Why Different Names For God?

Why Different Names For God?

Some people are confused by the fact that the Bible uses different names for God. We often use different terms to speak of the same individual. I might refer to my biological father as Dr. Clayton (he held a Ph.D. in philosophy), Mr. Clayton, Alfred Stafford Clayton, Staff, father, or daddy, depending on whom I was talking to or addressing. Those different names emphasize different aspects of the person. Likewise, the different names for God emphasize various aspects of His nature.

Elohim” in Hebrew refers to God’s power and might. It involves the fact that God is the only true and supreme God. That word was used in Genesis 1:1 because the creation process was a radical display of power and might. The Hebrew word “Adonai” was used in reference to God’s authority in human affairs. In Deuteronomy 6, we see the conclusion of the giving of the Ten Commandments. In talking about the value of the commandments, God tells His people that the purpose of those rules was “that it may go well with you” (Verse 3). Verse 6 indicates God’s authority: “And these words ‘Adonai’ commands you today shall be on your heart.” This isn’t about power and might, but about structure and order given by one in authority.

Perhaps the most quoted name for God is “Yahweh.” Since Yahweh” is the proper name of the divine Person, the Jews would not even speak it for fear of violating the commandment against using God’s name in vain. You will find “Yahweh” in passages that involve the promises of God. We see an example of the use of different names for God by a careful study of Genesis 1 and 2. In Genesis 1, the word used for God is “Elohim.” In Genesis 2, the word used is “Yahweh.” Some skeptics have maintained that Genesis 1 and 2 had two different authors, but looking at the names used for God dispels that idea.

The first chapter of Genesis deals with the creation. The power of God is the theme throughout the entire chapter. In Genesis 2, the theme is not creation, but the relationship between man and woman. Verse 24 of chapter 2 spells that out: “Therefore (the stated purpose of the chapter) shall a man leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one.” God’s plan for man and woman was for the support man needed (verse 20). Many of us who have lost our wives can testify to the truth of Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Being one is not just sexual; it is emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

The two names for God used in Genesis 1 and 2 do not indicate different authors. They express different themes, and both are important and correct. The Bible uses other different names for God, and that is not a weakness because each name carries a different emphasis. Understanding that is a key to understanding the Bible.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ark Encounter Rain Damage

Ark Encounter Rain Damage One of the claims of atheists is that ministries are only religious if it benefits their pocket book. That is the primary reason why everything offered by the Does God Exist? ministry is free. The recent lawsuit over the Ark Encounter rain damage has given atheists ammunition for their arguments.

The Ark Encounter is a replica of Noah’s ark which is owned by the same organization which owns the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Both the museum and theme park promote dispensationalism and a denominational view of Genesis instead of a literal view. They are suing their insurance companies over rain damage that caused failure of an access road to the ark. The owners of those two attractions are asking for $1 million from the insurance company for “tortious injury.” The jokes circulating around the media on this end up raising questions about the accuracy of the Bible and the providence of God. Talk show hosts are getting involved, attempting to discredit God and the Bible.

It seems ironic to us that Ark Encounter rain damage would lead to a lawsuit. The justification for the project is supposed to be educating people about the message of the Bible. The message is getting lost in inaccuracies and now in money matters. This story of the Ark Encounter rain damage has been reported by all the major news media and mocked by many others. Here is a LINK to the Washington Post article.

The Church needs to be known for bringing hope to people outside of Christ, and meeting the physical needs of men and women. It is difficult to see how Matthew 25:31-46 fits with suing an insurance company for damage to a profit-making organization by natural causes.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Petoskey Stone Dilemma

Petoskey Stone TilesEvery part of the United States has rocks, plants, and animals that are unique to that area. Certain plants grow in abundance in various locations. In Arizona the saguaro cactus is abundant. California is home for giant redwood trees. Indiana has tulip trees. Many states have adopted an official flower, tree, bird, fossil, or rock. In Michigan, since 1965 our state rock has been the Petoskey stone.

The name comes from the city of Petoskey which got its name from an Ottawa Indian legend. Thanks to the glaciers that swept down from the north scooping up rocks and depositing them, Petoskey stones are found all over the state. When I took my earth science students to the local gravel pit, we would discover Petoskey stones mixed in with the gravel. A local jeweler would show the kids how beautiful jewelry could be made from those stones.

The Petoskey stone is a petrified tropical coral with the scientific name Hexagonaria, meaning six-sided chamber. The picture shows some tiles made from Petoskey stones, and you can see that each polyp has six sides. Mixed in with them are clams, crinoids, trilobites, fish, and cephalopods. Studies of the Petoskey stone show the coral lived on plankton which are microscopic life forms that live in warm oceans. Petoskey, Michigan is NOT a tropical paradise and the Devonian period when these life forms lived lasted a long time, so the Devonian reefs are very thick. The whole state of Michigan is a bowl with these fossils found all around the state. In the middle of the bowl are coal, oil, peat, sulfur and natural gas deposits. The dilemma is how these rock formations got to be the way they are and where they are.

Some religious folks might suggest that this is a deposit produced by the flood of Noah. The problem with that explanation is that this is not a flood deposit and is not a product of violence. Genesis 7:11 tells us that “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.” I would take my students on a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to see a reef display. The rocks being formed and making up the reef are identical to the ones we see in the Devonian deposit. The fossils don’t show a violent end, but instead, they show a slow, gentle formation process. Calcite, silica and other minerals have replaced the original material in the cells of the Petoskey stone animals, giving a dazzling array of colors.

When God created “the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), the Bible simply states that He did it – not how He did it. At the end of verse 1, there were Petoskey stones in Devonian reefs, and oil, gas, coal, and the other resources were being formed. A change was coming that would make the conditions of the Earth more hospitable for human life, and God knew what we would need for an advanced civilization. Having a warm ocean covering the entire state of Michigan was not an environment humans could thrive in, but it was a tool God used to prepare the resources for human life.

There is no dilemma if we take the Bible literally and accept only what it says. Locking the creation account into a denominational theological tradition does violence to the Genesis account and causes young people to question the truth of the Bible. On the other hand, as they admire the beauty of the Petoskey stone jewelry they have made, people can realize that God has done some special and beautiful things to prepare a home for us in this life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on taking Genesis literally, read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” available free on doesgodexist.org.

How Extensive Was the Flood of Noah?

How Extensive Was the Flood of Noah?
Perhaps the most argued event in the Old Testament is the flood of Noah described in Genesis. This week we have been examining some of the questions people ask. Today we will look at the question, “How extensive was the flood of Noah?

Taking the Bible literally does not mean a superficial reading of the King James translation of the Bible. You have to look at who wrote it, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people to whom it was written would have understood it. The language of Genesis 6-8 certainly seems to indicate that the waters of the flood covered the whole globe.

Many times biblical passages sound like the event was global when it clearly was not. Luke 2:1-3 says “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…” Was that the whole globe or the Roman world? Did Rome collect taxes from the Incas, the Hopi, or the Denali? The people of the time would have understood that to mean the entire Roman world. In Colossians 1:23 Paul says that the gospel of Christ “was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” I have visited with the native people at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and they have no record of the gospel ever having been preached to their ancestors there. Clearly, Paul was talking about the world that he knew.

The message of Genesis 6-8 is that humans discarded God and became corrupt to the point that God destroyed them by a flood. The one person who stayed faithful to God was a man named Noah who was warned that the event was coming. God gave him time to construct a way to save his family and the animals of his area. There is evidence to verify this that we have considered in this series of posts and which is available on our website.

How extensive was the flood of Noah? It ended the lives of all but the few people on the boat. The Bible tells us that a flood like that will not happen again. However, it also says that the Earth will be destroyed by a fire that melts the very elements of which we are all made ( 2 Peter 3:8-13).

We must listen to the lesson of Noah and not try to deny the historical event on which it is based. I would suggest the flood covered the whole inhabited Earth of Noah’s day. It probably did not cover uninhabited lands thousands of miles away from where Noah lived. If you have a different opinion, that is fine, but don’t miss the message of the story.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
We have a discussion of the flood in our video series program # 27 available on our doesgodexist.TV website. You can also look up information on the flood by doing a word search on our doesgodexist.org website search engine.

How Could All Those Animals Fit in Noah’s Ark?

How Could All those Animals Fit in Noah's Ark?
Perhaps the most argued event in the Old Testament is the flood of Noah described in Genesis. For the past two days, we have been examining some of the questions people ask. Today we will look at the question, “How could all those animals fit in Noah’s ark?

The Bible gives the dimensions of the ark, and it indeed was huge, especially for that time. How do you get the 25 million or so species of animals on Earth today into that ship? The answer is that you couldn’t.

Genesis 6:20 lists the same groups that are described in Genesis 1. Those are (1) fowl, (2) cattle, (3) “creeping things,” and (4) fish. We pointed out in our lessons on evolution that the word “kind” in Hebrew is not the same as “species” in modern scientific terms. The word “kind” is the Hebrew word “min,” and the Bible tells us in both the Old and New Testaments that there are four kinds: the flesh of fish, the flesh of birds, the flesh of beasts, and the flesh of man. First Corinthians 15:39 identifies these four and Genesis 1 identifies them as well. The same groupings are used in Genesis 6 to describe what Noah took on the ark.

The Hebrew word “remes” is rendered as “creeping thing” in some translations of the Bible. “Sherets” is also translated creeping thing (see Leviticus 11). “Remes” was an animal the Jews could eat, but “sherets” was not. “Remes” clearly refers to goats and sheep – animals that could be eaten by the Jews. But “sherets” refers to things like snakes and lizards which they could not eat.

So how could all those animals fit in Noah’s ark? The point of all this is that Noah didn’t take two poodles, two cockapoos, two German shepherds, etc. He took two dog-like animals. Similarly, he took two bovines, not the dozens of varieties that exist today. There are over 100 varieties of chickens, but he took two of that group. In short, Noah’s ark would have had enough room, and the evolutionary change that has taken place since has given us the variety we have today.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
We have a discussion of the flood in our video series program # 27 available on our doesgodexist.TV website. You can also look up information on the flood by doing a word search on our doesgodexist.org website search engine.

Higher Criticism and the Bible

Higher Criticism and the Bible
We often deal with people who criticize the Bible for one reason or another. However, some scholars study the Bible and apply what is called biblical criticism. They may be practicing lower criticism (also known as textual criticism) in which they work to determine the correct text of ancient documents. These scholars work with copies of ancient manuscripts of both biblical and non-biblical material to attempt to determine what the original documents said. There is also a method called higher criticism in which scholars deal with the authorship, dating, and unity of manuscripts.

There have been numerous instances over the years in which criticism of these two types has exposed frauds. In the fifteenth century, for example, higher criticism proved that a document called “Donation of Constantine” was not genuine. The events described in the manuscript turned out to be events that happened hundreds of years after the original document was supposed to have been written. Obviously, “donation” was a fraud. In this way, higher criticism can expose frauds and identify claims about manuscripts that could not be true.

At the beginning of the twentieth-century furious debates raged over higher criticism because many viewed it as a threat to the Bible and Christian faith. In our day it has become fashionable to use higher criticism to claim that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. I confront skeptics in my lectures who use higher and lower criticism to attack the material I am presenting. We need to take a brief look at biblical criticism to understand it and to be prepared to defend the faith.

Higher criticism has sometimes been used to attempt to prove that one book or another in the Bible is fraudulent. In 1805, for example, a scholar by the name of W. M. DeWette tried to prove that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses but by Jerusalem priests in the time of Josiah. DeWette’s assertion was widely accepted until archaeologists proved that many parts of Deuteronomy reflect a period earlier than that of Josiah. In the nineteenth century, it was popular to claim that all ancient biblical manuscripts must be assumed fraudulent unless proven true. Archaeology has mostly removed that negative attitude, but it is not uncommon to run into it even today.

Many proponents of higher criticism attempt to use style as a means of proving a biblical manuscript fraudulent. A good example of this is first and second Peter. The styles of these two books are very different. Why would that be since they are supposedly both written by Peter? Subject matter can make a huge difference in the style of writing. Gilbert Highet of Columbia University pointed out that Cicero had at least six different styles depending upon what he was writing. There is even the possibility that Peter wrote one book in Greek and the other in Aramaic which would automatically produce significant differences in style.

There are questions about the Bible that higher criticism may help us solve. The Bible designates Moses as the author of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy but does not identify the author of Genesis. Jesus identifies Moses as the author of the same four books but makes no mention of the author of Genesis. If higher criticism could verify the authorship of Genesis, it would be a welcomed contribution to our understanding.

However, instead, some scholars have attempted to prove that the first and second chapters of Genesis were written by different authors who disagreed with each other. They ignore the fact that those chapters were written for different purposes and to show different relationships. Higher criticism scholars have also raised questions about the authorship and dates of some of the Psalms and Hebrews. We must remember that higher criticism is the work of people who have preconceived ideas and prejudices that affect their conclusions.

Higher criticism is at best a tool to help us understand some concepts related to God’s Word. If we believe that the Holy Spirit was active and that the Bible was God-breathed, we will not be shaken by the winds of modernism that roar through the religious world today. Excellent and open-minded scholarship has, over the centuries, confirmed and supported the concept that the Bible is the Word of God. Letting the Word speak to us is the doorway to a closer walk with God.
–John N. Clayton © 2018