Placing Blame for Gun Violence

Placing Blame for Gun ViolenceThe National Center for Health Statistics reports that 39,773 Americans lost their lives to firearms in 2017. Since 1968, 1,625,000 Americans have died from gunfire. That is more than all American deaths in all wars since the founding of America more than 200 years ago. From 2008 to 2017 there were 342,439 deaths by firearms and 374,340 deaths caused by motor vehicles. It is hard to believe that guns are nearly equal to cars in their careless use. These numbers are facts, not opinions. The opinions come when people are placing blame for gun violence.

Everyone from the NRA to the WTA wants to explain why this is happening, and we would add another voice to the discussion. The trend in firearm deaths is evident. In 1968 the number of deaths due to firearms in the United States was roughly 24,000. In 2017 the number of fatalities was roughly 40,000. In almost 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase that no one can deny. That leads to people placing blame for gun violence.

What else has changed in those 50 years? We have only cited the years for which we have numbers. Before 1968, deaths due to firearms would have been much lower. As a teenager in the 50s, I can remember that when someone died due to a firearm in our half of the state, it made the front page of every newspaper.

Some say that mental illness is the cause of the increase. I would suggest that we have always had the mentally ill with us. Until the mid 20th century, there were virtually no medications that relieved the symptoms of the mentally ill. I can recall classmates in high school who were mentally ill, and none of them resorted to violence with a firearm.

Some say that gun availability is the cause of this, but I bought my first gun when I was 12 years old. I had a hard time deciding between a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 rifle. In southern Indiana, it seemed that every pickup truck had a gun rack behind the driver’s seat. There was usually more than one loaded gun in the rack. The trucks were never locked so any five-year-old could have climbed in, grabbed a loaded gun, and started shooting.

So when placing blame for gun violence, we cannot completely point to those factors. The one thing that has changed in the same time period is our country’s fundamental faith in God. When you read all of our historical documents, even those written by those who may have had doubts about God, you see a basic declaration of the importance of living by God’s principles. Even though my father was an atheist, he grew up with a father who was a minister, and he believed and lived by the basic teachings of the Bible.

In the last 50 years, we have been saturated with the doctrine propagated by the media and the educational establishment that humans are just animals. Along with that, goes the belief in survival of the fittest as the basic rule by which we should live. In the animal world, you generally don’t see the notion that the less fit should be cared for and looked after by those who are fit.

The idea of caring for the less fit has been denigrated among human beings by people like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They vocalize what much of our culture wants to believe. Everything from abortion to euthanasia is radically affected by what we believe about the worth of a human being. If educated leaders in the secular world want to eliminate those they see as unfit, how can we expect a mentally ill person not to embrace the same idea? The problem is how they identify the unfit.

“We then that are are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). That is a principle of Christianity and should be applied to both spiritual and physical weakness. In Matthew 25, when Jesus describes the basis of judgment by God, He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you visited me…”

Perhaps society is placing blame for gun violence on the wrong things. It is only when a person accepts the biblical concept that ALL human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore, ALL human life is sacred, that we can hope to see a change. It is only then that we can have a psychological foundation that allows even the mentally ill to understand that they have value and that people care about them and want to help them. There is no-one “unfit” in the sight of God. Violence will only increase as our children play video games and watch movies that glorify those who are strong destroying the weak.
— 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

Theological Atheism

Theological AtheismBiologist Richard Dawkins expressed his theological atheism in 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

Yesterday we discussed atheists’ use of the Bible to defend their denial of the existence of God. We pointed out that they are ignoring all of the scientific evidence of a Creator. Bad theology dominates the other biblical arguments to reject God’s existence. Not separating the history of human actions from the commands of God is bad theology. Sloppy reading of what God tells us about hell and the human soul is another cause of theological atheism. The above statement by Dawkins highlights some other errors of those who reject the existence of God because they don’t like biblical statements about God’s actions and attitudes. Some examples are these:

JEALOUS – God is a jealous God. Passages like Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21; and 1 Kings 14:22 state that fact. All of those statements are in the context of infidelity and are statements of a broken heart. None of them show a childlike “you have something I want” context.

UNJUST ETHNIC CLEANSER- The usual reference to this claim is 1 Samuel 15 n reference to the destruction of the Amalekites. The question, in this case, is what was the cause and why was such drastic action needed? The Amalekites were a bloodthirsty pagan tribe that attacked Israel as they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It is a historical fact that these people participated in everything that violated God told His people not to do. They participated in cannibalism, bestiality, pedophilia, all kinds of immorality. The result of this hygienic catastrophe was clear. We have seen HIV decimate human populations in places today where similar actions have taken place. In a primitive society, there was no remedy available outside of complete sterilization. This was not a political situation, but a hygienic one. Even the livestock were burned to stop the spread of disease.

MISOGYNISTIC- To suggest that God is a woman-hater is to ignore not only human history but also the changes brought by the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, many women were honored for their heroic roles – Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther are just a few examples. In the life and teachings of Jesus, women were elevated beyond any other religious or political system on Earth. Christ stated in Matthew 19:4-8 that it was the hardness of men’s hearts, not God’s will, that caused the demeaning of women. Galatians 3:28 clearly states what Jesus practiced, that there is: “no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Dawkins is a brilliant biologist, but he is not a theologian. His theological atheism shows his lack of understanding of the Bible and God as revealed in the Bible. A better-informed atheist like Michael Ruse has said that Dawkins makes him “embarrassed to be an atheist.”

Tomorrow, we will deal with more of the Dawkins description of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Women and Motherhood

Women and MotherhoodTomorrow is “Mother’s Day,” and we have some thoughts on women and motherhood.

We are seeing a new aggressiveness on the part of atheists and feminists to vilify Christ and Christianity. Feminists take passages like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to suggest that Christians make women second class citizens. Atheist speakers like Richard Dawkins attack the Bible saying it is one of the most misogynistic (hating women) books ever written. The truth is that Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles were centuries ahead of the secular world in treating and presenting women as equal to men in every way.

It is essential to look at the example that Jesus set in his interactions with women, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4. There was great animosity between the Jewish culture and the Samaritans. John 4:9 reminds us of this when Jesus speaks to the woman, and she responds, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink of water?” She is both a hated Samaritan and a woman who in that misogynistic culture was indeed a second class citizen. The passage even adds, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” When the disciples of Jesus show up in verse 27 “they marveled that He talked with the woman.” Jesus not only talks with her, but He stays in the Samaritan city for two days.

Jesus treated women as equals, and they worked with Him in His ministry. (See Luke 8:1-4.) The Apostles taught that men and women were equals. Galatians 3:26-29 tells the Christians of their day and ours, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 has to do with roles. We need to understand that equality does not mean sameness. As an example, is everyone on a baseball team equal? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “Yes, they are equal.” The catcher has a different role than the pitcher, and the first baseman is different from either of them. They are all essential and equal. They have different roles and even different equipment, but all of them are critical to the success of the team.

As we have said before, there are no second-class citizens in the Church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. I will have more to say about women and motherhood tomorrow on Mother’s Day.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reality of Space Travel

Reality of Space Travel and Little Green Men

Although space-travel movies are exciting and fun, they are not very realistic. Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light. There is overwhelming proof that he was right. That fact has an impact on the reality of space travel.

Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross wrote an excellent book entitled Why the Universe is the Way It Is. In this book, he states that due to the laws of physics the top speed of a spaceship would be limited to about one percent of the speed of light, or 6.7 million miles (10.8 million km) per hour. Based on that, he says that for aliens to travel from any other planetary system where intelligent beings could possibly exist would take at least 25,000 years! (Remember that it will take nine months just to travel to Mars, our neighboring planet.)

So when you watch a two-hour movie in which people travel from one planetary system to another at hyper-light-speed, remember that it’s only Hollywood. The reality of space travel is not what we see in the movies. We live in a universe designed by a Creator who gave us a special place with everything we need to live. Is there any kind of life, not just intelligent life, anywhere else in this vast universe? We don’t know, but the chances of meeting intelligent beings from another planet are very, very slim. That’s the reality of space travel.

By the way, my picture is poking a little fun at a statement made by the well-known atheist biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. He begins chapter 1 by stating, “Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?’”

So does discovering evolution indicate advanced civilization and the level of our intelligence? More importantly, does evolution explain the reason for our existence? Personally, I think the reason for our existence is not found in evolution, but begins in Genesis chapter 1 and is developed in the rest of the Bible.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Are Science and Faith Enemies?

Are Science and Faith Enemies?
Fifty-nine percent of the American public says that science and religion are often in conflict according to Pew Research in a survey conducted in 2015. Are science and faith enemies?

The report said that “Some 73% of adults who seldom or never attend religious services say science and religion are often in conflict, while half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say the same.” The interesting thing is that just half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say science and religion are often in conflict. Apparently, the people who are not religious see a conflict between science and faith more than religious people do. Perhaps that is the reason they reject faith in God. They have been told that science rules out the possibility that God exists. That is not true.

The point of the DOES GOD EXIST? program is to show that science and faith are friends, not enemies. The problem is that both believers and unbelievers would rather throw stones than resolve issues. Both sides have become entrenched in their own doctrines and refuse to follow the facts wherever they lead. There are Christians who build museums and insist that the universe cannot possibly be more than 10,000 (or even 6,000) years old. Some scientists write best-selling books saying that the existence of God has been disproven by evolution. Both cannot be right. However, but both could be wrong.

Are science and faith enemies? We say, “Absolutely not!” We suggest that the supposed conflicts between science and faith in God (and the Bible) have often been caused by bad science, or bad theology, or both. There has been a lot of both.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Reference: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/22/5-facts-about-the-interplay-between-religion-and-science/

Design Is an Illusion – Not

Design Is an Illusion – Not
If you read our posts and publications regularly, you probably know that we are continually talking about design in the universe, on our planet, and especially in living things. We think that it is impossible to look at life and say that we see no design. However, some people can see the same things and say design is an illusion. They are willing to accept on faith that everything came into existence out of nothing and evolved by pure accident with no intelligence involved.

One person who refuses to see design in nature is a very well-known evolutionary biologist. Richard Dawkins has written several best-selling books that are supposed to be on the subject of biology. However, they are actually books on theology. The high point (or low point) of his books on theology is The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin 2006). He travels the world giving lectures on theology, under the guise of biology.

Dawkins’ field of study is biology, not theology, so we take his pronouncements with a grain of salt. However, even Dawkins has to admit that his biological studies appear to show design. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” However, he then goes into theology by stating that design is an illusion and there is no designer. That means there is no ultimate purpose in life beyond day-to-day survival. In River Out of Eden Dawkins wrote, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good…”

No design, no purpose, no evil, and no good—that’s the way Dawkins describes the living things he has spent his life studying. Life, of course, includes human beings—you and I. If Dawkins is right, why should he study living things, or why should we? What is the purpose of using our purposeless lives to study purposeless things? Perhaps Dawkins has found his purpose in theology as he endeavors to convince everyone that there is no God.

As we think about this, we have to be amazed at how incredibly ironic the Dawkins delusion is. In the meantime, we will continue to admire the design we see in the world and pay homage to the Designer. Faced with the Dawkins challenge that design is an illusion, we choose to believe our eyes–and our common sense.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Dawkins-Remolina Debates in Colombia

Dawkins-Remolina Debates in Colombia
If you have followed this ministry for a while, you will recall that in the summer of 2017 John Clayton spent several weeks in Colombia giving many presentations on evidence for the existence of God. He was invited to speak there preceding debates between atheist Richard Dawkins and Catholic priest Gerardo Remolina. Remolina is a leading scholar at the Jesuit Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, where the first debate took place. We received a newspaper account of the first debate, and we hope to eventually have a chance to review reports of the Dawkins-Remolina debates at Medellin and Cartagena.

It was interesting that in the first debate there was almost nothing said about the existence of God. Remolina suggested that the age of the universe was 14 billion years and that the age of the Earth was around 5 billion years. Dawkins said he agreed but stated that 40% of the American public thinks the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Dawkins said that is equivalent to believing that the North American continent is only 8 meters wide. Dawkins continued to maintain that belief in God is due to ignorance on the part of believers, and Remolina made no response to Dawkins claims.

Dawkins stated the atheist belief that life evolved mechanically and that the Bible was a collection of diverse myths. Remolina agreed that Adam and Eve are a myth but said that the myth is a structure of thought and does not pretend to explain anything. Dawkins claimed that the Bible was not historical because there is no evidence of the events it describes. Remolina could have given massive evidence for the historical validity of the Bible, but instead, he stated that science uses myths. He quoted Carl Sagan’s statement that the “Big Bang” was a myth because science cannot duplicate it in the laboratory. Dawkins attacked the Catholic tradition of original sin ridiculing the teaching that children are born sinful.

We are reading a translated newspaper report which may be incomplete. The fact is, however, that the debate was about Catholic traditions and opinions of Dawkins on the history of life. The fundamental arguments for the existence of God–cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, moral arguments, ontological arguments, and philosophical arguments–were barely mentioned and evidence was not presented by either side. We hope that later Dawkins-Remolina debates will approach the real questions and the weight of the evidence29. Stay tuned.
–Roland Earnst & John N. Clayton © 2018

WHY Questions

WHY Questions
When talking to unbelievers, we often hear the WHY questions. “Why is there something instead of nothing?” “Why do bad things happen to us?” “Why does God allow …?” Seekers can’t answer the WHY questions by rejecting the existence of God, because atheism offers no answers at all. Even Christians struggle with the WHY questions when God doesn’t answer their prayers the way they think He should.

We can understand virtually all of the WHY if we look at God’s purpose in what He has done and what He is doing today. In Ephesians 3:8-11 we read:

“Unto me, who am less than the least of Christ’s People yet I was chosen for this special joy of telling the Gentiles the Glad News of the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make clear what is God’s way of working out that hidden purpose which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now to the Archangels and to all the Powers on high should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church in accordance with that purpose that runs through all ages and which He has now accomplished in Jesus Christ, our Master.”

If you believe that evil exists, and atheists like Richard Dawkins deny the existence of evil (see River Out of Eden, page 133), then you can easily understand why there is something instead of nothing. We are in a war between good and evil. It is all around us, and even modern science-fiction writers recognize the struggle and strive to show that good is superior to evil.

The book of Job gives us a picture of the struggle. After facing the challenge of his own suffering and criticism by the wise men of his day, Job finally hears from God. His response to God is, “I have uttered things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know…. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye has seen you, and I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3-6).

We have seen and are seeing how ugly evil can be. Humans treat each other with such malice that it is hard to comprehend. We can see the consequences of the selfish choices we make in everything from the effects of pollution to the destructive force of crime. Even though I don’t like the bad things that have happened in my life, I know there is a purpose in them. Some of those purposes I have already understood, and eventually, we will all understand.

The song “Farther Along,” which is in our hymn books, deals with the WHY questions. After describing all the injustices and pain we all see, the verse ends with: “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all by and by.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Prison Suicide Rates Skyrocket

Prison Suicide Rates Skyrocket
Yesterday we discussed an article by atheist Michael Shermer in which he stated that as atheism replaces belief in God “we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.” (Scientific American, April 2018, page 77). At the same time Shermer’s article came out, we received a report on prison suicide rates.

NewLife Behavior Ministries issued a report of an increase in suicides in Texas prisons. The data came from the University of Texas Medical Branch saying that attempted suicides in Texas prisons jumped from 65 to 150 in the past four years. Statistics on suicides are very complicated, but every study we have seen has shown a huge increase in attempted suicides. The increase applies to all segments of the population, not just prison suicide rates but the general public as well.

The secular sources for morals and values that Shermer recommends would include people like atheists Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They advocate euthanasia for the “unfit” in society including Down Syndrome, mentally ill, and mentally deficient people. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He advocates for infanticide to eliminate defective children and for animal rights. In his book Practical Ethics, he concedes that the question of why we should act morally “cannot be given an answer that will provide everyone with overwhelming reasons for acting morally.”

The biblical perspective is that all humans have value because they are created in the image of God. That is radically different from the secular view that we are just animals with no more value than any other animal. Suicide is directly connected to what we understand a human to be. The Christian view is that there is no such thing as “worthless human trash” or “unfit people.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018