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

The Concept of Repentance

The Concept of RepentanceOne of the most misunderstood aspects of the Christian faith is the concept of repentance. Many atheists, as well as some Christians, view repentance as a negative, oppressive act in which an individual is forced to verbally deny some pleasure that the religious establishment condemns. The fact is that the biblical concept of repentance is a positive, progressive movement toward the future.

The Old Testament refers to God repenting. Genesis 6:6-7 says, “It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Exodus 32:14, Judges 2:18, 1 Samuel 15:11, and many other passages speak of God repenting. There is a Hebrew word “nacham,” which expresses God’s repentance. God is immutable in His being but changes his relationship and attitude.

The concept of repentance in humans uses the Hebrew word “shoob,” describing a positive, progressive change. Second Kings 23:25 says of Josiah that “there was no king before him which repented to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.” Many versions translate this concept to “turn” from destructive behavior to a positive one.

Repentance is a major theme of the New Testament. Examples are Acts 17:30, Mark 1:4 and 6:12, Luke 5:32 and 24:47. The word is also used in reference to congregations, as in Revelation 2:5,16 and 3:3. The Greek word used to describe this process is “metanoia,” with “meta” meaning change and “noia” referring to the mind. Vine’s Dictionary of Bible Words defines repentance as “a radical transformation of thought, attitude, outlook, and direction.”

Biblical examples give us a clearer picture of the concept of repentance. The city of Nineveh in Jonah 3:5-10 changed from a corrupt, immoral, violent, destructive place to one of peace and care. Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8-9 changed from a corrupt tax collector to an honest and generous supporter of the poor. The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:19-21 changed from a drunken customer of the pleasure industry to a responsible citizen, and the Jews in Acts 2:38-41 changed from hypocritical, selfish legalists to benevolent Christians.

Repentance is not religious enslavement of humans, but a positive change. Jesus said in Matthew 3:8, “Bring forth fruits which prove your repentance.” Ephesians 4:22-24 speaks of “being mentally and spiritually remade … with a new nature made by God’s design.” Colossians 3:9-11 speaks of “putting off the old man with his deeds and putting on the new man which is being remolded in knowledge.” Repentance is not a one-time thing. It is a positive change that we all need to make. Who would not like to see repentance in the politicians and rulers of the world, especially if that change involved the love and peace of Matthew 5 – 7?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How to Become More Spiritual

How to Become More SpiritualWe recently received a question that perhaps all of us need to consider. The questioner wanted to know how to become more spiritual. We don’t find the word “spiritual” in the Old Testament of the Bible or in the gospels. It doesn’t refer to someone walking around piously, or a person who is in constant verbal prayer to impress others. It is not a “goody two shoes” word, and in fact, it can refer to evil and Satan. Ephesians 6:12, for example, says: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places.”

Vines Dictionary of Biblical Words says that the word “spiritual” refers to “Things that have their origin with God and which, therefore, are in harmony with His character.” Romans 7:14 tells us that the law is spiritual, but it could not make humans spiritual. James 2:10 points out that if you are guilty of breaking one part of the law, you are guilty of the whole law. If you get arrested for stealing, the fact that you didn’t murder anyone will not exonerate you. The only way we can become more spiritual is through the grace of God and the power of the blood of Christ. First John 1:6-10 how to become more spiritual by “walking in the light,” and having a unique relationship with God through Christ.

Much of the New Testament instruction is aimed at helping Christians become more spiritual. Galatians 6:1 talks about using whatever strength we have to help each other, and verse 2 talks about bearing each other’s burdens. We can grow in sympathy, understanding, compassion, and all that goes into being a more spiritual person. Music can help us grow spiritually. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:13-17 talk about “spiritual songs.” Songs like “If I Have Wounded Any Soul Today” and “Trust and Obey” sung in our car as we drive or in our homes as we do our daily chores can help us. Praying to grow in spirituality is another excellent tool.

Learning and increasing in our knowledge of God and His Word can help us become stronger spiritually. Second Peter 3:18 states this directly, and 1 Peter 2:2 speaks of having a desire to grow. Ephesians 4:11-15 says that knowledge is a part of spiritual maturity, and Colossians 1:9-12 speaks of learning to know God. All of these Bible passages tell us how to become more spiritual.

Skeptics and atheists who follow “survival of the fittest” as the core foundation of their lives have no interest and no capability to be spiritual in a positive sense. “Spiritual wickedness in dark places” is well defined as “Things having their origin in Satan and which, therefore, are in harmony with his character.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Objective Moral Values Are Impossible Without God

Objective Moral Values Are Impossible Without GodMany of my atheist friends will bristle at any suggestion that objective moral values are impossible without God. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that atheists are bad people. However, there are two things followers of the Bible have that those who reject God and the Bible do not have: a standard to go by and motivation to follow the standard.

The Bible gives a solid, clear, workable set of values. If a follower of Christ needs to know whether something is right or wrong, they can go to the Bible and find out. As we have pointed out before, the teachings of the Bible work. For a person who rejects the Bible, what standard do they use to make decisions on right and wrong? Any answer to that question is based on current human understanding. It may be the person’s feelings, the values of the peer group, the opinion of a particular philosopher or psychologist, the latest law, or the values of family or friends. Whatever the source, it is going to be a current human’s view. It’s going to be subjective, not objective.

Yesterday’s expert authority is today’s idiot. Charlatans exist in such enormous numbers that we can never be sure of the motivation for the advice they give. Following Ayn Rand’s advice as a college student destroyed the lives of many of my college friends and associates. The list of destructive leaders of the past is endless – O’Leary, Heffner, Russell, etc. All of these offered marvelous alternatives to biblical teachings that did not work. They failed because objective moral values are impossible without God.

It is not difficult to follow a moral standard that allows you to do anything and everything you want to do. Objective moral values are a far different matter. Many atheists would agree that promiscuous sex is not a good thing, but what motive would exist for not engaging in it if you think it will bring you great pleasure? Why would I find it a moral necessity to give food to a starving person when I might be faced with hunger?

As a Christian, my relationship with God and my faith in God provide me with motivation to do things and give things that might not be in my own self-interest. It is not that I am afraid God will send me to hell if I don’t do them. It is that the teachings of Jesus tell me that my life’s goals revolve around serving and bringing good things to others. I have learned to find joy in doing this and to trust God to make things work. One frustration I have with the media is that they will put the failure of a Christian on the front page while ignoring the work of churches in soup kitchens, relief efforts, alcohol recovery programs, and the care of children, senior citizens, and AIDS patients. No other religion or philosophy on Earth does as much good in all areas as the people who are expressing their love for Jesus Christ.

Faith in God and the Bible does make sense and gives humanity the only workable guide for life. Objective moral values are impossible without God, and faith in God gives us the motivational tools to follow them. Jesus has given us the standard to live by.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Winter Is Coming

Beautiful Fall but Winter Is ComingFall is a beautiful time of year. We all enjoy the changing colors of the trees, and there are changes in our lives that involve preparation for winter. Not all of us view these changes in a positive way. The fact is that whether we like it or not, change is coming. The sight of trees turning colors and the leaves falling to the ground reminds us that winter is coming.

Life is very similar to that. As we get older, signs are telling us that major change is coming in our lives. Our hair turns gray or falls out or both. There is pain in our movements that was not there before. The way we gain weight and our energy levels change, whether we like it or not. All of the medication in the world will not stop the physical changes coming in our lives. Mentally and emotionally, we must adjust to the fact that our faculties are not functioning as they did in the past, and we experience the loss of friends and family making us aware of our own mortality.

One of the things that belief in God does to us is that it allows us to approach the changes that come to our lives in the same way we do the colors of fall. We can scream and fight the fact that winter is coming, but it will still happen. We can buy cosmetics and vitamin pills, but the winter of life comes anyway. When I was an atheist, I had to look at life with all of its problems, pain, struggles, and the awful things that happen as the very best that I was ever going to have. Now, as a Christian, I can look at life with all of its beauty, wonder, and the fantastic things we all enjoy as the absolute worst I am ever going to have to endure.

How do you look at life? Is it the best you will ever have or the worst you will ever have to tolerate? Can you not see that this is the difference between the believer and the nonbeliever. It’s as different as night and day, black and white. If there were no other reason to believe in God but this one, it would be a compelling reason.

We can debate and fuss about things we do not understand. We can complain that we do not like the way God does things. But the fact is that all of those arguments have very little meaning when we are looking death in the face. The colors of change in the fall tell us winter is coming, and the colors of life tell us we will all soon stand before our Creator in judgment. Know why you believe what you believe, and intelligently trust in God to guide you to eternity.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How Do You Use Your Time?

John Clayton asks, "How Do You Use Your Time?"God has given you 168 hours of time every week that you live. The question that each one of us must answer is, “What to do with that 168 hours?” How do you use your time?

If you consider the average essentials, they might look like this:
Eight hours a day for sleeping is 56 hours a week.
Work might be 40 hours per week.
If you take an hour to eat each meal, that would add up to 21 hours a week.
Personal hygiene, including exercise, might be 20 hours a week.

That adds up to 137 hours a week, giving us 31 hours or more than 4 hours a day left. How do you use your time that is left? The chances are that the numbers quoted here not accurate with what you do. I never get eight hours of sleep in a day, but I work far more than 40 hours a week. Realize that these numbers are just a starting point for what we do with the time we have been given.

Suppose we took the Old Testament tithe of 10%. A tithe of 168 is 16.8 hours. Let’s round that down to 16 hours a week to give back to God. Assume you go to worship and Bible class every time the door is open at the Church meeting place. That would be four hours a week spent in worship and Bible study with other Christians. We still have 12 hours to give back to God every week. Let me point out that these numbers allow 14.2 hours a week for you to watch TV, go fishing, go to a movie, etc.

Sixty years ago, I decided that I was going to give God 12 hours a week, not counting “going to Church,” to equal 10% of what He had given me. I found it very hard to do. The way I did it included:
Visiting people in the hospital.
Writing and sending cards.
Setting up and conducting Bible studies in my home or in other people’s homes.
Getting involved in a prison ministry.
Working with disturbed teens.
Taking youth groups to rallies and workshops.
Shoveling widow’s sidewalks.
Preparing the Church bulletin.
I did those and other things and kept a record to get to 12 hours a week.

Do you know what happened? I found contentment and peace and strength that I had never known as an atheist. Life was full of joy and surprises. The hard knocks in my personal and professional life became less destructive to me personally. When the Bible said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” it wasn’t just talking about money. Imagine what would happen if every Christian gave back to God 16.8 hours of the time God has given them! How do you use your time?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Nature is the Unknown God

Temple of Zeus - Today Nature is the Unknown God Atheists and skeptics attack belief in God. They say that if God were real, He would show Himself in the method of their choice. They also charge that believers in God are merely worshiping a “god-of-the-gaps.” basis – meaning that when they don’t understand something, they simply say, “God did it!” We have repeatedly pointed out that we do not use gap arguments. We look at what the choices are and what the evidence supports using scientific methods and applying mathematics to test the alternatives. That is not inventing a god to explain what we don’t understand, unlike the Egyptian sun god (Ra) or the Greek god of the sky (Zeus). The picture shows the ruins of the temple of Zeus in Athens, the city where Paul saw an altar to the “unknown god.” Today Nature is the unknown god.

Most atheists and skeptics in their writings will assert that Nature established the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. You see statements like, “it is nature’s way of doing things” to explain why things are the way they are. Nature is invisible, omnipotent, and omniscient. Why is it that atheists will say that believers in the God of the Bible are unintelligent, and those who believe in Nature are the thinkers? No one can tell us where Nature came from. Nature is the unknown god and the atheist’s “god-of-the-gaps.”

It is easy to attribute everything we know and don’t know to the great god “Nature.” Our world today is making the same mistake as Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in biblical times. Today’s philosophers do what their ancestors did when they attribute all unknown phenomena like dark matter and superstrings to Nature. They explain even what they do understand by using that same Nature god.

Paul, in Athens speaking to the educated philosophers of his day, said: “For as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription ‘To the Unknown God.’ Whom therefore you ignorantly worship…” (Acts 17:23). Is Nature your god and chance his only tool? The God we discuss is a God in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) both now and in eternity. Nature is a false god and an invention of humans with no promise for anything beyond this life.
—- John N. Clayton © 2019