Avoiding God of the Gaps Explanations

God of the Gaps
One of the better arguments that atheists make is the claim that “god” is something that humans have invented to explain what they didn’t understand. This is known as the God of the gaps approach to explaining things. When people didn’t understand what makes a volcano work, they invented a god or goddess to explain volcanoes. When people didn’t understand what produces weather, gods or goddesses were invented to explain everything from lightning to wind. The names of these gods and goddesses have endured, and they show up in the video games our kids play such as Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Minerva, etc. The atheist argument is that in time they will find scientific answers that disprove any notion that a divine being was responsible.

There are two major weaknesses in the God of the gaps charge that atheists are making. The first is that just because we can propose a possible natural way to explain things that does not mean the explanation is true. Years ago there was a discovery that a female praying mantis after being fertilized by the male turns around and eats him. Promoters of neo-Darwinism developed elaborate theories about how this behavior was a product of evolutionary processes. Some of the explanations sounded fairly plausible. Later it was discovered that this behavior happens in captivity, but not in the natural world. What is proposed is frequently not what happened.

The second weakness of the God of the gaps accusation is that it ignores the probabilities against the natural explanation. For example, there are 10^500 different possible solutions to the string theory equations. (That’s one followed by 500 zeros.) By carefully choosing which equation you use, a scientist can propose one step in the formation of tangible matter. Many more steps are required to get matter that is stable, and multiple steps have to be accomplished before you can get a single atom of hydrogen. When statistics are applied to this model, the probabilities are prohibitive.

When you put all the probabilities together, the final answer makes it clear that chance is a very weak explanation for what we see in the world around us. Romans 1:18-22 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. We don’t invent God to explain anything. We ask for a reasonable acceptance of evidence that stands not only on an intuitive level but also on a mathematical level.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

E-Cigarettes and Human Suffering

E-Cigarettes
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

Freedom from Religion Foundation

Freedom from Religion Foundation
There are always those who just can’t stand the idea of Americans, especially leaders, acknowledging their dependence upon God. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) perpetuates its existence by trying to stamp out every recognition of God from across our land. They are doing the same thing that Communist governments tried to do in the last century.

For over 240 years, our elected representatives to the federal government have begun their public duties with a prayer seeking God’s guidance. This prayer is a reflection of the faith of many people across America who themselves seek His guidance in their lives.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged public monuments, prayer, and virtually any public recognition of religion. Like most on the Left, FFRF engages in bullying tactics threatening to haul the “offenders” into court for their “unconstitutional” activities. Unfortunately, too many school districts and city and town councils hand over their milk money to the bullies and capitulate.

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation actually does sue, a very high percentage of their cases are simply dismissed. However, they occasionally find a sympathetic ear as when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled in favor of the group’s claim challenging housing allowances for pastors. After failing so many times, the FFRF is now trying a new tactic. Co-president Dan Barker (who has publicly proclaimed his atheism but maintains ministerial credentials) applied to the U.S. House of Representatives chaplain to lead a prayer. His application was rejected, and he sued, claiming the practice of House prayer was in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. That ruling said that permitting ministers to pray before legislative gatherings is constitutional.

Thankfully, Judge Rosemary Collyer from the D.C. District Court wasn’t too eager to go along. She rejected FFRF’s claims, holding that Barker could not piggyback on Town of Greece to demand that the House allow a “prayer” to what or whoever he wanted. The judge wrote: “[C]ontrary to Mr. Barker’s hopeful interpretation, Town of Greece did not reference atheists–who are, by definition, nontheists who do not believe in God or gods–but ‘any minister or layman who wished to give [a prayer].'”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was named a defendant in Barker’s suit, praised the ruling. He wrote, “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld, and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer.” He concluded: “I am grateful that the People’s House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God.”

The interpretation of the Establishment Clause in this and other cases simply doesn’t require what Barker demanded. Sanity has prevailed–for now.
–J.R. Towell © 2017

Noah’s Son Ham and Skeptic Arguments

Noah's Son Ham
It never ceases to amaze me how some skeptic attacks never seem to go away. One of the more bizarre has to do with Noah’s son Ham. Some atheists claim that the story of Ham was invented to justify the persecution of people of color and the use of slaves.

They base their attack on the story recorded in Genesis 9:20-29. After the flood of Noah, Ham discovered his father drunk and naked. Ham told about it, exposing his father to ridicule. Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, discretely covered their father to avoid embarrassment. When Noah recovered his sobriety, he cursed Ham and blessed Shem and Japheth. Some skeptics claim that the name Ham means “dark or swarthy” and that this is an attack on people of color.

However you interpret the story of Ham, it has no relevance to Christianity. Jesus did away with all such boundaries. Passages like Galatians 3:28 make that clear by telling 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 highly unlikely that the intent of the name of Noah’s son Ham referred to skin color or that such characteristic would be passed on to all his progeny.

The message we should take from the story is that we need to care for one another and support each other even in weakness. Instead of quietly covering his father and keeping the incident to himself, Ham disgraced his father. Galatians 6:1-2 tells Christians to gently restore those who sin and bear each other’s burdens. There is no place for disgracing, shaming, or making fun of someone who fails. And there is no excuse for treating anyone differently because of skin color.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Skeptic Challenges

Skeptic ChallengesDOES GOD EXIST? maintains a Facebook page with daily postings. We often get skeptic challenges and questions from those who are seeking for answers. We want to share the following conversation from Facebook:

SKEPTIC: Maybe instead of “Does God Exist?” you should call your page “straw man arguments that I just made up and took no time to research.” Proteins collected, microorganisms slowly developed, they grew, became more developed, and developed very slowly into animals we recognize today. It really isn’t something you can’t Google whenever. But if you think everything is designed by your interpretation of the Jewish/Christian god, what designed him? Does the designer of the designer have a designer? Does it just go on forever in a ridiculous infinite cycle?

DGE?: You are on very shaky ground with that narrative of life coming together from non-life. But the real mistake you are making is thinking that God had a beginning. God created time and space, matter and energy at the moment often referred to as the “big bang.” Since God created time, he is not confined to the dimension of time. Since God is outside of time, he has no beginning. We are so confined to understanding things in the time dimension that it is difficult for us to grasp that concept. We think that everything has a beginning because that is true of the world we live in.

SKEPTIC: Isn’t it really easy to just say something exists outside of space and time and therefore doesn’t need to follow the laws of physics? What if I said that the creator of the universe is a giant, two-headed penguin? What if I were to say that the giant penguin exists outside of time and space (and that he wants you to give me money)? Would that be any less valid than what you’re asserting?

DGE?: Scientists say that space/time, as well as matter/energy, had their beginning at the singularity known as the big bang. Whatever created time (as well as space, matter, and energy) must exist outside of those dimensions. Some have tried to argue that the universe just happened without a cause. However, that is not a scientific statement because it cannot be tested. Sorry, it could not be a penguin because penguins (especially giant ones) have mass and therefore they are matter. As the Bible says, with scientific accuracy, “God is a spirit.”

SKEPTIC: To say that the universe having no cause is unscientific, while claiming the existence of some god living outside of physics, is hypocritical to say the least. If it’s necessary for everything to have a cause, what caused your god? If the universe HAS to have a cause, why not carry that same logic to the god you’re claiming?

DGE?: You are right that claiming the existence of God as the creator of space/time and matter/energy is not a scientific statement. The reason being that it cannot be scientifically tested. All we can know scientifically is that at the moment of creation space/time and matter/energy came into existence. That means that whatever caused those things to come into existence has to be outside of the space/time dimension and cannot be made of matter/energy.

We also know that since the cause is outside of space/time, it cannot be limited by space/time. That means it had no beginning in time, so it had no cause. It always existed. Those things can be proven logically and scientifically. From there we have to rely on faith since this is outside of the realm of science. I choose to believe that the creation was by an intelligent God. You may choose to believe that the creation was by and out of NOTHING. (Which is what some otherwise intelligent scientists have suggested.) Whether you choose the intelligent God hypothesis or the Nothing hypothesis you are acting on faith. I think that God is a more rational explanation.

SKEPTIC: It isn’t rational to believe things on faith. I’m not claiming “nothing” created the universe. I’m saying we don’t know, so we shouldn’t fool ourselves. You can’t claim to be reasonable if you 1) claim it is reasonable to say “we both don’t know, so I guess I’m right” 2) think something existing outside of time and space is plausible, but bacteria slowly forming from proteins in water is crazy talk.

DGE?: Okay, you are not saying that Nothing created the universe. However, I am sure you understand that the universe was created FROM nothing. I am sure that you understand that whatever did create the universe created time/space and matter/energy and therefore cannot be limited by or be made of those things. So the question is whether the thing which created time/space and matter/energy was Something or Nothing. Something seems more reasonable to me.

SKEPTIC: There’s no proof that “something” exists outside of the universe. It is, by definition, impossible for something to exist outside of reality. If it exists outside of reality, it doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. It’s imaginary. You’re providing logical proofs that not even a 4-year-old would buy. You first say that you have a specific something. You then say that this something must exist, solely on the grounds that we have stuff and not no stuff. When challenged on it, you say that it must exist, because what else would create the universe? Okay. What created your something? Another something? What created that something? Oh, it exists outside of time and space? And you have no evidence? Great. Just wonderful. You’ve won me over.

DGE?: How do you define this “reality” that you refer to? You have brought that word into our conversation, and you seem to be defining it as that which we can detect with our senses. Do you believe that nothing is “real” unless we can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell it?

SKEPTIC: If you cannot detect something in any way, it isn’t real. This isn’t exactly hard to understand. But you’re dodging around the fact that something cannot exist outside of reality, let alone create it. When you provide evidence that your particular interpretation of a particular deity is real, you may have some ground to stand on.

DGE?: You seem to have difficulty understanding that many (or should I say most) scientists believe that time began at the big bang. If that is the case, then whatever caused the bang has to exist outside of time. (Also it has to exist outside of space, since time and space are inter-related, and space began at the big bang also.) Either you have to say that Nothing created everything we see, or you have to say that Something outside of time created everything.

The only other idea posited is that the universe is cyclical and the big bang came from a previous universe that had compressed itself into a tiny point that exploded into a new universe. This theory has been rejected by scientists because nobody today believes that the universe will start to compress into a point and explode again. The expansion rate of the universe is increasing, not slowing down, and the energy will eventually dissipate. Also, the cyclical idea still doesn’t explain where it all began.

All we have left then are two possibilities. Either Nothing created the universe or Something outside of time and space created time and space and matter and energy and everything we see. Some scientists (Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss) have suggested that the universe came from Nothing because Nothing is unstable and therefore it morphs into a more stable state. I don’t see how that can be called a scientific theory unless it can be tested. I also think it takes more faith to believe that life (including human intelligence and creativity) came from Nothing than to believe that these things came from an intelligent Designer.

SKEPTIC: Again, I’m NOT SAYING “NOTHING” CREATED THE UNIVERSE! We don’t know what created the universe, or if the universe always existed somehow, but to say that you’re right because you can’t imagine “nothing” creating the universe is fundamentally flawed. If you think something created the universe, demonstrate what it is, then demonstrate that it exists, then demonstrate that it is your god (I’m guessing you’re a Christian, I apologize if I’m wrong). But if you cannot demonstrate that your god made the universe, or even that he exists, you should not expect anyone to believe you. But again, just because you think “something” made the universe, that doesn’t mean that it should be exempt from the laws of physics. Show your proof.

DGE?:
You say we don’t know “if the universe always existed somehow.” You would have a hard time finding any reputable scientist today who would say that the universe always existed. Discovery of the microwave background radiation from the cosmic creation event put the final nail in the coffin of that idea. So, since the universe had a beginning, the only choices seem to be that it had a cause, or it did not have a cause. It either created itself out of Nothing, or it was created by Something. That Something has to be outside of time and space, or it could not have created time and space. You can call it God or you can just call it Something. Science cannot go back beyond the big bang, so there is no scientific way to prove what that Something is.

SKEPTIC:
There’s no way to prove there is anything outside of reality, but again, by definition, NOTHING CAN EXIST OUTSIDE OF REALITY. It isn’t plausible. You’re using circular logic.

DGE?: You are saying that reality is only the 4-dimensional world that you know and that nothing can exist outside of those four dimensions because that is all you know. And you are accusing me of using circular logic.

SKEPTIC: Who brought up four dimensions? Are you trying to use pseudoscientific terms to try to sound smart?

DGE?: In case you didn’t realize it, the four dimensions we live in are width, height, depth, and time. (Or X, Y, Z, and T, if you prefer.)

SKEPTIC: Riiiiight… Well, you literally can’t have something existing outside of reality. You think I’m wrong? Show me your god.

DGE?: You are avoiding the issue. You continue to use “reality” as things you think are real and anything you don’t think is real is outside of “reality.” Your reality is too small. As you know, it is not possible to prove scientifically that God exists, and it is not possible to prove scientifically that God does not exist. Nobody has ever seen the so-called “dark matter,” but scientists believe it exists because they see its effect on the galaxies. Nobody has ever seen an electron, but we believe electrons exist because without them our computers would not work, and we would not be carrying on this conversation.

Likewise, even though we cannot see God, we see the universe around us. We know that the universe had a beginning and there had to be a cause of the beginning. You can choose to believe that there was an intelligent Creator or you can believe that it just happened out of nothing and by Nothing. You can also believe that electrons and dark matter don’t exist. Your computer works by magic, and the galaxies are held together by imagination. Each person decides what to believe, and I suggest that you keep an open mind.

SKEPTIC: As common sense and centuries of logical thought have proven, you should not believe in things that cannot be detected. I cannot detect magical leprechauns in my garden, but what else would cause my plants to exist? Well, I must be right, right? That’s proof enough for you, right? Look, I know you know I’m winning. That’s why you’re making it personal by accusing me of being closed-minded, which is highly inappropriate. Shame on you. You’ve lost. No one who is winning an argument will attack the other person. If you want an intelligent discussion, then that’s wonderful. I encourage it. But if you think it’s okay to say someone’s closed minded when they disagree with the same tired argument, then shame on you. I have no time for people who can’t maintain their arguments on their points’ own merits and resort to accusations of closed-mindedness.

DGE?: You say you won and I lost. I didn’t know this was a contest with a winner or looser. I thought it was an intelligent discussion about important things. In fact, I would say eternally important. You say that one should not believe in things that can’t be detected. Then I would expect that you would take issue with the many scientists who believe in dark matter which they have not been able to detect. Look it up on Wikipedia. They believe it exists because it explains things that they cannot explain otherwise.

I also suggest that you look up a book written by Edwin Abbot in 1884 titled “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.” It’s available on Amazon for only a few dollars, and the Kindle edition is free. It is pretty much required reading for students of math, physics, or engineering. It’s a satirical novel about a man who lives in a two-dimensional world called Flatland. He is unable to believe that there could be a third dimension when a sphere shows up in Flatland and challenges his thinking. You don’t seem to be open to anything that challenges your way of thinking.

It has been interesting discussing these matters with you. I wish you well. I would say, “God bless you,” but that would probably offend you. So I will just say, “May the Force be with you.”

(This conversation was edited to correct grammatical and spelling errors, to clarify, and for brevity. You will find our daily Facebook postings at www.facebook.com/evidence4god.)
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Extraterrestrial Intelligence and God

Extraterrestrial Intelligence and God
Why do people want to believe in extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), space aliens, and UFOs? It has been my experience that proponents of these things are people who reject Christianity and belief in the God of the Bible. Now there is scientific data which supports what my experience has indicated about extraterrestrial intelligence and God.

The scientific journal Motivation and Emotion published a study by North Dakota State University researchers showing that the more people believe in extraterrestrials, the less they believe in God. The researchers wrote, “ETI beliefs serve an existential function: the promotion of perceived meaning in life. In this way, we view belief in ETI as serving a function similar to religion without relying on the traditional religious doctrines that some people have deliberately rejected.” In other words, people believe in extraterrestrial intelligent beings to take the place of belief in God.

The research seems to indicate that believing in ETI provides a way to develop a view that gives meaning to life. The researchers say that belief in ETI “could make humans feel like they are part of a larger and more meaningful cosmic drama.” Even some scientists such as Nobel prize winner Francis Crick have advanced the idea that extraterrestrials planted life on Earth. It just goes to show that when you don’t believe in God, you will believe in anything. Atheist Michael Shermer who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine says “any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God” (Scientific American, January 2002).

All of this confusion about extraterrestrial intelligence and God is the result of an unfortunate, mistaken concept of what God is. It also results from not looking at all of the evidence for the existence of God. It does explain, however, why many people desperately try to find a way to believe that aliens are our creators.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Can God Create a Rock He Can’t Move?

Can God create a rock He can't move?
Can God create a rock He can’t move? That is a recurring question we see just about every day in someone’s email. The idea is that if God can do anything, He should be able to create a rock so big He can’t move it. But that would mean there is something He cannot do. Many times the question is sent along with a quote of Matthew 19:26 where Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” There are multiple errors in both the question and in the questioners’ concept of God.

I want to make it clear that there are things that God cannot do. The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). There are many things associated with evil that God cannot do because they would violate His very nature. That should be so obvious that no thinking person would want to debate it.

It is also important to understand that God cannot renege on His promises. The Bible is full of promises of God, beginning with Genesis 3:15. The New Testament treats those promises as iron clad–something that God cannot break. Take a few minutes to look at Acts 13:23, Romans 4:21, Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 10:23, and Hebrews 11:11. It is important to Christians that the promises of God apply to us today, and that promises concerning eternity can be trusted. (See Matthew 10:32, Matthew 25:46, and 2 Timothy 2:12.)

God cannot hear the prayers of sinful people who reject God and His teachings. The Old Testament tells us that in Isaiah 59:1-2, Proverbs 1:24,28 and 28:9. In the New Testament, we all know the promise in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in (Jesus)…will have everlasting life.” We also see in Mark 16:15-16 that the lack of belief leads to condemnation. John 8:24 and Romans 1:16 and 10:1 carry the same message.

So when Jesus said, “with God, all things are possible?” in Matthew 19:26, what was He talking about? To understand any passage in the Bible (or any other book), you need to look at who said it, to whom, why, and how the people it was spoken to would have understood it. In this case, Jesus is talking about how hard it is for a rich person to “enter the kingdom of God.” He said it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” The disciples asked how anyone could be saved. Jesus answered in verse 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

From a human standpoint, giving up riches for something religious seems impossible. But God’s love is so great and His grace so sufficient that even a rich person can be saved. The statement certainly doesn’t apply to moving a physical rock, but rather a spiritual boulder.

Someone asked Marshall Keeble, a great old black preacher, the question, “Can God create a rock He can’t move?” His response was “Yep, and He can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” God uses unlikely tools to accomplish impossible challenges. Using an old physics teacher to answer questions like this one is improbable, to say the least. But the fact that you read this discussion this far indicates that no matter how unlikely it might be from a human standpoint, sometimes it works.
–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

Bible Translations and the Tyranny of God

Bible Translations
One of the constant challenges made by skeptics of the existence of God is what they sometimes call the tyranny of God. The charge is that God has done things that make it impossible to believe that He is a God of love and mercy. They suggest that the biblical stories are just myths contrived by brutal and primitive societies. This misunderstanding is often caused by Bible translations.

They give examples like 2 Samuel 12:31 where David “puts people under saws, axes, and iron and passes them through brick kilns: … ” Perhaps the most frequently used case is 2 Kings 2:23-25 where Elisha has God send a bear to rip up a group of children who are kidding him because he is bald. Just reading these stories in your KJV Bible might make you think that there is some validity to the challenges, but there is a far more basic problem here.

The problem in these cases and many others is translation. In many cases, the King James is a very poor translation of the original language, and the meaning many English words has changed since 1611. You can see this by looking at modern Bible translations or by using The Word: The Bible in Twenty-six Translations. Let us take the two examples above to see what we mean.

Second Samuel 12:31 does not say that David cut up people with saws and irons and burned them in kilns. It says he forced them into doing these things as labor. The people involved cut wood, made bricks, picked rock, and the like. It may have been hard labor, but it was not wanton brutality. The story in 2 Kings 2:23 -25 is badly distorted by the KJV use of the word “child.” The actual Hebrew word in the passage refers to a young man in a militant form–sometimes referring to an army. This was a gang of teenage thugs who were not just making fun of Elisha, but denigrating God and His spokesman. The reference to baldness probably had to do with the fact that lepers shaved their heads, and as such were outcasts. This is a case of a direct challenge to God and His representative.

To get at the question of whether we understand God’s methods, purposes, or nature, we must look at the original language and the context in which it was written. Failure to do this is not confined to those who would discredit God. It is also seen in the work of some fundamentalists and religionists.

In the debates about evolution, many creationists do not look at the words in Genesis and what they mean and how they were understood by the people of Moses’ day. The fact that the Sun, Moon, and stars were created in verse 1 and then became fully visible in verses 14-19 is lost if one does not look at the difference between the process of creating (Hebrew bara) and making (Hebrew asah). Failure to take the Hebrew words literally has caused some to limit God’s creative process to the week of Genesis when clearly God’s miraculous acts took place before the week started.

Those who claim to take the Bible literally must work at understanding what the author wanted to convey in the original language. Comparing different Bible translations can help to clarify some problems. For a detailed explanation of the Hebrew words in Genesis, we recommend our booklet God’s Revelation in His Rocks and in His Word available in printed form or online.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dancing Around Religion

Is Religion a Brain Function?
Is religion a brain function? Stav Dimitropoulos is a regular writer for Discover magazine. In the July/August 2017 issue (page 26-27) she wrote an article titled “Trying to Lose My Religion.” She explains her religious feelings by saying, “Could my grandparents’ faith, foisted upon me during my formative years, have hard-wired my otherwise logical brain for mysticism?”

Dimitropoulos launches into a series of speculative discussions trying to explain away the unique religious quality of humans as entirely functions of the brain. In one section of the article, she suggests that psychoactive drugs will accomplish the same result. One of her fellow researchers, Dr. Jordan Grafman at Northwestern University points out that, “Mystical experiences can lead to creative thoughts and artistic development.” This is a step in the right direction. The problem is that researchers like Dimitropoulos lump all religious activity into the same mold.

Attempting to suggest that all religions do the same thing, come to action in the same way, and/or have the same experiences in worship activity is rather ignorant. Many of us worship quietly on our own without emotional experiences or ritual. Suggesting that an apologetic scholar, a Unitarian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a voodoo chanter, a Buddhist, a Catholic priest, and pentecostal participant engaging in tongues all do the same thing, in the same way, is ludicrous.

The fact that creativity, music, art, and worship all have similar origins in religious activity is a manifestation of the spiritual nature of humans. Guilt, sympathy, compassion, and self-sacrificing love are further manifestations of the human spiritual nature. Those of us who work with the mentally challenged and have mentally challenged children can tell you that their spiritual nature is no different from ours. They may not be able to express that nature as we do because of the impairment they have to overcome.

Trying to make religion a brain function is dancing around the fact that there are things humans do which are not rooted in any evolutionary model. Attempting to break the brain down into a multilayered device to explain everything there is to know about humans doesn’t work. God created us in His image and religion is not a function of the brain. Our spiritual uniqueness is not dependent on our brain or any section of the brain.
–John N. Clayton © 2017