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.

End Of Life and God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference: CompassionAndChoices.org.

Hubble Constant and Age of the Universe

Hubble Constant and Age of the Universe
The Associated Press released an article on Friday, September 13, 2019, that read, “Study Finds the Universe Might be Several Billion Years Younger.” The news story sites a study released in the journal Science on September 12. In the study, Inh Jee of the Max Planck Institute in Germany used a new method to measure the Hubble Constant, which scientists use to calculate the age of the universe.

Right away, we have seen some fundamentalists jumping to the conclusion that the headline means the Earth is 6,000 years old after all. The Bible doesn’t tell us how old the creation is. The age of the Earth is a denominational issue for those whose human doctrines won’t work if the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Our concern is that people understand that this is not an issue about whether God exists or whether the Bible is true.

We can measure the age of the universe by determining the expansion rate of the cosmos, which is the Hubble Constant. Measuring that expansion has been incredibly difficult, and that is what the headline refers to. In previous years the Hubble Constant has been estimated to be 70. Inh Lee and her team used a new technique called time delay gravitational lensing which gave a value for the Hubble Constant of 82.4. That would reduce the age of the universe from the currently accepted 13.7 billion years to 11.4 billion years. Other scientists using other techniques earlier this year have given a Hubble Constant of 74 and 73.3. Previous methods have given a value as low as 67. A lower value means an older universe, and a higher value of the Hubble Constant means a younger universe.

If you know the value of the Hubble Constant, the calculation of the age of the universe is very simple. We all know that travel time depends on two things. If I go 100 miles at 50 miles per hour, how long did I travel? The obvious answer is two hours. Distance traveled is equal to the speed at which you travel multiplied by how long you travel at that speed. We can measure the size of the cosmos by several techniques. Triangulation is difficult because the size is so huge that the apex angle of the triangle is too small to measure accurately. However, triangulation does give us an idea of the vastness of space.

The further light travels through the cosmos, the lower the frequency of the light. That effect is caused by dust particles in space scattering the higher frequency blue light. The effect is called interstellar reddening, and it gives us a good measure of the size of the cosmos. Several other methods involve complex energy production by various stars. All of those methods provide a reasonably consistent measure as to how big the cosmos is. Applying the Hubble Constant to the size of the cosmos provides us with a measure of the age of the universe.

The point of all of this is to get values that science can use to study astronomical processes in deep space. The problem is that our measuring devices are primitive in terms of what we need for such distant objects. What it means to those of us who marvel at the size and complexity of space is that more than ever, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
— John N. Clayton ©2019

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

Spring-loaded Movement in Living Things

Spring-loaded Movement in Living ThingsAn interesting study of living things in the world around us involves how things move from one place to another. There are many creatures with muscles that move their legs or wings to travel from place-to-place. Other forms of life use spring-loaded movement with power greater than muscles can provide.

The larvae of the gall midge Asphondylia flip with power by using a built-in latch that acts as a spring. Gall midges lay their eggs on silverrod or goldenrod plants (Solidago). The midges grow from an egg to a larva inside a gall that grows on the plant. The larva’s body forms into an ellipse by meshing together the back and front using a velcro-like surface on each end. As the midge larva grows, the tension on the surfaces increases until it finally breaks free, shooting the midge as far as 36 times its body length. We previously reported on the so-called “Dracula ant” (Mystrium camillae) which has the world’s fastest jaws that operate on a mechanism which gives them spring-loaded movement.

Some plants like the Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) have a similar structure in their fruit. As the fruit grows, it builds up stress until the edges of the fruit break, shooting the seed great distances. That spring-loaded launch method spreads the seeds over a wider area. Also, we previously reported on the sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) nicknamed “the dynamite tree.” Its seedpods open explosively by a spring-loaded movement that scatters the seeds.

These are all design features built into the very structure of the organisms to allow locomotion. Even the smallest creatures such as ants and midge flies and plants that are rooted in place use spring-loaded movement. Everywhere we look in the creation, we see God’s designs at work. His wonder-working hand has created a great diversity in all of life.

As Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of Him (His wisdom, power, and design) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made even His eternal power and deity; so that mankind is without excuse…”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science News, August 31, 2019, page 10.

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

Dark Matter and Creation

Dark Matter and Creation - Andromeda GalaxyThe complexity of the creation of time, space, and matter/energy is so enormous that for decades, scientists have tried without success to understand what holds everything together. When we measure the speed of the matter spinning around the core of the galaxy, that speed is so great that there is no way the galaxy could exist without flying apart. It is like trying to hold a car on the road when it is going too fast around a curve. The speed of the matter in galaxies is hundreds of times greater than what should be possible. This has led scientists to believe there is something they call dark matter within the galaxy. It is the “glue” that holds the spinning galaxy together. The problem is, what is the nature of that “glue”?

The main proposal for years has been something called WIMPS, which stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. A newer candidate is Macroscopic Dark Matter or Macros. These Macros would be made of subatomic particles called quarks but combined in a way never before observed. They would be distributed throughout space and thus would be continually bombarding the Earth. There is an interesting problem with this proposal. For these particles to account for the gravitational mass of dark matter, they would have to be large enough to damage ordinary matter. Clearly, there is no evidence that mysterious deaths are taking place due to Macro bombardment.

The nature of science is such that given enough time, scientists will develop a theory that describes dark matter. Some suggest that it may not be matter at all, but merely a function of the actual shape of space/time. Regardless of what we eventually learn, the complexity of building stable island universes, such as the Milky Way, is so enormous that it defies chance explanations. God’s wisdom, power, and creative capacity are summarized in the simple statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven (shamayim in Hebrew meaning “heaved up things”) and the Earth. That really is all we need to know.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science News, August 31, 2019, page 4.