The Weight of Christian Testimony

Christian Testimony

Christian testimony is very powerful. After I finished speaking in a recent lectureship, an atheist vociferously attacked Christianity. He said that in the twenty-first century Christianity is useless. He said it doesn’t help anyone, it creates conflict, and it wastes resources.

Before I could respond, a woman said to him, “Before my husband came to Christ he was a drunk, an abuser, and a terrible father. Since becoming a Christian, he has been a kind, loving father and husband because of his new relationship with Christ.” Before he could respond, a man standing behind him said, “I was an alcoholic for 26 years, and since becoming a Christian I have found the strength to free myself from this horrible drug.” Then a young woman said, “I grew up in an abusive home and abused my own children until I became a Christian and learned there was a better way.”

Then the man’s wife held him by the arms and looked into his face and said, “Why do you think I have stayed married to you through the affairs and the times you left me lonely and crying? I have told you that God wanted us to make this marriage work, and if it wasn’t for Christ, I wouldn’t still be here. I want to build our family according to the pattern the Bible gives us.” The man looked at me and said, “I have answers for what you said in your scientific lecture tonight, but I don’t have an answer for all of this.” He waved his arm at the people standing around him and walked away from me with his arm around his wife.

In 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 we read: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works.”

In Mark 5:1-20 we see the amazing story of a man who was mentally deranged until Jesus cured him. The man wanted to go with Jesus and leave the place where he was known for being a lunatic. Jesus told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” The man not only told his friends and family about what Christ had done for him, but he went to ten cities in the area and did the same. The next time Jesus came to that area, there was a crowd waiting to hear him because of the testimony of the cured man.

It is easy to find people who claim to be Christians who do nothing to change the world around them. There are also many who do make a difference by their Christian testimony. Even in our modern times, testimonies carry more weight for most people than any scientific evidence I can offer.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheist Abuse and God

Atheist abuse of God

Christians have been amazed at the bigotry expressed not only toward individuals who publicly state that they are Christians, but the atheist abuse of God himself. One of the more vocal atheists in Ireland is the actor Stephen Fry. He made the news May 12 with an attack on God that was so vitriolic that even the politicians condemned his words. The Irish constitution bans blasphemy, and a law exists that protects religions from “abusive or insulting comments.”

Fry’s statement included the following: “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain.” Fry may have to pay a large financial penalty for the remark, which apparently exceeded the Irish view of what is decent and accepted. The statement is typical of those who have not investigated the evidence for the existence of God and have not considered answers to why injustice and pain exist. Atheists would like to blame all injustice and all pain on the God they don’t believe in. The truth is that injustice and pain exist in atheist states and in the lives of prominent atheists throughout history. The reality is that atheists have no answer for injustice and pain, while Christians do. The atheist abuse and anger has no justification.

If you have an interest in this subject, we would suggest you watch our video series lessons 11 and 12. You can watch them for free at www.doesgodexist.tv.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Archaeology and the Bible

Archaeology and the BibleArchaeological Excavation of a Synagogue in Israel

The May/June issue of Biblical Archaeological Review carried and article with the inflammatory title “Who Tells the Truth: The Bible or Archaeology” written by Dr. William G. Dever. The title is somewhat misleading, because Dever is actually a historical maximalist when it comes to bringing the archaeology and the Bible together. Dr. Dever is the Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and his proposal is that Biblical texts and archaeological data should be studied separately and then students should look for convergences.

There are two approaches to the relationship of archaeology and the Bible. In addition to the “maximalist” position there are also “minimalists.” Biblical minimalism is the view that assumes that archaeology and the Bible are necessarily in conflict because the biblical account is viewed as a myth. Minimalism is the approach of the “Jesus Seminar” group which says if a statement in the Bible is hard to believe or is a miracle, then it can be discarded. Archaeological minimalists assume that things like David and Goliath, Saul and David, Moses and the Exodus, David’s palace, and Solomon’s riches can’t be true and cannot be supported by archaeology. When a find is made that seems to support some of these biblical stories, that interpretation is automatically discarded.

The problem for biblical minimalists is that there is too much evidence that the Bible is true to reasonably discard it. Hershel Shanks, who is the editor of Biblical Archaeological Review wrote about this. The article he wrote was in the July/August 1997 issue titled “Face to Face: Biblical Minimalists Meet Their Challengers.” Christians do not need to be intimidated by claims made that archaeology discredits the Bible. Christians should follow 1 Peter 3:15 and know how to answer these claims. We would encourage our readers to read an article by Lydia Evdoxiadi Verniory that we published in our May/June 2010 issue page 15. Ms. Verniory is a practicing archaeologist and the article is titled “Noisy Books On The Historicity of the Bible–Take Them With A Grain of Salt.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Science and Theology

Science and Theology

There has been a growing trend in the academic community to suggest that science and theology are two separate disciplines that cannot support one another. The position of this ministry has always been that science and faith complement each other and should never be viewed as opponents. The dictionary defines science as “systematic knowledge.” It defines theology as “science dealing with God and His relationship to the universe.” (Webster’s American College Dictionary) Bad science and bad theology are very much the same–systematic knowledge replaced by human opinion.

In the physical world, science is based on a method that precludes human opinion. The scientific method involves testing a theory by experimentation to see if it can be falsified. We can even expand and enlarge our fundamental knowledge. Our understanding of gravity, for example, has undergone several changes since Newton’s day when the first knowledge was derived by the tests available to him. When Einstein gave us an expanded understanding of gravity, it was based on several tests which could be duplicated over and over. Now there is a possibility that Newton’s ideas will be expanded even more as better experiments enlarge our understanding.

Interestingly, Isaac Newton also did experiments in theology. In theology, his experiments did not verify his personal opinions, so they never became science. Like much of astronomy, quantum mechanics, and cosmology, experiments in theology have to be conducted by observation of things we can’t control. Science provides facts about the physical world and our role within it, and many of those facts have theological implications.

Do our understandings in theology change? Certainly! Just as our understanding of gravity has grown, so too our understanding of God has grown. As we experience life and see what has happened in human history and in our own lives, our understanding grows. Even our understanding of the Bible has grown as we learn more of what Jesus and the Apostles taught and how they lived. Knowing that the cosmos is not just the Earth and the solar system has expanded our understanding of God and His power and intelligence. It is bad theology to take the knowledge of 500 years ago and force our understandings of the Bible on that knowledge.

The twenty-first century is an exciting time to be alive. As our scientific knowledge continues to grow, so too our understanding of God is growing and expanding. Proverbs 8:1 and 22-30 shows how wisdom was involved in all of God’s creation. If we use our God-given intelligence and take His Word as truth, we can grow in our faith and in knowledge.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Female Genital Mutilation and Christianity

Stop Female Genital Mutilation

The front page of USA Today (April 25, 2017) had the headline “This is Demonic.” The article was about female genital mutilation. There was a picture of a woman and a statement in bold print saying “A fundamentalist, Christian doctor mutilated her genitals in 1947 to prevent her from masturbating.” A bold-type statement also says that this has been done to half a million females in the United States. If you read the entire article, you find that much of that number has little to do with Christianity, but that isn’t until the last five paragraphs of the article.

It is true that in some non-Christian cultures women are treated as objects. In those cultures it is common to perform female genital mutilation surgeries to remove any chance of the women having sexual pleasure. It is also true that misguided individuals claiming to be Christians may have done the horrible things described in the article. The teachings of Christianity, however, are opposed to sexism and mutilation of the human body of any kind.

Christian teaching is that the human body is the temple of God. First Corinthians 3:16, addressing both sexes, says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” Paul repeats this point in chapter 6 verses 18-20. In chapter seven Paul talks about sexual pleasure and places the woman’s pleasure on an equal level with the man’s. In verse 3, husbands are told to satisfy their wives, and in verses 4-5 Christians are told that “the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a set time to devote yourself to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Sex is a beautiful, loving thing when practiced in obedience to the Creator’s instructions. God designed something incredible for men and women. It is indeed “demonic” to allow God’s gift to be taken away from women. Christianity treats women as equal to men in every way (Galatians 3:26-29). They have different roles, but all are equal. For more on the role of women and the gains women have made because of the teachings of Christianity, we would encourage readers to get a copy of Under the Influence by Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan Publishing).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Book of Enoch and the Bible

The Book of Enoch and The Bible

From time to time we get comments from students and skeptics about a reference in Jude 14 to a prophet named Enoch who is called “the seventh from Adam.” Genesis 5:18-24 tells us that Enoch walked with God and that God took him directly so that he didn’t die. Hebrews 11:5 makes a reference to that passage and explains that Enoch did not see death but God “translated” him. So did this great man of God write a book that should have been included in our Bibles but for some reason was not? Did Enoch reveal information that we need to hear and do not have available from any other source?

First, there is a document called The Book of Enoch, and there are 40 extant manuscripts in the Ethiopic language, and fragments of it in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. What Jude cites is factual, but some of the things in The Book of Enoch are bizarre.

Secondly, the fact that the Bible quotes a source doesn’t mean that source should be in the Bible. When Paul spoke on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), he made references to pagan writers who obviously would not be included in the biblical canon. Hebrews 11:35 refers to an account in 2 Maccabees 7 where a woman witnessed the martyrdom of her seven sons and then was killed rather than denying her faith.

Thirdly, the standards used to determine which books to include in the Bible excluded material like the book of Enoch. The methods used by the early Church to establish the biblical canon were solid in scholarship and technique. Those of us who know less and do not have the tools available to make such decisions have to trust the scholarship of those who had the knowledge and tools available.

We would recommend two sources for those of you who are interested in this subject. One is How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot published by Baker Books. The other is Douglas Jacoby’s website–douglasjacoby.com. Dr. Jacoby dealt with this subject in a posting that you can find here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Problems in American Public Education

Stable Family and Public Education

Sometimes I have the opportunity to speak to groups of teachers or community groups interested in public education. One of my comments in those presentations is that I know what the basic problem is in American public education. I can give it to you in a very simple personal statistic. In 1959 when I began teaching at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I had a freshman homeroom with 32 kids. Four of those kids did not have the same last name as the person who was listed as their parent or guardian. When I retired from Riley 41 years later, I had a freshman homeroom with 32 kids in it. Only four of those kids did have the same last name as their parent or guardian. Kids who grow up in a stable nuclear family have a distinct advantage over kids who grow up in a climate of change and insecurity.

I was reminded of that fact when our local paper came out on Mother’s Day with a list of the 12 valedictorians of Mishawaka High School–a large public high school in our area. All 12 of them had the same last name as their parent or guardian. Please do not misunderstand these comments. We are not saying that kids who come from homes where there has been divorce or death are doomed to failure. Many of our children turn out well in spite of us, not because of us.

The fact is that God’s plan for the family provides the ideal environment for kids to grow up with the drive and motivation to be productive adults. Ephesians 5:15-6:4 instructs Christians in these matters. As a public school teacher, I have seen the wisdom of that teaching over and over. No politician will ever be able to solve the problems of public education until the problems of the American family are resolved, and I would suggest that only Jesus Christ has the power to do that.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mary Mother of Jesus and Choices

Mother and Son

Christians see Mary mother of Jesus as a woman who demonstrates what a mother should be. The angel told Mary, “Hail O favored one, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:30). Mary’s response was “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). That is an incredible response because it is so unselfish and full of faith.

Mary’s name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “bitter.” Indeed what Mary was about to endure in the culture of her day would be bitter. She was going to be pregnant with a child when she was not married. Her husband-to-be would be under pressure to break off their relationship. She would have no visible means of support. Jesus would be born as an illegitimate child and would have the scorn of those around him. People would ridicule Mary’s claim that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Even after Jesus was born, Mary’s life would not be easy. Shortly after the birth of the baby, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have to flee to Egypt. There she would experience a culture and a language she did not know. Joseph’s occupation was carpentry, which was not financially or socially prestigious. Matthew 13:55 shows the attitude of people to Joseph’s common trade and his family of four sons and more than one daughter, in addition to Jesus. Joseph apparently died before Jesus began his ministry and Jesus was required by law to care for his mother. At his crucifixion, Jesus turned Mary’s care over to his disciple John (John 19:26).

Portrayals of Mary by artists show her as a beautiful woman, but physical beauty is not the emphasis given to us in the Bible. Proverbs 31:30 tells us, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.” What we see in Mary is a spiritual woman whose first love is God. She was praised by Elizabeth saying, “Blessed are you for believing that the things that the Lord has said to you will be done” (Luke 1:45). Mary responded by saying, “My heart is overflowing with the praise of the Lord and my spirit has found joy in God for He has regarded the humble state of His bondslave” (Luke 1:46- 48).

Christianity has elevated all women, and the Bible portrays Mary as a woman who is everything God calls women to be. When Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:15 about women being saved through childbirth, he gave us a picture of a role that women can choose. Mary had the strength to accept and live that role. She did it by choice, not because she was forced to accept it. No man can ever have such an opportunity. The Bible makes it clear that Mary had a choice, and she chose well.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Human Body and the Christian

Human Body

One of the unique teachings of the Bible is that the human body is the temple of God. First Corinthians 3:16 says it clearly: “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?” This concept is repeated numerous times throughout the New Testament. The consequences of that belief are very significant. The next verse tells us: “If any man defiles the temple of God, he will be destroyed: for the temple of God is holy, and that temple is you.”

As Christians, we should treat our bodies with respect and care. Taking recreational drugs of any kind is an affront to that care. The consequences of taking alcohol, nicotine, meth, or crack into our bodies or abusing prescription drugs will ultimately destroy our health. The list of ailments from alcohol and nicotine is massive and growing.

In today’s world, many have been told that vaping involves no health risks. That is simply not true. It is true that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, but medical data is showing that the vapor from e-cigarettes reduces the body’s ability to heal wounds. Teens who vape can develop smoker’s cough and bloody sores. Chemical analysis shows that the vapors contain cancer-causing chemicals. A new vaping behavior called “dripping” intensifies the effects of vaping and increases the risks.

The human body is an amazing machine, but it is also more than that. God has called us to care for our bodies and to treat them as a sacred dwelling for His Spirit. Involvement in solving the problems facing humanity today is a better high than vaping can ever produce. We cause many of our physical problems by not caring for God’s Temple, and the teachings of Christ should lead us to correct that.
Reference: Science News May 13, 2017, page 5.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Asteroid 2015 BZ-509

Jupiter And Asteroids
Jupiter And Asteroids

A recently discovered asteroid is raising new questions. The cosmos is one of the great evidences for the existence of God. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.” Psalms 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…” We see a constant stream of new proposals year after year giving possible scenarios about how the solar system and Earth were produced. In the nearly 50 years that we have been writing, we have seen a dozen or so theories advanced and discarded because they couldn’t account for new observations.

This month Science News (May 13, 2017, page 5), carried a story about a strange asteroid. This will once again cause some rearranging of the current best guesses as to how the solar system and the Earth were formed. Research reported in Nature magazine (March 30, 2017) shows an asteroid that revolves around the Sun backwards, even though it is in Jupiter’s orbit. If you were to look at the solar system from the north star, you would notice that everything revolves around the Sun in a counterclockwise direction. Moons, asteroids, and planets are basically all in one plane and all moving the same way. Jupiter is the most massive planet in the solar system, and it has a multitude of rocks called asteroids that orbit around the Sun in the same direction. Now we have an asteroid that is in Jupiter’s orbit but revolves clockwise around the Sun.

If you think about that for a minute, you will see that it would logically follow that in the first orbit this asteroid would have slammed into Jupiter like a car driving the wrong way down a one-way street. In time at least, Jupiter should have sucked in this wayward hunk of rock. The orbit of asteroid 1015 BZ-509 is such that in one orbit it goes on one side of Jupiter and on the next orbit it goes on the other side of Jupiter, so the gravitational jerk of Jupiter is canceled out. Computer simulations show that this arrangement is permanent. It has been going on for a long time and will continue into the future.

We are not suggesting you invent a God to explain this oddity, but theories about the creation have to include anomalies like this one. Every day new observations are made, and on a regular basis they add to the complexity we see in the cosmos. The Creator had to know about, produce, and control all of these things for us to exist. For Bible students, these things do remind us of the truthfulness of Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained; what is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him…”
–John N. Clayton © 2017