Examine Your Faith

Examine Your Faith

For the past three days, we have looked at the role of faith in our lives. We have seen that the biblical definition of faith is the “foundation” – that on which we build our lives. We have seen that faith has a role in science, religion, and the practical day-to-day living of our lives. I have shared my journey with you, leaving my family’s atheistic faith and growing a faith in God from the scientific evidence and the Bible. I hope that you will examine your faith. Look at your foundation and how it affects the building of your life. Here are some suggestions:

#1. DEAL WITH CREATION. You have two choices about how the creation came into existence. Either it has always existed, or it had a beginning. As an atheist, I believed that matter/energy was eternal. I thought that it might go through change, but there was no beginning. The Bible clearly stated there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.

As I learned about the laws of thermodynamics, it became increasingly apparent that matter/energy could not be eternal. Now quantum mechanics and relativity have added new evidence that there was a beginning. If there was a beginning, it had to be caused. We can say that we don’t know enough to understand the cause. However, the deeper we go onto the quantum world, the more obvious it is that the creation started from a cause outside of space and time. God is a causer outside of space and time, which He created. The fact that there are purpose and design in the cosmos eliminates chance as a causer. We have a large volume of material on this subject and can make it available to you without cost.

#2. DEAL WITH WHERE YOUR FOUNDATION (YOUR FAITH) TAKES YOU. Where did my father’s faith in education take him? Did it make him happy, secure, and fulfilled? Examine your faith. Does it give you a reason to live, a purpose in existing? Does your faith allow you to deal with the problems that life brings to us all?

All of us know people who have tried to base their lives on the alternatives to faith in God. Does making a lot of money lead to a meaningful life? Does becoming a political leader bring joy, contentment, and peace? Do recreational drugs fulfill us as humans? I have had a lot of adversity in my life. My history includes having a multiply handicapped child, losing my wife to death, never having much money, and having physical problems and pain. I have struggled and wept and wondered why, but I have had a good life and have enjoyed my life. Do other foundations enable a person to deal with life’s problems?*

#3. LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Now I am at the end of my life, but that is only the end of my physical existence. My faith allows me to be confident that something better lies ahead. I have hope and peace with the fact that I will die. I see that I have had a purpose in living and my feeble existence turned out to leave the world a better place than I found it. That is because I have been able to share my faith with others and enable them to find joy in living.

Jesus makes a promise to those who choose to build their lives on faith in God. “Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and LEARN of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Don’t listen to religion or philosophy or the pleasure peddlers of our world who will give you an unproven faith that doesn’t work. Examine your faith and build it by learning and growing in your understanding of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

*To see John’s discussion of why God allows pain and suffering, go to DoesGodExist.TV and watch program 11 in the video series.

Faith or Lack of Faith in God

Faith or Lack of Faith in God

Yesterday we looked at the definition of the word “faith.” The Bible defines faith as the foundation (Greek “hupostasis”) of our lives (Hebrews 11:1). We mentioned that we all have faith in gravity. We also saw how the scientific faith that light is a wave and not a particle had to change as new evidence became available. All of us have foundations that rule our lives, and faith or lack of faith in God is one of them.

Even our understanding of what God is affects us in a variety of ways.* In the distant past, people thought of gods as physical beings that looked like humans. Roman and Greek gods were humans with superpowers of one kind or another. Some people today still view God as a human with human emotions and desires. Experiences in life can weaken or destroy that kind of faith. When someone rejects faith in God because of a tragedy in life, the root cause of that rejection is a flawed concept of what God is.

Faith or lack of faith in God can determine the foundation of our lives. The question that we must ask is, “What is the foundation (faith) on which I base my life?” For my father, who was an atheist, the foundation of his life was education. His father was a minister, and that faith did not appeal to him as a way to build his life. Instead, he pursued the highest level of education possible, achieving a Ph.D. in philosophy at Columbia University under one of the leading educators in his field. Then he became a full professor at Indiana University and was recognized as one of the top experts in his field.

After a long career with numerous awards and recognitions, my father retired. Did all of these achievements and recognitions provide a foundation for him? A regular activity for my father was to engage in a cocktail hour. He dealt with the stress and frustration of his work by drinking. My father was not socially active. He went to social affairs only because he had to, and alcohol was the foundation, the lubricant which enabled him to function socially.

Shortly after his retirement, my father developed leukemia. Going through the brutal treatments available at that time was tragic and agonizing to watch. The end of his life was a constant battle to survive, and the treatments eventually killed him. Death was the ultimate tragedy because he died without hope of anything better.

The other problem with my father’s faith was what his foundation did to and for my mother and my two brothers. My mother was forced to become the social director of the family. Social events were her life, and achieving recognition from her peers was her foundation. After my father died, she became the leader of the retirement center where she lived. She commanded the respect of everyone there, including the management and staff. This became her foundation, and her faith was that it would continue. When she suffered a stroke and was moved to the care center, she was not even allowed to eat with her peers, much less play a role in the retirement center’s social events. She was so mortified and miserable in her new situation that I had to move her 200 miles from the retirement center to a facility near me. She was miserable there as well.

My parents had a dependence on alcohol as a foundation for life and a faith that it would make everything else function normally. This rubbed off on the rest of the family. Like many people in today’s world, the negative destroyed not only my father’s faith but my mother and brother’s faith as well. Faith or lack of faith in God will determine the course of your life. In tomorrow’s discussion, we will look at how we can build a workable faith.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

*For John’s discussion on “What Is God?” go to DoesGodExist.tv and watch program 8 in the video series.

Human Expression in Music and Art

Human Expression in Music and Art

One evidence for the unique spiritual makeup in humans is our ability for creative expression in art and music. Attempts to claim elephant art, gorilla creativity, and chimp creative technique have not given convincing results. We believe that the presence of human expression in music and art, as well as worship, is because we are created in the image of God.

A recent study from the University of California seems to support this. The study involved 144 infants from age two months to 14 months. Researchers fitted babies with heart rate and skin monitors and observed them while they listened to a lullaby. It didn’t matter what language the lullaby was in; the babies responded similarly in all cases. Their heart rate slowed, their pupils became smaller, and their skin electrical activity declined. When the researchers played music that was not a lullaby, there was no response from the infants. Obviously, it was not just the sound that was involved, but the type of sound.

Years ago, there was an interesting story about a famous classical violinist who was playing a song that his wife did not recognize. She asked him what it was, and he couldn’t remember. Later his mother heard the discussion between the violinist and his wife and told them, “I know exactly what that song is. I was composing that song when I was pregnant with you, and I played it over and over as I wrote the song.”

Stories like this suggest that music is a designed part of the human spiritual makeup. It is not just brain activity but the soul that enjoys and creates music. Human expression in music and art touches our soul because we are created in the image of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The Week, November 20, 2020.

Could There Be Life on Other Planets

Could there be life on other planets?

A subject that keeps drawing attention is the question of whether we are alone in the universe or could there be life on other planets. Many people seem to feel that this is a religious issue. They assume if science discovers life on another planet, it will discredit the Bible in some way. This has led some religious writers to try to prove that life exists nowhere but on the Earth.

Discover magazine devotes much of the December issue to the question, “Could there be life on other planets?” The cover picture shows the parabolic reflector of a large radio telescope with the heading “Are We Alone?

It is essential to understand that this is NOT a religious issue, and the search for life in space has no biblical implications. The Genesis account describes Earth’s history and gives no discussion of any other planets in the cosmos. A careful scientific study of the requirements for life to emerge from non-life shows complexity beyond the reach of any chance process. If there is life elsewhere, God created it.

Why would God do that? Why do all of the other stars and their planets and galaxies exist? God has not limited humans to where we can travel. It may be that in the distant future, humans will live somewhere else in space. It may be that natural resources on Earth will eventually run out, and we will need to secure those resources in space. The biblical message is intended for this planet (Mark 16:15), but the language does not exclude a relationship between God and any creature. For example, Hebrews 4:13 says, “There is not a creature that exists that is hidden from him.”

This discussion reminds me of a radio debate I had in Washington, D.C., with Larry King as the moderator. My opponent was a leader of the atheist group in Washington, and people could call in questions for the two of us to answer. A caller asked, “What would you do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn, an alien got out with a Bible in his hand and said ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” My atheist friend said, “Punt.” In reality, that proposal would raise many other questions, but the point is that life in space is not a biblical issue.

The Discover article runs through many familiar suggestions. One popular proposal says that we don’t see alien-inhabited planets because they have built a sphere around their solar system, trapping all energy and making it impossible to see them. Called a Dyson sphere, it demands a level of sophistication that is hard to imagine. Another popular suggestion is that aliens camouflage their space ships to look like asteroids. We saw that idea suggested recently when an asteroid called Oumuamua came through our solar system from outer space.

Aliens capable of building such technological wonders would not need to camouflage since they would have better ways to protect themselves. There are some newer and wilder proposals, but the question, “Could there be life on other planets?” is not a biblical issue. If life is out there, it is so far away that it is unlikely to be a threat to our planet in the near future.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Does It Matter What People Believe?

Does It Matter What People Believe about Coronavirus?

For some of us, the tragedy of COVID-19 has really hit home. As I write this, my son is in the local hospital, fighting what may be a losing battle with the disease. As we have struggled to get Tim the help he needs, we have run into people who deny there is a pandemic. Many Americans believe that scams, lies, and conspiracies are behind claims that we are in a pandemic. Does it matter what people believe?

The University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center published the results of studies of what Americans believe about the pandemic in the journal Social Science and Medicine. According to their research, over 17% of all Americans believe that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus to boost drug and vaccine sales. Also, 24% believe that the government exaggerated the virus’s danger to damage Donald Trump politically.

There is no evidence to support those beliefs, and those of us who have family members dying from the virus certainly don’t endorse those claims. The Bible describes what happens when people change “the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” The result is a culture in which people “do not retain God in their knowledge.” Instead, they are filled with “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, …” (Romans 1:24-32)

Does it matter what people believe? Read those verses and then read the newspaper or watch the evening news. As faith in God and belief in the Bible have decreased, the use of lying and deceit has grown. We live in a society where lies and deception are a way of life. This ministry exists to change that by convincing people there is a God and that the Bible is a reliable guide to how we should live. Does it matter what people believe? Yes, it does matter.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Forgiveness Deficit in the 21st Century

Forgiveness Deficit in the 21st Century vs The Forgiving Father
The Forgiving Father Welcomes the Prodigal Son Back Home

Most of us know the wonderful parable in Luke 15:11-32, in which Jesus describes a forgiving father to teach about God’s forgiveness. Buck Griffith, who runs the most wonderful prison ministry in the world today, has a 21st-century version of that parable in a booklet published by Unbound Word (www.unboundword.com). He picks up the story when the prodigal son returns to the father’s house. It’s a story of the forgiveness deficit in the 21st century:

“The prodigal son dragged himself to his father’s house and knocked on the door. A servant answered. The son told him that he was the younger son and to tell his father he was home. The servant had him wait at the door while he went to tell the father about the ragged and wasted man at the door. Upon learning that the intruder claimed to be his son, the father told the servant ‘that man cannot possibly be my son. If you look out this window, you see my only son who is hard at work. I once had another boy, but he demanded his inheritance. I gave it to him under great stress. It nearly caused me to go bankrupt. He took his money, and he wasted it. Now, as far as we are concerned, he is dead. Now go back and tell the imposter at the door – whoever he is – I have only one son. If the imposter is not gone within ten minutes, we will turn the dogs loose on him.’”

Read the parable in Luke 15 again and tell me which version of the story fits our world today? Each of us needs to ask what our attitude would be if we faced the situation Luke 15 describes. How do we react to the contriteness of another – even a family member – who has wounded us in some way. Is there a forgiveness deficit in your life?

So You Have Cancer: Now What?

So You Have Cancer: Now What?

Typically we review books that deal with apologetics. However, sometimes a book comes to our attention that we believe meets a need even though it does not primarily involve evidence for God and the Bible. We want to share one such book with you here— So You Have Cancer: Now What? By Glen Goree.

I have read many books on cancer and books that deal with grieving when you lose a loved one to cancer. This book was written by a man who has terminal cancer of the liver and a short time to live. I did a lectureship with a congregation in Texas many years ago, where Glenn was the preacher for ten years. He has also been a missionary in Africa and has had a long career as a counselor. Glenn has had a large share of illnesses, including two heart attacks, hepatitis C, diabetes, including having five toes removed, and neuropathy.

The purpose of this book is to help Christians who know their life is about to end. Glenn is candid, outspoken, honest, and fair in what he says. He talks about being angry with God and being outraged. He deals with fear and depression. He discusses God’s grace, forgiveness (including forgiving God), and mercy. He does this by describing his own feelings and then going to the Bible to get help when knowing you are about to die.

Every reader will profit by reading this book since every one of us is terminal. Goree’s approach to grace and God’s mercy alone makes it worth reading.

The book is available from Amazon or Glenn Goree’s website www.glenngoree.com.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Does Jesus Hate Women?

Does Jesus Hate Women?

Does Jesus hate women? That may sound ridiculous to most of our readers. However, there is continual rhetoric in the media and from skeptics suggesting that Christianity is opposed to women’s rights and tries to oppress women. A careful study of Jesus and women and the early Church’s history shows that isn’t the case.

The world at the time of Christ was in turmoil. People ignored God’s teachings and moral laws, women were considered property, and they were totally dependent on men. A young woman was supported by her father and then her husband. Her primary role was to bear a male child. This treatment of women led to polygamy, prostitution, and easy divorce.

Jesus comes on the scene and overturns all of this.
In John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman without denigrating her. He amazed His disciples by breaking all social taboos by teaching her. In Luke 10:38, Jesus enters the house of Martha and treats her and her sister Mary with respect. Mary Magdalene played a vital role in the ministry of Jesus, and she was the first person He appeared to after His resurrection. In Luke 8:1-3, she and Joanna, a Roman steward’s wife, are portrayed as financial backers of Jesus’ travels. Jesus defended the woman taken in adultery in John 8:3-11. Does Jesus hate women? No, He treated women with dignity and respect.

The Church in the first century did not oppress women.
In Titus chapter 2, Paul gives instructions to old and young men and women and slaves regarding how to live. The reason for his instructions is “to make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” to unbelievers. Acts 16:14-15 describes a woman named Lydia, who ran a high-end business, owned her own home, and had a household. We are reminded of Proverbs 31 as we read this. Martha, mentioned earlier, also owned a home where her brother and sister lived.

First Corinthians 14:26-40 addresses a chaotic worship assembly. Paul tells various people to be silent or to speak one at a time. He instructed married women to remain silent and address their questions to their husbands at home. Paul was concerned about the chaotic assembly causing outsiders to think the worshippers were crazy (verse 23).

In 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Paul encourages women to dress modestly and not usurp authority. The Greek word here is “authenteo” and means “to exercise the power of one’s self,” according to the lexicon. An overly aggressive woman could intimidate and discourage a young Christian preacher like Timothy. Paul’s instruction for women to protect the role of men and allow them to lead was important to the Church’s growth then, as it is today.

Does Jesus hate women? No. Did the early Church oppress women? No. Neither should it do so today. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, MALE NOR FEMALE, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We need to love each other enough to allow everyone to have a role in the work of the Church. Caring enough to serve is not oppressing or denigrating anyone.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Migrations and Winter Adaptations

Migrations and Winter Adaptations
Monarch Butterfly

There are many things about fall that make it an interesting time of year. It is not just the colors and the cool and pleasant temperatures that make fall special. We also see migrations and winter adaptations.

Bird migrations are amazing, with some species using unique wind patterns to make the journey across the Caribbean. Other birds that spend summers in our area, such as loons, congregate in groups in Florida in the winter.

The most amazing migrations, however, are the smaller forms of life. For example, green darner dragonflies spend the winter in Florida and the Caribbean, where they mate and produce offspring. When the average temperature warms to about 48 degrees F, these offspring fly 900 miles to the north, where they breed, lay eggs, and die. When the eggs hatch, they spend the summer in Canada or Michigan. In the fall, these third-generation individuals return to Florida flying some 900 miles (1500 km) or more over a route that they have never seen before.

When we consider migrations and winter adaptations, we can’t overlook monarch butterflies. They are the most amazing of these multi-generational migrants, with fourth-generation butterflies making a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) flight. There are also insects and amphibians with a blood protein that acts like antifreeze, allowing them to be frozen solid without damaging their cells.

There seems to be no limit to the way animals can adapt to winter, and sometimes these adaptations change. In our area, Canada geese used to all migrate to southern latitudes to spend the winter. With the advent of power plants that keep some rivers and lakes free of ice, that has changed. A sizable population of Canada geese remains in our area of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota all winter long. We have had as many as 200 geese crowding open water near a power plant in the St. Joseph River during the coldest days of winter. That didn’t happen in 1959 when I moved to this area.

These patterns of migration and winter adaptations are difficult to explain as accidental. It would seem that the animals have had a designed genetic program to allow them to survive. The design is fascinating, and the Designer is even more amazing. We praise God as we watch the magic of migrations and winter adaptations.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from “On Nature” by Sheryl Myers, The Herald Bulletin, October 3, 2020 page B3.

Viruses Are Critical Agents for Life

Viruses Are Critical Agents for Life
Emiliania huxleyi bloom in English Channel

The pandemic has made many people think that viruses are a bad thing. However recent research has shown that viruses are critical agents for life. They convert energy and organic matter at the bottom of the food chain into a form that provides us with what we need to live on Earth.

An algae called Emiliania huxleyi uses sunlight and nutrients from the ocean to produce massive algae blooms in the ocean. If it stopped there, the presence of the algae would be detrimental to ocean life. We all know about the “red tide” that afflicts coastal areas of Florida where algae are destructive.

But there is more to the story of Emiliania huxleyi. A virus called coccolithovirus infects the algae, killing it and produing organic matter that is the base of the ocean food chain supporting higher forms of life. Kay Bidle of Rutgers University is the chief author of the study. She says that this relationship is likely to apply to other virus-algae interactions in the ocean.

This new discovery is related to changes in the ocean observed from the International Space Station. The magnitude of this process is huge, and may provide a solution to some of our biggest environmental problems.

The National Science Foundation has reported on this discovery at nsf.gov. Mike Sieracki who is a program director in NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences says, “We are just beginning to understand how these incredibly complex microscopic interactions can affect global processes such as the carbon cycle.”

Viruses are critical agents for life. They are tools that God has built into the creation to provide the food and energy we need. Like all viral interactions, the virus works with other created things, in this case algae, to accomplish its provision for life’s existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2020