The Concept of Repentance

The Concept of RepentanceOne of the most misunderstood aspects of the Christian faith is the concept of repentance. Many atheists, as well as some Christians, view repentance as a negative, oppressive act in which an individual is forced to verbally deny some pleasure that the religious establishment condemns. The fact is that the biblical concept of repentance is a positive, progressive movement toward the future.

The Old Testament refers to God repenting. Genesis 6:6-7 says, “It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Exodus 32:14, Judges 2:18, 1 Samuel 15:11, and many other passages speak of God repenting. There is a Hebrew word “nacham,” which expresses God’s repentance. God is immutable in His being but changes his relationship and attitude.

The concept of repentance in humans uses the Hebrew word “shoob,” describing a positive, progressive change. Second Kings 23:25 says of Josiah that “there was no king before him which repented to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.” Many versions translate this concept to “turn” from destructive behavior to a positive one.

Repentance is a major theme of the New Testament. Examples are Acts 17:30, Mark 1:4 and 6:12, Luke 5:32 and 24:47. The word is also used in reference to congregations, as in Revelation 2:5,16 and 3:3. The Greek word used to describe this process is “metanoia,” with “meta” meaning change and “noia” referring to the mind. Vine’s Dictionary of Bible Words defines repentance as “a radical transformation of thought, attitude, outlook, and direction.”

Biblical examples give us a clearer picture of the concept of repentance. The city of Nineveh in Jonah 3:5-10 changed from a corrupt, immoral, violent, destructive place to one of peace and care. Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8-9 changed from a corrupt tax collector to an honest and generous supporter of the poor. The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:19-21 changed from a drunken customer of the pleasure industry to a responsible citizen, and the Jews in Acts 2:38-41 changed from hypocritical, selfish legalists to benevolent Christians.

Repentance is not religious enslavement of humans, but a positive change. Jesus said in Matthew 3:8, “Bring forth fruits which prove your repentance.” Ephesians 4:22-24 speaks of “being mentally and spiritually remade … with a new nature made by God’s design.” Colossians 3:9-11 speaks of “putting off the old man with his deeds and putting on the new man which is being remolded in knowledge.” Repentance is not a one-time thing. It is a positive change that we all need to make. Who would not like to see repentance in the politicians and rulers of the world, especially if that change involved the love and peace of Matthew 5 – 7?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Richard Dawkins Description of God

Dawkins Description of God
Yesterday we quoted the Richard Dawkins description of God from his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

For the past two days, we have looked at the misunderstandings involved in the statements like the one above that are made by atheists to justify denying God’s existence. We want to make it clear that an argument based on not liking something the Bible says about God ignores the positive evidence that God does exist. In spite of that fact, the Dawkins description of God reflects a level of theological ignorance that is quite astounding. We examined some of the points yesterday, but here are some more examples:

RACIST– It is essential to distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament in terms of the system that they teach. The Old Testament was a political system as well as a religious one. Israel came out of Egypt as a new nation with a leader and a code of conduct that was political as well as religious. When Jesus came, He brought a new system. It was not a political system, and Christ made that clear many times. When Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” people had a hard time comprehending what He was saying. The Crusades were a product of not understanding that Jesus taught a non-physical kingdom. What is more significant is that Jesus lived what he taught. The classic example is the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4. The writer even points out that fact (John 4:9), and we see Jesus staying in that Samaritan city for two days.

SADOMASOCHISTIC – The notion of getting sexual pleasure by hurting someone else is the exact opposite of the biblical teaching. Genesis 2:24 introduces the concept of “one flesh” and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 refers to women’s sexual needs being met on the same level as the man’s needs. The Bible does report the history of horrible human violence against women. For example, Judges 19:25-20:7 reports a gang rape that ends in the death of a woman. We have pointed out previously that reporting on a historical event doesn’t mean endorsing it.

Throughout the ages, God has given humans a guide for how to live. To get the best of life, sex, food, friendship, family, and peace, we must all make the right choices. In the Old Testament, those choices were couched in the teachings of Moses and were designed for a primitive people in a wild and difficult environment. The Dawkins description of God misses the point.

With the coming of Christ, the situation in the world changed. It was time to break down political fences and build a system that would include all humans, all cultures, and all physical circumstances. The concept of love that was not self-serving and not sexual in its expression became a part of the message of Christ. The human tendency to act selfishly and violently means that the teachings of Christ are always up against a world of sin and rebellion. Rational human beings, however, will see the wisdom in what Christ taught. They will understand that this wisdom is a product of the Creator, not an accidental experiment in human behavior.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How Could All Those Animals Fit in Noah’s Ark?

How Could All those Animals Fit in Noah's Ark?
Perhaps the most argued event in the Old Testament is the flood of Noah described in Genesis. For the past two days, we have been examining some of the questions people ask. Today we will look at the question, “How could all those animals fit in Noah’s ark?

The Bible gives the dimensions of the ark, and it indeed was huge, especially for that time. How do you get the 25 million or so species of animals on Earth today into that ship? The answer is that you couldn’t.

Genesis 6:20 lists the same groups that are described in Genesis 1. Those are (1) fowl, (2) cattle, (3) “creeping things,” and (4) fish. We pointed out in our lessons on evolution that the word “kind” in Hebrew is not the same as “species” in modern scientific terms. The word “kind” is the Hebrew word “min,” and the Bible tells us in both the Old and New Testaments that there are four kinds: the flesh of fish, the flesh of birds, the flesh of beasts, and the flesh of man. First Corinthians 15:39 identifies these four and Genesis 1 identifies them as well. The same groupings are used in Genesis 6 to describe what Noah took on the ark.

The Hebrew word “remes” is rendered as “creeping thing” in some translations of the Bible. “Sherets” is also translated creeping thing (see Leviticus 11). “Remes” was an animal the Jews could eat, but “sherets” was not. “Remes” clearly refers to goats and sheep – animals that could be eaten by the Jews. But “sherets” refers to things like snakes and lizards which they could not eat.

So how could all those animals fit in Noah’s ark? The point of all this is that Noah didn’t take two poodles, two cockapoos, two German shepherds, etc. He took two dog-like animals. Similarly, he took two bovines, not the dozens of varieties that exist today. There are over 100 varieties of chickens, but he took two of that group. In short, Noah’s ark would have had enough room, and the evolutionary change that has taken place since has given us the variety we have today.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
We have a discussion of the flood in our video series program # 27 available on our doesgodexist.TV website. You can also look up information on the flood by doing a word search on our doesgodexist.org website search engine.

Biblical History Gains New Support

Biblical History Gains New Support
Many skeptics of the Bible attempt to suggest that the biblical record of the Exodus, Moses, and Israel is fiction. They say that most of the Old Testament contains made-up stories with no historical support. However, with further discoveries, biblical history gains new support.

Michael Zellmann-Rohrer of the University of Oxford has recently translated a large papyrus document discovered in 1934 at the pyramid of Senusret I at Lisht in Lower Egypt. The text is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language that adapts the Greek alphabet. The document contains references to Abraham and Isaac from the Book of Genesis and quotations from a prayer by Seth, a son of Adam and Eve. This papyrus does not come from the time of the Exodus, but it shows strong connections to the biblical record in Egypt that endured to the time of Christ and beyond. (Reference: Archaeology July/August 2018, page 16.)

In our websites and publications, we have repeatedly given examples of evidence showing that what the Bible says is true. We also have a DVD series on biblical archaeology by Dr. Harvey Porter. We are currently working on new programs on archaeology and history for our “Does God Exist?” video series. They are taught by John Cooper and recorded in the Clayton Museum of Ancient History at York College in York, Nebraska. Those new programs will be available by the fall of 2018.

We have said many times that science and the Bible are friends, not enemies. That is also true of the science of archaeology. As we learn more from archaeology, biblical history gains new support.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Transactive Memory and the Bible

Transactive Memory and Couples
Many times a new concept appears in the scientific literature, and when we look at it, we see that it is something that the Bible has already described. A recent example of this is a concept given by social psychologist Daniel Wegner called transactive memory.

Transactive memory is defined as “a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information.” Wegner explains this concept in this way: “People in close relationships know many things about each other’s memories. One partner may not know where to find candles around the house, for instance, but may still be able to find them in a blackout by asking the other partner where the candles are. Each partner can enjoy the benefits of the pair’s memory by assuming responsibility for remembering just those items that fall clearly to him or to her and then by attending to the categories of knowledge encoded by the partner so that items within those categories can be retrieved from the partner when they are needed. Such knowledge of one another’s memory areas takes time and practice to develop, but the result is that close couples have an implicit structure to carrying out the pair’s memory tasks.”

Psychologists are using this concept to help people dealing with the death of a spouse. As a person who has gone through that experience, I can testify that when your wife of 49 years dies, a part of you seems to die too. Panic attacks after the death of a spouse are common, and that is when you suddenly are faced with having lost a large part of your memory.

Bible readers will recognize this “new” concept. In the Old Testament, a variety of transactive memory devices were commanded and put in place by God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 12, 20; Exodus 13:14; and Joshua 4:6 are all cases where devices such as writing history on door posts were given to help remember the past and teach children the value of a culture. The various feasts of Israel in Exodus 23:15-16 were transactive memory devices.

In the New Testament, the congregation was developed as a transactive device. Acts 2:41-47 shows transactive memory helping the first century Church. James 5:14-16 described congregational conduct in various circumstances in life. The Bible itself is a transactive device as it is described in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

One of the problems with megachurches is that much of the transactive memory value of the local congregation is lost. It is hard to pray for or to encourage someone you don’t know. Death is of little meaning if you don’t know the person. The congregational conduct discussed in Hebrews 10:22 is difficult in a huge congregation.

When Jesus prayed for unity, He gave us something that can sustain us in every stage of life and in every crisis. We defeat that blessing when we make entertainment the focus of our worship and when we don’t build relationships that allow transactive memory to function. Transactive memory may be new to the world of social psychology, but it is as old as the Bible itself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheist Book: A Bogus Claim of Scholarship

The Bible
I try to read a book every week, and people help me in that attempt by sending me books on about every topic that you can imagine. Atheists and religious fanatics send me their books to attempt to convert me to their view or at least to get into the “Book of the Month” review in our quarterly publication. Recently a Christian and an atheist both sent me a copy of the same book titled Fountain of Fairytales and subtitled A Scholarly Romp Through the Old Testament. This book is an attempt to discredit the Bible and is a product of The Barnes Review. Begun by Harry Elmer Barnes, the Barnes Review claims that their mission is: “To separate historical truth from propaganda and to bring history into accord with the facts.” The problem with this group is not their mission, but the fact that their view of the facts means to make sure the views stated support secular humanism and atheism. Fairness, accuracy, and credibility of sources is not a part of their mission, and this book shows that rather clearly.

One giveaway as to the intent of this book is shown in the bibliography, author, pictures, and structure of the book. Major misunderstandings of the Bible are clear before one even starts to read the book itself. The story of Jonah is titled “Jonah’s Whale” when even atheists should know the Hebrew word doesn’t say whale. It says “fish” and whales are not fish. Pictures are lifted from twentieth-century Hollywood productions and denominational publications. The bibliography is very short and almost totally dominated by atheist and secular humanist writers. The author John Tiffany is not a scholar and has no advanced degrees or recognition from the academic community. His credit line says he did graduate work in biology and studied law but apparently didn’t graduate in these areas and has done no peer review work.

The tone of the book is one of ridicule, denigration, and sarcasm. There are no footnotes and documentation is marginal at best. In some cases deliberate misrepresentation is clear. One example is the “contradiction” between, Numbers 20:22-29 and Deuteronomy 10:6. Numbers says Aaron died and was buried at Mount Hor and Deuteronomy says Aaron died and was buried at Moserah. This is cited as a discrepancy in the Bible. Moserah is the area where Mount Hor is located. There are a large number of similar misrepresentations in the book. We wrote an article in our printed journal about misrepresenting the facts of the Old Testament titled “Maligning God in Ignorance” dealing with some of these issues. It was published in the January/February 2009 issue page 7 and you can read it online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/JanFeb09/MaligningGodinIgnorance.html

This is not a book review because the scholarship is so shabby and the bias and tone are so negative and abusive that we won’t waste space reviewing it. We do, however, want readers to be aware that this kind of literature is out there. We must be prepared to “give an answer of the reason of the hope that is within us to everyone who asks” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2017