CANYONLANDS TRIP 2018 CLOSED
Our “Does God Exist?” trip into the Canyonlands of Arizona and Utah is closed for 2018 because we are sold out (the bus is full). If you wanted to go but didn’t get your reservation in, you can contact Queenslander Travel (877-865-6711) and be put on a waitlist, but otherwise, you will need to wait until 2019.
For 50 years, the “Does God Exist?” ministry has been taking the Bible literally. We have maintained that if you take both science and the Bible literally, they agree and are friends. To take science literally means to accept all evidence that is factual. The word “science” means “systematic knowledge” (Websters Dictionary). How we achieve knowledge is not well understood by many of us. Theories are a way to get knowledge, but personal opinions are not. Knowledge grows and expands as new data refines it.
Taking the Bible literally means to look at who wrote the passage, when they wrote it, to whom they wrote it, and how the people to whom it was written would have understood it. Man-made theologies and denominational traditions are not ways of taking the Bible literally. As we study ancient cultures and history, and as we grow in our appreciation of the meanings of biblical statements, our understanding of the Bible grows. So also does our comprehension of God and how He has worked in the past and how He works today.
Some people marvel at the handiwork of God and yet deny God as the Creator. There are others who have formulated a man-made denominational understanding of the Bible that requires them to acknowledge the Creator but deny His workmanship. Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth writing in the Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (June 2018, page 87) state the challenge in this area beautifully:
“Why not rejoice in the fact that God gave us the ability to explore not only the present world in which we live but also the wonders of creation that predate our presence on this Earth? Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s character is manifest in His creation. Why should we work to undermine scripture with arguments that ultimately require nature to be deceptive? If, after seeing the evidence in God’s creation … the church insists that the obvious meaning is not true, we create a completely unnecessary stumbling block to faith. Christ himself is a sufficient stumbling block–we need not create any other.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For more on this subject, we encourage our readers to look back at these issues of the Does God Exist? Journal: January/February 2015, January/February 2016, May/June 2016, and 1st Quarter 2018 all available on doesgodexist.org.
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.”
“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.
Volcán de Fuego is Spanish for Volcano of Fire, a volcanic mountain in Guatemala. It has been active on-and-off for years. On Sunday, June 3, 2018, it erupted with fury. It had previously flared up in January and February, but this was the worst so far this year. Volcán de Fuego is famous for spewing out smoke daily and being continuously active at a low level. This time it erupted violently resulting in many deaths. Molten lava, flying rocks, hot gasses including sulfur dioxide threaten homes and lives in the area. The pyroclastic flow travels at speeds up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour or more. The gas rose 5 miles (8 km) into the troposphere. The map shows the area where the wind has taken the dangerous sulfur dioxide. The photo is of a previous eruption.
At the same time of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego on the big island of Hawaii, Mount Kilauea is still erupting and creating massive destruction, but with no fatalities so far. The question is, “Why do we have volcanos?” Perhaps we should ask, “Why do we need volcanos?”
The answer to the first question has to do with the composition and structure of Earth. The crust of the Earth, along with the upper mantle below it, is divided into sections called tectonic plates. Volcanos (and earthquakes) often occur near the boundaries of those plates. The movement and repositioning of those plates created the continents we have today. Beneath Earth’s crust, there is hot and partially molten material in an area known as the mantle. Pressure and the decomposition of radioactive material within the core of the Earth cause the elevated temperature. The fact that the minerals are in a molten state because of the extreme heat allows the movement of the tectonic plates on the surface. A volcano is a rupture in Earth’s crust that allows the escape of hot lava and gas from a magma chamber below the surface.
The answer to the second question of why we need volcanos is that they are part of Earth’s recycling system. Erosion of Earth’s surface leaches away nutrients from the soil. Volcano eruptions bring to the surface essential nutrients to nourish the soil allowing plants to grow and making farming more productive. They also bring to the surface valuable minerals that we need for modern, advanced civilization. Volcanos have also created many islands, such as the Aleutian islands and the islands of Hawaii. The movement of tectonic plates and the eruption of volcanos have occurred throughout Earth’s history. Without the movement of the tectonic plates with the resulting earthquakes and volcanos, Earth’s crust would be flat and covered with water. We would not be here.
Although volcanos often cause the destruction of homes, disruption of weather patterns, and loss of life, they also play a vital role in giving us this vibrant, life-supporting planet. They are another evidence of God’s creative power.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
We have mentioned before the threats to religious freedom in the United States to people who just want to live out their faith. One of those cases concerns a Christian cake artist in Colorado by the name of Jack Phillips.
Phillips designs artistic cakes for special occasions. He will design cakes for anyone; however, he does not use his artistic talents to decorate cakes for events that go against his Christian convictions. That would include cakes to celebrate a divorce or Halloween or—and this is the sticky part—a same-sex wedding. When he chose to practice his faith, he was severely punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. He had no problem with making cakes for the men who were getting married, but he could not be involved in an event that violated his strongly-held faith.
On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 7-2 agreed that the state of Colorado had wrongly treated him. Justice Anthony Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion said, “[t]he neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here …. The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”
This decision is a victory for a Christian who wants to live out his faith in the United States of America where the First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom of religion. However, it is not a clear and final victory because we don’t know how the court would have ruled if the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not been so over-the-top in their judgment against Jack Phillips. One of the commissioners had said that Phillips’ request for religious freedom was, “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”
There are other religious freedom cases pending, and we will see how they play out in the courts. One of them is the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman. When one person’s right to free expression of their faith is removed, and the government punishes the person for their sincerely held religious convictions, we are all in danger. I am sure you will hear more on this.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
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
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
One thing you learn when you live past 80 years is that old age isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Week (June 1, 2018, page 10), reported that the oldest living person is Koku Istambulova. According to her passport, she is 129 years old. She is a Muslim woman living by strict Islamic codes in Chechnya.
Istambulova doesn’t view long life as a blessing. She says “I have not had a single happy day in my life. Long life is not at all God’s gift for me, but a punishment.” Istambulova saw Nazi tanks, Stalin’s deportation, and the death of all of her children. Her faith is one of strict rules and regulations with very legalistic guides for life. As a Muslim woman, the role she was forced into is very restrictive.
So the oldest living person says she has had a life of misery. It is important to note that the things that made Istambulova’s life miserable were the violent acts of humans and the legalism of man-made religion. Those factors contributed to her misery instead of addressing it and solving it.
In contrast to Istambulova’s situation, Christ came to eliminate the things that bring misery in life. Istambulova never knew the peace, love, family, and joy of being free from the legalistic human rules based on race or sex. Galatians 3:26-4:7 presents a contrast to legalism and the misery that human sin and legalistic religions bring. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
We object to the loss of liberty in other parts of the world, but we have our own battles taking place on American soil. Freedom of speech on campus is one area of concern.
Georgetown University is the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university. In the fall of 2017, a pro-family student organization named Love Saxa was attacked by LGBT students for promoting pro-family values in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The university investigated the challenges to Love Saxa and found them groundless, but took the student money intended for Love Saxa and gave it to LGBT organizations on campus.
Members of a student group called Young Americans for Liberty were arrested for passing out copies of the United States Constitution to students on the sidewalk at Kellogg Community College in Michigan. This seems hard to believe since the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and freedom of assembly. Only after the YAL won a legal suit did the college administration allow the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees.
Administrations of colleges and universities have been restricting freedom of speech on campus, but mostly when it relates to religious or conservative views. Tomorrow’s leaders are being trained to accept only the views of their liberal colleges. The persecution of religion in America today flies in the face of the constitution, and we are reading of case after case where Christian churches and organizations are facing persecution in this country on a daily basis.
The greatest single way to fight this persecution is by making people aware of what is happening. Most Americans, if they know what is going on, will stand against government control and restriction of free speech, including freedom of religious groups.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
One of the interesting characteristics of modern-day evolutionists is how far they will stretch credibility to support the model they assume to be true. Carl Zimmer in his book Evolution–The Triumph of an Idea gives a classic example of such a stretch when he calls our attention to an orchid found in Madagascar named Angraecum sesquipedale. It’s a story of coevolution.
You may recall from high school biology that flowers have both female organs called pistils and male organs called anthers. To cross-pollinate from one flower to another, the pollen from one plant must go to the “eggs” of another plant of the same species. The problem, in this case, is that the orchid has an 11 to 16 inch (28-40 cm) shaft at the bottom of which is a pool of nectar. It is far out of the reach of the usual pollinators of Madagascar. So how does pollination occur? It turns out that there is a microscopic moth that does the pollinating. What is unusual about this moth is that it has a tongue that is coiled up like a watch-spring taking up virtually no space. When the moth uncurls the tongue, it is 16 inches (40 cm) long. While the tongue is drinking in the nectar, the head and body of the moth are pollinating the orchid.
This is classic symbiosis. The orchid cannot reproduce without the moth, and the moth would starve to death without the orchid. The question is, “How could such a relationship came into existence?” Evolutionists would have us believe that the orchid evolved the shaft, the nectar pool, and the placement of the pollen at precisely the same time that the moth evolved the watch-spring tongue. At some point in the process, the two came together, and the symbiotic relationship was born.
The orchid and the moth are just one of a vast number of symbiotic relationships between species. Some of those mutual relationships are between predators and prey with physical characteristics that allow both to survive. Biologists say that it is just a matter of coevolution. However, as our understanding of genetics has improved, the difficulty in explaining these symbiotic relationships has gotten worse. Not only are the physical characteristics needed, but the genetic combinations must be very specific.
You will find more details on this interesting subject in F. LaGard Smith’s book Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem published by Westbow Press.
–John N. Clayton © 2018