Many years ago in Alaska, I had a discussion with a biologist who was studying the Alaskan soils. His study revolved around the fact that Alaska has very little soil and what it does have is developing. The lack of soil in Alaska has limited plant growth and made the ecology dependent on migrating salmon. Soils are complex mixtures of organic matter, minerals, water, air, and billions of organisms that form over hundreds of years. Good soils are vital for survival. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.”
Research has shown that plants are designed to “call” for nutrients from the soil. A plant will release molecules called flavonoids, which cause bacteria in the soil to migrate into the plant and form nitrogen nodules on the roots. The nitrogen nodules generate food for the plant. If ample nitrogen is already available for the plant, it will not release the flavonoids.
This “hunger” by plants is vital to understand because many natural and human-caused processes can deplete the soil. Forest and brush fires, hurricanes, pollution, and climate change can deplete soils’ nitrogen content and kill plants. Studies of the giant sequoias in California have shown that the soil under them has twice as many bacteria as the soil under nearby sugar pines. We all know that bacteria influence human health, but bacteria also affect plant health and growth.
As our population increases and world climates change, it will become increasingly important to understand how soil allows us to feed our growing population. God’s design of the Earth includes providing the soils necessary to produce food. Good soils are vital for survival.
One of the problems we all face is knowing whether the healthcare products we see advertised and on the store shelves actually work. The fact is that many of the advertised items are totally useless. In October of 2019, the Center for Inquiry sued Walmart for putting useless homeopathic products on shelves beside valid medicines. On May 20, 2020, the homeopathy lawsuit was dismissed by the District of Columbia Superior Court.
The Center for Inquiry said their concern is that consumers wouldn’t know what was useful and what was not. A good example is that just about every drug store and department store like Walmart sells products claiming to protect us from memory loss. Research has shown that most of them are useless. The Center for Inquiry will appeal the court’s decision. They have also filed a similar lawsuit against CVS, the country’s largest pharmacy chain.
Many of the products promoted as homeopathic cures have religious claims and are marketed by religious figures. We have had a personal interest in this with a family member using a homeopathic treatment for cancer to the exclusion of established medical treatment. That error ultimately resulted in the death of our loved one.
There is a biblical example of this in Acts 8:9-24 where a man called Simon “used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest saying that this man is the great power of God; and to him they had regard, because that for a long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” (Verses 9-11) There have always been scams and con artists who take people’s money for things that simply don’t work.
So how do we protect ourselves? The fact that the homeopathy lawsuit was dismissed should not prevent us from being skeptical of health claims made by anyone, including religious leaders or celebrities. Ask your doctor about anything you put into or on your body. There is a website called Quackwatch, which has links to health claims and products.
Taking care of our bodies is taking care of the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). We need to realize that doing that requires some effort on our part.
The COVID-19 virus has been too lethal to ignore. This pandemic makes us realize that there are many viruses out there, and the current one is just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. As early as AD 165 to 180, pandemics killed massive numbers of people. Smallpox killed 5 million, and bubonic plague killed 25 million on four different occasions starting in 541. Researchers today are attempting to catalog links between animal viruses and human illness. They estimate that there are probably 1.6 million animal viruses yet to be discovered in mammal and bird populations and that 827,000 of them could cause disease in humans.
Viruses are part of the natural world in which we live. They serve useful purposes in aiding animal digestion, reproduction, and elimination of wastes. The problem is that each animal has its own set of viruses suited for that animal’s diet and living conditions. If an animal’s virus jumps into another species with a different diet and living conditions, the results can be destructive. That is the connection between animal viruses and human illness. Most of the viruses we know about came into the human population from rodents, including rats, bats, birds, chimps, and mosquitos. Some have jumped through several animals such as bats giving the virus to cattle and camels, which gave it to humans.
The Old Testament laws had health restrictions, which made virus transmission less of a problem. People were also not in such proximity to one another or to animals that had destructive viruses. Living in very arid conditions reduced disease transmission, and the dietary laws worked against most virus transmission. When you read through Deuteronomy and Leviticus, you see elaborate precautions that we now understand had hygienic benefits to minimize viral transmission.
In the New Testament, many of these rules were continued. There was a prohibition against drinking blood, and the increased use of baking and boiling foods contributed to a low virus transmission rate. Moral rules that reduced the spread of disease included the elimination of polygamy and polyandry and the strong condemnation of prostitution. In time, the keeping of exotic pets and the acceptance of foods previously forbidden to Israel tended to thwart human attempts to fight disease.
God has given us the capacity to understand viruses and the connection between animal viruses and human illness. God has also given us the tools to control these virus issues. He has also given us hope for something better. Will we use the tools and techniques God gave us to stop the pandemics, or will we open our culture to more viral events in the future? Time will tell.
One question repeatedly arises from skeptics, atheists, and people struggling with health issues. They want to know why we have all of the diseases, syndromes, and disabilities that afflict people. Is God’s design of our bodies faulty? Is the bad stuff that comes into our lives punishment for some transgression of God’s laws?
It seems that we have more things that can go wrong with us today than ever before, and a large percentage of our modern afflictions are genetic or congenital. It isn’t just that we have more names for current problems, but the problems themselves seem to be more abundant.
The Bible tells us that God is never the author of our problems. James 1:13 makes it clear that God never brings bad things upon us. The passage goes on to say, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.”
A part of the answer to the source of these afflictions is our development of plastics. In 1922, the first synthetic plastic was sold by the Bakelite Corporation. In 2018, 400 million tons of new plastics were created. We all cringe when we see pictures of whales or sea turtles or albatrosses dying because of ingesting plastic, but we don’t realize that we too are consuming plastic. The average American consumes more than 74,000 microplastic particles every year. These particles contain bisphenol A and phthalates, which in turn attract polychlorinated biphenyls. These chemicals have been shown to affect brain and organ development in children, and they are linked to infertility, hormonal problems, and cardiovascular problems in adults.
There are efforts to control plastics production, and science is researching ways to remove dangerous chemicals from the plastics we use. Our point is that this is another case where blaming God for a problem that humans have created is not logical or reasonable. Is God’s design of our bodies faulty? As David wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Much of what goes wrong with our bodies is due to our ignorant use of things that damage them.
The Old Testament dietary laws did not allow the Israelites to eat certain foods. Genesis 9:2-4 says not to eat meat that “has its lifeblood in it.” Leviticus 11:1-47 and Deuteronomy 14 spell out a wide range of dietary restrictions. Today we know why those restrictions were put in place because the animals the Israelites were forbidden to eat were carriers of viruses infectious to humans.
In the New Testament, the picture changes. The early Church leaders met to determine what actions they should abstain from and what Christians can eat (Acts 15:28-29). They decided that Christ’s followers should avoid all trappings of idolatry, including licentiousness, drunkenness, and fornication. They should also avoid eating blood; specifically, animals strangled so that the lifeblood was still in the meat.
Colossians 2:14-16 tells us that Jesus nailed the legalistic rules of the Old Testament to His cross. The passage is clear that Paul is talking about “religious festivals, New Moon celebrations, and Sabbath Days.” Jesus did not do away with the lifestyle choices referred to in Acts 15, but with the Old Law’s legalistic demands that were difficult for the people to keep.
The other passage that deals with what we can eat is Acts 10:9-16. God gave Peter a vision in which he saw a sheet full of animals lowered to him, and a voice told him to kill and eat. What we tend to miss is that Peter identifies two kinds of foods he had never eaten. Verse 14 quotes Peter as saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten that which is COMMON (Greek word koinoo) or UNCLEAN (Greek word akathartos).”
The word “common” means ordinary, like everyone else. The word “unclean” means defiled, impure. God’s response to Peter was, “What God has cleansed don’t you call COMMON.” “Defiled” would mean what is referred to in Genesis 9:2-4 – having its lifeblood in it. “Common” would mean the things the Gentiles ate that were not defiled. Peter is about to convert a Gentile, a major change in his life. God makes it clear that he can participate in Gentile foods, but this passage does not approve drinking blood or any other impure foods.
What Christians can eat is virtually anything, but they need to avoid those foods that are dangerous for human consumption. By their diet, early Christians could be protected from diseases that were common in the pagan world around them.
You can go online and get all the factual information you want on every part of the human body. Put in the word “skin,” and you will be amazed at how much information there is about human skin. One comic said, “Your skin holds everything together.” In truth, it does much more than that.
We tend to classify humans based on their skin color, but our skin color is related to the needs of the body. Black objects radiate heat more efficiently than white objects. Take two identical cans and paint one black and the other white. Heat them to the same temperature and then let them sit in an insulated environment. The black can will cool off faster than the white can. Dark skin color is due to a biological pigment called melanin. Melanin absorbs ultraviolet light and thus protects the body. People living in tropical areas where they are exposed to more heat and ultraviolet light have more melanin than people living in cooler regions. There is, therefore, a latitude effect on skin color.
The more you study the design of your skin, the more amazing it is. One square inch of human skin contains nearly 20 million cells and 625 sweat glands. That square inch of skin can also have as many as 65 hairs, 19 feet (5.8 meters) of blood vessels, and 19,000 sensory cells. To limit bleeding, blood vessels in your skin temporarily shrink instantly if the skin is cut or if pressure is applied. Your body sheds skin cells when they die and replaces them with new ones. Three-quarters of the dust floating around your house is made up of dead skin cells.
So, if you think your skin holds everything together, and that’s all, you would be wrong. Your skin, the largest organ in your body, does a wide range of things that help you to stay alive and comfortable. When David wrote, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14), he was not aware of many things about our bodies that we know today. As we look at ourselves with tools such as microscopes, we see design in the construction of our bodies that David could not have imagined.
There is a wonderful book published in 1989 and now out of print that gives many other examples of the incredible designs we see in our bodies. The title is The Compass in Your Nose and Other Astonishing Facts About Humans by Marc McCutcheon and published by Jeremy Tarcher, Inc.
Television, books, movies, and pop psychology have all tried to offer alternatives to the biblical concept of the family. From Genesis 2:24 on, the Bible gives instructions to build what modern social scientists now call “the nuclear family.” Scientists define a nuclear family as “a unit headed by two loving, married parents.” In today’s society, more nuclear families are needed.
In the first two centuries of America’s existence, people were embedded in a group that included aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and grandparents. That meant there were always people available to care for a child or a senior who needed help. With the movement to the cities and the emphasis on self-fulfillment and individuality, the nuclear family has disintegrated. Parents now pay people to perform child-rearing tasks. Kids find themselves in single-parent homes, which leave them alone a vast percentage of the time. Seniors are often isolated because their children have moved away.
Research shows that the collapse of the nuclear family has produced terrible consequences. In 1960, 77.5% of children lived in nuclear families. Today that figure is 48%. The rise of suicide, depression, and income inequality can be linked to family disintegration. Robert Samuelson writing in the Washington Post said that we can’t go back to the way things used to be because of “geographic mobility, the need and desire of women to work, or high divorce rates.” Despite the challenges, nuclear families are needed to create a healthy society.
God created man and equipped him to live on planet Earth in the best possible way. God said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18), and He created woman, so the two of them would be one (Genesis 2:24). Paul further emphasized the relationship between man and woman in 1 Corinthians 7. As our society moves farther from belief in God and biblical teaching, marriage is being denigrated and avoided by a large percentage of our population. What many don’t realize is that there is a connection between marriage and health.
So what evidence do we have that God’s plan is best? Consider the results of these studies that indicate that personal health is related to a person’s marital state:
1) Unmarried men are 58% more likely to have a heart attack than married men, and single women are 60% more likely to have heart attacks than married women. This data comes from a study by Turku University Hospital in Finland. 2) Studies of 19,000 married people showed a 20% lower probability of dying than unmarried people, according to the National Opinion and Research Center. 3) Studies at the University of Chicago show that single people have higher cortisol levels than married individuals. Cortisol levels are related to stress. 4) The University of Rochester reports that 83% of married people are still alive 15 years after coronary bypass surgery, while only 28% of single women with the same surgery are still alive.
The January 2020 issue of Scientific American (page 10) carried an editorial titled “Time’s Up for ‘Anti-Gay Therapy.’” The article gives data on the destructive nature of attempted conversion therapy. It cites a study by the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, showing that 42% of young people who received conversion therapy attempted suicide. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have stated that conversion therapy is useless and harmful. Much of the Scientific American editorial blames Christianity as the source of much of the destructive actions caused by conversion therapy.
It is essential to understand that no one knows all the causes of LGBTQ behavior, and in reality, there is no single cause. Some young people exhibit gay behavior as a rebellion against their parents or the Church. There is no question that abuse figures into a person’s sexual choices and behavior in some cases. In today’s society, nearly everyone has a family member or close friend who is struggling with their sexual identity. No Christian wants to hurt anyone or be a cause of pain of any kind to our fellow human beings, much less to cause someone to attempt suicide. All Christians should reject the violent and abusive techniques of conversion therapy programs cited in the Scientific American editorial.
Christians and non-Christians need to understand the issues and work together to promote healthy lifestyles for everyone. We have pointed out studies that show that many LGBTQ behaviors are unhealthy. Life expectancies of people practicing many of those behaviors are very low, and some require constant treatments with harsh drugs for a person’s entire life.
We all need to understand that there is a difference between same-sex attraction and overt gay behavior. Data concerning the demographics of STDs show clearly a higher incidence of those diseases in the LGBTQ community. We have referenced Guy Hammond’s book Caring Beyond the Margins as a good perspective on same-sex attraction without destructive gay behavior. You can read our review of that book HERE.
The Bible has much to say about heterosexual behavior and how God wants us to express our sexual desires. Counselors regularly deal with heterosexual conduct involving abstinence and self-control. There have also been past abusive practices in counseling people with heterosexual problems, including shock therapy, chemical therapies, and forced hormonal treatments. We need to work together to help everyone live as God has called us to live, and forced abusive treatment is not a way to do that. Living out God’s plan will lead to longer and more stable lives.
How do you feed millions of humans and meet their nutritional needs without destroying the planet with greenhouse gases? The World Wildlife Federation has released data on one of the primary sources of food for more than six billion people worldwide – milk. The average person in the United States consumed 643 pounds (292 kg) of dairy products in 2017, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Those foods came from 9.3 million dairy cows, but there are 278 million in the world. Milk production has grown by 30% from 2005 to 2015, and that comes to 909 million tons. India is the leading producer with 20% of the world’s supply. The U.S. has 12%.
The design of cattle that can produce that much milk was recognized in prehistoric times, and cattle were worshiped because they provided so much food for humans. Skeptics would respond that the environmental impact of cattle is so huge that it is a bad design. It does take 144 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk in the U.S., with over 93% of it involved in growing feed for the cattle. The average dairy cow will eat 100 pounds of feed, and 9% of American cropland is used to grow feed crops for dairy cows. A cow will produce 17 gallons of urine and manure, which can pollute rivers and lakes, and they generate greenhouse gases.
The fact is that only 2% of the total U.S. emission of greenhouse gases comes from milk production. The Northern Great Plains cover 180 million acres in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The land became rich in resources and healthy when grazing animals such as bison aerated and fertilized the soil. With the past numbers of those animals gone, scientists now say that something else must fill that niche or erosion will increase, and invasive plants will take over. Studies by the World Wildlife Federation show that cattle production areas in the Northern Great Plains have lower per acre emissions than row crop agriculture such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. The most recent study shows “done right, ranching can help conserve biodiversity while minimizing its own environmental footprint.”