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

Black Holes and God

Black Holes and God
We get a significant number of emails and letters from people who have doubts. The doubts are not just about the existence of God and our claim that the Bible is the Word of God. People also have doubts about the scientific material in our presentations and literature. We have often referred to black holes and their implications for creation and the ultimate end of time. Just as some people reject the idea that there is a God, some also don’t believe in black holes. Black holes and God have many things in common.

Both black holes and God are unseen, mysterious, and frighteningly powerful to the degree that makes some people very uncomfortable. The result is that people attempt to deny the reality of black holes just as atheists try to deny the existence of God. We are seeing literature which claims that scientists are faking black holes and they don’t really exist. The “Does God Exist? Program deals with evidence. There are several lines of evidence that God exists. The evidence for God includes:

1) The creation of space/time and matter/energy from non-physical origins.
2) The cosmological fine-tuning that allows stable matter to exist.
3) Design features in life-forms that preclude chance as a causal agent.
4) The existence of human consciousness and spirituality.
5) Human morality
6) The resurrection of Jesus Christ

In the same way, black holes have several lines of evidence to support their existence:

1) Mathematical arguments such as the solutions to Einstein’s general relativity field equations.
2) The observed behavior of stars and gases around invisible points in space.
3) Explosive multi-band emission from quasars.
4) X-ray and radio emission from galaxy centers.
5) X-ray binaries.
6) Gravitational lensing.

In an excellent article on the American Scientific Affiliation website, Sarah Salviander makes this comment concerning the skepticism about black holes and God:

“The forces at work in the rejection of black holes are also at work when people declare themselves to be skeptical of God’s existence…God is even more of a disruption to the materialistic worldview than black holes. A belief in God demands thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that some non-believers find distressing, perhaps because this group tends to be composed of people who seem to want to set themselves up as minor gods of their own universes.”

You can read the entire article HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Is Hell?

What Is Hell?What is hell, and why does God threaten to send us there? For the past two days, we have been looking at the challenges of this email we received:
“How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

The emailer’s understanding of hell is traditional, not biblical. No one can answer all the questions about hell with authority, because no one has been there and returned to tell about it. Works like Dante’s Inferno have influenced us. Preachers who have used hell as a scare tactic to control their audiences. Misconceptions abound.

So what is hell? We tend to portray hell as a place of eternal punishing rather than a place of eternal punishment. There is a difference. When Jesus talked about hell, He used clearly symbolic words. He spoke of hell as a place of flames and burning sulfur (brimstone). Another time he called it a place of darkness (see Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Sometimes we hear hell explained by the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus. The description of hell is presumed to be taken as literal. However, no Christian sees it as an instruction to pray to Abraham or that Abraham is the judge. Those things are presented in the story.

What we can say about hell is that it is total separation from God. An atheist who never wanted anything to do with God in life is going to be granted that same wish in hell. God never forces himself on any person. We are always free to reject God if we so choose. The only problem is that we must also suffer the consequences of that rejection of God. God is love, light, good, compassion, justice, etc. All of those things will be a part of heaven. None of those things will exist in hell. Being lost is frequently described in the Bible as “the second death” (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Theologians argue endlessly over what this means, and whether the soul can die. I certainly have nothing to add to the discussion, but I know that being separated from God and all the blessings of God is not something I wish even to consider.

The emailer states everything in diametric opposition to the truth. God is good, not evil. God is love, not hate. Hell is simply the separation from God that the emailer claims to desire. God clearly says that He does not want anyone to be lost, but for all to inherit eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). However, God also allows us to reject Him and all He offers. This is like the parent who painfully releases a child to travel a road the parent wishes they would not travel, hoping they will learn from the wrong choices and return to the parent’s loving embrace. The Prodigal Son story in Luke 15 makes this so obvious that no one can miss it.

Our rejection is not what God desires, and He always is there to welcome us back. What is hell? Our wrong choices can bring us death and eternal separation from God. That is hell, and you do not want any part of it. Come to God, obey His love and blessings. Enjoy eternal life with love, peace, joy, compassion, forgiveness, and freedom from pain that we can only dimly imagine.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

-May/June 2006