Blessings from Natural Disaster

Blessings from Natural Disaster
Yesterday I began to tell about lessons from a flood. In February our area experienced what has been called a 500-year flood. We have lived in our home on the St. Joseph River for 20 years without a problem—until now. You can read more about it here. I want to continue to explain how it is possible to receive blessings from natural disaster.

Natural disasters are not an evil act of God. Skeptics often say something like, “How can you believe in a God who…?” They are demonstrating a failure to understand some key characteristics of God’s nature and how God functions. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” I personally have a hard time understanding man’s inhumanity to man. I will never understand the holocaust. I can’t comprehend the atrocities by ISIS that I have seen in recent years. These are not vindictive acts of God, but they are the evil actions of humans. What do we expect God to do? Should God strike every Hitler-like leader dead when they decide to do some evil act? Should He afflict every politician with a fatal disease when they vote for something that hurts innocent people? The history shown in the Bible is that God allows natural consequences to come about, but He does not threaten us with physical punishment as an immediate reaction.

We are learning more and more every day about the consequences of our own actions. Is the flooding I have suffered a result of human failure to take care of the “garden”- planet Earth (Genesis 2:15)? That is likely but unproven. The failure to follow God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused more suffering than any “natural disaster.” Abuse is not caused by God, but by humans who fail to follow the instructions of God in Ephesians 5:28-33.

What appears to be a disaster always has some beneficial aspects to it. For Christians, good always comes from these events. Romans 8:28 may be one of the most important passages in the New Testament–“For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” First of all, we are called to understand that God’s purposes are different from ours. Job and his friends struggled with this issue. Solomon tried everything and came to understand God’s purposes were what gave satisfaction and meaning to life (Ecclesiastes 1-5). One of our friends has a line on this. I call it “Ethyl Louise Knight’s gospel of life”–“If it isn’t of eternal significance, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Someone might ask, “Well what possible benefit could come from your 500-year flood?” The answer to that comes in many forms. A neighbor and I were looking at the river whizzing by our houses with uprooted trees, hundreds of Styrofoam cups, plastic wrappers, and tubs of all kinds and shapes carried to the next dam where they would accumulate. We have been working for years to clean up the trash in the river, and it will be gone with this flood. Remember that the Nile River flooding every year for centuries made Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world.

In addition to these physical blessings, there can be huge spiritual blessings from natural disaster. Our neighborhood has been drawn together on a spiritual level as we face the challenges of flooding. I celebrated my birthday on the day when the river reached its peak, and as friends and family made February 22 special, I was able to focus on what really matters in life. There truly are blessings from natual disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lessons from a Flood

Lessons from a Flood
As I write this, I am in a state of shock at what has happened to me during the past five days. Our home and main office are located on the banks of the St. Joseph River. The front door of the house is normally 20 feet above the surface of the river, and in the 20 years we have lived here, we have never had a problem with flooding. Many years ago we had water in our basement, but it was only 1 or 2 inches, and outside of wet rugs there was little damage. This time I have learned some lessons from a flood.

In early February of this year, we had some very heavy snow and the third week of February we had record rains as well as record warmth. The result of all that water was what is now being called a 500-year flood. My library, recording studio, fossil collection, and packing area are now full of water in spite of three new sump pumps operating at full capacity. It will take many months and some expense to get back to full operating capacity.

Our local television personalities have done a lot of hand-wringing, and I have heard more than one reporter say, “Why did God let this happen?” One religious writer proclaimed that the flooding of our area, which included a movie theater, was God’s retribution for the theater showing x-rated movies. Several years back there were those who explained flooding of the Mississippi River as God’s punishment for floating casinos on the river. Ridiculous as most of these claims are, there are some apologetic arguments and theological points that need to be understood.

God does not use natural disasters as disciplinary tools. There is a difference between physically afflicting someone and allowing the natural consequences of something to happen. When I was a child, my parents took me to the Indiana State Fair. I wanted a big cone of cotton candy, but my mother loudly told me I couldn’t have it. After a lot of whining and pouting, she finally said, “Ok, go get it but it will make you sick, and you’ll regret it.” I was allowed to suffer the consequences of my action, but I was not physically prevented from eating it.

In Deuteronomy 28, God does the same thing with the Israelites. In the first 14 verses, He tells Israel the blessings of living as God calls them to live. In the next 54 verses, God tells them of the consequences of rejecting His teachings. God doesn’t physically strike Israel, but He allows the natural result of human choices to happen.

There are more lessons from a flood, and I will continue my thoughts tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Virtual Faith

Virtual Faith - Cat with Mirror
Atheist virtual faith reminds me of virtual images. I am an old physics teacher. One of the fun discussions that I used to have with my students was when we got into optics and began talking about virtual and real images. Real images are actually formed by light rays. When you take a convex lens or a concave mirror you can project an image of a candle onto a screen. The image is inverted, but it is there. You can block sections of it with your hand, and you can enlarge or reduce the image by changing the distance from the object to the projecting lens or mirror.

The other type of image is a virtual image, which is an illusion. When you look into a plane mirror, you see an image of yourself. The image is not real. It is not actually formed by the light rays, and it cannot be projected. Watching an animal see itself in a plane mirror is always interesting because the animal can be fooled by the realistic virtual image. We all know that magicians can fool us with virtual images as well.

When atheists want to get around questions concerning the existence of God, they frequently bring the word “virtual” into their discussion. Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time evaded the logical consequences of the second law of thermodynamics by inventing something he called “virtual time.” Lawrence Krauss in his book A Universe from Nothing claims that empty space is actually “a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles that are popping in and out of existence on a time scale so short that you cannot see them.” This new definition of “nothing” is based on virtual particles.

Like the virtual image in a plane mirror, all of this is unreal! It is an unscientific proposal because it cannot be falsified or scientifically tested in any way. It is invented purely to justify the rejection of God as the creator. Krauss is fond of saying that there is no need for an intelligent being to will anything into existence because the means for this was already there and available. If you want to invent a religion that believes in unreal particles popping into existence, you are certainly free to do so. That gives the atheist a virtual faith. The problem is that he or she has to believe that from the “boiling bubbling brew” everything necessary for stable matter to exist came about by chance.

We have a booklet “Evidence for Design In the Universe” available on our doesgodexist.org website or from us on request. It contains a list of 47 physical design features that must be present for a planet like ours to exist. We would claim that all of this makes our faith real, and the rejection of God’s existence virtual faith.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Grand Design and Stephen Hawking

The Grand Design
In our March 15 article on this site, we mentioned the death of Stephen Hawking. We noted some of the amazing things that Hawking accomplished. We have received some mail about Hawking and his role as an atheist. How much Hawking’s battle with health issues affected his view of God is hard to answer, but his resistance to believing in God is undeniable as shown in his book The Grand Design.

In his otherwise excellent book A Brief History of Time (Bantam Books, 1988), Hawking did a masterful job of explaining the second law of thermodynamics. He even intimated that the second law was supportive of the existence of God. That was something Hawking didn’t want to do, so at the end of the book he invented something he called “virtual time.” He couldn’t define virtual time, and it is not testable and therefore is not science. By accepting virtual time, Hawking was able to deny that there was a beginning and that the beginning had to be caused by an entity outside of space/time.

Hawking’s first wife was a believer in God and expressed concern about the integrity of the virtual time argument. Many have suggested that Hawking’s belief system was all that the last chapter of the book was trying to defend.

In his 2010 book The Grand Design, Hawking declared that God is not needed to explain the existence of the universe. In an interview, he said, “There is no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” That was a statement of faith based on the imaginary concept of virtual time. Virtual means unreal. A grand design based on virtual time is not real.

Hawking was an outstanding thinker in cosmology, and he overcame enormous challenges to continue to live a productive life far beyond what was expected. It is sad that he allowed bias to shadow his thinking in areas outside of his specialty. A friend of mine with a Ph.D. in physics says, “My Ph.D. in every-day life really stands for post hole digger.” Like Richard Dawkins and other popular atheists, Hawking was incredibly ignorant in spiritual matters, but a genius in his own field of expertise. Let us admire and praise his professional accomplishments, but not attach much significance to his religious opinions. Tomorrow we will examine “virtual faith.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Down Syndrome Abortions

Down Syndrome Abortions
In February, Ohio governor John Kasich signed into law a measure relating to Down Syndrome abortions. Under the law, unborn children cannot be aborted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Ethics professor Peter Singer of Princeton University and other leading atheists have tried to make abortion mandatory for babies who are known to have congenital birth defects. The usual reasons for such actions are the cost factor, refusal of insurance coverage, and refusing admission to state-funded schools and care centers. All if this, in the view of some, makes financial sense for aborting.

As the parent of a child born with multiple birth defects including blindness, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation I can understand the emotional and financial stresses involved. More to the point is the fact that a Down Syndrome child is a human being with a spiritual makeup. In a time of great emphasis on the value of diversity, it seems odd that a state would need to enact such a law. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser says, “In a time of growing acceptance of human diversity and rejection of outdated biases against people with different abilities, such extreme intolerance stands out as a great injustice.”

Recently an abortion proponent suggested to me that autism should be eliminated by abortion, using the same argument as the proposal to have mandatory Down Syndrome abortions. The obvious implication of this is the “slippery slope” issue. Where do you stop? Racial and ethnic cleansing proponents can make the same argument.

The Christian view is that all humans are of equal value because we are created in the image of God. That means we treasure every life. We applaud the leadership in Ohio for their actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Citizen magazine, March 2018 page 9.

Anti-Christian Challenges to Free Speech

Anti-Christian Challenges to Free Speech
The number of seemingly ridiculous anti-Christian challenges to free speech by state schools and atheist groups just keeps growing. Here are some recent examples.

NEW YORK: The board of trustees rejected a “Students for Life” attempt to register at Queen’s College, while other groups were approved. The trustees gave no reason, but ultimately the policy was changed when the students took legal action.

MAINE: The Augusta school board threatened dismissal of special education teacher, Toni Richardson, for telling a co-worker she would pray for him. They attend the same church! Legal action stopped the dismissal, but saying that phrase when students can overhear it will still cause dismissal.

MICHIGAN: Students promoted the free market ideas of a group called “Turning Point” by dressing up as dinosaurs and passing out literature. Because the literature mentioned that the ideas were based on the Bible, they were disciplined and restricted by the administration of the Macomb Community College in Detroit. A lawsuit is pending.

NEW JERSEY: A Franciscan bishop conducted a “bless the animals service” at the Bergan County Animal Shelter in Teterboro, New Jersey. It was a huge success according to personnel at the shelter. Local atheist Candice Yaacobi picked the day of the highly publicized blessing to show up at the shelter and claims that she was “traumatized” when she was “confronted by the sight of a priest in full Franciscan vestments.” She is now suing the animal shelter. The point here is not that there is any significance in blessing animals, but that professional atheist groups want to silence any view but their own.

Citizen magazine reported these cases in the March 2018, issue (pages 9-10). Our files are full of other examples of atheists’ anti-Christian challenges to free speech. The Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family are leading the fight to stop this kind of abuse.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Isaiah’s Signature Found

Isaiah's Signature Found
The prophet Isaiah is often called the “Messianic Prophet.” In his lengthy (66 chapter) book of the Old Testament, he told of the coming Messiah. We have his words, but now we may also have Isaiah’s signature.

In 2015 archaeologists found the royal seal of King Hezekiah stamped in a clay seal at Ophel, the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Written on the seal is a Hebrew inscription which reads “Belonging to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah.”

Now in the same location, a new seal has been found. This one appears to belong to the prophet Isaiah. The March-June issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (pages 64-73) has pictures and an explanation of the find. Because there is some damage to the seal, or bulla, the final judgment will have to come after scholarly review. If the scholars give their approval, they will make a formal announcement.

For years biblical minimalists and skeptics have attacked the accuracy of the Bible’s historical information. As archaeologists make more discoveries, it becomes increasingly more difficult to refute the accuracy of the Bible. Isaiah’s signature would be one more evidence that we can have confidence in the inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Bible.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Stephen Hawking’s Death

Stephen Hawking's Death
On the morning of March 14, news media carried the news of Stephen Hawking’s death. His family announced, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.”

Hawking was a brilliant physicist and cosmologist and probably the best-known living scientist. He wrote the book A Brief History of Time which was published in 1988. That book holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for being on the Sunday Times (London) bestseller list for an amazing 237 weeks. The book has sold ten-million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. Along with Roger Penrose, Hawking devised the theory that the universe began with a singularity in what has come to be known as the “Big Bang.” In his 2010 book The Grand Design he declared that God is not needed to explain the existence of the universe. In an interview, he said, “There is no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Stephen Hawking lived a remarkable life for a person with a form of ALS, a motor neuron disease. He was diagnosed at age 21, and the doctors gave him two years to live. He survived until age 76 but spent most of those years in a wheelchair unable to move. He could only talk with the aid of a computerized voice.

We are saddened to know that Hawking was never able to accept the Christian faith of his first wife. In the announcement of Stephen Hawking’s death, his three children said, “We will miss him forever.”

We have recently published two postings about Stephen Hawking, and we encourage you to read them by clicking here and here.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Just Imagine

Just Imagine
In 1971 former Beatles singer/songwriter John Lennon released the song “Imagine” on an album of the same title. The song became a hit when it was released and then again when it was re-released in 1981 after Lennon’s death. The song challenges the listener to “Imagine there’s no heaven” and “no hell” and “no religion too.” Just imagine the consequences of Lennon’s Imagination.

Rolling Stone magazine called the album and song Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world.” Lennon told Rolling Stone that the song was “anti-religious,” but he admitted that it had “sugar on it” to make it more acceptable. He didn’t directly say, “Imagine there’s no God,” but that’s the real message of the song. The song is saying that without belief in God there will be peace and harmony in the world because “the world will be as one.”

So let’s imagine there is no heaven, no hell, and no God. That would mean that there is no reward for doing good. Then why devote your life to helping others? Why do anything good for anyone unless it directly benefits you in some way? If there is no hell, then why restrain yourself from doing what benefits you in this life, even if it hurts or kills others. No crime against humanity will ultimately be punished. Terrorists who kill innocent people are the ultimate winners. Those who sacrifice their lives to save others are the losers. Furthermore, if your life is not going well in this imaginary world, you might as well end it.

The kind of world Lennon imagined is not worth imagining. Now just imagine everyone in the world living according to the example and teaching of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5-7. Treat others with love and respect. Be faithful to your spouse. Love your enemies. Give to the needy. Go the extra mile for others. Don’t worry. Trust God because He does exist, and He cares for you. A world of people living like that is something truly worth imagining.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Letters in the Sand

Letters in the Sand
What do you see in this picture? Look closely, and you will see evidence of letters in the sand.

Notice the waves that were caused by wind blowing across the desert. Then notice the really surprising thing the wind has done! The wind has created some lines in a very interesting pattern. The lines seem to spell out the name of the world’s largest hot desert—SAHARA. Yes, the Sahara Desert covers most of northern Africa and to find something this amazing that the natural forces have “written” on the sand is truly unusual.

Wait a minute! Are you suggesting that those letters are not the effect of the wind and natural forces? Are you thinking that maybe an intelligent being actually wrote in the sand? Consider carefully the fact that the Sahara is huge and there are vast areas of sand. Given enough time and the proper wind directions why couldn’t this word show up by natural forces alone? Surely somewhere in that desert there must be a naturally formed letter—maybe an “S.” Surely in all of that area it is possible that natural forces could have formed the other letters. Given the billions of grains of sand and enough time they could just happen to line up in the proper order to spell a word. Couldn’t they?

Okay, you are not buying my story. Perhaps an intelligent being was involved in the formation of this word in the sand. But if you won’t believe me concerning the six letters in the sand, would you believe three-billion letters? That’s how many letters came together in the proper order to form the DNA strands in every cell of your body. That DNA code gives the complete blueprint for YOU. You can read S-A-H-A-R-A in seconds. If you were to read the three-billion letters of the DNA from one of your cells at the rate of one per second, every second of every hour of every day, it would take 31 years. Do you believe that the DNA code came into existence in a completely natural and unguided way?

Oh, you are suggesting that it all started out with something simple and then evolved into what it is today. Sorry, but fossil evidence shows that even the simplest bacteria that emerged shortly after the Earth came into existence had extremely complex DNA codes. Life just can’t exist without the code. The code is information and information is the product of intelligence. We suggest that just like those letters in the sand, life can’t happen without an intelligent Creator.
–Roland Earnst © 2018