The Issue of Mindsets

The Issue of Mindsets

Both believers and non-believers are affected by their mindsets. In the 55 years our ministry has existed, we have found that the mindset of people on both sides of issues is the source of conflict between atheists and believers, evolutionists and creationists. Dr. Katherine Beals, an education expert, wrote an excellent article on the issue of mindsets. She distinguishes between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

The fixed mindset leads to the following ways of thinking: I know best – This is good enough – I’ll never be that smart – I want to avoid making mistakes – I give up. As you read those five statements, consider what you hear from older people in established congregations today. They reject any proposal to do things differently even though there is no scriptural reason for not using another method. The same problem exists with evolutionists who are so fixed in their mindset that they refuse to listen to any attempt to harmonize belief in God with their evolutionary theories.

On the other hand, the growth mindset leads to these ways of thinking: Is this my best work? – Mistakes help me learn – Feedback is valuable – I improve with practice – I won’t give up. Jesus commonly used the phrase, “What do you think?” The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is full of admonitions to the people of His day to think with a growth mindset.

Interestingly, Jesus Christ ran into the issue of mindsets as He dealt with people in matters of faith. The Pharisees and Sadducees had fixed mindsets, and they crucified Jesus because He didn’t fit their mindset. At the same time, gentiles had a growth mindset, wanting to know more and being willing to change. For example, the story of Cornelius in Acts 10 shows that he had a growth mindset and was willing to change. In Paul’s missionary journies, he found that Jews had a fixed mindset while the Gentiles had a growth mindset.

The Church today is struggling with the issue of mindsets. Young people have a growth mindset, and the older congregations have a fixed mindset. This is manifested in many ways. The real problem is that congregations with a fixed mindset will eventually die out. From the beginning, Christianity, with its growth mindset, grew and is still growing. Fixed-mindset congregations will die when the fixed-mindset members die, but the Lord’s Chuch will continue to grow and expand. Our ministry is about growth and learning. Won’t you join us?

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: Skeptical Inquirer for July/August 2024, pages 49-51

Why Would God Do That?

Why Would God Do That?

A Christian friend was looking for help to answer his sons’ questions. One son is in high school, and the other is in college, and they questioned why God would tell the Israelites to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15: 2-3). Why would God do that – requiring total destruction of the Amalekite society?

I shared my thoughts on this question, but first, I suggested he go to our website, doesgodexist.tv, using this LINK. Then scroll down to video #7 in the series titled “Anticipating Some Objections.” Between 11:50 and 15:40 in that video, you will find a very brief answer to the objection of why God would command the killing of all of the Amalekites, including women, children, and livestock.

It seems that in addition to other sins, such as attacking the Israelites in Exodus 17, the Amalekites were sexually corrupt, even including bestiality. That resulted in diseases, even affecting the animals, for which there was no cure at that primitive time. If the Amalekites and their animals were allowed to live in the land God had promised to His people, they would morally corrupt the Israelites and even spread diseases.

God was preparing a people through which He would bring salvation to all people. Why would God do that? Because of His love. Allowing the Israelites to be corrupted by their neighbors could destroy God’s plan to redeem all humanity through Jesus Christ. The gospel came into the world because God had prepared a people who believed in the one true God who created all things. Any other religious system would not work to prepare people to accept Christ’s message.

The Israelites failed to follow God’s instructions to the letter, and that failure returned to haunt them. (See 1 Samuel 30.) Paganism corrupted even Israel’s kings. However, God allowed His chosen people to suffer captivity and punishment. Why would God do that? Allowing His people to suffer eventually led to the Jewish people at the time of Jesus being completely cured of paganism. They had other faults, but they refused to worship any pagan gods. They had the prophecies of the Old Testament and the miracles and message of Jesus to cause many of them to believe and be baptized into Christ’s body, the Church. Although many rejected Christ, those who accepted the gospel became powerful witnesses to the pagans of their day to the point where they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). (Actually, they turned it right side up.)

The Church today would not exist if God had not taken harsh steps that may seem immoral to our modern Christian sensitivities. I believe that without the influence of Christianity in the past two millennia, people would have destroyed civilization and the planet before now. As people reject God today, we are on the verge of doing that. Today, God does not command us to save the world by destroying our enemies but by bringing them into God’s family through His Church. Why would God do that? Because He loves all people. When you consider the entire history from God’s perspective and realize His ultimate purpose, you realize it was because of His love that He commanded the destruction of the Amalekites.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

You Just have to Believe

You Just have to Believe

Some preachers and church leaders try to tell you, “Don’t question your faith. You just have to believe.” We never find that kind of attitude in the teaching of Jesus or any of the apostles. It is easy to assume that the people we are talking to believe in God, that the Bible is the true Word of God, and that Jesus is a real person who lived, died, and rose from the dead.

It’s a common misconception that everyone in the church has unwavering faith. In reality, a significant portion of people, including those sitting in church pews, have their own doubts and questions. Over the past decade, our ministry has seen a surge in responses, particularly from teenagers and young adults who are grappling with their faith.

Jesus had to deal with the doubts of people who rejected what He said. The Bible describes multiple cases in which people showed Jesus a lack of faith. In Mark 9:17-27, we read of a father with a son who had an epileptic-like issue. Jesus told the distraught father, “All things are possible for one who has faith.” The father cried out with tears, “Lord, I have faith, help me where faith runs short.” Have you ever had a struggle in which you want to believe but are paralyzed by doubt?

How did Jesus handle people’s doubts? The answer is “evidence.” When Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, Jesus did not condemn or even chastise him but gave him evidence ( John 20:24-29). Verses 30 and 31 tell us that Jesus did many other things which gave his disciples evidence, “These things are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you might have life through His name.”

The purpose of miracles was not to attract a crowd, raise money, or campaign for some particular office. In Matthew 8:24 -27, we see Jesus controlling wind and waves, and His followers’ response was, “What kind of a man is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him.” Miracles served a purpose, and when men tried to duplicate the things Jesus did, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16.)

In our day, evidence is still a key to faith. The creation speaks of God’s existence, and archaeological evidence for the validity of the Bible is strong. All around us, we can see the catastrophe when people reject the teachings of Christ and devise their own plan for living. We present evidence in the courses we offer, our printed publications, and our websites. We have far more reason to believe than did people in biblical times when mass media was unavailable and scientific knowledge was minimal. Romans 1:19-20 says it well, and verses 28-32 tell us the consequences of rejecting the evidence.”

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Animals Do Not Possess Human Values or Empathy

Animals Do Not Possess Human Values or Empathy
Warthog

One result of evolutionary thinking is believing that humans are not unique but just animals at the top of the evolutionary ladder. As a result of that message, many people treat animals as if they are humans, at times even raising wild animals in their homes. The problem is that animals do not possess human values or empathy, and their instinctive behavior may cause unexpected problems.

In some cases, animals have reverted to instinctive drives, causing them to attack their owners. A man named Austin Riley in Boerne, Texas, found a newborn warthog whose mother had died. Riley took the tiny warthog, nursed it, and raised it for five years. He named the pet warthog Waylon after Waylon Jennings, a country singer known for his outlaw behavior. When Riley would lie down and listen to sports radio, Waylon would lie down beside him. Riley would take Waylon to Whataburger to get something to eat, and Waylon would sit in the front seat “happy as can be.” Waylon grew to weigh 250 pounds and was identified with Pumbaa in the popular Lion King movie, with the Swahili expression “hakuna matata,” meaning “no worries.” However, there was something to worry about in this case because animals do not possess human values or empathy.

Warthogs have lower tusks protruding from muscular jaws like blades. The tusks are curved, so the warthog can do incredible damage to any animal or person by twisting its head. Warthogs are designed to protect themselves from lions, their main enemies in their native Africa. On an October evening in 2022, Austin came to Waylon’s pen, and the warthog greeted him happily as he went to the feeding trough. Twenty minutes after feeding Waylon, Austin fed Daisy a potbellied pig he raised from a piglet and then walked to his ATV. Suddenly, Waylon attacked Austin, ripping his legs, wrist, abdomen, and neck. Doctors say that Austin lost half of his blood, and his treatment required ten surgeries. Medical studies of Waylon showed he did not have rabies.

The bottom line is that wild animals are not good pets. Animals do not possess human values or empathy. I have known friends who had snakes, alligators, turtles, deer, eagles, crows, chimps, goldfish, and even sharks for pets. In many cases, a time came when the animals acted aggressively toward their keepers. The point is that humans can behave like animals, but animals cannot behave like humans. Humans are created in God’s image, which is expressed in how we live and care for one another at all stages of life. The world would be a much better place if everyone followed the teachings of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapters 5 to 7.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: boingboing.net and Texas Monthly

Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Is Consciousness an Illusion? Daniel Dennett said consciousness is an illusion
Daniel Dennett III (1942-2024)

Is consciousness an illusion, or is it real? Philosopher Rene Descartes insisted that consciousness was the only undeniable fact of our existence. He is known for the phrase, “I think, therefore, I am” (cogito, ergo sum). Daniel Dennett was an analytic philosopher who, until his death on April 19, 2024, spent his career suggesting that consciousness is an illusion. He also insisted that God is an illusion, and, in agreement with Richard Dawkins, design in nature is an illusion.

Daniel Dennett was also closely associated with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens as the “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism.” They all wrote best-selling books challenging the existence of God. Dennett was a vocal atheist, a Committee for Skeptical Inquiry member, and served on the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America. He was also awarded the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s board of distinguished achievers.

Dennett believed that evolution by natural selection and adaptation accounts for every aspect of life, including morality. In his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, he attempted to give a naturalistic explanation for religious belief. Is consciousness an illusion? According to Dennett, the answer is “yes.” If you have trouble accepting that concept, Dennett’s 1991 book Consciousness Explained attempted to explain it. His 2017 book From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds expands on Dennett’s concept of “competence without comprehension.”

According to Dennett, the Darwinian theory accounts for all aspects of our existence. No intelligent designer is needed because evolution explains everything. The “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism” alludes to the four horsemen of the apocalypse described in Revelation chapter 6. Those horsemen represent conquest, warfare, famine, and death, bringing judgment on the people of Earth. The four horsemen of atheism are now down to two since the death of Hitchens and now Dennett, but I am sure others will take their place.

What we need today are champions for God who will take the message of God’s love and redemption and peace and hope in Jesus Christ. If consciousness is an illusion, everything is meaningless, but if consciousness is reality, everything changes. Our lives have meaning, purpose, and value because God created and loves us.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Characterizing God as a Vindictive Tyrant

Characterizing God as a Vindictive Tyrant is not Accurate

Characterizing God as a vindictive tyrant who wants to send everyone to hell is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. God wants everyone to be saved. It would be helpful if writers who condemn Christianity would read and understand the New Testament rather than taking Old Testament passages out of context.  

In Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus tells the parable of a shepherd with 100 sheep and one wanders off. The shepherd leaves the 99 and goes after the one that is lost. Christ ends that story by saying, “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these should be lost.” 

In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to a change of mind (repentance).”  

Many have read John 3:16 without reading verse 17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world.” 

Skeptics and some religionists who ask why God doesn’t just save everyone automatically are misunderstanding the purpose of our existence. God created us for a reason, and He gave us a purpose. There is a war going on between good and evil. Despite atheist attempts to deny that evil exists, their claim rings hollow with those who live in the real world. 

The impact of evil is clear, and Job 1 & 2, Ephesians 6:12 and 3:10 make the purpose of our existence clear. Only sentient beings can make spiritual choices and be part of the struggle between good and evil. God is not a destroyer, a tyrant, or a bully. Forcing people to embrace His will would only indicate His power. The Bible says, “God is love,” and for that reason, He is allowing time to pass before the creation is dissolved. God wants everyone to be saved and to live in a spiritual existence beyond the grave, but He will not force us to accept His will. 

Please reject those who are characterizing God as a vindictive tyrant who takes delight in torturing innocent beings. First Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul tells us that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,” so the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” cannot shine on them. That explains why they are characterizing God as a vindictive tyrant. Don’t be blinded by the vindictive writing of atheists and skeptics who are agents of destruction of us individually and the United States as a nation. 

— John N. Clayton © 2024

The War Against Christianity

The War Against Christianity

The war against Christianity has grown in the United States. Here are some examples:

*Fowler United Methodist Church in Annapolis, Maryland, suffered $100,000 in damages. Vandals tore down a wooden cross, shredded Bibles, and slashed upholstery. 

*Florida passed a bill to allow public and charter schools to have a chaplain to address student mental health. Opponents called it a vehicle for “Christian nationalism,” and the Satanic Temple indicated it plans to send its chaplains. 

*The war against Christianity involves Madison, Wisconsin’s Freedom From Religion Foundation. It has taken out ads in various periodicals calling for the rejection of “Christian nationalism.” 

*The “Public Religion Research Institute” reports that 26% of Americans identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated, and 67% of those say they have stopped believing the teaching of their old faith. 

*The government continues to issue new rules that violate Christian teachings and precipitate problems for Christian families. One example is the rules prohibiting Christian colleges from having dorms limited to only one sex. Other laws require schools to allow both sexes to use any restroom, resulting in cases where female students complain because males are entering their facilities to “gawk” at them. 

Jesus made it clear that His gospel was not political. In Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus tells his opponents to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” In Romans 13:1-7, Paul lays down the relationship between Christians and government. He makes positive comments about the role of government and categorizes government as God’s servant. He tells Christians to pay their taxes and show respect and honor to public leaders.

When the government demands immorality or opposes Christian behavior, it seems like a war against Christianity. However, Christians are not called to strike back militarily. The day may come when churches will not have tax exemption, and the government will take over church property. Even then, God’s people will survive and thrive as they did under the pagan Roman government in the first century. There can’t be a war when one side refuses to fight.

We can find comfort in the fact that Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come…. You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time, many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:6-13).

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: USA Today for 4/9/24; The Week for April 12, 2024, page 17; and “Washington Impact Report” from the Family Research Council for April 2024, page 1. 

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena AARO Report

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena AARO Report - Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick
Sean Kirkpatrick speaking to Senate Armed Services Committee

One of the most repeated false media reports is the claim that aliens in spacecraft regularly visit Earth and want to affect human history. In our day of conspiracy theories, there are stories that the United States government has been hiding alien contact. Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick was the director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). Congress charged that agency in 2022 with bringing scientific evidence and clarity to the UFO and UAP (Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena) mystery.

Dr. Kirkpatrick explained what the AARO found in the April 2024 issue of Scientific American. Here is a brief summary of his report:

#1) There is no record of any president, Department of Defense official, intelligence community leader, or congressional committee knowing about any such conspiracy.
#2) The claims started when “UFOlogist” Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, persuaded some senators to call on the Department of Homeland Security to set up an agency to investigate claims.
#3) The people advancing the idea of a government coverup conspiracy are part of a small group, and many of them worked for Bigelow Aerospace.
#4) Dr. Kirkpatrick said of the claims, “Some are misrepresentations; some derive from pure, unsupported beliefs. In many ways, the narrative is a textbook example of circular reporting…”

You can read the report released by Kirkpatrick’s group of qualified scientists, “Report on the Historical Record of U.S. Government Involvement with Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP),” online HERE.

All attempts to tie alien claims to the Bible or alien explanations of history are not supported by evidence or real scientific investigation. We see claims that biblical figures, including Jesus, were aliens and that miracles described in the Bible were the actions of aliens. There is no evidence to support those claims.

The evidence is massive that Jesus lived as the Bible says and that His spiritual promises are real. Our salvation comes from the work of Jesus, and we must study and apply His teachings to our lives. You can see some of that evidence in our videos, including the Beyond Reasonable Doubt series and our correspondence course by the same name. Send us your name and address for the correspondence course, and we will mail you lesson #1 at no cost. You can watch the video series for free on our website, doesgodexist.tv.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Observations from a Government UFO Hunter” in Scientific American magazine for April 2024 (pages 67-68)

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

As Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, how do we know the story is true? Some unbelievers argue that the resurrection is a myth that arose many years later. The evidence against that idea is numerous and strong. The apostles carried the message of Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the Roman Empire for the rest of their lives, even though they had nothing to gain except a life of persecution ending in execution. They would not have done that unless they had seen the resurrected Christ.

Skeptics have often argued that the gospels were written years later to “prove” the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a myth that developed during those years. However, before any of the four gospels were written, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in A.D. 57. he included an oral tradition that summarizes the gospel message.

In the first century, there were no computers, printed books, or pamphlets, and even simple writing materials were scarce and precious. People memorized important things by summarizing them efficiently and passing them on as oral traditions. The early Christians used that method. Here is the first part of an oral tradition that Paul wrote down in that first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

The oral tradition then goes on to list some resurrection appearances of Christ. Then Paul adds himself to the list of those who saw the resurrected Christ. (You can read it for yourself in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) Of course, the “Scriptures” that Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies of Christ since the New Testament was not yet written.

When did Paul receive this tradition? He probably received it no later than A.D. 36 when he first visited Jerusalem. (See Galatians 1:15-18.) He possibly received it earlier than that in Damascus when, as Saul the persecutor, he encountered Ananias and received his sight. Ananias preached the gospel to him, and “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Whether in Jerusalem or Damascus, Paul received the oral tradition of Christ’s resurrection no more than five years after the event. That tradition was not a myth that developed years after eyewitnesses died.

We can trust the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Although we have that oral tradition written down, we would do well to memorize it, as the early Christians did.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Easter Egg Symbolism

Easter Egg Symbolism
Ukrainian Pysanky

Various Easter celebrations and fun activities revolve around eggs. Ancient people must have been amazed to see a new living creature emerge from a seemingly dead object. In ancient Persia, people gave eggs to each other at the spring equinox, and they set that date as the beginning of a new year. Easter egg symbolism arose much later as Christians used eggs to represent the rock tomb and the hatching chick as a symbol of Christ emerging from the tomb.

Lent was instituted to remember the fasting of Jesus, and people who were fasting would not eat meat from cows, sheep, pigs, or fowl. It was also common practice to avoid eating eggs, but chickens still laid eggs, so people decorated them. The original egg decorations were just plain vegetable dyes, but crimson eggs emerged in honor of the blood of Christ.

Eastern European people used intricate designs on eggs called pysanky, which they sold in Ukrainian shops. In Germany, people pierced and hollowed eggs and hung them on shrubs and trees like Christmas trees. In some countries, people used eggs in games. In addition to egg hunts, egg rolling activities were also conducted on the White House lawn. Some egg rollings were started at Sunday School picnics and parades before the Civil War.

The shell of a hen’s egg weighs only about one-fifth of an ounce, and it’s made from calcium carbonate just over one-hundredth of an inch thick. Despite the thin shell, chicken eggs can withstand 130 pounds of force. If it is set perfectly still with its pointed end up, an egg is almost impossible to break with one hand. Only an uneven force, like hitting it on something, can crack an eggshell.

Easter egg symbolism can remind us of Christ’s resurrection, but the egg’s design is one more example of the wisdom God has built into everything we see in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: The Easter Book by Francis Weiser, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and Wikipedia