The Beauty of Change

Accepting Change
A common denominator in all of life is the difficulty of accepting change. We establish a procedure to do something that works for us. Any change in that way of doing things is likely to involve work and adjustment. We tend to oppose work or adjustment. Driving in a rut is easier than trying to get out of it, but sooner or later you have to either get out of the rut or rebuild the road. If you stay in the rut, it gets deeper and deeper until it brings the vehicle to a total stop!

One of the lessons we can learn from our planet is that change is a design feature built into all aspects of the creation by God. When the sperm meets the egg in conception, change begins to take place at an incredible rate. From a single fertilized cell, a human develops over nine months. This change continues after birth until a seven-pound baby has turned into a teenager weighing over 100 pounds. When physical growth stops, change continues in different ways. Every seven years we get a completely new body. One by one, cells are replaced with new cells continually rejuvenating your physical body.

The changing seasons require accepting change. As fall comes, plants shed their worn and tattered leaves. Small animals enter their safest time of the year as predators have a harder time finding them under the-snow. The insect domination of the world is brought to a halt. During the winter the soil is covered with humus to provide for next year’s plants, and all is made ready for spring when even more dramatic changes take place. Change is seen in many positive ways in the natural world. Our muscles grow stronger through hard use. Caterpillars turn into butterflies. Breeding techniques have produced a bewildering number of new kinds of roses, tulips, dogs, cattle, fish, and vegetables.

We also see change in the surface of the earth as erosion, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and gravity constantly alter the planet on which we live. All of this geological change brings us new soil, new land, and nutrients to sustain the plants on which we depend. This was dramatically driven home to me many years ago as I walked beside a lava flow on the big island of Hawaii. I saw a man with a wheelbarrow full of warm lava. When I asked him why he was collecting lava, his response was to grow orchids. He found that orchids grew better in the new soil he made out of ground up lava and seaweed. The value of volcanic change and rejuvenation of soil through lava flows is a good demonstration of beneficial changes. The world around us shows the benefit and beauty of physical change.

Christianity is a religious system of change. One of the original complaints about Christians in the early days was that they “were turning the world upside down” (Acts 17: 16). The concept of repentance involves change. The lifestyle of Christians is to be change-agents in the world around us. Why would people who are a part of God’s tool to change the world be resistant to accepting change themselves? Somehow we seem to forget Paul’s example that he “became all things to all men that I might by some means change some” (1 Corinthians 9:21-22). Seeing a person change from a destructive, selfish, egotistical way of life to a serving, caring, God-directed life of love and graciousness is the most beautiful change of all. That is the highest beauty to which Christians are called.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Setting Standards

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791
Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791
One of the more convincing evidences that the Bible is inspired and not the work of human minds is the fact that it gives a proven, workable, testable, logical standard of conduct that improves the condition of all humans and brings real meaning to life. Skeptics and atheists do not like to hear that, and they will argue vociferously against it. In modern times, we have had a parade of philosophers from Ayn Rand to the secular humanists of the American Humanist Association that have suggested alternatives, all based on the “virtuous nature of humankind.” It is easy to show from a historical standpoint that such standards are doomed to failure.

Thomas Jefferson founded The University of Virginia in 1819. Jefferson dreamed of a public college which would have no regulations nor rules. Students of “good report” would be admitted and expected to practice “good will and judgment” that would respect the rights and property of others. Jefferson called it the “Grand Experiment” in which democracy and public education were brought together. It is important to note that it had a faculty and student body composed of the “cream of the crop.” There were no religious values imposed on the students and no rules concocted by previous generations that could be construed as an attempt by elders to manipulate, control, or restrict the younger generation. The University of Virginia offered an opportunity to see where highly educated, intelligent people would go with a lack of external rules and regulations.

The University of Virginia experiment of the 1820s was a total failure. Students did not go to class, drinking became a major problem, all kinds of offensive sexual conduct was carried on, and violence escalated. One night, 14 students high on alcohol went on a rampage assaulting professors with bricks and canes. The trustees of the University held a special meeting with the 82-year-old Jefferson in attendance. In his speech, Jefferson called the grand experiment “the most painful event of his life” and sat down with tears of grief unable to finish his speech. The board of trustees then enacted a series of rules and regulations along with a code of conduct that was rigidly enforced.

One might argue that a total lack of rules and regulations is unworkable, but that the Christian system is only one of hundreds of systems which will work equally well. To see the fallacy of that argument, look at what other systems have done. Look at what communism, as practiced in Russia, China, or North Korea, has produced. See what monarchies over the millennia have done to and for their subjects. Consider how women have been treated in Muslim cultures or how science and technology have fared in animalistic ancestor-worship cultures. While it’s true that some horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, those atrocities were done in diametric contradiction to Christ and his teachings.

The Christian standard calls for serving others and putting them first. The Christian system rewards love, service, generosity, gentleness, and self-sacrifice. Other systems emphasize loving material things and using other people to get those things. The contrast between the teachings of Christ and all human systems is dramatic. We are surrounded by a culture trying every standard for successful living except real Christianity. The superiority of Christ’s example and teaching is always there for us to see.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

How Close Are We to a Nuclear Holocaust?

Nuclear Explosion
Nuclear Explosion
One thing that seems to never go away is the incredible stupidity of human beings. Every day we see people do things that not only don’t make sense but in many cases are clearly wrong. Scientific American (March 2017, page 10) has some data that shows just how close the world has come to annihilation due to the failures of humans to manage nuclear resources wisely.

The article states that both the United States and Russia have about 900 nukes ready to launch. In 1983 the Russian detection system said the U.S. missiles were on their way. A Russian military officer had a gut feeling that it was a false alarm, and didn’t push the button that would have plunged the world into a nuclear war. It turned out he was right. In 1979 a similar situation developed in the United States which activated ballistic missiles and nuclear bomber crews. Satellites could not verify the alert, so the retaliation was not ordered. It turned out that training software which had a simulation built in had found its way into the alert system. In 1974 during his impeachment proceedings, President Nixon said to reporters: “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” There were those who were worried that he would do just that.

The point of all this is that humans continue to allow materialism, nationalism, and personal power struggles to dominate the future of the planet. Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “If world war three is fought with nuclear weapons, world war four will be fought with clubs.” Given this, the importance of getting people to see the wisdom of Christ and His teachings of peace cannot be over-emphasized, In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted that future generations would do stupid things, “You will learn of wars and rumors of wars … famines, bogus religions” etc. Rather than be panicked by all this and what is happening to the world, we need to be encouraged to look to the time when God will put an end to all of the stupidity, and all of God’s children will be at peace with one another and with God. Matthew 24 describes that in some detail, and it is worth reading again in our age of foolish talk.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Teen Magazine Scams

Hematite (Iron Ore)
Hematite (Iron Ore)
It has been said that if you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. Many teenagers today have been turned off by religion. For a large number of these kids, the problem is that religion doesn’t make sense. They see adults preaching one thing and living in diametric opposition to what they are preaching. They find that when they ask questions, those questions are not being answered.

Recently someone sent us a copy of a teen magazine which is also on the web. One of the articles that caught my eye was highlighted with “people are trying to grasp on to something higher than themselves.” The article then quotes the Pew Research Center data we have discussed in this journal saying that Americans are becoming less religious. They then promote “rock stars” which are crystals which they say will “de-stress, boost energy, and brighten your mood.” The minerals they list are hematite which they say will help you sleep and rose quartz which they say “will open you up to platonic and romantic love” (and they don’t explain how love can be both platonic and romantic). They also have amazonite which has turquoise which they say will help with accountability, and amethyst which will cure addictive behaviors. These, of course, are all common minerals which you could find in your backyard. To call them “magic stones” and promote their use as a solution to teenage issues in the twenty-first century is an out and out lie.

But then if you don’t believe in something you can fall for anything.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Animal/Human Chimeras Created

Chimera
Chimera
Human stem cells have been injected into pig and cattle embryos resulting in a human-pig or human-cow hybrid called a chimera. The name “chimera” comes from a fire-breathing monster in Greek mythology that had the head of a lion with a goat’s head coming out of its body and a tail with a snake’s head. The claimed purpose of producing a chimera of a human with some other animal is to find a way to grow organs for transplants. This kind of research is banned in some countries, and federal money is not allowed for this research in the United States. Animal rights people are already complaining about this research. Bioethicist Francoise Baylis says that chimera work is unethical “because it is based on the faulty assumption that human life is more valuable than that of nonhuman beings.” One researcher raised the possibility of pigs being given human brains. For Christians the question would be the definition of what it means to be human. The biblical definition of a human is a being created in the image of God. That definition avoids the kind of questions that animal rights ethicists are asking. The bigger question involves what happens when the research goes astray or creates environmental chaos. Data from Science News, February 18, 2017, pages 6-7.

Stem Cell Scams and Moral Issues

Stem Cells
Stem Cells
For several years now we have talked about the morality of fetal stem cells and what they can be used for and where they come from. The original fetal stem cells came in many cases from aborted babies. The concern of many people was that if the medical establishment paid for fetal stem cells that women might find it financially lucrative to get pregnant, have an abortion, and sell the fetal stem cells. As research continued, it was discovered that a large percentage of stem cell treatments could be done successfully with adult stem cells. All of this was carefully controlled by the Food and Drug Administration and was based on good science.

A study released on June 30, 2016, by University of California stem cell scientists reports that 570 clinics are now offering stem cell treatments for things that in many cases have poor scientific support. An extreme example is the offering of cosmetics that will make your face look like a baby’s “because the stem cells came from the umbilical cord of a baby.” Not only are some of these claims probably not true, but they can be dangerous. Stem cells are cells that can grow into almost any kind of cell, and that makes them useful for medical purposes. The problem is that they can also grow into tumors and the tumors can migrate to other parts of the body.

God’s design of the human body is incredible, and over the years we have had numerous articles about that in the “Dandy Designs” section of our printed periodical. However, changing the use of what God has designed and created may sometimes be beyond human reach. At the very least, we need to move slowly and carefully as we try to change the use of or improve the function of God’s design. Data from Austin American-Statesman, July 3, 2016, page A8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Expressions of Love

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal
It is incredible what men and women have done over the centuries to show their love. People have fought wars, done incredible feats of strength and endurance, and written beautiful poetry and music as an expression or demonstration of their love. The story of one well-known expression of love goes like this:

In the early 1600s, the ruler of India was a man named Shah Jahan. The love of his life was named Mumtaz Mahal. The love, support, and advice that Mumtaz Mahal gave the ruler were so great that he discussed all state affairs with her and had her affix the royal seal to all state documents before they were released. She even accompanied him to military battles. In 1629, Shah Jahan set out for battle with Mumtaz Mahal, but on June 7, 1631, Mumtaz Mahal suddenly died while giving birth to her fourteenth child. The emperor devoted himself to building a monument to his wife. It was given the name which is a colloquial abbreviation of her name–Taj Mahal. The structure was finished in 1648 and Mumtaz was buried under it. On January 22, 1666, Shah Jahan died and was buried beside his wife.

People have marveled at the beauty of the construction of the Taj Mahal, and the love story it expressed has superseded language and political boundaries. There is a still greater love story that needs to occupy our attention. It is not the love of a man and a woman that dominates this love story, but rather it is the greatest apologetic for the Christian faith. Unlike all other religious systems, pure Christianity made love the number one priority. Consider the strength of the following biblical teachings:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love you neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (1 John 3:11).

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23).

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The thing that sets Christianity apart and causes it to radiate a new way of living for all people is its emphasis on love. Only Christianity has the potential to eradicate national, political, and ethnic barriers to love and peace. Only Christianity can lift women to the level of dignity and importance that they deserve and eradicate racial prejudice. These things can never be accomplished by force or violence. No amount of political rhetoric or physical effort can change greed, selfishness, or inflated egos because they lie protected in the recesses of attitudes. When men and women allow their attitudes and values to be shaped by love, meaningful, positive change can occur.

We marvel at wonders of the world constructed as expressions of love, but even more incredible are the changes that happen in human lives through the power of Christ. There are many people whose lives have changed in dramatic ways and who know that the power to make that change did not come from themselves but from the God who “so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God’s Carbon Sink

Carbon Element Periodic Table
Carbon Element Periodic Table
In our age of scary stories about global warming when alarmists are warning that humans are destroying the Earth by our huge carbon footprint, it is always good to hear something positive. That is especially true when that positive thing is something people have held up as negative for a very long time. I have stood on the edge of a huge swamp in the southern part of the United States and wondered what possible use an area like that would have. You can talk about providing a home for insects, birds, or rare tropical plants, but the swamp still looks like a wasteland with its mile after mile of muck and dead vegetation.

Imagine a swamp that covers 56,000 square miles and has a depth of 20 feet of ugly black muck. Why would God create a place like that? What possible use can it have? That huge swamp is the Cuvette Centrale peatlands in Africa’s central Congo Basin, and it has been accumulating for nearly 11,000 years. We now know that this particular swamp is a huge carbon sink. Recent measurements by scientists show that this one swamp holds about thirty billion tons of carbon. That’s the equivalent of 20 years of United States fossil fuel emissions. Satellite measurements have shown this swamp is sixteen times larger than previous estimates. Chemical studies show it is highly acidic and devoid of oxygen so it traps carbon that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.

Planet Earth can sustain the amount of life it does because it is was engineered with a design anticipating the various cycles and conditions that are needed for life to continue. There seems to be a number of design features that help to balance our carbon footprint. Caring for a place like this huge swamp means being careful about how we use what God has given us. Reference: The Week, February 3, 2017, page 19, and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/11/worlds-largest-peatland-vast-carbon-storage-capacity-found-congo.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where is God in the Gender Revolution?

LGBT and GOD
LGBT and GOD

We live in an age of pluralism. While the word “pluralism” is applied to religion and the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God, the concept also applies to other areas of life. There is a push in intellectual circles now to say that democracy is not the only path to political stability, that even dictatorships may be equally valid. The current rage in the popular media, however, is to say that “gender is a spectrum”–a plurality of sexes. That was stated in National Geographic‘s January issue (page 61) which was totally dedicated to what it calls “the gender revolution.” Television specials and documentaries on transgender cases have become a major feature of the media, and people are flooded with a pluralistic view of the whole gender question.

The biblical position on this issue is quite clear. Genesis 1:27 indicates that God created male and female and blessed them. Genesis 2:21-24 tells us that woman and man were distinct with the Hebrew issa being used to differentiate woman from man who is identified by the Hebrew word is. These terms indicate how close man and woman were, but the wording leads to the conclusion that woman was taken out of man to meet a specific need–to be a “help meet.” So what do we make of the current situation where we have boys claiming they are really girls and girls claiming they are boys?

Let us say from the outset that it is not our job to judge or condemn those who are transgenders. We do want to suggest some causes to the gender issues and suggest that God has given us tools to deal with the issue whether it is in our bodies, families, communities, or culture. As you read through the National Geographic issue on “The Gender Revolution,” you have to be impressed with the fact that culture has a huge effect on the gender issue. The magazine has gone to one culture after another to show how the culture impacts and forces sexual identity and sexual roles on their people. As Westerners, we may be appalled at what is forced on children in other cultures, and yet in our own culture drugs are used to control and facilitate sexual identity. It may also be true that human pollution of our environment has caused some changes in our genome and in the chemistry of human hormones.

God gave us the ideal sexual arrangement. Not only is there a unity with woman being taken out of man, but we also see a combined oneness in Genesis 2:24 where man and woman were to become “one flesh.” That isn’t just a sexual reference, but a stable platform from which man and woman could live, make decisions, and build a family. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes this oneness in very clear terms. In Romans 1:24-32 he castigates those who consciously reject God and His plan by deliberately corrupting God’s ideal sexual arrangement. There are adults who would be condemned by these verses for their attitudes and practices. However, that certainly does not apply to innocent children who are struggling with sexual identity due to culture or perhaps by drugs forced upon them.

There are real questions about whether claims of sexual feelings and biological drives have psychosomatic causes, as expressed in an article in New Atlantis by John’s Hopkins researchers that we discussed yesterday. But our role as Christians in this and all other moral issues is to offer help and support to those victimized by the culture, the drug establishment, or human contamination of God’s intended system of life. We are not the judges of others or the enforcers of God’s plan. At the same time, we do encourage others to realize that God’s plan for man and woman works. The lesson of history is that attempts to change that plan have universally brought pain and frustration to humanity.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Challenges of Sexual Preference Issues

LGBT
LGBT
One of the most contentious issues in our culture today is the challenge of the LGBT community to biblical Christianity. We use the term “biblical Christianity” because many denominations have denied that the Bible opposes homosexuality by either denying the inspiration of the passages that condemn homosexuality or by explaining them away. One might explain Genesis 19 and the story of Lot and the men of Sodom by saying that God condemned homosexual rape, but It is difficult to read Romans 1:24-27 and maintain that it refers only to rape. Various Old Testament laws condemned sexual behavior outside of marriage, and twisting Scripture to justify the current values of our society does violence to biblical Christianity.

The question then becomes, “Why would God create men and women with strong biological drives and only allow those drives to be satisfied in marriage to a single member of the opposite sex?” The companion issue is, “Why would God create a person with a strong attraction to people of their own sex and then condemn that relationship?” This question has led to a wholesale rejection of the Bible as the literal God-breathed Word of God by many, and to complete atheism by others. We have addressed this issue in the past, but new challenges are arising that make it important for us to answer the current situation.

The causes of LGBT are complex, numerous, and debated. Two renowned scientists at Johns Hopkins University Dr. Paul McHugh and Dr. Lawrence Mayer released a study last year showing that people are not born “gay” and that sexual orientation can change over a lifetime. Many years ago a study by Dr. Simon Levy and Dr. Dean Hamer seemed to support the idea that same-sex desires were inherited and a product of one’s genes. David Nimmons writing in Discover magazine (March 1994, pages 64-71) raised questions about the validity of the sampling used in that study, and Scientific American printed a discrediting article on the studies in November of 1995, page 26. In the twenty-plus years since all of this, there have been studies on all sides of the question of whether or not homosexual behavior is genetic. Reading through all of this contradictory research one is reminded of the old graduate student mentality, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.”

It seems that the causes of homosexual tendencies are very much like the causes of cancer–there are multiple contributing causes. There is no question that sexual abuse in childhood can be a major contributing factor. There is some evidence that contamination from hormones being discharged into the environment as wastes may be a factor. The lack of a father figure in a young person’s life can be a factor. Chemical imbalances can also be an issue.

In spite of all the unknowns, there are several things that seem to be quite clear:

1) Same-sex attraction is not always, if ever, chosen. Many of the causes are things the person had no control over.

2) There is a difference between same-sex attraction and practicing homosexual behavior. We would refer you to page 22 of the September/October 2015 issue of our printed journal for the review of Guy Hammond’s book and our comments on it. (Available online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/PDF-Files/Bulletins/2015/SepOct15.pdf) You can be attracted to people of the same sex, but you can choose not to engage in sexual acts to support that attraction. We are not programmed by God to practice homosexuality or anything else. We have free will.

3) LGBT lifestyles are unhealthy. Studies on the life expectancy of “gay” men have consistently shown a much lower rate than the general population. HIV infections are far more likely in homosexual relationships. We have published data in our journal for many years giving the current statistics. Similarly, unhealthy lifestyles involve alcoholism, obesity, and indolence.

4) Blaming God for human choices is illogical. We don’t blame God because of the devastating effect of alcohol on humanity, and we should not blame God for the damage humans have done environmentally and socially. It is equally illogical to blame God because of our choices on sex.

5) “Homophobia” is unchristian. Christians should show the same love and compassion to everyone. Jesus called us as Christians to love even our enemies, to turn the other cheek when mistreated, and to live in peace as much as possible to the extent it depends on us. Every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of respect.
–John N. Clayton © 2017