The Weight of Christian Testimony

Christian Testimony

Christian testimony is very powerful. After I finished speaking in a recent lectureship, an atheist vociferously attacked Christianity. He said that in the twenty-first century Christianity is useless. He said it doesn’t help anyone, it creates conflict, and it wastes resources.

Before I could respond, a woman said to him, “Before my husband came to Christ he was a drunk, an abuser, and a terrible father. Since becoming a Christian, he has been a kind, loving father and husband because of his new relationship with Christ.” Before he could respond, a man standing behind him said, “I was an alcoholic for 26 years, and since becoming a Christian I have found the strength to free myself from this horrible drug.” Then a young woman said, “I grew up in an abusive home and abused my own children until I became a Christian and learned there was a better way.”

Then the man’s wife held him by the arms and looked into his face and said, “Why do you think I have stayed married to you through the affairs and the times you left me lonely and crying? I have told you that God wanted us to make this marriage work, and if it wasn’t for Christ, I wouldn’t still be here. I want to build our family according to the pattern the Bible gives us.” The man looked at me and said, “I have answers for what you said in your scientific lecture tonight, but I don’t have an answer for all of this.” He waved his arm at the people standing around him and walked away from me with his arm around his wife.

In 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 we read: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works.”

In Mark 5:1-20 we see the amazing story of a man who was mentally deranged until Jesus cured him. The man wanted to go with Jesus and leave the place where he was known for being a lunatic. Jesus told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” The man not only told his friends and family about what Christ had done for him, but he went to ten cities in the area and did the same. The next time Jesus came to that area, there was a crowd waiting to hear him because of the testimony of the cured man.

It is easy to find people who claim to be Christians who do nothing to change the world around them. There are also many who do make a difference by their Christian testimony. Even in our modern times, testimonies carry more weight for most people than any scientific evidence I can offer.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Archaeology and the Bible

Archaeology and the BibleArchaeological Excavation of a Synagogue in Israel

The May/June issue of Biblical Archaeological Review carried and article with the inflammatory title “Who Tells the Truth: The Bible or Archaeology” written by Dr. William G. Dever. The title is somewhat misleading, because Dever is actually a historical maximalist when it comes to bringing the archaeology and the Bible together. Dr. Dever is the Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and his proposal is that Biblical texts and archaeological data should be studied separately and then students should look for convergences.

There are two approaches to the relationship of archaeology and the Bible. In addition to the “maximalist” position there are also “minimalists.” Biblical minimalism is the view that assumes that archaeology and the Bible are necessarily in conflict because the biblical account is viewed as a myth. Minimalism is the approach of the “Jesus Seminar” group which says if a statement in the Bible is hard to believe or is a miracle, then it can be discarded. Archaeological minimalists assume that things like David and Goliath, Saul and David, Moses and the Exodus, David’s palace, and Solomon’s riches can’t be true and cannot be supported by archaeology. When a find is made that seems to support some of these biblical stories, that interpretation is automatically discarded.

The problem for biblical minimalists is that there is too much evidence that the Bible is true to reasonably discard it. Hershel Shanks, who is the editor of Biblical Archaeological Review wrote about this. The article he wrote was in the July/August 1997 issue titled “Face to Face: Biblical Minimalists Meet Their Challengers.” Christians do not need to be intimidated by claims made that archaeology discredits the Bible. Christians should follow 1 Peter 3:15 and know how to answer these claims. We would encourage our readers to read an article by Lydia Evdoxiadi Verniory that we published in our May/June 2010 issue page 15. Ms. Verniory is a practicing archaeologist and the article is titled “Noisy Books On The Historicity of the Bible–Take Them With A Grain of Salt.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Book of Enoch and the Bible

The Book of Enoch and The Bible

From time to time we get comments from students and skeptics about a reference in Jude 14 to a prophet named Enoch who is called “the seventh from Adam.” Genesis 5:18-24 tells us that Enoch walked with God and that God took him directly so that he didn’t die. Hebrews 11:5 makes a reference to that passage and explains that Enoch did not see death but God “translated” him. So did this great man of God write a book that should have been included in our Bibles but for some reason was not? Did Enoch reveal information that we need to hear and do not have available from any other source?

First, there is a document called The Book of Enoch, and there are 40 extant manuscripts in the Ethiopic language, and fragments of it in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. What Jude cites is factual, but some of the things in The Book of Enoch are bizarre.

Secondly, the fact that the Bible quotes a source doesn’t mean that source should be in the Bible. When Paul spoke on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), he made references to pagan writers who obviously would not be included in the biblical canon. Hebrews 11:35 refers to an account in 2 Maccabees 7 where a woman witnessed the martyrdom of her seven sons and then was killed rather than denying her faith.

Thirdly, the standards used to determine which books to include in the Bible excluded material like the book of Enoch. The methods used by the early Church to establish the biblical canon were solid in scholarship and technique. Those of us who know less and do not have the tools available to make such decisions have to trust the scholarship of those who had the knowledge and tools available.

We would recommend two sources for those of you who are interested in this subject. One is How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot published by Baker Books. The other is Douglas Jacoby’s website–douglasjacoby.com. Dr. Jacoby dealt with this subject in a posting that you can find here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mary Mother of Jesus and Choices

Mother and Son

Christians see Mary mother of Jesus as a woman who demonstrates what a mother should be. The angel told Mary, “Hail O favored one, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:30). Mary’s response was “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). That is an incredible response because it is so unselfish and full of faith.

Mary’s name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “bitter.” Indeed what Mary was about to endure in the culture of her day would be bitter. She was going to be pregnant with a child when she was not married. Her husband-to-be would be under pressure to break off their relationship. She would have no visible means of support. Jesus would be born as an illegitimate child and would have the scorn of those around him. People would ridicule Mary’s claim that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Even after Jesus was born, Mary’s life would not be easy. Shortly after the birth of the baby, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have to flee to Egypt. There she would experience a culture and a language she did not know. Joseph’s occupation was carpentry, which was not financially or socially prestigious. Matthew 13:55 shows the attitude of people to Joseph’s common trade and his family of four sons and more than one daughter, in addition to Jesus. Joseph apparently died before Jesus began his ministry and Jesus was required by law to care for his mother. At his crucifixion, Jesus turned Mary’s care over to his disciple John (John 19:26).

Portrayals of Mary by artists show her as a beautiful woman, but physical beauty is not the emphasis given to us in the Bible. Proverbs 31:30 tells us, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.” What we see in Mary is a spiritual woman whose first love is God. She was praised by Elizabeth saying, “Blessed are you for believing that the things that the Lord has said to you will be done” (Luke 1:45). Mary responded by saying, “My heart is overflowing with the praise of the Lord and my spirit has found joy in God for He has regarded the humble state of His bondslave” (Luke 1:46- 48).

Christianity has elevated all women, and the Bible portrays Mary as a woman who is everything God calls women to be. When Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:15 about women being saved through childbirth, he gave us a picture of a role that women can choose. Mary had the strength to accept and live that role. She did it by choice, not because she was forced to accept it. No man can ever have such an opportunity. The Bible makes it clear that Mary had a choice, and she chose well.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Human Body and the Christian

Human Body

One of the unique teachings of the Bible is that the human body is the temple of God. First Corinthians 3:16 says it clearly: “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?” This concept is repeated numerous times throughout the New Testament. The consequences of that belief are very significant. The next verse tells us: “If any man defiles the temple of God, he will be destroyed: for the temple of God is holy, and that temple is you.”

As Christians, we should treat our bodies with respect and care. Taking recreational drugs of any kind is an affront to that care. The consequences of taking alcohol, nicotine, meth, or crack into our bodies or abusing prescription drugs will ultimately destroy our health. The list of ailments from alcohol and nicotine is massive and growing.

In today’s world, many have been told that vaping involves no health risks. That is simply not true. It is true that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, but medical data is showing that the vapor from e-cigarettes reduces the body’s ability to heal wounds. Teens who vape can develop smoker’s cough and bloody sores. Chemical analysis shows that the vapors contain cancer-causing chemicals. A new vaping behavior called “dripping” intensifies the effects of vaping and increases the risks.

The human body is an amazing machine, but it is also more than that. God has called us to care for our bodies and to treat them as a sacred dwelling for His Spirit. Involvement in solving the problems facing humanity today is a better high than vaping can ever produce. We cause many of our physical problems by not caring for God’s Temple, and the teachings of Christ should lead us to correct that.
Reference: Science News May 13, 2017, page 5.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Asteroid 2015 BZ-509

Jupiter And Asteroids
Jupiter And Asteroids

A recently discovered asteroid is raising new questions. The cosmos is one of the great evidences for the existence of God. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.” Psalms 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…” We see a constant stream of new proposals year after year giving possible scenarios about how the solar system and Earth were produced. In the nearly 50 years that we have been writing, we have seen a dozen or so theories advanced and discarded because they couldn’t account for new observations.

This month Science News (May 13, 2017, page 5), carried a story about a strange asteroid. This will once again cause some rearranging of the current best guesses as to how the solar system and the Earth were formed. Research reported in Nature magazine (March 30, 2017) shows an asteroid that revolves around the Sun backwards, even though it is in Jupiter’s orbit. If you were to look at the solar system from the north star, you would notice that everything revolves around the Sun in a counterclockwise direction. Moons, asteroids, and planets are basically all in one plane and all moving the same way. Jupiter is the most massive planet in the solar system, and it has a multitude of rocks called asteroids that orbit around the Sun in the same direction. Now we have an asteroid that is in Jupiter’s orbit but revolves clockwise around the Sun.

If you think about that for a minute, you will see that it would logically follow that in the first orbit this asteroid would have slammed into Jupiter like a car driving the wrong way down a one-way street. In time at least, Jupiter should have sucked in this wayward hunk of rock. The orbit of asteroid 1015 BZ-509 is such that in one orbit it goes on one side of Jupiter and on the next orbit it goes on the other side of Jupiter, so the gravitational jerk of Jupiter is canceled out. Computer simulations show that this arrangement is permanent. It has been going on for a long time and will continue into the future.

We are not suggesting you invent a God to explain this oddity, but theories about the creation have to include anomalies like this one. Every day new observations are made, and on a regular basis they add to the complexity we see in the cosmos. The Creator had to know about, produce, and control all of these things for us to exist. For Bible students, these things do remind us of the truthfulness of Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained; what is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him…”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Freedom and Equal Rights

Elementary Classroom and Religious Freedom
The US Constitution guarantees religious freedom. At the same time, there have been constant attempts from a variety of sources to muzzle Christians and persecute those who openly profess their faith. Over and over we see Christians prevented from doing things that other religious groups or anti-religious groups are free to do. This can create a tendency for us to over-react when a problem arises.

The school board in Bartlett, Tennessee, shut down a Bible Club because of threats by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Bible Club was for first and second graders, and the stated purpose was to read the Bible and pray. When I was teaching at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, we had a Gospel Chorus made up of students that met in the school outside of class time. I was part of a before-school program where I presented my lectures to students who wished to hear them and discuss the content. When I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, we had mini-courses where for a week during homeroom, students could choose from a variety of activities. They could listen to my presentations in Christian apologetics, go swimming in the school pool, attend a class on ballroom dancing, play basketball, or attend a variety of other classes including a class on Islam taught by a Muslim cleric.

So what is the difference between all of these cases and what was going on in Bartlett? The chorus, the mini-courses, and the before school classes were all initiated by the students. Attendance was their choice, and their parents could come and sit in on what was taking place. In the Bartlett situation, the classes were set up and taught by adults. Students did not elect to participate in the Bible reading. The teacher decided that. Adults also would lead the prayer and decide its content. At Jackson High, the students could choose whether to participate. In Bartlett, pressure on children to participate was an inevitable consequence of the program. One wonders as to who was reading the Bible, what translation they were using, and who chose what part of the Bible to study.

Christians should stand up for our religious freedom, but that does not mean we have the right to force the Bible on first and second graders in the public schools. We need to be careful not to deny the rights of others in the process of standing up for our own rights.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Tomography Opens Old Biblical Documents

Leviticus and Tomography
Tomography is a way of imaging something in sections or “slices” without actually cutting it. It is often used in hospitals today in computed tomography (CT), also called “CAT scans.” Our most basic theme in this ministry is that science and faith support each other one-hundred percent. This scientific technique of tomography is going to provide a way of verifying biblical documents as never before. Dr. Brent Seales is using CT to “open” documents that could not previously be opened.

In 1970 a scroll was discovered at in an ancient synagogue in En-Gedi, Israel. The document was badly damaged when a fire destroyed the synagogue in the sixth century. The scroll was a lump so charred that it would crumble when touched. When Seales applied his analysis technique to the scroll without unrolling it or touching it in any way, it turned out to be two chapters from the book of Leviticus.

It will be exciting to see what can be found when other charred or brittle remains of documents from the past can be brought out using tomography for scholars can study them. Science is opening doors that were previously unavailable to us. Questions about the accuracy of our biblical texts can be answered. The future is very bright in the area of canonicity, knowing that we have the “right books” in our modern Bibles.
Data from Discover, June 2017, pages 12-13.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Paranormal Belief

Paranormal
The Bible has opposed the practice and belief in the paranormal from the very beginning of God’s establishment of Israel and continuing through the Christian teachings. Practicing the paranormal was considered so dangerous to humans that it was a capital offense in the Old Testament. (See Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, 2 Chronicles 33:6; 2 Kings 9:22; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; 1 Samuel 15:23 and Galatians 5:20.)

Someone said that when you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. That is certainly true of people in the United States today. A fund-raising letter mailed by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in April of 2017, gave the following statistics concerning Americans:

Believe that spirits can haunt buildings and places – 41.4%
Believe the living and the dead can communicate – 26.5%
Believe dreams foretell the future – 20.9%
Believe aliens visited Earth in the distant past – 20.3%
Believe aliens have visited in modern times – 18%
Believe astrologers, fortune tellers and psychics can foresee the future – 13.9%
Americans who believe Bigfoot is a real creature – 11.4 %

Christians who trust Christ and the promises of the Bible should be the least likely to buy into these scams. The world continues to search for answers to questions that can only be answered by faith in Jesus Christ. Programs 13 through 16 of the DOES GOD EXIST? series cover this topic. You can watch them online at doesgodexist.tv. We encourage you to take a look. The programs are free.
–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