Fake Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Fake Dead Sea Scroll Fragments at the Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

One of the more trusted sources of science and history is the National Geographic Society. Their popular magazine, books, and TV programs have been used to promote particular viewpoints, and sometimes they have been deceived. Many of our older readers will remember a cover story in the magazine about a Chinese fossil that the magazine ran as proof of a particular evolutionary theory. It later turned out to have been constructed by local people as a means of selling claimed fossils. Now there is an issue with fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The Museum of the Bible collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, which the National Geographic has used extensively, are fakes. They consist of 16 fragments claimed to be from authentic Dead Sea Scrolls. The forgers used old pieces of leather, and after writing on them, they treated the documents, so they looked ancient. The museum released a report by Colette Loll on March 13, 2020, explaining that microscopic analysis of the fragments showed cracks in the leather filled with pools of the ink. That means the leather had cracked after a long period of time, and the ink ran into the cracks in modern times. Other evidence also showed that these were fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The message for all of us is to realize that any scientific claim based on historical objects needs careful study. Claims of antiquity should be read with a skeptical eye to the evidence. There is a lot of money involved in ancient artifacts, documents, and writings. Since National Geographic has such acceptance and worldwide circulation, they are particularly vulnerable to forgery attempts.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: Biblical Archeology Society 3/16/20.

Cancer and Sexual Promiscuity

Cancer and Sexual Promiscuity

The Bible is very clear in teaching that the best way to conduct oneself sexually is to have one partner for life. As people have veered away from God’s teaching and instruction, sex has lost its meaning, and people with multiple partners do not find the joy and satisfaction in sex that God intended. We are now learning that the consequences of multiple sexual partners are more than just a lack of satisfaction and joy in sex. There is also a strong connection between cancer and sexual promiscuity.

USNews.com carried a study of 5722 men and women with an average age of 64. It showed that women who had ten or more sexual partners were 91% more likely to have cancer than those who had either one or zero partners. Men who had multiple partners had a 64% higher risk of cancer. The sample size is too large to just blow off this data. However, some researchers suggest that those with multiple sex partners also had habits that elevate cancer risks, including drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. But the research shows a strong connection between cancer and sexual promiscuity.

We would suggest that God gave us moral laws for our good. The Creator who designed us knows what behaviors will benefit us and which will not. In Matthew 19, some Pharisees asked Jesus why Moses allowed men to have more than one wife. His response was, “Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to put away your wives: but from the beginning, it was not so” (Verse 8). When we violate God’s plan, the consequences are not just emotional and mental, but there are physical health issues as well.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Week, March 6, 2020, page 21.

Pandemic Fear and Faith

Pandemic Fear and Faith

We are all going through changes as the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, and many people seem to have pandemic fear.

In my lifetime, I have seen several disease epidemics. I find it interesting how differently people are responding to this than they did when I was a child, and polio was running wild. Polio was a much more serious issue than COVID-19 ever thought of being. If you got polio in 1952, you were either going to die, be paralyzed, or be in an iron lung for the rest of your life. For those who are younger, an iron lung was a huge tin can that breathed for you, because polio could stop you from breathing on your own. If you were put in an iron lung to preserve your life, the chances are that you would be in that large tin can until you did die. It was awful, but we did not have the pandemic fear.

Even though polio was much worse than the current virus, my classmates were not absorbed with fear and extreme measures to avoid getting polio. We were told that flies carried polio. I remember my mother stringing flypaper all over the place, and going bonkers if she saw a fly in our garage. I was not allowed to go to outdoor events for fear of polio. Still, there was no panic from the media and no cancellations of anything. That is a huge contrast with what has happened in 2020 as we face this virus. That is even though most people who get the virus do not die or have any long-lasting effects. What is the difference?

In my childhood years, being an atheist was unique. I was the only openly atheistic person in my high school class. Our family went to Brown County State Park every Sunday to swim in the park swimming pool. We had the pool to ourselves because everyone else was in church. I had friends who did contract polio. Outside of a sign which said “quarantine” being placed on their front door, not much else happened.

The panic that has gripped our culture today is amazing. According to the CDC ordinary, run of the mill flu killed 61,000 Americans last year and over 12,000 this year so far. But the pandemic fear of COVID-19 far exceeds the fear that has been with us before.

I would suggest to you that as our culture has drifted away from God, the fear of the unknown has grown exponentially. At least part of the pandemic fear is our lack of faith as a society about life and death and who or what is in control.

One fundamental message of Jesus Christ is that Christians should not be driven by panic and fear of the unknown. In Mark 4:36-41, we read the wonderful story of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm in a small boat. Jesus is asleep, and they wake him up. Christ quiets the storm and says to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (verse 40).

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible calls believers not to be driven by fear. Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid. Psalms 23:4 talks about walking through the darkest valley. Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…the Lord your God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5-8 tells us that the Lord is our helper, so we should not be afraid. Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you believe that this life is all you will ever have, then you will fear anything that threatens this life. If you believe that there is something better coming, then nothing that happens in this life is of great consequence. However, I have an instinct to survive and knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), I will do what I can to avoid premature death. I am washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and following the other guidelines. Still, I can relate to Paul’s discourse in Philippians 1:21-24, where he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am in a struggle between having a desire to leave and be with Christ, but I know I should abide in the flesh, which is more needful for you…”

We want the life God gave us to be fruitful and meaningful. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Let our love of God cause us to relax and avoid pandemic fear. This can be our living message to a lost, dying, and fearful world.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Assisted Suicide and Choices

Assisted Suicide and Choices

In our March 16, 2020, post, we discussed the issue of suicide, and the Federal Communication Commission’s efforts to create a suicide hotline. We discussed the problem of assisted suicide or euthanasia in our February 24 and 25 posts. The March 20 issue of The Week magazine carried an article (page 11) titled “The Spread of Assisted Suicide.”

In addition to the data showing how much assisted suicide has increased, the article in The Week points out that assisted suicide is now available to people for various reasons. It is being made available to those who are in psychological pain, those who don’t want to go into a nursing home, and to minors with their parent’s permission. This is a significant problem with large numbers of people involved. In the Netherlands alone, there were 6585 assisted deaths in 2017.

Our biggest concern in this growing trend is the misinformation that the public is receiving. Dignitas, which is a Swiss organization assisting in suicides, says that assisted suicide is “far preferable to letting ill people make a lonely, risky suicide attempt.” Those are not the only choices available to a person who is depressed, in pain, or fearing dementia.

As life expectancy continues to climb, more and more people will struggle with emotional and physical pain. Our focus needs to be on solving those issues, not just in finding ways to destroy the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Suicide Prevention Hotline 988

Suicide Prevention Hotline 988

The Federal Communications Commission is working to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline. It will use the number 988, comparable to 911 for other emergencies. The reason for this new emergency number is a surge in deaths by suicide over the past ten years. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt to kill themselves annually.

You might think that the reason for an increase in suicide is poverty or hunger, but that is not the case. According to the experts at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the common denominator is a lack of hope. As a former atheist, I can verify that kind of thinking. As an atheist, when I no longer was the “fittest,” my moral foundation built on “survival of the fittest” collapsed. That’s when I reached the point of attempting to end my life. There is no hope when everything around you is collapsing, and you are no longer in control.

The word “hope” occurs 135 times in the Bible. Life has meaning when we have faith in Christ and believe that this life leads to something better–even when we are not the fittest. Christ’s teaching and the New Testament repeatedly refer to joy. That joy leads to loving life and looking forward to the future no matter how bleak our circumstances are now.

The 988 number of the suicide prevention hotline is good because just having someone to talk to may help a person contemplating suicide. But it may be 2021 before the number is in service. The greatest message of hope comes from the Bible, and it’s available now. The real source of hope comes from finding new life in Christ, as Romans 6 describes in glowing terms.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Washington Post, December 13, 2019.

Faith of the Wealthy?

Faith of the Wealthy?

One of the constant accusations of atheists and skeptics is that Christians oppress those who are poor. Nearly every week, we read about a well-known preacher who has gotten very wealthy by his preaching, or a religious leader who has made a fortune by merchandising his or her faith. Is Christianity a faith of the wealthy?

There is no question that some people use Christianity to benefit themselves. But that is not Christianity. It is a perversion of what Jesus taught and what the Christian faith is about. In Matthew 23, Jesus describes this kind of religious leader. He says they “bind heavy burdens .. and lay them on men’s shoulders; but that they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” He talks about them wanting praise and devouring widows’ houses and points out their hypocrisy. Throughout His ministry, Jesus and His followers helped people.

In Matthew 11:2-11, John the Baptist sent his disciples to determine if Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus responded by telling John and his disciples to look at who Jesus ministered to – the blind, the crippled, the lepers, the deaf, and the poor. He then asks the crowds, “What did you go to see in John, a man in fancy clothing? Those people are in King’s houses.. but come to me all ye who labor and are heavy laden…” In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus tells his hometown crowd that He came to preach to the poor, the broken-hearted, the blind, and the captives. In Luke 6:20-38, Jesus tells the poor that they are the kingdom of God. Jesus condemned the rich, not because they were rich, but because of how they used their wealth. (See Luke 11:39-46.) Christianity is not a faith of the wealthy oppressing the poor.

In Matthew 9:10-13, Jesus ate with the outcasts of society, and the religious leaders asked: “Why?” Jesus said, “I did not come to call the virtuous people but the outcasts.” The ministry of Paul was to the poor, including those who rejected Judaism. Galatians 2:10 finds Paul talking about “giving thought to the poor.” The passage goes on to talk about Peter struggling with this, and Paul reprimanding him (verses 11-18). The early Church was all about supporting the weak. (See Acts 20:35, Romans 15:1, I Corinthians 9:22-23, and 1 Thessalonians 5:14). James even condemned congregations who gave deference to the wealthy in James 2:2-8.

There is too much need around us for any Christian to be wallowing in self-serving wealth. Skeptics and atheists are correct in condemning those who claim to be Christians but have not found the joy of giving. Those they condemn do not represent what Christianity is all about and how real Christians try to live. Christianity is not a faith of the wealthy, but a faith of caring for the needs of all.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Christian Women in Science

Christian Women in Science

We are pleased to see a report about Christian women in science. A typical attack against Christianity is the claim that it views women as second-class citizens. Critics use Scripture references such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which urges women to learn in silence and not to usurp the authority over men. Another passage they use is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which tells women to keep silent in the assembly and to ask their husbands at home if they want to learn anything. Atheists and skeptics have not only quoted these passages, but they have sometimes been used by males in the Church as control devices over women.

It is essential to consider to whom those instructions were written, why they were written, and what the circumstances were when they were written. The critics ignore the fact that Galatians 3:28 tells us that there was no such thing as male or female in the Church because we are all one in Jesus Christ. All of this misunderstanding has been catalyzed by what has taken place in the world as a whole. Women have been mistreated in every aspect of life, both in their secular roles and in the Church.

The March 2020 issue of Christianity Today carried an excellent article on the roles of women in science. For the report, the magazine interviewed twelve Christian women who are respected scientists and highlighted their accomplishments. These women are part of the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization made up of scientists of both genders that integrates science and faith.

We recommend this information about Christian women in science, especially to young women and their parents. It is encouraging to see so many women of faith having success in the secular world of science.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Why Homeschooling?

Why Homeschooling?

One of the challenges that parents face today, perhaps more than at any time in history, is the challenge of how to educate their children. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that 1.7 million children are homeschooled in the United States. Why homeschooling?

There are many problems with homeschooling. Many times parents do not have enough education to do an adequate job of educating their child. Homeschooled children tend to have social issues because they have not interacted with a wide range of children with other abilities and beliefs. Perhaps the most compelling reason for homeschooling is to provide religious instruction for the child. That has become more necessary in recent years as churches have veered away from moral instruction and Bible teaching while using entertainment to attract students.

In the 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the main reason given for homeschooling is safety, with bullying and school shootings being a significant concern. The government report said that for 34% of all homeschoolers, safety was the most important motivation. Religious instruction as a reason, has dropped 13% in four years.

Where you live has a major impact on whether you feel motivated to homeschool your child. Shootings can occur anywhere, and church buildings have been a primary target of shooters in recent years. Unfortunately, bullying is likely to occur at any age and in any situation. As an adult, I have faced bullying by people who claimed to be Christians attempting to stop my ministry. Having been bullied as a child has allowed my ministry to survive. I learned anti-bullying skills early. Parents maintaining good communication with their children and being proactive at stopping bullying is a better solution than trying to avoid it.

Why homeschooling? There is a place for homeschooling, but “training a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) doesn’t always mean withdrawing them from the challenges of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Christianity Today, March 2020, page 22.

Advancement of Euthanasia

Advancement of Euthanasia

One of the spin offs of the approval of abortion has been the advancement of euthanasia. In virtually every country that has approved abortion, there has been an eventual acceptance of euthanasia, allowing a doctor to administer fatal drugs to a patient.

Abortion was instituted in Portugal in 2007, and in February 2020, Portugal’s parliament approved euthanasia for terminally ill people. Portugal now joins six other countries in sanctioning euthanasia – Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In the United States, medically assisted suicide is permitted in which patients administer the lethal drug themselves.

The issues involved in the advancement of euthanasia are very complex. No one wants a loved one to continue suffering when eventual recovery does not seem to be possible. I have a family member who is in that situation. Prostate and Bone cancer have progressed to brain cancer, and the burden to family caregivers, the expense, and the level of pain present are all huge issues. In the progress of the disease, who would decide to administer euthanasia? The patient may not be able to make it. Family members may not want the emotional strain of making the decision, and who would trust the decision to the state? Other factors include when did the patient realize they were going to die? How important is closure for those left behind, especially children? Can doctors be wrong about a terminal diagnosis?

First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The context of that passage and others is that God uses His children to reach out through His Spirit to help others. Paul, in Philippians 1:20-30, talks about being ready to die. He wrote, “For I am in a strait between the two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” He talks about how he can help others and, for that reason, wants to continue to live.

One of the banners carried by protesters in Portugal says, “Euthanasia doesn’t end suffering, it ends life.” That is so very true. It isn’t the end of suffering for family, for friends, for those you have tried to teach, for those considering their own lives. In this day, there is no reason for physical suffering because medical science has ways to stop the physical pain. Ending life prematurely will generate pain for others. How long will it be after euthanasia is accepted before the state will determine who should survive and who should be euthanized?

The fundamental factor in the advancement of euthanasia centers around the value of a human being. If we consider humans to be special and created in the image of God, then human life is sacrosanct. Animal life does not have that same image of God, and survival of the fittest is in control in the animal world. If humans are just animals, then killing a human is no more of a problem than killing a bug. In that case, inconvenient or unfit humans, like all other animals, can just be eliminated. This is not a trivial issue, but one that deserves thoughtful attention.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Associated Press, 2/21/20.

Holy Spirit’s Work and Nonsense

Holy Spirit's Work and Nonsense

Skeptics of Christianity frequently challenge the concept of the Holy Spirit. That criticism is mainly due to the denominational world’s claims of miraculous acts by their religious leaders. There is no question that God can perform whatever miracles He chooses. However, many claims of the Holy Spirit entering and taking over a person are not only illogical, but they violate biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit’s work.

Numerous books have been written on the Holy Spirit, but from an apologetic standpoint, we must see what the Bible says:

1) In Acts 2:38-39, Peter promised the Holy Spirit to all those who are baptized into Christ, not just to an elite church group.

2) Jesus promised to send the Spirit as a “Comforter.” The Greek word is “parakletos,” which means “one called alongside.” The Holy Spirit helps us in our Christian life but does not make us robots (John 14:15-17).

3) The Holy Spirit’s work is primarily spiritual, not physical (Ephesians 3:16-20). The Holy Spirit is not here to allow us to handle poisonous snakes, raise the dead, or calm physical storms today. The Spirit helps our prayer life (Romans 8:26-28) and helps us to be patient (Galatians 5:22-26). The Holy Spirit enables us to us give freely (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Acts 20:35) and to live moral lives (Galatians 5:16-26, Romans 6:1-23, 8:1-17). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can reach out to others (Romans 8:16), and use the gifts we are given (1 Corinthians 12:1-13).

4) The Spirit gives us the power, but He doesn’t force us to act. He nudges us but doesn’t overpower us (Acts 7:48-51, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22). John 14:15-17 tells us that the skeptic will not accept the Spirit. Rejecting God’s help makes life become a burden, not a joy.

The promises of Jesus, such as Matthew 7:7-11, are primarily spiritual. Becoming a Christian to get rich or have political power is a nonsense understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work.

— John N. Clayton © 2020