Life Expectancy and Despair

Life Expectancy and Despair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released its latest annual report on American life expectancy. The report shows that for the third year life expectancy in the United States has not grown and has declined. The last time that this happened was in World War I when a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people.

The report says that drugs and suicide are the main culprits now with the overdose rate up 356% since 1999. The 2017 death toll is 70,237 far outstripping the total American fatalities in Vietnam.

It is interesting that everyone studying this life expectancy issue seems to agree on what the cause is, and what the solution is. The NationalReview.com says that “we are facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem.” An AARP study found that one-third of Americans report chronic loneliness and conclude that isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” David Brooks writing in the New York Times says “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing social catastrophe; it’s human relationships and a society that cares about people more than money.”

We suggest that people need to read and follow the example in Acts 2:41-47. People had a common faith in God, and they took care of each other. They “CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD” and spent time together focusing on meaningful relationships. The result was that “they had favor with all the people.”

This reminds me of a comment I heard Carl Sandburg make when someone asked him what he thought about Christianity. His response was “I don’t know, I have never seen it tried.” Christianity is not a legalistic way of restricting human behavior. It is a way of life that blesses everyone who is a part of it and everyone around those who live it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: The Week, December 14, 2018, page 17

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer
The term Christian Atheism seems like a contradiction. However, that was the theology of Thomas J. J. Altizer. On November 28, 2018, Altizer died at the age of 91.

Thomas J. J. Altizer was the theologian who in the 1960s promoted the idea that God was real but had passed away leaving humans to find the sacred on their own. Time magazine on April 8, 1966, gave Altizer’s teachings a boost when they ran a cover that in big red letters said: “Is God Dead?” That issue was devoted to the theology of Altizer which incorporated the teachings of various philosophers including Hegel and Nietzsche. Other religions, especially Buddhism, capitalized on Altizer’s teachings and he gained quite a following.

Altizer himself expressed remorse at the effects of his teaching. Time magazine quoted him in the December 17, 2018, issue (page 11) saying that today people are empty of the joy that we once celebrated. The reason we are empty is that humans cannot find the sacred on their own.

The biblical adage of Solomon certainly applies here: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When we discard God, we have nothing that can take His place. Materialism doesn’t work. No philosophy works. Christian Atheism doesn’t work. Only the joy that we find in the teachings of Jesus Christ has worked and still does work today.

Some people want to kill God and do so in their own minds. However, the evidence for God’s existence remains strong and continues to grow. Altizer didn’t kill it, and he came to emptiness in his own life. God is a living, moving entity, and the more we learn of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will
Yesterday we stated that a careful study of the Bible and some common sense make it clear that you and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon. In other words, demons cannot make us act against our will. We have free will to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true:

#1) Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was tempted in ALL points as are we.” You don’t need to be biblical scholars to know that Jesus was never tempted by being demon possessed and never needed an exorcism.

#2) There is no warning to the early Church in scriptures about demon possession. The New Testament is full of warnings about things. Read Acts 20:27, Acts 20:31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, and 1 Peter 1:3. These are realistic threats, and ones that we have seen become a problem. Nowhere is there a warning about demons. We see people do horrible things, and we see greed and selfishness express themselves in terrible events. We have also seen mental illness cause suffering. Those things are the result of human weakness, abuse, or neglect. They are not involuntary takeovers by demonic forces.

#3) The Bible gives us cures for Satan’s attacks on us. James 4:7 tell us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Ephesians 6:12-18 tells us that God has given us armor “that you may be able to withstand the evil day having done all to stand.” God has never put us into a situation where he could not resist evil. Demon possession even occurred in defenseless, innocent children in biblical times. (See Matthew 17:18 and Mark 9:24).

#4) God has promised Christians protection from anything that could cause us to lose our soul. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us nothing can happen to us that hasn’t been experienced by others and that there is always a way out of anything that could destroy us. Demon possession is certainly not “common to man.” Revelation 20:1-3 gives us assurance that God can control Satan and make good on the promise that demons cannot make us act against our will.

#5) The methodology of exorcism in the Bible is nothing like what happens in today’s world. The exorcisms that I have seen took hours and involved incredible psychological pressure on the “possessed.” In biblical times the process took seconds and generally involved one command. There were no regressions in people who experienced exorcism. In today’s world regression is very common.

#6) Perhaps most importantly is the fact that demon possession violates the entire Bible in that it defeats our capacity to choose. It violates our free moral choice. Joshua said, “Choose you this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). That admonition is violated if a person involuntarily is forced to obey Satan and evil. Philippians 2:12 tells us to choose to find salvation, but leaves it up to us to do it. Demons cannot make us act against our will.

Every judgment scene revealed in the Bible shows people answering their judgment by how they lived and what they chose to obey. (See John 20:31 and Mathew 25:31-46.) From Job to Paul we see the principle of freedom of choice. Demons cannot make us act against our will. Nobody at the judgment will be able to say that they had no choice, or as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” We make our own choices, and God does not allow us to foist our imperfections off on something over which we had no control.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today
An often discussed biblical subject is whether demons can possess people today and whether certain religious leaders can perform exorcisms. The Catholic priest, John J. Nicola, who was the adviser to the 1973 film “The Exorcist” gave what is perhaps the best definition of demon possession: “In the case of demonic possession the use of free will and intellect has been suspended. The person is no longer responsible for his or her actions.” What about demon possession and exorcisms today?

When someone does something horrible, like the recent shootings that have taken the lives of innocent people, are they possessed by demons? Is this a risk for you and I in today’s world? I have personally witnessed exorcisms and have talked to people who sincerely believed they had been demon possessed. This discussion is not about whether or not these things happened in the time of Christ and the apostles. Miracles and events the Bible describes cannot be repeated and tested. Demon possession and exorcisms are among them. The question is whether they occur today. What does the Bible actually say about this subject?

Demon possession was a New Testament phenomenon and is not present in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for demon is “shaidim” and is only used twice in the Old Testament – in Deuteronomy 32:17 and in Psalms 106:37. The context of both of these passages is about idols. In the New Testament the Greek word used is “deimonion” and is used several times to describe many symptoms – some violent and some passive such as in Acts 16:16-19. People sometimes notice these descriptions sound like things that happen today, such as epileptic seizures or mental illness.

At the beginning of the Church, the apostles needed to demonstrate that they had knowledge of and authority over all realms of human experience. That included the spiritual world. When people tried to provide fake exorcisms, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16). Once the Bible was available to answer spiritual questions, there was no need for exorcisms or miracles for that matter.

The prophecies of the Old Testament and the statements of the New Testament indicate that demon possession and exorcisms would end. (See Zechariah 13: 1-4, Colossians 2:15, and 1 John 3:8.) First Corinthians 13:8-10 indicates that when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. Second Timothy 3:15-17 says that the Word of God is perfect. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven to have contact with God’s perfect will.

Demon possession and exorcisms have no place in the lives of people today. A careful study of the Bible and some common sense make that clear. You and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon with the power to remove our ability to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true, and we will examine those reasons tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Billion-Dollar Picture

Billion-Dollar Picture
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” How often have you heard that phrase? It may very well be true, but this picture is worth more than that. What you see could be called a billion-dollar picture. At first glance, this picture may not look like much. However, you need to take a good look at the large white dot in the center. That’s us.

In September of 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx. The name stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. Its purpose is to study asteroids. Specifically, it was launched to study a near-Earth asteroid named 101955 Bennu. It will not only study the asteroid, but if all goes as planned, it will take a sample from Bennu and return that sample to Earth. The total cost of the project will be about one billion dollars, but it’s much more than a billion-dollar picture.

On January 17, 2018, OSIRIS-REx turned its NavCam 1 camera toward Earth and snapped this picture. The spacecraft was almost 40 million miles (63.6 million km) from Earth and traveling away at 19,000 miles per hour (8.5 km per second). The largest and brightest spot in the picture is Earth. The smaller dot close to it is our Moon. The cluster of stars in the upper left is the Pleiades. In the top right is Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries. Surrounding the Earth and Moon are five stars that are the head of the whale in the constellation Cetus.

OSIRIS-REx reached the vicinity of Bennu on December 3, 2018. It will be orbiting the asteroid and scanning the surface looking for a good place to land. That process will continue until July of 2020 when it will land and gather a sample. Scientists plan for OSIRIS-REx to deliver that sample to Earth in September of 2023.

Scientists hope that by studying the asteroid sample, they will learn more about the formation of our solar system. They hope to learn more about asteroids in general and what we might do to prevent one from slamming into our planet. There is also hope for mining useful minerals from asteroids and getting a better idea of the history of Earth. The whole list of scientific objectives for this space probe is contained in that long name for which we use the acronym OSIRIS-REx.

Forgetting about the cost and ambitious objectives, we enjoy looking at this view of Earth from far, far away. It reminds us of what a big solar system and universe we live in and how amazing is the God who designed it all. It also reminds us of the challenge God gave to Job about the Pleiades in Job 38:31-33. We encourage you to read God’s entire challenge in Job 38:1 to 40:2 as you look at this billion-dollar picture.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

This report is an update of our previous post on February 26, 2018.

Bible Manuscripts and National Geographic

Bible Manuscripts and National Geographic
Atheists often suggest that the Bible is a group of fake manuscripts with a traceable history of distortion and rewriting. Therefore, it can’t be taken seriously. Perhaps the main hero of biblical skeptics and critics is Bart Ehrman. In 2005 Ehrman released a book titled Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. In that book, he claims there are massive mistakes in Bible manuscripts. Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, is an atheist who was previously an evangelical Christian.

In the December 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine, the lead article by Robert Draper is titled “The Bible Hunters.” It is a well-documented article about the history of searching for and finding early Bible manuscripts. It shows how those manuscripts agree with the Bible we have today and that more and more evidence supports the integrity of the Scriptures.

If you aren’t familiar with Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, this article will help you learn about the interesting story of how it was discovered. The article details the finding of a nearly complete copy of the book of Isaiah, the Messianic prophet, from the Dead Sea Scrolls dating before the time of Christ. It also details a number of other ancient Bible manuscripts.

The article is honest and admits the deliberate altering of some documents. While it may make people aware of some of the problems of Biblical documents, the weight of the evidence revealed in the article is very supportive of Biblical accuracy. We can accept the Bible as God’s Word, and most of the difficulties are likely to be resolved with more study of the Bible manuscripts.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Artistic Expression and Human History

Artistic Expression and Human History
One of the interesting challenges to human evolution has to do with our capacity for artistic creation. Why do human artistic expressions display beauty and color? There is no good evidence that animals express themselves aesthetically – be it music, color, artistic expression, abstractionism, or worship. When people have claimed that animals express themselves in these areas, the claims have turned out to be anthropomorphisms by those making the claims. We all tend to attach human attributes to animal actions, but the evidence supports the view that animals don’t do those things. On the other hand, artistic expression and human history go together.

One evidence of artistic work has to do with the pictures left on cave walls in various locations. Those drawings do not show a sequence of development. In other words, you don’t see older drawings that are more primitive than recent ones. There is a story that Picasso examined the Cromagnon cave drawings and said, “We have learned nothing about art in our entire history on planet earth.”

USA Today (November 9, 2018) published an article on new art finds in Borneo and Indonesia. They are much older than any of the drawings in Spain and France. Dr. Maxime Aubert who led the discovery says the paintings are 4,000 years older than any other find. Aubert says “they are the earliest known figurative artwork.” In addition to the drawings of mystic animals, there are hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes, and extensive use of color.

Genesis 4:21-22 indicates that humans developed tools and musical instruments early. Human history has included artwork and musical synthesis from a very early time. We would suggest this is all tied to our spiritual nature. It is our soul that gives us the capacity to do all the things that set humans apart from animals. The new finds support the view that these abilities were present in human’s from the beginning, not developed over a long time. Artistic expression and human history cannot be separated.
John N. Clayton © 2018

Why Did God Create T. Rex?

Why Did God Create T. Rex?
A reader sent a question that might be of interest to several others concerning the dinosaurs. The question was if God created everything, including dinosaurs, why did God create T. rex? Why would He create a creature so violent and cruel?

Denominational creationism maintains that God created everything good and T. rex and other carnivores went bad. When man sinned, bad came into existence and creatures that had been good became bad. So dinosaurs created as good and benevolent creatures suddenly became cruel carnivores. (See Acts and Facts December 2018, page 20.)

There are so many difficulties with that explanation, it would require a book to develop them all. Our book The Source attempts to do at least part of that. You can borrow it on our doesgodexist.org website or purchase it at THIS LINK. Here are a few points:

There is no Hebrew word in Genesis (or elsewhere in the Bible) that can legitimately be translated “dinosaur.” Some suggest that “behemah” and “remes” refer to dinosaurs, but the words literally refer to cattle and sheep or goats respectively. The Israelites were familiar with these animals, and they could eat them. (See Genesis 1:24-25 and 9:1-3). Genesis was written to Israel to explain how their animals came into being. It does not include every creature that ever existed – bacteria, viruses, platypus, dinosaur, etc. It seems that Genesis 1:1 describes God preparing planet Earth for humans. To do that, God created creatures that were extinct by the time He created humans and their domesticated animals.

Material found in dinosaur feces tells us what they ate. Coprolites of T. Rex do not contain plant material. Their dental structure in all cases was made to cut meat, not to grind up plants.

Being a carnivore does not mean that an animal is bad or a monster. If you don’t have carnivores, then plant-eaters eat all the plants, and soon everything dies. Why did God create T. rex? We need carnivores with the capacity to kill and digest herbivores to keep balance in nature.

Dinosaurs were not monsters any more than lions or largemouth bass are. They were part of the balance that God used as He fashioned the Earth with the resources that humans would need. At the end of the creation process “God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was VERY good” (Genesis 1:31).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Earth Is Not Flat

Earth Is Not Flat
There is a myth that when Columbus set out on his famous voyage, people believed he would sail off the edge of the Earth. According to the myth, only the voyage of Columbus convinced people that the Earth was not flat. That myth is not true, and Earth is not flat.

The myth came from an early historical fiction work by Washington Irving in 1828. At the time of Columbus in 1492, educated Europeans knew that our planet is a sphere. The Greek philosopher Aristotle recognized that fact in 330 B.C. He observed that when lunar eclipses occurred, the shadow Earth cast on the Moon was always a semicircle. That could only happen every time if the Earth were a sphere. Also, it was easy to observe that when a ship came into shore over the ocean, the first part to be visible was the top of the sail. As it came closer, the lower part could be seen. That shows the curvature of the ocean surface.

In the early Church period, the view of a spherical Earth was widely accepted. The Christian theologian and philosopher Augustine (354-430) recognized that Earth was spherical. Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) acknowledged that physics, astronomy, and mathematics had proven that Earth is a sphere.

However, the Quran (609-632) says that the Earth was “laid out,” “spread out,” or “made flat” depending on how it’s translated. In the sixteenth century, a Sunni commentary stated that most Muslim scholars took those words to mean the Earth is flat. Chinese society did not let go of the concept of a flat Earth until the seventeenth century when Jesuit scholars brought their teaching to that country.

In spite of the evidence some people today insist that the Earth is flat. There is another persistent myth that science and the Bible are enemies and that they contradict each other. We believe that true science and the Bible correctly understood cannot contradict each other because they have the same Author. Earth is not flat, and science and the Bible are friends, not enemies.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Mormon President Disavows the Mormon Name

Mormon President Disavows the Mormon Name
In August of 2018, the president of the Mormon church, Russell M. Nelson, claimed that God personally revealed to him that names such as “LDS” and “Mormon” were offensive to Him. The Mormon president disavows the Mormon name because he says that these nicknames are offensive to God and are a “major victory for Satan.”

One of the problems with human-made churches is that they have a hard time naming themselves. Martin Luther did not want those who followed his teachings to call themselves “Lutherans” but his followers did not heed his plea. Many denominational names of religious groups identify their belief system such as “Methodist” or “Pentecostal.”

The name “Mormon” comes from a fictional character in the Book of “Mormon.” Many of us have heard of the “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” and programs like the “I am a Mormon” campaign. The “Meet the Mormons” movie began playing in Temple Square in 2014. The website for the denomination has been “Mormon.org.” That title has not been questioned until now. We have to wonder about why now and what the collateral consequences will be.

As the Mormon president disavows the Mormon name, he says the correct name for the Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” However, he says that “The Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ” or “The Restored Church of Jesus Christ” are acceptable to God.

Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to the early Christians to call themselves by any title. Acts 11:26 tells us that the disciples were called “Christians” first at Antioch and that title is referenced only three times in the New Testament. Its use may have been a derogatory reference by the enemies of the early church. (See Acts 26:28.) It was a name given to them, not something they selected although Peter used it in 1 Peter 4:16.

The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry is not a product of any denomination and is not funded by any denomination. We are simply individuals trying to serve God by presenting evidence and encouraging people to do what the Bible says. The “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” teaches and practices many things not consistent with the teachings of Christ and the apostles. For that reason, we do not associate with that sect or encourage people to follow their teachings. We urge people to simply follow Jesus and practice what is revealed in the New Testament.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Salt Lake City Messenger November 218 from the Utah Lighthouse Ministry www.utlm.org.