Father’s Day 2021 and Real Fathers

Father’s Day 2021 and Real Fathers

Many related consequences result from the drift of western culture away from faith in God and away from biblical teaching. One of the significant changes is in the role of fathers. Several years ago, I had this vividly pointed out when a male student in my class was bragging about the number of children he had fathered. He had five women pregnant at the same time, and he called himself a “stud father.” I told him he could make whatever claim he wanted to about being a stud, but he could make no claim to be a father. Father’s Day 2021 should remind us of the essential role of real fathers.

In my 41 years of teaching, it was indeed a rare thing to have a father show up for a PTA meeting or a parent conference. When I was a student in elementary and high school, it was my father who was called in to participate in my discipline. I don’t recall my mother having a role in correcting my frequent bad behavior.

The New Testament concept of fathers is unique. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 give fathers instructions about managing the education and conduct of their children. In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells what we commonly call the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” However, the star of the story is not the son but the father. Christ’s story tells of a father who anguishes over the decisions his son has made. He watches anxiously for his son to abandon his foolishness and return to the values of the father’s home. With grace, he forgives the son for his bad behavior. The child’s mother is not in the story, and we know that the forgiving father represents God.

A child who grows up without the example, teaching, discipline, and love of a father is vulnerable to many problems. This is true behaviorally and sexually, and we see the consequences of weak father images in our world today. Some children do well despite not having a strong father image, but in those cases, there is often a grandfather or other male who provides the balance every child needs. In the case of Timothy in the New Testament, Paul refers to him as “my own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).

Being a father has nothing to do with impregnating a woman. Being a father to a child means assuming massive responsibility, devoting vast amounts of time, and striving to be the example the child needs to see. The child also needs to hear “I love you” from the same man who shows the child what is really important in life. In 1972, the United States established a day set aside as “Father’s Day.” On this Father’s Day 2021, our nation is suffering greatly because so few men have the strength, courage, and wisdom to be real fathers.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

God In the Flesh

God In the Flesh - The Rational God

Several years ago, I spoke at Ohio State University when a leading atheist maintained that God was an old Chinese woman. I pointed out that he should at the very least attack God on the level that God claims to be and not some straw horse god he had just described. He responded by quoting my old atheist friend Madalyn Murray O’Hair who said, “No God ever gave anything to man nor appeared in any way to man nor ever will.” Then I pointed out that God did precisely what Madalyn said He would not do when He came to Earth in the form of a human. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.

Put yourself in the role of God for a moment. You have created humans, and you desire to lead them to a better way of living. How would you do it? You could make a violent entry to Earth, displaying all of your power and strength. What would that do? It might create a power struggle among humans to be your right-hand person.

That power struggle actually happened in the life of Christ. Matthew 20:20-23 tells about a mother bringing her two sons to Jesus and asking Him to make them His assistants in His kingdom. Another negative to this approach is that people would give service and obedience to God out of fear, not love. There have been those world rulers who tried to rule by power and force. People knuckled down to the ruler, but they hated him, and they rebelled at the first opportunity.

You can enslave a people for a short time, but ultimately they will revolt. The power struggle that always results brings out the worst in humanity. We see that happening in many places on Earth today. The kind of service that will last is one based on love, not enslavement. Jesus Christ, as God in the flesh, brought that kind of love.

It is also a fact that when a ruler lives a radically different lifestyle from that of his subjects, he has no way to relate to them. In today’s world, people try to imagine what it would be like to live the wealthy and opulent Hollywood lifestyle. Movies such as Camelot have had a theme that revolved around royalty trying to comprehend what it is like to live as “common” folk.

In Jesus, we see God in the flesh avoiding the show of force and the opulence. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that in Christ, we do not see one who lived a lavish lifestyle, but rather one who could “be touched with our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are.” Psalms 22:1 describes God in the flesh crying out at the frustrations of life, as we do. Christ repeated those words in Matthew 27:46. Isaiah 53:3-6 describes the suffering of Christ for us. God coming to Earth makes perfect sense if you understand that God wants a relationship with His creation. The Bible makes this clear in passages like John 1:1-3,14 and Philippians 2:6-8.

The tragedy is that people today have gotten so far away from understanding real love that they think of God as they would a dictator, a slave owner, or a military general. The kind of love that the Bible speaks of has a special name – “agape.” It is so far removed from the mindset of our culture that John 3:16 is a cliché without meaning to most people.

Even religious people have trouble with the concept of grace because they can’t comprehend that God is love. In the verses following John 3:16, we read the observation that men love darkness and reject God. God gave us a choice because He wants us to believe in Him and love Him as a Father, not an abusive dictator.

We have a book titled The Rational God that explores this subject in greater detail. It’s available from us for purchase or on loan. You will find our catalog of materials at doesgodexist.org. You can also purchase the book from the powervine.store.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Memorial Day 2021 and What It Means

Memorial Day 2021 and What It Means

When I was a young man, Memorial Day was a big deal. There were parades, speeches, special services at many churches, and a town memorial. We were constantly reminded of the men and women who died to make it possible for us to live in freedom in the United States. In those days, in Bloomington, Indiana, where I grew up, many military veteran’s groups marched in the parade, and all the high school bands participated. After serving in the military, I found that Memorial Day had changed. It had become “the first weekend of summer.” There were no parades, and only a few veteran groups paid attention to the original purpose. What will Memorial Day 2021 be like?

Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in 1868, three years after the civil war ended.
At Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were put on all graves, and 5,000 people attended the ceremony. General Logan, who directed the ceremony, said, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Since that time, over 1.2 million Americans have died in our nation’s wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by Congress. In 2000, Congress enacted The National Moment of Remembrance Act (P.L.106-579). Its charter says, “To encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country … by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.”

The National Moment of Remembrance Act suggests that at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day, “Everyone is to pause for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation … It is a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.” We are in no way minimalizing the struggles for freedom and racial equity in America today, but even with our problems, how can we look at other nations and not be thankful for what we have?

On Memorial Day 2021, not understanding the sacrifices of the past has made us a selfish and self-serving people. Our ecological problems are because we want what is ours without thinking about the future. Our moral problems are because we have forgotten the teachings of Jesus Christ, which call us to live to serve others with integrity. In Luke 22:19-20, we read about Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper as a way of helping us remember Him, what He taught, and the example He set. First Corinthians 11:28-30 warns Christians not to participate in communion without thought and understanding since “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you.”

What is true of the Church is true of America. We need a memorial to remind us of the important things. On Memorial Day 2021, let us not be so focused on our own agendas that we forget the past and what our predecessors have done to allow us to have what we enjoy today.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Alzheimer’s and Dementia are a Growing Problem

Alzheimer's and Dementia are a Growing Problem

Recently a critic suggested that if God were so great, He wouldn’t allow dementia and Alzheimer’s to be a part of the human experience. There is no question that Alzheimer’s and dementia are a growing problem in today’s world. Those of us who have had family members develop these disabilities can testify how hard it is for family and loved ones. Is the inability of a mother to recognize her children or husband a failure in human brain design?

The Alzheimer’s Association has released data showing that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Since 2000, the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s has more than doubled. It kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women, and more than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. We don’t know all of the causes and contributors to Alzheimer’s. Still, we know enough to tell us that Alzheimer’s and dementia are related to our environment, our growing life expectancy, and our lifestyles.

In the past, people just didn’t live long enough to develop Alzheimer’s. Life expectancy brings many age-related health issues. For that reason, Alzheimer’s and dementia are a growing problem. Diet and physical activity are related to Alzheimer’s. In modern life, we do a lot of sitting and consume many foods that are not good for our brains. The same conditions that have caused heart disease and diabetes also produce Alzheimer’s and dementia. God did not design humans to sit behind a desk with no exercise and eat foods that negatively affect our brains. The Alzheimer’s Association has shown that multiple vaccinations for flu and pneumonia reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s.

Our brains are incredible devices that allow us to survive and do amazing things. We clearly see God’s design in how our brains work, but human activity and choices have contributed to a decline in brain health. Alzheimer’s and dementia are a growing problem but not an indication that God failed in His design. It shows that the neglect of our brains and our choices in life have caused problems that prevent our incredible biological computers from handling all the data we want them to retain. We must take care of the good things God has given us, and our brains are among the most important.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from the Spring 2021 issue of Alzheimer’s Update on alz.org

The Wonder of Birds

The Wonder of Birds - Bald Eagle

We live on the edge of the St. Joseph River in Michigan. By the river and surrounded by woods, I have the joy of observing the wonder of birds in enormous varieties. As I watch geese, swans and ducks take off and land on the river, I am amazed at the way they put their feet out and water ski to a stop. I enjoy seeing them stand on one foot, seemingly asleep with half of their bodies ready to react to any danger.

When our resident bald eagle flies by 100 feet above the water, the ducks turn their heads to track the eagle. The eagle swoops down and picks up a small dead fish which I couldn’t see from 20 feet away. I watch three species of woodpeckers hammer away at the trees on the edge of the river with such force that bark flies in all directions. Still, the design of their skulls lets them do this for hours on end without brain damage.

I watch the finches and nuthatches pick off berries from the poison ivy and eat them in the dead of winter. They never have any problem with the oil that I am allergic to. I watch the hummingbirds come to my feeders and hover for a long time, eating the sugar solution and engaging in territorial combat. I hear the birds singing as they mark their territories, with each species having its own peculiar melody.

As a person trained in physics and chemistry, I am enthralled by the wonder of birds and their widely varied properties. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an ongoing study of the properties and abilities of birds. One area of research is the specialized equipment individual bird species have. The eagle’s eyes are incredible optical tools that give it the ability to see a small fish from 100 feet above the water.

Woodpecker heads show engineering with their shock-absorbing design to prevent brain damage from the constant hammering they use to get bugs. People researching flight techniques study the wing design of hummingbirds which allows them to hover. The design of the bird’s gut prevents the poison ivy oil from lingering long enough to cause a reaction.

All birds have design features that allow them to survive. Their digestive and waste removal systems avoid the use of a bladder. The vascular system with a unique heart design allows the Swainson’s thrush to travel 3000 miles in a single flight with its heart beating 840 times a minute. Darwin showed us that the design of the bird genetics is flexible enough to allow their beaks to vary depending on what diet is available in their environment.

Humans throughout history have depended on birds as a food source. Where would we be in America without chickens and turkeys? God sustained the ancient Israelites with quails, a provision that continues today in that part of the world. In some areas, songbirds are a source of meat even though they are small. For those of us who look for evidence of God’s design in the natural world, birds are an incredible example of how much has to be done to produce an animal that can do what birds do.

The wonder of birds is not reasonably explained by accidental change. We all need to be concerned about the fact that between human exploitation, the removal of resources and habitat by humans, natural climate change, and pollution, the population of birds on our planet is getting smaller and smaller. Since 1970, three billion birds have vanished from the United States. God told us to take care of the world in which He has placed us. Caring for all of God’s creatures, including birds, is everyone’s responsibility.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Cornell Lab of Ornithology

‘Oumuamua and Space Aliens

‘Oumuamua and Space Aliens

Some people want to believe that everything we see and experience is the product of space aliens, and sometimes this belief ends up in tragedy. In March of 1997, a man named Marshall Applewhite convinced 39 people that a spaceship was following the Hale Bopp comet. He persuaded them to leave their physical bodies to join the aliens on the spacecraft. Despite tragic events like that, many people are investigating similar claims of aliens such as ‘Oumuamua.

In October of 2017, astronomers at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii observed a strange space object. They named it ‘Oumuamua, which is Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger” because it apparently came from outside the solar system. Some thought it was an alien spaceship sent to investigate planet Earth. The object was traveling at 196,000 mph (315,000 kph) as it zipped through the solar system.

As astronomers continue to track ‘Oumuamua, they have found that it is accelerating as it heads out of the solar system. That fact has fueled more attention by those who believe it is not a natural object. It could be a comet, but astronomers have not observed a tail, which comets have. An asteroid is another possibility, but the trajectory does not show any connection to the Sun’s gravity as an asteroid would have. Why the object is accelerating is also not likely to match any asteroid or cometary explanation.

First, we want to remind you that life in space is not an apologetic or biblical issue. Years ago, I did a radio debate moderated by Larry King in Washington D.C. Someone asked my atheist opponent what he would do if a spaceship landed on the Whitehouse lawn and an alien got out with a Bible in his hand and said, “Has Jesus been here yet?” That would raise all kinds of other questions, but it does make the point that the Bible doesn’t tell us that Earth is the only place in the cosmos where life exists.

The current thinking about ‘Oumuamua is that it is a pancake-shaped piece broken off from a planet outside of our solar system. It has been speeding up because the Sun’s heat vaporized some solids, providing the acceleration force. There is no indication that alien intelligence is guiding ‘Oumuamua or that its composition indicates an unnatural origin.

If we would spend the same amount of time and energy encouraging people to get along with each other that we spend trying to get alien help to solve our problems, we might actually accomplish something. Jesus told us that He came so we could have “life and… have it more abundantly.” Following God’s Word instead of celestial objects like ‘Oumuamua can accomplish that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

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