In Reason We Trust?

In Reason We Trust?
In the March issue of Scientific American, there was an advertisement for the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They claim to be “the nation’s largest association of freethinkers, working to keep religion out of government.” Actually, they go farther than that. They strive to keep “religion,” especially Christianity, out of the public square. The headline banner of the ad is In Reason We Trust.

This particular ad features a picture of Lawrence Kraus and a quote from him. Lawrence M. Kraus is an American-Canadian theoretical physicist and cosmologist who teaches at Arizona State University. He is a leading atheist who works to reduce the influence of “superstition and religious dogma in popular culture.” You can find videos of him on YouTube debating Christians. He is the founder and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. Their website states that the Origins Project was “created to explore humankind’s most fundamental questions about our origins … ranging from the origin of the universe to the origins of life, modern humans, consciousness, culture, complex systems, and technology.” Dr. Kraus’s Origins Project will not consider the possibility of God in the origins discussion.

The In Reason We Trust ad quotes Kraus saying, “Lack of understanding is not evidence for God. It is evidence of lack of understanding, and a call to use reason to try and change that.” I agree that a lack of understanding is not evidence for God. In the past, humans could not understand things such as lightning or seasons or trees or insects, so they invented gods to explain those things. They saw the world as chaotic, and even their gods were chaotic and capricious. As long as their worldview was chaotic, they could not pursue science. That is why the extremely intelligent ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans did not achieve scientific understanding even though they created great works of engineering and architecture.

Science requires a worldview that sees order and laws. It was the Judeo-Christian worldview that led to modern science. The Judeo-Christian worldview sees logic and wisdom and order in nature because it was created by a wise and loving God. It is only with that understanding that you can begin to look for that order and study those laws to see how God works. Scientists like Lawrence Kraus and the writers and publishers of Scientific American are standing on the shoulders of Christians like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and many others. Those men understood that the world was designed with order and wisdom. They looked for that wisdom, and they used not only reason, but experimentation to see how things work—to see how God did it.

Many scientists today have forgotten the very basis for the science that they practice. Yes, Kraus is right that the lack of understanding is not evidence for God. At the same, our ability to understand how God works does not show that there is no God. It shows that God has created us in His image with the ability to understand and create with reason and wisdom. Instead of In Reason We Trust, we should be thinking, “I trust my reason because it is a gift from a rational God.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Is God Masculine or Feminine?

Is God Masculine or Feminine?
In our day of great sensitivity to the abuse that many women have endured in the past, there is a tendency to over-react and add other issues to protect women’s rights. Is God masculine or feminine?

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Washington D.C. passed a resolution to stop using masculine pronouns for God in future updates to its Book of Common Prayer. The phrase “Heavenly Father” will be changed to “Heavenly Parent.” Gender neutrality also involves mistranslating specific biblical words to fit a female gender image. The Reverend Linda R. Calkins, an Episcopal Church minister, has a different interpretation of Genesis 17:1. God said to Abraham, “I am El Shaddai.” That is normally translated as “God Almighty.” Calkins maintains that this phrase means “God with breasts.” There is no scholarly support for that claim according to Dr. Michael Brown who is a specialist in Hebrew words and meanings. He wrote that “There’s not a stitch of scholarly evidence to support this.”

An Episcopal bishop in New York even defended a crucifix with a female Jesus called Christa. Other groups have replaced “God as Father” with ‘God as Creator” in their hymns and publications. The God of Israel identified Himself with male pronouns and masculine verbs, so we should also. When God took on human flesh, it was as a man, not a woman or transgender person. That is not to deny that both women and men are created in God’s image, but that is not a physical image.

God is not physical. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). He does not have a sexual identity–masculine or feminine. Sometimes the context of the passage makes mention of God in a female gender manner. An example of this is Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you; how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not have it.” That is certainly not a male image!

Is God masculine or feminine? The correct answer is that God is complete with the best of masculine characteristics and the best of feminine characteristics. Trying to re-write the Scriptures to fit our biases is to miss much of the message God has for us.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Christian Ministers Who Advanced Science

Christian Ministers Who Advanced Science
In the past, a large number of famous Christian ministers and church leaders were also outstanding scientists or worked to advance science. The attempts of some writers to portray the historical relationship of science and faith as a continuous war are at odds with the evidence. There were leading Christian ministers who advanced science. Christianity Today in the December 2017 issue had an interesting article on some of them:

FRANCOIS-ETIENNE JALLABERT was a Huguenot minister and was the first chair of mathematics at the University of Geneva in 1704.
JONATHAN EDWARDS was a minister in Princeton, New Jersey, and in 1720 became the president of College of New Jersey which became Princeton University.
INCREASE MATHER was a preacher and in 1721 became the president of Harvard University.
COTTON MATHER was a religious leader in England and was a leading advocate for smallpox inoculation in the 1720s.
JOHN WESLEY was the founder of Methodism and was a leading promoter of the use of science and modern medicine in 1740-50.
JEAN JALLABERT was a preacher and a professor of physics in 1748.

The Christianity Today article details how these Christian ministers who advanced science promoted the use of science as a coworker with faith to benefit humanity. Many religious leaders of the past were highly educated in science and used scientific concepts to encourage people in their faith. True science and true faith are friends, not enemies.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Evolution Weekend and Darwin Day 2018

Evolution Weekend and Darwin Day 2018
February 12 has been designated as Darwin Day by the U.S. government with Senate Resolution 374 and House Resolution 699 both being pushed by the American Humanist Association. The stated goal is “..support of designating February 12, 2018, as Darwin Day and recognition of Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s people.” With Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend in which various churches use the weekend of February 9-11 to promote their view that “evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.” The Clergy Letter which Michael Zimmerman circulates among denominational congregations states that “Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.”

All of this is a strange mix of good ideas and bad ideas along with fact and opinion. It is also replete with attacks on the Bible and denigration of those who claim that bad science is involved. The stated goals are wonderful. The failure to define what is meant by evolution and accurately present what Charles Darwin actually discovered dilutes the value of the weekend and of Darwin Day itself.

It would be wonderful if Darwin Day not only commemorated the birth of Charles Darwin but presented his primary discovery. What Darwin discovered was that living things are designed so that they can change and adapt to environmental conditions and changes humans make to improve crops and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, atheists attempt to add the writings of those who oppose the idea that humans are special. Instead, they suggest that all of life has equal value because they deny the spiritual dimension of humans.

It would also be wonderful if, on evolution weekend, religious bodies would present to their constituents the evidence that claimed conflicts between science and the Bible do not exist. The conflicts are caused by bad science or bad theology–not because of what the Bible actually says or what science has factually proven to be true.

Unfortunately many members of the clergy, such as the “Jesus Seminar,” join the atheists in denigrating the Bible by suggesting that it is full of errors. The National Center for Science Education reports that 182 congregations in 42 states are participating in Evolution Weekend. That is a very small percentage of American churches.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Voodoo in Haiti, the Bahamas, and Massachusetts?

Voodoo
In the newspapers on February 4, 2018, there was a story from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, about a five-year-old girl who was permanently disfigured by a voodoo ritual. Two sisters tied her down and engaged in a ritual intended to rid her of a demon. The sisters say that they perform “cleansing baths” for family and friends and the children sometimes get burned as spirits leave their bodies. Voodoo rituals like that are practiced in Haiti, the home country of the sisters.

Missionaries working in Haiti tell about an evil black pit where animals and occasionally humans are thrown into a putrid bubbling mass to appease evil spirits that cause illness. A man from the Bahamas told us that on some of the islands there, this same kind of activity is common.

The Bible makes it clear that God forbids anything associated with witchcraft, voodoo, evil spirits, or sorcery. The Old Testament law said that a person who performed this type of activity should be put to death (Exodus 22:18). Any activity of that type was forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:10, 2 Kings 9:22, Micah 5:12). We might think that is extreme, but these things can and do result in human sacrifice. That is serious.

The New Testament included witchcraft with other immoral acts including murder (See Galatians 5:20-21). People have done horrible acts of violence in voodoo activities, and humans are frequently disfigured or violated in some way. The New Testament tells us the human body is the temple of God, and that as Christians the Spirit of God dwells in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Ignorance produces the kind of horrible thing that just happened in Massachusetts, and which happens every day in Haiti and the Bahamas. That is why it is so important for us to educate anyone we can on what God wants from us, and what evil can do. We should never underestimate the power of evil, but God has given us tools far superior to anything evil can produce. James tells us, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Mental Health and Christian Faith

Mental Health
A recent mailing by the National Alliance on Mental Illness said that one in five adults in the United States will experience mental illness. Seventy-five percent of all lifetime incidents of mental health issues occur by age 24. It goes on to say that 90% of the people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. As a public high school teacher for 41 years I was frequently associated with students who threatened suicide, or in a few cases committed suicide.

There are cases in the Bible of people who were mentally disturbed. King Saul and his relationship with David certainly shows some severe mental problems. (See 1 Samuel 18:10-16 and 28, 29.) In Luke 8:26-39 we see Jesus dealing with a man who was deeply disturbed. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul tells us that Christians should help those who are struggling with mental issues.

Biblical Christianity is a guilt-relieving faith. Many people who call themselves Christians have bombarded their followers with a guilt message. You don’t see hell mentioned as a motivational tool in the preaching of the apostles. The word is only used twice in the New Testament by the inspired writers–once in James 3:6 in reference to the tongue and once in 2 Peter 2:4 regarding angels. The gospel is good news, not threats of damnation. Christians are called to a message of love, not to a fear-driven faith based on condemnation. God does not want anyone to be lost. (See John 3:17 and 2 Peter 3:9) God wants to restore everyone to the relationship Adam and Eve had with Him in the beginning.

Christianity should not be adding to the guilt-load that people in our world have today. Instead, Christian faith should be reducing fear and stress. “Hell-fire and damnation” preaching may have motivated people to run to obedience out of fear, but it is not helpful to peace and mental health. Love for God and His love and care of us is a far better motivator both mentally and spiritually.
–John N. Clayton

The Meaning of Life

Meaning of Life-Michael Shermer
Perhaps the most influential atheist in America today is Michael Shermer, who expresses his views on the meaning of life. A graduate of Pepperdine University, Shermer has had some theological training. As an atheist, he publishes Skeptic magazine. He also has a regular column in Scientific American magazine through which he promotes his atheistic views and the various books he has written attacking believers in God. His most recent book is Heavens on Earth which he promotes heavily in his column in the February 2018 issue of Scientific American.

Atheists like Shermer view something that they don’t understand as impossible to understand. Shermer spells out a view of the future of the cosmos and the meaning of life–or lack thereof. Suggesting that the cosmos will end in total heat death with nothing but endless darkness, he then says: “In light of that end, it’s hard for me to understand how our moral choices have any sort of significance. There’s no moral accountability. The universe is neither better nor worse for what we do. Our more moral lives become vacuous because they don’t have that kind of cosmic significance.”

Shermer’s views are typical of atheist arguments on the meaning of life. Notice:

1) Heat death is not the only possible conclusion that one can come to as far as the demise of the physical cosmos is concerned.
2) The fact that it is hard for Shermer to understand does not mean that it cannot be understood. It is somewhat arrogant to argue that what I can understand is all that is possible.
3) Later Shermer states his belief that, “We live in the here and now, not in the hereafter.” That is a faith statement which is not backed up by empirical scientific data.
4) Shermer denigrates the attempts of Christians to help and serve others by saying that life choice has no cosmic significance. It may not benefit molecules and atoms, but it has huge significance on the future of humanity. The negative effects of humans upon planet Earth fill the pages of Scientific American, and that is not addressed by what Shermer claims is the purpose of our existence.
5) Shermer says, “our most basic purpose in life is to combat entropy by doing something “extropic,” in other words, expending energy to survive and flourish. Every demagogue who ever lived would agree with that statement–if they understood it.

The reality is that “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). That is also a faith statement, but it makes more sense to most of us than believing Shermer’s faith which says, “we are sentient beings designed by evolution to survive and flourish in the teeth of entropy and death.”

I am sure that the atheist community will rise in praise of Shermer’s new book. However, his subtitle of the Scientific American article “Science reveals our deepest purpose” is grossly inaccurate. In fact, we suggest that science doesn’t support his faith well at all.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Freudian Ideas Die Hard

Freudian Ideas Die Hard
Those of us who had a college major or minor in psychology in the mid-twentieth-century received a heavy dose of “Freudian Theory” and Freudian ideas die hard. We learned that there are forces that explain human psychology called libido, destrudo, and thanatos which refer to sexual, aggressive, and death forces. I was an atheist when I was taking my psychology courses. Since Sigmund Freud was not only an atheist but also a promoter of drug dependence and sexual manipulation in psychological treatments, I swallowed his theories and promoted his views.

After I became a Christian, it was obvious that Freud’s treatments didn’t work. I saw modern psychology in the late twentieth century promoting ideas that were compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In recent years private letters Freud wrote to Martha Bernays, his fiancee, and research by Frederick Crews have shown the depravity of Freud. In Crew’s words, “…the product of a mind that conjoined illogical and bizarre ideas with misogyny, prurience, and cruelty.”

The problem is that Freudian ideas die hard. We still see his ideas and words used in discussions of psychological disorders. We have seen articles and letters containing Freudian ideas and vocabulary like dissociative reaction, conversion reaction, anxiety hysteria, conversion disorder, and somatization disorder.

Christian principles give the best foundation for psychological stability. However, the resistance to Christianity has made Freud’s ideas go on far longer than they should given Freud’s history and the lack of success of those who tried to use his methods.

Frederick Crews has written a new book titled Freud, the Making of an Illusion (Holt Metropolitan Books, New York © 2017). Crews documents falsified clinical observations by Freud and negative outcomes that were never revealed. Meanwhile, there has been a growth of Christian psychological services and programs that are benefiting many people, but Freudian ideas die hard.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Chinese Christianity is Ancient

Chinese Christianity is Ancient
Recently someone asked whether Christianity was just a European creation and never had worldwide distribution. What many people don’t realize is that Christianity came to China in A.D. 635. A limestone block called the Nestorian Stele was created in A.D. 781, and it records 150 years of early Chinese Christianity. The stele gives the story of the Christian mission work in both Chinese and Aramaic.

The missionaries established Christian congregations in China and Mongolia. They did not try to westernize the people they were teaching. They dressed and lived simply, learned Chinese, and respected the Confucian culture.

There was no state church in most of Asia, so unlike Europe, the early Christians in the East did not have protection by the state. However, when Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road to China in 1254-1324, he found that the gospel message had proceeded him.

Chinese Christianity continues to function today in the homes of people and in quiet, steady teaching by Christians. The state continues to try to suppress the Church, but it is alive and well. We have our “Does God Exist?” DVD series overdubbed in Mandarin Chinese and copies of the DVDs have been made in China. Benny Mullins has been a part of doing that work, and we continue to get emails, written questions, and requests from all over China.

Hostile governments cannot contain the good news about Jesus Christ and the freedom that Christians enjoy no matter the culture or geographic setting. Christianity is not an American or European or Middle Eastern phenomenon. It is an outreach by God to bring all people into a loving relationship with their Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mormon Church Leadership

Mormon Church Leadership
In October of 2017 the Latter-Day Saints Church, better known as Mormons, celebrated its 187th Semiannual conference. The head of the Mormon Church leadership is its president Thomas S. Monson. He was appointed to the council of the twelve apostles in 1963 and became the president in 2008. He was not present at the conference because of health issues due to his age of 90 years. When Monson passes away, the office of prophet/president will go to Russell M. Nelson, the senior apostle who is 93.

Mormonism began in 1823 with a 24-year-old Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel and given golden plates which enabled him to establish the Church of Christ in 1830. Several years later the church was renamed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Joseph Smith was appointed “a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, and elder of the church.”

The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry deals with evidence. Is there any evidence from science to support the claims of the Mormon church? The answer to that question is “No.” The claimed tablets that were supposedly translated by Smith were never seen. The claimed location of the angelic appearance and burial of the tablets was near Palmyra, New York, but no archaeological support has been found.

The claims of Mormonism also lack biblical support and many of the teachings conflict with the Bible. Most of us are familiar with “Mormon Elders” who are young unmarried men who are sent into mission service and called elders. When we read the biblical description of elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we see qualifications that these young men don’t have. The biblical concept of the congregation and how it functions and how it is governed has nothing in common with conferences or presidents. Whole books have been written on the lack of biblical support for the Mormon claims.

The history of the Mormon Church leadership is a story of violence, polygamy, and control. A great source for more information is the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, PO Box 1884, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110. Or visit their website www.utlm.org.
–John N. Clayton © 2017