Religious Test for Judges?

Religious Test for Judges
A new question has come up about who is fit to serve as a judge in American courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been screening candidates for judicial positions and some members of the committee seem to be establishing a religious test for judges. The indication is that faithful Christians should not be allowed to serve on the bench.

One of the candidates is Amy Coney Barrett who is a practicing Roman Catholic. The committee challenged Barrett’s fitness to serve as a judge because, in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett has said that “faith informs her views.” However, she has also said that she is obligated to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws, not her own beliefs. She was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was also a faithful Catholic. Senator Dick Durbin asked Barrett, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” What the senators seem to be forgetting is that the United States Constitution strictly prohibits a religious test for judges. That question should not even be asked of a judicial candidate.

This anti-Christian bias in judicial appointments reminds us that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to make a decision that will affect the religious freedom of Americans. The judges serving on the lower courts are usually the ones that are later appointed to the Supreme Court. It seems that atheism is the only faith that some of the senators would accept as valid for being a judge. David Harsanyi of the National Review said that in the view of some senators “the only acceptable religion for public officials is ‘orthodox liberalism.’”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Israel-Palestine Questions

Israel-Palestine Questions
We have had several Israel-Palestine questions which are out of our field of expertise. Douglas Jacoby has a website in which he answers many important questions. Here is what Dr. Jacoby said in a recent post.

The politics of the crisis are complex. In the biblical period, the Promised Land, or Canaan, became Israel. It was named after the covenant name of Jacob, whose 12 sons became the 12 Tribes (Gen 32:28). The term was also used of the idolatrous breakaway Northern Kingdom of Israel, from 931 BC till its fall in 722. The “10 Lost Tribes” were lost, not by being removed to a distant location (like the British Isles, the US, or Central Asia), but by intermarriage with Assyrians and other foreign groups. Thus the 10 Tribes were lost forever — genetically. The southern kingdom of Judah remained until 587 BC when it was destroyed by the Babylonians.
When the Romans defeated the Jews in the war in 132-135 AD (the Bar-Kokhba Revolt), they renamed the land Philistia–after the perennial enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines. In English this becomes Palestine.
When the modern State of Israel was created in 1948, many Palestinians (most of whom were Christian or Muslim, rather than Jewish) were evicted from their homes, their land expropriated by the new government. In my view, none of these developments fulfill prophecy. The Jews came back to their land in the 6th century BC, under the Persian king Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22-23). The majority of the architects of modern Israel were atheists and agnostics, and Orthodox rabbis oppose Zionism for its atheism and humanistic emphasis.”
Today the Palestinian territories, consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are semi-autonomous –like a country within a country, separated from Israeli territory by walls, fences, checkpoints and lots of guns. In many (sad and unfortunate) ways, the Palestinians are stateless. Being pro-Israel typically means being anti-Palestinian–and vice versa. A friend of mine, a university professor and peace activist, declares, “If you’re pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, you aren’t pro-peace.” Think about it.

We appreciate Douglas Jacoby letting us share his post about Israel-Palestine questions. You can follow him at www.douglasjacoby.com
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God’s Dwelling Place

God's Dwelling Place
People have constructed massive structures and religious places of worship to get in contact with God. Islam has Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad with the Kaaba being the “House of God.” Buddhism has its shrines with the five elements–fire, air, earth, water, and wisdom. Bahai followers have their temples with the oldest one near Chicago, Illinois. Hindus have their “mandir” temples with the world’s largest one in the New York City metro area. The Mormons have the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City while Catholics have the Vatican. All of these cost a great deal of money, and all of them are geographically limited and impersonal. None of them are consistent with the biblical teachings for Christians. Where is God’s dwelling place?

Jesus made it clear that a new relationship was coming with the advent of Christianity. When Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman in John 4:20-24, He indicated that there would be no single place for worship. Peter in Acts 2:16-21 quotes Joel 2:28-32 in observing how worship of God and the presence of God was changing. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 we read that our bodies are now the “temple of God.” Ephesians 3:17 indicates that Christ dwells in the hearts of Christians based on love. Galatians 4:4-6 tells us that God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

The Church is people, not places. It can meet anywhere, under any conditions, with no expense or construction or long pilgrimage required. The Church we read about in the Bible did not own a temple or a house of any kind. When we read Acts 2:46 we see Christians meeting from “house to house.” The disciples met in an “upper room,” and they even met in the Temple (Acts 3:1). There is no justification for spending millions of dollars on a physical place to meet while people starve or freeze to death within sight of the structure.

In Acts 17:22-31 Paul talks to the leaders of the day about God’s dwelling place. In verse 24 he told them and us that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” He then told his listeners that people “feel after God and try to find him though he is not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being” (verses 27 and 28). Paul told them they should not think of God as something made by art and human design. He calls on them to repent (verse 30).

Atheists attack the abuses of religion and the waste of religious acts, and much of their criticism is valid. Humans do silly, wasteful things, but that has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches us about God. God’s dwelling place is not in our structures but in us. That fact should affect our lives as we understand what He calls us to do with what He has given us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Should Christians Use Cremation?

Should Christians Use Cremation?
We have been asked, “Should Christians use cremation?” I have had to study this question for personal reasons. I have left instructions with my wife and children about what I want done with what is left of my body when I die. My desire is to have my body cremated. I can’t see any reason to go to the expense and trouble of putting my physical shell in the ground with a stone above it. It uses enormous amounts of money which my family can put to a better use.

In a very short time, that grave site will be forgotten. My parent’s burial site is in Bloomington, Indiana, and their three sons no longer live there. I believe I am the only family member that has ever visited it since they died. I wanted to see if it had been maintained–which it had not.

So should Christians use cremation? From a religious standpoint, I can find nothing in the Bible which suggests cremation is displeasing to God. The body is dust to dust, and the speed with which we return to the dust from which we came is not a biblical issue. Some people die by being burned to death involuntarily (1 Corinthians 13:3; Hebrews 11:34).

In 1 Corinthians 15:42-57 there is a lengthy discussion of the body in death. Verse 44 tells us that there is a separation between the natural body and the spiritual. It says that the spiritual will be raised incorruptible and that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (verse 50). We will be changed, and all that is wrong with this body will be gone.

God’s Spirit dwells within us as long as we are alive (1 Corinthians 3:16), but that Spirit will not stay in a dead body. Cremation may not be aesthetically appealing to everyone, but Jesus is concerned with what we do with our bodies when we are alive, not how we dispose of the dust from which we came when we die.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Beauty of Change

Accepting Change
A common denominator in all of life is the difficulty of accepting change. We establish a procedure to do something that works for us. Any change in that way of doing things is likely to involve work and adjustment. We tend to oppose work or adjustment. Driving in a rut is easier than trying to get out of it, but sooner or later you have to either get out of the rut or rebuild the road. If you stay in the rut, it gets deeper and deeper until it brings the vehicle to a total stop!

One of the lessons we can learn from our planet is that change is a design feature built into all aspects of the creation by God. When the sperm meets the egg in conception, change begins to take place at an incredible rate. From a single fertilized cell, a human develops over nine months. This change continues after birth until a seven-pound baby has turned into a teenager weighing over 100 pounds. When physical growth stops, change continues in different ways. Every seven years we get a completely new body. One by one, cells are replaced with new cells continually rejuvenating your physical body.

The changing seasons require accepting change. As fall comes, plants shed their worn and tattered leaves. Small animals enter their safest time of the year as predators have a harder time finding them under the-snow. The insect domination of the world is brought to a halt. During the winter the soil is covered with humus to provide for next year’s plants, and all is made ready for spring when even more dramatic changes take place. Change is seen in many positive ways in the natural world. Our muscles grow stronger through hard use. Caterpillars turn into butterflies. Breeding techniques have produced a bewildering number of new kinds of roses, tulips, dogs, cattle, fish, and vegetables.

We also see change in the surface of the earth as erosion, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and gravity constantly alter the planet on which we live. All of this geological change brings us new soil, new land, and nutrients to sustain the plants on which we depend. This was dramatically driven home to me many years ago as I walked beside a lava flow on the big island of Hawaii. I saw a man with a wheelbarrow full of warm lava. When I asked him why he was collecting lava, his response was to grow orchids. He found that orchids grew better in the new soil he made out of ground up lava and seaweed. The value of volcanic change and rejuvenation of soil through lava flows is a good demonstration of beneficial changes. The world around us shows the benefit and beauty of physical change.

Christianity is a religious system of change. One of the original complaints about Christians in the early days was that they “were turning the world upside down” (Acts 17: 16). The concept of repentance involves change. The lifestyle of Christians is to be change-agents in the world around us. Why would people who are a part of God’s tool to change the world be resistant to accepting change themselves? Somehow we seem to forget Paul’s example that he “became all things to all men that I might by some means change some” (1 Corinthians 9:21-22). Seeing a person change from a destructive, selfish, egotistical way of life to a serving, caring, God-directed life of love and graciousness is the most beautiful change of all. That is the highest beauty to which Christians are called.
–John N. Clayton © 2017