America’s Music and Immorality

America's Music
Recent studies on the direction and content of America’s music have shown something that is not surprising. Billboard.com showed some data about the content of songs since 1960. While songs mentioning love in the lyrics have remained fairly constant between 1960 and 2015, the number of songs that specifically mention sex has grown from fewer than 100 to over 1000. The percentage of top ten billboard songs that are about sex today is 92%. Of the 174 songs making it to the top ten, 161 contained lyrics about sex.

The lesson of history is that when a culture loses its moral compass, and no fixed standard of moral behavior is accepted by the general population, the society collapses. Authors who have studied the collapse of the Roman Empire have shown the close correlation between morality and survival. Our ministry attempts to get people to look at evidence that there is a God, and not just scientific evidence. There is also evidence that the teachings of Jesus Christ give us a system that works and ensures the best of life for all of its followers. As America has moved from a Christian nation to a nation where Christians are a minority, the chaos and violence have grown.

What we listen to in music reflects our priorities. America’s music tells us much about where we are as a nation. What we watch on TV, in the movies, and on the stage not only influences what we believe and accept, but what we value. Jesus taught love, unity, peace, and service to one another. Do we really want to live in a society where sex dominates not only advertising and music, but also what is presented to our young people as the objective for their lives? Read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 again, and think about the implications of not following the teachings of Jesus.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Antichrist: Who Is It?

Antichrist?
We continue to get mail from dispensationalists who have two grievances. First, they have a denominational conflict with anyone who doesn’t believe the Bible teaches that the Earth is 6000 years old. Secondly, they continually attach the name Antichrist to anyone whom they feel is leading us into a physical war with political forces of today.

We are reading an excellent book by F. Lagard Smith titled After Life. (We will review it in the fourth quarter issue of our printed journal.) Smith has the best and most concise explanation of the fallacy of Dispensationalism we have seen. The following is an excellent footnote on Antichrist on page 263 of his book:

“’Antichrist’ is the definitive word describing any evil person. In the New Testament, the word itself is mentioned only five times, all in four verses of John’s epistles (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). A quick review of those verses will show that no single person–past, present, or future–is referred to as the Antichrist. In speaking of the ‘antichrists,’ John is specifically addressing a doctrinal error in his own day in which some were denying the fleshly humanity of Christ. It was thus that they were anti-Christs–those who were against Christ. Who were the ‘many antichrists’ (plural)? ‘They went out from us (meaning they had been counted among the Christians).’ Who did John call liars? ‘It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son.’ When will he come? ‘This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.’ John describes these first-century Gnostic-thinking former believers as ‘liars,’ ‘false prophets,’ ‘deceivers,’ and ‘antichrists.’ Call the beast in Revelation ‘the Beast,’ if you wish, but John’s Revelation knows nothing of a powerful ‘Antichrist’ who is supposedly coming during the Tribulation.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gravitational Glue

Carousel and Gravitational Glue
As scientists study the motions of things in space, a great mystery continues to grow. The fact that everything spins at very fast rates allows stability in the cosmos. Galaxies, which are island universes containing billions of stars, spin fast enough that they don’t collapse into their cores and yet they don’t fly apart. Scientists call the force that makes this possible “gravitational glue.”

If you were sitting on a carousel horse and spinning at ten rotations per second, there is no way you could hang on. You would be thrown off the carousel. Galaxies spin so fast they should fly apart, but they don’t. Attempts to explain the glue that holds them together have included exoplanets, galactic gas clouds, and black holes–all of which we can’t see. The problem is that they are all too weak to do the job.

Adding to the mystery, we see light bending as it travels through space and we call that “gravitational lensing.” There is not enough visible mass in the cosmos to bend the light as much as we observe. Massive filaments of gas connect groups of galaxies, and they are controlled by something invisible.

There are two proposals of subatomic particles that could be the cause of these mysteries. One is WIMPS, which we have discussed previously. WIMPS is an acronym for “Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.” These particles would have to be heavier than protons and neutrons. The other proposal is Axions. They would be “ghost particles” that have a low mass but are super-abundant. So far all attempts to detect either of these possible explanations have failed. To find the answer will require a very complicated detection system.

This is just one more example of why the creation of the cosmos cannot be explained by naturalistic chance. The complexity of such simple things as having a planet in a solar system within a galaxy defies any chance explanation. This complex system can better be explained by God designing from a dimension far beyond the four dimensions we see. Proverbs 8:22-32, authored by Wisdom, suggests the wisdom in the design of the universe.

The gravitational glue that holds everything together is just another wonderful creation of God that allows us to exist.
Data from: Discover Magazine July/August 2017, page76.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Racism Exhibit at Musee de l’Homme

Racism Must End
A new exhibit has opened at the Musee de l’Homme (French for “Museum of Man”) in Paris. The exhibit is titled “Us and Them” and attempts to explore the science of racism and prejudice. It’s an interactive exhibit that invites visitors to test their own prejudices. Visitors are asked to choose who they would sit next to in an airport lounge using different words to give the options. The exhibit presents the history of racism and the genetic, biological data showing there is no scientific justification for racism.

With the influx of refugees into Europe and immigration in the United States, this is an important issue. The exhibit is needed because all prejudice is the product of ignorance. The only system on planet Earth that is truly void of racial prejudice is Christianity. However, that is not what history shows. People have done horrible racial violence using the name of Christianity including the Ku Klux Klan, the Crusades, slavery, and the persecution of racial minorities in the United States throughout our history.

Racism contradicts the very heart of Christianity, but Christians have failed to live up to their own standards. Atheists continue to use this fact as a means of denigrating Christianity. I remember when I was a very young child and my father wakened me from sleep one night when we lived in Talladega, Alabama. He dragged me to the front window of our house which was on the campus of Talladega State Teacher’s College–an all-black college at that time. He pointed to a burning cross in our front yard. My father was one of two white professors at the school, and as he pointed to the cross, my atheist father said to me, “See, son, that is what Christians do.”

Jesus worked to break down hatred and prejudice of all kinds. In chapter four of John’s gospel, Jesus spent a great deal of time with a person who represented the classic example of racial prejudice. The person he spoke with was a Samaritan. Verse 9 is careful to point out that the prejudice against Samaritans was so intense that “no dealings were allowed with them.” In addition to that, the person was a woman. The Samaritan woman said, “How is it that you, a Jew, are asking me a woman…” In verse 27 the disciples “marveled that he talked with a woman.” There are many other incidents where Jesus broke down religious, sexual, and ethnic prejudice and addressed the needs of people–even if they were Romans or Gentiles.

The first century Church was made up of a mixture of people. In Galatians 3:28 Paul concludes a part of his message in which he condemns the recipients of his letter because they have “perverted the gospel of Christ” by allowing the prejudices and legalism of Judaism to re-enter the Church. His conclusion is that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Christians have missed a wonderful opportunity to be shining lights in the world when they have failed to accept the example and teaching of Jesus. Racism and prejudice have raised their ugly heads again and again. Let us not make the same mistake in the twenty-first century.
Reference: Science News, May 27, 2017, page 28.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Physician-Assisted Suicide and the Christian

Contemplating Physician-Assisted Suicide
One of the new problems people face today is the question of what to do when you have a painful terminal illness. Improved medical treatments have allowed us to live longer with diseases that previously would have ended life. This has led to increased interest in physician-assisted suicide.

As I write this, I am dealing with my younger brother facing the end of life due to a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The disease has changed him from an active, in control, retired military officer to a man confined to a wheelchair, in great pain, and unable to care for himself. He and I have talked about physician-assisted suicide a number of times. Each time we do, the discussion gets more difficult.

Christianity Today (April 2017, page 18) reported that Lifeway Research found that 38% of the American public believes that physician-assisted suicide is morally acceptable when facing a painful terminal illness. Their study shows that 42% agree that physicians should be allowed to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives. Those numbers have been climbing, and they will continue to do so.

It is easy to give simplistic condemnations of those who choose to end their lives in this way. When we are in the situation, it becomes much more challenging. For the Christian, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Do we have any right to end the body’s life? Is a body racked with pain and twisted with a horrible disease a fit place for God’s Spirit? What effect does ending one’s life have on the loved ones? Is there ever a time when a person cannot minister to others even as they battle a horrible disease? These are all hard questions to answer.

It is obvious that our society is moving toward the time when euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide will be widely available. That is already the case in the Netherlands, and several states have passed laws allowing it. While the atheist may feel that human life should be treated like all other kinds of life, the Christian has a higher view of human life. This makes the decision more difficult when the end of life comes, but it also mitigates many of the fears and concerns that death brings. Life isn’t easy, and the end of life can be the most difficult. We need to study and pray together and support one another in these end-of-life issues.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Outside of Time and Space

A view outside of time and space
As physicists and astronomers gather more data on the nature of the cosmos, the more they realize one important thing. They realize that the cosmos came into being by agencies outside of time and space.

Einstein’s famous concept of gravity and mass as depressions in the fabric of space/time assumes that the view is being made by an observer outside of space/time. There is a famous illustration which shows a bowling ball and a soccer ball sitting on a mattress. The bowling ball makes a bigger dent in the mattress than the soccer ball does. Its mass is the explanation of the deeper impression than the soccer ball. All of that can only be seen by an observer looking at the mattress from a position outside of the frame of reference of the mattress.

In the mathematics of quantum mechanics and string theory, the equations suggest more than the traditional four dimensions of X, Y, Z, and time. In string theory, the equations suggest eleven spacial dimensions. This is another interesting agreement between science and faith. God is described throughout the Bible as existing in a higher dimension than X, Y, Z, and time. In Acts 17: 23-28 Paul talks about “the unknown God” and portrays the real God as one “in whom we live and move and have our being.”

Science and the Bible agree that there are more dimensions than three spacial dimensions and time. All evidence says that the creation process involved an entity or entities in higher dimensions than X, Y, Z, and time. Time and space could only be created by an entity outside of time and space. The disagreement is whether that entity is personal or impersonal. The properties of a personal creator would involve purpose, beauty, design, intelligence, and order. The properties of an entity that is not personal would have no purpose, would be totally chance-driven, would show no design, and would have no reason for beauty.

A cosmos created by that which is in a higher dimension gives another strong evidence for the existence of God. We were created with a sense of and need for purpose, beauty, color, and design. Our very being reflects that creation in glowing terms. We are not androids or robots. We are creatures created in the image of the Creator who has a love for those beings that reflect His nature.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Apologetics Course Has 3700 Students

Apologetics Course
We now have 3700 students taking our Christian apologetics course. We began that ministry in 1960 working with prisoners in Indiana. We wrote a three lesson apologetics course because a large percentage of the incarcerated people we talked to had lost or were struggling with their faith.

That basic correspondence course kept growing, being updated and revised to the point where we now have 13 lessons. John Clayton grades all of the courses, but we prepared a teacher’s guide for use in Bible school classes and youth programs. We quickly found that the course was too basic for many of our prisoner students, so we began a 13 lesson college-level course. We have offered that course for 20 years, and it is also on our website (doesgodexist.org).

We offer students who complete either one or both of our apologetics courses nine other courses that are Bible-study programs taught by other teachers. There are also contact opportunities with congregations geographically close to the students. All of these courses are free and postage-paid both ways.

We no longer offer the basic course online because of hacking issues, but we will mail it to anyone requesting to be enrolled. You can take the course online by simply opening the question sheet for each lesson, copying and pasting the answers, and emailing them to John Clayton. Details are on the website. Whether online or by mail, our courses are always free of charge.

We send a completion certificate to those students who finish either apologetics course. We will also send a copy of our primary book The Source to those completing the advanced course and requesting it.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Should Christians Use Cremation?

Should Christians Use Cremation?
We have been asked, “Should Christians use cremation?” I have had to study this question for personal reasons. I have left instructions with my wife and children about what I want done with what is left of my body when I die. My desire is to have my body cremated. I can’t see any reason to go to the expense and trouble of putting my physical shell in the ground with a stone above it. It uses enormous amounts of money which my family can put to a better use.

In a very short time, that grave site will be forgotten. My parent’s burial site is in Bloomington, Indiana, and their three sons no longer live there. I believe I am the only family member that has ever visited it since they died. I wanted to see if it had been maintained–which it had not.

So should Christians use cremation? From a religious standpoint, I can find nothing in the Bible which suggests cremation is displeasing to God. The body is dust to dust, and the speed with which we return to the dust from which we came is not a biblical issue. Some people die by being burned to death involuntarily (1 Corinthians 13:3; Hebrews 11:34).

In 1 Corinthians 15:42-57 there is a lengthy discussion of the body in death. Verse 44 tells us that there is a separation between the natural body and the spiritual. It says that the spiritual will be raised incorruptible and that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (verse 50). We will be changed, and all that is wrong with this body will be gone.

God’s Spirit dwells within us as long as we are alive (1 Corinthians 3:16), but that Spirit will not stay in a dead body. Cremation may not be aesthetically appealing to everyone, but Jesus is concerned with what we do with our bodies when we are alive, not how we dispose of the dust from which we came when we die.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Memorial Day Remembering

Memorial Day Remembering
God has always called us to pay attention to what has happened in the past. It is important for all of us to spend some time remembering how we got where we are. In the United States, we pause on the last Monday in May for Memorial Day remembering the sacrifices that others have made so that we can be free.

The celebration of this day began right after the American Civil War when people realized the carnage and sacrifice that had taken place. In the past, we put great emphasis on remembering the blessings that loved ones gave us by their sacrifice in wars with foreign powers. We visit graves and decorate them to emphasize that remembrance. In recent years, our secular society has drifted away from that emphasis. There has been a reduction in parades and services and an increase in recreational events. Instead of a time for remembering, Memorial Day has become a commercial promotion of the beginning of the summer season.

In the Old Testament, a great many holidays, feasts, and celebrations called ancient Israel to remember their blessings. As the New Testament came into existence, there was a whole new system of emphasis on remembering. God’s relationship was no longer with one nation and one system of living. Jesus called all nations to unity and oneness. Paul stated it this way: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).

The importance of remembering the basis of our freedom and our oneness was not lost when Jesus established the Lord’s Supper recorded in Matthew 26:26-29. The purpose was to establish a continuing memorial. Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. He quoted Jesus as saying, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”

The change in Americans and their Memorial Day remembering should remind us of how easy it is to forget the blessings we have and to take them for granted. It is important for Americans to remember the past and to be thankful for those who died to make freedom possible. For Christians, it is important to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made to free us from sin. It reminds us that Christ gives us peace and confidence as we face the trials of life.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Underwater Bees

Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Those of us who live many miles from the ocean may not think about what goes on under the water. Similar to the land, there is an enormous diversity of plants in the sea. Just like land plants, ocean plants have flowers and pollinate and reproduce. Seagrass grows on the floor of the ocean and provides habitat for sea turtles, manatees, and many other marine animals. There are some 60 species of seagrass, and those grasses bloom and release pollen. Like land plants, seagrasses need something like the bees that help pollinate land plants. So are there underwater bees?

Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have reported that hundreds of crustaceans and other small insect-like animals visit plants and bring pollen with them. These invertebrates are the “underwater bees.” Along with ocean currents, they allow ocean vegetation to flourish.

As scientists study ways in which carbon can be locked up to avoid high concentrations in our atmosphere, they find that the ocean is a major factor in avoiding runaway greenhouse heating of the earth. Life in the oceans is essential to life on land.

Here is another design feature of this planet which is critical to the long-term existence of life on Earth. In the 1950s, scientists thought that there were maybe five or six factors which would be critical to the existence of life. The famous Drake Equation of how many planets could have life on them only considered five factors in its original format. Now we know there are a huge number of things that have to be “right” to allow life to exist.

Every time we find a new variable, the odds against life occurring by chance on planet Earth become greater. God’s wisdom and design can be seen everywhere around us. Truly, “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017