Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Is Hell a Physical Place?

Is Hell a Physical Place?
The October issue of Smithsonian magazine (page 14) contains a book review and discussion of portrayals of hell dating back to 400 BC. The pictures in the magazine are horrible scenes of torture and suffering with many of the images related to Catholic teachings on purgatory. All of the pictures reflect a belief that hell is a physical place with physical torture techniques applied to those rejected by God. But is hell a physical place?

We see the same portrayals in our newspapers with cartoons showing little men with horns and pitchforks doing nasty things to those condemned to eternal torture. We get frequent letters from unbelievers and people with doubts questioning the concept of hell. They argue that it is impossible to believe in a God who would punish anyone with eternal physical torture, especially those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Because the media continues to feed those images to the public, a high percentage of our population believes that the Bible teaches this physical abuse.

There is no question that the Bible clearly indicates that there is eternal punishment for those who choose to reject God. But there is a difference between eternal punishment and eternal punishing. A person executed for a crime is penalized eternally, but the execution is not eternal torture.

Jesus spoke of the difference between these two in Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” There are numerous other passages which speak of hell as a separation from God and all that goes with God–love, peace, joy, etc. Torturing is not something God does. Then is hell a physical place or is it more likely an eternal separation from God and everything that is good and pleasing?
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Does God Exist?

Does God Exist
Perhaps the most important question you will ever ask is, “Does God exist?” The answer you give to that question determines your purpose and outlook on life.

When we look at our universe, our galaxy, and our planet rich with life, we are looking at things that were designed for a purpose. Design gives evidence of a Designer. Purpose gives evidence of a reason for our existence. To believe that everything in the universe came into existence and achieved its present state by chance requires more faith than believing in an intelligent Creator God.

Fifty years ago this month a former atheist, John N. Clayton began the DOES GOD EXIST? project. John is a professional science teacher who came to believe in God as a result of his study in science. The project has continued for half-a-century through lectureships, seminars, publications; and, most recently, websites.

Three years ago, we began a Facebook page which reaches people all over the world with a daily reminder of the amazing design and purpose in the world. In January of 2017, we began daily postings on this website DoesGodExist.tody? About a year ago we started sending weekly emails to those who request to be on our email list. The emails are called “The Best of the Week from DOES GOD EXIST?” They feature links to the previous week’s most popular posts on our Facebook page and this website. This gives people who may not have time to read our posts every day a chance to see what others think are the six best posts from the previous week.

DOES GOD EXIST? is a non-profit program that never asks for money, although we gladly accept donations. This project has continued through the faithful support of many people who believe that God does exist and that Jesus Christ came as God in human flesh to open the way to a relationship with our Creator. If you like our daily Facebook postings, there is just one thing we ask–click the “share” button to share our posts with your friends. If you like our daily posts on this website, tell others about them. We also have other websites and a quarterly printed publication.

We want to continue to remind people daily that there is meaning and purpose in life because we were created by a God who loves us and put us here for a purpose.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
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Higher Criticism and the Bible

Higher Criticism and the Bible
We often deal with people who criticize the Bible for one reason or another. However, some scholars study the Bible and apply what is called biblical criticism. They may be practicing lower criticism (also known as textual criticism) in which they work to determine the correct text of ancient documents. These scholars work with copies of ancient manuscripts of both biblical and non-biblical material to attempt to determine what the original documents said. There is also a method called higher criticism in which scholars deal with the authorship, dating, and unity of manuscripts.

There have been numerous instances over the years in which criticism of these two types has exposed frauds. In the fifteenth century, for example, higher criticism proved that a document called “Donation of Constantine” was not genuine. The events described in the manuscript turned out to be events that happened hundreds of years after the original document was supposed to have been written. Obviously, “donation” was a fraud. In this way, higher criticism can expose frauds and identify claims about manuscripts that could not be true.

At the beginning of the twentieth-century furious debates raged over higher criticism because many viewed it as a threat to the Bible and Christian faith. In our day it has become fashionable to use higher criticism to claim that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. I confront skeptics in my lectures who use higher and lower criticism to attack the material I am presenting. We need to take a brief look at biblical criticism to understand it and to be prepared to defend the faith.

Higher criticism has sometimes been used to attempt to prove that one book or another in the Bible is fraudulent. In 1805, for example, a scholar by the name of W. M. DeWette tried to prove that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses but by Jerusalem priests in the time of Josiah. DeWette’s assertion was widely accepted until archaeologists proved that many parts of Deuteronomy reflect a period earlier than that of Josiah. In the nineteenth century, it was popular to claim that all ancient biblical manuscripts must be assumed fraudulent unless proven true. Archaeology has mostly removed that negative attitude, but it is not uncommon to run into it even today.

Many proponents of higher criticism attempt to use style as a means of proving a biblical manuscript fraudulent. A good example of this is first and second Peter. The styles of these two books are very different. Why would that be since they are supposedly both written by Peter? Subject matter can make a huge difference in the style of writing. Gilbert Highet of Columbia University pointed out that Cicero had at least six different styles depending upon what he was writing. There is even the possibility that Peter wrote one book in Greek and the other in Aramaic which would automatically produce significant differences in style.

There are questions about the Bible that higher criticism may help us solve. The Bible designates Moses as the author of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy but does not identify the author of Genesis. Jesus identifies Moses as the author of the same four books but makes no mention of the author of Genesis. If higher criticism could verify the authorship of Genesis, it would be a welcomed contribution to our understanding.

However, instead, some scholars have attempted to prove that the first and second chapters of Genesis were written by different authors who disagreed with each other. They ignore the fact that those chapters were written for different purposes and to show different relationships. Higher criticism scholars have also raised questions about the authorship and dates of some of the Psalms and Hebrews. We must remember that higher criticism is the work of people who have preconceived ideas and prejudices that affect their conclusions.

Higher criticism is at best a tool to help us understand some concepts related to God’s Word. If we believe that the Holy Spirit was active and that the Bible was God-breathed, we will not be shaken by the winds of modernism that roar through the religious world today. Excellent and open-minded scholarship has, over the centuries, confirmed and supported the concept that the Bible is the Word of God. Letting the Word speak to us is the doorway to a closer walk with God.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

How Pharaoh’s Heart Was Hardened

How Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened
Yesterday we began to consider Exodus 4:21 which says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. What did God mean when He told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart? Can we see how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened?

Pharaoh was a political leader whose kingdom was under siege. He would obviously be on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. God simply allowed Pharaoh to see the cost of letting the slaves go. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by strengthening his resolve as a political leader to realize what was happening. It made Pharaoh strong intellectually and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean he was a robot with no choice in the matter. He would not want his people to see him as a weak, condescending ruler giving in to a bunch of slaves over things his own court magicians could do. At least in the beginning, Pharaoh would become strong, hard, and determined to stop Moses. That is how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.

Let me give you a personal parallel. Many years ago my wife Phyllis and I made arrangements to adopt a child. After a month or so, we saw that the child had many congenital problems including blindness, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, a form of muscular dystrophy, and mental retardation. Our awareness of all of this came one step at a time beginning with blindness and ending seven years later with a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and schizophrenia. By law, the adoption agency was obligated to take the child back. However, we could choose to go ahead with the adoption.

My heart and my wife’ heart softened and hardened. Mine more than hers. My atheist parents tried everything to make us give up the child. They even threatened the agency with a lawsuit if they didn’t forcibly take him from us. My fellow teachers almost universally told me I would be crazy to keep the child. Close friends showed me what keeping him would mean financially, socially, and professionally. My heart was hardened to the point that one afternoon I put him in the car seat and prepared to return him to the adoption agency.

I started the car and then decided to pray about what I was doing. At that point, a Christian brother walked up to the car and began to talk about what might be possible. Could this baby be a messenger to the blind? Could I walk down the street 20 years in the future, see a blind man and wonder if it was the child I gave up. I realized my heart had been hardened. It was not hardened by God, but by all of the world that surrounded me.

Pharaoh’s case was the reverse of mine. His heart was softened by the plagues that challenged his power and political position. God had allowed him to see the cost of giving in to Moses and thus giving in to God. That was how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. God hardened him intellectually and emotionally to make him strong in the eyes of his people. Pharaoh could have avoided the calamity of hard-heartedness. But selfishness, greed, and power struggles make people do foolish things. Both the Pharaoh and I eventually had our hard hearts softened to the point of doing the right thing. But the cost was high for both of us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

God Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart

God Hardened Pharaoh's Heart
One of the interesting studies of the Old Testament is the account of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Moses, and God. In Exodus 4:21 we read that, “The Lord said to Moses when you go to return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” What does it mean that God hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?

There are numerous cases throughout the Bible where the hardening of the heart is an issue. Is God making Pharaoh a robot with no choice but to make the catastrophic decision not to allow the Israelites to leave? Does God make a person’s heart hard and then send them to hell because of their hard heart? How can that picture be harmonized with the concept of a loving and kind God who wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, what does that mean and how did it happen?

Like a lot of questions about God and the Bible, we can answer this at least in part by a careful study of the meaning of the biblical words. The first word we need to understand is the word “heart” which is the Hebrew leb or lebab. In 1 Samuel 25:37 we read about a man named Nabal, and we are told his heart died within him and he became as a stone. In 2 Samuel 18:14 we see Joab thrusting three darts through the heart of Absalom. In 2 Kings 9:24 Jehu shoots an arrow at Jehoram and hits him in the heart. The word heart is used in a physical sense 29 times. However, most biblical uses of the word “heart” do not involve the organ that beats in our chest.

Proverbs 23:7 gives us a different use: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. He tells you to eat and drink, but his heart is not with you.” The Bible uses the word heart 257 times referring to personality characteristics, and 166 times it refers to states of consciousness. First Samuel 1:8 says, “Hannah, why do you weep, and why is your heart grieved?” Heart refers to intellectual activities such as in 1 Kings 3:9 where God gave Solomon an understanding heart. We find the word used 195 times referring to volition or purpose. In 1 Samuel 2:35 we read, “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and my mind.”

The other keyword to understand in this discussion is the word “hardened” which is the Hebrew chazaq which means “to make strong.” Normally this word describes things that make us insensitive. Hebrews 3:13 tells us that we can “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and verse 8 and 4:7 indicate humans choose to do the hardening. Job says he was hardened in sorrow in Job 6:10. Daniel 5:20 talks about a king’s heart being lifted up and his mind hardened by pride. Psalms 95:8 indicates we can harden our own hearts and references the Israelites in the wilderness as an example. Nehemiah talks about Israel hardening their necks and their rebellion against God.

So what does Exodus mean when it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? We will examine that question tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?
An atheist once said, “We are as much a product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.” The other view is that we are the result of design and planning. Do you consider yourself the result of intelligent design or beneficial accidents?

C. S. Lewis, an atheist who became a believer, wrote, “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”

We suggest that you ask yourself this question: “Can I rationally believe that the incredible complexity of my body is the result of mindless forces, or does it indicate design?” If our thoughts are merely accidental byproducts of the movement of atoms in a brain that accidentally assembled itself, then nothing has any real meaning.

At DOES GOD EXIST? we believe that we are not accidents. The human body exhibits evidence of design, not chance accidents. Our thoughts are rational because we are the product of a rational God. Intelligent design or beneficial accidents — which do you choose?
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Growing Interest in Astrology

Growing Interest in Astrology
While more and more Americans are denying faith in God, belief in astrology, witchcraft, and sorcery is growing. Astrology academies and internet users of natal charts have produced thousands of podcasts, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, mobile apps, newsletters, and streaming videos. Data crunchers tell us that there are more than two million websites on astrology, and entrepreneurs are using astrological signs as a means of attracting business. There are sun-sign PJs, hotels with a zodiac theme, and offers for foods like a “cuppa zodiac coffee.” There is indeed a growing interest in astrology.

Richard Smoot speaking for the International Society for Astrological Research said, “So much is going on in people’s lives these days, so much pressure to act or react, and they simply want to sort things out.” Astrologers claim that people in crisis are drawn to astrology because they want guidance in matters of love, finance, and career. The astrology site Co-Star says “This generation is wrapping itself in the blanket of the zodiac to try and make sense of a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams.” The most highly rated astrological site in recent months has been “How to find the perfect dog based on your zodiac sign.” There is a growing interest in astrology among millennials who make up seventy-three percent of those visiting that site.

In the ancient world, astrologers and magicians were a major factor in helping people make decisions. In Exodus 7:11 Pharaoh used secret arts to duplicate what Moses did. God condemned the use of astrology, magic, and sorcery from the beginning. In Leviticus 20:6 we read, “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Fortune telling was condemned in Micah 5:12 and in the New Testament every confrontation between the apostles and a sorcerer or magician reveals a rejection of those practices. (See Acts 8 and Acts 13:6.)

Is astrology a harmless game or joke, or is there a reason to reject the mystic arts? The first point we need to make is that there is no scientific support for any of these mystic arts. Studies of astrological claims indicate no support for any connection between the stars and what happens in people’s lives on Earth.

Magic is entertaining, but honest magicians will tell you that even their most amazing acts are sleight of hand and visual tricks. It is enjoyable to watch these talented performers, but we need to realize that they are not using supernatural abilities. Sorcery and witchcraft are dangerous and destructive activities and have a long history of tragedy. The bottom line is that all mystic arts draw people away from the real solutions to their problems.

In today’s world, when people reject the Bible and its teachings they are left with no help in making critical decisions. In that void, they seek out unhealthy and destructive substitutes. There may be a growing interest in astrology as a place for people to find answers in life, but it is as harmful and misleading as ever.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Saturday Evening Post, July/August 2018, page 16.

Practical Apologetics and the Church

Practical Apologetics and the Church
We recently presented a public lectureship in Chester, California. Some preachers who attended all lamented the number of young adults who no longer attended their congregations. We have also received emails from church leaders complaining about the loss of young people and worrying that their congregations are “graying” with most of the members being senior citizens. Fifty years ago DOES GOD EXIST? predicted this crisis with atheism winning the day in the media and on our college campuses. Unfortunately, the Church has done nothing to counteract this trend. We still have congregations where the leaders present no lessons of any kind on how we know God exists, how we know the Bible is His Word, and how we can answer the challenges of secular humanism, evolutionism, modernism, and materialism. The Church needs practical apologetics.

The apostle Peter wrote, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you…”(1 Peter 3:15). Because we have refused to do what Peter told us to do, our young people assume that we have no answer to the major challenges they face each day. Many of our preacher-training schools teach their students that they should believe, and if God says it that settles it. Neither Jesus, the apostles, nor the early Church practiced that mentality. Romans 1:18-25 explains the progress of modern atheism, and in Acts 17:16-34 Paul addressed the kind of challenges today’s Church faces.

Young people today need to know why we believe what we believe. Many of us are not prepared to answer the questions that kids have. While kids may stay “in church” while they are at home, their reason for staying, in their words which I regularly hear, “It’s a small price to pay for peace at home.” The Church seems to think that entertaining kids will answer their questions, but the truth is that we can not out-entertain Disney. When kids return from a trip to Gatlinburg or Six Flags, they have the same questions they had before. When kids leave home and no longer have to appease their parents, they no longer attend any congregation of the Church. The university or the armed services will not push them to attend. Even kids who attend a Christian college frequently do not attend any congregation of the Lord’s Church.

We urge adults to pray about how to bring practical apologetics into the thinking of their young people. There are many good books and studies out there, but there are also some really bad ones. Ninety-percent of all printed apologetic material in the United States is written by denominational speakers who are supporting their denomination’s doctrine (according to Ronald Numbers in his book The Creationists). This includes all of Ken Ham’s material as well as Henry Morris and the Institute for Creation Research.

In our printed journal and online, we have reviewed excellent material by Douglas Jacoby, John Oakes, and LaGaard Smith. We also have our own study material for all ages which can be secured free of charge. On doesgodexist.tv you can watch our video series, and we have a teacher’s guide available free upon request to go with this series. We also have a children’s series with guides. We are a ministry, not a business and we are here to present practical apologetics to help you build a dynamic, living faith in young people that will sustain them throughout life.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians in Western Europe
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.

In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:

1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.

3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.

According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.

Looking at these statistics, we can see that it is possible that some nones can be more religious than Christians. We see that even though faith in God has eroded in the United States, Western Europe is far ahead of us in secularization. All of these statistics give those of us who are committed Christians something to think about.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You can read more about the recent Pew study HERE.