lot of adversity in my life. My history includes having a multiply handicapped child, losing my wife to death, never having much money, and having physical problems and pain. I have struggled and wept and wondered why, but I have had a good life and have enjoyed my life. Do other foundations enable a person to deal with life’s problems?*

#3. LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Now I am at the end of my life, but that is only the end of my physical existence. My faith allows me to be confident that something better lies ahead. I have hope and peace with the fact that I will die. I see that I have had a purpose in living and my feeble existence turned out to leave the world a better place than I found it. That is because I have been able to share my faith with others and enable them to find joy in living.

Jesus makes a promise to those who choose to build their lives on faith in God. “Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and LEARN of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Don’t listen to religion or philosophy or the pleasure peddlers of our world who will give you an unproven faith that doesn’t work. Examine your faith and build it by learning and growing in your understanding of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

*To see John’s discussion of why God allows pain and suffering, go to DoesGodExist.TV and watch program 11 in the video series.

How Faith Works in Our Lives

How Faith Works in Our Lives

In the past two days, we have looked at a basic understanding of what faith is and how faith works in our lives. We saw that the Bible defines faith as the foundation on which we build our lives. We pointed out that faith is involved in science. I have been very personal in discussing my family and the destructive faith that has destructively influenced all of us. My faith is very different, and it came about differently.

One facet of faith is that we frequently share it within families. When a family member rejects the faith of the rest of the family, that creates conflict. My parents strongly emphasized education as the foundation on which to build your life. They viewed religion as irrational nonsense that enslaved and restricted humans. At every opportunity, my parents ridiculed religious faith. Hypocrisy, racism, violence, war, and waste provided a constant barrage of good reasons for them to reject faith in God. By the time I was eight years old, I regurgitated my parent’s faith and took a lead role in atheism. That is how faith works in our lives.

In junior high, I had a science teacher named Wayne Gross, who made it clear that he believed that there was academic evidence that God exists, and the Bible is true. In high school, I had a great interest and some aptitude in science. In addition to that, I became infatuated with an attractive young lady who was one of the top students in my high school class.

I did not have any moral values because my parents taught me that educated people realize that life is “survival of the fittest.” The moral guidance I received was to make sure you come out number one. I found that this attractive young lady was morally uncompromising, and she based her morality on the Bible. To get her to compromise her morality, I wanted to show her that faith in God and the Bible was educationally absurd.

I set out to prove to this girl, and to Mr. Gross, that educated people who read the Bible would not believe anything in it. Mr. Gross encouraged me to start with Genesis 1. I had stolen a Bible from a motel (there were no Bibles in my parent’s library), and I started reading it and researching the words in the original manuscripts to prove it wrong.

As I read the Bible and understood its message, looking at the scientific evidence, I started rejecting everything my parents, my peers, and the religious experts of the day told me. In doing that, I began to understand that everything I had ever been told about God and the Bible was wrong. Education was leading me to a new faith, and my parents did not handle my efforts well. They denigrated the faith of Mr. Gross, my girlfriend, and myself.

How faith works in our lives determines the direction we take. Several years later, I was faced with what to do with a child who was born blind, mentally challenged, and with both cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. This polarized my faith and my parent’s faith. My father used a parallel example of buying a car and finding it was defective. “What do you do?” he asked. “You take it back and demand a refund.”

How we handle evidence, and what we do with it becomes the foundation that impacts our lives. Tomorrow we’ll look at that a little deeper.

–John N. Clayton © 2020

To see John’s testimony of why he left atheism go to DoesGodExist.TV and watch programs 31 and 32 in the video series.

Foundational Faith in Our Lives

Foundational Faith in Our Lives

What is your faith? Some of my atheist friends will say, “I don’t have a faith,” but that isn’t true. The definition of faith given in the Bible is, “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). The Greek word used for “substance” in this verse is “hupostasis” which is from two words meaning “stand” and “upon.” It is literally our “foundation.” What is your foundational faith?

Each of us has things in our lives that are fundamental to our existence and that we trust even though we don’t see them. We all have faith in gravity. We don’t sit around worrying about whether gravity will suddenly fail and we will drift off into outer space. There is a vast list of things that we cannot see and yet which are foundational to our existence.

For most of us, our foundational faith has more to do with our intellectual understandings, our values, our morals, and how we make decisions. The book of Hebrews identifies some of those things with scientific accuracy and on which most of us can agree. Verse 3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed … so that what is seen was not made of what was visible.” Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can have faith in that part of the verse. However, the middle of that verse says, “…was formed at God’s command…” An atheist would disagree that God had anything to do with it but would still agree that “…what is seen was not made of what was visible.”

That raises an important point. Is faith something that is blind? The answer is clearly “no!!” We have faith in gravity because, for all our lives, gravity has functioned in the same way. We trust gravity and have faith in it because we have seen it working. We cannot directly see that God commanded the formation of the cosmos. Having faith in the cause of the universe requires a different kind of evidence. We cannot directly observe the creation of time, space, matter/energy, and life.

Science gives us interesting examples of faith in something we can’t directly see. For many years, scientists debated whether light was a wave or a particle. Those scientists with faith that light was a wave had evidence for their faith. They proved it by showing destructive interference in light. Two light waves can intersect and cancel each other out, leaving darkness. Waves can cancel each other, but particles cannot. Experiments also show that waves can be polarized, and particles cannot. You can shine a light through certain types of crystals, and the crystals will only allow light vibrating in one plane to pass through. Reflected light turns out to be polarized, as you know if you have a pair of Polaroid sunglasses. There was massive evidence that light is a wave, and 400 years ago, that was the faith of most scientists.

The problem with that faith was that there were things that light could do that waves could not do. Light could shine on certain materials and knock electrons out of those materials. This is called the photoelectric effect, and we all use it in photo-sensors and solar-cells. Waves such as sound waves cannot go through a vacuum because they need something to “wave.” Particles can go through a vacuum. Some scientists had such strong faith that light was a wave they explained how light reaches us from the Sun by saying that space is not a vacuum. They made up a substance they called “aether” which they said filled the universe and which waves could pass through.

Scientists today have faith in the dual nature of light. It is both a wave and a particle, and aether doesn’t exist. The point is that our faith can change when we see new evidence. What is your foundational faith, and how has it changed during the last few years? If you are a Christian, has your faith grown? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Questions to Ask Religious Founders

Questions to Ask Religious Founders

Throughout history, many men have founded religions which gathered large followings. Here is a list of some of them and a list of questions to ask religious founders.

RELIGIOUS FOUNDERS IN HISTORY
1-Zoroaster or Zarathustra – Born between 1700 and 500 BC, Zoroastrianism
2-Gautama Siddhartha (the Buddha) – Born c.563 BC, Buddhism
3-Confucius – Born in 551 BC, Confucianism
4-Jesus Christ – Born c. 4 BC, Christianity
5-Muhammad – Born in AD 570, Islam
6-Guru Nanak – Born 1469, Sikhism
7-Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri (Bahaullah) – Born in 1817, Bahai
8-Charles Fillmore – Born in 1854, Unity School of Christianity
9-Gerald Gardner – Born in 1884, Wicca
10-A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – Born in 1896, Harre Krishna
11-L. Ron Hubbard – Born in 1911, Scientology
12-Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – Born in 1918, Transcendental Meditation
13-Sun Myung Moon – Born in 1920, Unification Church

QUESTIONS TO ASK RELIGIOUS FOUNDERS
Were your message and the details of your life prophesied before your birth?
Were your followers instructed to bring peace and love to others, or did you lead them into war?
Was your message primarily spiritual or political?
Did you teach and practice the equality of all human beings?
Did you promise an existence beyond this life?
Was your life one of sacrifice or pleasure for yourself?
Did your religion bring you wealth and prosperity?
Is your burial place in existence today?
Was your message confirmed with miracles?
Were you raised from the dead?
Was there peace and cooperation among your disciples after you were no longer present in the flesh?

Considering these questions to ask religious founders, some of the founders could answer some of the questions in a positive way. None of them would answer all of these questions in the way Jesus Christ would. We are not attempting to denigrate any religion. We are only saying that we follow Jesus Christ because of what He did, how He lived, and what He taught. We also do not base our faith on the actions of any human who claims to follow Christ.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Picture Credits: bigstockphoto.com and wikimedia.com

Two Human Components of Spirit and Body

Two Human Components of Spirit and Body

Bible passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 indicate that humans are both physical and spiritual. We consist of a physical nature (our bodies) and a spiritual nature (our spirit). The physical body makes sense, but how can we understand the spiritual? How can we have two human components of spirit and body?

In quantum mechanics, things like photons (light), electrons, protons, and neutrons are governed by principles that are very different from the familiar physical world. In some experiments, these subatomic particles behave like particles, but they act like waves in other experiments.

In 1924, French physicist Louis de Broglie introduced wave-particle duality. That is the idea that any matter, whatever its size, has an associated wavelength. Photons can knock electrons out of a material in the photoelectric effect used to generate electricity from light energy. That process requires light to have physical properties because only particles can move other particles. In a different experiment, photons show diffraction properties explainable only if photons are waves. Electrons produce the same effects as light, yet we can measure their mass. How can they be both particles and waves?

There is also a principle of complementarity in quantum mechanics. It tells us that the result of an observation is dependent on the focus of the observer. In other words, in experiments when our attention focuses on one variable, this precludes the simultaneous observation of its complement. Wave and particle-related properties are complementary variables. We can’t observe both at the same time.

The Bible presents the notion that body, soul, and spirit are not separate entities, but they are distinct dimensions of a person. Although we are one person, we understand that we have two human components of spirit and body. The presence of these dimensions means that we are capable of dual behavior.

Understanding quantum mechanics allows us to understand this duality. Ranjit Thuraisingham, a research scientist, describes it this way: “The science of quantum objects teaches us why we fail to discern this spiritual dimension in ourselves. In quantum objects, focusing only on one variable precludes the observation of the complementary variable. Thus, the absence of observing the spiritual is related to our focus solely on the material.”

In other words, we struggle with our spiritual nature because of our fixation with the material world in which we live. In Galatians 5:16-26, Paul distinguishes between the actions of the spirit and the flesh (body). The actions of the spirit include love, joy, and patience. The actions of the flesh are immorality, hatred, and envy. As in quantum mechanics, we can’t focus on one without losing sight of the other. When we understand the two human components of spirit and body, it becomes clear why our actions are not what they should be.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: “On the Duality of Human Nature and the Behavior of Quantum Particles” by Ranjit A. Thuraisingham

Made for Another World

Made for Another World

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Those words were written by C. S. Lewis, a professor of English literature at Oxford University and later at Cambridge University.

He wrote more than 40 books which are still in print even though he died in 1963. His writings have been translated into more than 30 languages. Some of them from the “Chronicles of Narnia” series have been made into movies by Disney.

The quote about being made for another world comes from Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis experienced times when he longed for something that was just beyond his grasp. Haven’t we all had that experience? We look for beauty, but everything has its imperfections. We long for justice, but we find injustice all around us. We long for love, but people disappoint us. We desire peace, but turmoil surrounds us.

This world has many things that seem attractive to us. Food, travel, sex, pleasures of all kinds beckon us. They appeal to our senses and our inner longings, but again and again, when we obtain them, they fall short of our expectations. We say, “There must be something better.”

We believe, as C. S. Lewis did, that those desires which nothing in this world can satisfy are evidence that we were made for another world. The good things of this world are only shadows of things to come. Lewis was an atheist who came to believe and accept Jesus Christ as his savior. He still faced challenges of grief and terminal illness in this life, but his faith brought him through to another world.

We believe that God made us for another world, and He will bring us to the fulfillment of the beauty, justice, love, and peace we long for.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

The Will of God – What Is It?

The Will of God – What Is It?

We often hear people refer to the will of God. A good friend of mine sent me a discussion by professor Jack Cottrell presenting this subject in some detail. We need to consider Dr. Cottrell’s words from the book What the Bible Says About God the Ruler, published by College Press in 1984.

He says that both preachers and atheists have made the mistake of portraying God as a Determinist. This view says that God has a plan for everything in everyone’s life. That includes their marriage, their grades in school, their suffering, their friends, accidents they will have–everything. This makes us robots and violates the purpose God had in creating humans. It violates biblical descriptions of Jonah and Nineveh, Moses and the Exodus (Genesis 32:7-14), and the whole book of Job.

Cottrell points out that the biblical view of the will of God gives three ways in which God’s will is expressed:

1) GOD’S DESIRE AND GOD’S DECISION. Some things are going to happen. God has predetermined them, and they are not open to debate. The end of time is one of these. The judgment is another. Ephesians 1:1-11 describes this and shows God’s will in reference to Jesus and human history.

2) GOD’S DESIRE AND HUMAN DECISION. God has given what is best and urged us to follow His advice, but He doesn’t force us. When we do what we want and ignore what God wants, there are always consequences. God doesn’t protect us from the results of what we do when it conflicts with what He told us is best. Jesus told Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 what God wanted for that city, but people were not willing, and Jerusalem has had a tragic history as a result. In Genesis 2:24, God told us what He desired for marriage, but Mark 10:5 tells us that man’s hardheartedness rejected God’s desire. The result has been a massive percentage of the Earth’s people missing the incredible beauty of marriage.

3) HUMAN DECISION AND GOD’S PERMISSION. God told Israel to let Him lead them, but 1 Samuel 8:5-9 and 18-22 tells us Israel wanted a king instead. God warned them about the consequences of that. Those disastrous warnings did take place. Polygamy was another example of God allowing bad human decisions.

In our day, there has been increasing resistance to God’s will. The result has been war, abuse, poverty, slavery, crime, and division. Acts 14:16 says, “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own way.” Galatians 6:7 tells us we will reap what we sow because “God is not mocked.” The Bible is full of warnings for us to know the will of God. Read God’s Word and live as He has called you to live. Read Acts 22:14, Ephesians 5:17, Colossians 1:9, and especially Matthew 12:50 and 7:21.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can find an updated version of this book HERE.

Jesus Christ Huiou Theou

Jesus Christ  Huiou Theou

One of the great sources of conflict among religious groups and atheists alike is understanding who Christ is. Was Jesus a man who became God? Was Jesus a biological son of God? Was Jesus God wearing a different name? Owen Olbricht is a scholar who knows biblical Greek and has spent a lifetime studying this issue. He has written a helpful word study for an upcoming Bible dictionary. Here are some points from his word study of “huiou theou”:

The phrase “Son of God” is a translation of the Greek huiou theou and is used many times in the New Testament. It is frequently used with the phrase “only begotten” from the Greek mono and genes, meaning “one of a kind.” “Begotten” is from the Greek genneo meaning “brought forth,” and it usually refers to being born of a mother. An example of this is the reference in Hebrews 11:17 in which Isaac is called Abraham’s monogenes. Monogene is used in reference to Issac but not to Ishmael or the six sons of Keturah, which Abraham also fathered.

The Bible refers to Jesus as the one and only special Son (John 14:31, Hebrews 5:8 and 10:9). Christians are also the sons of God but do not have the huiou theou that Jesus has. (Romans 8:4 and 9:26 and Galatians 3:26). Throughout the New Testament, when Jesus is referred to, it is always as the Son of God (huiou theou). (See Matthew 1:18 and 3:17, Mark 1:1 and 1:11, Luke 1:31-35 and 3:22, and John 1:33-34.)

During the ministry of Jesus, the people that saw His miracles identified Him as” The Son of God” (Matthew 14:33 and 27:54, Mark 15:39, John 1:49, 6:69, and 11:27 and 16:16. The people who witnessed what Christ did were not referencing Jesus as a normal biological son but as a special Son. When Jesus was transfigured, God declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son” again using words that described Christ as unique (See Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35, and 2 Peter 1:17.)

Owen Olbricht also goes on in his writings to show that Satan and the demons recognized that Jesus was uniquely huiou theou, the one and only Son of God. Even the opponents of Jesus knew that He was not just a human with extraordinary powers and understanding. Olbricht also points out that Paul’s preaching consistently referenced Jesus as the one special Son of God.

Owen concludes his word study by saying, “As God’s Son, Jesus does the same works as the Father (John 5:19), is one with the Father (John 10:30), and has the Father’s appearance and traits (John 12:45 and 14:7-9). Jesus was proven to be the Son of God by God’s testimony (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5), Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:28,29 and John 7:46), His resurrection (Romans 1:4), His fulfillment of Scriptures (Luke 24:47-48), and His miracles (John 20:30-31).”

We will let you know when this new dictionary is available.

John N. Clayton © 2020