What Jesus Opposed – What Jesus Taught

What Jesus Opposed - What Jesus Taught

Today’s misrepresentations of the teachings of Jesus Christ are often rooted in human traditions, atheistic beliefs, and denominational teachings alien to the Bible. Jesus opposed seven things:

1) Jesus was against abusive religious leaders. Matthew 23:4 “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger to move them.”

2) Jesus was against abusive religious rules. Matthew 23:13,23 “You shut up the kingdom of God in men’s faces … you have neglected the more important matters … justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”

3) Jesus was against violence. John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight.”

4) Jesus was against materialism and greed. Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”

5) Jesus was against judgmentalism. Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge .. for in the same way that you judge others, you will be judged.”

6) Jesus was against racism. John 4:9,27 Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman. “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans … his disciples marveled that He talked with the woman.” See also Galatians 3:28.

7) Jesus was against male chauvinism. John 8:7 “If any one of you (men) is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Here are seven things Jesus taught:

1) Jesus is for loving all people. Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

2) Jesus is for the value of every person. Matthew 5:22 “Anyone who says ‘you worthless one’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

3) Jesus is for forgiveness and reconciliation. Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

4) Jesus is for fairness and good relationships. Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you….”

5) Jesus is for peace and well-being. Matthew 6:34 “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough worries of its own.”

6) Jesus is for healing and happiness. Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

7) Jesus is for hope and a future for all of us. John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house there are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you… I will come back and take you there.”

Either the teachings and claims of Jesus are true, or Jesus was a liar or a lunatic. You can’t just write Jesus off as a good man. There is too much evidence to the contrary, and attributing sayings and actions to Christ which contradict the above is common in our world. We need to listen to what Jesus actually taught and claimed and lived. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: John Cooper’s video series “Beyond Reasonable Doubt,” which is available on our doesgodexist.tv website.

The Missing Link in Human Evolution?

The Missing Link in Human Evolution?
Taung child – Facial forensic reconstruction by Arc-Team, Antrocon NPO,
Cicero Moraes, University of Padua – CC-BY-SA 4.0

In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin hypothesized that the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa. He pointed out that African apes most resemble humans, but he lacked fossil evidence to support his conjecture. The missing link, as it was called, showed up more than 50 years later.

In 1924, some miners working in a limestone quarry in Taung, South Africa, found a fossil of a child. Anatomists determined that this 3-to-4-year-old child had some humanlike and some apelike features. They called this “Taung Child” the missing link between apes and humans. Scientists gave it the name Australopithecus africanus, which means southern African ape.

Critics pointed out that young apes have similarities to young humans, but the resemblance goes away as they mature. However, racist attitudes were strong at the time, and eugenics was accepted as real science. Meanwhile, anthropologists were busy categorizing people into races. Western researchers wanted to justify their claim that Africans were more primitive and less evolved than other people, thus justifying slavery and racism.

One of the challenges to people who believe the Bible is making sense of the fossils and interpretations we read about or see in a museum or video documentary. The basic proposal of the “Does God Exist?” ministry is that science and faith are friends. We are interested in understanding–not conflict or debate. As science makes discoveries in various fields, our understanding may grow. We are seeing more evidence for God’s existence in the design of the universe and life.

The history of paleoanthropology has shown that people have used scientific discoveries in political battles and as justification for slavery, eugenics, and racism. The Bible simply says God created man of the dust of the earth. It does not tell us how long ago or give any other details. The most important thing is that He created humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). That spiritual creation makes ALL humans equal and of infinite value. Christians recognize that fact (Galatians 3:26-29). Even scientists studying mitochondrial DNA have determined that every human alive today can be traced back to one woman they have called “Mitochondrial Eve.”

As science continues to look for the missing link, paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood said that from a scientific perspective, “Our origin story is a work in progress.” In other words, even scientists have trouble making sense of the fossils. Scientific discoveries in various fields may tell us more about how God did what He did, but science cannot tell us how to live successfully. Only the teachings of Jesus Christ that we find in the Bible can do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “Tracing the Origins of Humans” by Erin Wayman in Science News September 25, 2021, (pages 20 -28)

Racist Attitudes and the Facts

Racist Attitudes and the Facts

The history of modern civilization has been marred by human power struggles using racist attitudes to promote their agenda. European Enlightenment scholars decided that humans should be divided into discrete groups as some animal species are. They attached meaning to skin color using cultural stereotypes that included temperament, intelligence, and behavior. Slave owners used this concept to justify enslaving African people. Nazis in Germany sought to define a Germanic people based on racial exceptionalism.

Racist attitudes have even shown up in medicine. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic struck Philadelphia. White physicians claimed that black people were immune to yellow fever even as it killed many blacks. In 2016, a study of 200 medical students at the University of Virginia found that half of them believed there were biological differences between blacks and whites. Those differences included the belief that black people have thicker skin and higher pain tolerance than whites. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some reports said that black people couldn’t catch the virus, and a few months later, more articles came out saying that blacks were more susceptible to it.

The biblical discussion about race is entirely different from the power struggle that has gone on for a very long time. Genesis 3:20 tells us that Adam called his wife Eve “because she was the mother of all living.” That means that all races go back to Eve, and we are thus all related. In Acts 17:26, Paul told the intellectuals in Athens that God “has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth…” These passages emphasize the oneness of all humans. 

In a National Geographic article, Angela Saini wrote that science has shown “that we are genetically more alike than any other primate species and that individual difference far outweighs any group difference.” Saini warns against the narrative that “searches the margins of our genomes for the tiny statistical differences between populations, consciously or unconsciously playing to those who seek to divide us in other ways.”

Racist attitudes are not justified by biology or the Bible. Racism is a cultural activity, and it opposes the Bible in loud and clear terms. Those who claim to be Christians and yet practice racial discrimination need to read their Bibles and not listen to Satan’s agents sowing hatred and division among the human family. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: “The Story of Human Difference” by Angela Saini in National Geographic , September 2021, pages 15-17 and American Journal of Public Health

Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood

Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood

One hundred years ago, on June 1, 1921, a mob of white people engaged in one of the worst acts of terrorism in United States history. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, ten thousand black Americans were left homeless, and as many as 300 were killed. Not only did the white mob attack and destroy black-owned businesses and churches, but they set fires to complete the destruction. Some even made firebombs out of turpentine-filled bottles and dropped them from airplanes. Today we remember the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood.

I am amazed that I never heard of the Tulsa Massacre in all my years of formal education until recently. That is even though I grew up as the only white kid in my elementary school and had a father who taught in an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. It is also despite the fact that I saw and experienced racial hatred and prejudice in person after I left Talladega and moved to Illinois. It has only been since the murder of George Floyd that I learned of this terrible blot on America.

As a Christian, I look for explanations of how such a thing could happen in a Christian nation. As an educator, I have to search for lessons to draw from this horrible tragedy. Here are some lessons I see from the Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood:

1-Mob violence is irrational. It was mob violence that killed Jesus Christ. How could people have seen the miracles of Christ and comprehended the practical applications of His teachings, and still nail Him to a cross? When a “mob” of atheists attended my lectureships over the years, I have experienced violence. I learned that you can’t get a mob of people to think and reason logically when they are shaking their fists in rage.

2-Ignorance produces irrational violence. Those who attacked Greenwood and started shooting people and setting fire to their homes, businesses, and churches had been convinced that blacks were less than human. If you can write off people who threaten your ego as less evolved than you, killing them is no worst than shooting an animal. The teachings of Jesus are very clear that love and openness are crucial parts of the Christian system. 

3-Another facet of ignorance is not taking the Bible literally. It will lead people who claim to be religious to do things that contradict the Bible. I would assume that people in Oklahoma in 1921 would have claimed to be Christians, but they did not apply the message of Matthew 5-7. Emotional contagion is a term sociologists use to describe people who allow themselves to do something that violates common sense, and it was a major part of the Greenwood massacre.

4-History books are sanitized to promote a worldview desired by the ones who publish the books. I took U.S. History classes in high school and college. How can I be over 80 years old before I knew about the Greenwood massacre? I find that atheist books do not record the Liberal, Missouri, experiment in which a town was established that did not allow churches. The reason is that it was a failure, but atheists, like Christians, do not want to admit their failures.

5-Humans fail to learn from the history of failures. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” What has been the result of men and women following religious systems outside of Christianity? Has Hinduism produced a higher standard of living? Has Islam elevated the status of women? 

Have we learned anything from the Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood? Do we believe that “black lives matter,” which those who attacked Greenwood in 1921 did not? Can atheism stamp out Christianity, knowing that it promotes equal rights for all humans and espouses a moral code that values all life? This ministry promotes evidence, but ignoring evidence leads to a repeat of history. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Happiness Comes from Following Christ’s Teaching

Happiness Comes from Following Christ's Teaching - Robert Ingersoll
Robert G. Ingersoll 1833-1899

Robert Ingersoll is an atheist hero because he traveled the country attacking God, Christianity, and the Bible in the nineteenth century. Ingersoll is quoted as saying, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make other people happy.” That statement is remarkably similar to the writings of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:10-13 and the words of Christ in John 16:22-24. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.

Every attempt by atheists to provide an alternative to the teachings of Christ has ended up in frustration and pain. When an atheist built a town in Missouri with the name “Liberal,” it collapsed in a short time, with the founder saying he never again wanted to live in a town with no churches. Governments based on atheism in the past and today have not been successful in providing peace and prosperity for their citizens.

It is easy to attack Christianity while enjoying the blessings of Christ’s teachings. Offering a useful and positive alternative to what Jesus taught is another matter. As the United States drifts away from its Christian roots and embraces humanism, secularism, and atheism, we see an increase in suicides, shootings, racism, and abuse. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.

When someone is incarcerated, the prison usually asks their religious beliefs for the record. Very few prisoners say “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “none.” In our prison work, we ask prisoners taking our correspondence courses to explain how they got to the point of being jailed. Merle Haggard wrote a song in which he said: “In spite of all my Sunday learning, to the wrong I kept on turning. No one could steer me right, but mother tried.” Haggard’s mother was a member of the Church of Christ, and his prison stint took place because he rejected the teachings he learned as a child. We hear that line over and over from many of our students in prison.

My father was an atheist, but he was a very moral man. I asked him one time why he was faithful to my mother. His response was, “I guess it is because of the way I was raised.” His father was a minister, and his mother was a strong Christian woman. Jesus said, “By their fruit you shall know them (Matthew 7:16). Atheism has no positive fruit in the long run. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching. Robert Ingersoll found a receptive audience only when he repeated the teachings of the Bible.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Inspiration for this came from Faulkner University spring bulletin 2021.

Black Lives Matter in the Bible

Black Lives Matter in the Bible

Skeptics seem to use every crisis or injustice to make false claims about the Bible. In several recent references, skeptics have claimed that the Bible does not accept black people as human. That simply isn’t true. Black lives matter in the Bible.

The word “cush” means “black” in Hebrew, and we find it in numerous biblical passages. Most frequently, it refers to a geographical area in Africa. English Bibles often translate references to the land of Cush as Nubia or Ethiopia, and a person from there is called an Ethiopian.

Archeologists have found a wide variety of remains of the Cushite people because they were excellent soldiers and masters of horses and chariots. In 701 B.C., Tirhakah, king of Cush, defended Judah against the Syrian invasion of Sennacherib. His help and God’s hand saved Jerusalem at that time.

The denigration of black people is a modern, western activity. Ancient Greeks, Assyrians, and Egyptians did not show the racism of recent times. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that Ethiopians were the “most handsome of all men.” In Song of Solomon, there is a love song between Solomon and a Shulammite girl in which she tells Solomon not to love her just because she is black.

The Bible and the history of Israel and Judaism do not show any denigration of those with dark skin. The book of Jeremiah credits Ebed-Melech the Cushite as a hero for saving Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:7-13).

When we turn to the New Testament, we find more evidence that black lives matter in the Bible. In Acts 8:26-39, we read of the Holy Spirit sending evangelist Philip to an Ethiopian who was in charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He had come to Jerusalem to worship God and was reading the book of Isaiah as he traveled. Philip explained the gospel and baptized him.

Jesus made a point of dealing with the racial prejudice that existed at that time.
(See John 4.) Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that there were no racial, political, or gender boundaries in the early Christian churches–“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Black lives matter in the Bible just as much as every other life because we are all created in God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference Biblical Archaeology Review, winter 2020.

Growing Up in a Divided Society

Growing Up in a Divided Society

One part of my life’s history that I don’t talk about a lot is my experience with racial issues growing up in a divided society. As a child, I lived for several years in Alabama, where my father had his first college teaching job at Talladega State Teacher’s College. He and the school president were the only whites on the staff, and I was the only white kid in my school. All of my friends were black, and the people we knew in our daily lives were black. We never had a problem with anyone in that community.

When we left the campus area, we had problems. I remember when I had my tonsils removed. My mother had to take me to Birmingham to have it done. She told me later that when they brought me out of the operating room on a gurney, covered with blood, the doctor shoved the gurney at my mother and said, “Here nigger lover, you clean him up.”

We moved to McComb, Illinois, where my father got a job at Western Illinois University. When people learned that my father had taught at an all-black college and that I had attended an all-black school, we had all kinds of problems. The fact that I had spent grades 2, 3, and 4 in an all-black school meant to a lot of folks that I was inferior, and it was okay to beat me up. I tell you this to point out that now as a Christian and having had that experience, I can relate to the current struggles with prejudice and abuse in America.

Jesus dealt with similar issues throughout His life. John 4 tells us of His exchange with a Samaritan woman. Verse 9 says that the Jews avoided and rejected the Samaritans because they were of mixed race and had different religious beliefs. She was a woman, married five times, and living with a guy she wasn’t married to. Jesus addressed her needs and taught her. In Luke 8:26-39, Jesus showed compassion to a man who was severely mentally ill. The crucifixion of Christ happened because people had the same willful blindness that permeates our society today. The people who welcomed Him to Jerusalem in Matthew 21:7-11, crucified Him in Matthew 27:22-25.

The early Church faced massive persecution. In Acts 6:8-14, a man named Stephen was doing great things in the community. In Acts 7:54-60, the community stopped their ears and stoned him to death when he stated religious facts they didn’t want to hear. Christians are still being persecuted today. Racial prejudice still survives today. Children are still growing up in a divided society. We must replace hatred and division with love and service. That’s the only way our world can survive. If Christians don’t lead in this vital matter, who will?

— John N. Clayton 2020

Called to Peace

Called to Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9. One of the most challenging parts of being a Christian is fulfilling the commands of Jesus Christ to be peacemakers. Colossians 3:15 talks about the attitudes Christians should have: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Other religious systems have either assumed a passive attitude or a militant, aggressive stance. Christ called His followers to be active, non-militant, promoters of peace. One natural tendency of humans is to try to force their will on others. This has led to perversions of Christianity, as seen in the Crusades and the use of violence to oppose perceived wrongs today. It has also led to the endorsement of cultural traditions rather than Christ’s teachings as a guide to morality.

Much of the New Testament teachings have to do with being peacemakers. Consider these:

* Understand that all humans are of equal value:

1 Corinthians 12:13- We are “all given one Spirit to drink.”

Galatians 3:26-28- We are “all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 9:22- Paul says that he had “become all things to all men…”

Regardless of sex, race, culture, nationality, age, occupation, or even religious faith, we all have incredible worth.

* Accept Christians who have a conscientious difference of opinion:

Romans 14 is a whole chapter on peace. Verses 1-4 talk about accepting people with different opinions about food. Verses 5-6 speak about people who want to honor special days. Verse 19 tells Christians to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things by which we can edify one another.”

* Separate the physical from the spiritual:

Matthew 22:21- Finds Jesus telling his followers to separate what is Caesar’s (the physical) from what is God’s (the spiritual).

Romans 12:15-21- Repeats the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5-7, giving specific advice on how to live as people who are called to peace.

* Be ministers of reconciliation and peace:

Philippians 4:2- Paul pleads with Christians to help sisters in conflict by bringing the spiritual into focus.

Acts 10:34-36- Peter tells us to understand that God is no respecter of persons and that Christians must tell the world “the good news of peace through Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 25:32-40- The judgment scene shows Christians being acceptable to God because of their activities which promoted peace.

Romans 5:1- As Christians, we have peace with God.

Matthew 5-7- Tells us what Jesus calls us to do so we can have that peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers.” We are called to peace so we can shine in a world of violence, hatred, and war. With God’s help, we can have an attitude that brings joy and happiness while an angry, violent world swirls around us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Willful Blindness and Race

Willful Blindness and Race

I have been thinking about willful blindness. Many years ago, in a lectureship in Canada, I met a Christian lady who was born and raised in Germany before and during World War II. After the war, she became a Christian, but during the war, she was part of Hitler’s youth workers and active in the Nazi movement. As she talked about her leadership role in the Nazi movement, she spoke of being enthusiastic about the successes of Nazism and how it gave young Nazi workers pride and enthusiasm for the economic and social achievements it generated.

As she spoke, she became subdued and said that when she and other young Germans heard that Jews were being put in concentration camps and killed just because they were Jews, they didn’t believe it. “We are too smart, too religious, too kind to ever allow such things to happen. That can not be true!” She then looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “But we were so terribly, horribly, awfully wrong.”

I have often heard people say that they can’t understand how the German people allowed the persecution of the Jews under Hitler. The reason is willful blindness! As we are seeing and hearing the cry of our black friends and neighbors now in 2020, we need to have the courage to ask if we, too, are willfully blind.

Willful blindness is common to humans. In Matthew 21:7-11, we see people welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem with a huge parade and with cries of love and support. In Matthew 27:22-25, we see these same people crying, “Crucify him!!” In Acts 7:54-60, we see people killing Stephen and even covering their ears to avoid hearing the truth about what they were doing.

I am an old man, and I have lived and worked among people of color all my life. Yet until the last few weeks, I never heard about the horrible destruction and murder of over three hundred innocent blacks living in Greenwood, Oklahoma, on May 31-June 1 of 1921. A prosperous town known as “Black Wall-street” was made up of black homes and businesses. It was attacked, and 1265 houses were burned, 150 businesses destroyed and looted, and 9,000 left homeless.

How did I never hear of this tragedy? I never thought about the impact of how we all got here. My ancestors came to America to escape persecution and to look for freedom. My black friends are here because their ancestors were ripped away from family and home, taken on a trip they didn’t want to take, and denied basic rights and freedom. How have I ignored that fact? The answer is “willful blindness.”

In this time of having our vision restored, perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of a powerful song from the musical South Pacific and reflect on how they apply to us:

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late. Before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all of the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Let us all work at getting rid of our own willful blindness and ask God to help us have the total spiritual sight that Paul talked about in Galatians 3:26-28.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Race and Skin Color

Race and Skin ColorWhy do humans have different races and skin colors? If we all came from “Mother Eve,” should we not all be the same color? In the past, some people suggested that people of other races were not really human, and they used that argument to justify everything from slavery to infanticide. What is the truth about race and skin color?

It is interesting scientifically that only humans have mostly naked skin and along with that, different colors of skin. Other animals have hair and mostly light-colored skin. As science has told us more about skin color and confirmed that we all came from common ancestors, we find clues about race and skin color and how we should treat one another.

The most fundamental reason for skin color differences is the fact that humans live at different latitudes. It is quite evident that human populations that have lived near the equator for many generations tend to have darker skin. As one moves from equatorial Africa toward the north, there is a constant change in skin color. By the time you get to northern Scandinavia, you have very light-skinned people with blond hair and blue eyes. People living near the equator have black skin, black eyes, and black hair.

It’s easy to understand why. Take two tin cans and paint one black and the other white. Fill them with boiling water and measure their temperature five minutes later. Dark colors radiate heat faster than light ones, so the darker can will be cooler than the white one. In equatorial Africa, the problems of heat release are very significant, because our brain cannot be allowed to overheat.

Another factor is ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which can cause many changes in living tissue, including cancer. Human skin produces a substance known as melanin for protection. Melanin, God’s sunscreen, is a large organic molecule which both physically and chemically reduces the effects of UV radiation. Melanin absorbs UV rays causing them to lose energy. It also neutralizes harmful chemicals called free radicals that form in the skin after damage from UV radiation.

Dark skin absorbs a high percentage of UV light. It is essential, however, not to lose all the UV. Another thing that UV light does is to allow the body to produce vitamin D. Farther from the equator, the amount of UV is less, so dark-skinned people may not get enough UV light to make vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D causes rickets, so lighter skin is better at latitudes away from the equator.

As humans have migrated all over the globe, their ability to produce nutrients like vitamin D has been reduced in some groups. The Inuit people in Alaska don’t get enough vitamin D from the Sun, but they eat fish, which is very high in vitamin D. Their diet compensates for the low UV exposure. The presence of melanin in the skin, the complex biochemical system that produces vitamin D, and the ability of the body to protect itself against overheating and nutritional problems all speak well of the wisdom and design of our bodies.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Instead of allowing race and skin color to divide and cause hostility between us, we should celebrate God’s wisdom and design. They show that we have a universal Creator who designed and equipped us marvelously to live on a planet that has varied conditions and environments.
— John N. Clayton © 2019