Life Expectancy and Despair

Life Expectancy and Despair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released its latest annual report on American life expectancy. The report shows that for the third year life expectancy in the United States has not grown and has declined. The last time that this happened was in World War I when a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people.

The report says that drugs and suicide are the main culprits now with the overdose rate up 356% since 1999. The 2017 death toll is 70,237 far outstripping the total American fatalities in Vietnam.

It is interesting that everyone studying this life expectancy issue seems to agree on what the cause is, and what the solution is. The NationalReview.com says that “we are facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem.” An AARP study found that one-third of Americans report chronic loneliness and conclude that isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” David Brooks writing in the New York Times says “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing social catastrophe; it’s human relationships and a society that cares about people more than money.”

We suggest that people need to read and follow the example in Acts 2:41-47. People had a common faith in God, and they took care of each other. They “CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD” and spent time together focusing on meaningful relationships. The result was that “they had favor with all the people.”

This reminds me of a comment I heard Carl Sandburg make when someone asked him what he thought about Christianity. His response was “I don’t know, I have never seen it tried.” Christianity is not a legalistic way of restricting human behavior. It is a way of life that blesses everyone who is a part of it and everyone around those who live it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: The Week, December 14, 2018, page 17

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer

Christian Atheism and Thomas Altizer
The term Christian Atheism seems like a contradiction. However, that was the theology of Thomas J. J. Altizer. On November 28, 2018, Altizer died at the age of 91.

Thomas J. J. Altizer was the theologian who in the 1960s promoted the idea that God was real but had passed away leaving humans to find the sacred on their own. Time magazine on April 8, 1966, gave Altizer’s teachings a boost when they ran a cover that in big red letters said: “Is God Dead?” That issue was devoted to the theology of Altizer which incorporated the teachings of various philosophers including Hegel and Nietzsche. Other religions, especially Buddhism, capitalized on Altizer’s teachings and he gained quite a following.

Altizer himself expressed remorse at the effects of his teaching. Time magazine quoted him in the December 17, 2018, issue (page 11) saying that today people are empty of the joy that we once celebrated. The reason we are empty is that humans cannot find the sacred on their own.

The biblical adage of Solomon certainly applies here: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When we discard God, we have nothing that can take His place. Materialism doesn’t work. No philosophy works. Christian Atheism doesn’t work. Only the joy that we find in the teachings of Jesus Christ has worked and still does work today.

Some people want to kill God and do so in their own minds. However, the evidence for God’s existence remains strong and continues to grow. Altizer didn’t kill it, and he came to emptiness in his own life. God is a living, moving entity, and the more we learn of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will
Yesterday we stated that a careful study of the Bible and some common sense make it clear that you and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon. In other words, demons cannot make us act against our will. We have free will to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true:

#1) Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was tempted in ALL points as are we.” You don’t need to be biblical scholars to know that Jesus was never tempted by being demon possessed and never needed an exorcism.

#2) There is no warning to the early Church in scriptures about demon possession. The New Testament is full of warnings about things. Read Acts 20:27, Acts 20:31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, and 1 Peter 1:3. These are realistic threats, and ones that we have seen become a problem. Nowhere is there a warning about demons. We see people do horrible things, and we see greed and selfishness express themselves in terrible events. We have also seen mental illness cause suffering. Those things are the result of human weakness, abuse, or neglect. They are not involuntary takeovers by demonic forces.

#3) The Bible gives us cures for Satan’s attacks on us. James 4:7 tell us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Ephesians 6:12-18 tells us that God has given us armor “that you may be able to withstand the evil day having done all to stand.” God has never put us into a situation where he could not resist evil. Demon possession even occurred in defenseless, innocent children in biblical times. (See Matthew 17:18 and Mark 9:24).

#4) God has promised Christians protection from anything that could cause us to lose our soul. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us nothing can happen to us that hasn’t been experienced by others and that there is always a way out of anything that could destroy us. Demon possession is certainly not “common to man.” Revelation 20:1-3 gives us assurance that God can control Satan and make good on the promise that demons cannot make us act against our will.

#5) The methodology of exorcism in the Bible is nothing like what happens in today’s world. The exorcisms that I have seen took hours and involved incredible psychological pressure on the “possessed.” In biblical times the process took seconds and generally involved one command. There were no regressions in people who experienced exorcism. In today’s world regression is very common.

#6) Perhaps most importantly is the fact that demon possession violates the entire Bible in that it defeats our capacity to choose. It violates our free moral choice. Joshua said, “Choose you this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). That admonition is violated if a person involuntarily is forced to obey Satan and evil. Philippians 2:12 tells us to choose to find salvation, but leaves it up to us to do it. Demons cannot make us act against our will.

Every judgment scene revealed in the Bible shows people answering their judgment by how they lived and what they chose to obey. (See John 20:31 and Mathew 25:31-46.) From Job to Paul we see the principle of freedom of choice. Demons cannot make us act against our will. Nobody at the judgment will be able to say that they had no choice, or as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” We make our own choices, and God does not allow us to foist our imperfections off on something over which we had no control.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today
An often discussed biblical subject is whether demons can possess people today and whether certain religious leaders can perform exorcisms. The Catholic priest, John J. Nicola, who was the adviser to the 1973 film “The Exorcist” gave what is perhaps the best definition of demon possession: “In the case of demonic possession the use of free will and intellect has been suspended. The person is no longer responsible for his or her actions.” What about demon possession and exorcisms today?

When someone does something horrible, like the recent shootings that have taken the lives of innocent people, are they possessed by demons? Is this a risk for you and I in today’s world? I have personally witnessed exorcisms and have talked to people who sincerely believed they had been demon possessed. This discussion is not about whether or not these things happened in the time of Christ and the apostles. Miracles and events the Bible describes cannot be repeated and tested. Demon possession and exorcisms are among them. The question is whether they occur today. What does the Bible actually say about this subject?

Demon possession was a New Testament phenomenon and is not present in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for demon is “shaidim” and is only used twice in the Old Testament – in Deuteronomy 32:17 and in Psalms 106:37. The context of both of these passages is about idols. In the New Testament the Greek word used is “deimonion” and is used several times to describe many symptoms – some violent and some passive such as in Acts 16:16-19. People sometimes notice these descriptions sound like things that happen today, such as epileptic seizures or mental illness.

At the beginning of the Church, the apostles needed to demonstrate that they had knowledge of and authority over all realms of human experience. That included the spiritual world. When people tried to provide fake exorcisms, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16). Once the Bible was available to answer spiritual questions, there was no need for exorcisms or miracles for that matter.

The prophecies of the Old Testament and the statements of the New Testament indicate that demon possession and exorcisms would end. (See Zechariah 13: 1-4, Colossians 2:15, and 1 John 3:8.) First Corinthians 13:8-10 indicates that when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. Second Timothy 3:15-17 says that the Word of God is perfect. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven to have contact with God’s perfect will.

Demon possession and exorcisms have no place in the lives of people today. A careful study of the Bible and some common sense make that clear. You and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon with the power to remove our ability to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true, and we will examine those reasons tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Programmed to Change

Colour Sergeant Butterfly - Programmed to Change
When I was a child, I was introduced to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a chrysalis to a beautiful butterfly. I decided to figure out how that change took place, so I cut open a chrysalis to see what was going on inside. Instead of catching the transformation in progress all I found was a capsule of black soup. Later when I asked biologists how the process took place, I realized that no one fully understood it. The caterpillar was programmed to change, but nobody could understand how.

What I did learn was that this process goes on in a wide variety of life forms. Frogs, sea urchins, flying wasps, and beetles are just a few examples of creatures programmed to change. The December 2018 issue of National Geographic features a wonderful article about the use of 3D models and micro-CT scanning of the process. These tools have given us a great deal of understanding of how this transformation occurs. The article identifies three stages of the change that happens as the caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

1. PROGRAMMED ACTIVATION. The caterpillar eats vegetation until it is full grown. As it does so, its hormones begin to shift with some parts of the caterpillar expanding and others becoming degenerate. The thoracic legs grow into legs that are good for grasping. Four wing buds on the caterpillar’s body begin to develop into wings, and the antennae become larger. The silk gland begins to degenerate to become the chrysalis. The proleg degenerates making the caterpillar more dependent on crawling. The mandible the caterpillar uses for chewing begins to degenerate making room for a tube for sipping nectar. The simple eye of the caterpillar which could only detect the presence or absence of light begins to change. All of this is programmed into the genetic makeup of the caterpillar.

2. TRANSFORMATION. As the prolegs degenerate, thoracic legs grow to adult size. Wings develop with full color from the four wing buds. The chewing mandibles morph into two halves that zip into pipes that make a straw-like proboscis. Simple eyes move forward closer to the brain and produce a compound eye which gives true vision.

3. EMERGENCE. The brain of the butterfly is almost completely rewired to meet flight requirements.  One thing that the butterfly seems to retain from its caterpillar stage is olfactory memories. It needs that to know where to produce the next generation of caterpillars. The butterfly sucks in air until its chrysalis breaks open. The butterfly flaps its wings for several hours to dry them and to circulate blood before flying off in search of a mate.

All of this happens in 15 to 21 days. The gut of the butterfly shifts from digesting plants to nectar in that short time. There are wonderful artistic drawings of all this in the article. The author summarizes his study by saying, “..the insect’s makeover is a programmed mix of destruction and growth. Certain cells die, and body parts atrophy. Meanwhile, other cells, in place since birth, rapidly expand in as little as two weeks, the adult emerges completely remodeled, capable of flight – and bent on finding a mate.”

We would add that no programming happens by chance. It takes intelligence to program a computer. The caterpillar programmed to change to a butterfly reflects the wisdom and intelligence of a great programmer superior to anything the software companies can offer.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Bible Manuscripts and National Geographic

Bible Manuscripts and National Geographic
Atheists often suggest that the Bible is a group of fake manuscripts with a traceable history of distortion and rewriting. Therefore, it can’t be taken seriously. Perhaps the main hero of biblical skeptics and critics is Bart Ehrman. In 2005 Ehrman released a book titled Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. In that book, he claims there are massive mistakes in Bible manuscripts. Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, is an atheist who was previously an evangelical Christian.

In the December 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine, the lead article by Robert Draper is titled “The Bible Hunters.” It is a well-documented article about the history of searching for and finding early Bible manuscripts. It shows how those manuscripts agree with the Bible we have today and that more and more evidence supports the integrity of the Scriptures.

If you aren’t familiar with Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, this article will help you learn about the interesting story of how it was discovered. The article details the finding of a nearly complete copy of the book of Isaiah, the Messianic prophet, from the Dead Sea Scrolls dating before the time of Christ. It also details a number of other ancient Bible manuscripts.

The article is honest and admits the deliberate altering of some documents. While it may make people aware of some of the problems of Biblical documents, the weight of the evidence revealed in the article is very supportive of Biblical accuracy. We can accept the Bible as God’s Word, and most of the difficulties are likely to be resolved with more study of the Bible manuscripts.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Artistic Expression and Human History

Artistic Expression and Human History
One of the interesting challenges to human evolution has to do with our capacity for artistic creation. Why do human artistic expressions display beauty and color? There is no good evidence that animals express themselves aesthetically – be it music, color, artistic expression, abstractionism, or worship. When people have claimed that animals express themselves in these areas, the claims have turned out to be anthropomorphisms by those making the claims. We all tend to attach human attributes to animal actions, but the evidence supports the view that animals don’t do those things. On the other hand, artistic expression and human history go together.

One evidence of artistic work has to do with the pictures left on cave walls in various locations. Those drawings do not show a sequence of development. In other words, you don’t see older drawings that are more primitive than recent ones. There is a story that Picasso examined the Cromagnon cave drawings and said, “We have learned nothing about art in our entire history on planet earth.”

USA Today (November 9, 2018) published an article on new art finds in Borneo and Indonesia. They are much older than any of the drawings in Spain and France. Dr. Maxime Aubert who led the discovery says the paintings are 4,000 years older than any other find. Aubert says “they are the earliest known figurative artwork.” In addition to the drawings of mystic animals, there are hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes, and extensive use of color.

Genesis 4:21-22 indicates that humans developed tools and musical instruments early. Human history has included artwork and musical synthesis from a very early time. We would suggest this is all tied to our spiritual nature. It is our soul that gives us the capacity to do all the things that set humans apart from animals. The new finds support the view that these abilities were present in human’s from the beginning, not developed over a long time. Artistic expression and human history cannot be separated.
John N. Clayton © 2018

Sex Recession Cause

“Sex Recession” Cause
There is little doubt that there has been a radical change in sexual behavior in the past 25 years. Moral acceptance of premarital sex is at an all-time high. Birth control is easily accessible for all ages. People can find hook-up partners on dating apps without leaving home. Online porn is a major industry in today’s world. Websites are selling sex toys and vibrators to promote masturbation. How can there be a sex recession?

Liberals maintained that all this was good and that freedom from old norms would lead to what they called “sexual fulfillment.” What the numbers are showing is just the opposite. The number of sexually active high school students has dropped from 54% to 40% in the past 25 years. People in their early 20s are 2.5 times as likely to be abstinent as GenXers were at that same age. Dating apps have turned out to be addictive games that produce more frustration than connection.

The New York Times recently published a report on the “sex recession.” Writer Ross Douthat said that the trend mentioned above “has led to the growing alienation of the sexes from one another. In our new sterility, ‘virtual sex’ has become the opiate of the frustrated masses.” Editorials in the media have blamed everything from porn to the record number of people under 35 who are living with their parents.

When God gave the beautiful oneness that marriage brings, He then gave admonitions about how to use the gift of sex. When we follow God’s guidelines, sex can give fulfillment, relationships, security, and freedom. Genesis 2:24 stated the relationship God intended, and the Bible is full of teaching about avoiding the corrupted misuse of sexual relationships.

Atheists and skeptics have challenged these teachings saying they are unrealistic and merely an attempt to deprive us of potential pleasure, but just the opposite is true. God’s instructions are to designed to give us freedom, joy, and the maximum pleasure. When we misuse the power of sex, the result is catastrophic. The “sex recession” is proof of what happens when we fail to follow God’s instructions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from The Week, November 30, 2018, page 17.

Why Did God Create T. Rex?

Why Did God Create T. Rex?
A reader sent a question that might be of interest to several others concerning the dinosaurs. The question was if God created everything, including dinosaurs, why did God create T. rex? Why would He create a creature so violent and cruel?

Denominational creationism maintains that God created everything good and T. rex and other carnivores went bad. When man sinned, bad came into existence and creatures that had been good became bad. So dinosaurs created as good and benevolent creatures suddenly became cruel carnivores. (See Acts and Facts December 2018, page 20.)

There are so many difficulties with that explanation, it would require a book to develop them all. Our book The Source attempts to do at least part of that. You can borrow it on our doesgodexist.org website or purchase it at THIS LINK. Here are a few points:

There is no Hebrew word in Genesis (or elsewhere in the Bible) that can legitimately be translated “dinosaur.” Some suggest that “behemah” and “remes” refer to dinosaurs, but the words literally refer to cattle and sheep or goats respectively. The Israelites were familiar with these animals, and they could eat them. (See Genesis 1:24-25 and 9:1-3). Genesis was written to Israel to explain how their animals came into being. It does not include every creature that ever existed – bacteria, viruses, platypus, dinosaur, etc. It seems that Genesis 1:1 describes God preparing planet Earth for humans. To do that, God created creatures that were extinct by the time He created humans and their domesticated animals.

Material found in dinosaur feces tells us what they ate. Coprolites of T. Rex do not contain plant material. Their dental structure in all cases was made to cut meat, not to grind up plants.

Being a carnivore does not mean that an animal is bad or a monster. If you don’t have carnivores, then plant-eaters eat all the plants, and soon everything dies. Why did God create T. rex? We need carnivores with the capacity to kill and digest herbivores to keep balance in nature.

Dinosaurs were not monsters any more than lions or largemouth bass are. They were part of the balance that God used as He fashioned the Earth with the resources that humans would need. At the end of the creation process “God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was VERY good” (Genesis 1:31).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Relying On Ignorance

Relying on Ignorance of Grand Canyon Formation
We often hear from young people who have been taught something in a Bible class or sermon or a religious publication or video that they know cannot be true. Many creationists and creationist groups lack training in the fields in which they claim to be experts, and they are relying on ignorance of their hearers. When smart young people hear something they know is incorrect, it gives them a reason to reject the church and perhaps reject God’s existence.

A classic example of this is shown in explanations of the Grand Canyon. Many writers try to explain away the formation of the Grand Canyon by saying that the Flood of Noah did it. They say the Flood formed the Canyon in a short time just a few thousand years ago. They claim that the Flood laid down the sediments, and when the water swept off the land, it carved the Grand Canyon.

As an Earth Science teacher in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana, I taught young people about petrology — the study of rocks. Knowing how rocks were formed enabled scientists to find resources such as copper, oil, marble, iron, and certain gems. We can now synthesize some of these materials by copying the methods by which they were formed in the Earth’s past. Relying on ignorance would not allow us to find or synthesize these materials.

We know that the deposition of materials and subsequent erosion by the Flood did not form the Grand Canyon. The dominant rock in the Grand Canyon is limestone. Children taking Earth Science courses learn that limestone is a chemical precipitate. Quiet waters produce it over a long time. Most of us know about rock candy in which a solution of sugar crystallizes to create the candy. Limestone produced by a similar process, as is halite, dolomite, and gypsum. These are chemically precipitated rocks, never deposited in moving water.

A recent headline in a creationist journal reads, “Rapid Limestone Deposits Match the Flood.” A young person told me that she didn’t want to hear anything else from the Church because the statements in the journal were clearly not true. She doubted anything the Church said was true as a result. She also pointed out other problems. The Canyon is not just one rock type. It has alternating layers of different materials produced by different climates and processes. There are desert-produced sandstones, conglomerates which are produced by running streams, salt deposits produced by evaporation, and lavas that flowed across the top of the rock layers below them and were not injected as sills.

There is a huge burden on us to know what we are talking about. We must be as accurate as we can in understanding what the evidence shows. The general public is ignorant of most of these things and will not call an error to our attention. However, young people today are better educated in scientific facts, and we must not be relying on ignorance to expect our explanations to go unchallenged.
–John N. Clayton © 2018