Is Religion Hopeless? title

    It is easy to get discouraged when you are a Christian living in the pluralistic, materialistic, secular, post-modern world in the early twenty-first century. Society has decided that belief in God, absolute standards of morality and behavior, and family values are archaic and destructive. The Church as a whole has decided that the only method of growth is to provide competitive entertainment, and that the Christian system of living is of historical interest but has no practical application to daily life. While these statements are generalizations, and obviously do not apply to every person, we all run into these beliefs on a daily basis. The world we live in can literally grind us down to wanting to withdraw. How do we avoid this pessimistic mind-set? What can individuals do in the face of declining involvement in meeting the challenges of our age by church leaders and fellow Christians in general?


Dad and children    We sometimes get the idea that we face a situation that is new to Christians. The fact is that everything mentioned in the first paragraph has happened before. Throughout history famous leaders have predicted the end of Christianity and the demise of the Bible. Voltaire, Marx, Lenin, and Bertrand Russell are just a few of a host of famous people who were convinced that man had outgrown the Bible. When other standards of living and ethics were incorporated, they brought disaster and people turned back to the Bible and to the system God has given man — the system that has been proven to work. It may well be that our civilization will end, but the lesson of history is that Christianity will emerge out of the rubble. It will be given new life as it provides a proven rule of conduct for men and women.
Mother and daughter    Our culture is full of people poking fun at the Bible and making wild claims about contradictions and conflicts within the Bible’s pages. For a marginally trained Christian these challenges are easy to answer, and this journal is dedicated to answering them. We need to be aware of the challenges — and the answers to them. We should be encouraged by the fact that the challenges themselves are desperate claims by people who want to live uninhibited by the wisdom of the teachings of Jesus Christ. (We urge the reader to look at the article titled “Why Biblical Christianity?” in the March/April 2010 issue of this journal for more on this subject.) The evidence is that the biblical system works, and even the rankest skeptic has trouble criticizing the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Do not let the flood of hostility cause you to reject the only teaching that can bring peace, love, and security that means something.


    I had an e-mail not long ago from a guy who claimed he could prove that Bugs Bunny hit Elmer Fudd on the head with a shovel, and that the pieces that flew off became the creation. I replied by saying, “Very funny,” thinking this was a man just playing games. I found that he was deadly serious. At a fair booth in 2009 we had a guy who claimed he could prove that his cat was his reincarnated father. The man became incensed when I suggested that the cat had no relationship to him or his father and offered genetic proof of that statement. The man became enraged with that suggestion and said I did not understand how reincarnation works. The point here is that people can propose anything! For the most part, we live in a society where there is freedom of speech, and if someone wants to propose a completely fictitious and bizarre explanation of something, he can do so.
    Whatever someone believes about how the creation happened needs to be substantiated by evidence. Scientific theories that have no evidential support cannot be seriously entertained. Scientists use the word “falsify” to describe this process. If there is not a way to test a hypothesis, the suggestion cannot be considered to be science. Much of what appears in the media as science is in fact wild speculation that cannot be tested (falsified) in any way. Like the Bugs Bunny nonsense mentioned above, it is just a wild suggestion thrown out as science, but which is really just human opinion. Many scientists have pointed out in recent months that “string theory” and “virtual universe” theories fall into this category.
    Religious theories which conflict with known fact need to be discarded also. In both science and religion there is a point where faith enters into what we believe. The process by which time, energy, and space were created cannot be answered scientifically and probably never will be. Atheism or wild religious ideas should not decide what we will believe about how the world came to be. What we must do is to accumulate evidence and see what understanding fits that evidence. Cyclic and reverse models of time do not fit scientific evidence. Atheistic or religious proposals that assume cyclic time or reverse time need to be discarded. This is just one example of how modern people can evaluate the evidence for the existence of God and the credibility of the Christian system. We have more evidence than at any time in the history of mankind, and that evidence strongly supports the concept of an Intelligence outside of space/time as the Creator.


    In both science and religion we may have to give up some previously held beliefs or traditions as new factual material becomes available. Our belief system becomes more balanced and less vulnerable when we have looked at all the supporting evidence. There was a time when both people in religion and people who were studying nature believed that the earth was flat. There was scientific evidence to support that belief, and religious arguments to support it. The instruments of the day were crude, and measurements did not show any curvature in the surface of the earth. People quoted passages like Revelation 7:1 which talks about the four Ship going over the edge.corners of the earth to back up the idea that we live on a flat earth. As instruments became more accurate it became obvious that the earth was curved — just larger than had been previously thought. A closer examination of Revelation 7 showed it was not talking about the shape of the earth and people eventually became convinced the earth was round — but not for a very long period of time. In Columbus’ day there were still people who thought that if you sailed out far enough in the ocean you would fall off the earth.
    We frequently get mail from atheists suggesting that new evidence will invalidate our position of faith in God. I am sure that as new discoveries are made I will find things I believed that were wrong either scientifically or biblically — or both. However, the lesson of history is that as new discoveries are made they validate the Bible and show how remarkable the Bible is in stating things that have only become known in recent years. One remarkable new example is the classification system of living things. The biblical word “kind” in the Old Testament is the Creation--day 5Hebrew word miyn. People assumed for many years that “kind” and “species” were the same thing. A species has been defined as a group of plants or animals that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Much debate has gone on in the scientific community about whether that definition needs to be revised, especially with recent understandings of the genomes of living things. How different must the genomes be in order to be considered different species? That debate will be going on for a long time.
    Since God created kinds, some believers assumed that species could not change, and that belief has continued into the twenty-first century. The fact is that “kind” is a very general term. In 1 Corinthians 15:39 the Bible says there are four different kinds of flesh — birds, fish, beasts, and man. In Genesis 1 the same groupings are used — flesh of fish, flesh of birds, flesh of beasts, flesh of man (Genesis 1:20  – 27). It is also seen in the flood account in Genesis 6, that use of “kind” is not the same as species. There are many species of birds but birds are a kind. Now biologists are talking about cladistic classification which is based on structure, not evolutionary theory as the Linnaeus system was. The biblical system and Creation--day 6the scientific evidence are getting closer and closer as better evidence becomes available. There are many examples that can be given, but this one should make the point that we need to be open to new data and new ideas. As we learn more, we find that the scientific evidence and the biblical concept get closer and closer together.


Preacher    Religion can be defined as “man’s attempts to find God or meaning in life.” On an individual level religion is a good thing. We each need to search out what we believe and know why we believe it. There is a terrible tendency for mankind to take the easy way out. The easy way is to let someone else tell us what to believe. Most atheists have not thought out why they are atheists. Most religious people are religious because they inherited that belief. I was an atheist because my parents were atheists and I knew nothing else as a child. I have friends who are atheists because they want to justify their lifestyle. I have other friends who are atheists because they have had bad experiences with people who believe in God. All of these predispositions are understandable, but ultimately none of them make sense.
    Recently in a period of one week I received over 20 e-mails from atheists containing the same set of “bible contradictions.” That material was posted on the Web by a well-known atheist, and these folks cut and pasted it into an e-mail and sent it to me. I asked each of them if they would discuss the claimed contradictions one at a time with me. All of them either declined or never answered my offer. This is a religious response at its worst. It is like religious people who take something posted by a preacher or religious spokesman and blindly parrot it to other people.
    We need to know why we believe what we believe — whether we are atheists or believers. If the only evidence we have is what someone else says, we are blindly following a religion — be it Atheism, Catholicism, Buddhism, or whatever. The purpose of this journal is not to tell people what to believe or coerce them to become a member of some denomination. Our purpose is to say you can intelligently believe in God, and that science and faith are complementary disciplines supporting each other in building successful lives. Let religion die — be it Atheism, Spiritualism, or some denominational creed. Follow the biblical injunction to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:19 – 22). “Choose you this day whom [you] will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). In the twenty-first century that choice is still there — make it personally and intelligently.
--John N. Clayton

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