Why Poisonous Animals?

Why Poisonous Animals? Eastern Coral Snake
There are 2700 known species of snakes on this planet. Of all those, 412 species, or 15.2%, are poisonous. Five hundred thousand people are bitten every year, and 40,000 of them die. People are afflicted by poisonous lizards (two varieties), frogs, salamanders, and a variety of toxic insects. This brings up the question of why poisonous animals exist if a loving God made all things.

If you or someone you know has suffered an attack by one of these poisonous animals, you know that even when it is not deadly, it’s still a very unpleasant experience. The skeptic and even the non-skeptic is moved to ask why God would create a reptile or amphibian that could cause such terrible discomfort to humans. Why should an innocent child die because of picking up a pretty ribbon that turned out to be a coral snake?

If you have experienced an encounter, no canned explanation will make the pain and loss go away. But can we make any sense of why poisonous animals exist?

We must first begin by recognizing that God may not have created these animals as they are today. God did not create many animals (dog and cattle breeds for example) as they are today. They have changed over the years. It is possible that the same is true of poisonous animals, and their original ancestors may not have been deadly. However, the complexity of the poison systems in reptiles and amphibians seems to make this explanation a little imaginative, if not impossible. Even if true, it does not remove God’s awareness of the situation.

A better answer to this question of why poisonous animals exist lies in the wisdom and planning of God. The Bible says we can know God exists and see His wisdom by looking at the creation. (See Romans 1: 19-23; Psalms 19: 1.) The more we learn about the creation, the more we see God’s design.

One thing we have come to understand is the need for balance in ecosystems. We know that all living things serve a purpose in their natural setting. Animals and insects eat plants which keep the plants from crowding themselves out. Carnivorous animals keep the plant-eaters from wiping out their food supply. Because animals do not fear death as we do, the system is not as cruel and as callous as some would have us believe. In a balanced system, things generally function smoothly and efficiently.

One of the critical factors in maintaining balance is the survival of reasonable numbers of all species. Most reptiles and amphibians are soft-bodied, slow, and generally vulnerable. Camouflage protects some, but the poisonous glands of others are necessary to do the job. Not only does this protect that animal, but any animals that look similar. Poison also helps the animals catch their food. Rats and mice are the primary food source of many snakes, but without the venom, the snakes could never catch them. Very few snakes or poisonous animals of any kind will attack a human. Most bites occur when a person molests a poisonous animal. The obvious purpose of the poison is defense and obtaining food. Accidents do happen, but the poison was not given as a device to be used on humans.

Another important factor is that poisonous animals provide medicines that we cannot secure from any other source. Medicine from snake venom stops the agents which cause rheumatoid arthritis. There are many other examples of ways science has found to use the poisons from animals.

We can see that there are reasons why poisonous animals exist. Venomous animals do not prove that God didn’t thoughtfully and intelligently design the creation. We sometimes have to look a little more closely to see the ultimate wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

How Pharaoh’s Heart Was Hardened

How Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened
Yesterday we began to consider Exodus 4:21 which says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. What did God mean when He told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart? Can we see how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened?

Pharaoh was a political leader whose kingdom was under siege. He would obviously be on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. God simply allowed Pharaoh to see the cost of letting the slaves go. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by strengthening his resolve as a political leader to realize what was happening. It made Pharaoh strong intellectually and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean he was a robot with no choice in the matter. He would not want his people to see him as a weak, condescending ruler giving in to a bunch of slaves over things his own court magicians could do. At least in the beginning, Pharaoh would become strong, hard, and determined to stop Moses. That is how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.

Let me give you a personal parallel. Many years ago my wife Phyllis and I made arrangements to adopt a child. After a month or so, we saw that the child had many congenital problems including blindness, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, a form of muscular dystrophy, and mental retardation. Our awareness of all of this came one step at a time beginning with blindness and ending seven years later with a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and schizophrenia. By law, the adoption agency was obligated to take the child back. However, we could choose to go ahead with the adoption.

My heart and my wife’ heart softened and hardened. Mine more than hers. My atheist parents tried everything to make us give up the child. They even threatened the agency with a lawsuit if they didn’t forcibly take him from us. My fellow teachers almost universally told me I would be crazy to keep the child. Close friends showed me what keeping him would mean financially, socially, and professionally. My heart was hardened to the point that one afternoon I put him in the car seat and prepared to return him to the adoption agency.

I started the car and then decided to pray about what I was doing. At that point, a Christian brother walked up to the car and began to talk about what might be possible. Could this baby be a messenger to the blind? Could I walk down the street 20 years in the future, see a blind man and wonder if it was the child I gave up. I realized my heart had been hardened. It was not hardened by God, but by all of the world that surrounded me.

Pharaoh’s case was the reverse of mine. His heart was softened by the plagues that challenged his power and political position. God had allowed him to see the cost of giving in to Moses and thus giving in to God. That was how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. God hardened him intellectually and emotionally to make him strong in the eyes of his people. Pharaoh could have avoided the calamity of hard-heartedness. But selfishness, greed, and power struggles make people do foolish things. Both the Pharaoh and I eventually had our hard hearts softened to the point of doing the right thing. But the cost was high for both of us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

God Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart

God Hardened Pharaoh's Heart
One of the interesting studies of the Old Testament is the account of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Moses, and God. In Exodus 4:21 we read that, “The Lord said to Moses when you go to return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” What does it mean that God hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?

There are numerous cases throughout the Bible where the hardening of the heart is an issue. Is God making Pharaoh a robot with no choice but to make the catastrophic decision not to allow the Israelites to leave? Does God make a person’s heart hard and then send them to hell because of their hard heart? How can that picture be harmonized with the concept of a loving and kind God who wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, what does that mean and how did it happen?

Like a lot of questions about God and the Bible, we can answer this at least in part by a careful study of the meaning of the biblical words. The first word we need to understand is the word “heart” which is the Hebrew leb or lebab. In 1 Samuel 25:37 we read about a man named Nabal, and we are told his heart died within him and he became as a stone. In 2 Samuel 18:14 we see Joab thrusting three darts through the heart of Absalom. In 2 Kings 9:24 Jehu shoots an arrow at Jehoram and hits him in the heart. The word heart is used in a physical sense 29 times. However, most biblical uses of the word “heart” do not involve the organ that beats in our chest.

Proverbs 23:7 gives us a different use: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. He tells you to eat and drink, but his heart is not with you.” The Bible uses the word heart 257 times referring to personality characteristics, and 166 times it refers to states of consciousness. First Samuel 1:8 says, “Hannah, why do you weep, and why is your heart grieved?” Heart refers to intellectual activities such as in 1 Kings 3:9 where God gave Solomon an understanding heart. We find the word used 195 times referring to volition or purpose. In 1 Samuel 2:35 we read, “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and my mind.”

The other keyword to understand in this discussion is the word “hardened” which is the Hebrew chazaq which means “to make strong.” Normally this word describes things that make us insensitive. Hebrews 3:13 tells us that we can “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and verse 8 and 4:7 indicate humans choose to do the hardening. Job says he was hardened in sorrow in Job 6:10. Daniel 5:20 talks about a king’s heart being lifted up and his mind hardened by pride. Psalms 95:8 indicates we can harden our own hearts and references the Israelites in the wilderness as an example. Nehemiah talks about Israel hardening their necks and their rebellion against God.

So what does Exodus mean when it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? We will examine that question tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Grand Canyon Formation

Grand Canyon Formation
As we told you before, this is the week of the 2018 Canyonlands Tour. We mentioned the plaque at the Grand Canyon watchtower with the verse from Psalms. Today, we would like to share with you a video segment from a previous field trip to the Grand Canyon. In the video, geologist and teacher John Clayton uses the diagram shown above as he describes the layers of the Canyon and the various processes that formed them. The Grand Canyon formation processes are complex and involve God’s work over a vast span of time.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

This week John Clayton is with a group of people on what we call the Canyonlands Tour. Many times over the years John has taken groups of people to visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion Canyon, as well as other locations in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

The Canyonlands Tour is not just a sightseeing trip. It’s an opportunity for Christians to learn about how God has worked to create those “natural wonders.” John uses his knowledge of geology to explain the many interesting and beautiful features of the “canyonlands” area. Some people try to explain the Grand Canyon by “flood geology.” John explains what the real science of geology actually tells us about the formation of that remarkable Canyon.

With the assistance of Alan Doty who has hiked the canyons many times, the Canyonlands Tour is always an interesting and educational experience. One of the places on the agenda is the “desert view” area overlooking the Canyon. That is the location of a watchtower which visitors can tour.

On a level of the tower, there is a wall which has a plaque attached as you can see in the picture. The plaque contains the words from Psalm 66:4. It says, “All the earth worships Thee; they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to Thy name.” That plaque has been there for years. With atheists demanding the removal of any acknowledgment of God on public property, perhaps the only reason those words are still there is that some might interpret the “Thee” and “Thy” as referring to the Grand Canyon.

However, those pronouns do not refer to the Canyon, but to the One who created it. The process of creating the Canyon was no small feat. It did not happen in one flood. The people on the Canyonlands Tour will learn something about the processes that science still does not fully understand. In the meantime, there are those who say the Grand Canyon disproves God. It does not. It only invalidates a false interpretation of the Bible which many have adopted.

It’s too bad the people who placed that plaque didn’t include verse 3 as well. It says, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you'” (NIV). I am sure that there have been some atheists who have cringed when they read the words of that plaque. I suspect that sometime an “offended” atheist will demand its removal. However, nobody can remove the Grand Canyon and the testimony it gives to the power and glory of God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Evolution Does Not Explain Creation

Evidence from Cosmology
The notion of God as the creator has escaped our world today. We have not understood that there was a beginning, that God caused the beginning, and that His imprint is on all we see around us. We have been told that evolution explains all these things, but in reality, evolution doesn’t address the question. Evolution does not explain creation.

Evolution assumes that time has been created. Evolution assumes that space has been created and that matter/energy has been created within space/time. Evolution assumes that forces we are just beginning to understand shaped the matter/energy in space/ time so that stable physical matter came into existence. It assumes that the properties of matter/energy caused it to become organized into galaxies, and stars, and solar systems.

Evolution further assumes that within one of those solar systems a planet was created within the Goldilocks zone where water could exist as a liquid. On that planet, carbon and oxygen and heavy metals were produced to allow tangible matter to exist for long periods of time. Then evolution assumes that within a limited time these materials came into existence in an environment and with a catalyst that could produce life.

Once all those assumptions have been made, evolution attempts to explain how that first life changed to eventually become us. In other words, evolution tries to explain how once the creation happened, things got to be as they are today. Evolution does not explain creation.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

This post was adapted from “First-Century Athens and the 21st-Century World” by John N. Clayton. We encourage you to read the complete article which appears in the third quarter 2018 DOES GOD EXIST? Journal. If you subscribe to the printed version, you should have received it in the mail. Otherwise, you can read it online at THIS LINK.

Why Roosters Don’t Go Deaf

Why Roosters Don't Go Deaf
Roosters are loud! They can hit volumes as high as 140 decibels which is the level of sound on an aircraft carrier deck. For humans, a noise above 120 decibels, about the level of a chainsaw, can cause permanent hearing damage. So you may wonder why roosters don’t go deaf.

Belgian researchers writing in the journal Zoology have the answer. They examined the skull structure of the birds. The researchers found that they have a built-in defense against loud sounds in the form of a sound barrier. When a rooster adjusts its head and neck to crow, small flaps of tissue close the ear canal. They effectively act as earplugs to dampens the noise significantly.

On top of that, the study reveals that roosters can regenerate the tiny hair cells deep within the ear that can become damaged by loud noises. Humans can’t do that, which is why deafness caused by loud sounds is permanent for us. For roosters, a degree of deafness would likely only be temporary if it happened at all.

“Micro-CT scans of a rooster and chicken head show that in roosters the auditory canal closes when the beak is opened,” the researchers wrote. “In hens the diameter of the auditory canal only narrows but does not close completely. A morphological difference between the sexes in shape of a bursa-like slit which occurs in the outer ear canal causes the outer ear canal to close in roosters but not in hens.”

So now you know why roosters don’t go deaf. God’s design in every living thing on Earth shows wisdom and an exceptional understanding of the problems that each species faces. The more we learn about the creation, the more we understand the wisdom and creative nature of God. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
You can read more about the research by clicking HERE.

China Forces Atheism

China Forces Atheism
Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has launched a drive to subjugate both Islam and Christianity to government control and to limit their activity. China forces atheism by installing Chinese flags wherever there is a minaret or a cross and pressuring people to embrace the Atheist Communist Party. There has been a dramatic expansion of China’s surveillance apparatus using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to weed out religious leaders and to reward loyalty to the Atheist Communist Party.

It is going to be important for religious leaders and missionaries in China to use apologetic material like ours to combat the government propaganda machine. The volume of mail we are getting from Chinese students has dramatically increased. One student suggested that if we would learn Chinese, we couldn’t handle all of the opportunities there would be to teach the gospel. As China forces atheism, we are working on that idea.

Our experience has been that once atheists see the evidence for God’s existence, they are eager to become Christians. An atheist doesn’t have the baggage of someone who is already a member of some religious body or cult, so there is nothing for them to unlearn.

Our video series is available with a Mandarin overdub as well as our regular International Series. Contact us at jncdge@aol.com for more information.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Why So Much Stuff in Space?

Why So Much Stuff in Space?
One of the questions people ask about God’s creation is why so much stuff in space? If humans are the focus of God’s creation, why did He create so many planets, galaxies, and stars? If God’s purpose was to have the human race as the battlefield for the struggle between good and evil, surely He didn’t need to create 100 billion other stars in our galaxy and billions of other galaxies.

There are so many assumptions involved in this question that it would take many more pages to explore them all. First, this question assumes that God’s creation of life only happened here. It assumes that there are no other planets anywhere in the creation that have sentient beings living on them. You can argue that forever, but the Bible doesn’t give an answer. The Bible only describes Earth because it presents a message for our planet and its people.

The question also assumes that God only intended for us to live on the surface of this planet. I get letters regularly from people who suggest that we have no business going into outer space because God intends for us to live here and nowhere else. That is a massive assumption, and one that I suggest is misguided. One recent discovery has given another possible answer to why so much stuff in space. Humans are rapidly exploiting the mineral wealth of planet Earth. We know that the Earth contains a finite amount of iron, nickel, cobalt. If we should survive on Earth for much longer than the 21st century, we are going to run out of resources.

Japan’s robotic spacecraft Hayabusa 2 visited asteroid 162173 Ryugu (pictured) in June of 2018. Data from the spacecraft indicates that this asteroid is composed almost entirely of nickel and iron. The spacecraft was returning a sample to Earth for analysis. This asteroid is one kilometer wide, and at the current market value, the iron and nickel in the asteroid are worth over 80 billion dollars. God’s plan for us may be far greater and longer than we realize. Space contains a wealth of mineral resources. God has provided for us in many ways, and we always seem to have just enough of a resource to get us to the next source. We had just enough wood to get us to hydrocarbons, and just enough hydrocarbons to bring us to nuclear and solar power.

Our problem is not resources. Our problem is being able to get along with each other well enough to avoid destroying ourselves. Jesus Christ has the answer to that major issue, but the size of the cosmos merely reflects God’s power and wisdom. As we wonder why so much stuff in space, we have to think of the words of the psalmist, “What is man, that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet” (Psalms 8:4-6).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For more on asteroid Ryugu click HERE.

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians in Western Europe
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.

In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:

1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.

3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.

According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.

Looking at these statistics, we can see that it is possible that some nones can be more religious than Christians. We see that even though faith in God has eroded in the United States, Western Europe is far ahead of us in secularization. All of these statistics give those of us who are committed Christians something to think about.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You can read more about the recent Pew study HERE.