Blaming California Wildfires on God

Blaming California Wildfires on God
I am writing this article near Redding, California. We have been involved in lectureships in California during this month of August 2018. The fires that are burning in this state have been a constant source of inconvenience for us. They are a major tragedy for people here who have lost homes, businesses, and health. Smoke makes travel difficult, but for people with respiratory problems, the smoke can be lethal. Over and over we have heard references to “why did God do this to us” or in other cases “thank God for…” While we understand the emotions that go with all that is happening, we need to stop blaming California wildfires on God.

While working in California, we are blessed to be with Keith Crummer. Keith has been an ecosystem manager and forest management expert in California for over 30 years. He has degrees in forest management from the University of California at Berkeley and from Oregon State. As we discussed the incredible damage of this current series of fires, Crummer just shook his head in sadness. He told us that what is happening in California was caused by human ignorance and mismanagement.

One fact that astounded me is that there are more trees in the United States now than have ever existed in the history of this area. Before the white man arrived on the scene, trees grew and died just as they do today. When the biomass accumulated on the forest floor, small fires set by lightning or by spontaneous combustion eliminated it. Those fires wiped out small trees and allowed grasses to flourish which in turn supported deer, elk, and other mammals. That made the forest less dense. While fires existed, they were small fires that ran out of fuel very quickly.

Then humans moved in and stopped the fires and allowed vast amounts of biomass to accumulate on the forest floor. The trees became so dense that grass could not grow. Crummer said that scientists know that managing the forest involves harvesting the material that falls to the forest floor, thinning the trees, and using the energy that is available from them. This would eliminate the potential for uncontrolled burning because massive amounts of fuel would not be available. It would also allow animals like deer and elk to proliferate. The current fire catastrophe is 100% due to the mismanagement of the environment by people who thought they were doing the right thing by eliminating fires and refusing to allow cutting down trees or removing brush.

In the Genesis account, God told the first humans to “…fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over every living thing that moves on the earth” ( Genesis 1:28-30). “The Lord God took man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it…” (Genesis 2:15-16).

God did not tell them to merely preserve the creation. The creation is a living, changing, dynamic entity. It is our job to facilitate the changing Earth. Working and keeping the Earth means to control those things that would destroy what God created including the animals that live on it. We need to stop blaming California wildfires on God. After the fires in Yellowstone National Park, the elk and deer populations returned to levels close to what they were before humans arrived. If we had done what God commanded in Genesis and worked the forests of the western states, the fires today would not be spreading as they are.

So God did not “do it” to those who lost homes. We understand the anguish and desperation that our friends have experienced, but instead of blaming California wildfires on God we need to realize that politicians and bureaucrats have mismanaged the wonderful resources God has given us. Environmental extremists need to understand more fully what must be done to preserve and protect the environment for the benefit of future generations. Followers of Jesus Christ need to let those who are suffering know that we want to help them. God is not the cause of their burden, but He wants to send His people to love and support those who are suffering.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Religion in Canada

Religion in Canada
The Angus Reid Institute is a highly respected polling agency in Canada. They have released a detailed study of religion in Canada which is titled “A Spectrum of Spirituality.” Their study divided the Canadian population into four categories:

Non Believers 19%
Privately Faithful 30%
Spiritually Uncertain 30%
Religiously Committed 21%

When the “Spiritually Uncertain” were asked “Do you believe that God or a higher power exists” 87% indicated doubt. The study observes some interesting points about morality and belief:

“When one is unsure of the existence of a supreme arbiter of truth, it becomes increasingly easier to abandon previously held values… Identifying with a specific religious organization usually means sharing a set of values with others of like belief. Removing the connection has facilitated an increasing number of Canadians to adopt or accept practices that they would have otherwise seen as immoral.”

Religion in Canada reflects the tragedy of the modern church in which the leadership assumes that everyone believes in God. When people ignore the evidence for God, they choose to live according to their own desires. We need to make a strong effort to show young people how we can know there is a God, and what a difference belief in God makes in our lives.

We invite you to build your own faith and to know why you believe what you believe. For our free correspondence course, go to doesgoedexist.org. You can watch our video series free of charge on doesgodexist.tv. Build your faith in God and His word. Know that a fulfilling life comes from following the rules and practices that Jesus gave us for successful living.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Mormon Racial Prejudice

Mormon Racial Prejudice
The Bible makes it clear that there is no justification for racism for those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. When men make up their own religions, there is always prejudice and division involved. The classic example has been Mormon racial prejudice in the original teachings of the Latter Day Saints Church.

The original leaders of the Mormon church denigrated black people. John Taylor who was the president of the church wrote in 1845 “The descendants of Ham, besides a black skin which has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy priesthood, as well as a black heart, have been servants to both Shem and Japeth…”

In 1852, Mormon leader Brigham Young wrote, “If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain…I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them…”

In 1859, Brigham Young wrote, “Cain slew his brother… and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin … How long is that race (blacks) to endure the dreadful curse that is on them? That curse will remain on them …”

Modern day followers of these men have repudiated the Mormon racial prejudice statements, but it is evident that the founders of the Mormon Church were men who were driven by the prejudice of their day. The ignorance of these statements is typical of humans when they establish their own religion instead of following what Jesus taught.

The main prejudice that existed in Jesus day was the conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans. In John 4:7-9 Jesus shatters that prejudice as well as the denigration of women by talking with a Samaritan woman. John’s gospel points out the existing prejudice by commenting “For the Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). In Luke 10:30-37 the hero of the parable of “The Good Samaritan” is a hated Samaritan. Galatians 3:28 tells us that if we are Christ’s “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.” Racial prejudice is not justified by the Bible, and it is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Quotes from Salt Lake City Messenger, Sandra Tanner, June 2018, page 3.

Belief in God

Belief in God
This ministry has existed for 50 years with the fundamental purpose of showing those willing to look at the scientific evidence, that God does exist and that the Bible is His Word. Various religious people have frequently told us that what we are doing is useless because everyone really has a belief in God. Data that shows that 40% of Americans say “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. But the critics argue that even people with no church connection still have a belief in God.

One of the more reliable organizations that gathers demographic data on religious issues is the Pew Research Center. The June 2018 issue of Christianity Today published a report from Pew Research in which 4700 adults were asked if they “believe in God as described in the Bible.” Almost half, 44% of the respondents, said they did not. The obvious devil in the details is whether what they think the Bible describes is actually the way the Bible describes God. (If you think the Bible describes God shown in the picture above, you are mistaken. We have a video that deals with that point and you can watch it HERE.) It is evident that a growing population in this country have faith issues with belief in God as the essential starting point.

We maintain that there is a tremendous need to educate people on the evidence for God’s existence, and what the Bible actually says about God. We have a free correspondence course available on our doesgodexist.org website. There is absolutely no charge or obligation of any kind. The course is written at a college level and is graded by John Clayton, the director of the Does God Exist? Ministry. We also have other written courses available through the mail with postage paid envelopes provided. Join us in learning and growing.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Religious ID Card Required

Religious ID Card Required
In the movie “God’s Not Dead” there was a depiction of a professor who required his students to write a statement disavowing belief in God if they wished to pass the course. Since that movie, there have been debates about whether people should be required to have a religious ID card to identify their beliefs.

In May, 2018, Christianity Today published a report that Pakistan now requires citizens to disclose their religion on official documents, government job applications, and voter registrations. One Islamabad judge has stated that applicants for certain positions need to affirm that Muhammad was the final prophet or be considered betrayers of the state.

This is an issue that should be a grave concern to any American–be they an atheist or a believer. The movement to have gender and racial balance in all areas of life might in the future to require religious balance as well. We could be on the road to government requiring a religious ID card to show our religion or lack of religion as Pakistan has apparently embraced.
–John N. Clayton

Empty the Ocean

Empty the Ocean with a Pail
In the June 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation James Peterson gave a wonderful quote of St. Augustine. It seems he saw a little girl marching industriously into the surf with a pail. She then walked back up the beach and poured the water into a little dip in the sand. He asked her what she was doing, and she lifted the pail and said: “Today I am going to empty the ocean with my pail.”

Peterson goes on to say:

“I can picture that the girl felt the waves tugging at her feet. She knew the taste of salt water on her tongue. She could hear the roar of the surf. She could see the blue water stretching to the horizon. She knew the ocean with every sense she had, and as completely as she could. But she did not even begin to conceive that the water stretched all the way to the other coasts. She had no inkling that in the water before her there were mountain ranges and canyons, whales and walruses, icebergs and tropical islands. There is a parallel here with how we know God. All who God is—beyond any one way of knowing, and even with all our ways of knowing together—ultimately, is beyond our current best human comprehension, but we can truly know God with all the ability that we have, including from our ability to experience nature. If one knows God by God’s self-revelation, one can then recognize God’s presence in the serene moonrise rippling across a lake, and in the fierce, and as it turns out, life-giving, forest fire.”

“Living in this material world is a generous and complicated gift that can enrich our understanding and experience of God. What we discover and experience of our material world through the sciences, can sometimes help us to recognize more of its Creator.”

The truth is that we can never fully know God any more than the little girl could empty the ocean with her little bucket. However, the more we learn about God through His Word and His works, the more we will be in awe of Him.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
You can read James C. Peterson’s full editorial HERE.

Most Important Question

Most Important Question
In his classic book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, “When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most.” What is that most important question, and why does it matter?

Lewis, an Oxford professor and author of many books including The Chronicles of Narnia became an atheist because of the early death of his mother and the atrocities he saw as he served in World War I. He could not believe there was a God when he saw all of the evil in the world. But through the influence of Christian friends such as J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), he became a Christian believer.

C. S. Lewis gave up trying to persuade himself that “most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most.” What question is that? The question is whether God exists. That is the most important question because it leads to others. “Is there a reason why I am here?” “Is there an ultimate purpose in life?” “Is there any hope?” Answering the first question “no” logically leads to a “no” answer for the others. A “yes” answer to that first question leads to “yes” answers to the other questions.

The vast majority of all people who have ever lived have believed in some form of a higher power. If you don’t, then you have to ask yourself if you are actually one of the smartest people who have ever lived or one of the most confused. Why does the universe exist? Is life merely the product of blind, random forces with no design and no purpose? Could time and space, matter and energy, and the information-packed DNA of life have all come into existence without a cause?

Think about this question. Did matter come first and then accidentally arrange itself into a mind that asks these questions? We say that there is a rational basis for believing that Mind came before matter.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Conflict Between Science and Faith

Conflict Between Science and Faith
People on both sides have their minds made up. Debates have been conducted more for scoring points than for seeking the truth. The supposed conflict between science and faith is often caused by either bad science or bad theology–or both.

Scientists who say the physical universe is “all there is or was or ever will be” have contributed to the problem because that is a statement of faith, not science. The conflict between science and faith has also been caused by theologians who tell us to “put on your Bible glasses” and ignore the plain facts of science.

The truth is that the Bible doesn’t tell us how old the universe is. The truth is also that 14 billion years is not long enough for all life on this planet to have evolved without any intelligent direction. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. It does not tell us how. Science can tell us how God formed the elements in the stars, but it can’t tell us how all matter/energy and space/time came from nothing. Science also cannot tell us how lifeless chemicals became complex, living cells.

Centuries ago some theologians wrongly believed that planet Earth was the center of the universe, but they were only following what earlier scientists had believed. The theologians interpreted the Bible to say something that it didn’t say, and it was hard for them to give up their mistaken idea. It was also hard for the scientists to accept the fact that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It was scientists who were also Christian believers who first pushed the idea of a heliocentric system in spite of the disapproval of the established church leaders.

Three thousand years ago Moses recorded in Genesis 1:1 that the universe had a beginning. From the time of Aristotle, science insisted that the universe was eternal. Not until the early twentieth century did science begin to get a clue that there was a beginning. Then it was hard for scientists to give up their mistaken idea. The truth of a beginning was finally confirmed near the end of the twentieth century and reconfirmed in the twenty-first century.

Obviously, both scientist and believers have made mistakes. Bad science and bad theology have caused the continuing conflict between science and faith. Science and faith in God and the Bible, when correctly understood, are friends and not enemies. For more on this, we invite you to watch the series of videos on our website DoesGodExist.tv.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Ken Ham Entangling Doctrine and Creationism

Ken Ham and the Ark Encounter
The May 2018 issue of the Christian Chronicle carries a major article by Bobby Ross titled “Ken Ham on God, Creation and the Earth’s Age.” Ken Ham is the founder of the Ark Encounter theme park in Grant County, Kentucky, and also the Creation Museum in Peterson, Kentucky. In 2014 he had a highly publicized broadcast debate with science guy Bill Nye.

At first glance, it might seem that a museum and theme park to teach biblical history would be a good thing. However, denominational doctrines presented by these venues conflict with teachings of the New Testament and include a great deal of bad science. Ham and his associates give an incomplete view of Earth’s history and the plan of salvation.

In the article by Ross, Ken Ham presents the plan of salvation as simply: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. Romans 10:9. In other words, salvation is conditioned on faith in Christ. Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.” Although this correctly quotes Romans 10:9, it is an incomplete view of salvation. It ignores all of the passages that talk about the necessity of confessing Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized for the remission of sins such as Acts 2:37-40 and Romans 6.

When considering the age of the Earth, Ken Ham accepts the 6,000-year chronology of 17th-century Archbishop James Ussher and ignores the literal meaning of the words used to describe the animals in the creation week. He also fails to take Genesis literally by considering who wrote it, who he wrote it to, why he wrote it, and how the people of the time would have understood it.

Atheists use the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum to discredit the Bible. Ham’s debate with Bill Nye was a disaster for believers, and atheist groups have printed transcripts of the debate and encouraged people to distribute them at the attractions. In addition to the bad science in some of the displays, there is an association with dispensationalism which is also based on an incomplete view of the Bible.

The Does God Exist? program is about education. We are surprised that the Christian Chronicle, which is associated with the Church of Christ, would uncritically give full credence to Ken Ham and his denominational teaching of Bible history and the plan of salvation. We encourage our readers to go to the articles we have published on the errors of denominational creationist materials such as HERE and HERE and on the errors of dispensationalism you will find HERE.

We must not accept denominational interpretations of the Bible, but consider what the Bible actually says. To get a better understanding of Genesis 1 by examining the original language, we suggest that you read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.” It’s available in printed form HERE or free online HERE.

As we reach out to the secular world and to family and friends who are struggling with their faith, we need to be careful not to use bad science or bad theology. Denominational creationists like Ken Ham have a great deal of both.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Existence of God Market Research

Existence of God Market Research
The existence of God is not a question that market research can answer. Most people believe there is a God, but unbelievers have become more vocal in recent years. Nobody can say with absolute certainty that there is no God unless they know everything there is to be known. Of course, nobody knows everything. The most brilliant genius who ever lived does not know everything. Science is discovering new things every day, but the more answers scientific research uncovers, the more questions it creates.

One of the major arguments against the existence of God says that a good God would not allow pain and suffering. If you use that argument, you are saying that you know that there is no possible reason for God to allow pain and suffering in this world. But a good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God could have a good reason for allowing bad things to happen in this temporary existence. Unless you know everything, you can’t say that there is no possible reason. (If you carefully examine the Bible, you will find that there is a reason.)

Finding evidence for or against the existence of God requires observing the universe, the solar system, planet Earth, and the complexities of life in all its forms. After looking at that evidence, you have to make a decision. Is it more probable that everything could have come into being out of nothing by pure, random accident? Or is it more probable that everything we see and even our own bodies, gives evidence of the wisdom of an intelligent designer?

If a person has already determined that God cannot exist, then no amount of proof will change that person’s mind. There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat in spite of indisputable evidence of a spherical planet. People believe what they want to believe in spite of the evidence. The rational person makes decisions based on the weight of the evidence.
–Roland Earnst © 2018