The Resurrection Plant

Resurrection Plant
Resurrection Plant 3-hour Timelapse, Credit: Serych/wikimedia commons
An advertisement currently running on television for a lotion product says that it contains ingredients derived from the “Resurrection Plant.” After doing some research on resurrection plants, I found that several plants are called by that name. The thing they all have in common is that they can become desiccated (almost completely dried out) and then return to life when water is applied. Perhaps the best known is Selaginella lepidophylla which is sold as a novelty. The animation shows one of these plants going from dry to revived over a three-hour period. This resurrection plant is native to the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico and western Texas. It is known by various other names including “rose of Jericho.” It’s also called “false rose of Jericho” because there is another species of resurrection plant called “rose of Jericho” that grows in the deserts of Asia and Africa.

Whatever you call it, the Selaginella lepidophylla has a special distinction. Early Spanish missionaries to the American desert southwest used it as an object lesson to teach the natives about the concept of rebirth. When the plant appears to be dead and without hope, water revives it to new life. This can be compared to a person dead in sin being revived to new life in baptism. However, it isn’t the water that gives the baptized person new life, but the power of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection plants are not really dead. Those desert plants are waiting in a dormant state until the rain returns. When Jesus was placed in the tomb, he was completely dead as verified by the Roman soldier who pierced his side with a sword. Then early on the first day of the week, he was alive again. That is a true resurrection and the most solidly verified event of ancient history. I don’t know if an ingredient from the resurrection plant will restore your skin. I do know that the resurrection of Jesus can restore your soul. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The apostle Paul wrote, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3,4).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report

Homosexual Lifestyle
Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Drug Alcohol–Worse than Previously Believed

Alcoholism
Christians are told to take care of their bodies because they are the temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit and we should not defile that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) We are also told to stay away from “all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) I am always amazed when I hear people who claim to be Christians trying to justify the use of alcohol when there is so much data to show how evil and destructive it is. A recent report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that “alcohol is the second most deadly drug in the United States, behind only tobacco.” Between 2002 and 2014 alcohol deaths increased by 37% in the United States. Alcohol now accounts for more fatalities than overdoses from prescription painkillers and heroin combined. The Center also reports that alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Most people are not even aware that alcohol use contributes to cancer, but the data is very clear. Data from The Week, December 23/30 2016, page 27.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheism and Translation Issues

Elisha’s Spring Fountain at Jericho
Atheists do their best to make the God of the Bible seem to be a heartless, ruthless, barbaric, evil God. We have reviewed many of their attempts over the years. Recently an example cited in an atheist blog demonstrates the difficulties that occur when an old translation is read carelessly. The story is in 2 Kings 2:23-24. The King James translation tells us that as the prophet Elisha was walking a group of “little children came out of the city” and mocked him ridiculing his bald head. According to verse 24 Elisha “cursed them in the name of the Lord” and two bears came out of the woods and tore up 42 of them. If you stop at this point, you could think that the God who caused this was heartless, ruthless, barbaric, and evil. Why should God be so vindictive when all the children were doing is making fun of an old bald preacher?

The truth is that God is not any of those things. The Hebrew word translated “little children” in the King James Version of the Bible is also used to describe Joseph when he was 17 and Joshua when he served in the tabernacle. It is also used to describe David when he fought Goliath and Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7, even though he was married. We aren’t talking about a bunch of six-year-olds, but rather a large group of young warrior-like juveniles who could have done great harm to Elisha. The city they were coming from was Bethel which was a center of idolatry in Israel. In 2 Kings 10:29 we read that Jeroboam established golden calf worship in Bethel. In this story, 42 young thugs come out to attack a prophet of God. That is a far cry from innocent children making fun of an old man. Another important fact in this story is what the young men are saying, “go up you baldhead,” is not about Elisha’s hair line. In verse 11 Elijah was taken up into heaven, and Elisha was left to carry on. In verse 3 the pagan prophets had jeered Elisha because his mentor was going to leave him. They said, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” They were saying he would be powerless because Elijah who gave him his authority would be gone.

The rest of the story is that Elisha showed his authority by using the abilities given him by God including miraculously purifying the water from the spring at Jericho. Whenever there is a biblical event that looks foolish or contradictory, we need to examine it more closely. We need to consider who wrote the account, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of the day would have understood it. If you do that, you will find that the Bible is a true, factual, and logical guide that we can rely on. We also learn that the God of the Bible is patient and shows His wrath only when humans refuse to accept anything else.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

What Is an Eyewitness Account and What Isn’t?

Kids Riding a Triceratops
The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry tries very hard to focus on evidence, and not scientific or biblical speculation. In 1 Timothy 6:20 Paul tells Christians to “avoid profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called…” The Greek word used here for “falsely” is pseudonumos which has a close connection to the modern phrase “pseudo-science”. So much of what dominates the headlines of the media today is not science at all, but wild speculation much of which is not testable or falsifiable. There is no way to test most of these proposals, and so they fall outside the realm of science. String theory, brane theory, multiverses, parallel universes, and even some versions of quantum mechanics fall into this category. These areas of study rely on equations and interpretations of those equations. In string theory, for example, there are 10 to the 500th power different equations to choose from, and no one can maintain that one equation has been observed to work.

This same problem occurs when one looks at the fossil record and what we can observe from the fossils or from the remains of human drawings and accounts. There is no valid evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, but some apologists continue to crank out claims that eyewitnesses of the dinosaurs exist. Andrew Snelling who works with Ken Ham in his amusement parks in Kentucky claims that Norwegian and Chinese writers provide eye witnesses of dinosaurs and humans living together. To do that he makes references to Chinese scrolls showing dragons pulling the chariots of emperors, and a Norwegian fictional story called Beowulf in which a king slays a dragon.

The reason that these are not eyewitness accounts is that the scrolls and fictional stories cited also have stories and pictures of centaurs (horse bodies with human torsos), and a variety of spirit creatures. Superheroes are not a modern invention. Characters that would make our video game and movie heroes look pale in comparison dominate all of these ancient cultures. Claiming that these records contain “accurate historical information” as Ham does in his Creation Museum is very misleading and certainly not what should be called “an eyewitness account.” We set up children to have their faith destroyed when we give them bogus information that an informed atheist can quickly refute. We have solid evidence for what the Bible actually says, but not for denominational claims of things the Bible doesn’t say.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheists Use “Satan Club” to Counter “Good News Clubs.”

Kids After School
Since 2001 there has been an effort to establish Christian after-school clubs in public schools. In 2001 the Supreme Court ruled that religious groups could use public schools buildings after hours as a part of their right to free speech. There are now over 3,560 of these clubs in operation mostly in elementary schools. Doug Mesner and Ann Merlan of the Satanic Temple are offering “after school Satan clubs” to oppose what they say is “the oppressive form of Christianity full of sin, guilt and ‘God’s wrath.’” The Satanic Temple says that Satan Clubs will actually “involve science lessons about evolution, some educational arts and crafts, and a healthy snack.” The term “Satan Club” is used as a “metaphorical construct to promote a non-superstitious world view,” and primarily to draw attention since “Reason Clubs” already exist.

The “Good News” clubs that we are familiar with do not teach children that Christianity is about “sin, guilt, and God’s wrath.” They do offer kids guidance on dealing with sexuality, substance abuse, wholesome recreation, and the need for good moral choices. Attendance is voluntary in these clubs, and parental permission is required. The collateral damage from all of this may be huge. The real issue here is that school officials are likely to close the public school facilities to all outside use, including non-religious clubs and service organizations. Having school facilities sit empty and unused when tax dollars are footing the bill seems to be poor management of resources. For more on this subject see The Week, August 19, 2016, page 17.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

A “Christian” Congress?

US Captial

The recent election is unpopular with lots of people for many different reasons. Atheists are unhappy because the percentage of elected officials who call themselves “Christian” is the highest it has been in many years. All but three members of the Senate call themselves “Christian” when asked their religious faith, and the same percentage applies to the House of Representatives. Atheists in their blogs are not very excited about that.

When prisons release the faith preferences of inmates, “Christian” dominates prisoner choices. In most prisons over 90% of the prisoners say they are Christians. The number of atheists is in the single digits. Atheists like to brag about that, but there is a simple explanation of why prisons have so many “Christians” and so few “atheists.” First of all, in most prisons the information cards the inmates fill out do not have “atheist” as a choice. They are forced to check a Christian denomination, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim. The more important point is that prisoners are anxious to please the warden or powers that can facilitate their release, so they will check whatever they think will get them out sooner.

Politicians are prisoners of the dominant religion of the people voting for them. The fact that some politicians might not know the difference between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians could be a clue as to how much influence their faith has on their votes on social issues. We’ll see if any Christian values show up in the next two to six years.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Should We Go to Mars?

Concept of Future Mars Outpost
Chances are you have seen the movie The Martian or the National Geographic TV series on Mars, with the hypothetical first colonization of the red planet. Politicians have jumped into the popular hysteria by making proposals about establishing human occupation of the planet. Some wealthy private companies are proposing to offer trips to Mars.

There is nothing in the Bible that would attempt to restrict humans from leaving Earth. By the same token, there is no encouragement to do so. What the general public does not seem to understand is that God incorporated an incredible number of design features into the Earth for us to be able to live here. We have discussed those features over and over in our printed publications, in our Dandy Designs series, and also on our Facebook page. When you don’t have those design features available, human life becomes very tentative.

NASA has recently discovered that astronauts who flew to the moon were four times more likely to die from heart disease than those who had even the minimal protection of the International Space Station. Astronauts are also showing signs of what has been nicknamed “Space Brain.” This involves dementia and cognitive impairment. The effect of weightlessness is still being studied, but the loss of bone and muscle mass is known to be a consequence of living without gravity. The cost of resolving all these issues is huge. Even though we will probably be able to overcome these problems in the distant future, we need to understand that God’s design of Earth is highly complex. We may want to make sure we use our resources to solve the hunger, homelessness, and ecological issues before we venture to other worlds. NASA data is available in The Week, December 23, 2016, page 27.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Is Hebrew the Oldest Alphabet?

Passover Text Hebrew
Skeptics have tried for a very long time to discredit the Bible by saying that there is no record of Hebrews ever being in captivity in Egypt. Dr. Douglas Petrovich who is a well-known archaeologist and epigrapher from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, has been studying Egyptian inscriptions and has found early Hebrew letters and words in those inscriptions. Scholars have long believed that there is a connection between ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient alphabets. Dr. Petrovich thinks that Egyptian Hebrews took the complex hieroglyphic writing system and put it into 22 alphabetic letters to communicate with other Hebrews in Egypt. He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research last November. Dr. Petrovich says he has translated 18 Hebrew inscriptions from three Egyptian sites. These inscriptions include references to Joseph and Moses. In the coming months, there will be a book by Dr. Petrovich detailing all of this, and we look forward to seeing it. We will be following up on this story when the book is published. If Dr. Petrovich is correct, this would be strong evidence for the Egyptian captivity. Data from Science News, December 24, 2016, and January 7, 2017, page 8. You can read the article online at: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/oldest-alphabet-identified-hebrew –John N. Clayton © 2017

“Whose Tools Are These?”

Capuchin Monkey
That is the title of an article in the January 2017 issue of Scientific American (pages 11-12) by Kate Wong. The article deals with the discovery that wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park have been observed banging rocks together to break them and thus isolating conchoidal fractured chips and flakes which could then be used as cutting tools. When researchers study the flakes and chips, they find that they look very much like the flakes and chips found in caves and shelters where early humans are thought to have lived. However, part of the reason that humans were assumed to have been in those locations was the finding of tools similar to the capuchin monkey flakes.

There are some interesting points connected with all of this. One obvious point is that you cannot define what is human and what is not human by whether they fashioned tools or not, and that has been a method used by scientists studying this question. We have known that some birds and chimps use objects found in the wild to secure food. Chimps use sticks to get ants by pushing the sticks into an ant hill and eating the ants that cling to the sticks. Birds have been observed dropping objects on eggs to crack them open to eat the contents. Making a tool is another issue, but once again this does not seem to be a good indicator of whether or not a specimen was human.

The Bible describes humans as being created in God’s image. This doesn’t involve tool use at all but has to do with human capacity for creative activity, worship, and feeling guilt, sympathy, or self-sacrificing love. That definition is superior to any physical criteria, but it is hard to use in studying a fossil in most cases. –John N. Clayton © 2017