Does God Cause Natural Disasters?

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?One of the struggles we all have is understanding why God allows disastrous events that cause massive destruction and suffering to humans. Atheists use this question as a club against faith, and it is perhaps their best weapon. The list of events that harm humans is huge – earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, landslides, fires, floods, droughts, etc. At this time of the year, hurricanes are at the front of our awareness. Does God cause natural disasters to punish people?

If you have just seen a natural event take place that destroyed your home and killed a loved one, no rational explanation is going to be of any help. Our hearts go out to those of you who are trying to make sense of what seems to be a senseless disaster that has hurt them in ways that no one else can understand. We don’t want anyone to think that we have all the answers. If somehow we can remove ourselves from our own emotions, here are three things we need to understanding:

1) God does not cause disasters. The notion that God brings catastrophes upon people He doesn’t like, or people who violate His laws or commands is inconsistent with the nature of God. James 1:13 tells us clearly that God doesn’t tempt us in any way. The passage specifically deals with moral temptation, but verse 17 goes on to say that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God brings good things. Jealousy or vindictiveness is not a part of His nature.

2) Human stupidity in the face of natural processes is a significant cause of calamity. Hurricanes are a classic example of this. The Earth has zones of climate that are made functional by natural processes which create climate zones. The Hadley Cell explains these zones, with different zones creating tropical rainforests and deserts. Those zones are balanced by natural processes such as hurricanes that carry water into what would otherwise be a desert. Thirty-degree latitudes north and south would be deserts if it were not for hurricanes that bring massive amounts of water to recharge water supplies. In the United States, northern Florida and southern Georgia would be deserts with no water were it not for hurricanes. Humans ignoring this system and building in areas known to be vulnerable to hurricanes while removing natural barriers such as mangroves causes much of the suffering and death.

3) Human mismanagement of God’s creation due to greed and ignorance is a major cause of human suffering. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God gave humans the assignment to take care of “the garden, to dress it and keep it.” We are the caretakers of what God has created, but selfishness and greed have caused significant suffering and destruction. We all know that polluting the air, rivers, lakes, and now the ocean has led to cancer and now appears to be affecting Earth’s climate. We all understand that exploitative agriculture has led to fires, erosion, dust storms, and insect swarms. Scientific journals are full of studies showing how human mismanagement of what God has given us is leading and has led to disaster.

Does God cause natural disasters? The answer is “NO!” It isn’t God’s will that humans suffer from natural disasters, but God has never promised us that He will protect us from ourselves. What God has done is to build a base by which His servants can help those who are suffering. The Church has a responsibility to show God’s love and compassion for the hurting. Atheists need to pitch in and help clean up the mess, not try to blame God. (Read Matthew 25:31-40.)
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

Thomas Jefferson's Bible examined in the book Doubting Thomas
Atheists and skeptics have done a good job of convincing many people that Thomas Jefferson was especially critical of the claims of Jesus being the Son of God,and that he was a closet atheist. I have heard (and repeated I am sorry to say), the claim that Jefferson’s Bible had holes all through it in which he clipped out anything he didn’t like. The story was that a good percentage of the pages of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible were missing. (I have commented that a lot of us do that mentally.) It turns out that most of what we have been told about Jefferson and his religious convictions are not true.

Mark Beliles and Jerry Newcombe wrote a book published by Morgan James in October of 2014 titled Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson did clearly state that people should be free to believe or to disbelieve in Jesus, which no thinking American can deny. That view influenced his writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. He also wrote, but did not publish, a work which was designed to help Indians understand the philosophy of Christianity. It was titled The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the Account of His Life and Doctrines as Given by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgment of the New Testament for the Use of Indians Unembarrassed with Matters of Fact or Faith Beyond the Level of Their Comprehensions. (What a title!) According to Jefferson, this work was to help the Indians benefit from the moral teachings of Jesus Christ. Jefferson stated in a letter to William Canby on September 18, 1813: “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus Christ.”

When Jefferson was president he regularly attended the Christian worship services held at the U.S. Capitol building. He did not exclude miracles from what is called “The Jefferson Bible.” Matthew 10:8, Luke 14:1-6, Matthew 9:18-25, Matthew 9:20-22 and Matthew 9:27-31 are all in his Bible. However, he struggled with some doctrinal issues which he called “Christology.” He had an especially hard time with the Godhead.

He was not a theologian, but he clearly was a believer. He devoted a great deal of energy and time to understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ as indicated by Thomas Jefferson’s Bible.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Worshiping a Human Deity

Worshiping a Human Deity Some people think of God as a human – the “old man in the sky.” They think of a god with human limitations and needs as if we are worshiping a human deity. Questions about the race, sex, culture, language, and appearance of God are all rooted in the misconception that God possesses human properties and limitations. God does not have a sexual identity, and the Bible describes God with both masculine and feminine qualities. There is no neuter gender in Hebrew, so if a sexual identity is given, it must come from the context. Even the New Testament, sometimes provides a feminine description of God. (See Luke 13:34.)

Man’s creation in the image of God is also not a human concept. We do not look like God physically or in any physical human way. We are in God’s image by our capacity to love sacrificially, our creative abilities in art and music, our capacity to engage in spiritual things, and our ability to feel guilt and sympathy and compassion. Even the purpose of human existence is linked to this concept. God did not create humans because He was lonely. The purpose of our creation is rooted in nonhuman struggles that we can only vaguely comprehend. The reason for our existence is independent of any physical human objective. (See Ephesians 3:9 -11; 6:12; and Job 1,2.)

Our worship of God is frequently skewed by our conception of God as a human with human needs. Sometimes we seem to act as though God needs our praise because He is depressed. We don’t praise God because God has a self-image problem. The quality of our praise or singing is not of importance to God. Sometimes we emphasize the quality of our singing praises more than the participation of everyone in the process. That emphasis reflects our limited understanding of the nature of God as a spirit. John 4:24 tells us that, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We forget that because we have a limited human concept of God. We are not worshiping a human deity.

We tend to replace the simplicity and total involvement of the first century Church in their worship of God with elaborate theatrical productions. Our productions may have entertainment value, but we often fail to realize that God is not appeased with things humans deem as important. The Bible portrays God as looking on the hearts of those who worship Him, not the overt process. One of the best biblical examples is in Leviticus 10:1-2 where Nadab and Abihu, two priests, offered “strange fire” in replacement for what God had ordered. There is no indication that they neglected anything God had told them to do. They dressed up the fire in some way that would make it more appealing on a human level. God reacts strongly to this human substitution.

It is easy for people living in Western societies to look at human-like images from primitive cultures and wonder how they could conceive of God in such a distorted way. But we may be guilty of worshiping a human deity in our own way. God calls us to understand that His ways and thoughts are not like ours and that He does not have our limitations. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let us listen to the true God and strive to understand what He wills for us rather than creating God in our image and trying to appease something of our own creation.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?
How can we investigate the questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” Many go to an atheist website or read a book by an atheist to decide. A vast majority of people who attack our position on the Bible follow atheist websites. The problem here should be obvious. If a person’s religious view is that there is no God, then obviously, the Bible cannot be the word of God since God does not exist! If you tell anyone something often enough and long enough, eventually they will believe it.

The same kind of problem could come up in the opposite way if one were to read only a book on the truth of the Bible written by a Christian minister. We are not saying that you should not read books written by atheists or ministers. What we are saying is that you cannot stop there and be satisfied whether the Bible is true or false. To answer the questions like “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” by reading what people say, you need to read both viewpoints. You also have to learn how both sides answer the questions posed by people whose views conflict with theirs.

A more direct way to answer the question “Is the Bible true?” would be to explore the evidence yourself. Is the Bible accurate in its statements of a scientific nature? Are the principles of psychology used in the Bible practical and worthwhile? Is the Bible’s approach to human relations valid? Can following the principles of the Bible bring peace, harmony, unity, and positive things to human beings? The way to answer these questions is to read the teachings of Jesus and ask yourself about these issues. It can be helpful to listen to the objections of an atheist and listen to a Christian apologist respond to those objections. But, take the time to look at the evidence and ask questions yourself. Starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will show you clearly the answers to many of those questions.

Another approach worth considering is the cosmological evidence. The argument we make is very simple. We ask three questions: Was there, or was there not a beginning to the cosmos? If there was a beginning, was it caused, or was it not caused? If it was caused, what or who caused it?

The evidence for each of the steps in this logical discussion about origins comes from a variety of sources. In the first question, we can look at evidence from cosmology. The fact that the cosmos is expanding, strongly suggests that the expansion had a specific point in space and time from which it started. Any astronomy textbook will point this out. There is chemical evidence in the cosmos in terms of hydrogen, the fuel that powers the cosmos. If the universe had always existed, there would be no hydrogen left because it is the element from which all other materials are made. The power of the Sun and stars comes from the fusion of hydrogen atoms. We also see evidence from physics in the form of the laws of thermodynamics. We know that, in closed systems, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. If the cosmos had always been, it would be totally disordered because the cosmos is a closed system with no energy being added to it.

The point we are making is that evidence comes from different fields. Experts in the fields of cosmology, physics, and chemistry have written about these processes. The evidence gives predictability to the cosmos and has many practical uses in space travel and astronomy. There is a wide range of support from a variety of areas for the argument that the cosmos had a beginning, that it was caused, and that it was intelligently caused.

Being confident about your beliefs cannot be rooted in what someone else tells you or what is popular. There are always problems with any biased belief systems passed on to you by others. You should be open to new evidence even when you have formed an opinion about something. The lesson of history on matters related to faith is that new discoveries support and confirm faith in God and His word.

We do not have to be consumed by doubt and paralyzed by uncertainty. The Bible speaks confidently, and we must work to build a dynamic faith that allows us to meet the needs that we were put here to address. The questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” are probably the most important questions you will ever ask. Do the research and think!
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

This post was adapted from an article by John N. Clayton in the Does God Exist? journal. You can read the complete article HERE.

Religion Is a Way to Make Money

Religion Is a Way to Make MoneyI Timothy 6:4-5 “He has an elevated opinion of himself, being without knowledge, but dotes on an unhealthy love of questionings and war of words which leads only to envy, division, insults, insinuations and wranglings of men corrupted in mind and destitute of truth who think religion is a way to make money.”

The above description could be a description of some atheists I know. It also could be describing some religious figures who claim to be Christians. I think every lectureship I have ever done contained a person who dominated the question/answer session and attempted to impugn my motives. Atheists tend to believe that all religious speakers are hypocrites just in it for the money. Religious figures have desired to take over our ministry and link it to theirs so they could increase their income. Others seemed to believe that our outreach was taking paying contacts away from them.

This is not a new issue. The Bible has many accounts of this same kind of attitude. Acts 8 tells about a man named Simon who believed that religion is a way to make money. He had used sorcery “and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that he was a great one” (Verse 9). When he saw the power of the apostles, he tried to buy it (verses 18-19). Peter told him, “Your money will perish with you because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” Acts 19:13-14 tells a fascinating story of the seven sons of Sceva who are called “vagabond Jewish exorcists.” They had a colossal failure when they tried to merchandise the religious tools of the apostles to help people who had serious problems.

There are con artists today who believe religion is a way to make money. I don’t know of any human enterprise where greed is not involved, including atheist and skeptic projects. However, for every religious con artist out there, there are hundreds of people who do their ministry with no pay at all. No one gets rich in running a food pantry or a day-care center or a prison ministry. For every TV evangelist making money, there are dozens of people supporting themselves with a secular job while using their resources to do what God has called them to do.

The passage in 1 Timothy 6 cited earlier ends with Paul saying: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And if we have food and shelter, let us be content with that. But they that want to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil: which some have coveted, erring from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (Verses 6-10).

Just for the record – your author does not receive a salary from this ministry and supports himself with his 41 years of teaching science in the South Bend Community Schools Corporation.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Philistine People and DNA

Philistine People and DNA
Ashkelon Archaeology Site

One of the main groups described in the Old Testament is the Philistine people. Genesis 10:14 tells us that the Philistines came from Casluhim, the son of Mizraim, the son of Ham. Abraham and Isaac had dealings with the Philistine king Abimelech and his general Phichol.

The Bible goes on to tell us that when the Israelites left Egypt, the Philistines had settled along the coast between Egypt and Gaza (Exodus 13:17-18). There they prevented the Israelites from moving through the area. There were many Philistine encounters after Israel had moved into the Promised Land. We are all familiar with the story of Samson and the Philistine temptress Delilah. David and the Philistine Goliath is also a familiar story. Skeptics throughout the years have tried to suggest that these are all myths and that such characters and peoples never existed.

Scientists recently found the remains of ten individuals buried at the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. Archaeogeneticists used the DNA to compile genetic evidence that supports the biblical account. Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute says that the genetic evidence indicates a seafaring population from southern Europe settled along the eastern Mediterranean coast and inhabited Ashkelon between 3400 and 3150 years ago.

The Philistine people certainly existed, and as scientists gather more evidence, their interactions with ancient Israel seem to be without question. Science continues to confirm the Bible in many ways.

Reference: Science News, August 3, 2019, page 16.

Nazca Lines and Birds

Nazca Lines and BirdsOne of the enduring UFO claims has been the massive drawings on Peru’s Nazca desert plateau. As far back as Eric Von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods in 1968, there have been those who claim that people on the Earth could not have made the drawings. They claim that the lines marked out landing strips for alien space crafts. It has been proven that people CAN, in fact, make huge drawings visible from space. However, there have not been good explanations as to what the Nazca drawings represent. Masaki Eda, a zooarchaeologist from Hokkaido University in Japan, seems to have found some clues in his recent study of the Nazca Lines and birds.

The large hummingbird drawing, which has been popularized, is an excellent portrayal of a bird known as the long-tailed hermit. Two other drawings that Eda has identified are a pelican and a guano bird. This doesn’t answer all of the mysteries of the Nazca lines, however, because those birds are rainforest or coastal birds, and the Nazca plateau is a desert. Social anthropologists studying the religions and myths of the people of the area may tell us more. There is still much to be learned about the Nazca lines and birds.

As we have emphasized before, the question of life in space is not a biblical issue and has no bearing on the scientific evidence for the existence of God. It is essential to realize that we live in a world that is as God describes it in the Bible, and He has given us the responsibility to care for it. Aliens are not our creators. The evidence does not support substituting UFOs or alien abduction theories for honoring God and living the life Christ calls us to live.
— John N. Clayton ©

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 Objections to God’s Existence

Theological Objections to GodMany times what we present in this daily column is a function of our mail and what we hear from you, our readers. In addition to believers with questions, we also hear from atheists and skeptics who have theological objections to God. They say they simply don’t like the God they read about in the Bible. Here is an example:

“How can I believe in a God who creates people against their will, doesn’t allow them the freedom to live as they wish, and condemns them to eternal hell when they don’t conform to his desires.”

This is a person who is willing to reject all evidence of God and deny any hope of life beyond our physical existence because of his interpretations of the Bible. This person’s theological objections to God amounts to what I call theological atheism. I would suggest that this person has misconceptions and misunderstandings. Let me highlight a few:

#1) This person is assuming that in a previous existence, people could have had a choice as to whether to be created or not. There is no evidence of a prior existence of any kind. Assuming people would prefer non-existence to life is an assumption that is poorly supported.

#2) Bible events that skeptics attribute to God are often actions of humans. The Bible is reporting the events that transpired, not what God desired to happen. God did not tell Joseph’s brothers to throw him into a pit and sell him as a slave. God used an evil action of men to accomplish good. Most of the Old Testament is a record of the events that happened, not what God caused or commanded to happen. Humans consistently do horrible, stupid, violent, abusive, sinful things by choice. The consequences of those bad choices are not the will of God. The Bible honestly reports what happened, and God’s ultimate response to the needs of humanity.

#3) God gives humans complete freedom. You are free to jump off a cliff any time you choose to do so. What God does not do is to step in and remove the consequences of whatever free choice you make. God doesn’t turn off gravity for you no matter who you are. Actions that you choose have consequences.

#4) Hell is not a torture chamber, and physical interpretations miss the mark. The passage that is misused by atheists and some Christians alike to support hell as a torture chamber is Luke 16:19-31. This is a parable in a series of parables with the name “Lazarus” literally meaning” without help.” We have discussed this previously. People who use hell to portray God as an evil demagogue who takes delight in seeing innocent people scream in agony for eternity misunderstand God, human nature, and what is intended by the descriptions of hell. Matthew 10:28 indicates that the soul can die, and that would mean that a person is put back into the non-existence from which they came. That doesn’t deny the judgment and punishment for those who reject God.

Theological objections to God’s existence are poorly thought out, and they are often based on bad theology. We will continue examining theological atheism tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Day Was Jesus Crucified?

What Day Was Jesus Crucified?We get questions from people challenging the accuracy of the Bible. One of those challenges is whether Jesus really rose from the grave in three days as Matthew 12:40 states. To answer that, we must ask, “What day was Jesus crucified?”

The problem people point to is that if Jesus died on Friday, the numbers don’t add up. We can solve that problem if we don’t assume that Jesus died on Friday. The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew “Shabbat” meaning to rest from labor. In addition to the seventh-day Sabbath, the Jews were commanded to observe a special Sabbath at the Passover. (See Leviticus 23:4-8 and Exodus 12:16.) Most people are familiar only with the seventh-day Sabbath, so people have assumed that this is the Sabbath associated with the death of Jesus. That would mean He was crucified on Friday.

John 19:31 tells us that the day after the crucifixion was a high Sabbath or special Sabbath. That would mean it was the Passover Sabbath. That Sabbath would have been observed on Friday followed by the seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday. That would indicate that Jesus was not crucified on Friday as generally assumed. He would have been crucified on Thursday. John 19:14 also supports the Thursday crucifixion by stating that it was the preparation day for the Passover.

There is a book titled Prelude to Glory written by Wayne D. Leeper which goes into this in much more detail. Not only does it deal with the question of what day was Jesus crucified, but it also explains many other details of the crucifixion and resurrection. You can borrow a copy from this ministry or purchase it HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019