Skeptical or Religious Bigotry?

Skeptical or Religious?
Atheists have frequently written about the bigotry of people who believe in God and refuse to accept a fact that contradicts their religious belief. In the January 2018 issue of Scientific American, atheist Michael Shermer devotes his monthly column to this skeptical or religious bigotry.

In the article, Shermer quotes Asheley R. Landrum, a psychologist at Texas Tech and an expert on the factors influencing public understanding and perception of science, health, and emerging technologies. Studies conducted by Landrum showed how people look at data concerning climate change. The study showed that Republicans and Democrats reacted in very different ways to the content. A study that was skeptical of climate change data was not read by many of the Democrats while it was much more readily accepted by the Republicans.

Landrum concluded that, “We are good at being skeptical when information conflicts with our preexisting beliefs and values. We are bad at being skeptical when information is compatible with our preexisting beliefs and values.”

It has been my experience that the same thing happens when atheists and agnostics are confronted with data that supports the existence of God and the validity of Christianity. Trying to get some of my atheist friends to read scientific material by Dr. Francis Collins or Dr. Alister McGrath or even our own material has been almost impossible. It doesn’t matter if the authors are highly trained scientific researchers because they also believe in God, the material is off limits to many atheistic skeptics. In the same way, many of my religious associates have not read any of the scientific material produced by Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer.

Frequently atheists have told me that they have no answer to a presentation that I have given. However, they don’t want to believe in God, and so they won’t believe no matter what the evidence is. Atheists with that kind of bias are not being skeptical, but rather they have built their own religion and don’t want to look at any fact that might conflict with it. Christians frequently do the same thing.

Maybe the starting place for discussions with a relative or friend who has rejected the existence of God is to ask whether there is anything that would change their mind. The question is whether they are being merely skeptical or religious. Has their unbelief become a religion? At the same time, we should be open to their skeptical questions, but we need to be sure that we are “ready to give an answer to anyone who asks of the reason for the hope that is within us, but do it with gentleness and kindness” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

UFO Claims and 22 Million Dollars

UFO Claims
The New York Times recently reported that the United States government between 2008 and 2011 spent 22 million dollars on a secretive program to investigate UFO claims. A collection of stories has now emerged concerning the results of the study. It includes:

Reports of pilots seeing strange aircraft that moved at great speeds and made 90 degree turns at full throttle.

Claims of government contractors constructing specially-modified storage buildings to house mysterious “metal alloys” recovered from UFOs.

A quote from the former director of the program saying “What was considered science fiction is now science fact.”

We have pointed out repeatedly that whether there is life in outer space is not an apologetic issue. God may have seen fit to create life elsewhere. Historically the UFO claims have been used by skeptics and opponents of Christianity in all kinds of ways to suggest that aliens are responsible for our existence and that we are just pawns in some alien chess match. The fact that this story is raised repeatedly in the media is a reflection of that way of thinking.

The fact is that the story of pilots seeing strange space vehicles originally occurred in the 1940s and has been shown to be reflections off the cockpit windows. I have a friend who works with government contracts to test new alloys and materials. All of their samples come from the Earth, and there are dozens of buildings built with government contracts to store all of the materials being tested. His favorite line is, “We have a solution, now we are looking for the problem for the solution to solve.”

We can’t blame aliens for the chaos that is in our world today, and we can’t look for aliens for solutions to our problems. Christ has the answers everyone is looking for, but He will not force solutions on us against our will. What Jesus calls us to do goes against our selfish desires. Wasting 22 million dollars on UFO claims is a reflection of the ignorance that permeates the governing agencies of our culture.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Essenes and Qumran Discoveries

Essenes and Qumran Discoveries
In the 1970s there was a lot of attention paid to a community of ascetics known as the Essenes. This group lived in the Qumran area near the Dead Sea and were probably the producers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the past, skeptics of Christianity have suggested that they were the originators of Christian teachings and of Jesus himself. The Essenes expected a “Teacher of Righteousness” who would rise from the dead.

As scholars probed more deeply, it became obvious that there were huge differences that invalidated attempts to discredit Christianity by ascribing its teachings to the Essenes. The Essenes were ultraconservative Jews, many of whom rejected marriage and attempted to hide from the Romans.

On November 16, 2017, anthropologist Yossi Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem presented a study of 33 newly discovered skeletons found at Qumran. Carbon-14 dating puts the bones at 2200 years ago, close to the dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The bones are mostly, if not all, from adult males and have no signs of having been in combat, so they were not soldiers.

In February of 2017, researchers found another cave that seems to have held more scrolls or pieces of leather or papyrus that were ready to be used for writing. The significance of the finds is that they may lead to more scrolls in the area. Questions about who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls do need to be answered to establish the validity of the documents.

The content of the writings of the Essenes validates the accuracy of the Bible. So far the Dead Sea Scrolls contain all the books of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. The scrolls predate the birth of Christ, and they show that the text of the Old Testament has been faithfully preserved. Research continues and will have great value in answering biblical questions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News December 23,2017.

Skeptics Confronted with Another Bible Verification

Skeptics Confronted with Another Bible Verification
Skeptics like to claim that the Bible is full of errors and cannot be trusted as a guide to how we should live. Some of them spend a great amount of time and energy trying to find errors in the Bible. They look for anything they think is historically wrong, or in contradiction to something stated elsewhere in the Bible.

We can often answer the skeptics’ challenges by looking carefully at the original language and the oldest manuscripts. What biblical critics tend to ignore is the constant verification of biblical statements. Archaeological finds continue to support the biblical record, but since they don’t have political value, the press rarely reports them.

With President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, one seemingly minor find has been reported. On January 1, 2018, the Israel Antiquities Commission released information about a token that was found in the old city near the Western Wall. It is 2700 years old and bears an inscription that says, “Property of the Governor of the City.”

The implications of the find for the politics of today are obvious. What interests us is that fact that this validates passages of Scripture that say there was a “Governor of the City” in Old Testament times. One is in 2 Kings 23:8 which identifies a man named Joshua with that role. At another time 2 Chronicles 34:8 identifies Maaseiah as governor of the city.

Once again archaeology verifies the facts and terms of the Bible to the dismay of the skeptics.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Source: AOL News 1/1/18.

Benjamin Franklin’s Wisdom

Benjamin Franklin's Wisdom
Skeptics frequently take statements of the founding fathers of America and lift them out of context to make them appear to be rejecting Christianity. A careful study makes it obvious that they were certainly not opposed to Christianity and in fact embraced it. We even see it in Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom.

Franklin made comments in Europe that appear to be antagonistic to Christianity, and he is often cited by skeptics as an unbeliever. However, on July 28, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was deadlocked and could not agree how to draft the United States Constitution. After five weeks of proposals and counter-proposals, Benjamin Franklin (who was 81 years old) stood up and addressed the convention. This is part of what he said as recorded by James Madison:

“…have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel…”
“I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.”

It is obvious that Franklin was not hostile to faith in God. Today as the United States Congress seems to be deadlocked on so many issues, perhaps they should take a look at history and accept Benjamin Franklin’s Wisdom.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Avoiding God of the Gaps Explanations

God of the Gaps
One of the better arguments that atheists make is the claim that “god” is something that humans have invented to explain what they didn’t understand. This is known as the God of the gaps approach to explaining things. When people didn’t understand what makes a volcano work, they invented a god or goddess to explain volcanoes. When people didn’t understand what produces weather, gods or goddesses were invented to explain everything from lightning to wind. The names of these gods and goddesses have endured, and they show up in the video games our kids play such as Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Minerva, etc. The atheist argument is that in time they will find scientific answers that disprove any notion that a divine being was responsible.

There are two major weaknesses in the God of the gaps charge that atheists are making. The first is that just because we can propose a possible natural way to explain things that does not mean the explanation is true. Years ago there was a discovery that a female praying mantis after being fertilized by the male turns around and eats him. Promoters of neo-Darwinism developed elaborate theories about how this behavior was a product of evolutionary processes. Some of the explanations sounded fairly plausible. Later it was discovered that this behavior happens in captivity, but not in the natural world. What is proposed is frequently not what happened.

The second weakness of the God of the gaps accusation is that it ignores the probabilities against the natural explanation. For example, there are 10^500 different possible solutions to the string theory equations. (That’s one followed by 500 zeros.) By carefully choosing which equation you use, a scientist can propose one step in the formation of tangible matter. Many more steps are required to get matter that is stable, and multiple steps have to be accomplished before you can get a single atom of hydrogen. When statistics are applied to this model, the probabilities are prohibitive.

When you put all the probabilities together, the final answer makes it clear that chance is a very weak explanation for what we see in the world around us. Romans 1:18-22 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. We don’t invent God to explain anything. We ask for a reasonable acceptance of evidence that stands not only on an intuitive level but also on a mathematical level.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Freedom from Religion Foundation

Freedom from Religion Foundation
There are always those who just can’t stand the idea of Americans, especially leaders, acknowledging their dependence upon God. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) perpetuates its existence by trying to stamp out every recognition of God from across our land. They are doing the same thing that Communist governments tried to do in the last century.

For over 240 years, our elected representatives to the federal government have begun their public duties with a prayer seeking God’s guidance. This prayer is a reflection of the faith of many people across America who themselves seek His guidance in their lives.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged public monuments, prayer, and virtually any public recognition of religion. Like most on the Left, FFRF engages in bullying tactics threatening to haul the “offenders” into court for their “unconstitutional” activities. Unfortunately, too many school districts and city and town councils hand over their milk money to the bullies and capitulate.

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation actually does sue, a very high percentage of their cases are simply dismissed. However, they occasionally find a sympathetic ear as when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled in favor of the group’s claim challenging housing allowances for pastors. After failing so many times, the FFRF is now trying a new tactic. Co-president Dan Barker (who has publicly proclaimed his atheism but maintains ministerial credentials) applied to the U.S. House of Representatives chaplain to lead a prayer. His application was rejected, and he sued, claiming the practice of House prayer was in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. That ruling said that permitting ministers to pray before legislative gatherings is constitutional.

Thankfully, Judge Rosemary Collyer from the D.C. District Court wasn’t too eager to go along. She rejected FFRF’s claims, holding that Barker could not piggyback on Town of Greece to demand that the House allow a “prayer” to what or whoever he wanted. The judge wrote: “[C]ontrary to Mr. Barker’s hopeful interpretation, Town of Greece did not reference atheists–who are, by definition, nontheists who do not believe in God or gods–but ‘any minister or layman who wished to give [a prayer].'”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was named a defendant in Barker’s suit, praised the ruling. He wrote, “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld, and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer.” He concluded: “I am grateful that the People’s House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God.”

The interpretation of the Establishment Clause in this and other cases simply doesn’t require what Barker demanded. Sanity has prevailed–for now.
–J.R. Towell © 2017

Medical Teachings of Moses

Medical Teachings of Moses
Roy Nance of Murphreesboro, Tennessee, has spent a lifetime investigating the scientific credibility of the Torah. One of the areas he has specialized in is the medical teachings of Moses in the context of the time and culture in which he lived.

In his lectures, Nance discusses the Egyptian medical journals discovered by archaeologists over the centuries. Lee Strobel has discussed many of these in his books, and also Dr. S.I. McMillan discussed some of them in a book he wrote over 50 years ago titled None of These Diseases.

The Egyptian list of medicinal materials includes lizard blood, the blood of worms, swine teeth, putrid meat, pig ear moisture, goose grease, and the excrement of various animals. Moses grew up in the Egyptian culture that used these materials in medical treatment. In spite of his Egyptian education and the culture in which he was raised, Moses gave hygienic laws and practices that not only contradicted the teachings of his day but are correct by today’s standards.

The results of treating infections and cuts of all kinds with animal products had to be catastrophic, and the writings of Moses contain none of that. We understand the list of “unclean” animals in Leviticus 11. We see the importance of burying waste instead of throwing it into the street. Other hygiene standards presented by Moses are correct.

One of the most interesting of the teachings of Moses is the instruction for the timing of circumcision. Infants have two chemicals that develop in their bodies to allow clotting. Vitamin K is one, which at birth is at only about 20% of the adult level. The other is prothrombin which is at about 30% of the adult level by the fourth day of life. It isn’t until the eighth day that these two chemicals reach the adult level. Leviticus 12:3 says to circumcise boys on the eighth day. The timing couldn’t be better.

Skeptics have tried to minimize the credibility of the hygienic and medical teachings of Moses. In our day of epidemics of STDs and a variety of cancers endemic to certain lifestyles, the wisdom of Moses continues to shine. We would suggest that is because his instructions came from God–not by trial and error.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Evidence for God’s Existence

Evidence for God's Existence
Something that amazes me as I answer the questions and hate mail from our website is the incredible ignorance of not only the Bible but of the evidence for God’s existence.

Atheists are fond of saying “there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence.” Then they attempt to vilify Christianity by pointing to things done by people who claim to be Christians. With the growing number of atheist websites and the increasing participation of the media in these claims, people have embraced the idea that these notions are true.

You can find evidence for God’s existence in virtually every discipline of science. Genesis 1:1 gives us a series of choices that we must focus on to support faith in God. The account tells us that the universe had a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that God caused it. The first two statements are scientifically addressable. Science has shown that there was a beginning. The evidence that time, space, and energy are not eternal is overwhelming. In our printed magazine, on our websites, and in our courses, we offer evidence for these statements. These choices do not require the Bible or any assumptions about God, so the assertion that we are just “spouting scripture” is not true.

Whether the cause of the beginning was God is a more complex issue because it is rooted in understanding God’s nature. Quantum mechanics, the work of Einstein, and modern work in physics have given us wonderful tools to understand the cosmos. The Bible becomes a necessary tool as we consider whether the biblical description of God fits the evidence that we see in the science disciplines. Most people have not fully grasped the concept of a being outside of time and space with the capacity to design intelligently all that we see around us. Their concept of God is simply too small, and that is true of atheists and believers alike.

Our primary goal is to encourage people to examine the evidence for God’s existence with an open mind. If people realize that materialism and naturalism may not hold all of the answers to the mysteries of creation, they may gain a mustard seed of faith that can move the mountain of disbelief.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Noah’s Son Ham and Skeptic Arguments

Noah's Son Ham
It never ceases to amaze me how some skeptic attacks never seem to go away. One of the more bizarre has to do with Noah’s son Ham. Some atheists claim that the story of Ham was invented to justify the persecution of people of color and the use of slaves.

They base their attack on the story recorded in Genesis 9:20-29. After the flood of Noah, Ham discovered his father drunk and naked. Ham told about it, exposing his father to ridicule. Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, discretely covered their father to avoid embarrassment. When Noah recovered his sobriety, he cursed Ham and blessed Shem and Japheth. Some skeptics claim that the name Ham means “dark or swarthy” and that this is an attack on people of color.

However you interpret the story of Ham, it has no relevance to Christianity. Jesus did away with all such boundaries. Passages like Galatians 3:28 make that clear by telling us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is highly unlikely that the intent of the name of Noah’s son Ham referred to skin color or that such characteristic would be passed on to all his progeny.

The message we should take from the story is that we need to care for one another and support each other even in weakness. Instead of quietly covering his father and keeping the incident to himself, Ham disgraced his father. Galatians 6:1-2 tells Christians to gently restore those who sin and bear each other’s burdens. There is no place for disgracing, shaming, or making fun of someone who fails. And there is no excuse for treating anyone differently because of skin color.
–John N. Clayton © 2017