One Nation Under God

Hobby Lobby - One Nation Under GodOn July 3, 2019, Hobby Lobby took out a full-page ad in newspapers all over the country titled One Nation Under God. Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A are two large companies in the United States that have consistently pushed a Christian agenda in the way they conduct their business and in the things they promote.

Chick-Fil-A closes on Sundays to allow their employees to attend Church and spend time with their families. Atheists groups have tried to prevent Chick-Fil-A from getting contracts at airports and public universities because of their Christian stand.

Hobby Lobby has also promoted the Christian faith and its values and practices. The One Nation Under God ad quotes Psalms 33:12, which says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” The ad also quotes American presidents, founding fathers, Supreme Court justices and rulings, Congress members, educators, and even foreign opinions.

The quotes in One Nation Under God are worth reading, and they show America’s history in relation to the Christian faith. It would be interesting to see what difficulties the ad buyers of Hobby Lobby ran into when they tried to purchase space in some newspapers that are traditionally opposed to Christianity.

To see the ad and read the quotes, click HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Most Hated Woman in America

Madalyn Murray OHair - Most Hated Woman in AmericaWhen I was active in organized atheism, the most visible atheist in America was a lady named Madalyn Murray. She started battling organized religion in the 1930s and was best known for her successful challenge to prayer in public schools. She married a U.S. Marine in 1965 and took the name Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Because of her work, she became known as the most hated woman in America.

As a young atheist, I was inspired by her debating skills, and I used her posters and many of her arguments in my atheist activities. Her business manager eventually murdered her. After she died, all kinds of stories surfaced about her activities. Robert Liston had several interviews with her, and some of her comments as he reveals them are interesting. Here are a few:

“I am more interested in having a good fight than I am in the separation of church and state.”

“I don’t really care that much about atheism. I’m not well-read in philosophy and theology. I’ve always been more interested in politics and social reform.”

“I love a good fight. I’ve always been like this all my life – and I’ve always won. I guess fighting God and God’s spokesmen is sort of the ultimate, isn’t it?”

The more you listen to her comments, the more you realize her primary motivation was not to destroy the abuses of religion and preserve the constitution of the United States. She seemed to enjoy being the most hated woman in America. Liston mentions that she once stated her intention of “carving out a job for myself.” The man who murdered Madalyn had embezzled quite a bit of money from her, so she must have done well at her job.

One of the reasons that all of our materials are free is that we don’t want to allow anyone to impugn our motives in doing this ministry. Contrary to what Madalyn and other atheists have said, there are a few of us who believe in God for reasons other than fleecing a lot of believers out of their savings.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Saturday Evening Post, July/August 2019, page 96.

Cross on Public Land Bladensburg, Maryland

Bladensburg Cross on Public LandIn 1925 a group of people erected a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland to honor 49 local men who died in World War 1. In 1961 the state bought the land and since that time it has maintained it, including the Bladensburg cross. Recently there have been court challenges to allowing a cross on public land.

During the first week of July 2019, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the cross could stay even though it was on public land. This decision is not really a victory for those who want Christian symbols on public land. The justification for the Court allowing the Bladensburg cross to remain is that it had taken on a secular meaning as a memorial, and was no longer a Christian symbol.

It should be evident that this ruling by the Supreme Court would not apply to most situations since most crosses are not part of a secular memorial. Religious people tend to twist the descriptions of their symbols to get around the law. When the Catholic Church objected to using the King James Bible in public schools, people who were pushing for the study of the Bible changed its classification to literature rather than religion.

Jesus Christ never told His followers to worship a cross or any other physical thing. It seems to many of us that a cross on public land or otherwise can easily become an idol. Perhaps it can become a twenty-first-century golden calf rather than an intelligent response to the needs of our modern culture.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

For more details on this, click HERE.

What Is Hell?

What Is Hell?What is hell, and why does God threaten to send us there? For the past two days, we have been looking at the challenges of this email we received:
“How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

The emailer’s understanding of hell is traditional, not biblical. No one can answer all the questions about hell with authority, because no one has been there and returned to tell about it. Works like Dante’s Inferno have influenced us. Preachers who have used hell as a scare tactic to control their audiences. Misconceptions abound.

So what is hell? We tend to portray hell as a place of eternal punishing rather than a place of eternal punishment. There is a difference. When Jesus talked about hell, He used clearly symbolic words. He spoke of hell as a place of flames and burning sulfur (brimstone). Another time he called it a place of darkness (see Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Sometimes we hear hell explained by the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus. The description of hell is presumed to be taken as literal. However, no Christian sees it as an instruction to pray to Abraham or that Abraham is the judge. Those things are presented in the story.

What we can say about hell is that it is total separation from God. An atheist who never wanted anything to do with God in life is going to be granted that same wish in hell. God never forces himself on any person. We are always free to reject God if we so choose. The only problem is that we must also suffer the consequences of that rejection of God. God is love, light, good, compassion, justice, etc. All of those things will be a part of heaven. None of those things will exist in hell. Being lost is frequently described in the Bible as “the second death” (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Theologians argue endlessly over what this means, and whether the soul can die. I certainly have nothing to add to the discussion, but I know that being separated from God and all the blessings of God is not something I wish even to consider.

The emailer states everything in diametric opposition to the truth. God is good, not evil. God is love, not hate. Hell is simply the separation from God that the emailer claims to desire. God clearly says that He does not want anyone to be lost, but for all to inherit eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). However, God also allows us to reject Him and all He offers. This is like the parent who painfully releases a child to travel a road the parent wishes they would not travel, hoping they will learn from the wrong choices and return to the parent’s loving embrace. The Prodigal Son story in Luke 15 makes this so obvious that no one can miss it.

Our rejection is not what God desires, and He always is there to welcome us back. What is hell? Our wrong choices can bring us death and eternal separation from God. That is hell, and you do not want any part of it. Come to God, obey His love and blessings. Enjoy eternal life with love, peace, joy, compassion, forgiveness, and freedom from pain that we can only dimly imagine.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

-May/June 2006

Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?

Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?Why does God tell us what to do and punish us for not doing it? Yesterday we began to consider the frustrations of the person who sent us this email:
“How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

The emailer’s view of why God tells us to do things is badly misinformed. God does not tell us what to do because God is a control freak. Many people seem to feel that God’s commands are just the reflection of an ego that demands things that make Him feel better.

The first problem here is that these folks have a very poor understanding of what God is. God is not a human consumed with human passions and weaknesses. God does not have self-image problems, ego problems, moods, sexual desires, power struggles, or feelings of envy. God is not a human and is not limited to human emotions and feelings. Furthermore, God does not need us. Over and over the Bible defines God as love, light, a spirit, not flesh and blood, not a man, etc. (see John 4:24; Matthew 16:17; 1 John 1:5; 4:8,12,16; Numbers 23:19; John 1:1). Suggesting that God tells us what to do because He wants to have control over us and satisfy His own power needs is a complete misunderstanding of God’s nature.

Why does God tell us what to do? Even with our limited ability to understand, we can see that everything God tells us to do is for our own good. God’s rules for sexual expression are the right formula to give us the best and most fulfilling aspect of sex. Sexual clinicians agree that a single committed relationship is the best formula for completeness and fulfillment. Nobody questions the fact that STDs will not spread in a monogamous, committed relationship. Even the most radical proponents of alternative lifestyles cannot argue that their proposals for gay marriage, polygamy, or whatever are superior to God’s plan of one man one woman committed to serving each other for life. They argue theirs is as good, and that is an argument that the data does not support. No one questions the wisdom of the biblical instructions that oppose violence, murder, or abuse.

Even those things that God tells us to do in worship are for our own well being. God does not ask us to pray because He needs information from us, or because He needs praise. Prayer is an act which helps us to learn to look to a higher power and reach beyond ourselves. That is something recognized by every 12-step program to overcoming addictions. Interestingly, some groups opposed to the existence of God are now promoting Transcendental Meditation and other similar acts as a substitute for prayer.

Giving is not something God tells us to do because He needs our money. If we believe that God is the creator of all things, then we surely understand that. Giving is something humans need to learn to do for our own well being. The biblical injunction, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) is really a discussion of what benefits the giver, not what benefits the receiver. The person who never learns to give will be unsuccessful in his marriage, in his sexual relationships, in his family, and his friendships. Every act God instructs us to do is for our well-being, not for control purposes.

Why does God tell us what to do? Because He loves us! Tomorrow, we will deal with the emailer’s question about hell.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

New Testament Manuscripts

New Testament Manuscripts Trustworthy?We often see challenges to the trustworthiness of the New Testament manuscripts with statements like this from an atheist website:

“The New Testament has been translated so many times and modified by copiers in so many ways over the past 2,000 years, that it is impossible to have any confidence in its accuracy.”

Such statements are usually coupled with the old game where a row of people whisper a story from one to the next until the last person receives something very different. Communication is hard. People make mistakes when they tell someone else what happened. To believe that the New Testament is still accurate after nearly 2,000 years is more than many people can accept.

The problem is that most of us are ignorant about how we got the Bible. When you whisper a story from person A to person B to C, and so forth, you are using linear transmission. The problem with going through 10 linear transmissions is that each person in the chain can add his own error, and the end product gets further and further away from the original.

When I was a kid, my father handed me a board that was the right length for the roof of the chicken coop we were making. He told me to cut ten boards to the same length. I took the one he gave me and marked the second board and cut it. Then I took the second board and marked the third board and cut it. Then I took the third board and marked the fourth board and cut it. By the time I got to the tenth board, I had added a foot to the length of the board. Each cut added its own error. Could the same problem have taken place in the transmission of the New Testament documents?

The transmission of the biblical text was geometric, not linear. What we mean is that the original manuscript was copied many times, not just once. In the previous example, if I had taken the first board and used it to mark each of the ten boards, there would have been no problem. In the New Testament documents, the copiers took the first copy and made 50 copies. Those 50 copies were copied by people at different places producing perhaps 250 copies. This is a geometric progression, not a linear one.

Gregory Koukl in an excellent article “Facts for Skeptics of the New Testament” in Christian Research Journal (volume 27, number 3, page 10) gave a great illustration of how geometric progression can help us determine the actual content of an original document. It is called “Aunt Sally’s Letter,” and it goes like this:

Aunt Sally invents a fantastic recipe. She makes 30 copies of the recipe and gives it to her friends. Each of her friends makes 30 copies of the one they were given and give it to 30 of their friends. Aunt Sally comes home one day and discovers that her dog has eaten the only copy of the recipe she has. She calls her 30 friends she gave the recipe to and asks them to send their copy back so she can remake her own copy. Twenty-seven of the copies are exactly the same. The three that are different have different problems. One has a misspelled word. One has an inverted phrase (“mix and then chop” instead of “chop and then mix”). One has an ingredient that is not in any of the other recipes.

Can Aunt Sally reconstruct her original recipe from what she has? To assume that the copy with the added ingredient is right, would be inconsistent. There is too much evidence that the added ingredient was not in the original with only one out of 30 copies having it. The other two mistakes are common human errors, and it does not make any sense to leave them in the recipe.

That story illustrates in simplified form what scholars call “textual criticism.” It is a careful literary process scholars use on all kinds of documents to correct copying errors. Because the Bible s copied in geometric form, it is a prime candidate for this kind of work. Variations in New Testament manuscripts are greatly exaggerated. Atheist and skeptic websites report that there are 300,000 individual variations of the New Testament text in the manuscripts. They present this seemingly massive amount of variations to show that there can be no confidence in the New Testament manuscripts.

Dr. Daniel Wallace in an article in Bibliotheca Sacra (“The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?” 148,590 [1991]:page 157) pointed out that most of the differences are spelling errors and minor phrasing problems equaling a total of about 400 words in about 40 lines of original text. This is out of 20,000 lines of text, meaning that the Greek text of the New Testament is 99.5% pure. There are very few historical documents of any kind which come close to this level of purity.

Biblical manuscript evidence is massive. Here is a conservative summary of textual evidence:

Different Greek manuscripts available: 5,366
Complete New Testament manuscripts from ninth to fifteenth centuries: 34
Earliest complete New Testament date: A.D. 340
Oldest fragment of the New Testament date: A.D. 117-138
Translations into Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian: A.D. 300-400

Much of the support for the accuracy of New Testament manuscripts comes from fragments. A good example is the John Rylands Papyri, which contains all of John 18:31-33. Paleographic dating puts the age of this fragment at “earlier than A.D. 117.” This fragment is about three inches square but gives us a picture of one small piece of the New Testament. The Bodmer Papyri II manuscript contains the first 14 chapters of the Gospel of John. The Chester Beatty Papyri includes most of the New Testament and dates to the middle of the third century. The amount of evidence for New Testament manuscripts is greater than any other manuscript of the same age.

No scholar would discard a secular document of an age before A.D. 1,000 with that much documentation because there was insufficient evidence for it. Skeptics are totally inconsistent when they attempt to discredit the Bible in this way. We can be confident about the validity of the scriptures we have. While atheists might disagree with the teachings of Jesus, they cannot claim with integrity that we do not know what Jesus taught.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Take the High Road

Take the High RoadSeveral years ago, I was giving a lecture on the existence of God in a university science auditorium in downtown Chicago. I had shown the strong evidence that the cosmos was not the product of chance. At the beginning of the question/answer session, an atheist jumped to his feet, ran to a window on the edge of the auditorium, drew open the curtain, and pointed to the ghetto that surrounded the university. “If there was a God,” the atheist shouted, “He would never let a mess like this exist!” He then went into details about the pain, disease, loneliness, and poverty that was so dominant in inner-city neighborhoods. A huge sign left over from an inner-city high school career day hung in the auditorium where we were meeting. The sign said, “Take the High Road out of the Neighborhood-Get an Education.”

I asked the atheist about the meaning of the sign. He responded that it meant that the university offered programs that would help young people develop their talents so they could get a job and work their way out of poverty. “Does it take any effort or involvement on the part of the young people themselves?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. I replied, “God has never done for us what we could do for ourselves. If you want to take the high road out poverty, drugs, abuse, prostitution, or any other destructive behavior, you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

The road to destruction is a road of inactivity. It’s a road where we expect God or other people to solve our problems with no activity on our part. If we follow the low road, it won’t solve the problems. It will lead to a lack of appreciation, lack of satisfaction, lack of identity, lack of commitment, and poor self-esteem. There are many applications of this to welfare, foreign aid, and other problems of our government.

When people look at the problems of society today and ask why God doesn’t solve them, two fundamental principles apply. The first is that God is not the source of our problems. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there is a spiritual battle going on between good and evil. Galatians 6:7-8 also tells us that a large percentage of what happens to us is our own doing. The purpose of our existence requires us to have the choice between good and evil, but with that choice comes negative consequences when we choose evil.

The second principle is that God expects us to be involved in overcoming the destructive forces in our lives. I firmly believe that my journey out of atheism and my ability to cope with a severely damaged child did not happen because of my own strength. But God did not step in and force a solution on me in either of those situations. I had to make an effort and do what I could. Once I had done all I could and gone as far as I could go, God did the rest. You will not see a single case in the Bible where God forced a person to take the high road.

A large percentage of the good things that are happening in the ghettos and substance abuse clinics is because the people doing them have tapped into God and believe that He will make things happen when they do all that they can. Deciding to take the high road to the solutions to human problems involves work and allowing God to supply what you cannot do yourself. If you have not sincerely tried it, please do not knock it, because it works.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ark Encounter Rain Damage

Ark Encounter Rain Damage One of the claims of atheists is that ministries are only religious if it benefits their pocket book. That is the primary reason why everything offered by the Does God Exist? ministry is free. The recent lawsuit over the Ark Encounter rain damage has given atheists ammunition for their arguments.

The Ark Encounter is a replica of Noah’s ark which is owned by the same organization which owns the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Both the museum and theme park promote dispensationalism and a denominational view of Genesis instead of a literal view. They are suing their insurance companies over rain damage that caused failure of an access road to the ark. The owners of those two attractions are asking for $1 million from the insurance company for “tortious injury.” The jokes circulating around the media on this end up raising questions about the accuracy of the Bible and the providence of God. Talk show hosts are getting involved, attempting to discredit God and the Bible.

It seems ironic to us that Ark Encounter rain damage would lead to a lawsuit. The justification for the project is supposed to be educating people about the message of the Bible. The message is getting lost in inaccuracies and now in money matters. This story of the Ark Encounter rain damage has been reported by all the major news media and mocked by many others. Here is a LINK to the Washington Post article.

The Church needs to be known for bringing hope to people outside of Christ, and meeting the physical needs of men and women. It is difficult to see how Matthew 25:31-46 fits with suing an insurance company for damage to a profit-making organization by natural causes.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?Why does God allow suffering? That is one of the most common questions we hear. Many atheists who comment on our posts try to prove that God cannot exist because there is suffering in the world. They are assuming that if God existed, His purpose would be to give us happiness all the time. Since He doesn’t, that means God can’t possibly exist.

That mindset assumes that we are God’s pets, and His responsibility is to see that we don’t get hurt no matter what we do. There is no doubt that we do many foolish and hurtful things. So why do we think that God should be our servant to keep us always happy as if happiness is the primary goal of life?

However, if God does exist (as we believe He does), He should have a more important goal than taking care to always provide us with what we think we need to be happy. What happens if human parents bow to every whim of their children by always giving them what they want and expect? The result is a spoiled child. Sometimes after warnings to a child, the parent has to stand by and watch the child make bad decisions in the hope that they will learn from their mistakes.

What if the primary goal of human life is not happiness? What if the primary goal is to learn to know and trust God? It is that knowledge of and trust in God that will bring–if not continual happiness–true fulfillment and ultimately, everlasting fulfillment. Why does God allow suffering? Although the suffering in this world may be counterproductive to our happiness, it might help us to gain a deeper knowledge of God and dependence on His love.

We can’t explain suffering in all of its forms. Nobody can. We can’t see the ultimate purpose and outcome from where we stand, but God can. We can be reassured by knowing that God Himself is acquainted with suffering (Isaiah 53:3) and that He cares (John 11:35).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Christian Symbols Unconstitutional?

Christian Symbols Unconstitutional?Herman Streitburger is a Vermont resident who was held captive in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II. He donated a Bible to the Manchester VA Medical Center for use on a POW/MIA remembrance table. An atheist group filed a lawsuit demanding the removal of the Bible from the memorial saying the Bible’s presence was unconstitutional and “an outrage.” Are all Christian symbols unconstitutional?

A spokesman for the atheist group said that “the presence of the Bible in the memorial amounted to raising one faith over all the others.” He went on to say that the presence of the Bible was “a repugnant example of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism, exceptionalism, superiority, and domination.”

An organization called First Liberty Institute is representing the veteran’s group that created the memorial. They said: “Since the Vietnam War, our nation has maintained the sacred tradition of setting a separate table in countless Department of Defense and VA facilities to honor POW/MIAs. The table is decorated with several items, each carrying symbolic meaning used to help remember those who were captured or declared missing.”

First Liberty Institute has vowed to fight to allow POW/MIA displays to remember those killed, captured or missing with a display of their choosing. The Manchester VA Medical Center initially caved in to the atheist complaint and removed the Bible. Then it recently put the Bible back because of a letter from FLI and an outpouring of support.

If courts find all Christian symbols unconstitutional and require that they must be removed from anything having to do with the military or the government, then as one local atheist has said, “We need to remove every cross from every military graveyard in the world, beginning with Arlington.”

It seems likely that atheists will continue to attempt to remove any Christian symbols or artifacts that suggest Christianity from every cemetery and building that is supported by taxes. Christians must be aware and vocal about what happens to the graves of our loved ones who died in military service to America.
— John N. Clayton © 2019