Transactive Memory and the Bible

Transactive Memory and Couples
Many times a new concept appears in the scientific literature, and when we look at it, we see that it is something that the Bible has already described. A recent example of this is a concept given by social psychologist Daniel Wegner called transactive memory.

Transactive memory is defined as “a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information.” Wegner explains this concept in this way: “People in close relationships know many things about each other’s memories. One partner may not know where to find candles around the house, for instance, but may still be able to find them in a blackout by asking the other partner where the candles are. Each partner can enjoy the benefits of the pair’s memory by assuming responsibility for remembering just those items that fall clearly to him or to her and then by attending to the categories of knowledge encoded by the partner so that items within those categories can be retrieved from the partner when they are needed. Such knowledge of one another’s memory areas takes time and practice to develop, but the result is that close couples have an implicit structure to carrying out the pair’s memory tasks.”

Psychologists are using this concept to help people dealing with the death of a spouse. As a person who has gone through that experience, I can testify that when your wife of 49 years dies, a part of you seems to die too. Panic attacks after the death of a spouse are common, and that is when you suddenly are faced with having lost a large part of your memory.

Bible readers will recognize this “new” concept. In the Old Testament, a variety of transactive memory devices were commanded and put in place by God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 12, 20; Exodus 13:14; and Joshua 4:6 are all cases where devices such as writing history on door posts were given to help remember the past and teach children the value of a culture. The various feasts of Israel in Exodus 23:15-16 were transactive memory devices.

In the New Testament, the congregation was developed as a transactive device. Acts 2:41-47 shows transactive memory helping the first century Church. James 5:14-16 described congregational conduct in various circumstances in life. The Bible itself is a transactive device as it is described in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

One of the problems with megachurches is that much of the transactive memory value of the local congregation is lost. It is hard to pray for or to encourage someone you don’t know. Death is of little meaning if you don’t know the person. The congregational conduct discussed in Hebrews 10:22 is difficult in a huge congregation.

When Jesus prayed for unity, He gave us something that can sustain us in every stage of life and in every crisis. We defeat that blessing when we make entertainment the focus of our worship and when we don’t build relationships that allow transactive memory to function. Transactive memory may be new to the world of social psychology, but it is as old as the Bible itself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Cancer Curse and God

Cancer Curse and God
One of the most common catastrophic illnesses facing humans is cancer. If you live long enough, it is almost sure that you will experience cancer in yourself or a loved one. Atheists contend that there can’t be a God or He wouldn’t allow the cancer curse to become so common and cause so much suffering.

A study recently released by Johns Hopkins University found that 29% of cancer-causing mutations result from environmental factors such as Sun exposure or cigarette smoking and inherited genetic mutations cause 5%. The remaining 66%, according to the study, are completely random and are due to bad luck. The authors of the study say they wanted to offer comfort to people with cancer who were living a healthy lifestyle, by showing that it was not their fault they got cancer.

This type of study has many problems. First, it involved 32 cancer types and 69 countries. The sampling of the study would have been extremely difficult because cancer incidence in areas with large amounts of asbestos in the soil and bedrock would be different from areas with no asbestos. The effect of exposure to toxins in the environment would vary widely. The ages of the subjects are also important because part of the cancer problem is that more people are living long enough to get cancer. That was not the case even 100 years ago.

When God created the first humans, there was no cancer problem. The point is that God did not create cancer. Passages like Deuteronomy 28 tell us that rejecting God would result in God not withholding “curses” on humans. Verses 1-14 describe God’s protection from these things, but verses 15-68 describe the curses in detail. The Hebrew word for curse in these verses is arar which means to be completely without God’s help or blessing.

When humans reject God, we are left on our own to deal with the consequences. Galatians 6:7-8 talks about reaping what we sow. That principle applies to people or nations as well as individuals. James 1:13-17 describes God as a loving God who never gives us temptations of any kind, but rather brings good things. It also tells us that God does not vary or mislead in the way He deals with us.

We have contaminated our world with chemicals that we disposed of in irresponsible ways. We have contaminated our bodies with chemicals from recreational drugs, alcohol, and even prescription drugs. The result has been a cancer curse and many of the curses God warned of in Deuteronomy. We need to turn back to Him.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Issues

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Issues
The weekend issue of USA Today for August 25-27 made the problems of Catholic priests sexually abusing children the front page story. The article centered on recent cases in Guam, and made the statement that the continuing Catholic Church sexual abuse issues have “shattered faith.”

There are multiple things to consider in this tragic situation. Many of the people coming forward and making claims about abuse are relying on “repressed memories,” which is only marginally reliable at best. Also, large settlements publicized in the media have encouraged people to claim sexual abuse, which may or may not have happened.

The point that we would like to make is that this whole horrible issue has nothing to do with the existence of God or with the validity of Christianity. The New Testament clearly teaches the condemnation of sexual acts outside of marriage. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:1-11 make it clear that the sexual needs of men and women are to be met only in the sacrament of marriage. The man-made teaching that those who serve God as Church leaders should not be married and should be celibate is at least a part of what has led to Catholic Church sexual abuse issues.

First Timothy 4:1-3 predicts that human perversions of God’s design would take place. “In latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Speaking lies in hypocrisy: having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry …” The Bible never commands celibacy as a requirement of Church leadership. In fact, the qualifications of bishops given in 1 Timothy 3 require that they be “the husband of one wife (verse 2).

When humans add commands or requirements to what God has given and alter what Jesus taught, the result is always catastrophic. While this may “shatter faith” in human institutions, it should not “shatter faith” in either God or in His Word.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Political Issues as a Barrier

Political Issues
We get a lot of mail related to things that we express in our posts. In recent months some have wanted to know why we haven’t had any articles about the Supreme Court, the political parties, Donald Trump or about the political issues of our day.

Recently our good friend and brother in Christ David Thurman, had a beautifully crafted article in his periodical Gospel Minutes in which he said what we believe is true about how we should handle the political issues of our day. Here is his statement:

“When it comes to morality, God is our only authority. So whatever the Supreme court says about marriage is not relevant to our teaching and practice on the subject. We will still teach that marriage is between a man and a woman. Whatever our society says about sexuality, we will still contend that sex belongs in a monogamous, married relationship between a man and a woman. Whatever our society says about violence in the streets and black lives and police officers being targeted, we are going to contend that all violence is evil and has no place in our society.

“However, much of politics is not morality based. It is merely opinion. I have good friends who grew up in one political mind-set. They are polar opposites to my upbringing and current political views. Yet, we are brothers in Christ and love each other. I am not going to let his/her political view alter my more important relationship in Christ.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 14, ‘One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God, and he who eats not, for the Lord does not eat, and gives thanks to God’ (Romans 14:5-6). Substitute ‘political viewpoint’ for ‘day’ in these verses, and we get the point. One man’s opinion is between him and God. My opinion may differ, but that is between me and God. Each should be convinced before God that what he/she thinks is the right thing for us. That is, God should be involved in our political viewpoint. But, if another man reaches a different conclusion, that is between him and the Lord, not between him and me. Just as the ‘day’ should not be a barrier to fellowship, so politics should not be either.

So, include God in all aspects of your life, including your political thinking. But if another believer reaches a different political position based on his or her understanding of the Lord’s values, then let him or her have that conviction, and do not let politics become a barrier to unity and fellowship.”

Reference: David Thurman in Gospel Minutes February 24, 2017, page 4.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

New Life from an Old Source

New Life from and Old Source
My daughter and I were digging up potatoes in the garden. Most of the potatoes were pretty small, but we try to be sure we do not waste anything, so all of them were going in the bucket. Suddenly I heard, “Yuk, this isn’t a potato” and she reared back to pitch a tulip bulb she had dug up into the compost pile. I stopped her and said, “Hey, we want to plant that in the flower bed, and it will be beautiful by spring.” She looked at the dirty, shabby tulip bulb and said, “How can anything as pretty as a tulip come out of something as ugly, old, and beat up as this?”

The fact of the matter is that it is a basic design of the Creator that causes all kinds of beauty and new life to come from an old source that has been buried. These beautiful flowers all were dead looking ugly bulbs at one time. It is a design of nature that allows seeds to come out of a dying and rotten vegetable.

The same thing is true on a spiritual, psychological, and emotional level. A beautiful Christian life is only possible when the ugly old person of sin is buried. Those of us who have found ourselves deep in sin, fight a losing battle if we try to overcome that sin on our own. It is only when we bury that sinful, ugly old person that something beautiful can blossom and grow. That is why baptism is such a wonderful and beautiful act. Perhaps those who have grown up in the church cannot appreciate it as much as those of us who experienced total contamination by the world, but it is far from a meaningless or senseless act.

New life for old is a very good offer. Everything God tells us to do is logical, reasonable, and pregnant with meaning. Let us bury the old life of sin, come out of the waters of baptism a new person in a new relationship with God, and with a new capacity to change the world through the power God gives us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where Is God When Natural Disaster Strikes?

Where Is God?
Many times atheists and skeptics use natural disasters as proof that God doesn’t exist. The argument is that an almighty and loving God would not allow these things to happen, so therefore God doesn’t exist. That is a faulty argument that assumes we know more than an omniscient God could know. When faced with the current disaster of flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the United States Gulf Coast, even those who believe in God often ask, “Where is God?” They want to know why the God they believe in would allow such things to happen.

So where is God? Why doesn’t He do something about the suffering? God is there, and He is doing something. God is working through His people. We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When tragedy strikes, even those who don’t have a good relationship with God begin to show a little bit of that image as they reach out to help. Those of us who are Christians should be the most willing and eager to show God’s love. We not only bear the image of God, but we also remember what Jesus did and what He said about helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Rick Stedman posted an opinion essay on the Fox News website that answers the question about where is God when a natural disaster strikes. We recommend that you read it. We could not have said it better.

We also encourage you to help those in need in any way you can. If you can donate to help the flood victims in Texas and Louisiana, please do so. But make sure you are giving your support through a trustworthy organization. You want your money to go toward helping the people in need and churches and Christian relief funds are the best a doing that.

Where is God when natural disasters strike? He is working through His people who are demonstrating God’s love to those who need it the most. There is no better time for you to witness to those who need to know that God loves them.

If you have questions about why God allows pain and suffering, we invite you to visit our website www.whypain.org.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

The Wonder of Flowing Water

Flowing Water
There are many lessons for us in flowing water and its capacity to change everything that it touches. We live on the edge of the St. Joseph River in Michigan, and over the years we have seen the flowing water undercut huge trees and topple them into the river. We have seen banks erode and man-made things slide into the river. We have watched huge objects float down the river and get hung up on something. Then we have seen that over a period of months or even years the river works on the object and eventually carries it away. The patience and continuous action of flowing water can bring incredible change everything around it.

Human lives function in very much the same way. Many times we want to make changes in things in quick, easy ways. When we pray, we frequently want God to do things in a fast, easily recognized fashion. God usually works more like a river than like a bulldozer. God’s actions in our lives take time, and the things that we accomplish in our lives that have lasting effects usually take place over a long period. Quick fixes are not God’s methodology, and they cannot be ours in most cases. Marriage problems take time to solve. Children require patience and consistent love and direction to make the changes that will bring fruitful and happy lives. We have much to learn from flowing water.

A stagnant lake or pond can become depleted of oxygen, and things living in the water can die. In a stream or river, this never happens because as water falls and tumbles, it dissolves oxygen from the atmosphere. Stagnation is always bad for water, and it is bad for humans as well. We need to experience dynamic change in our lives. We cannot just sit still and wait for someone else or for God to solve our problems. In the Bible, God never acted to do something for people that the people could do for themselves. As the Jews made the Exodus out of Egypt, they did not see God act until they had gone as far as they could go. When the Egyptians were behind them and the Red Sea in front of them, they had exhausted all of their options. That was when God acted.

The same is true for us. God acts in our lives when we have done everything that we can do to solve our problems. We cannot sit on our hands and cry out to God and expect him to fix things with no effort on our part. Wonderful things happen when we are active in doing what God has told us to do. Sometimes people tell me that they are unhappy with their spiritual lives, have doubts, or lack faith. I ask them what they have done to allow themselves to be active and dynamic in making changes in life. Doing the work of the Lord not only brings good things to others but makes enormous changes in our own lives. Just like water, we need to be flowing with activity.

Flowing water also brings life to all that surrounds it. In our Grand Canyon trips, the river literally teams with plants and with animals that thrive on those plants. When there is a tumbling stream with waterfalls and rapids, there will be a variety of plant, animal, and bird life flourishing in the area. People are like that too. A person who withdraws and is not active can be very lonely. God instructs us to share with others, serve others, do good for others, and teach others. It is not just for their benefit, but also for ours. Like flowing water, we are bringing life to the world around us–spiritual life.

When Jesus came to the well in Samaria, he told the woman that he had water which, if one should drink it, he would never thirst again. Christ said, “But the water I give … becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life” (John 4:14, TLB). Water figured prominently in the teachings of Christ and what he calls us to do. Let us be encouraged and active in what we bring to a thirsty world.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Nursing and Christian Faith

Nursing and Christian Faith
To see what religion is true, look at what the system produces. Matthew 7 records the words of Christ, “Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit … therefore by their fruits you shall know them” (verses 17-20). One of the areas of evidence is in the field of medicine including nursing and Christian faith.

Someone sent us a section copied from a textbook for nursing students titled Fundamentals of Nursing, Human Health, and Function. The text was published by Lippincott, and the editors are Ruth Craven and Constance Hirnle. The book was from the Washington Hospital School of Nursing. We mention that to emphasize that this is not a religious publication, but a textbook used to teach nursing in one of the finest nursing programs in the country.

In Unit 2 of the book, there is a section titled “Highlights of the historical evolution of professional nursing.” This section traces how modern nursing came into existence. The history of nursing begins with the period up to A.D. 500. In those early centuries, the book says, “Christians working in close association with an organized church primarily provide care.” The book records a deaconess named Phoebe in A.D. 55 AD who identified the need for nurses and for hospitals to care for the sick. The first general hospital began in Rome in 380 AD founded by a Christian woman named Fabiola. The book then jumps to 1836 when a training school opened in Germany where Florence Nightingale was trained. Nightingale said she felt a “calling from God” and began a training school herself in London in conjunction with the Crimean war. She is known as the founder of modern nursing.

The book concludes “Men and women committed to the church spread the philosophy of Christianity while providing nursing care to the ill. Religion’s influence raised the social position of nursing by placing more value on human life. Compassion, charity, and willingness to serve were qualities associated with nurses. Deacons and deaconesses (individuals working for the church ministry) were designated to perform services for the sick. Deaconesses functioned as visiting nurses, dedicating their lives to charity work.”

Atheists like to portray Christianity as a cause of war and violence when in reality those things contradict what Jesus taught. Those who look at history without prejudice see Christianity bringing solutions to the world with peace, caring, and love. We see that in a special way through the connection between nursing and Christian faith.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Christianity and Violence

Christianity and Violence
If you watch program #7 in our video series, you will see a number of quotes by well-known atheists indicating why they reject the existence of God. One of the recurring statements is the claim that religion and religious warfare threaten to destroy all of humanity. They claim that religion is evil. They even equate Christianity and violence. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book with the subtitle How Religion Poisons Everything in which he blamed religions for violence and warfare, and he made no distinction for Christianity.

There is no question that war and violence have plagued the human race since the time of Adam, and many times religion has been at least a catalyst to the violence if not the cause of it. Unfortunately, there is much in the history of religion to connect it with violence. Atheists claim that a million people were murdered by the Catholic Church in the Crusades and the Inquisition.

The New Testament makes it clear that the followers of Jesus should be peacemakers. Matthew 5:25-48 and Romans 12:9-21 show that Jesus opposed war and violence. Passages like Ephesians 3:10-12 and 6:12 tell us that our real battle is spiritual warfare.

Would getting rid of religion eliminate violence? If somehow we could eliminate every religion, would we see peace and love and goodwill everywhere? John Lennon’s famous song Imagine had the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below us… nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” The song suggested that getting rid of religion would bring peace and harmony on Earth.

The truth is that the most violent and war-like leaders in history had no religious beliefs at all. Hitler murdered 190 million people. Stalin and Mao killed even more. Unbelief seems to be more dangerous than even the most violent of organized religions.

War has many causes, but political and economic power—not religion–are at the core of most wars. Christianity should never be the cause of war or violence. Christians may be involved as citizens according to the dictates of Romans 13, but you can’t read Matthew 5 and Romans 12 and attempt to equate Christianity and violence.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Torture and Truth

Torture and Truth
Torture Rack

We have written about “Truth” before, and our point has been that truth is never 100% sure when you deal with humans. When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), he was giving us the only thing we can fully trust, and that is God’s Word.

There is an interesting story from history about the Duke of Brunswick in Germany. In the early 1600s, he challenged the connection between torture and truth. He requested the assistance of two Jesuit scholars who had been using torture to extract information about witches. He had a confessed witch who was being stretched on a rack, and he invited the Jesuits to join him in watching her torture.

With the two Jesuits watching, the Duke said to the woman “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch. I suspect these two men (the Jesuits) of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack executioners.”

The woman cried, “No, no! You are quite right…They can turn themselves into goats, wolves, and other animals…Several witches have had children by them…The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” The Duke turned to the Jesuits and said, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”

One of the Jesuits she accused of being a warlock was Friedrich See who helped to end witch hunting by writing a book in 1631 titled Cautio Criminalis. The book demonstrated that torture was not a tool for obtaining useful information because humans will say anything to stop the pain. We have all seen children say preposterous things to get out of a jam, but adults do the same thing on a different level.

When Pilate questioned Jesus in John 18:37, Jesus said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” How Jesus lived and what He taught can be trusted because it is not of human origin. Over the centuries when people follow Christ’s teachings, their truthfulness has been demonstrated. Pilate’s response to Jesus was, “What is truth?” Soon after that, Pilate told the Jews he could find no fault in Jesus.

Torture and truth do not go together. Truth stands on its own. It cannot be manufactured or forced. People make false claims about Christianity, but just as Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, today no one can find fault in what Jesus taught or how He lived.
Reference: Scientific American, May 2017, page 77.

–John N. Clayton © 2017