Bible: Then and Now

Bible: Then and Now

Today’s post is different from our usual news reports or scientific explanations. A member of our congregation recently passed away, and his widow gave us some of his books. One of the books is like none I have never seen before. The book is titled Bible: Then and Now by Jenny Roberts.

In our quarterly printed journal, we have a section where we generally review current books relating to Christian apologetics. While this is not a recent book or a book on apologetics, it helps us understand the geographic world of Jesus’ day and what that same place looks like today.

The book has modern pictures of 14 ancient cities as they are today. Facing each picture on transparencies is an artistic work of what the city would have looked like during biblical times. You can lay the transparency on top of the modern picture to see what is left today and what was there when the biblical events took place. The book describes each city’s history with numerous photographs of the major archaeological discoveries.

I found this to be a fascinating book for learning Bible history. It gives you an understanding of how what you see now reflects what happened in the past and the setting in which it occurred.

Bible: Then and Now was published in 2001. It may be out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon. If you are interested, just go to Amazon.com, select the “books” category and enter this ISBN number 0-7858-1445-0.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Williamson Pink Diamond and Apologetics

Williamson Pink Diamond and Apologetics
We sometimes hear traditionalists say that apologetics is an affront to faith. The idea is that you just have to believe and therefore trying to show evidence for God’s existence is misdirected. They insist that nowhere in the Bible is there an attempt to convince people that God is real. There is an interesting story about the discovery of the Williamson pink diamond that illustrates the role of looking at evidence to come to a valid conclusion.

First of all, we would question the assertion that the Bible does not attempt to convince people of God’s existence. Passages like Romans 1:19-23, Psalms 19:1-3, Psalms 139:14-18, and Proverbs 8 certainly make an apologetic argument. In using parables, Jesus called people to look at the creation around them to come to faith.

The Williamson pink diamond is the main feature of the royal brooch of Queen Elizabeth II. It forms the center of a flower with five white diamonds forming the petals. It was a 54.5-carat rough diamond which was cut to a 23.6 brilliant cut diamond.

John Williamson was a Canadian geologist. In 1947 he was driving his Land Rover on a muddy back-country road in what is today Tanzania when he got stuck in the mud. As Williamson was digging the Land Rover out of the mud, he noticed a pink rock that was typical of rocks that contain diamonds. Because of his geology training, he knew rocks and the formations of the area. He carefully extracted the rock and cleaned it up, realizing that it was a very large diamond. That is how he found the flawless pink diamond. At the time of his death from cancer in 1958, Williamson owned a diamond mine at that location and was one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Thousands of people had driven that road and probably saw the rock that contained the pink diamond. Williamson’s training enabled him to realize what the rock was and pushed him to look at it carefully. Being able to recognize evidence is essential. There are some of us who have come to faith through science.

The “Does God Exist?” ministry was started and has been maintained for over 50 years by men and women who recognize the scientific evidence for God’s existence and the credibility of the Bible. Like John Williamson who gave the Williamson pink diamond to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip upon their wedding in November of 1947, we wish to share the evidence that led us to faith. This ministry is a part of our attempt to share the valuable gem we have found through science.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

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

Correspondence Courses

Correspondence Courses
The ‘Does God Exist?” program offers correspondence courses. Two of the classes are in apologetics and are graded by John Clayton. One is a basic course suitable for elementary school children, but also for adults with limited scientific background. The other is a college-level course which is also offered on our doesgodexist.org website as well as by mail.

In addition to those two correspondence courses, we offer nine other courses graded by other volunteers that are strictly Bible study courses. Two are basic courses with one designed for men and women who are incarcerated. One is a 12 lesson course for people concerned about substance abuse. Four courses are offered that are general Bible study courses, and two are advanced Bible study courses.

These correspondence courses are all offered free, and we pay the postage for returning the lessons for grading. We have 3700 students enrolled in our apologetics courses, and over 90% of those students are in prison. We provide all materials, give a certificate of completion of a course, and offer a new enrollment in another course. We do not allow students to take more than one class at a time.

If you have an interest in enrolling in a course, send us an email or a written request, and we will send you a form describing the courses so you can choose which one you want to take. Send emails to jncdge@aol.com and written requests to 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles MI 49120.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Evidence for God Reaching the “Nones”

Evidence for God Reaching the "Nones"
All of the polls and surveys tell us that 40% of the American public when asked what their religious beliefs are, answer by saying “none.” Within the Church, we see the same issue. A large percentage of our congregations see their membership becoming older in average age and smaller in number. The evidence for God is there for those who are willing to look.

The difficulty is that many of our young people have an inherited faith or an emotional faith. An inherited faith is one where the person comes to worship and/or is baptized because that is the way they were raised. As one young man told me, “It’s a small price to pay for peace at home.” An emotional faith is one where the person is stampeded into “coming forward” because of a guilt trip or because their best friend responded to an invitation for baptism at camp or in a Vacation Bible School.

Jesus called people to a faith based on evidence. Thomas is the classic example of that. (See John 20:24-29.) Paul reasoned with the people of his day. (See Acts 17:18-34.) Romans 1:20, Psalms 19:1 and numerous other passages tell us we can know why we believe what we believe through the creation around us. I am one who came to believe in God through the scientific evidence for God that is available to all of us.

God has given us the tools to reach people with evidential faith in the twenty-first century. For 50 years now I have been blessed to reach out to college and university students, and to people who have left the Church because they doubted that the God of the Bible is real and that His Word is God-breathed. We offer a free course on evidences for the existence of God on doesgodexist.org. Anyone can watch our video course for free on doesgodexist.tv.

A large percentage of the students in our courses and followers of our Facebook page are “nones.” If you really want to examine the evidence for God, we invite you to join us for a study of the evidence that God exists.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Science and Biblical Apologetics

Science and Biblical Apologetics
Every so often we get a negative comment from someone suggesting that this ministry is misdirected. We deal with science and biblical apologetics in an attempt to show that science and the Bible are friends and not enemies. The negative comments are, “You just have to believe” or “Any attempt to use human intelligence to build faith is an exercise in futility.”

Such a view is out of touch with the needs of people living in the twenty-first century, and it also contradicts what the Bible teaches. Jesus frequently used scientific knowledge as the basis of a parable. In Matthew 16:2-3 Christ uses the fact that people can look at the sky in the evening and the morning to forecast the weather. Much of Proverbs chapter 8 tells about the role of wisdom in the creation. Romans 1:18-22 speaks of learning from the design seen in everything around us. Psalms 19 tells us that God’s handiwork in the heavens declares His glory.

One of the most interesting apologetic teachings of the Bible is seen in Job’s statement to his friends in Job 12:2-13:
“And who does not know such things as these?… But now ask the beast, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you; or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Does not the ear test words, as the palate tastes its food? Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding. With Him are wisdom and might, to Him belong counsel and understanding.”

In Job 38-41 God confronts Job concerning his complaints about his suffering. God begins with an apologetic discourse on the scientific answers to the creation of the world that we see around us. Job responds with a reflection on our limitations as humans: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things that are too wonderful for me to know… my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you …” Job 42:3-6.

Science and biblical apologetics have been important in ancient times, and they are even more important today.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

South America Apologetic Outreach (Part 2)

South America Apologetic Outreach
Yesterday I started to describe what we found on our South America apologetic outreach during our recent lectureships in Colombia. As we spoke with people on the street, both men and women told me that they know the “Church” is a fake. They cite the failure of the Catholic Church to improve the standard of living of “common people” in countries like Colombia in spite of the enormous wealth the church holds. Several of them had suffered abuse at the hands of a church leader, and their expressions of pain were suppressed only by the church’s control.

The Colombian young people had seen the conflict between what they learned from television and on their computers and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was warned that if my lessons contained material in opposition to Catholic teaching, I would experience chastisement. At one point while our group was singing in the plaza, a Catholic priest came out of the church building and took one of our handouts. It seemed obvious that he was taking notes, and I gave him a business card for “Does God Exist?’ We have not heard from him as yet.

Atheists have taken note of all of this. Richard Dawkins has challenged the Catholic Church to a series of debates In December of 2017 at three universities in Colombia. Father Gerardo Remolina, a Vatican-trained scholar, has accepted Dawkin’s challenge. We hope to monitor these debates. Also, Dawkins has offered a competition to the young people of Colombia. He challenged them to watch the BBC program “Beautiful Minds” and write a five-page paper on why the life of an atheist is the best way to live. Dawkins will choose ten winners, and he will give them a personal tour of the British Museum.

In our lectureships in Ecuador and Colombia, we found intense interest in our approach. Young South Americans are rejecting Roman Catholicism. They are resenting the abuse, hypocrisy, and lack of constructive use of the Roman Catholic Church’s great wealth. They no longer are willing to live by an irrational faith based on tradition. Being told to THINK, to study the evidence for themselves and to believe that science and faith are friends and not enemies is a message they are eager to hear and accept.

We were blessed in our presentations in Ecuador and Colombia with two men who have lived in those countries for much of their lives and could translate our material accurately. We now have our videos subtitled in Spanish, and we hope to expand the outreach of our booklets and children’s material by translating them into Spanish. Unfortunately, we are a very small voice in a very large mission area. Dawkins and his associates are making their main thrust to reach university students, and those are the people who will control the moral and financial future of these countries. Already the Health Minister of Colombia, who is an atheist, has vowed to make abortion legal in his term. He states his atheist belief as the reason for that goal.

People in Ecuador and Colombia are eager to establish a meaningful relationship with God. They have seen the violence and murderous actions of drug warlords and the cartels who deny the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. They have also experienced the apathy, abuse, and politics of organized religion through the Catholic Church. The need is great for a South America apologetic outreach. The people are anxious to learn a new way of living guided by God. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Apologetics Course Has 3700 Students

Apologetics Course
We now have 3700 students taking our Christian apologetics course. We began that ministry in 1960 working with prisoners in Indiana. We wrote a three-lesson apologetics course because a large percentage of the incarcerated people we talked to had lost or were struggling with their faith.

That basic correspondence course kept growing, being updated and revised to the point where we now have 13 lessons. John Clayton grades all of the courses, but we prepared a teacher’s guide for use in Bible school classes and youth programs. We quickly found that the course was too basic for many of our prisoner students, so we began a 13 lesson college-level course. We have offered that course for 20 years, and it is also on our website (doesgodexist.org).

We offer students who complete either one or both of our apologetics courses nine other courses that are Bible-study programs taught by other teachers. There are also contact opportunities with congregations geographically close to the students. All of these courses are free and postage-paid both ways.

We no longer offer the basic course online because of hacking issues, but we will mail it to anyone requesting to be enrolled. You can take the course online by simply opening the question sheet for each lesson, copying and pasting the answers, and emailing them to John Clayton. Details are on the website. Whether online or by mail, our courses are always free of charge.

We send a completion certificate to those students who finish either apologetics course. We will also send a copy of our primary book The Source to those completing the advanced course and requesting it.
–John N. Clayton © 2017