Most Difficult Issues of Life

Most Difficult Issues of LifeI believe that one of the most difficult issues of life is what to do when…
…you have been told you are going to die
…you are in enormous pain
…there seems to be no hope of recovery
…your care is using up the inheritance of your children
…and quality of life for you is absolutely zero with no hope it will ever get better.

I have seen friends and family in that situation and observed it in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This issue is a growing problem because our population is aging. At my age, I find that when I read the obituaries in the South Bend Tribune, there is someone I know listed nearly every day. We are not talking about “pulling the plug,” where a mechanical device keeps a body technically alive. We are talking about physically doing something to a patient that will result in death.

In 2019, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Hawaii, and New York all passed laws that either allowed medical aid in dying or made it easier to get help to die. Hearings that will lead to medical assistance bills were conducted in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nevada. An organization called “Compassion and Choices” has spearheaded a national movement to promote physician assisted suicide, and they have enormous support from celebrities and academics.

The fact is that death remains one of the most difficult issues of life. The arguments against physician assisted suicide are especially emotional. By choosing that path, we are trusting human judgment about whether death is close at hand. There are cases where someone who was expected to die made an amazing recovery. Psychological and spiritual healing sometimes results when a person knows that they are about to die. Support as friends and family rally around a dying person can rebuild relationships and restore family unity that is rare in today’s world. Many believe that leaving the time of one’s death in the hands of God is a necessary spiritual responsibility.

There is no question that we need to make changes in the laws and practices concerning the most difficult issues of life and death. Dealing with Alzheimers and dementia is very different from dying of cancer. Huge medical strides are making judgment difficult in all of these cases. Making a person comfortable throughout the last stages of life should be a priority for geriatric medicine. Limiting the use of medications and devices to relieve pain for a dying person is not only cruel but unnecessary. We should be able to win life’s final war with pain without resorting to terminating life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Race and Skin Color

Race and Skin ColorWhy do humans have different races and skin colors? If we all came from “Mother Eve,” should we not all be the same color? In the past, some people suggested that people of other races were not really human, and they used that argument to justify everything from slavery to infanticide. What is the truth about race and skin color?

It is interesting scientifically that only humans have mostly naked skin and along with that, different colors of skin. Other animals have hair and mostly light-colored skin. As science has told us more about skin color and confirmed that we all came from common ancestors, we find clues about race and skin color and how we should treat one another.

The most fundamental reason for skin color differences is the fact that humans live at different latitudes. It is quite evident that human populations that have lived near the equator for many generations tend to have darker skin. As one moves from equatorial Africa toward the north, there is a constant change in skin color. By the time you get to northern Scandinavia, you have very light-skinned people with blond hair and blue eyes. People living near the equator have black skin, black eyes, and black hair.

It’s easy to understand why. Take two tin cans and paint one black and the other white. Fill them with boiling water and measure their temperature five minutes later. Dark colors radiate heat faster than light ones, so the darker can will be cooler than the white one. In equatorial Africa, the problems of heat release are very significant, because our brain cannot be allowed to overheat.

Another factor is ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which can cause many changes in living tissue, including cancer. Human skin produces a substance known as melanin for protection. Melanin, God’s sunscreen, is a large organic molecule which both physically and chemically reduces the effects of UV radiation. Melanin absorbs UV rays causing them to lose energy. It also neutralizes harmful chemicals called free radicals that form in the skin after damage from UV radiation.

Dark skin absorbs a high percentage of UV light. It is essential, however, not to lose all the UV. Another thing that UV light does is to allow the body to produce vitamin D. Farther from the equator, the amount of UV is less, so dark-skinned people may not get enough UV light to make vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D causes rickets, so lighter skin is better at latitudes away from the equator.

As humans have migrated all over the globe, their ability to produce nutrients like vitamin D has been reduced in some groups. The Inuit people in Alaska don’t get enough vitamin D from the Sun, but they eat fish, which is very high in vitamin D. Their diet compensates for the low UV exposure. The presence of melanin in the skin, the complex biochemical system that produces vitamin D, and the ability of the body to protect itself against overheating and nutritional problems all speak well of the wisdom and design of our bodies.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Instead of allowing race and skin color to divide and cause hostility between us, we should celebrate God’s wisdom and design. They show that we have a universal Creator who designed and equipped us marvelously to live on a planet that has varied conditions and environments.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Winter Is Coming

Beautiful Fall but Winter Is ComingFall is a beautiful time of year. We all enjoy the changing colors of the trees, and there are changes in our lives that involve preparation for winter. Not all of us view these changes in a positive way. The fact is that whether we like it or not, change is coming. The sight of trees turning colors and the leaves falling to the ground reminds us that winter is coming.

Life is very similar to that. As we get older, signs are telling us that major change is coming in our lives. Our hair turns gray or falls out or both. There is pain in our movements that was not there before. The way we gain weight and our energy levels change, whether we like it or not. All of the medication in the world will not stop the physical changes coming in our lives. Mentally and emotionally, we must adjust to the fact that our faculties are not functioning as they did in the past, and we experience the loss of friends and family making us aware of our own mortality.

One of the things that belief in God does to us is that it allows us to approach the changes that come to our lives in the same way we do the colors of fall. We can scream and fight the fact that winter is coming, but it will still happen. We can buy cosmetics and vitamin pills, but the winter of life comes anyway. When I was an atheist, I had to look at life with all of its problems, pain, struggles, and the awful things that happen as the very best that I was ever going to have. Now, as a Christian, I can look at life with all of its beauty, wonder, and the fantastic things we all enjoy as the absolute worst I am ever going to have to endure.

How do you look at life? Is it the best you will ever have or the worst you will ever have to tolerate? Can you not see that this is the difference between the believer and the nonbeliever. It’s as different as night and day, black and white. If there were no other reason to believe in God but this one, it would be a compelling reason.

We can debate and fuss about things we do not understand. We can complain that we do not like the way God does things. But the fact is that all of those arguments have very little meaning when we are looking death in the face. The colors of change in the fall tell us winter is coming, and the colors of life tell us we will all soon stand before our Creator in judgment. Know why you believe what you believe, and intelligently trust in God to guide you to eternity.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Understanding the Human Mind

Understanding the Human MindFor those of us without a background in electronics and engineering, the inside of a computer looks impossibly complicated. Humans have created incredibly complex things. Those things have helped us understand everything from the microscopic world to outer space. The things we have created and the changes we have made can bring enormous good or tragic destruction. Therein lies the problem. Although we can understand much about the physical world, we still far from understanding the human mind.

In spite of our great progress in electronics, nuclear energy, and space, we still have no idea why people behave the way they do. What makes a person fall in love? Why do people feel guilty? What gives humans artistic ability and an appreciation of beauty? How can we have sympathy for one another or for an animal? These things involve understanding the human mind.

The difference between what a computer chip does and the things human minds do is the difference between the physical world and the spiritual world. In the physical world, all that happens is a product of forces and energies which are easily measured and controlled. Students in a basic physics course are quickly impressed by how easy it is to understand how physical things work and how accurately we can predict what physical forces will do. Just the opposite is true of the spiritual world. Why a person falls in love with someone of the opposite sex might be, to some extent, explained in terms of hormones. It’s another matter to explain why a person would love an idea to the extent that they will die for it. In that area, all biological explanations seem to fail at an elementary level.

Scientific attempts to explain and understand spiritual phenomena have failed because those phenomena are not physically derived. Our ability to understand them has to be on a spiritual level. One of the significant challenges for someone like your author in moving from atheism to Christianity is learning to think and comprehend the spiritual. The Bible even tells us that this will be the case:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

We are beings created in the image of God. That image has nothing to do with our physical makeup because God is not physical. It has to do with the fact that what makes humans unique is our spiritual component – our soul. Our bodies are not unique. Other animals possess hearts, lungs, eyes, and bones. Our true uniqueness, our soul, is beautifully displayed in our creativity, worship, and human feelings.

In one way, this concept is like Einstein’s theory of relativity. I would tell my students, “Einstein’s theory of relativity is incredibly easy to understand. It’s just really difficult to believe!” The idea that we are created in the image of God, and that our humanness is a reflection of that unique creation is so simple that people tend to reject it. Rejection of God’s simple answer to the human dilemma leads to the many problems ripping and tearing at people and our society today. Understanding the human mind requires realizing our spiritual dimension and the fact that we are created in the image of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Do We Have Mosquitoes?

Why Do We Have Mosquitoes?Every summer and early fall, the newspapers start talking about how horrible mosquitoes are. Then I have to deal with questions of why mosquitoes exist. If there is a kind and loving God, why do we have to worry about the diseases that mosquitoes carry? I have heard some people give rather foolish answers to this question, and I don’t wish to over-simplify in discussing it. But why do we have mosquitoes?

Many years ago, one of my professors at Notre Dame was Dr. George B. Craig, whose specialty was mosquitoes. He was “an internationally recognized expert on the biology and control of mosquitoes” according to a publication of the National Academies of Sciences. As one of his students, I learned some fantastic things about mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are pollinating insects. Most species of mosquitoes pollinate plants and don’t “bite” anything.

The word “mosquito” is Spanish for “little fly” and there are some 3500 species of them. The larvae of the mosquito are a significant part of the diet of fish and other water creatures. The mutation which turned some of them into bloodsuckers seems to have come into existence in recent history. It appears they were not created that way, and certainly have not always carried malaria and other diseases. The fact that there were no mosquitoes in Hawaii until the white man came to the islands with water barrels containing mosquito larvae is another important point to consider. The question of “why do we have mosquitoes” won’t always get answered to everyone’s satisfaction, but at least we can raise some points to make people think.

The design of the various food chains on Earth is very complex. This is especially true in freshwater areas with unique problems. In Alaska, for example, the necessary minerals for plants and the food sources for bears come from the salmon runs that bring the nutrients. The soil is sparse and nutrient-poor, and much of the year, the cold prevents normal food chains from functioning. Insects provide a significant means of moving nutrients through the system, so they are the base of the food chain in those freshwater systems. Without mosquito larvae to feed the freshwater creatures, including the salmon, that life would not exist.

Research has not given us enough data to understand how mutations in insects allow them to become disease carriers. There are multiple possible answers to that question, and future discoveries will make it more clear. Those of us who live in the north may not like the mosquitoes that make our outside activities uncomfortable, but we know how to cope with them. Why do we have mosquitoes? As we tie our dry flies to fish for trout and salmon, we see why the beauty of the north is at least partially rooted in things that complicate our lives. Mosquitoes are among those complications.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How Do You Use Your Time?

John Clayton asks, "How Do You Use Your Time?"God has given you 168 hours of time every week that you live. The question that each one of us must answer is, “What to do with that 168 hours?” How do you use your time?

If you consider the average essentials, they might look like this:
Eight hours a day for sleeping is 56 hours a week.
Work might be 40 hours per week.
If you take an hour to eat each meal, that would add up to 21 hours a week.
Personal hygiene, including exercise, might be 20 hours a week.

That adds up to 137 hours a week, giving us 31 hours or more than 4 hours a day left. How do you use your time that is left? The chances are that the numbers quoted here no accurate with what you do. I never get eight hours of sleep in a day, but I work far more than 40 hours a week. Realize that these numbers are just a starting point for what we do with the time we have been given.

Suppose we took the Old Testament tithe of 10%. A tithe of 168 is 16.8 hours. Let’s round that down to 16 hours a week to give back to God. Assume you go to worship and Bible class every time the door is open at the Church meeting place. That would be four hours a week spent in worship and Bible study with other Christians. We still have 12 hours to give back to God every week. Let me point out that these numbers allow 14.2 hours a week for you to watch TV, go fishing, go to a movie, etc.

Sixty years ago, I decided that I was going to give God 12 hours a week, not counting “going to Church,” to equal 10% of what He had given me. I found it very hard to do. The way I did it included:
Visiting people in the hospital.
Writing and sending cards.
Setting up and conducting Bible studies in my home or in other people’s homes.
Getting involved in a prison ministry.
Working with disturbed teens.
Taking youth groups to rallies and workshops.
Shoveling widow’s sidewalks.
Preparing the Church bulletin.
I did those and other things and kept a record to get to 12 hours a week.

Do you know what happened? I found contentment and peace and strength that I had never known as an atheist. Life was full of joy and surprises. The hard knocks in my personal and professional life became less destructive to me personally. When the Bible said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” it wasn’t just talking about money. Imagine what would happen if every Christian gave back to God 16.8 hours of the time God has given them! How do you use your time?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Genes and Addiction

Genes and Addiction Ozzy OsbourneSince the first sequencing of the human genome in 2003, there have been exhaustive studies of links between the human gene structure and addiction. Discover Magazine published a report on genes and addiction (November 2019 issue) with a summary of the current findings.

The magazine focuses on Ozzy Osbourne, the singer/songwriter and reality TV star who is sometimes called “The Godfather of Heavy Metal.” He is famous for going on binges of alcohol, Vicodin, cocaine, and other drugs that would kill most humans. He has survived to be 70 years old. The question is why Osbourne was able to survive all of this abuse for such a long time. One major factor seems to be a mutation in the ADH4 gene. The ADH4 makes a protein called alcohol dehydrogenase 4, which breaks down alcohol. The researchers have concluded that Osbourne is six times more likely to have an alcohol dependency than the average person because alcohol has a minimal effect on him.

The question arises of what are the links between genes and addiction to alcohol and other substances. The Food and Drug Administration says that one in every 12 adults in the United States suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. Americans spend $200 million a day on alcohol, and 100,000 people die each year from accidents linked to alcohol. People of East Asian descent have an increase in heart rate when consuming alcohol. That effect is called “Asian Flush” or “alcohol flush reaction.” Researches have also found genetic links to anandamide, which is a brain chemical that affects mood and anxiety. Marijuana doesn’t affect people with mutations that alter the amount of anandamide in the brain.

This newfound information tells us a lot about how mutations have shaped how we behave in our consumption of different chemicals. Obviously, if a person doesn’t consume the chemical, the mutations are not an issue. For some people, this information enables them to justify blaming God for their addiction. There are drugs like disulfiram, which cause people to have an unpleasant reaction to the consumption of alcohol. However, using a drug to counteract a destructive drug is a poor solution to the overall problem.

The mutations that have caused all of this are man-made. The mutations are linked to a variety of human enterprises, including the distillation of alcohol. In the distant past, addition was not much of an issue, because the chemical effect of undistilled alcohol is minimal. Alcohol is a drug, and it needs to be identified as such. God has not caused the mutations, and humans are responsible for virtually all of the drugs that are causing so much pain and destruction.

So there is a connection between genes and addiction, and science is looking for ways to change the human genome to exclude the mutations. The biblical solution is to form a relationship with God that leads us away from the destructive forces around us. At the same time, we need to reach out to those who are struggling with their addictions and help them find a way out of their lifestyle of abuse. Walking in the light (1 John 1) involves a conscious change that leads to a new life (Romans 6). God did not lead us to destructive lifestyles, but He will help us build a newness in our lives if we are willing to turn things over to Him.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Marriage Versus Cohabitation

Marriage Versus CohabitationA U.S. Census Bureau report released September 25, 2019, says that the number of unmarried partners living together has tripled in the past two decades. The report says that the number went from 6 million in 1996 to 19.1 million in 2018. There are all kinds of editorials about this data, with some writers referring to it as “increasing normalization.” The report comments that people who cohabitate are “older, better educated, more likely to earn higher wages and more racially diverse.” The report also says that cohabitation is “an alternative to marriage for low-income and less educated people.” What is the truth about marriage versus cohabitation?

Why government reports find it necessary to attempt to explain data escapes me. Interpreting the data in an atheistic way is not only illogical but raises more questions than it answers. What was the population from which the data was taken?  How many of the people cohabitating have children, and what effect is the cohabitation having on the children? How does cohabitation provide a viable alternative for low-income people? My wife and I were eligible for public assistance when we got married. We had no money, and I was a public school teacher making $4300 a year. Working as a team, we lifted ourselves out of that poverty and provided a stable home for our three children. On my own, none of that would have been possible.

Another vital aspect the report doesn’t mention is the role of sex in marriage and cohabitation. First Corinthians 7:1-6 describes the concern married Christians should have for the sexual needs of their mates. Every expert from Masters and Johnson to modern specialists has shown that a committed relationship provides the best in sexual satisfaction and the most fulfilling relationship for both men and women. Cohabitation may satisfy the immediate sexual gratification of some, especially males. It does not meet the real needs of both men and women in the long term.

It is no wonder that many young people are embracing alternative living arrangements. They have been lied to by their culture and often influenced by the bad examples set by their parents. Also, they have had no instruction or education in God’s teaching on the divine plan for sex and marriage. The collapse of the nuclear family leaves children struggling with life and with increased learning disabilities. The result to fill the void they feel is the increasing use of drugs and a radical increase in suicide. When it comes to marriage versus cohabitation, God’s plan works. The alternatives do not.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ten Percent of People Are Gay?

Ten Percent of People Are Gay?You have probably heard the statistic that “ten percent of people are gay” or even “ten percent of people are BORN gay.” The truth is that nobody is “born gay.” There is a condition called “intersex” in which a child is born with some characteristics of both sexes. Those cases are very rare and varied. The different variations of intersex can occur anywhere from one birth in thousands to one in hundreds of thousands. But that does not mean the child is “gay.”

Research and observation seem to indicate that same-sex activity is increasing. Some experts have suggested that the apparent increase in “gayness” in our society is due to environmental pollution. There has been a lot of research into finding a “gay gene” or any environmental factor that makes a person “gay.” So far, there are no reliable answers.

The “ten percent of people are gay” statistic was falsely derived from the 1940’s Kinsey research. Alfred Kinsey, a zoologist at Indiana State University, interviewed people in prisons and the “gay underworld” using methods that would not hold up to modern statistical sampling techniques. He compiled the statistics in his reports on “Human Sexual Behavior” that shocked America. In the 1970s, Bruce Voeller, who founded the National Gay Task Force, used Kinsey’s research to say that ten percent of people are “gay.” That number has become one of the myths of modern culture. (Similar to the myth that we use only ten percent of our brains.) After all, ten percent is a nice round number even if it has no basis in fact.

So what is the truth about the apparent increase in same-sex activity? Reliable research indicates that the percentage of people in the overall population who consider themselves to be gay/lesbian/bisexual is between one and two percent. However, the percentage is much higher among young people. How much of this is a factor of family breakdown, media and celebrity influence, or society’s acceptance of the “gay lifestyle” is difficult to determine.

It is interesting to consider the consequences if “ten percent of people are born gay,” and the concept of human evolution and “survival of the fittest” is correct. In that case, “gayness” should have evolved out of the human population since same-sex relationships can’t produce children to pass on their traits. At the very least, it should be decreasing rather than increasing. After the flood, God told the few survivors to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). That is one of the few commands of God that humans have kept. Satan tempted the first couple to disobey the first command God gave them to not eat fruit from one of the trees. Perhaps through abortion and same-sex relationships, Satan is trying to get people to disobey the only remaining command of God that humans have thus-far kept.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

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