Real Men and the Tough-Guy Image

Real Men and the Tough-Guy Image

“Real men don’t play it safe” so many males, including world leaders, don’t accept wearing a mask and social distancing. That is the basic idea of an article by Peter Glick in the August issue of Scientific American. He says that many male leaders are more concerned about projecting a tough-guy image than protecting the common good. He mentions Brazilain leader Jair Bolsonaro, U.K. leader Boris Johnson, and Donald Trump and Mike Pence. When Captain Brett Cozier of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt didn’t radiate the tough-guy image, he was relieved of his command. Meanwhile, female leaders in Germany and New Zealand have had better success in the pandemic than their male counterparts.

This is one more example of how “survival of the fittest” produces competition, promotion of self, and struggles for dominance rather than compassion, empathy, and promoting the common good. It is also why women appear to tend to be more capable promoters of Christianity. As women start competing with males, they tend to demonstrate a great many of the same weaknesses.

Any weakling can turn their back on the needs of the “weak and unfit.” Our experience as the parents of a multiply-handicapped child is dominated by compassionate women who had great empathy and a servant mentality. The number of males who were able to give of themselves to promote disabled adults was pathetically small. As society has rejected the teachings of Christ and embraced a value system based on evolutionary theory, our cliches show our values: “show no weakness,” “I can fix it,” “dog eat dog,” “watch your back.”

It takes incredible strength to be a committed, active Christian. When you read Matthew 25:34-40, you see Jesus commending people not because they were the strongest or the most attractive or successful. He commended them for doing things that an evolutionist would reject, such as giving food and drink rather than using it as a control device. Christ commends them for taking in a stranger, visiting the sick, and clothing the naked. The whole notion of turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving your enemies (Matthew 5:38-48) opposes “survival of the fittest” mentality. Are we strong enough to be Christians, or are we trying to earn the title of “real men?”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The article “Masks and Emasculation” is on page 10 of the August 2020 issue of Scientific American or you can read it online HERE.

Memorial to Help Us Remember

Memorial to Help Us Remember

By definition, we establish a memorial to help us remember certain essential things. Memorials are very much a part of Christianity and of the history of Israel. Members of different denominations have instituted all kinds of special days and given them spiritual significance. In reality, those days are not found in the Bible, and there is no biblical command to observe them. Perhaps God knew that humans would corrupt special days and forget their significance and message. Christmas is an example of that.

In Exodus 3:15, God told Moses that the exodus from Egypt would be a “memorial to all generations.” Jesus spoke in Mathew 26:13 of a memorial for the woman who anointed him for burial. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus gave His followers the one special memorial to observe. Early Christians met on the first day of every week to remember Christ’s body “which is given for you” as they ate the bread and drank the fruit of the vine–“the new testament in my blood which is shed for you.” Even though Jesus gave us this memorial to help us remember, it was very quickly corrupted. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that it had become a drunken feast in the Corinthian church. The memorial’s purpose was lost because they were “not discerning the Lord’s body” (verse 29). Paul goes on in this description to say, “this is why many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 30).

Today in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. The last Monday in May was made a national holiday in 1971 to honor the memory of those who died to defend America from those who would try to destroy us. It seems that each year there is more emphasis on this day being the “unofficial first day of summer” with little emphasis on its intended meaning. Like the words of 1 Corinthians 11, this day has become a drunken feast for many, and our population is weak and sickly as a result. Many of us are more concerned with Memorial Day sales and, in 2020, how to celebrate without getting the virus than with pausing to give thanks for America and for those who died to preserve it.

As Christians, we have one special memorial to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made. Even as we stop every week to remember what Jesus did for us, we must develop an attitude of gratitude. As we thank God who sent His Son to die for our salvation, we should also remember those who died to keep us free to worship in this country.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

One of the challenges atheists frequently raise to belief in God is the question of evil. The argument is that if God exists and if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? If there is evil, according to the atheist view, then that God does not exist. The truth is that the existence of evil challenges atheism.

The presence of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than it is for Christians. From a Christian perspective, evil is a product of the rejection of God. The Bible portrays human existence is as a battleground between good and evil, between God and the forces of Satan. The book of Job is the clearest example, but the Bible covers this theme again and again.

The existence of evil challenges atheism as the famous philosopher Alan Plantinga describes:

“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness if there were no God and we just evolved? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live… A secular way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness and not just an illusion of some sort, then you have a powerful argument for the reality of God.” (From Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God pages 26-27)

Atheism has no way of giving a purpose for human existence. That leads atheists like Richard Dawkins to maintain that there is no such thing as good or evil (see Dawkin’s book River Out of Eden, page 133). If an atheist rationally believes that evil does not exist, they negate their challenge to belief in God. Therefore, the existence of evil challenges atheism.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

We see a similarity between the writings of Hitler and Richard Dawkins. In 1941 Adolph Hitler, in his book Table Talk wrote:

“Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.”

Richard Dawkins has written:

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

Both Hitler and Dawkins have attacked Christianity based on morality. If there is no such thing as good or evil, as Dawkins has written elsewhere, and if natural selection is the law we all live by, then survival depends on who is fit and who is not. In that case, there is no way to justify Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount or the content of Matthew 25. It means that we are all doomed to violence, suffering, and war. Dawkins would suggest that we should be indifferent to the atrocities of humans destroying other humans. It isn’t easy to see how Hitler and Richard Dawkins would disagree philosophically.

Atheism is both a philosophy and a religion. It is hard to believe that after a person looks at the history of atheism, they would deny God’s existence. The atheist, however, would point to religious wars as a demonstration that religion doesn’t do any better than Hitler’s beliefs. That is why this ministry does not defend any religion that can be defined as “human attempts to reach God.” This ministry only claims that there is evidence for God’s existence and that applying the teachings of Jesus Christ would bring peace and well-being to all of humanity.

Adolph Hitler and Richard Dawkins share the same perspective. Hitler claimed that Christianity cultivated human failure. Atheism claims life is purposeless, and by Dawkins’ admission, life cultivates violence and war. That is the fulfillment of what Hitler called “the law of selection.” The contrast between Christianity and atheism is crystal clear when we read the writings of Hitler and examine the history of his application of atheistic beliefs.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The quotations above are in Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019, pages 24-25, ISBN 975-1-939358-22-6.

God Will Provide a Way Out

God Will Provide a Way Out

We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13.

Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”

This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.

First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.

Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.

There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

We are all aware of the destructive nature of the pandemic we are enduring. There is no question about how the virus is impacting families and the economy of the country. At the same time, some positive things are happening because of Christian witness during the pandemic.

There is a story circulated by SAT-7, an interdenominational Christian television center in the Middle East, which demonstrates how the coronavirus is being beneficial. A man in Iran called the television station and said that the people talking on the station were not like the ones that dominated his country. He said he couldn’t believe that they weren’t violent but had a joy and peace about them which he found attractive. He didn’t have a clue as to who Jesus is. However, he knew that what Jesus was saying was better than the violence, terror, and killing that were a part of the religion that dominates his part of the world. He wanted to know where Jesus lived so he could visit Him.

A week later, this man called again, but this time he had 25 young men crammed into a tiny apartment, and all of them wanted to hear about Jesus. Secret house churches are blossoming all over the Middle East. The coronavirus allows Christians to show compassion and bring help and necessary medications to people who are suffering. Similar stories are coming from Afghanistan.

In America, the coronavirus is showing the huge contrast between atheist beliefs and what Christianity offers. Survival of the fittest as a guide to life doesn’t work well with a pandemic. Isolation and competing for medicine and medical care are not attractive lifestyles for most people. Christians who are first responders talk about the dominance of believers in their efforts. The idea of serving others and saving lives even at personal risk to themselves is the exact opposite of atheistic belief systems.

The coronavirus is not God’s retribution for human sin, but, “All things work to the good of those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). Christian witness during the pandemic brings a shining light in a culture that suddenly finds itself unable to manage. In this crisis, atheism offers no hope except perhaps personally, selfishly surviving the plague in whatever way possible. True atheism has no thought of helping others or being confident about the future, even if this life comes to an end. The contrast is a great apologetic for Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Positive Results from a Quarantined Easter

Positive Results from a Quarantined Easter

Today is a historic Resurrection Sunday when church congregations in the United States and much of the world are unable to assemble in one place. We pray that we will be able to get back together soon and that this will never happen again. However, there may be some positive results from a quarantined Easter.

In some countries, Christians meet in fear for their lives and physical well-being, not because of a virus, but because of the government. In the United States, we have never experienced that kind of persecution. Perhaps the present experience will give us a little more appreciation for the freedom we have. In the early days of the Church, persecution was common. Despite that, the Church grew.

Perhaps one of the positive results from a quarantined Easter is that we will think less about the commercialism of the day and concentrate on the real meaning. Instead of Easter trappings, we can spend more time contemplating Christ’s resurrection and what it means. Instead of Easter Sunday, we can think of it as Resurrection Sunday.

We can be thankful for modern electronic communication that allows us to stay in contact with fellow Christians as well as family and friends. Thanks to the internet, many churches are continuing their services while “social distancing.” In doing so, they are reaching and sharing the gospel with people who would never come to their building. Perhaps this will encourage us to use the internet to spread the gospel in more effective ways than ever. That could be another one of the positive results from a quarantined Easter.

Another positive result might be that it will help us appreciate the value of fellowship with other Christians. The Church not being able to meet in person can help us realize what a blessing it is to worship with our brothers and sisters. I hope that when we can get back together, we will appreciate the fellowship of other Christians as never before. Perhaps when this problem is over, we will find a new enthusiasm for “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

The truth is that Resurrection Sunday should not be a once-a-year event. Each week is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. We encourage you to read our previous posts titled “Christ’s Resurrection Celebration” and “The Event that Changed the World.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Christian Response to a Crisis

Christian Response to a Crisis

One of the great evidences for the validity of the Christian way of living as taught by Jesus Christ is the effect it has on the way people treat other people. In Acts 4:31-37, we see the first century Church sharing their possessions and looking after one another. When there was a famine in Jerusalem, churches in other parts of the Roman empire raised funds to feed the Jerusalem Christians. Christianity, when practiced, stood out as a positive force, continually meeting the needs of others. That is the Christian response to a crisis such as COVID-19 or Y2K.

During the Y2K scare
, “experts” said that the financial systems of the world might collapse. The response was that people stockpiled food and essential commodities. Many people not only locked away supplies, but they set up military-like defenses to keep others out. The government maintained that there was no cause for alarm, but people didn’t trust the government, and they enlisted other ways of protecting their money and property.

Now we have a similar crisis, except this one is a biological problem. How have people reacted? We not only see people stockpiling things they consider important for their survival, but also using the crisis to make money. We have seen people buying massive amounts of toilet paper or hand sanitizer and then trying to sell them for vastly inflated prices. People have made substantial amounts of money by selling “cures” that don’t work and even testing kits, masks, and ventilators that were unreliable. Gun stores have seen a rush on guns and ammunition. Survival of the fittest has been the message of the COVID-19 catastrophe.

Those are the worst-case situations. At the same time, some people have made sacrifices to help others survive. Many individuals and Christians have operated food banks and cared for the ill. Most of them did so as islands of Christian compassion in a world of selfishness and greed. The Christian response to a crisis is entirely different from the selfish response.

Watching these emergencies argues strongly for the need to see God working in the lives of people today. The statement of Jesus, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few,” has 21st-century relevance. (See Matthew 9:37.)

— John N. Clayton © 2020

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

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief

Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ
Churches of Christ Disaster Relief at Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ

In the early morning of Tuesday, March 3, 2020, an EF-4 tornado did devastating damage to the city of Cookeville, Tennessee. On the same night, several lesser tornados swept across middle Tennessee, including Nashville. We have discussed before the question of, “Where is God when disaster strikes?” That is where Churches of Christ Disaster Relief is involved.

When a need arises, God works through His people. One of the buildings that survived the hit was the one where the Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ meets in Cookeville. Within hours, their gymnasium became a relief center. Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc., with headquarters in Nashville, brought in truckloads of needed supplies for the hundreds of people who had lost their homes. Members of the Jefferson Avenue church came in to assist, even though they had also been affected by the storm. Area schools were closed, so teens, as well as others, showed up to help.

Before this tragedy happened, Rick Gilbert, deacon who serves as the church’s disaster relief coordinator, had taken groups of church members to Nashville to pack supplies for Churches of Christ Disaster Relief. Now they had a chance to see where those boxes go and how much they are needed. He said, “Now we see why we did what we did.”

On March 6, President Trump visited Cookeville, and Gilbert guided him on a tour of the relief center set up by the church. Gilbert said of the President, “He was touched. He was really touched.” President Trump was in the relief center for about 45 minutes, talking with people and even praying with them. The President said, “Even all of this—Churches of Christ—tremendous amounts of food and goods, and it all came within a matter of hours. So it’s a case study—a case study of what should be done and how it can be done. It’s Tennessee.”

More than that, Mr. President, it’s Christianity—God’s people following the example of Jesus.

You can read the report of this on ChristianChronicle.org.

— Roland Earnst © 2020