By Their Fruit You Will Know Them

Flooded Town
One of the great lessons taught by Jesus Christ is that you evaluate the lives of people by their fruit. The fruit they produce tells much more than the claims they make. In Matthew 7:15-20 and 12:33, Jesus says the fruit reveals the credibility and truthfulness of the “tree” from which it comes. Atheism can be rejected simply because it does not even make a real attempt at fruitfulness. If your guiding principle is “survival of the fittest,” then it is logical that you would not harm yourself by helping someone else.

We can apply this principle to religious groups, including denominational and non-Christian groups. The service of Christianity throughout the world in its broadest sense has been exemplary. Barbara Lewis writing in the Gospel Herald for May 2017, (page 12) gave some encouraging numbers of work done in 2016. Actions speak louder than words, and here are some great actions by congregations and groups associated with the Church of Christ.

Healing Hands International, is a group associated with the Church of Christ. They shipped 23 containers of relief supplies and drilling equipment to seventeen countries. They also sent a million dollars worth of vitamins to fifteen mission points.

Congregations of the Church in 20 states gave and used $13,233,902 to help and rescue people devastated by storms, floods, tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

“Dorcas: Sewing for Jesus” made 20,000 items used in medical clinics.

Over 876 water wells were drilled, 75 water wells were restored, and 1,638 water filters were distributed.

Over four-thousand people were trained in agricultural methods to feed themselves and their families in eleven countries.

All of this is just one organization associated with the Church of Christ. Our hats are off to those working to relieve suffering and poverty. We see their heart by their fruit. Their work is what Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:31-46.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Work of Unbiased Journalism

Journalism
We live in a culture that is driven by many forces, and one of the most influential is journalism. Journalism is defined as follows:

Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.

The question is whether there are any limits to what can be done to gather, assess, create, and present news and information. In April pro-life journalists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were charged with 15 felony counts. Their crime was publishing undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing how to “harvest fetal tissue” to preserve organs for sale. One of the charges in this case is that since Daleiden and Merritt used hidden cameras, they violated a state law that forbids recording “confidential” conversations without both participants’ permission.

President Trump has had a major war going on with journalists. No matter whether you love or hate Trump, the media has a very bad track record as far as reporting on him. The problem is that the media often interprets the news instead of reporting the news. The interpretation given by the media for many many years has been anti-Christian and pro-atheism. Studies of the beliefs of journalists at major news centers have shown a vast proportion of them have no religious affiliation. (So-called “nones.”) We have reported many cases in this journal where the bias of the reporter caused a misrepresentation of the facts. This is especially true when they are covering something immoral done by someone claiming to be a Christian.

We can expect intrusions by journalists to increase as they try to find things to denigrate Christians and the work that Christians are involved doing. In our own efforts, we have had some very bad experiences with journalists as well as some very good ones. Journalism is a great profession for a person with integrity and a willingness to report the news without distortion or bias. We desperately need to have journalists who present news and information, not opinions and agendas. Jesus told His followers to “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37)

For more on this see The Week, April 14, 2017, page 16.
The definition of journalism comes from:
https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Underwater Bees

Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Those of us who live many miles from the ocean may not think about what goes on under the water. Similar to the land, there is an enormous diversity of plants in the sea. Just like land plants, ocean plants have flowers and pollinate and reproduce. Seagrass grows on the floor of the ocean and provides habitat for sea turtles, manatees, and many other marine animals. There are some 60 species of seagrass, and those grasses bloom and release pollen. Like land plants, seagrasses need something like the bees that help pollinate land plants. So are there underwater bees?

Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have reported that hundreds of crustaceans and other small insect-like animals visit plants and bring pollen with them. These invertebrates are the “underwater bees.” Along with ocean currents, they allow ocean vegetation to flourish.

As scientists study ways in which carbon can be locked up to avoid high concentrations in our atmosphere, they find that the ocean is a major factor in avoiding runaway greenhouse heating of the earth. Life in the oceans is essential to life on land.

Here is another design feature of this planet which is critical to the long-term existence of life on Earth. In the 1950s, scientists thought that there were maybe five or six factors which would be critical to the existence of life. The famous Drake Equation of how many planets could have life on them only considered five factors in its original format. Now we know there are a huge number of things that have to be “right” to allow life to exist.

Every time we find a new variable, the odds against life occurring by chance on planet Earth become greater. God’s wisdom and design can be seen everywhere around us. Truly, “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

“Demons and Reality” Brings Reactions

Demons and Reality

We nearly always get some mail about any article we have in our quarterly journal. In the second quarter of 2017, we published an article titled “Demons and Reality.” In it, we discussed the question of what demon possession is about, and whether it happens in today’s world. We gave seven reasons why demon possession does not happen today, based on the Bible and the evidence. You can read the article online.

One of the points we made was that Jesus was tempted in every way we are. (See Hebrews 4:15.) We said, “No one has ever suggested that Jesus was demon possessed.” We received an objection to that statement because in Matthew 12:24 the Pharisees claimed that Jesus was casting out demons “by Beelzebub.” Beelzebub is a Hebrew word that means “lord of the flies.” Beelzebub was a heathen deity to which the Jews ascribed supremacy among evil spirits. First, the accusation was false. Then, notice that the statement is not that Jesus was possessed and had to have an exorcism to cast a demon out of him. What the Pharisees accused Jesus of was using the power of the heathen deity to do demon exorcisms. That is a far cry from having a demon overtake a person and, against their will, cause them to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise.

We heard from some others who claimed to have witnessed everything from voodoo to ghost habitations to spirit murders. In our world, violence is equated with entertainment and technology can place us in unreal environments. Almost anything can be invented and carried out by the human mind. People can produce illusions that are convincing. Don’t buy into these claims and scams. Rely on God and His Word. We would repeat the conclusion of the “Demons and Reality” article:

“God is a rational God, and He wants us to come to Him out of love and with feelings of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are to be new creatures, not just creatures purged of a perceived problem by a human not authorized by God to do so. The Bible tells us, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’ and ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ God allows you to choose ‘this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”’ (Acts 2:36-41; Philippians 2:12; and Joshua 24:15.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Lukewarm Laodicea – Archaeological Evidence

Ruins of Lukewarm Laodicea
Ruins of Lukewarm Laodicea

Jesus addressed lukewarm Laodicea in a letter recorded in Revelation 3:14-22. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus told the congregation in that city that they make him sick because of their lukewarmness. There are many reasons for this lukewarmness. One of them appears to have been their compromise with religious pluralism.

An article in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review describes the apparent history of the church in that city. The archaeological artifacts found there give evidence of great financial prosperity in the city. There are also columns and tablets showing a collection of religious symbols from different faiths. One column has a menorah, a lulav (palm branch), a shofar (ram’s horn), and a cross. The Christian cross extends from the Jewish menorah and seems to connect the Laodicean church to the synagogue.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he addressed all of the churches in that region, including Laodicea. Paul primarily argued against the way many Christians were returning to following the laws and restrictions of the Old Testament. He wrote these rebuking words:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7 NIV).

While we as Christians are to love and support others of a different faith, we are not to meld our faith into theirs. Lukewarmness is one of the products of such compromise. Religious pluralism didn’t work for lukewarm Laodicea, and it doesn’t work today.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

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