Does It Matter What People Believe?

Does It Matter What People Believe about Coronavirus?

For some of us, the tragedy of COVID-19 has really hit home. As I write this, my son is in the local hospital, fighting what may be a losing battle with the disease. As we have struggled to get Tim the help he needs, we have run into people who deny there is a pandemic. Many Americans believe that scams, lies, and conspiracies are behind claims that we are in a pandemic. Does it matter what people believe?

The University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center published the results of studies of what Americans believe about the pandemic in the journal Social Science and Medicine. According to their research, over 17% of all Americans believe that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus to boost drug and vaccine sales. Also, 24% believe that the government exaggerated the virus’s danger to damage Donald Trump politically.

There is no evidence to support those beliefs, and those of us who have family members dying from the virus certainly don’t endorse those claims. The Bible describes what happens when people change “the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” The result is a culture in which people “do not retain God in their knowledge.” Instead, they are filled with “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, …” (Romans 1:24-32)

Does it matter what people believe? Read those verses and then read the newspaper or watch the evening news. As faith in God and belief in the Bible have decreased, the use of lying and deceit has grown. We live in a society where lies and deception are a way of life. This ministry exists to change that by convincing people there is a God and that the Bible is a reliable guide to how we should live. Does it matter what people believe? Yes, it does matter.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Primary Message of Genesis 1

Primary Message of Genesis 1

The Genesis account continues to cause faith problems for many people. Christians often attack other Christians who differ from their understanding. We see labels like “Young Earth Creationists” (YEC), “Old Earth Creationist” (OEC), “Theistic Evolutionists,” “Progressive Evolutionists,” and others. Our plea is for all sides to look at the primary message of Genesis 1:1 and the literal meaning of the key words in the Genesis account.

The primary message of Genesis 1 is that God created everything and that He created humans in His own image. A careful study of the Hebrew words and their context in the first verse removes most of the room for argument. Genesis 1:1 says, “Reshith Elohim bara shamayim Erets.” Each of these words is loaded with meaning to simplify the understanding of Genesis:

RESHITH The word is used to describe a beginning, Matter is not eternal, and there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.

ELOHIM There are many Hebrew words to refer to God, such as Yahweh, Adonai, and El, but those refer to specific activities of God in human affairs. Elohim is used to refer to the power and creative strength of God.

BARA This word is uniquely applied to something only God can do. There are other words, such as “asah,” that describe making something from existing materials. The term “bara” is expressly understood to refer to God’s creation of something new. It is not used again until verse 27, where the reference is to man’s soul, which God created in His image.

SHAMAYIM This is a clear reference to everything “up there.” From our standpoint on Earth, that is galactic space and everything in it – not just the air we breathe.

ERETS This refers to planet Earth and not any other celestial body.

It is essential to understand the primary message of Genesis 1:1. We must also realize what Genesis 1:1 does not say. Genesis 1:1 doesn’t say what method God used to create heaven and earth. Denominational preachers are fond of saying, “He spoke it into existence.” The Bible doesn’t say anything like that until verse 3. God’s voice is not the creative device.

Genesis 1:1 contains no reference to time. The words do not tell us how long it took God to do what the verse describes. God created as a being outside of space and time. To make a dogmatic statement about when this happened or how long it took is to add a human opinion and complicate the verse. People usually do that to defend a denominational creed, but that is not the primary message of Genesis 1:1. As human understanding of quantum mechanics has grown, we are beginning to glimpse how creation from a higher dimension is possible.

So the primary message of Genesis 1:1 is that God created everything that exists. One more thing that the first chapter of Genesis does not say is that Earth is the only place where God created life. God may have created life elsewhere, but we know that God is the creator of all we see and that our own existence is a special and unique creation of Elohim. Adding to what the Bible says brings confusion and division.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

LGBTQ Rights, Children, and the Courts

LGBTQ Rights, Children, and the Courts

November started with a debate about religion, LGBTQ rights, children, and the courts. It began with Pope Francis saying that “gay people are children of God and have the right to be in a family.” In the past, the Pope has said that a “family” is a man, a woman, and their children. In 2016, the Pope said, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The issue becomes critical for Catholic social service organizations that refuse to place foster children with same-sex couples.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been serving abused, neglected, and orphaned children for more than 200 years. Because of a court ruling that the Archdiocese was discriminating against gays by refusing to place children with them, they no longer are allowed to care for children in need. The Archdiocese is suing on the grounds that the government should not force them to violate their sincerely held beliefs. The suit has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This issue will impact all religious groups that are involved in caring for children. Like many court cases, the decision is going to be based on secular research information. Do children need a mother and father image to have a stable and productive life? Those of us who work with children have seen the struggles that single-parent children have. Some do very well, but they struggle. Many secular psychologists and sociologists maintain that it makes no difference, and the courts have listened to their testimony. Those of us in the “trenches” would disagree.

There are no easy solutions to this dilemma. The constitution tells us that everyone has rights that are protected by the government. The problem comes when those rights collide with someone else’s rights, such as in the conflict between LGBTQ rights, children, and the courts. The real solution to this issue is to eliminate the need for agencies to provide child-care and protection. While that is not possible, every step to educate people and lead them to God’s plan will reduce the pain for all concerned.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

References: The Week 11/6/2020 and USA Today 11/3/2020.

Lessons from the Elections

Lessons from the Elections

The 2020 voting is finally over, and we can learn many lessons from the elections, the candidates, the party platforms, and the conduct of politicians in general. It would be nice to have someone running for president that a Christian could vote for instead of having to choose between the lesser of evils.

We have seen false statements to such an extent that there are “fact finders” who do nothing but point out lies, misrepresentations, and exaggerations of the candidates. “Survival of the fittest” seems to be the moral code of our time, or more accurately, the non-moral platform. Someone asked one political speaker who supported abortion, “When does a baby become a human, at conception, at birth, or at what stage of the pregnancy?” The response was, “I don’t know. I haven’t considered that issue.” The question that should be clear is, “How do you take a position on that issue if you’ haven’t considered that issue’?”

Lessons from the elections show us the difference between Christ’s spiritual teachings and the political speeches and party platforms based on the physical beliefs of today’s culture. When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” He was speaking of a political system very similar to America today. The Roman government provided some physical stability, which Paul refers to in Romans 13. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship on numerous occasions, but he certainly did not endorse the morality of the Roman rulers. They allowed prostitution and allowed unwanted babies to be thrown into the streets to die.

The message for Christians in the 21st century is that we can enjoy the blessings of American citizenship but not endorse our culture’s morality, which is sanctioned by the politicians. The use of recreational drugs, the endorsement of prostitution and abortion, and the destruction of the environment are all at odds with what the Bible teaches. When Jesus and the apostles talked about rejecting the world, they were referring to similar destructive practices.

The one bright spot in the lessons from the elections is that we can be shining lights in a world that is getting darker and darker. We remember Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:14-16: “It is you who are the light of the world. A town cannot be hidden if it is built on a hilltop. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl but rather on a lampstand so it gives light to everyone who is in the house. In a like manner, let your light shine before the eyes of your fellow-men that they may see the good that you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”

— John N. Clayton 2020

Here is an interesting look back at the election four years ago.

Biblical Role Models We Can Follow

Biblical Role Models We Can Follow

All of us have known or read about people we can take as role models. For some, it’s a fictional superhero, and for others, it is a historical figure like Abraham Lincoln or Madam Curie. Christians tend to hold up biblical characters like Moses or Esther or Peter or Mary, the mother of Jesus. Holding on to any of those is a ticket to discouragement. That’s because most of us don’t have the tools or opportunity to be an Abraham, Paul, or Peter. However, in the New Testament, we can find biblical role models for us ordinary people to emulate. Here are some examples:

MARY MAGDALENE. This woman had been cured of her disease by Jesus (Luke 8:2), and her association with Christ completely changed her life. Luke 8:1-3 tells us that she and several other women handled the logistics of Christ and the disciples. They funded the group as they traveled, spreading the message. We can enable the spread of the message of Christ through our giving and logistical support.

BARNABAS. We meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, where he sells some property to help needy people. In Acts 9:27, it is Barnabas who brings Paul to the congregation in Jerusalem. Barnabas had to convince the church that Paul had been converted, and they should not be afraid of him. Barnabas was a helper to Paul in his missionary journeys (Acts 11-15). We can be encouragers and help support missionary efforts.

ANDREW. Peter’s brother Andrew brought Peter to Christ (John 1:41-42). When some Greeks sought to see Jesus, it was Andrew who brought them to Him (John 12:20-22). Andrew brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Christ so that He could feed the five thousand. We can bring people to Christ by sharing what He has done for us.

Most of us cannot preach, teach, or be the mother of the Savior. But all of us can do what these “behind the scenes” biblical role models did. We can introduce others to Christ, and we can fund mission works. We can do what Jesus described in Matthew 25:34-40:

“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a wandering stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.”

Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, “As much as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This is real Christianity, it is something we can all do, and we have biblical role models to follow.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

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

Forgiveness Deficit in the 21st Century

Forgiveness Deficit in the 21st Century vs The Forgiving Father
The Forgiving Father Welcomes the Prodigal Son Back Home

Most of us know the wonderful parable in Luke 15:11-32, in which Jesus describes a forgiving father to teach about God’s forgiveness. Buck Griffith, who runs the most wonderful prison ministry in the world today, has a 21st-century version of that parable in a booklet published by Unbound Word (www.unboundword.com). He picks up the story when the prodigal son returns to the father’s house. It’s a story of the forgiveness deficit in the 21st century:

“The prodigal son dragged himself to his father’s house and knocked on the door. A servant answered. The son told him that he was the younger son and to tell his father he was home. The servant had him wait at the door while he went to tell the father about the ragged and wasted man at the door. Upon learning that the intruder claimed to be his son, the father told the servant ‘that man cannot possibly be my son. If you look out this window, you see my only son who is hard at work. I once had another boy, but he demanded his inheritance. I gave it to him under great stress. It nearly caused me to go bankrupt. He took his money, and he wasted it. Now, as far as we are concerned, he is dead. Now go back and tell the imposter at the door – whoever he is – I have only one son. If the imposter is not gone within ten minutes, we will turn the dogs loose on him.’”

Read the parable in Luke 15 again and tell me which version of the story fits our world today? Each of us needs to ask what our attitude would be if we faced the situation Luke 15 describes. How do we react to the contriteness of another – even a family member – who has wounded us in some way. Is there a forgiveness deficit in your life?

Emotional Mind Games

Emotional Mind Games

There is a psychological war going on today that is at odds with the principles Jesus taught. In Matthew 23:4-7, Jesus described religious leaders who would put emotional, moral burdens on people and do nothing to help them: “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be carried and lay them on men’s shoulders: but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers, but all of their works they do to be seen of men…” In the same way, many people mishandle the major moral issues of our day by pressing others to correct their behavior. We call it emotional mind games.

Galatians 6:1-2 describes how Christians should act: “If a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness considering yourself lest you should also be tempted. Bear you one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Years ago, I knew a religious leader whose son had engaged in a sexual act that resulted in a pregnancy. The religious leader had been a prominent opponent of abortion, but when he learned of the pregnancy, he encouraged the young woman to have an abortion, and he paid for it. This kind of hypocrisy reflects the lack of empathy in our culture today. I would blame it on our society’s drift away from God and from what Jesus taught.

There is a cemetery in Rome known as the Flaminio Cemetery. A religious group in Rome secretly obtains the remains of fetuses from abortion clinics and hospitals. They bury these aborted babies in a place they call the Flaminio Cemetery. At each grave, they place a cross with the name of the mother who terminated her pregnancy. The idea is to use emotional mind games to shame the women who gave up their children.

While we oppose abortion, we also know from experience how difficult the decision can be. We regularly receive letters from women who are struggling with guilt feelings years after having had an abortion. When Jesus dealt with the woman taken in adultery, he did not condone what she had done.,However, He said to the religious people who were ready to punish her, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her” (John 8:3-12).

We tend to rate sin. The wrong I do is a minor offense, but your sin is a major one. We must stop the emotional mind games and follow the example of Jesus. He told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” We will accomplish much more with empathy and compassion, working to provide alternatives to destructive behaviors instead of trying to shame people into rejecting sinful choices.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The Week, October 30, 2020, page 15.

Muslim Violence in France

Muslim Violence in France
French demonstration against Muslim violence in 2015

The current Muslim violence in France is a great argument for the validity of Christianity and its superiority over Islam. In early October of 2020, a young Muslim beheaded a French schoolteacher who had shown a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad to his class. A satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo republished the images to mark a Muslim attack on the magazine in 2015. On October 29, 2020, a Tunisian man carrying a copy of the Quran killed three people in the city of Nice and riots continue with thousands of Muslims marching on the French embassy.

We must point out that not all Muslims endorse this kind of behavior and violence, and a few have even denounced it. The fact is that Islam was rooted in violence and the Quran endorses it. You can understand the Muslim violence in France and other countries when you read passages in the Quran like the following: “Fighting is obligatory for you” (2:216), “Retaliation is decreed for you in bloodshed” (2:178), “Those who avenge themselves when wronged incur no guilt” (42:42-43), “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads” (47:3-5).

The teaching of Jesus Christ is in stark contrast to the Muslim teaching. You can’t read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and not see the contrast. Jesus told His followers to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, to return good for evil, and to live at peace. In addition to that, the Bible makes it clear that our battle is not with flesh and blood – not with the physical. Read Ephesians 6:12 and realize that unlike Islam the message of Christ is primarily spiritual, not political

Years ago, a statue of Jesus immersed in urine was circulated as a work of art. Atheists have circulated numerous cartoons of Jesus that were insulting and repulsive. There are numerous atheist periodicals that constantly abuse Christianity As we approach the Christmas season, we will even see billboards ridiculing the story of Christ. The Bible condemns retaliation and encourages love, peace, and tolerance. Violence over the Christian faith by Christians is minimal and only caused by people with other motives.

As we hear about the Muslim violence in France and elsewhere, we are reminded of the freedom we have in America because our founders were men who tried to follow the principles of Christ as a rule of law.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: USA Today 10/31/20 and AP writer Isabel Debre.

The Forgotten Virus – HIV

The Forgotten Virus - HIV

With so much concern about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, the forgotten virus is Human Immunodeficiency Virus, causing AIDS.

In 1981, the Center For Disease Control established the term “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome” or AIDS. The disease was initially found among gay men and had been transferred to humans from monkeys. AIDS spread rapidly and caused many deaths. In 1885, Dr. Mathilde Krim and the National AIDS Research Foundation merged to form amfAR to battle AIDS. In 1995 the FDA approved a protease inhibiter, a new class of drugs that reduced the AIDS fatalities. By 2006 mother to child HIV transmission in the United States had declined to less than 2%. All that is progress, but not a cure.

Doctors are still treating AIDS cases with medicines that are a means of control. The disease continues to be a worldwide pandemic. In 2019, 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV. Today, 38 million people are living with HIV. There were 770,000 deaths due to AIDS in 2019, and HIV rates are rising. Stem-cell transplant is making strides toward a cure, but research is slow and expensive. The organization amfAR has invested $550 million in programs aiming for a cure.

The story of AIDS is very similar to the story of COVID-19. Both were contracted initially as a result of human activity with animals. A virus may be inactive in an animal and very active in a human. Lifestyle is a major issue in both HIV and COVID-19. If humans would follow the instructions God has given us in His Word, neither of these viruses would be active in human populations. In both cases, a total cure is unlikely, especially for those of us with limited incomes.

The forgotten virus, HIV, doesn’t make headlines in the media, but it continues to be an issue for millions of people. That fact should send a message that applies to the world we live in today. We should learn from our previous mistakes and understand that. We should not have to go through one pandemic after another before realizing that God’s rules for relationships of all kinds have a purpose. We should recognize the truth of Jeremiah’s prayer: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from amfAR letter of 10/20.