Seeker of Truth or Thomas the Doubter

Seeker of Truth or Thomas the Doubter

People often refer to him as “Doubting Thomas.” That label is inaccurate and unfair. Identifying the apostle as Thomas the doubter fails to understand his real nature. When Jesus’ life was in danger, it was Thomas who said, “Let us go die with Him” (John 11: 16). At that time, Thomas was the one full of commitment who was willing to die for his convictions about Jesus. One has to wonder why it was not Peter who was labeled as “the doubter” due to his triple denial of Christ. What we can learn from Thomas is how doubt can help a person to become a seeker of truth.

Doubt has to be confronted. When the other disciples came to Thomas with the outrageous claim that they had seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, what do you think his reaction should have been? What would your response be? Many false Christs had risen in the world even in that day. There was good reason to question the claims. As a matter of fact, the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were the women in Luke 24, and no one even among the apostles believed them.

The kind of doubt that Thomas had was a healthy skepticism. He did not back off, soft soap, or withdraw from the situation, but he openly and honestly expressed his doubt. Most people in today’s world do not explore their doubts. When they have doubts about God, Christ, the Church, or some doctrinal issue, they tend to bury their concerns. The load of unaddressed doubt can create physical illness, and it can kill us spiritually. Thomas the doubter shared his doubt with his fellow disciples and did not withdraw but became a seeker of truth.

In today’ s world, people who have doubts usually leave the Church. Keeping quiet and walking away seems like the easy way out, but it leads to stress, ignorance, isolation, and a failure to grow and mature in the faith. Thomas could have walked away. Instead, the Bible tells us that a week later, when the disciples were together, “Thomas was with them” (John 20:26). He continued to study, grow, and learn and did not discard the lessons and learning of the past.

Thomas maintained his relationships with his fellow disciples and was willing to respond to the evidence presented to him. I have often wondered if Thomas actually put his finger into the nail prints and the wound in Jesus’ side. Or was the fact that his search for evidence had been responded to enough to motivate him to say, “My Lord and my God!” Those words are not just an acceptance of evidence. They are a realization that the evidence he was seeing was going to change his life. The Bible does not tell us what happened to Thomas, but secular history says he went to India and died there teaching people in that area of the world about Jesus.

We do not know all that took place between the time that Thomas shared his doubts with his fellow disciples, and when Jesus appeared to him. It is difficult not to believe that the others tried to convince him. I think God gave us the story of Thomas the doubter and seeker of truth to let us know that doubt is a normal part of maturing as a Christian.

Unlike Thomas, we have multiple ways of resolving our doubts. Today we have evidence from history, science, scripture, and thousands of years of testimony. The purpose of the DOES GOD EXIST? ministry is to assist any seeker of truth in resolving their doubts. This website, as well as DoesGodExist.org and DoesGodExist.tv, are sources of help if you are a seeker of truth. We do not have all the answers, but sharing with others and learning from them goes a long way toward building dynamic faith.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Power of Faith and Love

Power of Faith and Love

In my atheist days, I ridiculed religious people for believing something that has no power. I didn’t realize the power of faith and love.

“What good does being a Christian do you that I can’t get at my local bar or club?” That was my challenge. I said that I could have fellowship and share love and material blessings without going to church. I pointed out with some validity that going to church is similar to being a member of a country club. I pay my dues and enjoy certain privileges to be a member of the club. For many church attenders, their contribution is their dues, and they get to go to social events and have some name recognition.

This distorted view of Christianity misses the point at many levels. The Church is not a social club, but a service organization. People in the Church serve the community. They provide relief, take care of the sick, educate children, and support good causes.

Even more important is the power of faith that comes by having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus states things in Matthew 5-7 which are ludicrous to an atheist. How can a rational person love those who hate them (Matthew 5:44)? What is the logic of turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)? How can anyone be willing to go the second mile (Matthew 5:41)?

To answer the atheist challenge, just ask what is causing the problems for most people living in 21st century America. Why do we have such a high suicide rate? Why is drug usage high and growing? What causes so many people to struggle with depression? It isn’t physical needs that are the most significant problem. It is emotional and spiritual ills that push people into behaviors that sometimes take their lives.

Paul describes the power of faith expressed in love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. People of faith understand the love which surpasses physical needs. “Love is patient and kind: love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing or keep a record of wrongs but rejoices in the truth… Love never ends.”

There is even a particular Greek word “agapao” to describe that kind of love. It’s a love that fulfills the emotional and spiritual needs that we all have, and God’s Spirit brings that love to life in us. The power of faith is available to anyone who will seek it.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Three Things I Wouldn’t Have Without God

Three Things I Wouldn't Have Without God - Something from Nothing

I lived for 20 years as a committed, evangelistic, aggressive atheist, and for many more years, I have lived a life based on belief in God. The difference is huge! Here are three things I wouldn’t have without God.

1. I wouldn’t have a meaningful explanation for why there is something instead of nothing. If there is no God, then the creation is meaningless. Even if a model is eventually constructed that explains how time, matter/energy and space came into existence, the purpose for the existence of time and space remains unanswered. The existence of God, who is love, goodness, peace, and the creator of all kinds of beauty, opens the door to an understanding of the things we all enjoy. The struggle between good and evil gives us a role to play as sentient beings who can choose and facilitate love, goodness, and beauty. Being created in the image of God embodies our very make up, so there is a reason for us to exist. That means there is a reason for something to exist instead of blind, silent, unthinking nothingness.

2. I wouldn’t have a pattern for life except “survival of the fittest.” If there is no God, then each of us is independent of any responsibility for anyone or anything else. Why would I do or give anything to anyone that would detract from my own existence? If the strong survive and the weak die, why would I not want to devote myself to being strong? The foundation of survival of the fittest is not only being strong but also being selfish and dominant. There is no room for altruism in a belief system that tells me to make sure I am the best and the strongest and the smartest. Looking after number one is my passion and guide to behavior.

3. I wouldn’t have a fixed standard of moral behavior. To be the strongest and most fit, I must have a moral standard that accommodates those attributes. That means that I must have a flexible moral standard so that I can adapt it to what fits me the best. My sexual morals must match my physical capabilities. My concept of ownership must revolve around my capabilities. There are times when lying will promote my station in life. Deception in the natural world is a key to survival in many situations, so why would it not be a part of my basis for making moral decisions? If there is no God, then trust ceases to exist. No contract of any kind has meaning if there are no absolute concepts of what is right and what is wrong.

Those are three things I wouldn’t have without God., but they are not all. There are two more I want to share with you tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

End Of Life and God

End Of Life and GodOne of the most difficult personal issues of today is what a person should do when they are very near the end of life, and their quality of life is zero. Medical science has progressed to the point where a person can continue to be alive even though they are in enormous pain and connected to machines with no hope of ever being free of wires and tubes. Most of us do not want to ever be in that situation, but the fact is that many of us will be.

I have a Buddhist friend who maintains that having a difficult time in life at any stage is payment for sin, and we should not do anything to minimize that payment. There are many Christians who maintain that God and God alone should determine the time of our death and that extending or reducing the time of death is wrong.

We are not talking about suicide in the sense of wanting to leave this life because of relationship problems or failures in life. We are talking about cases like a woman named Brittany, who had an aggressive brain tumor. After an eight-hour surgery, doctors told her that they could not get it all and that within six months, she would die. Doctors told her that “her symptoms were going to get much worse with brutal headaches, seizures, a loss of motor and cognitive abilities, a change in her personality, and ultimately she would die.” She did die on her 30th birthday in Oregon where she and her family had moved because physician help in dying is available there.

This case has been publicized by an organization called “Compassion and Choices.” They are pushing for nation-wide acceptance of “physician-assisted compassionate death.” They are using Brittany Diaz as their poster child. There are all kinds of issues involved in a case like Brittany’s. The medical profession has been lax in dealing with pain, and the current opioid crisis has made the situation worse. The potential for abuse in end of life cases is enormous. The expense of keeping a terminal patient alive can bankrupt a family. On the other hand, end of life situations frequently provide for healing among those left behind and also allow a person a final opportunity to be obedient to God. How should Christians deal with this issue?

The first point we need to understand is that death from a biblical standpoint is when the soul returns to God. It is not when the heart stops beating or when the person stops breathing. A person can be dead, and yet their body can continue to do biological functions. The Bible tells us that the body is the “temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). This same principle is involved in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, where Paul condemns prostitution by again referring to the body as “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” He ends by saying, “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

We are not talking about “pulling the plug” in this discussion. Christians can work with their physicians when death is near to stop the pain and yet allow the person to continue to manage their affairs. Giving enough relief from pain to cause a person to be unable to manage their affairs is rarely the situation, and it is not actively killing the person. Even giving morphine can accelerate the death of an individual by suppressing breathing, but pain killers should be available for every individual.

Each case is different, and each person should make clear what they want to be done when the end of life is near. When God has more work for a person to do, and they are able to do it, physician-assisted suicide should not be forced upon them.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: CompassionAndChoices.org.

Importance of Religion and Family Life

Importance of Religion and Family LifeThe Pew Research Center wanted to learn about global views on the importance of religion and family life, so they surveyed over 30,000 people in 27 countries. One set of questions presented was, “Does religion play a more or less important role today than it did 20 years ago, and is that good or bad?” A second query set was, “Are family ties stronger or weaker than they were 20 years ago, and is that good or bad?”

A large majority in most countries agreed on the two questions involving family ties. There is strong agreement that family ties are weakening and that it is a bad thing. Across the 27 countries, 58 percent said that family ties had weakened while 22% said there was no change and only 15% said they had strengthened.

There was less agreement concerning religion. A median 37% said that religion plays a less important role in their countries today, while 27% said it is more important. Interestingly, most of the people surveyed were NOT OPPOSED to religion playing a more important role in their countries. The most significant opposition to religion’s role seems to be in Europe with Sweden (51%), France (47%), and the Netherlands (45%). In the United States, only 18% are opposed to a more important role for religion in the nation. In Canada, the opposition is 29%.

The countries where the largest percentage of people said that family ties are strengthening are Indonesia and the Philippines. The countries where more people said that religion plays a more important role now than 20 years ago include the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria, and Indonesia. By far, the people of Indonesia said that religion plays a more important role now (83%). Indonesia is 87% Muslim, and Nigeria is evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Kenya is 83% Christian and the Philippines 90% Christian in the broadest sense.

Not surprisingly, in the United States, people who consider themselves to be somewhat or very conservative (to the right end of the political spectrum) are 42% more likely to favor more religious influence in the country than those who are liberal or left-leaning. That attitude is reflected in the positions taken in the current U.S. Political campaign.

For more details on this study of the importance of religion and family life, visit the Pew Research website HERE.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Third Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Third Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.

REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”

RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.

The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.

The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.

ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Another Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Another Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Yesterday, we looked at one reason why some people choose atheism. Today we want to examine another reason why atheism makes sense. As I said yesterday, some people seem to think that there are no real atheists. Since I was an atheist for many years, I know that isn’t true. Many people genuinely believe that there is no God and they have various reasons. Here is a second reason:

REASON 2. Some argue that religion causes nothing but trouble, hostility, suffering, and discord. History is full of religious wars. We could point out the Crusades, more recent conflicts in Northern Ireland, and in much of the Middle East spilling over into terrorism in the United States and western countries. Examine the internal problems of religious groups including hypocrisy, bickering, hostility, and abuse. Look at the prominent religious leaders who are guilty of immoral actions. Look at the money raked in by glib, fast-talking con-artists who build religious empires for their own pocket. They exploit the very people they pretend to help. In simple terms, religion does not seem to work.

RESPONSE. Who among those of us who wear the name “Christian” would want to deny all of those charges? We can cry out that these are human errors and not God’s. However, if faith in God does not work for us, how can atheists rationally believe it is going to work for them? Today the body of Christ is afflicted with people who claim to be Christians while they single out other Christians to attack as they display anything but a Christian attitude.

What the atheist is missing in this argument is that hypocrisy is not solely a function of religion. You find hypocrisy at work and on the golf course. There has only been one person who ever lived who was entirely free of hypocrisy, and He was the Son of God. Because one atheist was a murderer, can we legitimately say that all atheists are murderers? Every human falls short of what he should be. The most fundamental difference between atheism and Christianity is that Christianity recognizes that fact and functions in spite of it. Atheism relies on humanism which tries to deny the existence of sin while pointing out the sins of religion.

ADVICE. Those of us who wear the name “Christian” need to do a better job of pointing people to Christ and the Bible rather than to preachers and buildings. As long as we are “preacher-oriented” and “building bound” we will continue to reinforce the arguments of the atheists. When we convince people about Christ and the truth of the Bible, the errors of humans will not be relevant. We must live out the faith we claim to have so that others see Christ in us. Only then can we can show them following Christ brings real peace.

Tomorrow we will look at another reason why atheism makes sense.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Religious Test for Judges?

Religious Test for Judges
A new question has come up about who is fit to serve as a judge in American courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been screening candidates for judicial positions and some members of the committee seem to be establishing a religious test for judges. The indication is that faithful Christians should not be allowed to serve on the bench.

One of the candidates is Amy Coney Barrett who is a practicing Roman Catholic. The committee challenged Barrett’s fitness to serve as a judge because, in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett has said that “faith informs her views.” However, she has also said that she is obligated to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws, not her own beliefs. She was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was also a faithful Catholic. Senator Dick Durbin asked Barrett, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” What the senators seem to be forgetting is that the United States Constitution strictly prohibits a religious test for judges. That question should not even be asked of a judicial candidate.

This anti-Christian bias in judicial appointments reminds us that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to make a decision that will affect the religious freedom of Americans. The judges serving on the lower courts are usually the ones that are later appointed to the Supreme Court. It seems that atheism is the only faith that some of the senators would accept as valid for being a judge. David Harsanyi of the National Review said that in the view of some senators “the only acceptable religion for public officials is ‘orthodox liberalism.’”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Israel-Palestine Questions

Israel-Palestine Questions
We have had several Israel-Palestine questions which are out of our field of expertise. Douglas Jacoby has a website in which he answers many important questions. Here is what Dr. Jacoby said in a recent post.

The politics of the crisis are complex. In the biblical period, the Promised Land, or Canaan, became Israel. It was named after the covenant name of Jacob, whose 12 sons became the 12 Tribes (Gen 32:28). The term was also used of the idolatrous breakaway Northern Kingdom of Israel, from 931 BC till its fall in 722. The “10 Lost Tribes” were lost, not by being removed to a distant location (like the British Isles, the US, or Central Asia), but by intermarriage with Assyrians and other foreign groups. Thus the 10 Tribes were lost forever — genetically. The southern kingdom of Judah remained until 587 BC when it was destroyed by the Babylonians.
When the Romans defeated the Jews in the war in 132-135 AD (the Bar-Kokhba Revolt), they renamed the land Philistia–after the perennial enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines. In English this becomes Palestine.
When the modern State of Israel was created in 1948, many Palestinians (most of whom were Christian or Muslim, rather than Jewish) were evicted from their homes, their land expropriated by the new government. In my view, none of these developments fulfill prophecy. The Jews came back to their land in the 6th century BC, under the Persian king Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22-23). The majority of the architects of modern Israel were atheists and agnostics, and Orthodox rabbis oppose Zionism for its atheism and humanistic emphasis.”
Today the Palestinian territories, consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are semi-autonomous –like a country within a country, separated from Israeli territory by walls, fences, checkpoints and lots of guns. In many (sad and unfortunate) ways, the Palestinians are stateless. Being pro-Israel typically means being anti-Palestinian–and vice versa. A friend of mine, a university professor and peace activist, declares, “If you’re pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, you aren’t pro-peace.” Think about it.

We appreciate Douglas Jacoby letting us share his post about Israel-Palestine questions. You can follow him at www.douglasjacoby.com
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God’s Dwelling Place

God's Dwelling Place
People have constructed massive structures and religious places of worship to get in contact with God. Islam has Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad with the Kaaba being the “House of God.” Buddhism has its shrines with the five elements–fire, air, earth, water, and wisdom. Bahai followers have their temples with the oldest one near Chicago, Illinois. Hindus have their “mandir” temples with the world’s largest one in the New York City metro area. The Mormons have the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City while Catholics have the Vatican. All of these cost a great deal of money, and all of them are geographically limited and impersonal. None of them are consistent with the biblical teachings for Christians. Where is God’s dwelling place?

Jesus made it clear that a new relationship was coming with the advent of Christianity. When Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman in John 4:20-24, He indicated that there would be no single place for worship. Peter in Acts 2:16-21 quotes Joel 2:28-32 in observing how worship of God and the presence of God was changing. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 we read that our bodies are now the “temple of God.” Ephesians 3:17 indicates that Christ dwells in the hearts of Christians based on love. Galatians 4:4-6 tells us that God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

The Church is people, not places. It can meet anywhere, under any conditions, with no expense or construction or long pilgrimage required. The Church we read about in the Bible did not own a temple or a house of any kind. When we read Acts 2:46 we see Christians meeting from “house to house.” The disciples met in an “upper room,” and they even met in the Temple (Acts 3:1). There is no justification for spending millions of dollars on a physical place to meet while people starve or freeze to death within sight of the structure.

In Acts 17:22-31 Paul talks to the leaders of the day about God’s dwelling place. In verse 24 he told them and us that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” He then told his listeners that people “feel after God and try to find him though he is not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being” (verses 27 and 28). Paul told them they should not think of God as something made by art and human design. He calls on them to repent (verse 30).

Atheists attack the abuses of religion and the waste of religious acts, and much of their criticism is valid. Humans do silly, wasteful things, but that has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches us about God. God’s dwelling place is not in our structures but in us. That fact should affect our lives as we understand what He calls us to do with what He has given us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017