Prosperity Gospel or Health and Wealth Gospel: Same Old Distortion

Prosperity Gospel
There is a new “gospel” out there called “The Health and Wealth Gospel.” In the past, this teaching was called the prosperity gospel. The message is that God wants to bless us in every way, including our material possessions. The religious leaders pushing this “gospel” promise that if you give your money and possessions to them and their organization, God will give you far more. Religious leaders justify enormous salaries by saying that God is rewarding their righteousness, faith, and spirituality by giving them physical wealth. They promise that members of their churches will also become rich if they give their money to the church.

The logic of the prosperity gospel is that God is good and that in His goodness He will bless His children with material blessings. Preachers of this doctrine say that God cares about the whole person and that He is faithful to His promises. They take Jeremiah 29:11-14 and especially Deuteronomy 8:6-18 out of context to show that God promises to multiply one’s gold and bless us materially if we are His children. They also use Matthew 6:33 to say that God will give material blessings to those who seek the kingdom.

The biblical error in this is that Deuteronomy and Jeremiah were not written to Christians. The Jeremiah passage refers to the Jews being released from Babylonian captivity. The Deuteronomy passage refers to taking over other people’s homes and lands which Christians are not commanded to do. These are Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel, and they have nothing to do with Christians today. The passage in Matthew 6:33 promises to provide basic needs–food, drink, and clothing–not luxury items. The emphasis of the passage is spiritual and not physical.

Jesus Christ did not enjoy the luxury items of His day. He and his apostles lived in austere conditions. Paul suffered beatings, imprisonment, and mistreatment from both the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Jesus warned His followers, “In this world you will have trouble.” Christ also warned about the dangers of riches. (See Luke 6:24; 8:14; 16:14-15; 18:24 etc.) The riches that Christianity promises are spiritual riches. God promises peace, love, eternal life, and the joy of learning both to love and to serve others.

Don’t go to Church or become a Christian to make money or become rich in material things. The prosperity gospel is nothing new, and it is a twenty-first-century example of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:6-7 where he was amazed that people could pervert the clear teachings of Christ.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Nudist Colony Mail Service

Nudist Colony Mail Service
There is a new twist to the question of whether an employee has to serve a customer in a way that violates the employee’s moral convictions. It involves nudist colony mail service at a resort in Florida. Leonard Rusin is a resident of Eden RV Resort, which is a nudist RV park. A package delivery had to be signed for by Rusin. That meant the mail carrier had to go to his RV. The postal employee marked the package “Undeliverable” rather than go into the nudist resort.

We have reported on other cases where business owners refused to violate their moral convictions, such as the cake decorator who would not create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. In this case, a government employee is involved. Mr. Rusin says, “I pay for a service, and I expect that service.” We can see a police officer having the same dilemma. The nudist colony residents maintain that the U.S. Postal Service is discriminating against them just because they don’t like to wear clothes. Nudist colony mail service is a relatively simple issue. As our society becomes more secular and vacates the principles of Jesus Christ, moral conflicts like this will grow in number and complexity.

When I talk to Christian young people about their dress and entertainment, I try to avoid absolute standards. I don’t set rules such as whether the skirt should be one inch or four inches below the knee. My argument is that if a man and a woman are both Christians, they are going to choose dress and entertainment by a standard that takes into account their faith and the needs, emotions, and sensitivities of the other person. The standard should be,“How will what I wear affect the person I am with, as well as others?”

Jesus has solutions to moral struggles. They involve a lack of selfishness and concern for the needs of others.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Original story in The Week, March 9, 2018, page 6.

Elder Fraud Schemes and “Psychics”

Elder Fraud Schemes
The United States Department of Justice has filed documents against a group of people who have conducted a scam that has taken $500 million from seniors using what is claimed to be “world-renowned psychics.” The scam involved a promise of the seniors winning money in a lottery and gave them various supernatural objects or personalized astrological services to achieve the predicted wealth. It seems that elder fraud schemes are showing up every day.

U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.” The most common scam is called “the grandparents’ scam.” The elderly person receives a call from someone who claims to be a grandchild. The fake grandchild claims to have been arrested on a traffic charge and needs bail money wired to them. A similar version is a call from a person who claims to be an IRS agent demanding immediate payment of a mythical tax obligation.

Skeptics accuse religion of being the source of the gullibility that seems to exist among seniors. There is literature from atheists claiming that Christianity makes people vulnerable to these scams. The truth is that the Bible has always opposed psychic claims and warned people about the severity of this kind of activity. The old law even prescribed death for those who practiced sorcery or mystic arts. (See Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, and 1 Samuel 15:23.)

In the New Testament, this kind of activity is listed along with murder, adultery, fornication, and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21). In Acts 8:9-20 Peter confronted Simon the sorcerer and told him to repent of his wickedness. In Acts 19:13-16 when “vagabond Jews” tried to use Christianity to promote their commercial exorcisms the result was disastrous.

Seniors should rely on Jesus Christ to express their spiritual needs, and on the Church to help them in their spiritual as well as their physical problems. In the Christian system, we help one another. If we are faithful in doing that, the elder fraud schemes will fail.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Christianity and Racism

Christianity and Racism
The April 2018 issue of National Geographic is a special issue on race. The history of Christianity and racism has been very bad, and that is unfortunate for many reasons. The most fundamental reason is that it contradicts everything the Bible teaches. The history of science has been just as bad as the Christian denominations in promoting racism and slavery.

Some have called Dr. Samuel George Morton “the father of racism” because he released studies of the skulls of various racial groups and related intelligence to brain size. Morton claimed that there were five races and that they varied in intelligence with Caucasians being the most intelligent, followed by Mongolians, southeast Asians, native Americans, and Ethiopians in that order. When Morton died in 1851, the Charleston Medical Journal praised him for “giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race.”

Such labeling and poor scientific reasoning contradict all the Bible says about humans. If we all came from Adam and Eve, then obviously we are all created in the image of God and are of equal value. The flood of Noah would have wiped out whatever major variations there might have been in human genes. The reason races exist is because God designed humans to live all over the Earth. Major racial criteria such as skin color, physical structure, and hair are features built into our DNA to allow for adaptation to climatic conditions.

The divisions of humans in the Old Testament were not due to physical differences. Joseph was an Israelite, but became a ruler in Egypt, as did Moses. The things that caused national divisions and conflict were over lifestyles, moral choices, and worship. The separation between the Jews and Samaritans is spelled out in John chapter 4. The Samaritan woman was amazed that Jesus would talk to her (see verse 9) and his disciples also were also amazed (see verse 27). The thing that separated the Jews and the Samaritans were the religious histories of the two cultures.

Christianity and racism should never be connected. The Christian perspective is that all humans are created in the image of God and have equal value. Acts 17:26 tells us that we are all “of one blood for to dwell in the face of the earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us, “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.” It is sad that people who claimed to be Christians rejected the clear biblical mandate that we are all equal in God’s sight.

Atheists and skeptics will use the National Geographic article to denigrate Christianity, but the fact is that Christianity contradicts racism. A Christian trying to follow God’s word cannot endorse everything that people claiming to be Christians have done in the past. Christ opposed human-created divisions and prayed that His followers would be united (John 17: 20-21). True Christianity and racism are not compatible.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

New Life Behavior Ministries

New Life Behavior Ministries
New Life Behavior Ministries is a project of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. For years we have worked with Buck Griffith and that ministry.

We refer prisoners completing our courses to them. Their team members visit the prisoners and provide personal needs and baptism if requested. We also refer prisoners with drug problems to their CASA study. CASA is an acronym for Christians Against Substance Abuse. This program has had a hugely beneficial effect on recidivism.

The New Life Behavior Ministries has begun a “Vet Net” program which offers special postage-paid courses (inside the United States) to veterans of all branches of the service and their family members–active or reserve. The top five courses in enrollment numbers are:
Christian Marriage Skills
Attitudes and Behaviors
Christians Against Substance Abuse
Managing My Anger
The “Seeker” Bible Study Series

We would like to make our readers aware of this great program, especially those working with military families. Contact information is:

Prison Ministry
3833 South Staples Suite S-101
Corpus Christi Tx 78411
Phone 361-855-3372 Fax 361-855-7469
email: nlbcasa@yahoo.com
Website: www.kingscrossingprisonministries.org.

The congregation is at:
Kings Crossing Prison Ministries
Kings Crossings Church of Christ
5901 Yorktown Boulevard
Corpus Christi, Texas 78414

Prison ministry is difficult work, but very important in today’s culture.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Alcohol and Dementia

Alcohol and Dementia
“Heavy drinking takes an irreversible, long-term toll on the brain, increasing the risk of all forms of dementia.” That is the conclusion of an exhaustive study of alcohol and dementia. The study involved more than a million adults diagnosed with dementia from 2008 to 2013.

Nearly 60% of early-onset dementia cases were associated with alcohol-related brain damage. Alcohol is toxic to brain cells and reduces blood flow to the brain. People who are intoxicated have literally poisoned themselves. The radical increase in dementia in many forms in our culture is a consequence of the persistent use of alcohol.

When you add the use of nicotine, meth, pot, and other recreational chemical agents to the effect of alcohol and dementia, it is clear that we have an epidemic of brain damage afflictions ahead of us. God has told us that our bodies are special. First Corinthians 3:16 tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God.” First Corinthians 6:15-20 warns against the incorrect use of our bodies. These words are not just about religious separation. God has designed our bodies and our brains for the long haul, and taking care of what God has given us is a sacred responsibility we all have.

Not all dementia is a product of individual abuse. We are realizing more and more that our abuse of the environment also brings us great pain of all kinds. The chemicals we get in our food and the polluted air we breathe are also factors. Christians should be leaders in taking care of what God has created. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We are the caretakers of the creation, and we have tended to exploit it rather than to take care of it. The consequences have been disastrous, and that must change.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from The Week, March 16, 2018, page 19.

Blessings from Natural Disaster

Blessings from Natural Disaster
Yesterday I began to tell about lessons from a flood. In February our area experienced what has been called a 500-year flood. We have lived in our home on the St. Joseph River for 20 years without a problem—until now. You can read more about it here. I want to continue to explain how it is possible to receive blessings from natural disaster.

Natural disasters are not an evil act of God. Skeptics often say something like, “How can you believe in a God who…?” They are demonstrating a failure to understand some key characteristics of God’s nature and how God functions. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” I personally have a hard time understanding man’s inhumanity to man. I will never understand the holocaust. I can’t comprehend the atrocities by ISIS that I have seen in recent years. These are not vindictive acts of God, but they are the evil actions of humans. What do we expect God to do? Should God strike every Hitler-like leader dead when they decide to do some evil act? Should He afflict every politician with a fatal disease when they vote for something that hurts innocent people? The history shown in the Bible is that God allows natural consequences to come about, but He does not threaten us with physical punishment as an immediate reaction.

We are learning more and more every day about the consequences of our own actions. Is the flooding I have suffered a result of human failure to take care of the “garden”- planet Earth (Genesis 2:15)? That is likely but unproven. The failure to follow God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused more suffering than any “natural disaster.” Abuse is not caused by God, but by humans who fail to follow the instructions of God in Ephesians 5:28-33.

What appears to be a disaster always has some beneficial aspects to it. For Christians, good always comes from these events. Romans 8:28 may be one of the most important passages in the New Testament–“For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” First of all, we are called to understand that God’s purposes are different from ours. Job and his friends struggled with this issue. Solomon tried everything and came to understand God’s purposes were what gave satisfaction and meaning to life (Ecclesiastes 1-5). One of our friends has a line on this. I call it “Ethyl Louise Knight’s gospel of life”–“If it isn’t of eternal significance, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Someone might ask, “Well what possible benefit could come from your 500-year flood?” The answer to that comes in many forms. A neighbor and I were looking at the river whizzing by our houses with uprooted trees, hundreds of Styrofoam cups, plastic wrappers, and tubs of all kinds and shapes carried to the next dam where they would accumulate. We have been working for years to clean up the trash in the river, and it will be gone with this flood. Remember that the Nile River flooding every year for centuries made Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world.

In addition to these physical blessings, there can be huge spiritual blessings from natural disaster. Our neighborhood has been drawn together on a spiritual level as we face the challenges of flooding. I celebrated my birthday on the day when the river reached its peak, and as friends and family made February 22 special, I was able to focus on what really matters in life. There truly are blessings from natual disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lessons from a Flood

Lessons from a Flood
As I write this, I am in a state of shock at what has happened to me during the past five days. Our home and main office are located on the banks of the St. Joseph River. The front door of the house is normally 20 feet above the surface of the river, and in the 20 years we have lived here, we have never had a problem with flooding. Many years ago we had water in our basement, but it was only 1 or 2 inches, and outside of wet rugs there was little damage. This time I have learned some lessons from a flood.

In early February of this year, we had some very heavy snow and the third week of February we had record rains as well as record warmth. The result of all that water was what is now being called a 500-year flood. My library, recording studio, fossil collection, and packing area are now full of water in spite of three new sump pumps operating at full capacity. It will take many months and some expense to get back to full operating capacity.

Our local television personalities have done a lot of hand-wringing, and I have heard more than one reporter say, “Why did God let this happen?” One religious writer proclaimed that the flooding of our area, which included a movie theater, was God’s retribution for the theater showing x-rated movies. Several years back there were those who explained flooding of the Mississippi River as God’s punishment for floating casinos on the river. Ridiculous as most of these claims are, there are some apologetic arguments and theological points that need to be understood.

God does not use natural disasters as disciplinary tools. There is a difference between physically afflicting someone and allowing the natural consequences of something to happen. When I was a child, my parents took me to the Indiana State Fair. I wanted a big cone of cotton candy, but my mother loudly told me I couldn’t have it. After a lot of whining and pouting, she finally said, “Ok, go get it but it will make you sick, and you’ll regret it.” I was allowed to suffer the consequences of my action, but I was not physically prevented from eating it.

In Deuteronomy 28, God does the same thing with the Israelites. In the first 14 verses, He tells Israel the blessings of living as God calls them to live. In the next 54 verses, God tells them of the consequences of rejecting His teachings. God doesn’t physically strike Israel, but He allows the natural result of human choices to happen.

There are more lessons from a flood, and I will continue my thoughts tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Sexual Child Predators

Sexual Child Predators
The lead article in the March 2018 issue of The Christian Chronicle is titled “Sexual Abuse Victims ‘Fed Up’ with Silence,” written by Bobby Ross. It tells the story of Jimmy Hinton whose father was a gospel preacher who was a sexual child predator at the same time that he was working for congregations of the Church of Christ.

When Jimmy discovered his father’s behavior, he reported it to authorities and his father is now in prison. Jimmy has taken his tragic experience and formed a ministry to help churches protect themselves from sexual child predators, and help victims recover from the abuse they have suffered.

Several years ago the “Does God Exist?” ministry became acquainted with Jimmy’s work because we encountered people who had been sexually abused by a person claiming to be religious. We saw how vital Jimmy’s work was, and we worked with him to make a DVD series for churches to use. The DVD series is titled “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” There are five sessions, and we included a teacher’s guide with the series.

This series can be borrowed free of charge from our ministry or purchased from us for $60.00 postpaid. It is not available on our video website. To borrow or purchase the series, please contact us. For questions Phone 269-687-9426 or email jncdge@aol.com. To order call 574-514-1400 or email marcusen@michiana.org. You can also write us at 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles, MI 49120. You can also obtain the series from jimmyhinton.org. Help us stop sexual child predators in the churches.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Down Syndrome Abortions

Down Syndrome Abortions
In February, Ohio governor John Kasich signed into law a measure relating to Down Syndrome abortions. Under the law, unborn children cannot be aborted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Ethics professor Peter Singer of Princeton University and other leading atheists have tried to make abortion mandatory for babies who are known to have congenital birth defects. The usual reasons for such actions are the cost factor, refusal of insurance coverage, and refusing admission to state-funded schools and care centers. All if this, in the view of some, makes financial sense for aborting.

As the parent of a child born with multiple birth defects including blindness, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation I can understand the emotional and financial stresses involved. More to the point is the fact that a Down Syndrome child is a human being with a spiritual makeup. In a time of great emphasis on the value of diversity, it seems odd that a state would need to enact such a law. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser says, “In a time of growing acceptance of human diversity and rejection of outdated biases against people with different abilities, such extreme intolerance stands out as a great injustice.”

Recently an abortion proponent suggested to me that autism should be eliminated by abortion, using the same argument as the proposal to have mandatory Down Syndrome abortions. The obvious implication of this is the “slippery slope” issue. Where do you stop? Racial and ethnic cleansing proponents can make the same argument.

The Christian view is that all humans are of equal value because we are created in the image of God. That means we treasure every life. We applaud the leadership in Ohio for their actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Citizen magazine, March 2018 page 9.