Returning from the Dead

Returning from the Dead
Throughout human history there have been bizarre stories of people returning from the dead. Whether it is zombies or ghosts or a person who miraculously returns from the dead, the stories fascinate people, and frequently they become enlarged and expanded with each telling.

In our day people have written books claiming that a person returned from the dead. Kevin Malarkey wrote a best seller about his son Alex who was involved in a car crash in 2004. He claimed that Alex died and went to heaven and met Jesus Christ. Alex, who was left paralyzed by the accident, is now suing the publisher for damages over the book. Alex says his story was totally fabricated by his father and that money made by the selling the book was not shared with Alex. The lawsuit demands that Alex’s name be “completely disassociated from the book.” You can read more about it HERE.

We suggest that all claims made in recent times about someone returning from the dead should be treated with extreme skepticism. What about the biblical claims? In 1 Samuel 28:7-25 we read of Saul going to the witch of Endor who “had a familiar spirit” to ask her to bring Samuel back from the dead. The woman who appears to be running a séance scam. When she performs her ritual she is shocked that Samuel actually shows up. Verse 12 tells us that “When the woman saw Samuel she screamed in a loud voice.” It appears she didn’t expect her seance to actually work, and she is terrified when it does. This seems to be a unique act of a miraculous nature.

There are also biblical cases where someone was brought back to life such as Lazarus in John 11:30-45. The resurrection of Lazarus was so that the followers of Jesus would “see the glory of God” (John 11:40) and believe that Jesus was sent by God. The miracle of the resurrection of Christ is presented as a fact of history. It was a miracle in the most graphic way that Jesus was who He claimed to be. We don’t explain miracles. You either accept the fact that they happened, or you reject them.

In today’s world any claim of returning from the dead would not serve the purpose of the biblical miracles. Hebrews 9:27 tells us “.. it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” All of us will die physically, and returning from the dead is not an option. We should be concerned that we not die spiritually.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Flat Earth Believers Are Resilient

Flat Earth Believers
Most of our readers seem to be pretty well convinced that the Earth is round. When I mention flat Earth believers, I get mail indicating that most of our readers believe that the flat Earth subject is a joke. Most of our readers also believe that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around. As an earth science teacher in the public schools for 41 years, my students did simple lab exercises to show that the Earth orbits the Sun. However, these simple facts seem to have escaped significant numbers of people in our twenty-first century world as you can see by a web search for flat Earth believers.

The Does God Exist? ministry was founded on the belief that good science and good biblical study produce a conclusion that science and faith support each other. The problem is that there is a great deal of bad science and biblical misunderstanding out there, and the web has made it available to large numbers of people. People ascribe many beliefs to the Bible that are not actually in the Bible. Also, many scientists have allowed their anti-religious antagonism to cause them to see science and faith as enemies.

The answer to the science-faith conflict is education. We need people with a scientific understanding to clarify what science actually says when it appears to conflict with faith. We also need people with some biblical understanding to present what the Bible actually says, not what denominational views teach.

We do not claim to understand all of science or all that the Bible says. However, we have attempted to put together a team of workers who have some training and understanding. We hope to provide educational information that will reduce the hostility in the minds of those willing to look at the evidence. The Sun does not orbit the Earth. The Earth is not flat. The Earth is not 6,000 years old. The climate is changing, but humans are not the sole cause of this change, and climatic cycles have occurred throughout history. Furthermore, the Bible cannot be used to disprove any of these statements. Ignorance dies hard, and instilled beliefs are resilient. Join us as we investigate, explore, and learn together.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

#MeToo Impacting Society

#MeToo Impacting Society
One of the most powerful secular movements in America today is the #MeToo movement. For many people, this movement is merely a response to sexual predation, harassment, and bias. It that were all, it would be positive. We need to consider, “How is #MeToo impacting society in other areas?”

The #MeToo movement demands that gender and race quotas should be enforced in all areas of culture and economic endeavor. The impact on fashion design, the Oscars, the Golden Globe awards, the Grammys, and a wide range of industrial and journalism corporations has filled the news media in recent months. Stanford and UCLA have “diversity deans” to make sure that gender and racial compositions are balanced. Google fired James Damore for suggesting that a lack of balance between groups was due to career predilections. They accused Damore of “using harmful gender stereotypes that put Google’s female employees at risk of unspecified trauma.”

The truth is that there are roles that favor one gender or the other. To suggest that everyone is of equal ability in every discipline and subject is just not true, and anyone who has worked with the general public knows it. Most men do poorly working in a daycare. That’s not true of all men, but to force a daycare to have equal numbers of males and females is ludicrous.

Religious groups that follow the Bible carefully are going to be impacted by #MeToo. The Bible assigns the role of leadership of the church to the male gender. Not everyone agrees with the passages that talk about this such as 1 Timothy 2:11-3:5 and Titus 1 & 2. However, requiring churches to have women fill the role of 50% of their pulpit ministers would force many churches to close their doors and meet clandestinely.

There is an excellent article on #MeToo impacting society by Heather McDonald in the April issue of Imprimis magazine published by Hillsdale College. You can read it HERE.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Christian Vision of Sexuality

Christian Vision of Sexuality
Now and then we find a statement by an author that we think is so good that we need to promote it. Todd Wilson in a new hook titled Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality has such a statement:

“We’ve turned sex into something far less powerful and profound than what it really is. As a culture, we’re quickly growing bored with sex, even as we’re gorging ourselves on it. Something has gone ludicrously wrong. We believe sex is only for marriage, not because Christians are killjoys, but because we have a realistic and exalted view of the power of sex. Sex isn’t a toy or a plaything; it’s a sacred and sovereign power. When something is powerful–think of a downed power line or a loaded gun–you aren’t careless when you handle it. You understand that it can kill or harm you if you aren’t careful. Sex is a powerful creative gift, something God gives us for good purposes. But if we misuse it and are careless, it can profoundly harm us.”

One of the problems is that our culture has zoomed in on the physical, mechanical aspects of sex, and not the love and oneness that God created sexual expression to be. The lessons of how humans have contaminated one of God’s most beautiful creations fill the pages of the Bible. In the Christian vision of sexuality, we have no excuse for pornography or sex outside of a committed marriage relationship. We have no tolerance for unwanted sexual advances and actions by anyone, including political figures. The fact that there is no excuse doesn’t change the fact that there will always be those who will place their lust above God’s plans for us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Human History in DNA

Human History in DNA
In the last decade, geneticists have learned how to decode DNA in ancient human remains. We can now begin to see human history in DNA. The media has saturated us with the theory that humans originated in Africa and migrated from there to the rest of the world. National Geographic was a major promoter of that theory, and it was based on the field work of a group of anthropologists like Louis Leakey who actively defended that view. Discussions about race have also been a part of this debate among scientists, and sometimes the exchanges have been less than cordial.

The most recent debate along these lines has come with the release of a book titled Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich. Reich runs a lab at Harvard Medical School which has released a great deal of data in the past decade. In 2010 Reich’s lab informed us that all non-Africans have Neanderthal DNA in their genome. Reich maintains that race is a social construct and that differences in genetic makeup are geographically related.

A group of 67 scholars released an open letter on BuzzFeed.com objecting to Reich’s racial concepts. Other anthropologists have contended that the reality of our origins “is more complex and interesting than scientists ever imagined.”

The biblical description of human history is so brief that one should not look for conflicts with the biblical account. The Bible tells us that we are all related, and the fact that all races are fertile with one another supports that. The Bible does not tell us when Adam and Eve lived or how much time elapsed as humans migrated throughout the world.

A careful study of the Bible indicates that we are all equal and have a common ancestry. God’s design of our genome has allowed us to survive as a species for a very long time in spite of disease. Reich’s book supports that notion but gives us some idea of how the design has worked by examining human history in DNA.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Women of Faith

Mothers - Women of Faith
Today is Mother’s Day, and while the Bible does not command us to have a special day in honor of women, much of the biblical narrative is about women of faith, their qualities, and how God blessed them. Here are some examples:

A WOMAN WHO WAS HEALED. Mark 5:25-34.
Here was a woman who was unclean according to Leviticus 15. She knew she needed help from God because doctors had done nothing but take her money. She was able to get past legalism and religious prejudice and make her faith work to affect a healing. Jesus calls her ”daughter” in verse 34–a title He never used of any other woman.

A CANAANITE WOMAN WHOSE CHILD WAS HEALED. Matthew 15:21-28.
This was the only time Jesus went outside of Palestine. Like the Samaritan woman of John 4 she was persistent and got past nationalism and religious prejudice even though the disciples tried to send her away (verse 23). This woman wouldn’t give up, and neither should we. She was satisfied with “crumbs” because she knew what was really important.

THE WOMAN WHO KNEW FORGIVENESS. Luke 7:36-50
She knew where to go to get spiritual help. She was prepared to reach out and honor God (verse 37). She sought forgiveness according to God’s plan. She stood behind Jesus showing respect. She wept showing repentance, and she showed humility by kissing his feet. She showed honor by anointing with oil.

Do you know a woman who has been an inspiration to you? I hope we all do. I suspect that in a majority of cases it is (or was) a mother or a wife who has lived out her faith in a way that brings honor to God and love to her family and friends. Let us praise God for the incredible women of faith who have blessed us!!
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Bad Design or Abuse of the Body?

Bad Design or Abuse?
We recently received a letter from a lady whose husband had just died from Parkinson’s disease. The letter berated God for bad design in humans that allows diseases like Parkinson’s to exist. Is the cause really bad design or abuse of the body?

I have followed the research on Parkinson’s for quite a few years because my closest friend in the high school where I taught for 41 years died of Parkinson’s, and so did my brother just a few months ago. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a suggestion if you have lost a loved-one to Parkinson’s or similar diseases. I suggest that most of those diseases are caused in one way or another by human error, greed, or abuse, and not because of God’s bad design.

A new study suggests that Parkinson’s has a direct relationship to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Researchers studied the health records of 325,870 veterans age of 31 to 65. After 12 years, 1,462 had been diagnosed with an incurable neurological disorder, and 65% of these had been treated for a TBI. Researchers concluded that 71% had an increased risk of Parkinson’s and those who had received severe head injuries had an 83% higher risk. The study says that injured brain cells trigger a build-up of fibrils of a protein called alpha-synuclein which is a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

We know that cigarettes have a strong causal relationship to cancer. Now it appears that some other major health maladies are not due to bad design in our bodies, but rather what has happened to us. It might be accidental head injuries in sports or due to our carelessness in what we do with our bodies. Psalms 139:14 states a truism, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” So is Parkinson’s a function of bad design or abuse of the body? It is obvious that failing to take adequate care of our bodies can lead to all kinds of problems.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: The Week, May 11, 2018, page 19.

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

Life Expectancy Factors

Life Expectancy Factors
Genesis 5:27 tells us that Methuselah lived for 969 years. While he is the champion of longevity, Genesis records all of the men of that time living hundreds of “years.” We put “years” in quotes because there has been a lot of speculation as to how a human can live that long–or whether any human would want to. There are many life expectancy factors to consider.

We have suggested that at the very early period in human history the definition of a year may have been very different from what it is today. Interestingly, other cultures such as Chinese, Egyptian, and Aztec recorded humans living hundreds or even thousands of years. We know that in some cases they based their year on the Moon or climatic factors, not the Sun. Those of us who have been blessed with very long lives know that the quality of life decreases logarithmically with age. As an octogenarian, I can tell you that living 969 years is something I would not want to experience.

Another question connected to this issue is whether the damage we do to ourselves with diet and recreational drugs accounts for some of this age issue. In The Week for May 4, 2018 (page 21) there are two interesting news reports. One is a study on Vox.com which reports that being a night owl produces a 10% greater risk of death than early risers The study also shows that chronic health issues such as diabetes, neurological disorders, and respiratory disease are more likely in night owls because they live in a perpetual state of jet lag.

In the same issue of The Week carried a report from Cambridge University showing that even moderate drinking of alcohol cuts years off a person’s life. Two or three drinks a day can cut up to two years off a person’s life. A study of 600,000 people reported on CNN.com lists eight major health hazards that come from moderate drinking.

How much can all of this do to shorten life expectancy? Probably not 900 years, but research is showing the effect of human indulgences in unwise lifestyles are greater life expectancy factors than anyone knew. When you add genetic issues to the equation, the idea of nomadic people who avoided the germ spreading environment of primitive cities is not as far-fetched as it appeared 25 years ago.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

For another possible explanation of Methuselah’s long life check out our previous post.

Becoming New Creatures

Becoming New Creatures
The National Geographic Channel has been airing a very interesting new series of programs titled “One Strange Rock.” The series hosted by actor/comedian Will Smith tells about the many “strange” and “lucky” features of planet Earth that make it possible for us to live here. In the most recent episode, eight astronauts explain why they think that humans should colonize space. They and some other prominent individuals have recently suggested that colonizing other planets or living in space may be the only hope for the human race to survive. In the process we might find ourselves becoming new creatures.

This episode brings out the many ways that space life will affect our bodies. Based on present experience with the International Space Station we know that bones and muscles weaken when they do not have to overcome the effects of gravity. Body fluids shift upwards causing other physical changes. There are changes to a person’s eyesight which can be permanent. Outside of Earth’s atmospheric protection, astronauts face greater amounts of cosmic radiation that can trigger “light flashes” in their eyes. Long exposure to the higher levels of radiation may lead to cancer or brain damage. At the same time, bacteria grow faster and can become more deadly in a zero-gravity environment. The environment of space, even with the best protective gear science can devise, may at best be toxic and at worst fatal to humans.

Even with those considerations, the astronauts are saying that we must colonize space. Part of their reasoning is that humans have evolved to handle the challenges of life on this planet, and we will perhaps evolve becoming new creatures to handle the new hazards of space. They say it will just be a matter of adapting to a new environment. Will Smith said in this episode, “Even if we survive the journey and make the place feel like home, we still might not save our species. Just by being there we might turn into something else.”

I think that the real answer to human survival IS for us to turn into something else. Human survival depends on people turning away from their sinful passions and hatred. It involves becoming what God created us to be and living out the teaching and example of Jesus. Going to another planet and taking along our sinful nature with all of its baggage will not save us. The real hope for the survival of the human race does not involve leaving the planet God created for us. It does not require leaving Earth with all of its “strange” and “lucky” features that make life possible. It is not necessary for us to go to a much more hostile environment and evolve into new creatures. The answer to our survival is becoming new creatures here and now as described in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
–Roland Earnst © 2018