South America Apologetic Outreach

South America Apologetic Outreach
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.

Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.

One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.

As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.

One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.

In both Ecuador and Colombia, we have seen the need for a South America apologetic outreach teaching people the evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. People did not want to hear about “church” because to them that was a rehash of Roman Catholicism. Pray for the people of that great country as they are hungry to know how they and their children could believe in God, and how they could bring God into their lives. We will share more of our experience in Colombia in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Bogota, Colombia–Faith Challenges

Bogota, Colombia
Bolivar Plaza, Bogota, Colombia

As you read this, your author is in Bogota, Colombia, South America, presenting lectures at a university and in town meetings.

What has happened in Colombia is going on in many areas of South America. For years the Roman Catholic Church has dominated the country, and recent moral problems with some priests and Catholic leaders have disillusioned many Colombians. The result is that belief in God has dropped considerably and Colombia’s health minister has announced he is an atheist and is vowing to implement legal abortion.

Atheists are bringing in atheistic professor Richard Dawkins to challenge the Catholic Church to debate in Bogota in December of this year. The Catholic Church has accepted the challenge and an ordained priest of 50 years experience named Gerardo Remolina will oppose Dawkins. Remolina has written a book titled God and Religion, Illusion or Reality. He is the vice-chancellor of Bogota’s Catholic Javeriana Pontifical University and is the academic dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Tickets for the debate have already gone on sale.

The atheists are also sponsoring a national essay contest in which students are being asked to watch the BBC documentary entitled Beautiful Minds and then write a five-page essay on Dawkins’ godless belief system. The top ten students will then be invited to travel to London to visit the Natural History Museum, with a tour guided by Dawkins himself. You can read more about the Dawkins challenge on ColombiaReports.com.

During our trip we are presenting programs on the existence of God in Chia, a northern suburb of Bogota, Colombia, on June 30 and July 1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

ACLU Attacks Christian Values

Protest ACLU Suit of Teachers for Praying
Protest ACLU Suit of Teachers for Praying

The stated purpose of the American Civil Liberties Union is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Founded in 1920, the ACLU was useful in racial conflicts and in situations where women were being abused. In recent years the leadership has veered off to become an atheist attack group. The ACLU has chosen almost exclusively to attack institutions and individuals attempting to have and promote moral values and individual rights compatible with Christian values.

In Missouri recently the ACLU settled with a school district that was attempting to put internet filtering software on their school computers to prevent children from accessing pornography. The school had to remove the filter. A major suit has been filed against Catholic hospital systems which do not want to participate in abortions.

Another situation involves Cynthia and Robert Gifford a couple who own a farm in New York called Liberty Ridge Farm. The Giffords host and coordinate weddings in their backyard. When they chose not to host a wedding they considered immoral; the ACLU sued them. The ACLU persuaded the New York State Division of Human Rights to fine the Giffords $10,000. It also ordered them and their employees to attend “re-education classes.”

The plaintiffs in these cases are defended by an organization called The Alliance Defending Freedom. There are many such cases listed on their website. If you are interested in this subject, you can find them at http://adflegal.org/.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheist Abuse and God

Atheist abuse of God

Christians have been amazed at the bigotry expressed not only toward individuals who publicly state that they are Christians, but the atheist abuse of God himself. One of the more vocal atheists in Ireland is the actor Stephen Fry. He made the news May 12 with an attack on God that was so vitriolic that even the politicians condemned his words. The Irish constitution bans blasphemy, and a law exists that protects religions from “abusive or insulting comments.”

Fry’s statement included the following: “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain.” Fry may have to pay a large financial penalty for the remark, which apparently exceeded the Irish view of what is decent and accepted. The statement is typical of those who have not investigated the evidence for the existence of God and have not considered answers to why injustice and pain exist. Atheists would like to blame all injustice and all pain on the God they don’t believe in. The truth is that injustice and pain exist in atheist states and in the lives of prominent atheists throughout history. The reality is that atheists have no answer for injustice and pain, while Christians do. The atheist abuse and anger has no justification.

If you have an interest in this subject, we would suggest you watch our video series lessons 11 and 12. You can watch them for free at www.doesgodexist.tv.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

What Is the Cause of Bad Things?

What is the Cause of Child Disability?
We receive some interesting comments about statements we make in our discussions of the creation of the universe. We have said that there was a beginning and that the beginning had a cause. So the question we pose is, “What is a reasonable cause?” The atheist will say that the cause was blind, mechanistic, opportunistic chance. We have quoted well-known atheists like Richard Dawkins who say that. (See Dawkin’s River Out of Eden, page 133.) We have said that the Christian view is that the cause was an Intelligence with a purpose. We have also said that the purpose and the design needed to accomplish the purpose can be seen all around us. (See Psalms 19:1 and Romans 1:18-22.)

Some of my skeptic friends have responded by saying that I have created a contradiction. As an example, consider what happens when the sperm meets the egg of a human in the process of conception. A large number of sperm cells are released, but only one cell fertilizes the egg. That sperm cell’s genetic makeup is involved in the child’s genes. If we say that this is not a chance process, we are saying that God has predestined the child to whatever deformity or genetic disease was present in the cell passed on by the father. Does God micromanage the situation so that the child would be deformed? We have stated many times that God does not bring bad things into our lives. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone.” God does not direct a sperm cell to the egg so that a genetic disease happens resulting in tragedy for the child and his family. That would be in violation of the notion that the bad things in our lives don’t come from God.

Here is an important point! God chooses to withhold what He CAN do to allow us to have free moral choice. We have an eternal purpose in the war between good and evil, and love is the key. Without the capacity to choose, love is impossible. God allows us to choose so that we can love others and also love God. There has to be choice.

We should ask, “What has happened in the past to produce a sperm cell that has in its genetic code a defect that will affect the child?” When God created humans, the human genome was perfect. Brother could marry sister, and there would be no genetic problem. The Bible does not even mention incest until well after the time of Adam and Eve. Humans have continued to contaminate themselves with chemicals of all kinds, with viruses and diseases by sexual relations with animals, and by a failure to follow God’s hygienic rules. The human genome became contaminated, and that affects us all today. We all carry genetic changes that can negatively affect our offspring. We make things worse when we don’t follow God’s rules for marriage and the expression of our sexual desires. God has told us that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Does God micromanage the distribution of sperm during sexual intercourse? No, that would violate the warning God made that there are consequences when we disobey God’s laws. God designed the system, but the process of fertilization is a product of chance.

Likewise, God doesn’t cause war, but because He created humans with free will, there is war. God gave us the guidelines and ability to have peace. Whether or not peace will happen is up to us. Chance occurrences such as weather and natural calamities can control the outcome of war–and peace. God does not micromanage those things, but they follow the laws that God established. God can choose to intervene, but when He does it is the exception, and we call it a miracle. God will not violate the purpose for which He created humans.

I am the father of a child born with severe disabilities. It doesn’t help my anger, frustration, heartbreak, or disillusionment to know this is the reality of my life. On the other hand, my former atheist convictions didn’t give me any answers at all. God does allow things to happen that we don’t like, but there is comfort in knowing that things will get better. My mentally challenged, blind son will say to me sometimes, “Dad I will really enjoy being able to see when I get to heaven. I can’t imagine how good that will be.” I can look at my personality and attitude and see that I am a different man than I would have been had I not gone through this ordeal. I know that “All things work for the good of them that love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). At the same time, we must realize that things happen that are not God’s will–or ours.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Einstein TV Series

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
One of the major weaknesses of our culture is the obsession we seem to have with celebrities. People who are gifted in one area of life seem to be looked on as experts in all areas of life. Often the celebrity is happy to use their notoriety to promote a cause or to oppose something. A classic example is Richard Dawkins, who is a famous biologist and is gifted in his scientific expertise. Unfortunately, he is incredibly ignorant about the Bible and spiritual matters, but he is regarded as an authority by many people, especially those looking for a way to deny the existence of God.

National Geographic is now running a ten-episode series on Albert Einstein titled “Genius.” There is no question that Einstein was a gifted scientist in areas related to physics and cosmology. Science has been changed in many ways by the work of Einstein, and no one should denigrate his scientific contributions. However, Einstein’s education, morals, and early life were not exemplary. His views on sex and marriage are similar to much of what is being taught in our secular world today and are a recipe for disaster. His political and ethical activities were not what contribute to a world order that is positive. The series will undoubtedly get a lot of attention and probably win some awards, but not much of Einstein’s life is a good model for young people to follow.

If you watch the series, we encourage you to be aware of the real Einstein as a person, while appreciating his gift as a scientific mind. There are two books that are worth reading if you are interested in Einstein. One is Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson. The other is Ideas and Opinions, published by Crown Publishing and written by Einstein himself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Bystander Effect and Christians

No More Bystanding
No More Bystanding
Several years ago there was an incident in which a young woman on a New York street was attacked, beaten, and eventually killed by a young man while over 100 people stood around and watched. No one came to the young woman’s aid, and there have been similar incidents in other places in the United States. Psychologists have labeled this the “bystander effect.” There have been numerous studies done to answer the question of why this happens. Our culture seems to fear involvement, and the “lawyer effect” where people are afraid they will get sued or hurt is only part of the issue. Thanks to cell phones we now can assume that everyone can call for whatever help they need, and our view of others is becoming an isolationist view.

If your religious view is “survival of the fittest,” then anyone who needs help is simply not fit and endangering your fitness by helping them is not going to happen. When I was an atheist, I would be likely to stop and help a woman who was having car trouble, but my motives were less than altruistic. I would be very unlikely to help a man in the same situation. Not all atheists are so selfishly guided, but the logic of atheistic beliefs would deny endangering oneself to benefit another. Some religions would push a person to help others of the same faith, but people of a different faith are considered to be enemies and would not be helped. The “golden rule” is recognized by almost everyone as a nice philosophy, but the bystander effect seems to be more widely practiced in today’s world.

In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, the bystanders were the people most qualified to give aid. The twist is that the outcast Samaritan, rejected by the people to whom Jesus was speaking, refused to be a bystander and give aid to the wounded man. The first century Church stood out in the society in which it functioned by responding to the needs of everyone in Jerusalem (Acts 3-5). Throughout the New Testament, we see the emphasis on doing good to everyone.

How do we as individuals take the “bystander effect” out of our thinking? I would suggest that we need to spend some time looking at what Jesus taught, and how the early Church responded to the culture of the day. When you read James 5, you get the picture of Christians not only addressing the physical needs of those around them but also being a part of the emotional and spiritual struggles of daily living as well. The entire “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) moves us to think differently by allowing God’s Word to permeate our hearts. Second Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that Scripture has value in molding and shaping our attitudes and thoughts. We can be the light of the world that Jesus talks about. The people of Jesus’ day were astonished at his doctrine. Our world today will also be astonished when Christians live as God calls us to live. The deeper our world sinks into secularism and selfish bystander non-involvement, the brighter the Christian light will become.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

How Many Extinct Species?

Fossils
Fossils
Atheists often challenge us with the widely quoted statistic that “95 to 99 percent of all creatures that have ever lived are now extinct.” Their argument is that if there were a wise God who created life, he would have done a better job. The skeptics are assuming that they know the purpose for which a wise God would have created those life-forms. Perhaps the extinct species had a purpose of preparing the Earth for humans, and they went extinct because they had served their purpose. But I am assuming that humans are the pinnacle and ultimate purpose of God’s creation. Atheists reject that idea. One of our skeptical followers recently posted a comment referring to “the virus called man,” as if humans are a blight on an otherwise good world.

Another possibility is that perhaps the statistic of extinct species is highly exaggerated. Since the life-forms that have gone extinct are no longer around, how do scientists determine how many species have gone extinct since life began? The number of fossils of extinct species we have actually found is estimated to be about 250,000. So we have direct evidence of a quarter of a million extinct species. According to National Geographic (May 2014), there are at least 1.9 million animal species today and at least 450,000 plant species. If it’s true that 95 percent of the animal species have gone extinct and there are 1.9 million living today, that means that over 36 million have gone extinct. If we have fossils of only 250,000 extinct species (plants and animals) how do we know that there were 36 million others for which we have no evidence? According to National Geographic (May 2014), Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, and his colleagues “reviewed data from fossil records and noted when species disappeared, then used statistical modeling to fill in holes in the record.” In other words, they are filling in the “holes” or “missing links” in the evolutionary record to determine how many other species must have existed that disappeared without a trace.

The questions we might want to ask are, “Why do we have fossils of only 250,000 species out of 36,000,000? Why are we assuming that 36,000,000 species have gone extinct based on the evidence of fossils totaling less than seven-tenths of one percent of that number?” The answer to those questions is apparently the fact that naturalistic evolution from single-celled life to humans requires us to make that assumption. Perhaps this gives us something to ponder.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Cubit Pi Silliness

Pi
Pi
There is no limit to the extremes that skeptics will go trying to find mistakes in the Bible. One recent case we were informed about was an atheist claim that the Bible was full of mathematical mistakes and impossibilities indicating the primitive nature and lack of knowledge of the authors. The case used was 1 Kings 7:23-26 and 2 Chronicles 4:2,5 where a laver is described, and numbers are given for its dimensions. The Bible says that the circumference of the round laver was 30 cubits and that the diameter was 10 cubits from rim to rim. The formula for the circumference of a circle is pi (3.14) times the diameter, so in this case it would be 31.14 cubits, not 30. A Hebrew cubit was 17.5 inches, a Babylonian cubit was 19.8 inches, and an Egyptian cubit was 20.63 inches, so this seems to be about a 19-inch mistake.

One might suggest that the rounding of numbers is the issue here since ancient measuring devices didn’t measure to two decimal places. But there is another interesting possibility. The ten cubits is measured rim to rim which would mean that the outside circumference was 31.4 cubits. However, if 30 cubits is the inside circumference of the laver, that would make the inside diameter 9.55 cubits. Subtracting 9.55 cubits from 10 would leave a difference of .45 cubits. So the thickness of the walls of the laver would be one-half of .45 cubits or .225 cubits (about 3.8 inches). First Kings 7:26 and 2 Chronicles 4:5 states that the walls of the laver were a “handbreadth” in thickness. Excavations of artifacts from ancient times frequently find lavers with that thickness, so the numbers are totally reasonable.

This is just another example of how desperate skeptics are to discard God and His Word. First Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for our faith, but some questions seem too silly to dignify by attempting an answer. This may be one of those questions, but we have an answer anyway.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Picking and Choosing Einstein

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
As an old physics teacher, I find it interesting to watch people on both sides of the argument about the existence of God pick and choose various parts of Einstein’s work to support their positions. Recently I had an atheist and a Christian dispensationalist both use Einstein’s time dilation equation to support their position. That equation says that your time in motion is determined by your time at rest divided by the square root of one minus your velocity (v) squared divided by the speed of light (c) squared.

This formula indicates that the higher the velocity of motion, the smaller the value of the denominator of that equation becomes. Therefore, time expands. This is a fact. Neutrons in nuclear accelerators might live 18 minutes at rest before decaying into protons and electrons. When accelerated to 80% of the speed of light, they last much longer before decaying.

My atheist friend maintains that since the cosmos is accelerating in its expansion, it will eventually reach the speed of light and time will stop. He then proposes that time will reverse since the value of the denominator in Einstein’s equation would become negative. He then suggests that this process will be repeated in an eternal universe. Therefore, no beginning and no God.

My dispensationalist friend is one of several authors who propose that the universe started out expanding at a much higher velocity with time passing at a different rate than we experience today. This would mean that the evidence for the cosmos being very old is an illusion. In the beginning, time passed more slowly because of the much higher velocity of expansion. Since we move more slowly today, time is passing faster. Therefore, the universe is much younger than it would appear.

Both of these proposals are made to support a personal religious opinion. Both of them are ignoring much of Einstein’s work. When the neutron referred to earlier is accelerated to 80% of the speed of light, not only does its time frame change but its mass changes too. Another one of Einstein’s equations looks just like the time equation but deals with mass. The change in the mass of a particle is equal to its mass at rest divided by the square root of one minus its velocity squared divided by the speed of light squared.

Experimentally this calculation works and can be verified. Perhaps the most well-known equation of Issac Newton is F = MA. This tells us that the force (F) needed to accelerate a mass (M) is equal to its mass multiplied by the acceleration (A). We all know from experience that the greater the mass of an object, the harder it is to speed it up when we push it, and the faster we want it to go the harder we have to push. If the mass increases as you get near the speed of light, what happens to the force you have to exert? Obviously, It increases too. At the speed of light, you would have infinite mass, and it would take an infinite force to move it.

Another fascinating equation from Einstein is that the length of an object changes as it approaches the speed of light. In the reverse of the change in time and mass, the length contracts as the object gets closer the speed of light. At the speed of light, the length would be zero, and the object would cease to exist.

These are simplifications of Einstein’s work, but the point is that relativistic effects cannot be picked and chosen while ignoring other effects. God created the cosmos with certain constants and relationships. These choices allow us to exist, but they also put a limit on what is possible. We struggle to comprehend all that is involved in the simple phrase, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017