Defining Death

Defining Death
The challenge of defining death continues to make front page news in the media.

The first weekend in May a story came out of a young man named Trenton McKinley in Mobile, Alabama who was crushed in an accident and showed no brain waves. Doctors told his parents he would not survive and suggested that they allow the doctors to harvest organs from their son to extend the lives of five other children. The day before the surgery to harvest the organs, Trenton regained consciousness and was able to talk with his parents. He is expected to recover.

At the same time in Liverpool, England, a 23-month-old boy named Alfie Evans died from a degenerative brain disease. The British courts would not allow the boy’s parents to take him to Italy for a treatment that the court thought would do no good. Several years ago an infant in London named Charlie Gard had a similar diagnosis, and the courts prevented the parents from taking their baby to the United States for treatment. Even Pope Francis got involved in the case of Alfie Evans, but to no avail. In England at least, defining death revolves around brain waves. The case of Trenton McKinley is going to bring new debate about the two cases in England where the courts overruled the parents.

Defining death has become a complicated issue. From a biblical standpoint, death is when the soul is separated from the body, and it is irreversible. The McKinley family is claiming that Trenton’s recovery is a miracle, but there are possible medical explanations for what happened. It is ironic that abortions are performed with no concern for the rights of the child, the parents, or someone else who might want to raise the child.

The Week published a survey of this question with references in the May 11, 2018, issue, page 14. It will be interesting to see if these cases bring any serious change in how the medical establishment deals with death, especially the death of a child.
–John N. Clayton

War Against Churches and Morals

War Against Churches and Morals
The Bible takes some strong stands on moral issues. That has led to a war against churches by those who reject biblical morals.

No one seems to be too upset with the Bible’s statements that murder is wrong until a church suggests that putting a baby to death simply because it has not been born yet is a form of murder. The Bible warns us about unhealthy lifestyle choices and tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:15-20). There are things God warns us not to do with our bodies including sexual activity outside of God’s plan for marriage. These things are the teachings of the New Testament. They are not forced on anyone, but they are taught as a moral framework that has generally worked in America since the founding of this country. Now churches are threatened with the governmental abolition of these practices and teachings. The government is banning speech which supports biblical morals with threats against the churches.

The website ChurchClarity.org publishes a database of churches which it believes have policies which “place restrictions on individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer.” The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ was censored by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission because the church did not allow members of the opposite sex to use their restrooms and showers. The Community Church in Laurel, Maryland purchased a property for $470,000. Because the city planner did not want a church there, the city changed the zoning code and told the church that they would be fined $250 a day if they used their building. This reminds us of an ongoing problem in Chicago where the city didn’t want any churches to build within the city limits. Their excuse was that it would take the property off the tax rolls, even though the buildings were in a slum and were falling apart.

ADF is an organization with a group of lawyers who fight these persecutions. They have managed to have some anti-church laws overturned, but this war against churches is just getting started. Congregations need to be aware of how to defend themselves against attacks from atheists and skeptics. There are resources available to assist those facing government persecution available through The Alliance Defending Freedom, 15100 N 90th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, Phone 800-835-5233, ADFLegal.org
–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.

America’s Founding Fathers and Christianity

America's Founding Fathers
There is a continuing effort by atheists and skeptics to claim that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written by men who were deists, agnostics, and atheists. The fact is that of the 54 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 29 were ordained ministers of established churches and most of the others were deeply religious men involved in the Christian faith. That was the character of America’s founding fathers. Those historical documents came from a Christian heritage based on three fundamental Christian values:

CHRISTIAN VALUE # 1 – The equality of all humanity before God. The Christian notion of equality says that people are equal because (1) God made humanity in His image. (2) He loved us enough to sacrifice His son for each of us. That is the basis of, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

CHRISTIAN VALUE # 2 – Human nature is evil. God holds mankind to a higher standard of goodness based on His law, and because of our fallen nature, we fail to reach this standard. The separation of powers and a system of checks and balances were written into the constitution to limit what the government can do and were written by men who knew the nature of humans.

CHRISTIAN VALUE # 3 – God was willing to sacrifice His Son giving each of us an opportunity for salvation. In America, each individual has the right to participate in electing our representatives. The Bill of Rights seeks to protect the rights of the individual. Only a high valuation of the individual could produce a society that granted all people regardless of race, gender, or social position, inalienable rights that no one, not even a king, could take away.

Today our culture attempts to denigrate Christianity, and society attempts to take away the rights that America’s founding fathers wrote into our historical documents. We must not allow the belief system of the founders of our country to be ignored.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
(This article was based on the writings of Dr. Andrew Stebbins published on Reasons to Believe’s Blog. You can read the article at reasons.org.)

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.

Human Vanity Causing Human Suffering

Human Vanity Causing Human Suffering
We probably get more email about the issue of human suffering, than any other single faith issue. Why does God allow the pain and the tragedies that all of us seem to encounter in life? We don’t pretend to have an answer to every case, but atheism offers no answer either. We have to consider how much of human suffering is caused by human vanity.

Perhaps the most difficult question is why an innocent baby should be born with a plethora of problems. As the parent of a child born with multiple birth defects, I have a personal struggle with this issue. Even though I have written a book about my son Timothy detailing our personal struggle, there are people who have far worse issues.

The big question for all of this discussion is, “What we can reasonably expect God to do?” The Bible tells us that God created humans in perfection. It was the deliberate rejection of God’s commands (sin) and selfish exploitation of the resources God gave us that have caused the problems. One area of our failure in today’s world is the chemicals we use to promote our physical appearance.

In 2017 a dozen health advocacy groups and individuals petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban lead acetate from hair dyes. Lead acetate is readily absorbed through the skin and is a neurotoxin. In 2011 the National Toxicology Program declared formaldehyde a human carcinogen. This and triclosan, phthalates, and parabens are still allowed in U.S. cosmetics even though they have all been linked to cancer, impaired reproductive ability, and compromised neurodevelopment in children. Cosmetics contain these chemicals in moisturizers, makeup, hair products, skin lighteners, and hand soaps.

The European Union has banned more than 1300 chemicals from personal health or cosmetic products, but little has been done elsewhere. Our vanity and emphasis on physical appearance contribute to the pain and suffering we experience. Add to that the war and violence that appalls most of us, and you have a huge percentage of the pain and suffering we see all around us.

Proverbs tells us “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30). In 1 Timothy 2:9 Paul says that women should “dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with prepared hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds…” The cost of human vanity is not just in dollars, but also in human suffering caused by the chemicals used to preserve and advance our physical appearance.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Scientific American, November 2017, page 10.

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Thomas Jefferson Quotes
I find it interesting to see the Thomas Jefferson Quotes that are carved into the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. We often hear that Jefferson was antagonistic toward religion and not a believer in God. Many today want to remind us of the statement Jefferson made in a letter where he referred to “a wall of separation between church and state.” They take it out of context as if those words were in the U.S. Constitution, which they are not.

To get an idea of where Jefferson stood in relation to God and the country he loved and helped to found, it helps to read his words that are carved into three panels on his memorial in the nations captital.

Panel One
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We…solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states…And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” – from The Declaration of Independence

Panel Two
“Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens…are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion…No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion…”

Panel Three
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever…”

To Summarize: 1-Our rights are given to us by God, not by government. 2-We should be free to openly profess our faith and argue for our faith. 3-We need to recognize God as the giver of liberty.

We agree with the Thomas Jefferson quotes.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
Find more information about Thomas Jefferson here.

Politically Correct Orthodoxy and Free Speech

Politically Correct Orthodoxy and Free Speech
A conflict arose at the University of Pennsylvania because of an article titled “Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.” It was written by Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego Law School. It ran up against politically correct orthodoxy.

The two professors presented a list of behavioral norms that they say were universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s. The norms were, “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

The professors maintained that these behavioral norms led to the prosperity of the 1950s and that abandoning them in the 1960s has led to the ills afflicting American society. These include: Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid use is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.”

As you might imagine, because of politically correct orthodoxy on campus there was a groundswell of opposition to the article. The authors are scholars with data to support their claims. The opposition has presented emotional rhetoric condemning the authors, not data that would invalidate their claims or provide an alternative solution to the problems. Problems cannot be resolved when no constructive debate about solutions is allowed. Wax wrote in a follow-up, “..academic institutions in general should also be places where people are free to think and reason about important questions that affect our society and our way of life–something not possible in today’s atmosphere of enforced orthodoxy.”

This is exactly what we face when we attempt to show people that the Christian system is the answer to many of our problems. In the atmosphere of pluralism and claims that there is no absolute truth, the data which support Christianity and show that it does work are not allowed. Enforced orthodoxy in our society says that you can’t teach or maintain a value that might offend someone. We really have no such thing as free speech, because the only voices that are allowed to be heard are those supporting politically correct orthodoxy. No one wants to hear, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6) or “All scripture is given by inspiration … that the man or woman of God may be perfect, completely furnished to everything” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Reference: Imprimis, “Are We Free to Discuss American’s Real Problems?” January 2018, Volume 47 #1.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Abortion Ban at 20 Weeks?

Abortion Ban at 20 Weeks?
The abortion battle continues with the “20-week abortion ban” being the present focus of pro-life advocates. Last October The House of Representatives approved a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, but the Senate has never taken it up. Seventeen states have already adopted 20 weeks as the cut off for an abortion. On Friday President Trump spoke to the marchers in the annual March for Life in Washington, and he called for the Senate to pass the bill and send it to his desk.

It seems that the 20-week ban which would allow abortions up to 20 weeks after conception is a compromise that many people are willing to accept. Promoters of the bill say that 60% of Americans are supportive of the 20-week cutoff. The reason for 20 weeks is that some data shows that “babies can feel pain in utero” at that time.

Everyone knows that this is a compromise, but it still has enormous problems. Determining when a baby feels pain is subjective at best. Outward signs of pain in the womb are difficult to detect and interpret. That statement that “babies feel pain” means that they are babies! The major question is when does a human become a human? Is it at 20 weeks? The fact is that the baby is still a baby at 19 weeks. It is not a cow or a pig or a fish; it is a baby.

Our culture cannot dance around the fact that when the sperm meets the egg and conception occurs it is a child at that point. We apparently are willing to practice infanticide, but we don’t want to call it that. Certainly, the earlier a pregnancy is terminated, the less traumatic it will be for the baby and the mother, but the fact is that it is still the destruction of a human life.

Let’s be honest and call it infanticide and work to prevent the conception by following God’s laws as to how we are to conduct ourselves morally. Where that fails, let us allow the child to live and give a parent like me the joy of raising the child. I have three adopted children, and I thank God that those three mothers had the courage, strength, and love for the child to allow my children to see life beyond birth and bless myself and my wife with the joy of raising them.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

UFO Claims and 22 Million Dollars

UFO Claims
The New York Times recently reported that the United States government between 2008 and 2011 spent 22 million dollars on a secretive program to investigate UFO claims. A collection of stories has now emerged concerning the results of the study. It includes:

Reports of pilots seeing strange aircraft that moved at great speeds and made 90 degree turns at full throttle.

Claims of government contractors constructing specially-modified storage buildings to house mysterious “metal alloys” recovered from UFOs.

A quote from the former director of the program saying “What was considered science fiction is now science fact.”

We have pointed out repeatedly that whether there is life in outer space is not an apologetic issue. God may have seen fit to create life elsewhere. Historically the UFO claims have been used by skeptics and opponents of Christianity in all kinds of ways to suggest that aliens are responsible for our existence and that we are just pawns in some alien chess match. The fact that this story is raised repeatedly in the media is a reflection of that way of thinking.

The fact is that the story of pilots seeing strange space vehicles originally occurred in the 1940s and has been shown to be reflections off the cockpit windows. I have a friend who works with government contracts to test new alloys and materials. All of their samples come from the Earth, and there are dozens of buildings built with government contracts to store all of the materials being tested. His favorite line is, “We have a solution, now we are looking for the problem for the solution to solve.”

We can’t blame aliens for the chaos that is in our world today, and we can’t look for aliens for solutions to our problems. Christ has the answers everyone is looking for, but He will not force solutions on us against our will. What Jesus calls us to do goes against our selfish desires. Wasting 22 million dollars on UFO claims is a reflection of the ignorance that permeates the governing agencies of our culture.
–John N. Clayton © 2018