Seeing the design and wisdom in the natural world leads many people to realize it cannot be merely a product of chance. But, at the same time, they don’t want to attribute it to God because that would obligate them to live for God as Christ told us. So, they adopt the idea that aliens are controlling planet Earth as an alternative.
Enterprising hucksters have seized upon this thinking by offering a variety of claims about aliens from space. Nearly every day, someone claims evidence of alien visitation. Looking up at night, we can see much to fuel this thinking. There are roughly 3000 active satellites in orbit today, ranging from communication devices to military observation platforms and scientific research projects.
When you add to all of the active satellites, others that no longer function and all of the debris from various launches, the area around planet Earth is full of material to cause sightings. The term “Unidentified Flying Object” (UFO) has now become “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon” (UAP). That seems more correct because many of them are reflections, ball lightning, auroras, and drones.
Nothing in the Bible says this planet is the only place where God has created life. However, the size of the cosmos and the distances to places where aliens could exist is so massive that alien visitation is highly unlikely. For an alien to travel from even the closest star system to planet Earth would require over four years if they could travel at the speed of light, which is impossible. Any alien affecting things on Earth would have to know how to manipulate time and space. If they are that advanced, it would be simple for them to avoid detection.
The bottom line is that we should not expect aliens to solve our problems. Humans need to find a way to get along and manage our relationships. The one system that has proven itself when followed is the teachings of Jesus Christ. Every human effort to find a successful alternative to Matthew 5 – 7 has failed. “Survival of the fittest” thinking has led to slavery, war, and the likes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Putin. Instead of suggesting that aliens are controlling planet Earth, we need to turn control over to God.
Critical Race Theory has become a hot issue today because one of the significant failings of America has been the way racial issues have been handled. My father had his first college teaching job at Talladega State Teacher’s College, an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. I was the only white kid in the neighborhood and also in my first and second-grade classes at school. I never had a problem in Talladega, but when we moved to McComb, Illinois and people found out where I had gone to school, I experienced persecution because I was “a nigger lover.” I didn’t know what that word meant, but it began my education about race issues in America.
Today, we are being told about the “Tulsa Massacre,” something I had never heard of until recently. “Black lives matter” has made it impossible to avoid exposure to the entrenched problems facing all Americans, especially those of dark brown skin. Unfortunately, politicians have waded into this struggle and have made “race” the lens through which we view everything. They seem to think they have the power to legislate a solution to this issue. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an ideology that says people are either “oppressors” or the “oppressed,” “good” or “bad,” based entirely on their race. The conflict over CRT has resulted from its inclusion in the school curriculum at a very early age. That has produced a strong reaction, both pro, and con, in every corner of our country.
Atheists and skeptics have jumped into the promotion of CRT, pointing to the poor history of race relations in religious groups. I remember the Klan burning a cross in our front yard in Talladega because of where my father was teaching. I remember a terrible experience when I had a tonsillectomy. The surgeon pushed me, a blood-soaked kid, on a gurney out to my mother and told her, “Here, nigger lover, you clean him up.” My family’s closest friends have been people of color, and I have seen what they endure. However, teaching Critical Race Theory to first graders is not a solution to racial prejudice in America.
The Bible makes it clear that Christians must treat all people as equals and that we are all one. Therefore, the Church must take the lead in educating its members about race while reaching out to the oppressed. Galatians 3:27-28 says: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Changing the hearts of non-Christians is an uphill battle that can be won, but Critical Race Theory won’t do it.
When I was a seminary student in a gospels class taught by scholar R. C. Foster, the students received the challenge of assembling “a harmony of the gospels.” It turned out to be more of a chore than I expected. It was in the 1960s before the time of computers and word processors, which today allow you to rearrange text by electronically “cutting” and “pasting.” We had to literally cut and paste with scissors and glue. We had to take inexpensive paperback Bibles and snip passages from each of the gospels, assembling them into columns in a notebook, creating a timeline of Christ’s ministry. It was my first and only experience with cutting up Bibles.
When only one of the gospels told of a parable, miracle, or teaching of Jesus, the job was relatively easy. When more than one gospel writer told about the same incident, it required juxtaposing the two or more accounts. It was an excellent way to realize that witnesses often describe scenes differently. For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of an incident that happened after Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and arrived at a Gentile area known as the Decapolis. Matthew tells of two wild, demon-possessed men who lived in the tombs near the shore. These men, who terrorized the locals, came out of the tombs to challenge Jesus. Christ cast the demons out of the men and into a herd of swine. (See Matthew 8:28-34.)
Critics point out that when Mark and Luke tell the story, they speak of only one man. They claim this is an error in the gospels, and the descriptions can’t both be accurate. However, the critics miss the point. Matthew gives us the detail that there were two men, but Mark and Luke concentrate on the one who was the dominating personality, and they give more information on his actions. They tell us that chains couldn’t bind him, and nobody could tame him. He was naked and crying and cutting himself night and day. When he saw Jesus, he took a worshipful pose and called him “the Son of the most high God.” After Jesus cast the demons out of the man, people were amazed that he was sitting and clothed and in his right mind.
The people were then terrified not of the man but of Jesus, and they asked Him to leave their area. As Jesus prepared to get back on the boat, the formerly possessed man begged to go with Him. Jesus didn’t allow the man to go with Him but told him to go back and tell his friends, “what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had compassion on you.” The man became a witness for Jesus in the pagan area of Decapolis. (See Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.)
When you read this account from all three gospel writers, you will find details the others omitted. A testimony to the Bible’s divine nature is not only the harmony of the gospels but also their brevity. Only the essentials are there. Matthew chose to reveal that there were two men, but he left out other details. Mark and Luke give more information about the one man Jesus appointed to be a witness for God in a pagan area.
The formerly pagan and demon-possessed man apparently was an effective witness to his neighbors. Months later, Jesus returned to the Decapolis and was met by “great multitudes” eager to see the one who had healed and restored sanity to the man of the tombs. Now the “Son of the most high God” was able to show compassion for multitudes of people. He healed “the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others.” (See Matthew 15:29-31.)
As a result of Jesus’ compassion and a restored man willing to share his story with others, many people in a pagan region “glorified the God of Israel.” And as a result of having to prepare a harmony of the gospels to pass R. C. Foster’s class, I came to understand and appreciate why the Bible contains four accounts of Jesus’ ministry.
The author of Ecclesiastes wrote a great deal about the futility of life and the failing of human knowledge. In the first chapter, Solomon writes, “What has been will be again, … is there anything of which one can say ‘look this is something new’? It was here already long ago. It was here before our time.” With that in mind, climate change is not new and should not be a cause for religious fervor.
Many historical passages in the Bible tell about drought, famine, and changes in the weather. Why did the brothers of Joseph go to Egypt? (See Genesis 41:56-57.) Why did the ancient prophet pray for rain? (See 1 Kings 18:41-44 and James 5:17-18.)
Those of us trained in geology who know how to read the rock layers and understand what environment produced them can clearly see that Earth’s climate has changed throughout time. For example, in Zion National Park, petrified sand dunes tell us that area at one time experienced warming far greater than what we see today. Where we live in Michigan, glacial moraines, eskers, and lakes abound, giving solid evidence that the climate was very cold at one time in the past.
Earth’s design is amazing. Because our area experienced glaciers, we have no shortage of water. There is no bedrock visible because sand and gravel make up the terrain, and water seeps into the ground rather than running off. Climate change melted the glaciers, leaving an ideal environment for human habitation. Thus climate change is not new, and God’s design of Earth is alive and active, allowing a constantly changing environment to support life.
In 2022, we find climate modifying Earth again. The polar caps are melting, and the sea level is rising, resulting in wind and ocean current changes. As in the past, God’s design is bringing water to places that have previously been desserts, allowing crops to grow in areas that could not support them. Climate change is not new but has always been part of our planet’s design.
Will we need to make adjustments to these climate changes? Yes, of course, but God has given humans the ability to do that. We can change crops, adjust waterways, control wildfires, and even move populations when necessary. Let us not wring our hands and treat God’s design for replenishing the planet as if it were something evil. Today, our major problems are human problems of immorality and a refusal to live as God has called us to. By our actions, we can reduce the severity of global warming and use its change to our benefit.
Yesterday, we pointed out that words like “behemoth” in the original language of Genesis 1 would not have included animals like dinosaurs but referred to animals the ancient Israelites knew. So the next logical question would be, “Where do we find dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible?” The answer to that question is “nowhere.”
Why would the Bible mention dinosaurs? Consider how you would explain bacteria to a man with no microscope, or how could a person living in the jungle make sense of an octopus? When an explorer brought a stuffed platypus back to England for the first time, people thought it was a fake. Millions of different plants and animals have lived on Earth, and many of those still exist today. The purpose of the Genesis account is to say that God created everything, not to identify the millions of species that have lived on Earth. Genesis mentions only the animals the Israelites could identify and name.
So from today’s perspective, when did those animals exist? Some fundamentalists have suggested that we don’t find dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible because they didn’t exist. They say that God miraculously created dinosaur fossils to give the appearance that the animals lived when they did not. That explanation makes God a liar trying to fool us into a false conclusion. Others suggest that dinosaurs were there but simply weren’t mentioned in the Bible. There is no evidence that animals like T-rex lived at the time of Adam and Eve. In reality, the atmosphere and temperatures necessary for such an animal to survive would be detrimental to humans.
Since we don’t find dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible, what was God’s reason for creating these huge animals? God knew that humans would need an environment optimized for their survival. In Alaska today, the survival of various life forms depends on salmon bringing nutrients into an environment lacking those essentials to support life. Like the salmon, the dinosaurs were the vehicles that provided resources needed for humans to exist and flourish later. The plant-eating dinosaurs consumed massive amounts of vegetation and excreted processed plant materials and seeds. They spread the vegetation and produced topsoil and critical elements necessary for human life. No animal living today could accomplish that task.
God could have zapped the hydrocarbons into existence, but if He had done it that way, humans could never have located them. God not only created the resources we would need, but He did it in a way that we could find them. He gave us the intelligence to study His methods to find the resources and obtain them for our use.
The wisdom of God in designing Earth to sustain human life is incredible. Every day, science finds new clues about how the planet was designed and how things we might consider insignificant are critical to our existence.
We hear from both skeptics and biblical fundamentalists about taking the Bible literally. However, even those who claim to interpret the Bible literally often don’t, resulting in some ridiculous errors. Furthermore, those misinterpretations cause faith challenges for better educated young people because they realize that some things people ascribe to the Bible are not logically or scientifically possible.
To interpret the Bible literally, you must take the whole Bible and not cherry-pick individual passages to support what you already believe. It also means looking at the original language and asking how those to whom it was written would have understood it. Let’s take a modern example. What does the Spanish phrase “Juan tiene frio” mean? Translated literally, the words would mean “John has cold.” It could either mean John is cold or John has a cold – he is sick. How would you know what the writer intended?
Sometimes the wording looks like it is unrelated to what it actually means. For example, what does “Juan me cae bien gordo” mean? The words are “John me falls well fat.” So is this a comment about my waistline? My Spanish-speaking associates tell me it means “John really bugs me.” You would know that by understanding the culture and how those who speak the language would understand it.
This is also true of Hebrew and Greek. When the first chapter of Genesis lists the animals God created, the Hebrew words refer to creatures the readers knew. “Behemah” in verses 24 and 25 did not include dinosaurs, platypuses, giraffes, or elephants. People would have understood it to refer to the cattle the readers knew. “Remes” in the same verses would not have meant snakes and komodo dragons but rather the smaller examples of livestock like goats and sheep the readers knew. In Genesis 9:1-3, “remes” is included as an animal that God said would be food for the Israelites. We know that the Jews had food restrictions that would not have included snakes, worms, and komodos, so the meaning of “remes” is clear.
Those who attempt to include dinosaurs on Noah’s ark are not taking the Bible literally. When they do that, they provide fuel for those who say the Bible is a book of myths. We must understand what it means to interpret the Bible literally. We will deal with more on the dinosaurs tomorrow.
When I was a promoter of atheism, one thing I envied the most was the unique bond between Christians. As an atheist embracing “survival of the fittest” as a way of life, I was always looking over my shoulder to see what might threaten my security. I watched my father, an atheist college professor, go to extreme ends to protect his standing at the university and promote his reputation and standing in the academic community. I remember him telling me, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and encouraging me to assert superiority over my peers to achieve success.
Coming from that perspective, I was amazed to see Christians making themselves vulnerable. I envied the unique bond between Christians who were not related and had nothing to gain from those bonds. When Christians were together, they really enjoyed being together. There was sincere kidding and laughter that did not insult, demonstrate prejudice, or serve an ulterior motive. The terms “brother” and “sister” were alien to me as an atheist. When there was laughter between my atheist friends, it was derisive and usually spurred by alcohol or other drugs, and it was hollow and insincere.
I remember riding with my father several miles from our home when a tire blew out. After my father called several work associates with no success, he called a family friend who was a Christian. That man came with a replacement and a jack to change the tire. My father was amazed that anyone would do that, and the Christian friend told my father, “That’s how Christians do things.” I’m not sure my father ever comprehended the importance of that statement and the testimony that it presented.
If I believe in “survival of the fittest” and “he who finishes first wins,” why would I do anything that doesn’t give me an advantage? Who can put a price tag on what it means to have someone care about you just because you share a connection to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character” is borne out in the struggles of life.
In the real world, few people have the strength and resolve to care about others sacrificially. Jesus demonstrated that in the extreme on the cross. Following His example, the unique bond between Christians can show love and care, reaching out to those who don’t share their faith. The “bond of peace” and the love of brethren is not just a nice cliché but a vivid apologetic for the validity of the Christian life.
Galatians 3:19-26 tells us that God gave the old law as a “schoolmaster” to show His people their transgressions until the promised “Seed,” meaning Jesus Christ, would come. Therefore, we should learn from the past and not make the same mistakes that were a part of the history recorded in the Old Testament. The value of knowing history is to avoid repeating the cycle of history, but humans have been slow learners in that regard.
The cycle of the human relationship to God keeps repeating and can only be broken when we allow the message of Christ to break it. That is a lesson we can learn from Old Testament history. The cycle begins with Adam and Eve and is repeated over and over until the present time. When God creates, His creation is perfect. God gives His promises and commands to humans, and for a while, they obey. They experience God’s blessings, but then they turn away from God.
In Deuteronomy 28:1-14, God told Israel, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” God then lists all the good things Israel would receive if they would do as God said and take advantage of His promises. Then beginning in verse 15 for the following 54 verses, God tells Israel what will happen if they do not obey the provisions expressed in His covenant.
We all know the history of Israel from that point on. From the golden calf to corrupt king after corrupt king, Israel repeatedly turns away from God, worships pagan gods, and embraces sinful and destructive practices. They neglect to worship God and follow the false gods of their neighbors, even to the point of human sacrifice. Over and over, God responds by removing His protection of Israel and allowing foreign nations to overtake and destroy them. The whole message of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles tells of this destruction. Jeremiah and Hosea devote their entire lives and message to warning Israel.
When Israel returns to God, the covenant is restored until they again turn away, repeating the cycle of history. Finally, Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, and history repeats with a new covenant. Christ, the Anointed One predicted by the prophets, comes on the scene and establishes His Church. Through the Church, people can become new. (See Romans 6.)
So here we are in America today, repeating the cycle of history. Jesus shed His blood to make us one body free of all divisions and human fallacies. As in the past, God promises blessings when we obey His commands. We have seen those promises fulfilled as America has prospered and been blessed in many ways. However, today Americans are rebelling against God and His covenant.
In today’s society, we not only see people rejecting God but embracing the practices that will destroy our country. How long will God tolerate immorality? We see our nation restricting the worship of God, endorsing the dissolution of marriage, killing babies before they are born, and murdering children in school. The Church is all that stands against the complete rejection of God’s commands and His covenant. We can break the cycle of history by relying on God’s word and following His instructions, individually and as a nation. We can choose to follow God or repeat the cycle of history by following the path of the nations that rose and fell in the past.
In 1913 poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer wrote his best-known poem simply titled “Trees.” It begins with, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.” In fact, poems and trees have one thing in common. They are hard to define. What one person considers poetry could be something very different to another. The same is true of a tree. How can we define a tree?
There is no universally accepted common or scientific definition of a tree. Scientists classify all plants and animals into categories such as family, genus, and species. But trees, in general, don’t fit into any of those categories. You can assign any of those labels to a specific tree, but you can’t fit all trees into one specific classification. The best you can do is say that all trees are in the plant kingdom.
Even the common concept of a tree is a bit vague. You could say that a tree is a tall, woody plant with branches, leaves, bark, and a trunk that shows rings when you cut it down. That means what we call “palm trees” are not trees. Neither are banana trees, papaya trees, or Joshua trees. Also, bamboo is a plant that can grow to heights that exceed many trees, but we classify bamboo as grass. Many woody plants that we call shrubs or bushes can grow as tall as a height. How tall does a bush have to grow before we call it a tree?
No matter how you define trees, consider the benefits they give us. From trees, we get wood for furniture, homes, and buildings. We get fuel for campfires and even heating homes. Without the wood from trees, our ancestors could not have built boats and wagons that allowed them to travel, explore, and spread around the world. Trees provide shade, protection from wind, and in many cases, fruit. They can live for decades, centuries, or even thousands of years, releasing oxygen and taking in carbon dioxide to reduce Earth’s greenhouse effect. We will never find a poem lovely as a tree in spring, summer, or fall.
In Genesis, we read about the progressive steps of creation as God placed on Earth first grasses, then plants bearing seeds, and then trees bearing fruit that was good to eat (Genesis 1:11-12). God told the first couple to enjoy the fruit of all the trees except one. The beauty of the paradise where God placed Adam and Eve must have been beyond description. However, the tragedy that came because of the sin of pride and disobedience did not completely destroy that beauty. A glimpse of it has remained for us to enjoy, and it inspired Joyce Kilmer to write those words, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.”
No matter how you define trees, we could not live without them. Kilmer’s poem ends with, “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” God made the trees, and it was on a tree that He made the ultimate sacrifice for the sin that began with Adam and Eve. (See I Peter 2:21-24.) Sin has marred the beauty of the world and our lives as well. However, God has provided the solution–if we are willing to accept it.
American burying beetles (Nicrophorus americanus) are among nature’s most efficient and fascinating carcass recyclers. These largest carrion beetles in North America can be up to 1.77 inches (45 mm) long. Unfortunately, they are “critically threatened.”
American burying beetles have a unique appearance, with two bright orange patches on the covers of each of their shiny black wings. Their pronotum, a shield-like area just behind the head covering the thorax, also has an orange patch. In addition, an orange patch between their eyes is rounded on males but smaller and more triangular on females.
Carrion beetles such as American burying beetles play a vital role in returning valuable nutrients to the soil. Dead things would accumulate if tiny insects and microorganisms didn’t do that job. These carcass recyclers fly at night and use chemical receptors on their antennae to detect dead or decaying flesh.
It is unusual in the insect world for both the males and females to participate in raising the young, but American carrion beetles are involved parents. The male will find a carcass about the size of a small bird or chipmunk and attract a female. The two beetles bury the carcass, and the female will lay up to 30 eggs. When the larvae hatch, both parents feed the young from the decaying carcass while keeping them safe underground. After about a week, the larvae go into a pupal stage and eventually emerge as adults that live for about 12 months. When the temperature drops, they bury themselves for the winter and re-emerge in the spring.
We seldom think about the importance of carrion beetles as carcass recyclers, but they play an essential ecological role. Each living species is designed to serve a function in nature, and every loss destabilizes the fragile balance God gave us to enjoy and protect. We can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1:20).