Christianity and Violence

Christianity and Violence
If you watch program #7 in our video series, you will see a number of quotes by well-known atheists indicating why they reject the existence of God. One of the recurring statements is the claim that religion and religious warfare threaten to destroy all of humanity. They claim that religion is evil. They even equate Christianity and violence. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book with the subtitle How Religion Poisons Everything in which he blamed religions for violence and warfare, and he made no distinction for Christianity.

There is no question that war and violence have plagued the human race since the time of Adam, and many times religion has been at least a catalyst to the violence if not the cause of it. Unfortunately, there is much in the history of religion to connect it with violence. Atheists claim that a million people were murdered by the Catholic Church in the Crusades and the Inquisition.

The New Testament makes it clear that the followers of Jesus should be peacemakers. Matthew 5:25-48 and Romans 12:9-21 show that Jesus opposed war and violence. Passages like Ephesians 3:10-12 and 6:12 tell us that our real battle is spiritual warfare.

Would getting rid of religion eliminate violence? If somehow we could eliminate every religion, would we see peace and love and goodwill everywhere? John Lennon’s famous song Imagine had the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below us… nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” The song suggested that getting rid of religion would bring peace and harmony on Earth.

The truth is that the most violent and war-like leaders in history had no religious beliefs at all. Hitler murdered 190 million people. Stalin and Mao killed even more. Unbelief seems to be more dangerous than even the most violent of organized religions.

War has many causes, but political and economic power—not religion–are at the core of most wars. Christianity should never be the cause of war or violence. Christians may be involved as citizens according to the dictates of Romans 13, but you can’t read Matthew 5 and Romans 12 and attempt to equate Christianity and violence.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Majesty in Miniature

Majesty In Miniature

“Majesty in Miniature” is the title of an interesting article in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic (pages 99-118). The article is about the amazing hummingbirds.

Scientists have had a hard time getting data as they try to understand how hummingbirds do what they do. The birds fly at speeds up to 35 mph (56 kph) and they have a “reverse gear.” Their metabolic rate is the highest of any vertebrate on the planet. For every minute they are in flight, they drink more than 12 ounces (355 ml) of water. They consume more than their body weight of nectar every day. Their tongues lap up to 15 times a second. Proportionally their brain is one of the largest in the animal kingdom making up 4.2% of their body weight. It is only with the advent of high-speed cameras and advanced wind tunnels that some of the mysteries of the majesty in miniature have been answered.

Hummingbird brains have a large hippocampus which allows them to remember locations. Their brain has a large lentiformis mesencephali motion sensor which gives the bird stabilization when flying. It has a small arm wing which allows wrist motion to control a larger area of the wing leading to a more powerful upstroke. When a hummingbird hovers, it rotates its wings between the upstrokes and the downstrokes making a figure eight motion. This motion creates vortexes that allow both the downstroke and the upstroke to provide lift. Birds such as pigeons push down to propel forward, but there is no lift in the upstroke. The design of the hummingbird wing gives it the unique ability to get lift out of both strokes.

The design of all of these features defies any chance explanation. Nearly everything the hummingbird does is unique to that species. We don’t see birds with some of these characteristics, and yet all of them are essential to the hummingbird’s survival. Indeed this bird is majesty in miniature, and a testimony to God’s wisdom and design. He has equipped all creatures to live in their particular, unique environment.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Evolution Theories More Confounded

Human Evolution Theories More Confounded
For many years the papers have reported on anthropologists finding the remains of human ancestors in Ethiopia, eastern Africa. In the past several weeks there have been headlines saying that “the oldest fossil of Homo sapiens” has been found in Morocco which is in northeast Africa. It seems that each new find makes human evolution theories more confounded.

Anthropologists working in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, found fossils they claim are much older than those found in east Africa. The specimens have a lower jaw which matches Homo sapiens but the brain cases are long and low which is more indicative of apes or monkeys. They also found 14 stone artifacts which they associated with those fossils. The original report said that the tools were found with the fossils. Later reports indicate the tools were found in the strata above the fossils indicating they might not have been produced by those individuals.

Scientific theories about how humans came into existence are always changing as new data becomes available. The classic theoretical model of human evolution in recent years has maintained that humans arose in east Africa and migrated elsewhere. That is apparently not the case, but this new find will be debated and discussed by the experts for many years.

The Bible does not address the evolution of apes or monkeys. We are simply told that animals reproduced after their kind. There is no indication of how many kinds there were, or how much their genetic makeup varied as the years went by. The Bible says that God created man and woman in His own image. That spiritual quality of humans is the thrust of the biblical account. Modern human’s origin in the Fertile Crescent area of what is now Iraq is not questioned by very many people. That is also what the Bible tells us. Human migration throughout the world and the racial variations that developed to help people adapt to different climates is without a doubt.

The fact that apes and monkeys evolved and adapted to the varied climate of Africa is interesting and not surprising. The assumption that their evolution jumped to produce modern humans with all of all of the human characteristics and spiritual capabilities is a leap of faith. New data will keep developing new ideas and theories, but humans as a special creation of God will not be changed. The discovery of the changes in creatures that in some cases looked physically like us makes human evolution theories more confounded.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: Science News, July 8, 22, 2017, page 6 and Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2017, page A18.

Torture and Truth

Torture and Truth
Torture Rack

We have written about “Truth” before, and our point has been that truth is never 100% sure when you deal with humans. When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), he was giving us the only thing we can fully trust, and that is God’s Word.

There is an interesting story from history about the Duke of Brunswick in Germany. In the early 1600s, he challenged the connection between torture and truth. He requested the assistance of two Jesuit scholars who had been using torture to extract information about witches. He had a confessed witch who was being stretched on a rack, and he invited the Jesuits to join him in watching her torture.

With the two Jesuits watching, the Duke said to the woman “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch. I suspect these two men (the Jesuits) of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack executioners.”

The woman cried, “No, no! You are quite right…They can turn themselves into goats, wolves, and other animals…Several witches have had children by them…The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” The Duke turned to the Jesuits and said, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”

One of the Jesuits she accused of being a warlock was Friedrich See who helped to end witch hunting by writing a book in 1631 titled Cautio Criminalis. The book demonstrated that torture was not a tool for obtaining useful information because humans will say anything to stop the pain. We have all seen children say preposterous things to get out of a jam, but adults do the same thing on a different level.

When Pilate questioned Jesus in John 18:37, Jesus said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” How Jesus lived and what He taught can be trusted because it is not of human origin. Over the centuries when people follow Christ’s teachings, their truthfulness has been demonstrated. Pilate’s response to Jesus was, “What is truth?” Soon after that, Pilate told the Jews he could find no fault in Jesus.

Torture and truth do not go together. Truth stands on its own. It cannot be manufactured or forced. People make false claims about Christianity, but just as Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, today no one can find fault in what Jesus taught or how He lived.
Reference: Scientific American, May 2017, page 77.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Summer Snow in Michigan

Summer Snow
Eastern Cottonwood Seeds

Recently my driveway was covered with Michigan summer snow. The temperature was 92 degrees, and the snow was falling at an alarming rate. I didn’t get out my snow blower, but I did get out my leaf blower.

Michigan summer snowflakes are one-to-two inches in diameter. Contained within each snowflake is a seed. These snowflakes can travel for miles when the wind is blowing because they are carefully engineered so that their density is the same as the air here in Michigan on a hot early summer day. They only stop when they hit an obstruction, but even a dandelion or a tall weed can stop them. The cotton that surrounds the seed is highly soluble in water. As soon as it rains or the sprinkler system comes on, the cotton will dissolve, and the seed will fall to the ground and try to become a new cottonwood tree.

The eastern cottonwood is the state tree in Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. It can grow as much as six feet in one year and can become one of the largest trees in North America. Because they grow so fast, the wood of cottonwood trees is not very strong. But when you have a tree 190 feet tall, there is a great deal you can do with it. The Native Americans made canoes from the trunks of cottonwood trees. They used the bark of the tree as forage for horses, and the sprouts for food and medicinal tea.

Cottonwood trees come in both male and female varieties with different life cycles. The males don’t make seeds. In the spring the female trees have tiny red blossoms. When the females are pollinated by the male trees, they form a spherical cotton ball with a seed inside. The volume of the cotton is exactly enough to give buoyancy to lift the seed off the ground, but not so enough for it to be lost in the atmosphere. The cotton balls with their seeds flow across the landscape in the same way that cold air blows snow in winter. The seeds can be so thick that we can’t see across our street.

It is a wonderful thing to see all the different methods that God designed into trees to allow them to reproduce. Maple trees use tiny helicopters to lower seeds to the ground. Oak trees use acorns to entice squirrels to bury their seeds. Squirrels have enough memory space in their brains to remember where most of the seeds are, but not all of them. Cottonwoods create summer snow.

Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. Our Michigan summer snowstorm is just one more example of that truth.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Supreme Court Decision vs. Atheist Foolishness

Supreme Court Decision on Church Playground
Sometimes when atheists attack churches and people who believe in God, their arguments border nonsense. In an earlier post, we told about a state program for child safety in Missouri that was denied to a church solely because it was a church. A Supreme Court decision finally settled the matter.

The state had instituted a grant program which allowed owners of playgrounds to make them safer by purchasing rubberized playground surface material made from recycled tires. In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, needed to replace the gravel on their playground with the safer material. The state denied their grant application saying that public funds cannot be given to religious organizations according to the Missouri state constitution. The case went to an appeals court where it ended in a tie vote. It was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 26, 2017, the court decided in favor of the church.

This case may sound frivolous, but it is an important issue. Churches run food banks, women’s shelters, street kitchens, relief agencies, counseling centers, and many other programs to help people. Churches provide those services more efficiently at less cost than government programs. The services that churches provide relieves the burden from taxpayers while providing more help for more people in need. If the government penalizes the work of the churches simply because they are “religious,” everyone suffers. Atheists provide none of those services to any great extent, if at all. We see foolish cases like this one increasing because of blind hatred for God.

The Alliance Defending Freedom represented Trinity Lutheran in this case, and they argued that Missouri’s “…religious exclusion sends a message that Trinity’s children are less worthy of protection simply because they play on a playground owned by a church.” The ADF also stated that “People of faith shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens–every child’s safety matters. The government shouldn’t make children in religious preschools less safe on playgrounds than other children.”

You will find the details of the ruling on the SCOTUS Blog. The complete text of the Supreme Court decision is posted on the court opinions page as Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. vs. Comer.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Moderate Drinking and the Brain

Moderate Drinking
Does moderate drinking cause physiological problems? We see a lot of misleading information in the media about the effects of alcohol. There have been studies linking consumption of alcohol to longer life expectancy. We have pointed out that the agents causing health benefits from drinking wine are the flavonoids in grapes. Alcohol is not the agent of health benefits.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal reports that long term studies show a negative effect in the brain of moderate drinkers. The study defined moderate drinking as weekly doses of 8 to 12 small glasses of wine, bottles of beer, or shots of liquor. It followed 527 British citizens for 30 years, and the subjects were “predominantly white middle-class men.”

The study showed that moderate drinkers were more likely than nondrinkers to develop brain changes that might precede or accompany memory loss. They also were more likely to show a more rapid decline in a language fluency test. Moderate drinkers were three times more likely than nondrinkers to show shrinkage of the hippocampus area of the brain–a change that accompanies dementia. Heavy drinkers showed the most shrinkage.

Claims that moderate drinking is healthy and improves the quality of life are simply not true. Alcohol continues to be the most destructive recreational drug.
Reported in USA Today, June 7, 2017, page B1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

We Need Lightning to Survive on Earth

We Need Lightning
Most of us have had some experience with lightning. The chances are that our experiences have been terrifying and destructive, and we may view lightning as a bad thing. You may wonder if we need lightning. The short answer is, “Yes.” Lightning is a good thing, and there are many things we are still learning about it.

Lightning helps produce the nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that are needed by all living things on Earth. The process is called “nitrogen fixation, ” and it is vital to our very existence. Water droplets in the air carry an electric charge. That charge can accumulate to dangerous levels unless there is a way to neutralize it. That’s where lightning comes in.

One of my favorite demonstrations as a physics teacher was to get a very small flow of water going from a faucet and then bring a charged rod up to the column of water. The stream of water will bend in response to the charge. That is because the polar nature of the water molecule allows it to have electrical properties. Because of water’s electrical property, lightning is generated to release nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the crust of the Earth as nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that plants need to grow. The plants then feed and protect the animals and us.

Low Earth orbit satellites and high flying airplanes have recently made us aware of other properties of lightning. We have learned that red sprites occur and they have been photographed above large thunderstorms. Other upper atmosphere lightning phenomena include blue jets and terrestrial gamma flashes. Scientists are studying the highly complex nature of lightning to understand how the system works.

The Bible makes many comments about lightning. It tells us that lightning is made with water (rain) even though people at that time totally ascribed lightning to supernatural causes. (See Jeremiah 10:13 and 51:16). Lightning is referred to as a tool of God. (See Job 28:26; 36:30; 37:3, 11, 15; 38:24, 25, 35.)

We are just beginning to understand the design of Earth’s atmosphere and why we need lightning. It continues to be obvious that the more we know of the creation, the closer we get to understanding the power and wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

World’s Largest Snake- TITANOBOA

World's Largest Snake
It was the world’s largest snake. Fortunately, it is extinct. The computer-generated picture shows what it might have been like if a human had ever confronted a Titanoboa (Titanoboa cerrejonensis).

One thing that many creationists and evolutionists forget is the fact that Earth’s climate in the past was much different from what it is today. To produce animals of massive size, Earth’s climate would have to be much warmer. The temperatures would have been so high that mammals could hardly survive. Cold-blooded (ectothermic) animals in tropical areas today tend to be larger than ectothermic animals found farther from the equator.

While giving lectures in Colombia, South America, we learned about the snake named Titanoboa. Fossils of more than two-dozen of these snakes were discovered in coal mines in northern Colombia. The name means “titanic boa,” and that seems fitting because it measured 48 feet (14.6 m) long and would have weighed 2500 pounds (1,135 kg). For a snake of that size to live, the climate must have averaged 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). It is difficult to comprehend how any mammal, especially humans, could survive in such temperatures.

Why would God have given this planet such an extreme climate? It was needed to support the world’s largest snake, other huge animals, and the massive vegetation they required. What was the purpose of those animals and plants? That environment made possible the coal, petroleum, and other resources that would later be needed by humans to support an advanced civilization. This is one more indication that the prehistory of the Earth had conditions uniquely designed by God to prepare the planet for human habitation.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Pornography Impacts the Church

Pornography Impacts the Church
Sex is a beautiful creation of God. The complexity of human sexuality is enormous because the sexual experience is not just physical. Sex also involves the emotions as well as the spiritual nature of humans as beings created in the image of God.

Like everything else that God created, Satan can take something beautiful and purposeful and corrupt it and make something evil from it. The role of intimacy in marriage and the special nature of oneness which it binds in love and sharing seems to be lost in today’s world. Pornography impacts the Church also.

We have seen how evil sex can become in the pedophile behavior of some Roman Catholic priests. The media has seized on this abuse and attempted to make it appear to be the norm for Christianity. Church leadership seems to be in denial on this subject, and yet recent studies show that 68% of men who call themselves “Christians” view pornography on a regular basis.

The internet allows men to view pornography at home or in the privacy of their office. In an article in Christianity Today (August 2017) titled “Pornography is Paralyzing the Church” Luke Gibbons wrote, “When men view porn, they become stricken with guilt and shame which leads to feeling unworthy to lead and afraid to speak out. Their secret sin becomes a dead-weight in their lives. They avoid ministry opportunities and begin to suffocate spiritually.”

Pornography impacts the church when it encourages child predators. Jimmy Hinton is a man who knows that from first-hand experience. We worked with him to create a DVD series and booklet to help churches protect themselves from child predators. The title of the material is “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” It is available on loan from our ministry, or to purchase from www.jimmyhinton.org.

–John N. Clayton © 2017