Not Afraid of Science

Not Afraid of ScienceThe American Scientific Affiliation website published an interesting article by Sara Sybesma Tolsma titled “Science in Church.” Dr. Tolsma is a professor of biology and started her article by saying, “My church is not afraid of science.” The Does God Exist? ministry has tried to nurture that attitude among our readers, so the article was of great interest to me.

What Dr. Tolsma has done is to have an elementary science center in the midweek Bible class. The kids do simple science experiments and then relate them to biblical stories and the concept of God’s design and creative wisdom in the world around us. Because she is a biologist, she had the kids do some experiments with microscopes. They used cotton swabs to wipe surfaces within the meeting place of the Church and then wipe the swab on agar plates which allow bacteria to grow. A week later, they examined the bacteria cultures under a microscope. The kids were shocked at the results. She also led the kids in hand washing experiments using plain water, soap and water, and hand sanitizer to compare the results under the microscope.

The experiments she used can help kids understand God’s hygienic rules for Israel. Helping them see the goodness of the natural world is essential. The kids learn that science is knowledge and the Bible encourages and supports seeking knowledge. These lessons equip them to handle the challenges they will face when people try to make faith an enemy of science. They are prepared to be not afraid of science. Singing “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “How Great Thou Art,” and other songs that praise God for His creative wisdom can build faith. The sessions concluded with a prayer thanking God for all of creation, even those things that you can only see with a microscope.

The conclusion of her article finds Dr. Tolsma saying, “We can reinforce the natural curiosity we see in the kids… and reignite that curiosity in adults so we can all more fully experience Christ, ‘the firstborn of all Creation’ the One in whom ‘all things in heaven and on Earth were made’…the amazing details of God’s natural world declare that the heavens, rocks, plants, animals, and even the microbes are telling the glory of God.”

The Does God Exist? ministry encourages Christians to be not afraid of science. We have a set of materials produced by Jean Wiebe and Pat Parker titled “God Made It All Perfect.” The lessons and ideas are contained in two teacher’s guides. Jean’s materials are designed for grades 1-4 and Pat’s are intended for grades 4–7. There are over 100 pages in each of these 8 ½ x 11 books. We can send these to you free if you will cover the postage and packing, which would be $6.00 for the two or $3.00 for either one. If you are interested, send your check to “Does God Exist?,” PO Box 2704, South Bend, IN 46680-2704.

You can read Dr. Tolsma’s article HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Religious Knowledge in America

Religious Knowledge in AmericaIn today’s anti-Christian climate, kids not only don’t know anything about Christianity or the Bible, but they are also profoundly ignorant about religion in general. In today’s world, religious knowledge is needed.

Pew Research Center has released some of its findings on what American kids know. Since a majority of kids go all the way through school with no education on religion of any kind, their ignorance of religious knowledge is profound. Here are some of the things the Pew Research Center found:

50% of high school students think that Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
A majority of Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible.
17% believe Ramadan is the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Many teens think “Moby Dick” is from the Bible.

This is not just a teen problem. George W. Bush was told about the Sunni and Shiite conflict in Iraq and responded by saying, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims.” Jeff Stein of the New York Times reported that in his work with congressional leaders most didn’t have a clue about the difference. There have been attacks on Sikhs by people who thought they were attacking Muslims.

Atheists and secularists have been very successful at intimidating the leaders of education with threats of recriminations. The result is that the role of religion in America’s history has been lost in one generation. It isn’t a matter of separating church and state, but whether this purging has left modern Americans with a massive gap in religious knowledge. They don’t have an understanding of our country’s values and how faith in God has been a foundation that has produced the freedom we all enjoy.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from the Houston Chronicle, June 25, 2019 page F8.

Prison Ministry Reaching Inmates Who Want to Learn

 Reaching Inmates Who Want to LearnOne of the major efforts of this ministry is to provide educational materials and support for men and women in prison. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, both numerically and in the percentage of the nation’s population. For that reason, workers are greatly needed in prison ministry.

In 1962 John Clayton began working with men and women in the local jail, and then at the state prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Helen Richards had been doing work in prisons, and the two of them began teaching both classes such as mathematics, and Bible-study classes. It became very apparent that a high percentage of the prisoners had embraced atheist teachings. When convicts were brought into the prison to begin their period of incarceration, they would be asked about their religious affiliation. They would pick a denomination, or the clerk would do it for them. The reality was that a vast percentage of inmates had rejected God and the Bible as useful in directing their lives. We wanted our prison ministry to help those prisoners.

In 1968 John Clayton wrote a three lesson apologetic course to use in prisons. This quickly evolved into a 13 lesson course so that prisoners could complete a lesson once a week each quarter. This course was written at a 4th-grade reading level, and there was a question sheet at the end of each lesson. The number of students grew rapidly, and the course became a nationwide correspondence course. Ten years later, John developed a college-level course reaching inmates who want to learn more advanced material.

At the same time, Helen Richards built up a series of lessons that were straight Bible studies. Interest in this educational prison ministry was so great that additional help was needed, and more courses were added. We now have just under 4,000 students in our two apologetics courses, about half of whom are active. We have nine courses graded by other workers with a large number of lessons being graded by this team every month. We provide students who enroll with the lessons and answer sheets to fill out and return to us in postpaid return envelopes. They take one course at a time, and the nine studies we offer are broken down into four areas:

1) Basic Courses – Bible lessons in simple language written especially for people who need a beginner course. Most of our prisoners start with this course.
2) A Special Needs Course for those who need help with substance abuse.
3) Four general courses dealing with Christianity as taught in the Bible.
4) Two Advanced Courses with in-depth biblical studies.

Students who need out of state visits or specialized help with substance abuse are referred to “Christians Against Substance Abuse” (CASA). Buck Griffith and Don Umphrey have built a program that has helped thousands of men and women pick up the pieces and live productive Christian lives. We have been able to help several men get college degrees. Several prisons have a class in progress using DVDs of our video series taught by an inmate who has studied our materials. For more information, or to enroll, contact us for a “Request Form.” All of the courses and programs in our prison ministry are free.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?One of the struggles we all have is understanding why God allows disastrous events that cause massive destruction and suffering to humans. Atheists use this question as a club against faith, and it is perhaps their best weapon. The list of events that harm humans is huge – earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, landslides, fires, floods, droughts, etc. At this time of the year, hurricanes are at the front of our awareness. Does God cause natural disasters to punish people?

If you have just seen a natural event take place that destroyed your home and killed a loved one, no rational explanation is going to be of any help. Our hearts go out to those of you who are trying to make sense of what seems to be a senseless disaster that has hurt them in ways that no one else can understand. We don’t want anyone to think that we have all the answers. If somehow we can remove ourselves from our own emotions, here are three things we need to understanding:

1) God does not cause disasters. The notion that God brings catastrophes upon people He doesn’t like, or people who violate His laws or commands is inconsistent with the nature of God. James 1:13 tells us clearly that God doesn’t tempt us in any way. The passage specifically deals with moral temptation, but verse 17 goes on to say that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God brings good things. Jealousy or vindictiveness is not a part of His nature.

2) Human stupidity in the face of natural processes is a significant cause of calamity. Hurricanes are a classic example of this. The Earth has zones of climate that are made functional by natural processes which create climate zones. The Hadley Cell explains these zones, with different zones creating tropical rainforests and deserts. Those zones are balanced by natural processes such as hurricanes that carry water into what would otherwise be a desert. Thirty-degree latitudes north and south would be deserts if it were not for hurricanes that bring massive amounts of water to recharge water supplies. In the United States, northern Florida and southern Georgia would be deserts with no water were it not for hurricanes. Humans ignoring this system and building in areas known to be vulnerable to hurricanes while removing natural barriers such as mangroves causes much of the suffering and death.

3) Human mismanagement of God’s creation due to greed and ignorance is a major cause of human suffering. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God gave humans the assignment to take care of “the garden, to dress it and keep it.” We are the caretakers of what God has created, but selfishness and greed have caused significant suffering and destruction. We all know that polluting the air, rivers, lakes, and now the ocean has led to cancer and now appears to be affecting Earth’s climate. We all understand that exploitative agriculture has led to fires, erosion, dust storms, and insect swarms. Scientific journals are full of studies showing how human mismanagement of what God has given us is leading and has led to disaster.

Does God cause natural disasters? The answer is “NO!” It isn’t God’s will that humans suffer from natural disasters, but God has never promised us that He will protect us from ourselves. What God has done is to build a base by which His servants can help those who are suffering. The Church has a responsibility to show God’s love and compassion for the hurting. Atheists need to pitch in and help clean up the mess, not try to blame God. (Read Matthew 25:31-40.)
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

Thomas Jefferson's Bible examined in the book Doubting Thomas
Atheists and skeptics have done a good job of convincing many people that Thomas Jefferson was especially critical of the claims of Jesus being the Son of God,and that he was a closet atheist. I have heard (and repeated I am sorry to say), the claim that Jefferson’s Bible had holes all through it in which he clipped out anything he didn’t like. The story was that a good percentage of the pages of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible were missing. (I have commented that a lot of us do that mentally.) It turns out that most of what we have been told about Jefferson and his religious convictions are not true.

Mark Beliles and Jerry Newcombe wrote a book published by Morgan James in October of 2014 titled Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson did clearly state that people should be free to believe or to disbelieve in Jesus, which no thinking American can deny. That view influenced his writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. He also wrote, but did not publish, a work which was designed to help Indians understand the philosophy of Christianity. It was titled The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the Account of His Life and Doctrines as Given by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgment of the New Testament for the Use of Indians Unembarrassed with Matters of Fact or Faith Beyond the Level of Their Comprehensions. (What a title!) According to Jefferson, this work was to help the Indians benefit from the moral teachings of Jesus Christ. Jefferson stated in a letter to William Canby on September 18, 1813: “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus Christ.”

When Jefferson was president he regularly attended the Christian worship services held at the U.S. Capitol building. He did not exclude miracles from what is called “The Jefferson Bible.” Matthew 10:8, Luke 14:1-6, Matthew 9:18-25, Matthew 9:20-22 and Matthew 9:27-31 are all in his Bible. However, he struggled with some doctrinal issues which he called “Christology.” He had an especially hard time with the Godhead.

He was not a theologian, but he clearly was a believer. He devoted a great deal of energy and time to understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ as indicated by Thomas Jefferson’s Bible.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Solar Cell Christians

Solar Cell Christians Depend on the SonAren’t solar cells wonderful? We have lights along our sidewalk that allow visitors to reach our front door without stepping on a toad or disturbing our resident garter snake. Those lights are powered by solar cells, and as long as we have a few hours of sunlight, they function beautifully. Unlike regular batteries, these solar cells have an essentially endless life. The design of the solar cell allows rejuvenation as long as it stays in touch with the Sun on a regular basis. This brings to mind the idea of solar cell Christians.

I would suggest that God’s plan for His children is not for us to try to exist on our own. In Genesis 3:8-10, we see Adam hearing “the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden.” How does a voice walk? In verse 10, Adam says he heard God’s voice and in verse 17 he listened to the voice of his wife. In John 1:1, we are told, “In the beginning was the Word” (Greek logos). In verse 14, the “logos” was made flesh and dwelt among us. In Acts 2:38-39, all Christians are promised that they will receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This whole concept is not that mysterious if we reflect on the solar cell. How do we find the strength to live the kind of life that God calls us to live? How do we give to others and support people in trying times? Like the solar cell, if we try to do it without continuing reconnection to the ultimate source of energy and power, we will become dim and eventually lifeless. Jesus calls Christians to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Without the rejuvenation of God’s Son within us, we can start to look more and more like the darkness of the world that surrounds us.

Our worship, our Bible study, our fellowship with other Christians, and our prayers are all a part of our spiritual recharging. The voice of God walks within us as we use God’s Word. We dare not depend on our own wisdom to remain the light of the world as we face enormous challenges. A solar cell needs constant contact with the Sun, and we need continuous contact with the Son. The analogy of solar cell Christians reminds us that God’s Spirit gives us the power to be far more than we could be on our own.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Am I Here?

Why Am I Here? The editor of the October 2019 issue of Astronomy magazine begins the issue by reviewing the elements that make up our physical bodies and the current theory of how those elements are created in stars. He then asks the question, “Why am I here?” That is a question Astronomy magazine cannot answer and which the discipline of astronomy does not try to deal with.

What the science of astronomy does is give us a factual basis to know how the elements in our bodies were formulated. The editor points out that we have seven-octillion atoms in our body. (That is 10 to the 27th power or 7 billion billion billion atoms.) He reminds us that there are 60 different chemical elements in our body and he then says that that Big Bang nucleosynthesis produced those elements. So what is his answer to “Why am I here?” His answer is, “You’re here because atoms created in the Big Bang and in the bellies of stars have recombined in a way to make you billions of years after their creation – with a big thank you to your parents as well.”

What is interesting about this is that the editor doesn’t even try to answer the question he has posed. What he does is to give the current theory about HOW the materials that make up your body might have been formed. He does not answer the question, “WHY am I here?” The tragedy of modern thinking is that we have bought into substituting HOW for WHY. We see this in the media, in high school and college textbooks, and in magazines like Astronomy. The result is that humans are reduced to a product of physical change, and not a very attractive product at that. My atheist father wanted his physical remains to be returned to the earth from which it came “as quickly as possible.” His only hope for his life being significant was that his academic achievements would be remembered.

A good percentage of the Bible is dedicated to telling us why we are here. Numerous passages talk about Christians being “the light of the world.” The struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness, and between destructive forces and constructive forces is spelled out over and over again. (See Ephesians 3:10-11, 5:8-14 and 6:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-11; John 3:19-21 for examples.)

The result of finding the real answer to “Why am I here?” makes our lives full of purpose and value. It also causes us to regard every human being as having intrinsic, inherent worth. Knowing why I am here shapes my worldview and gives me purpose and meaning for existing. It’s a question worth finding the answer to.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Worshiping a Human Deity

Worshiping a Human Deity Some people think of God as a human – the “old man in the sky.” They think of a god with human limitations and needs as if we are worshiping a human deity. Questions about the race, sex, culture, language, and appearance of God are all rooted in the misconception that God possesses human properties and limitations. God does not have a sexual identity, and the Bible describes God with both masculine and feminine qualities. There is no neuter gender in Hebrew, so if a sexual identity is given, it must come from the context. Even the New Testament, sometimes provides a feminine description of God. (See Luke 13:34.)

Man’s creation in the image of God is also not a human concept. We do not look like God physically or in any physical human way. We are in God’s image by our capacity to love sacrificially, our creative abilities in art and music, our capacity to engage in spiritual things, and our ability to feel guilt and sympathy and compassion. Even the purpose of human existence is linked to this concept. God did not create humans because He was lonely. The purpose of our creation is rooted in nonhuman struggles that we can only vaguely comprehend. The reason for our existence is independent of any physical human objective. (See Ephesians 3:9 -11; 6:12; and Job 1,2.)

Our worship of God is frequently skewed by our conception of God as a human with human needs. Sometimes we seem to act as though God needs our praise because He is depressed. We don’t praise God because God has a self-image problem. The quality of our praise or singing is not of importance to God. Sometimes we emphasize the quality of our singing praises more than the participation of everyone in the process. That emphasis reflects our limited understanding of the nature of God as a spirit. John 4:24 tells us that, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We forget that because we have a limited human concept of God. We are not worshiping a human deity.

We tend to replace the simplicity and total involvement of the first century Church in their worship of God with elaborate theatrical productions. Our productions may have entertainment value, but we often fail to realize that God is not appeased with things humans deem as important. The Bible portrays God as looking on the hearts of those who worship Him, not the overt process. One of the best biblical examples is in Leviticus 10:1-2 where Nadab and Abihu, two priests, offered “strange fire” in replacement for what God had ordered. There is no indication that they neglected anything God had told them to do. They dressed up the fire in some way that would make it more appealing on a human level. God reacts strongly to this human substitution.

It is easy for people living in Western societies to look at human-like images from primitive cultures and wonder how they could conceive of God in such a distorted way. But we may be guilty of worshiping a human deity in our own way. God calls us to understand that His ways and thoughts are not like ours and that He does not have our limitations. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let us listen to the true God and strive to understand what He wills for us rather than creating God in our image and trying to appease something of our own creation.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?
How can we investigate the questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” Many go to an atheist website or read a book by an atheist to decide. A vast majority of people who attack our position on the Bible follow atheist websites. The problem here should be obvious. If a person’s religious view is that there is no God, then obviously, the Bible cannot be the word of God since God does not exist! If you tell anyone something often enough and long enough, eventually they will believe it.

The same kind of problem could come up in the opposite way if one were to read only a book on the truth of the Bible written by a Christian minister. We are not saying that you should not read books written by atheists or ministers. What we are saying is that you cannot stop there and be satisfied whether the Bible is true or false. To answer the questions like “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” by reading what people say, you need to read both viewpoints. You also have to learn how both sides answer the questions posed by people whose views conflict with theirs.

A more direct way to answer the question “Is the Bible true?” would be to explore the evidence yourself. Is the Bible accurate in its statements of a scientific nature? Are the principles of psychology used in the Bible practical and worthwhile? Is the Bible’s approach to human relations valid? Can following the principles of the Bible bring peace, harmony, unity, and positive things to human beings? The way to answer these questions is to read the teachings of Jesus and ask yourself about these issues. It can be helpful to listen to the objections of an atheist and listen to a Christian apologist respond to those objections. But, take the time to look at the evidence and ask questions yourself. Starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will show you clearly the answers to many of those questions.

Another approach worth considering is the cosmological evidence. The argument we make is very simple. We ask three questions: Was there, or was there not a beginning to the cosmos? If there was a beginning, was it caused, or was it not caused? If it was caused, what or who caused it?

The evidence for each of the steps in this logical discussion about origins comes from a variety of sources. In the first question, we can look at evidence from cosmology. The fact that the cosmos is expanding, strongly suggests that the expansion had a specific point in space and time from which it started. Any astronomy textbook will point this out. There is chemical evidence in the cosmos in terms of hydrogen, the fuel that powers the cosmos. If the universe had always existed, there would be no hydrogen left because it is the element from which all other materials are made. The power of the Sun and stars comes from the fusion of hydrogen atoms. We also see evidence from physics in the form of the laws of thermodynamics. We know that, in closed systems, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. If the cosmos had always been, it would be totally disordered because the cosmos is a closed system with no energy being added to it.

The point we are making is that evidence comes from different fields. Experts in the fields of cosmology, physics, and chemistry have written about these processes. The evidence gives predictability to the cosmos and has many practical uses in space travel and astronomy. There is a wide range of support from a variety of areas for the argument that the cosmos had a beginning, that it was caused, and that it was intelligently caused.

Being confident about your beliefs cannot be rooted in what someone else tells you or what is popular. There are always problems with any biased belief systems passed on to you by others. You should be open to new evidence even when you have formed an opinion about something. The lesson of history on matters related to faith is that new discoveries support and confirm faith in God and His word.

We do not have to be consumed by doubt and paralyzed by uncertainty. The Bible speaks confidently, and we must work to build a dynamic faith that allows us to meet the needs that we were put here to address. The questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” are probably the most important questions you will ever ask. Do the research and think!
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

This post was adapted from an article by John N. Clayton in the Does God Exist? journal. You can read the complete article HERE.

Your Heart Is More than a Muscle

Your Heart Is More than a MuscleI recently had some concerns about my heart, which turned out to be unfounded. In the process of various tests, one of my atheist friends said to me, “Well, after all, your heart is just a muscle, but I guess you religious guys don’t believe that, do you?” My response was, “Well, you don’t either!” Your heart is more than a muscle.

All of us know that the physical heart beating inside our chest is a muscle. It is probably the most studied muscle in the body. I was fascinated as I watched my heartbeat in the echocardiogram. I was amazed to have the heart specialist point out the valves and the design of the vascular system that feeds blood throughout my body. It was also interesting that I could change the rate of my heartbeat, and in turn, my blood pressure, by thinking about certain things. The technician doing my echocardiogram said, “Oh yes, there’s a lot more to the heart than the muscle.”

In the Bible, the word “heart” has many uses. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “heart” occurs 29 times referring to the physical organ directly or figuratively. (See 1 Samuel 25:37, 2 Samuel 18:14, 2 Kings 9:24.) Old Testament writers use the word 257 times to refer to personality, inner life, or character. (See Exodus 9:14, 1 Samuel 16:7, Genesis 20:5.) An additional 166 times it refers to emotional states of consciousness. Some examples are: intoxication (1 Samuel 25:36), joy or sorrow (Judges 18:20, 1 Samuel 1:8), anxiety (1 Samuel 4:13), courage and fear (Genesis 42:28), and love 2 Samuel 14:1). Also 204 times it refers to intellectual activities such as attention (Exodus 7:23), reflection (Deuteronomy 7:17), memory (Deuteronomy 4:9), understanding (1 Kings 3:9), or technical skill (Exodus 28:3).

Finally, 195 times it refers to volition or purpose (1 Samuel 2:35). This varied use continues in the New Testament with the most common application referring to our mind. (See Mark 12:30-33.) Your heart is more than a muscle.

The point is that the word “heart” is used frequently referring to something that is the center of things and rarely does it refer to the physical heart that beats within our chest. God calls us to put Him and His Word at the center of our lives. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Paul wrote that when “Christ dwells in our hearts by faith,” we can comprehend the love of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). In that sense, it is true that your heart is more than a muscle.
— John N. Clayton © 2019