Scopes Monkey Trial Nonsense Continues

Scopes Monkey Trial
In July of 1925, a silly trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee. A school teacher named John Thomas Scopes had broken Tennessee law by teaching evolution. People call it the Scopes monkey trial.

On the prosecution side was William Jennings Bryan, the spokesman for fundamentalist advocates of the Bible. (Bryan is sitting on the left side of the picture.) Clarence Darrow was the humanist opponent arguing for the defense. (You can see him standing on the right questioning Bryan. The judge had moved the trial outside because of the heat in the packed courtroom.) At the time, people called it “the trial of the century.” After eight days of the trial, it took the jury nine minutes to convict Scopes, and the judge fined him $100.

The problem was that no one bothered to define “evolution.” Nobody took the time to see what the Bible really said. The weaknesses of denominational teaching were attacked, not the evidence or understanding of what science and the Bible actually say on the subject. Both sides claimed a win, but in reality, neither side won. Books, theatrical productions, and movies have perpetuated the story, and it has given great promotional value to the little town of Dayton.

The latest example of how this battle goes on appeared on July of 2017 when a statue of Clarence Darrow was dedicated on the Dayton courthouse lawn. The dedication drew an organized protest by fundamentalists who already have a statue of William Jennings Bryan in the area. The newspapers billed it as a “religion versus science” debate. A recent Gallup poll shows that the number of Americans who believe that evolution is the only possible answer to the origin of all living things has grown from 9% in the late 1980s to 19% today.

Science and faith are friends and not enemies. That has to be true because the same God who created the universe and life gave us the account of what He did. If there is a conflict, we either have bad science or bad theology. The lesson of history and the Scopes monkey trial is that we have had a lot of both.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Antichrist Ruling the World

Antichrist Ruling the World
Recently several people have raised questions about antichrist ruling the world. These people had been exposed to denominational programs promoting the idea that Christians believe that an antichrist is about to take over the world and rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

We have repeatedly pointed out that Jesus did not promote a physical kingdom and He was not concerned about the kingdoms of this world. Jesus made it very clear that He was not establishing an earthly kingdom when He said, “Give to Caesar (earthly government) what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

So what does the Bible say about the antichrist and what about the number that is associated with him?

The word “antichrist” is used only five times in the Bible and all five uses are in the two epistles of John. The word “antichrist” is not found in the book of Revelation. According to John anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is an antichrist (1 John 2:22 , 4:3, and 2 John 7). In other words “antichrist” refers to anyone who denies that God became human and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Historically there have been many antichrists, not just one (1 John 2:18).

Also it is important to note that John does not associate a number with an antichrist. The number 666 is found in Revelation 13. The meaning is unclear, but perhaps it is the symbolic number for a Roman emperor.

Jesus said His kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). Attempts by denominational teachers to politicize the Bible and predict an antichrist ruling the world are not helpful. As John wrote two millennia ago, “…many antichrists have come.” We are waiting for the coming of Christ, and we don’t know when that will be.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Evidence for God’s Existence

Evidence for God's Existence
Something that amazes me as I answer the questions and hate mail from our website is the incredible ignorance of not only the Bible but of the evidence for God’s existence.

Atheists are fond of saying “there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence.” Then they attempt to vilify Christianity by pointing to things done by people who claim to be Christians. With the growing number of atheist websites and the increasing participation of the media in these claims, people have embraced the idea that these notions are true.

You can find evidence for God’s existence in virtually every discipline of science. Genesis 1:1 gives us a series of choices that we must focus on to support faith in God. The account tells us that the universe had a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that God caused it. The first two statements are scientifically addressable. Science has shown that there was a beginning. The evidence that time, space, and energy are not eternal is overwhelming. In our printed magazine, on our websites, and in our courses, we offer evidence for these statements. These choices do not require the Bible or any assumptions about God, so the assertion that we are just “spouting scripture” is not true.

Whether the cause of the beginning was God is a more complex issue because it is rooted in understanding God’s nature. Quantum mechanics, the work of Einstein, and modern work in physics have given us wonderful tools to understand the cosmos. The Bible becomes a necessary tool as we consider whether the biblical description of God fits the evidence that we see in the science disciplines. Most people have not fully grasped the concept of a being outside of time and space with the capacity to design intelligently all that we see around us. Their concept of God is simply too small, and that is true of atheists and believers alike.

Our primary goal is to encourage people to examine the evidence for God’s existence with an open mind. If people realize that materialism and naturalism may not hold all of the answers to the mysteries of creation, they may gain a mustard seed of faith that can move the mountain of disbelief.
–John N. Clayton © 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

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

Second-class Citizens in Christianity?

Second-class Citizens in Christianity?
In our day of constant protests about human rights and discussions about racism and sexism, skeptics say that women are treated as second-class citizens in Christianity. The truth is that there are no second-class people in Christianity.

In his excellent book Under the Influence (Zondervan Publishing, 2001) Alvin J. Schmidt presented a strong historical case for the fact that Christianity has been the main influence for women’s equality. The Bible does not portray women as second-class citizens or as subservient to men.

One of the sources of misunderstanding is the word “submission” in the New Testament. Two Greek words can be translated “submit.” One is the Greek word hupeiko which means to retire, withdraw, yield, or surrender. It is used only in Hebrews 13:17 where Paul wrote, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority.” The idea involved is to turn everything over to someone else, and that word is not used in the relationship of women to men.

The Greek word used to portray the husband-wife relationship is hupotasso. It comes from two root words: hupo meaning “under” and tasso meaning to “arrange.” It can be used in a military sense, and it means to submit yourself to or obey. When I was in the army, I submitted to my commanding officer. I was not a slave or a second-class citizen. Our commanding officer gave us a mission. Together we arranged a way to solve the mission objective. I never questioned the role of my commanding officer, but I knew he was dependent on me to arrange things to achieve our mission.

Ephesians 5 begins its discussion of submission by telling Christians to submit (hupotasso) to one another (verse 21). Christians have a common goal, and we accomplish that goal by being in submission to God and to one another as each of us has different gifts (1 Corinthians 12). God gives us a job to do, and we are valued as agents to get that job done. Paul then uses the same word to describe the relationship of wives to their husbands (verse 22).

Sometimes a man will be in subjection to his wife. When it comes to laundry and grocery shopping, I do what my wife says. The picture of husband and wife in Ephesians and throughout the New Testament is a picture of trust, love, service, and respect. Paul tells husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). He told wives to respect their husbands(verse 33). The goal is a happy marriage and ultimately eternal life.

Christianity elevates women and places them as equals to men in every way. Each one has roles and abilities unique to them and to their gender. “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” (Galatians 3:28). There are no second-class citizens in Christianity.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God’s Dwelling Place

God's Dwelling Place
People have constructed massive structures and religious places of worship to get in contact with God. Islam has Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad with the Kaaba being the “House of God.” Buddhism has its shrines with the five elements–fire, air, earth, water, and wisdom. Bahai followers have their temples with the oldest one near Chicago, Illinois. Hindus have their “mandir” temples with the world’s largest one in the New York City metro area. The Mormons have the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City while Catholics have the Vatican. All of these cost a great deal of money, and all of them are geographically limited and impersonal. None of them are consistent with the biblical teachings for Christians. Where is God’s dwelling place?

Jesus made it clear that a new relationship was coming with the advent of Christianity. When Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman in John 4:20-24, He indicated that there would be no single place for worship. Peter in Acts 2:16-21 quotes Joel 2:28-32 in observing how worship of God and the presence of God was changing. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 we read that our bodies are now the “temple of God.” Ephesians 3:17 indicates that Christ dwells in the hearts of Christians based on love. Galatians 4:4-6 tells us that God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

The Church is people, not places. It can meet anywhere, under any conditions, with no expense or construction or long pilgrimage required. The Church we read about in the Bible did not own a temple or a house of any kind. When we read Acts 2:46 we see Christians meeting from “house to house.” The disciples met in an “upper room,” and they even met in the Temple (Acts 3:1). There is no justification for spending millions of dollars on a physical place to meet while people starve or freeze to death within sight of the structure.

In Acts 17:22-31 Paul talks to the leaders of the day about God’s dwelling place. In verse 24 he told them and us that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” He then told his listeners that people “feel after God and try to find him though he is not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being” (verses 27 and 28). Paul told them they should not think of God as something made by art and human design. He calls on them to repent (verse 30).

Atheists attack the abuses of religion and the waste of religious acts, and much of their criticism is valid. Humans do silly, wasteful things, but that has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches us about God. God’s dwelling place is not in our structures but in us. That fact should affect our lives as we understand what He calls us to do with what He has given us.
–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

New Life from an Old Source

New Life from and Old Source
My daughter and I were digging up potatoes in the garden. Most of the potatoes were pretty small, but we try to be sure we do not waste anything, so all of them were going in the bucket. Suddenly I heard, “Yuk, this isn’t a potato” and she reared back to pitch a tulip bulb she had dug up into the compost pile. I stopped her and said, “Hey, we want to plant that in the flower bed, and it will be beautiful by spring.” She looked at the dirty, shabby tulip bulb and said, “How can anything as pretty as a tulip come out of something as ugly, old, and beat up as this?”

The fact of the matter is that it is a basic design of the Creator that causes all kinds of beauty and new life to come from an old source that has been buried. These beautiful flowers all were dead looking ugly bulbs at one time. It is a design of nature that allows seeds to come out of a dying and rotten vegetable.

The same thing is true on a spiritual, psychological, and emotional level. A beautiful Christian life is only possible when the ugly old person of sin is buried. Those of us who have found ourselves deep in sin, fight a losing battle if we try to overcome that sin on our own. It is only when we bury that sinful, ugly old person that something beautiful can blossom and grow. That is why baptism is such a wonderful and beautiful act. Perhaps those who have grown up in the church cannot appreciate it as much as those of us who experienced total contamination by the world, but it is far from a meaningless or senseless act.

New life for old is a very good offer. Everything God tells us to do is logical, reasonable, and pregnant with meaning. Let us bury the old life of sin, come out of the waters of baptism a new person in a new relationship with God, and with a new capacity to change the world through the power God gives us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where Is God When Natural Disaster Strikes?

Where Is God?
Many times atheists and skeptics use natural disasters as proof that God doesn’t exist. The argument is that an almighty and loving God would not allow these things to happen, so therefore God doesn’t exist. That is a faulty argument that assumes we know more than an omniscient God could know. When faced with the current disaster of flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the United States Gulf Coast, even those who believe in God often ask, “Where is God?” They want to know why the God they believe in would allow such things to happen.

So where is God? Why doesn’t He do something about the suffering? God is there, and He is doing something. God is working through His people. We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When tragedy strikes, even those who don’t have a good relationship with God begin to show a little bit of that image as they reach out to help. Those of us who are Christians should be the most willing and eager to show God’s love. We not only bear the image of God, but we also remember what Jesus did and what He said about helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Rick Stedman posted an opinion essay on the Fox News website that answers the question about where is God when a natural disaster strikes. We recommend that you read it. We could not have said it better.

We also encourage you to help those in need in any way you can. If you can donate to help the flood victims in Texas and Louisiana, please do so. But make sure you are giving your support through a trustworthy organization. You want your money to go toward helping the people in need and churches and Christian relief funds are the best a doing that.

Where is God when natural disasters strike? He is working through His people who are demonstrating God’s love to those who need it the most. There is no better time for you to witness to those who need to know that God loves them.

If you have questions about why God allows pain and suffering, we invite you to visit our website www.whypain.org.
–Roland Earnst © 2017