Symbols for Communication

Symbols for Communication - Ukrainian Pysanky
Ukrainian Pysanky

One thing that distinguishes humans is our extensive use of symbols for communication. The ancient Persians were amazed to see life come from an egg, a seemingly dead object. They presented each other with eggs at the spring equinox, marking the beginning of a new year. In the Western world, eggs became a symbol of spring and the start of a new year on April 1, until 1582, when the Gregorian calendar moved the New Year to January 1. People who refused to accept the new calendar were called “April Fools.”

It was a natural thing for religions to use eggs as symbols. In Judaism, eggs are an essential part of the Passover seder plate. People who celebrated Lent, when they could not eat eggs for 40 days, collected eggs and decorated them with vegetable dye. Crimson eggs honored the blood of Christ. In parts of Eastern Europe, people put intricate designs on eggs with wax resist technique before coloring. Those intricately decorated eggs are called pysanky and are still common in Ukraine today. In Germany, people pierce eggs and hollow them to hang them from trees during Easter week.

The New Testament shows the use of symbols for communication. In Matthew 26:26-30, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, which Paul refers to as a symbol in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. Peter tells us that baptism is a “like figure,” or symbol, of the kind of salvation that Noah received (1 Peter 3:20-21). Symbols can change their meaning. In Acts 18:24-19:5, we see baptism changing from a symbol of John’s baptism of repentance to Jesus Christ’s baptism to wash away sins.

Problems come when a symbol used in one culture is misinterpreted in a different culture or time. A classic example of that is in Revelation. Twentieth-century Christians often misinterpret symbols in that book that first-century Christians would have understood. Only by studying the symbols’ meaning when the author wrote the book can we get an accurate picture of what they meant. Using symbols for communication only works when we all understand the meaning.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Changes in Earth’s Magnetic Field

Changes in Earth's Magnetic Field

People who promote the theory of evolution generally ignore historical events that would be Inconsistent with neo-Darwinism. Darwinism depends on an acceptance of uniformitarianism, the belief that no process has ever operated in the past that is not going on today. Previously, we have talked about past asteroid collisions with the Earth, which is an example of a process that isn’t shaping our planet and life on Earth today. Researchers in New Zealand have released a new study of changes in Earth’s magnetic field. That process, which radically altered the Earth some 42,000 years ago, is not a factor in understanding modern geologic processes.

In a magnetic reversal, changes in Earth’s magnetic field cause the north and south magnetic poles to switch. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have shown that this transition took nearly 800 years to complete, and during that time, the planet would have had no magnetic field.

The lack of a magnetic field would have been a major catastrophe which is not going on today. Our magnetic field acts as a shield against high-energy charged particles coming primarily from the Sun. Without that shield, there would have been severe environmental threats to life on Earth. Their study suggests that tropical rain belts shifted, glaciers stretched across North America, and a severe drought hit Australia. The effects of the increased radiation on living things would have a strong genetic impact.

The researchers suggest that humans living during Earth’s magnetic field changes would have to retreat to caves for shelter from the radiation and the harsh weather conditions caused by the magnetic reversal. Chris Turney, one of the authors of the study, said that any humans living at that time would have seen what was happening as “the end of days.”

The notion that Earth has been a quiet incubator for life over a very long time is inconsistent with the evidence. Losing our magnetic field would be the start of a domino effect of changes, all of which would harm life. Our magnetic field is slowly decreasing now, but this data, and other studies like it, suggest that magnetic reversals are prolonged events lasting 800 years.

The Bible makes it clear that catastrophic events are rare in Earth’s human history. Noah’s flood, the death and resurrection of Christ, and His second coming seem to be the most apparent biblical events that are catastrophic. Our planet’s stability is a part of God’s design, and without it, we would not be here. But history is punctuated with events on the Earth that are not uniformitarian such as changes in Earth’s magnetic field. Those changes have altered our planet to make it hospitable for human life. They also make it impossible to have a faith that says chance and time can account for all life we see on planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, March 12,202,1 page 21.

The Greatest Love Is Agape

The Greatest Love Is Agape

Perhaps the most abused word in the English language is the word “love.” We hear that word used in every kind of situation. “I love that song” certainly is different from “making love.” In English, you have to look at the entire context of a statement about love before you know what the person who said it is talking about. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greeks had multiple words that we translate with our one word, “love.” In today’s world, the greatest love is agape.

In the Greek language, sexual love was the subject of the word “eros.” “Thelo” was used when the love was a desire or wish. “I love that kind of perfume” would be an example of that use. The prefix “phileo” indicating an emotional or material kind of love and had multiple uses. “Philargurix” was the love of money. “Philanthropia” was human love. “Phildelphos” was the love of brethren and is familiar to us today in the name of the city Philadelphia. “Philedonos” was the love of pleasure.

The New Testament presents a unique concept of love. The Greek word is “agape,” a noun, or “agapao,” a verb. These words were used 114 times in the New Testament and especially by Jesus Christ. In John 21:15-17, Jesus repeatedly asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus used the word “agape,” but Peter kept responding with “phileo.” The greatest love is agape, but Peter did not understand that yet.

Many people struggle with the teachings of Christ because they don’t understand Jesus’ concept of love. How can I love my enemy (Matthew 5:43-44)? How can we love one another (John 15:12) when many of us are not lovable? Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church. This is not a sexual reference any more than is Jesus’ discussion with Peter. A marriage based solely on sex is doomed.

The familiar passage in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love” is another reference to the unique form of love that God calls us to. Christians have help in their capacity to love as 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 tells us that an unbeliever: “…cannot 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.” The passage goes on to say that Christians “have the mind of Christ.” So do I have the capacity to love my enemy? Not in a physical sense or a sexual sense, but I have grown to love in a spiritual sense. This is a growth process, and I am closer to it now than I was 50 years ago.

Read Matthew 5-7 and pay attention to the fact that Jesus is talking about loving the spiritual nature of all humans. When you read 1 John 4:12-13, you see a great picture of what Christian love is all about: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Read the rest of the chapter and especially verse 20: “If a man says that he loves God and then hates his brother, he is a liar, because he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen.”

Christian love is the hope of the world, and it is the only hope for peace and understanding that we all desire. The greatest love is agape.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Planetary Conjunction for the Winter Solstice

Planetary Conjunction for the Winter Solstice
Jupiter and Saturn will appear close together but they are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

If you have looked to the southwest just after sunset in the past month, you probably saw two bright stars that have been moving closer to each other. They are not stars. They are the planets Jupiter and Saturn, two of the brightest objects in the sky, reaching a planetary conjunction for the winter solstice.

In their orbits around the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn appear to pass each other about every 20 years. However, the last time they appeared this close was in 1623, just 13 years after Galileo first pointed his telescope into the night sky and discovered four moons of Jupiter and saw Saturn’s rings. On December 21, those two planets will appear only one-tenth of a degree apart. That is one-fifth the diameter of the full moon.

You can bet that there will be hucksters making connections between this very unusual astronomical event and the star of Bethlehem or various political events. This conjunction is not part of a doomsday scenario but a demonstration of the accuracy of scientific observation. We can predict planetary conjunctions or solar and lunar eclipses to the minute, which is not hard to do.

When I taught earth science using the Earth Science Curriculum Project, we did a lab where the students predicted an eclipse of the Sun. They predicted when it would begin, when it would reach totality, and when it would end. I tried to make this a school-wide event, and the principal permitted me to take all 1000 students onto the school lawn to witness the eclipse. We gave the students special glasses and set up our telescopes to observe the eclipse.

We told the students what was going to happen and when it would happen. When it started, and the sky got dark, dogs began to howl. Crescents appeared on the ground under the trees as the eclipse projected through spaces in the leaves. Even though we had told the students what would happen, some kids began crying and ran back into the building in fear.

Why do people lack trust in scientific information, whether it concerns an eclipse, planetary movements, climate change, or COVID-19? Science and the Bible are friends, and God has called us to look at the creation around us and learn from it. Proverbs 8, Romans 1:19-20, and Matthew 6:25-33 all remind us of science and faith’s symbiotic relationship.

Tomorrow we will consider this planetary conjunction and the star of Bethlehem.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God Is Not the Enemy Giving Us Alzheimer’s

God Is Not the Enemy giving us Alzheimer's Disease

One question we hear from a wide range of people is, “Why did God do this to me?” My answer to that statement is always the same, “God didn’t do it to you!!” James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God. God cannot be tempted with evil, and He does not tempt any man.” James speaks of moral temptation, but the principle laid down is true in a wide variety of areas. James says it is our own lust that causes us to sin, which ultimately leads to death. The fact is that every bad thing that happens to us came from someone’s lust. It may be a lust for money, for power, or for dominance. But it is not because God chose to give us something bad. God is not the enemy.

One of the most frustrating examples is mental problems, especially dementia and Alzheimer’s. What can be more painful than having your own mother or spouse not know who you are? It is especially difficult when a disease like Alzheimer’s happens to some people and not to others. I recently stood next to a woman whose mother didn’t know her. That mother was an elder’s wife. She had blessed countless others and had been a teacher of children both in Bible classes and in the public schools.

In the same room was a foul-mouthed, abusive woman who spent much of her life in prison. She was busily writing a legal defense of why her current conviction on selling porn pictures of children should be thrown out of court. She was the same age and yet was very capable and mentally alert. I engaged her in an academic discussion of why quantum theory didn’t invalidate Genesis, and she knew her subject.

“Where is God?” my friend asked as we left the facility. My response was that He was with her mother because even though her physical body was with us, in my opinion, her spiritual self was not. God is not the enemy.

The fact remains that we need to understand why scenarios like this one happen. A recent study of 131,000 people in London, England, aged 50-79, showed that high exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a common pollutant in cities, more than doubled the incidence of Alzheimer’s. Also, exposure to particulate matter from traffic, even in small levels, increased the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s. High concentrations more than doubled it.

More and more studies of irresponsible disposal of chemicals in rivers, lakes, and oceans is causing the worst of human diseases. The London study also showed that ozone reduced the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s. Ozone is part of the structure of the atmosphere which reduces the amount of ultraviolet light from the Sun reaching Earth’s surface. Most of us will remember the problem of the atmosphere’s ozone hole a few years ago, which endangered life on the planet. It was caused by manufactured chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). That led to a worldwide ban on CFC production in 1987.

I am reminded of the old statement in the Pogo comic strip by Walt Kelly. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” We reap what we sow. It may be by our own actions, but for many of us, the pain is from the greed and selfishness of others – but it isn’t from God. God is not the enemy.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Scientific American, May 2020, page 45.

Menopause and Women’s Roles

Menopause and Women's Roles

“IT’S NOT FAIR!!” my atheist, feminist opponent declared. “Why would your God allow men to father children well into their old age while the average woman ceases having menstrual cycles by the age of 51.” Her challenge sent me digging into the whole business of menopause and women’s roles, and how they are designed and why.

The facts in a woman’s reproductive life are clear. Pregnancy becomes more hazardous with age, and younger women are more likely to survive childbirth than older women. It is a fact that we see more chromosomal abnormalities in the ova of women over 40, so there are genetic issues as well.

Aside from the survival rate physically and genetically of children born to older mothers, there is the issue of different roles that women have at different times in their lives. If a woman reaches menopause by the age of 50 and she lives to be 80, she has time for a new phase of life–that of being a grandmother. Studies on a variety of societies have shown that the survival rate of children in primitive societies is directly related to the presence of grandmothers. Assuming that human children need their mothers until they are around ten years old, the support of a grandmother can obviously be a positive feature.

We are all familiar with the poem “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” As a public school teacher in an inner-city high school, I saw a huge number of grandmothers who came to PTA meetings or conferences about the needs of a child. In our day of working mothers and single parents, the need for the role of grandmother is undeniable.

The apostle Paul described the foundation of the faith of the young man, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 1:5: “When I call to remembrance that unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice…”

One of the things that defines us as humans is the exceptional care that we receive from our mothers. The difficult business of raising children today is compounded by the unwillingness of many to accept our biological design. The facts of menopause and women’s roles clearly show evidence of design.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Natural History magazine, July/August 1998, pages 24-26.

Gender Issues in Women’s Sports

Gender Issues in Women's Sports

In March, the state of Idaho enacted a law called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” The purpose was to protect women from having to compete in sports against males who identify themselves as females. Gender issues in women’s sports have created unfairness.

This was an international problem in the last Olympics as Russian men posed as women and became a factor in the Olympic competition. In Connecticut, two males who claimed to be females dominated high school track when they captured over a dozen championships and broke 17 long-standing female track records.

The question of gender identity has become an issue far beyond the rights of individuals who wish to identify with a different gender. When men decide to be women and compete in women’s athletic events, they affect the rights of all the women in that field. Chelsea Mitchell, a Connecticut high school senior, was the fastest female runner in four different state championships. She watched the gold medal and state title go to males who claimed to be females. Her statement was, “No girl should have to set out onto her starting blocks knowing that no matter how hard you work, you don’t have a fair shot at victory. Female athletes are only looking for a fair playing field. All we’re asking for is a fair chance.

There is a biological difference between males and females. The biblical position is that God created males and females as individual entities, and all the evidence supports that fact. In America today, a person can legally express their sexuality any way they wish. Denying others the right to compete equally with those having the same biological makeup is a violation of the evidence and a violation of gender rights. Gender issues in women’s sports will continue to be a problem as long as people fail to accept the undeniable fact that men and women are different.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Faith and Justice magazine, May 2020, page 3.

Disney Removes LGBT Content – for Russia

Disney Removes LGBT Content

To remain politically correct in the United States, Disney has gone to great lengths to include LGBT content in their productions, including those designed for children. However, Disney removes LGBT content in the Russian version of children’s movies to meet the government’s demands. They have also done the same for Muslim countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, where a very brief lesbian kiss was edited out of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

The new children’s film “Onward” contains a scene where a female cyclops police officer named Specter says, “My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out.” In the Russian version” girlfriend” was changed to “partner.” Russia also required editing out LGBT content in” Rocketman” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Interestingly, Disney removes LGBT content for Russia and Muslim countries. They have the legal right to adapt their material to different cultures. Still, it seems strange that family values are emphasized by the entertainment industry for children in other countries and ignored in the United States.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: www.texanonline.net

Mass and Acceleration at Light Speed

Mass and Acceleration at Light Speed

Yesterday we looked at the two postulates of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. We saw how our view of time is changed by taking the two postulates and applying them to motion at or near the speed of light. Now let’s look at mass and acceleration at light speed.

Looking at the top equation, which we presented yesterday, you can see that at the speed of light, the equation’s denominator becomes 1 – 1, which is zero. Time stops. If the velocity could somehow exceed the velocity of light, the denominator would be the square root of a negative number, which is not possible.

Another one of Einstein’s equations is a description of length in the direction of motion. The second equation shows that an object’s length in motion (L’) is equal to its length at rest (L) times the quantity square root of 1 minus the velocity (v) squared divided by the speed of light (c) squared. Thus the faster you move, the thinner you are in the direction of motion. An object one meter long at rest would be .765 meters at half the speed of light. At the speed of light, it would disappear, because it would have no length. There would be energy, but no physical length. What travels at the speed of light? The answer, of course, is light itself. Light is two-dimensional. It has no thickness in the direction in which it is moving, precisely what Einstein’s postulates predict.

Mass is another quantity that is affected by Einstein’s postulates. The equation for mass is similar to the equation for time. The mass in motion (m) equals the mass at rest (m’) divided by the square root of 1 minus the velocity squared divided by the speed of light squared. As an object moves faster, its mass increases, but it can never reach light speed. What, then, can we know about mass and acceleration at light speed?

One of the fundamental laws of physics is Newton’s Second Law. It says that when we apply force to a mass, the force (F) depends on the amount of the mass (M) and how much we want it to accelerate (A). The equation is F=MA. At the speed of light, the mass of an object would be infinite, and the force required to accelerate it to that speed would also be infinite. Because of the magnitude of the force, the mass would collapse into a black hole long before reaching light speed. So, it is not possible to achieve mass and acceleration at light speed.

Scientists have verified these formulas experimentally. When you accelerate a sub-atomic particle to a high velocity in a particle accelerator, its mass increases. So what created the mass in the first place? Infinite force – one of the properties of God. Proverbs 8:22-31 finds “Wisdom” is the tool God used for everything He created. Einstein has given us an excellent way to get a small understanding of the creation we live in and the wisdom and power of the God who created it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Tools to Counteract Greenhouse Gases

Tools to Counteract Greenhouse Gases - Diatoms

People have paid much attention to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere because they play a significant role in global warming. The main culprit in the greenhouse gas list is carbon dioxide. Not only do we exhale this gas, but fires of all kinds produce it. With the recent major fires in Australia, there is even more concern about the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But God has given the Earth some tools to counteract greenhouse gases.

The most efficient tool built into the Earth is a microscopic plant called a diatom. There are 12,000 species of diatoms in Earth’s lakes and oceans. Unlike phytoplankton, diatoms are encased in porous, intricately structured silica shells. Examined under a microscope, these silica shells are beautiful, and they are very resistant to change in shape. That means that the spaces between the shells can collect particulate material. So diatoms are used as filtering agents to filter water for swimming pools and as fillers for aerating soils in yards. The shells are used as diatomaceous earth, which is familiar to most of us, especially those who raise roses or tomatoes.

Diatoms can also absorb gases. In the oceans, they absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide and lock it up in the ocean’s depths. Diatoms capture as much carbon dioxide as all the trees, grasses, and other land plants combined. The fancy latticework of the diatom is not just for humans to admire. Because of the twists and turns of their shells, the surface area of diatoms is much greater than that of smooth shells. The increased surface area maximizes photosynthesis and allows the diatoms greater energy for growth and reproduction.

The life expectancy of a diatom is about six days. Because the silicon is heavy, the diatom at death sinks to the ocean floor or lake, taking carbon with it. One solution to the buildup of carbon dioxide is to catalyze the growth of diatoms. Iron nutrients can do that, and seeding the oceans with iron might be a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Diatoms are one more example of the design built into Earth’s structure to allow the planet to exist over the long haul. While diatoms are not apparent to the human eye, they are tools to counteract greenhouse gases and a possible solution to a modern problem.

— John N. Clayton © 2020