There is a constant flow of books, articles, television shows, and blogs dealing with the question of why God allows human suffering. All religions deal in one way or another with this issue, and atheists have attempted to dance around it by denial or avoidance.
We have suggested over the years that Christianity offers the only rational solution to the issue because:
1) The question is only for this life and in the context of eternity is of extremely short duration.
2) Suffering allows ministering to others that Christians are uniquely called to do.
3) To be human there has to be choice, otherwise love is impossible, and choices can have consequences.
Most logical people would agree that if you jump off a bridge, you can’t blame God when you hit the bottom. The fact is that massive amounts of human suffering are because we refuse to live as God calls us to and we do things that bring suffering upon ourselves. God doesn’t cause wars and human actions that cause droughts and famines. God also does not cause us to make bad choices that lead to our own suffering and the suffering of others.
Science News in their last issue for 2017 gave a summary of the latest data in four areas where human suffering is human-caused:
1) 13.4 million U.S. adults misused or abused opioids. (Data from 2015).
2) 19 children die or are medically treated for gun-inflicted wounds every day.
3) 9 million people died directly from pollution.
4) 46% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure largely due to poor diet and lack of exercise.
It isn’t 100% of the pain and suffering issue, but a vast percentage of the pain in this world we bring on ourselves. It is not caused by an angry or malicious god who likes to see us hurt.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
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
Those of us who had a college major or minor in psychology in the mid-twentieth-century received a heavy dose of “Freudian Theory” and Freudian ideas die hard. We learned that there are forces that explain human psychology called libido, destrudo, and thanatos which refer to sexual, aggressive, and death forces. I was an atheist when I was taking my psychology courses. Since Sigmund Freud was not only an atheist but also a promoter of drug dependence and sexual manipulation in psychological treatments, I swallowed his theories and promoted his views.
After I became a Christian, it was obvious that Freud’s treatments didn’t work. I saw modern psychology in the late twentieth century promoting ideas that were compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In recent years private letters Freud wrote to Martha Bernays, his fiancee, and research by Frederick Crews have shown the depravity of Freud. In Crew’s words, “…the product of a mind that conjoined illogical and bizarre ideas with misogyny, prurience, and cruelty.”
The problem is that Freudian ideas die hard. We still see his ideas and words used in discussions of psychological disorders. We have seen articles and letters containing Freudian ideas and vocabulary like dissociative reaction, conversion reaction, anxiety hysteria, conversion disorder, and somatization disorder.
Christian principles give the best foundation for psychological stability. However, the resistance to Christianity has made Freud’s ideas go on far longer than they should given Freud’s history and the lack of success of those who tried to use his methods.
Frederick Crews has written a new book titled Freud, the Making of an Illusion (Holt Metropolitan Books, New York © 2017). Crews documents falsified clinical observations by Freud and negative outcomes that were never revealed. Meanwhile, there has been a growth of Christian psychological services and programs that are benefiting many people, but Freudian ideas die hard.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
On November 21, The Washington Post reported on a 15-year study showing that there has been a dramatic increase in American girls harming themselves. Cutting, swallowing poisons and pills, and other forms of self-harm have increased 8.4% annually among middle-school girls between 2009 and 2015. Hospitals across the country provided the data for the study. The lead author suggests that suicide is linked to the same causes.
Our culture’s obsession with sex and the discarding of the purpose God has for sex and replacing it with struggles for power, popularity and social status has to be a major part of the problem. The authors blame cyberbullying, and smartphones, but also include social isolation in their list of causes. Society makes girls feel like they are objects and not special creations of God. The media tells them that their bodies are the focus and not the biblical concept of being created in God’s image. When nobody tells them that they have a purpose far beyond competing for physical beauty, their feeling of self-worth suffers.
Girls harming themselves is a product of our sex-saturated culture. We will continue to see social isolation and people struggling with feelings of poor self-worth as long as our society rejects God’s plan for family and the roles for men and women.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
The theme of the December 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is “Understanding and Helping Those with Alzheimer’s.” The American Scientific Affiliation is an organization made up of scientists holding advanced science degrees who are believers in Jesus. This issue brings up questions regarding Alzheimer’s disease and God.
The World Health Organization reports that there are 47.5 million people with dementia worldwide. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 70% of those. The WHO also tells us that 7.7 million new cases are added each year. The National Institute of Aging ranks Alzheimer’s as the third leading cause of death for older people–behind heart disease and cancer. There is still much that science does not understand about Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga writes that “dementia including Alzheimer’s may simply be the result of our brains living beyond what they were designed for.”
The question concerning Alzheimer’s disease and God becomes whether God’s design is flawed or whether Alzheimer’s is something humans have brought on themselves. First, we need to understand that there are two forms of Alzheimer’s. One occurs early in life and is called familial Alzheimer’s. It is a rare disease accounting for less than 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases. The more common late-onset Alzheimer’s is associated with a gene called apolipoprotein E which is involved in metabolizing fats in the body. Studies have linked diet and environmental contaminants to Alzheimer’s. It now appears that Alzheimer’s is not a single disorder, but that there are many forms with many different causes. Obviously, that makes identifying the specific cause and treating patients very difficult.
The bigger question is how we handle people with Alzheimer’s. One solution is euthanasia at early stages of the disease. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who developed a lethal injection system as a means for assisted suicide, promoted this view. The first patient he euthanized by his system was a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. Peter Singer, who is the head of the ethics department at Princeton University, has promoted this view on an academic level.
Because the American Scientific Affiliation is a Christian organization, the euthanasia alternative is dismissed by the magazine. Instead, it suggests ways that faith can help patients and caregivers deal with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
If your view of life is that it is all about “survival of the fittest,” then Alzheimer’s is simply a demonstration that the patient is not fit. That would suggest a treatment that concerns itself more with those who are fit and doesn’t address the quality of life objective that Christ would teach for the patient. For more about ASA go to their website. To see the issue on Alzheimer’s Disease and God click here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
The United States Supreme Court has accepted a case titled National Institute of Family and Life Advocates verses Becerra. The issue here is an unfair abortion law. California passed a law that makes it mandatory for pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion as a part of their services to clients. These centers will have to pay a $1500 fine to the state for every case where they don’t promote abortion as an option for pregnancy.
The obvious question that arises in this situation is whether abortion providers would have to provide information to clients that promote pro-life options. The answer to that is obviously “No.” Pro-abortion spokespersons claim that not providing pro-life options is part of their right to free speech. Should that not also be true of pro-life groups not having to provide information about abortion services?
The implications of this whole situation are huge. If a preacher gives a sermon condemning abortion, is he required to also give a sermon promoting abortion? Since the Church is tax-exempt that answer to that question would seem to be “Yes.” There have already been cases where the government has threatened churches that won’t allow a woman to preach or won’t allow a homosexual to be a minister with losing their tax exemption.
No matter what your view might be on these issues, it should be obvious that the most fundamental question that underlies all of this is whether we want to government to dictate our morals and control our speech. An unfair abortion law is telling pro-life clinics that their speech must promote abortion. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court handles this issues.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
There is new data on alcohol and cancer. Perhaps the most frequently asked question we get is why God allows a disease like cancer to exist. There are multiple answers to this question, and no one has all the answers.
My younger brother is battling cancer as I write this, and no answer that anyone could give will make his war with pain and potential death any easier. However, if we can back away from our own anxiety and frustration, there are some answers to the question of cancer. One major factor is what mankind has done to us and what we have done to ourselves. In my brother’s case, exposure to Agent Orange when he was in the military is a likely contributor if not the total cause.
A new study released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology gives some data on alcohol and cancer. There are connections between alcohol consumption and malignancies of the head, neck, breast, liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum. The data shows that drinking is responsible for 5.5% of all new cancers and nearly 6% of all cancer deaths worldwide.
Our bodies metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde which can cause mutations in DNA that lead to cancer. The lead author of the study, Dr. Noelle Lo Conte, says, “The message is if you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less.” “But if you don’t already drink, don’t start” she adds.
The word “intoxicate” has a simple meaning. When we take a poison (a toxic) into our bodies, we suffer the long-term effects of the poison. Most cancer is directly or indirectly related to what humans have done, and sometimes it is what we alone have done to ourselves. How can we blame God for what we have done?
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: The Week, November 24, 2017, page 19.
The Bible tells Christians that the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and warns us not to destroy it but to take care of it. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20.) It also tells us to live in such a way that those who know us and watch us are encouraged by our lifestyle and not offended by what we do. (See Romans 14:21.) Recreational drugs should not be part of a Christian’s lifestyle.
In spite of all the teachings and warnings, the Church has been very silent on the evils of recreational drugs while those drugs are doing massive damage. The numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2015 show that 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in the United States. Recent numbers from the Highway Loss Data Institute show that since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state auto insurance claims have increased 6% more than in neighboring states.
Can you imagine the response of the American public if an enemy managed to kill over 10,000 of our people every year? In spite of that, we see repeated attempts to justify the use of alcohol and recreational marijuana even in many discussions in the Church. This is the most destructive thing that has ever happened to Americans, and yet we are silent about its use.
God calls His people to avoid those things that would impair both our function and our example. We must not let our culture numb us into complacency about the destructive issue of recreational drugs.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
We have received several questions about whether Christians should practice drinking or eating blood, eating afterbirth, or injecting or eating animal hormones. This goes back to Genesis 9:3-4 where God told Noah not to eat blood, and the prohibition about eating blood continues throughout the Old Testament (See Leviticus 17:10-11). In the New Testament, we see a prohibition about eating blood in Acts 15:20-29.
There are two different things involved here. One is the question of religious significance, and the other is what is hygienically wise. In the Old Testament blood was a major part of the daily religious life of the Israelites. To offer blood as a sacrifice for sin was to “give up life” for sin, and thus eating blood was a form of idolatry. It was like saying that God was not needed as the life giver and that the eater had power over life. In Acts 15:20 the restriction of not eating blood was included with “abstaining from the pollution of idols” for the reason of the connection to idolatry.
The hygienic issue of eating blood should be obvious. Any disease an animal had could be passed on through the animal’s blood. The warning against eating a thing strangled (Leviticus 17:13-16 and Acts 15:20) was because the blood remains in the flesh instead of being drained out as in the practice of butchering. When Paul wrote to the Christians in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, he advised them when having a meal with an unbeliever, “…whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question.” But then he goes on to point out that Christians must be concerned about how their choices affect others.
In today’s world, we may have hygienic reasons for not eating something, but food prohibitions are not a part of the teachings of Jesus or His apostles.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Some are pushing e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. The facts don’t support that claim.
One of the major challenges that we all face is how we reconcile the fact of human suffering with the biblical concept of God. Atheists harp on the question of why God allows suffering, and why we were created in such a way that we have a huge list of diseases and maladies. We all have our “why me” moments as well, and many times we have to admit we don’t understand why certain things happen. Atheists have no alternative to offer, and “survival of the fittest” isn’t much help when you are not the fittest.
The issue is very complex, but a major part of the answer to the problems of human suffering is the fact that we do an incredible number of things to ourselves that result in massive suffering. Sometimes we do it in ignorance. A good example of this is the use of tobacco through the centuries. A hundred years ago we had no idea of how damaging cigarette smoking is. Today anyone who smokes is doing so in defiance of massive evidence that it will bring suffering to them and those around them.
In spite of what some are claiming, e-cigarettes are also terribly destructive to smokers. Chemists at the University of Connecticut have found that e-cigarettes cause damage to human DNA. e-cigarettes use an electrochemiluminescent (ECL) agent. The damage it causes to human DNA is as bad as unfiltered tobacco cigarettes. Non-nicotine e-cigarettes also do damage similar to tobacco cigarettes. The bottom line is that our lungs and our DNA were not designed to handle smoke, and the chemicals it contains.
Genetically caused or triggered diseases have increased enormously in the past fifty years. Some of the most insidious diseases are caused by man-made carcinogens. This isn’t the sole answer to the problem of human suffering, but it is a major factor. God does not cause this kind of problem, and our design is not at fault. The Bible says that our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and it warns us to take care of that temple. Contaminating it with chemicals that harm us and those around us is not a fault of our Creator.
Data from Discover Magazine. December 2017, page 14.
–John N. Clayton © 2017