Time Debate and Genesis

Time Debate and Genesis

Several years ago, I was involved in a three-way debate in California between a Young Earth Creationist, a Modern Apologist Scholar, and myself. I was supposed to present design arguments while the other two engaged in an intellectual tug-of-war over the Genesis account. I learned from that experience not to get involved in that kind of time debate again.

I have engaged in debates with atheists for over 50 years, but those debates were easy to understand, and the different views were clear. This Califonia debate was between believers. Because the subject was the integrity of the Genesis account, I used a chart that shows that the SEQUENCE of the Genesis 1 account and the fossil record are identical. The Apologist Scholar denigrated my chart by saying that the events described occurred over a 600 million year period, and, therefore, the Genesis account could not be viewed as historically accurate. The Young Earth Creationist reacted to that claim, and they engaged in a free-for-all about the time issues and the purpose of Genesis 1. The point of my chart was lost in the time debate.

Humans always get hung up on the time issues. God created time. Psalms 90:4 says, “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night.” God is outside of time, and the Bible tells us over-and-over not to restrict Him by demanding a time-scale for what God does. “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power” (Acts 1:7).

The message of Genesis is not about time. The first verse of the Bible describes an event and process that is not dated or timed. The fact that the first chapter gives an accurate account of the SEQUENCE in which God created the Earth and all that is on it is excellent evidence that it came from the Creator. Since God created time, there is no reason for us to get hung up on how long God chose to do His work.

Theologians have led us down a rocky road of ascribing dates and times to the things God has done or will do. The birth of Christ certainly did not happen on December 25. Denominations have been created by theologians who try to establish when Christ will come again and when the judgment will take place. This is even though Jesus said, “…of that day and hour knows no man, no not the angels of heaven – only my Father” (Matthew 24:36).

People want to know when things will happen so that they can be prepared, but 2 Peter 3:11 anticipates that and warns us to always be prepared. It is hard for us to comprehend the fact that time for us ends when we die. It is equally difficult to realize that God acts outside of time. Many people stumble by putting the Genesis account at odds with the scientific evidence or relegating the Bible to symbolism and mythology rather than being literally true. Don’t get caught up in the time debate and make time an enemy of faith in the God of love, truth, and wisdom portrayed in His Word.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Atheism and Defective Fathers

Atheism and Defective Fathers

There seems to be a connection between atheism and defective fathers. If you were to make a list of the most famous atheists of all time, what would they have in common? Such a list would include Freud, Nietzsche, Hume, Russell, Sartre, Camus, Schopenhauer, Hobbes, Meissner, Voltaire, Butler, Wells, Feuerbach, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Stalin, Hitler, Diderot, and Marx. They all had in common that they had either no relationship to their fathers or a defective one.

A book that explores this is Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul Vitz. Vitz quotes Freud as saying: “Psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal God is logically nothing but an exalted father, and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of their father breaks down.”

It is essential to understand that just because you had a bad father doesn’t automatically mean you will be an atheist. But I have personally seen people who were mistreated or abandoned by their biological fathers and had a difficult time accepting the concept of a heavenly Father. It’s easy to see how there could be a connection between atheism and defective fathers. If all you know of “father” is someone who abused you, then any notion of a loving heavenly Father may be hard to accept fully.

In this day of single parents, fatherless children, and dysfunctional father figures, we can expect further growth in faith problems. The New Testament writers were aware of this and frequently addressed the need for fathers to have the strength to be the men God called them to be. “You fathers, don’t rouse your children to resentment, but raise them by letting the Lord train and correct them” (Ephesians 6:4). “Fathers do not fret and harass your children, lest they become discouraged and quit trying” (Colossians 3:21).

The biblical concept of a father is not that of an abusive tyrant, but a loving provider. Children can understand the spiritual father is one of love and care and compassion even if they have not had the best of experiences with their biological father. Thank God for Christian fathers.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

NOTE: Biblical quotes are from The New Testament from 26 Translations by Zondervan Publishing.

Menopause and Women’s Roles

Menopause and Women's Roles

“IT’S NOT FAIR!!” my atheist, feminist opponent declared. “Why would your God allow men to father children well into their old age while the average woman ceases having menstrual cycles by the age of 51.” Her challenge sent me digging into the whole business of menopause and women’s roles, and how they are designed and why.

The facts in a woman’s reproductive life are clear. Pregnancy becomes more hazardous with age, and younger women are more likely to survive childbirth than older women. It is a fact that we see more chromosomal abnormalities in the ova of women over 40, so there are genetic issues as well.

Aside from the survival rate physically and genetically of children born to older mothers, there is the issue of different roles that women have at different times in their lives. If a woman reaches menopause by the age of 50 and she lives to be 80, she has time for a new phase of life–that of being a grandmother. Studies on a variety of societies have shown that the survival rate of children in primitive societies is directly related to the presence of grandmothers. Assuming that human children need their mothers until they are around ten years old, the support of a grandmother can obviously be a positive feature.

We are all familiar with the poem “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” As a public school teacher in an inner-city high school, I saw a huge number of grandmothers who came to PTA meetings or conferences about the needs of a child. In our day of working mothers and single parents, the need for the role of grandmother is undeniable.

The apostle Paul described the foundation of the faith of the young man, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 1:5: “When I call to remembrance that unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice…”

One of the things that defines us as humans is the exceptional care that we receive from our mothers. The difficult business of raising children today is compounded by the unwillingness of many to accept our biological design. The facts of menopause and women’s roles clearly show evidence of design.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Natural History magazine, July/August 1998, pages 24-26.

Blaming Christians for COVID-19

Stop Blaming Christians for COVID-19

Atheists and the atheistic media are using the coronavirus to attack those who believe in God. They have taken the refusal of several extremist religious figures to practice social distancing and used it as a club against Christians. There is no justification for blaming Christians for COVID-19.

The New York Times and Salon.com cite Jerry Falwell Jr.’s reopening of Liberty University and the actions of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne as “crippling our coronavirus response.” Numerous atheist journals and websites have repeated those claims. This smear technique is an old tool of those who wish to attack others. Blaming Christians for COVID-19 is like saying that because Hitler hates Jews, all Germans hate Jews.

What Falwell and Brown are doing is in contradiction to the Bible. Romans 13 finds Paul telling Christians, “Submit yourselves to the governing authorities…He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted …” Paul goes on to say that God uses these rulers to help us. That is indeed happening in this pandemic. The fact is that Christians can worship anywhere, and Jesus made it clear that “where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). It seems that Howard-Browne is either ignorant of Romans 13 or has his eye on something other than spiritual matters. We suggest that finances are involved in both cases.

Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney said, “It was entirely predictable that the Left would blame Christians for spreading the virus. Nothing is more satisfying to secular liberals than to look down on believers as self-deluded anti-science rubes.” The fact is that the virus started in China, where Christians make up less than 3% of the population. It has gone wild in places like New Orleans and New York City, which are hardly places where Falwell and Howard-Browne’s followers dominate the population.

Those blaming Christians for COVID-19 need to stop bashing God and Christianity and do what many Christians are doing. The followers of Jesus are serving those who can’t get out by delivering food and medicine, making face masks, and providing transportation for those who need it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Value of a Whale

Value of a Whale - Humpback Breaching

Many years ago, an atheist challenged my statement that everything in the creation had a designed purpose and filled a need. My atheist friend insisted that the whale is one example of a poorly designed creature with no purpose. He said that they eat massive amounts of the ocean’s food that could be eaten by other, more useful creatures. He also challenged that they contribute nothing to the ecology of the oceans. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to why whales are useful. Whale oil seemed to me to be a weak answer. Since then, I have learned the value of a whale.

One of the things I love about science is that it continues to look for understandings of the world in which we live. New studies of whales have revealed some facts that show the whale is incredibly useful. The current winter edition of Defenders of Wildlife magazine reports data on the value of a whale.

Whales live a long time, and they accumulate carbon in their bodies. When the whale dies, it takes that carbon to the ocean bottom, removing it from the atmosphere. New research shows that each whale takes 33 tons (30 metric tons) of carbon out of the atmosphere. By comparison, a tree absorbs 48 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide a year. In 60 years, which is the lifespan of most whales, a tree would remove one ton of carbon from the air. Whales play a role in removing the greenhouse gas that people are concerned about today.

In a whale’s lifetime, it will bring minerals to the ocean surface to stimulate phytoplankton growth. This plankton contributes more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 37 billion tons (33.5 metric tons) of carbon dioxide a year. Phytoplankton also sustains many fish species, and today, fishing is a 150 billion dollar industry.

So what is the value of a whale? Defenders of Wildlife maintains that each whale is worth more than two million dollars. God has a purpose for everything He created, but sometimes it takes us a long time to understand how His creatures help us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Power to Forgive Like Jesus

Power to Forgive

There are many things about Christianity that are unique. One of the most important of these is the Christian concept of forgiveness. No other religious or philosophical system emphasizes the power to forgive that we see in Jesus.

As an atheist living in an atheist home, I saw the emphasis on survival and “getting even.” One of our favorite sayings was, “Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.” In opposition to that view, Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Thinking he was being generous, Peter asked, “Up to 7 times?” Jesus responded with, “…seventy times seven.” In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:12-15, Jesus taught that our forgiveness by God was dependent on our forgiving of others. The various forms of the word “forgive” occur 143 times in the Bible.

All of us have known people who carry a grudge for years and years. Long ago, I was working with two older men on a project in a basement. I had been told that these two men had not spoken to each other for 30 years because of a conflict they had with each other. One of them fell off a ladder and was hanging from a pipe. The other man was standing there looking at him when I got there and helped him down. The guy hanging wasn’t going to ask for help, and the other guy wasn’t going to help unless asked. When I asked them what had caused the problem neither of them could tell me. They hadn’t spoken to each other for 30 years, but neither of them knew why.

Grudges, bad memories, conflict, and unkind words and thoughts can eat you alive. Mental illness is sometimes rooted in problems with forgiveness. Sometimes it’s because we are unable to forgive ourselves. We need to understand that Christ died to give us the power to forgive. Even if we struggle to forgive ourselves, we need to realize that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us..” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

We sometimes read of a Christian forgiving a person who killed their loved one, and we think, “How could they do that?” Don’t underestimate what Jesus can do. Unlike other religious leaders, Jesus demonstrated the power to forgive, and He expects to do the same. Remember that as Jesus was being crucified, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Atheist In Foxhole Courage Award

Atheist In Foxhole Courage Award and the Ten Commandments

One of the most vocal atheist groups in America today is the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which operates out of Madison, Wisconsin. They present a prize called the Atheist In Foxhole Courage Award. At their Pittsburgh convention in 2016, they gave it to Marie Schaub, who successfully sued the Valley High School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. The court decision forced the school district to remove a six-foot monument of the Ten Commandments that stood in front of the high school.

The monument was erected during the Eisenhower administration in honor of veterans who graduated from the high school and who died defending America. In her acceptance speech, Schaub said that she was “confused and sickened” the first time she saw the monument. She referred to its removal as “righting a wrong that was committed so long ago.” And she said removing it “will provide a more welcoming environment.”

What is “wrong” with a series of statements about not murdering, not stealing, and not bearing false witness? It is hard to comprehend how removing admonitions to young people about right living makes the environment more welcoming. Reminding young people of their heritage, and that the high school has a history of heroes who defended America seems hard to criticize. If the basis of removing the monument was to avoid offending those who do not accept the historical underpinnings of this country, one might be able to make a case for the removal. Vilifying the Ten Commandments is a very different thing.

So the Atheist in Foxhole Courage Award is given to people who don’t have the courage to see something that makes them “sickened and confused” because they can’t accept what it says. The FFRF and other atheist organizations are dedicated to “removing every historical monument that mentions God from the public arena.” That will obliterate much of America’s history with no reasonable replacement.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

You can read or hear the full text of Ms. Shaub’s acceptance speech HERE.

Christmas Traditions and the Bible

Christmas Traditions and the Bible

When I was an atheist, this time of year used to drive me nuts. There was so much about the story of the birth of Jesus that didn’t make sense. I viewed Christmas as a classic demonstration of the foolishness of Christians who would believe any myth that came along. I was confusing Christmas traditions and the Bible.

Then I started actually studying the Bible with the stated intent to prove it wrong. I soon discovered that what I objected to was human traditions and not mistakes in the Bible. Studying Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2:1-20 told a whole different story than what I saw on TV shows and Christmas cards. Here are some of my confusions that the Bible resolved:

How could a star stand over the place where the baby was? The closest star to Earth is 4.3 light-years away and shines on the whole planet, not a single place. The Bible does not indicate a celestial star. Herod couldn’t see the star and charged the “wise men” to tell him where the baby was. The biblical concept of this kind of celestial object was what is called the Shekinah glory. It is used frequently in the Bible, especially during the Israelite journey in the wilderness. See Exodus 13:21, 24:17, 40:38 and Ezekiel 1:28, 10:18, 11:23, 43:2.

No “Three Kings” would make such a journey to honor anything. Here again, there is a difference between Christmas traditions and the Bible. Matthew indicates they came from the east, and the word used to describe them is “magos,” from which we get our word “magician.” Luke uses the same word to describe a sorcerer in Acts 13:6-8. They were astrologers from Persia or Arabia, and the Bible doesn’t tell us how many there were. It only mentions three gifts. These three individuals arrived first in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. The Bible doesn’t tell us when they arrived at the location of the child Jesus.

The Bible also doesn’t name the magi, but their traditional names and descriptions are highly symbolic. Tradition describes Melchoir as old, white-haired, and he brought gold – a gift usually reserved for kings. Gaspar, who was young and beardless, brought frankincense – a fragrant gum resin which was often burned to give a balsam odor which symbolized God’s people ascending to heaven. Balthazar, who was black, had a heavy beard and brought myrrh. Myrrh was a fragrant resin from Arabia, frequently used as an embalming material. (See John 19:39.) None of these names and descriptions are in the Bible – it is all tradition.

The “Christmas story” stated in the Bible is credibly simple. The traditions are not, but they are just traditions invented by humans. It took me many years to realize the difference between Christmas traditions and the Bible. Many times there is a vast difference between what the Bible says and what humans say it says.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Two Things I Wouldn’t Have Without God

Two Things I Wouldn't Have Without God - Secure Relationships

Yesterday, I said that I lived for years as a committed, evangelistic, aggressive atheist, but then I came to believe in God. I mentioned three things I wouldn’t have without God. Here are an additional two things I wouldn’t have without God.

4. I wouldn’t have a basis of secure family relationships – neither physical, emotional, nor spiritual. All the ingredients of “family” are rooted in the concept of there being a God. Terminating a life that has nobody to speak up for it is a function of one’s moral behavior. Abortion and involuntary euthanasia are both functions of rejecting the value of all human life. The survival of the fittest necessarily places one in the position of rejecting family when that family interferes with your fitness. Belief in God fosters a desire to have a role that puts others above yourself and breeds love and fulfilling peace. It even spreads to those of like faith so that brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and children can be family even if there isn’t a blood relationship.

5. I wouldn’t have hope for anything beyond this life. If there is no God, then our entire existence is couched in what happens in this life. If I am not fit, then death is the best I can hope for. I will never be in a positive survival mode, no matter how hard I struggle. If I am fit, it will only be for a short time until old age makes me less fit. Faith in God means that whatever my lot in this life, this is the worst thing I will ever experience. I have great hope for what lies ahead, and obeying and serving God, which involves serving others, is a real joy for me.

Those are two things I wouldn’t have without God. As an atheist, I didn’t have any of the five things I mentioned yesterday and today. Neither did my atheist family and my atheist friends. For many years now, I have lived a life based on belief in God. It hasn’t always been easy, and I have failed in many ways. But even if someone were to convince me there is no God, I would still want to be a Christian. I have seen the love and hope and joy of living as Christ has called us to live. The evidence for the existence of God is massive, and that simply elevates the importance of the five things I wouldn’t have without God.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Human Double Image

Human Double Image

In reading the Bible, you might get the impression that it presents a human double image:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” Genesis 1: 27

“…and Adam begat a son in his own likeness after his image; and called his name Seth …” Genesis 5:3.

Both Christians and Atheists are often confused about the meaning of these images. With our modern understanding of genetics, it should be easy for us to understand this human double image in our relationship to one another. Perhaps less easy to see is our relationship to God. On average, the genetic difference between humans is .1 %. Even though this seems very small, it accounts for the differences that make us individuals, including race, hair, facial features, body type, fingerprints, etc. Our DNA can stand up in a court of law to prove our individuality. A genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis is due to a .00004% error in the genome, Seth was in the physical image of Adam, and especially at that early stage of human development Seth must have looked very much like Adam.

When God created Adam in “His own image,” it should be clear that it does not mean Adam’s physical image. In Genesis 2:7, we see a clear reference to the creation of the physical makeup of Adam. The Hebrew word used in verse 7 is “yatsar,” which refers to something an artist or potter might do. The verse says God made Adam’s body from the dust of the Earth. God breathed “into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” In Genesis 1:27, the Hebrew word used is “bara,” which refers to a miraculous act that only God can do. Man is spiritually in God’s image, and woman also has that spiritual component.

In John 1:14, we read that the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us. A change took place in the divine son of God. He became flesh. When we visualize God as a man, we see Him on our level. We can’t understand how God can do the things He does, because He is not limited to a physical body as we are.

We have a human double image. Our physical form is limited and will return to the dust from which it came. Like Seth, we may have genetic similarities to others, but our soul is in God’s image and does not have the physical limitations of our body. Heaven may not be appealing to some who view it as a physical retreat. However, a timeless spiritual existence has joy that our physical bodies cannot even comprehend. We need to take care of our physical bodies to enjoy good health and long years in this life, but more important is to take care of our spiritual self. That part of us is created in the image of God, and that part of our image is eternal.

— John N. Clayton © 2019