Returning from the Dead

Returning from the Dead
Throughout human history there have been bizarre stories of people returning from the dead. Whether it is zombies or ghosts or a person who miraculously returns from the dead, the stories fascinate people, and frequently they become enlarged and expanded with each telling.

In our day people have written books claiming that a person returned from the dead. Kevin Malarkey wrote a best seller about his son Alex who was involved in a car crash in 2004. He claimed that Alex died and went to heaven and met Jesus Christ. Alex, who was left paralyzed by the accident, is now suing the publisher for damages over the book. Alex says his story was totally fabricated by his father and that money made by the selling the book was not shared with Alex. The lawsuit demands that Alex’s name be “completely disassociated from the book.” You can read more about it HERE.

We suggest that all claims made in recent times about someone returning from the dead should be treated with extreme skepticism. What about the biblical claims? In 1 Samuel 28:7-25 we read of Saul going to the witch of Endor who “had a familiar spirit” to ask her to bring Samuel back from the dead. The woman who appears to be running a séance scam. When she performs her ritual she is shocked that Samuel actually shows up. Verse 12 tells us that “When the woman saw Samuel she screamed in a loud voice.” It appears she didn’t expect her seance to actually work, and she is terrified when it does. This seems to be a unique act of a miraculous nature.

There are also biblical cases where someone was brought back to life such as Lazarus in John 11:30-45. The resurrection of Lazarus was so that the followers of Jesus would “see the glory of God” (John 11:40) and believe that Jesus was sent by God. The miracle of the resurrection of Christ is presented as a fact of history. It was a miracle in the most graphic way that Jesus was who He claimed to be. We don’t explain miracles. You either accept the fact that they happened, or you reject them.

In today’s world any claim of returning from the dead would not serve the purpose of the biblical miracles. Hebrews 9:27 tells us “.. it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” All of us will die physically, and returning from the dead is not an option. We should be concerned that we not die spiritually.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

#MeToo Impacting Society

#MeToo Impacting Society
One of the most powerful secular movements in America today is the #MeToo movement. For many people, this movement is merely a response to sexual predation, harassment, and bias. It that were all, it would be positive. We need to consider, “How is #MeToo impacting society in other areas?”

The #MeToo movement demands that gender and race quotas should be enforced in all areas of culture and economic endeavor. The impact on fashion design, the Oscars, the Golden Globe awards, the Grammys, and a wide range of industrial and journalism corporations has filled the news media in recent months. Stanford and UCLA have “diversity deans” to make sure that gender and racial compositions are balanced. Google fired James Damore for suggesting that a lack of balance between groups was due to career predilections. They accused Damore of “using harmful gender stereotypes that put Google’s female employees at risk of unspecified trauma.”

The truth is that there are roles that favor one gender or the other. To suggest that everyone is of equal ability in every discipline and subject is just not true, and anyone who has worked with the general public knows it. Most men do poorly working in a daycare. That’s not true of all men, but to force a daycare to have equal numbers of males and females is ludicrous.

Religious groups that follow the Bible carefully are going to be impacted by #MeToo. The Bible assigns the role of leadership of the church to the male gender. Not everyone agrees with the passages that talk about this such as 1 Timothy 2:11-3:5 and Titus 1 & 2. However, requiring churches to have women fill the role of 50% of their pulpit ministers would force many churches to close their doors and meet clandestinely.

There is an excellent article on #MeToo impacting society by Heather McDonald in the April issue of Imprimis magazine published by Hillsdale College. You can read it HERE.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Christian Vision of Sexuality

Christian Vision of Sexuality
Now and then we find a statement by an author that we think is so good that we need to promote it. Todd Wilson in a new hook titled Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality has such a statement:

“We’ve turned sex into something far less powerful and profound than what it really is. As a culture, we’re quickly growing bored with sex, even as we’re gorging ourselves on it. Something has gone ludicrously wrong. We believe sex is only for marriage, not because Christians are killjoys, but because we have a realistic and exalted view of the power of sex. Sex isn’t a toy or a plaything; it’s a sacred and sovereign power. When something is powerful–think of a downed power line or a loaded gun–you aren’t careless when you handle it. You understand that it can kill or harm you if you aren’t careful. Sex is a powerful creative gift, something God gives us for good purposes. But if we misuse it and are careless, it can profoundly harm us.”

One of the problems is that our culture has zoomed in on the physical, mechanical aspects of sex, and not the love and oneness that God created sexual expression to be. The lessons of how humans have contaminated one of God’s most beautiful creations fill the pages of the Bible. In the Christian vision of sexuality, we have no excuse for pornography or sex outside of a committed marriage relationship. We have no tolerance for unwanted sexual advances and actions by anyone, including political figures. The fact that there is no excuse doesn’t change the fact that there will always be those who will place their lust above God’s plans for us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Cheaters Edition

Cheaters Edition
Most of us have played the board game Monopoly™ at some time in our lives. Hasbro, the company that makes the game has just announced that they will release a Monopoly™ Cheaters Edition in the fall in time for Christmas giving.

The cheaters edition will encourage players to cheat in various ways. There are even 15 cards inviting the players to cheat. These include paying someone less money than you owe, collecting rent for someone else’s property, moving another player’s token, or stealing from the bank. This is all facilitated by changes in the rules which now includes rewards if you cheat successfully and getting punished if you get caught. A spokesman for the company said, “A recent study conducted by Hasbro revealed that nearly half of game players attempt to cheat during Monopoly games, so in 2018, we decided it was time to give fans what they’ve been craving all along–a Monopoly game that actually encourages cheating,”

As an atheist growing up in a non-believing family, I was taught that deception is part of survival. My parents took me to naturalism presentations which showed how animals survive by deceiving other animals. They taught me that “survival of the fittest” almost always involves lying and deception, and I became good at deception. Our culture today has grown to accept lying and deception as a part of survival. The political activity of the past several years certainly has shown that loud and clear. Now we have a game advertised for ages 8 and up that encourages them to learn to cheat as a pathway to success.

All of this ignores the fact that humans are not just animals. We are created in the image of God, and our spiritual nature allows us to live differently. How can marriage, child raising, security, and peace be possible in a climate where cheating is an accepted part of life? The cheaters edition of life just doesn’t work. Jesus taught truth, honesty, and integrity. Being able to trust is a foundation for success in living. As cheating becomes the norm, instability in all human enterprises and experiences will accelerate.

Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and by burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). You can’t trust humans, not even those who claim to be religious, but you can trust God and His Word. The promises of Jesus are true. Take it from those of us who have been experts at deception and who now enjoy the peace and rest Jesus promised.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Human History in DNA

Human History in DNA
In the last decade, geneticists have learned how to decode DNA in ancient human remains. We can now begin to see human history in DNA. The media has saturated us with the theory that humans originated in Africa and migrated from there to the rest of the world. National Geographic was a major promoter of that theory, and it was based on the field work of a group of anthropologists like Louis Leakey who actively defended that view. Discussions about race have also been a part of this debate among scientists, and sometimes the exchanges have been less than cordial.

The most recent debate along these lines has come with the release of a book titled Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich. Reich runs a lab at Harvard Medical School which has released a great deal of data in the past decade. In 2010 Reich’s lab informed us that all non-Africans have Neanderthal DNA in their genome. Reich maintains that race is a social construct and that differences in genetic makeup are geographically related.

A group of 67 scholars released an open letter on BuzzFeed.com objecting to Reich’s racial concepts. Other anthropologists have contended that the reality of our origins “is more complex and interesting than scientists ever imagined.”

The biblical description of human history is so brief that one should not look for conflicts with the biblical account. The Bible tells us that we are all related, and the fact that all races are fertile with one another supports that. The Bible does not tell us when Adam and Eve lived or how much time elapsed as humans migrated throughout the world.

A careful study of the Bible indicates that we are all equal and have a common ancestry. God’s design of our genome has allowed us to survive as a species for a very long time in spite of disease. Reich’s book supports that notion but gives us some idea of how the design has worked by examining human history in DNA.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Women of Faith

Mothers - Women of Faith
Today is Mother’s Day, and while the Bible does not command us to have a special day in honor of women, much of the biblical narrative is about women of faith, their qualities, and how God blessed them. Here are some examples:

A WOMAN WHO WAS HEALED. Mark 5:25-34.
Here was a woman who was unclean according to Leviticus 15. She knew she needed help from God because doctors had done nothing but take her money. She was able to get past legalism and religious prejudice and make her faith work to affect a healing. Jesus calls her ”daughter” in verse 34–a title He never used of any other woman.

A CANAANITE WOMAN WHOSE CHILD WAS HEALED. Matthew 15:21-28.
This was the only time Jesus went outside of Palestine. Like the Samaritan woman of John 4 she was persistent and got past nationalism and religious prejudice even though the disciples tried to send her away (verse 23). This woman wouldn’t give up, and neither should we. She was satisfied with “crumbs” because she knew what was really important.

THE WOMAN WHO KNEW FORGIVENESS. Luke 7:36-50
She knew where to go to get spiritual help. She was prepared to reach out and honor God (verse 37). She sought forgiveness according to God’s plan. She stood behind Jesus showing respect. She wept showing repentance, and she showed humility by kissing his feet. She showed honor by anointing with oil.

Do you know a woman who has been an inspiration to you? I hope we all do. I suspect that in a majority of cases it is (or was) a mother or a wife who has lived out her faith in a way that brings honor to God and love to her family and friends. Let us praise God for the incredible women of faith who have blessed us!!
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Bad Design or Abuse of the Body?

Bad Design or Abuse?
We recently received a letter from a lady whose husband had just died from Parkinson’s disease. The letter berated God for bad design in humans that allows diseases like Parkinson’s to exist. Is the cause really bad design or abuse of the body?

I have followed the research on Parkinson’s for quite a few years because my closest friend in the high school where I taught for 41 years died of Parkinson’s, and so did my brother just a few months ago. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a suggestion if you have lost a loved-one to Parkinson’s or similar diseases. I suggest that most of those diseases are caused in one way or another by human error, greed, or abuse, and not because of God’s bad design.

A new study suggests that Parkinson’s has a direct relationship to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Researchers studied the health records of 325,870 veterans age of 31 to 65. After 12 years, 1,462 had been diagnosed with an incurable neurological disorder, and 65% of these had been treated for a TBI. Researchers concluded that 71% had an increased risk of Parkinson’s and those who had received severe head injuries had an 83% higher risk. The study says that injured brain cells trigger a build-up of fibrils of a protein called alpha-synuclein which is a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

We know that cigarettes have a strong causal relationship to cancer. Now it appears that some other major health maladies are not due to bad design in our bodies, but rather what has happened to us. It might be accidental head injuries in sports or due to our carelessness in what we do with our bodies. Psalms 139:14 states a truism, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” So is Parkinson’s a function of bad design or abuse of the body? It is obvious that failing to take adequate care of our bodies can lead to all kinds of problems.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: The Week, May 11, 2018, page 19.

Defining Death

Defining Death
The challenge of defining death continues to make front page news in the media.

The first weekend in May a story came out of a young man named Trenton McKinley in Mobile, Alabama who was crushed in an accident and showed no brain waves. Doctors told his parents he would not survive and suggested that they allow the doctors to harvest organs from their son to extend the lives of five other children. The day before the surgery to harvest the organs, Trenton regained consciousness and was able to talk with his parents. He is expected to recover.

At the same time in Liverpool, England, a 23-month-old boy named Alfie Evans died from a degenerative brain disease. The British courts would not allow the boy’s parents to take him to Italy for a treatment that the court thought would do no good. Several years ago an infant in London named Charlie Gard had a similar diagnosis, and the courts prevented the parents from taking their baby to the United States for treatment. Even Pope Francis got involved in the case of Alfie Evans, but to no avail. In England at least, defining death revolves around brain waves. The case of Trenton McKinley is going to bring new debate about the two cases in England where the courts overruled the parents.

Defining death has become a complicated issue. From a biblical standpoint, death is when the soul is separated from the body, and it is irreversible. The McKinley family is claiming that Trenton’s recovery is a miracle, but there are possible medical explanations for what happened. It is ironic that abortions are performed with no concern for the rights of the child, the parents, or someone else who might want to raise the child.

The Week published a survey of this question with references in the May 11, 2018, issue, page 14. It will be interesting to see if these cases bring any serious change in how the medical establishment deals with death, especially the death of a child.
–John N. Clayton

War Against Churches and Morals

War Against Churches and Morals
The Bible takes some strong stands on moral issues. That has led to a war against churches by those who reject biblical morals.

No one seems to be too upset with the Bible’s statements that murder is wrong until a church suggests that putting a baby to death simply because it has not been born yet is a form of murder. The Bible warns us about unhealthy lifestyle choices and tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:15-20). There are things God warns us not to do with our bodies including sexual activity outside of God’s plan for marriage. These things are the teachings of the New Testament. They are not forced on anyone, but they are taught as a moral framework that has generally worked in America since the founding of this country. Now churches are threatened with the governmental abolition of these practices and teachings. The government is banning speech which supports biblical morals with threats against the churches.

The website ChurchClarity.org publishes a database of churches which it believes have policies which “place restrictions on individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer.” The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ was censored by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission because the church did not allow members of the opposite sex to use their restrooms and showers. The Community Church in Laurel, Maryland purchased a property for $470,000. Because the city planner did not want a church there, the city changed the zoning code and told the church that they would be fined $250 a day if they used their building. This reminds us of an ongoing problem in Chicago where the city didn’t want any churches to build within the city limits. Their excuse was that it would take the property off the tax rolls, even though the buildings were in a slum and were falling apart.

ADF is an organization with a group of lawyers who fight these persecutions. They have managed to have some anti-church laws overturned, but this war against churches is just getting started. Congregations need to be aware of how to defend themselves against attacks from atheists and skeptics. There are resources available to assist those facing government persecution available through The Alliance Defending Freedom, 15100 N 90th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, Phone 800-835-5233, ADFLegal.org
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Job’s Dinosaur

Job's Dinosaur
There is an interesting Bible reference to a fearsome creature in Job 40:15-24. Some creationists consider this to be Job’s dinosaur showing that dinosaurs and humans interacted at the time of Job. This is part of an attempt to suggest that dinosaurs and early humans were contemporaries to disprove the scientific evidence that dinosaurs became extinct long before humans existed on Earth.

The question is, “What kind of creature Job is describing?” Did an animal that existed in the past fit this description? The Hebrew word used for this creature is “behemoth” which literally means a large creature. Many animals that lived in the past and some living today could be called large creatures. We must look at the properties of this animal as described in the passage. We know that it was an herbivore (“feeds on grass like an ox”). Also, we know that “his tail sways like a cedar.” The description also tells us that he was virtually impossible to control.

The AP reported on May 5 about a discovery at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Scientists found human footprints inside the footprints of a giant ground sloth. The giant ground sloth was an herbivore that could stand seven or eight feet tall, had tight muscles and front legs tipped with wolverine-like claws. It had a huge tail used mostly for balance when it stood on its hind legs to get at vegetation. It appears that some humans were hunting the sloth and tracking it closely.

There is no denying that ancient humans interacted with these huge creatures. In the Natural History Museum in Chicago, there are displays of the fossils of these creatures, and the picture shows a recreated giant ground sloth at Kartchner Caverns near Benson, Arizona. The finding of human tracks intersecting the tracks of the sloths leaves no doubt about the fact that they were contemporaries. You can’t prove that Job’s dinosaur was actually a ground sloth, but the description fits very well. It is certainly more likely than the claim that the animal was a T-rex or a brontosaurus.
–John N. Clayton © 2018