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Return to March/April 2016 articles.

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from Does God Exist? March/April 2016

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ON CAMPUS EVAPORATING. One expected result of the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples could marry is that zealous officials would use the decision to silence opinions of those who did not agree. This is showing up at colleges and universities in massive numbers. The Alliance Defending Freedom is distributing written cases of students and professors who have been persecuted for speaking about their convictions on same-sex marriage. A few examples are: (1) Julia Ward, who was expelled from Eastern Michigan University's counseling program. (2) Emily Brooker, who was called before an ethics committee and threatened with having her diploma withheld at Missouri State University. (3) Jonathan Lopez, who was verbally assaulted in front of other students and labeled a “fascist” because he quoted two Bible verses in explaining the biblical view of marriage. (4) A conservative student newspaper at Oregon State University, which had copies of their paper confiscated and trashed by the university. (5) The University of Florida which refused to recognize the Christian Fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi because they limit membership to Christian men. If you are interested in this area of concern, go to ADFlegal.org or call 800-835-5233.

FOUR-LEGGED SNAKE. One of the interesting descriptions in the Bible is the explanation that snakes at one time had legs and lost them as a visual picture of Satan's role in the curse. Whatever view a person takes of that account, there is an article in Discover magazine (January/February 2015, page 91) about the discovery of a fossil snake named Tetrapodophis amplectus which had four legs. The back legs were larger than the front legs, but the rest of the anatomy is similar to modern snakes.

NIGERIA EXPORTS CHRISTIANITY. I recently had a prisoner in Texas tell me that Nigerian Christians had been imported to assist in some areas of the prison in which he was incarcerated. I then came upon an article in The Christian Science Monitor Weekly (September 28, 2015, page 21) which talked about Nigerian Christians now numbering around 100 million living in other countries and serving in a variety of ways in those countries, but bringing an evangelistic thrust in the places that they work. The services these folks give to the countries where they work are vastly superior to the government services. Tope Olukole, one of the workers in a Pentecostal church says “Traditionally churches came from the Western world, but now we are returning the kingdom back to them.” Much of the popularity of the Nigerian churches is because they are bringing a prosperity gospel to people who are destitute, and the message is materialistic in nature. Getting the concept of restoring the church as it was in the first century with emphasis on spiritual riches is also happening. The fields are ripe unto harvest.

THE BIG NUMBERS AND LIFE IN SPACE.A galaxy cluster In 1950, the famous Italian physicist Enrico Fermi raised what has been called the Fermi Paradox. He said “If the universe contains life, then where is it? Why hasn't life showed up at our doorstep?” Recent calculations show that there are over 100 billion galaxies, and some of them like our Milky Way have as many as 400 billion stars. Our latest measurements show that roughly three-fourths of the stars have planets which would suggest that there are approximately 1023 planetary systems. That would be 8,000 billion billion. Are we the only planet with life? There are two potential mistakes here. One is the religious fundamentalist error of saying, “Yes, we are alone because the Bible says so.” The fact is the Bible does not say so — it is silent on this question. The other error is the person who tries to say that if the numbers are great enough, it will happen. That is like saying that if you draw a card from a deck, the chances of it being the ace of spades is 1 out of 52; but, if you draw 52 times, on the average, it will happen. The problem here is an ignorance of how many factors have to be “right” for life to happen. The media presents the idea that if you are in the “Goldilocks Zone” (the distance from a star where water can exist as a liquid), that life will be there; but, there are a multitude of other factors that have to be present for life, especially higher forms of life, to exist. God may have created life elsewhere; so, do not throw your Bible away if life is discovered. But do not be surprised if it never happens. Source: Astronomy, January 2016, page 6.

BIG DOLLARS PRODUCING SHOWY CREATIONIST STRUCTURES.Noah's Ark at park in northern Kentucky A change that has taken place in apologetics in the 48 years we have been involved has been the influx of money that denominations have brought to creationist projects. Ken Ham has been able to lead the way with his $17 million creationist museum in Kentucky, and he is now well into another project to build a replica of Noah's Ark. A group called Mt. Blanco has started a fossil museum in Crosbyton, Texas. Answers in Genesis (AiG) and Creation Ministries International (CMI) sponsored a trip to Mount Ararat to find Noah's Ark. After spending a lot of money and a lot of time the folks involved in that expedition have given up. AiG and CMI agreed that going to Ararat is a waste of time. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is now in a fund-raising effort to build a $22 million “Dallas Museum of Science and Earth History.” You can see the elaborate plans on ICR.org/museum. We share the concerns of these ministries, but because of the denominational teachings built into the projects, we are pessimistic about the potential for them to make a difference. They might even increase the attacks on Christianity by atheists and skeptics. Think what could be done educationally if that amount of money could be directed into accurately presenting what the Bible says and showing how all scientific evidence supports it?

THE FRUIT OF PLURALISM. The politically correct view of religious issues in our day is to believe that all roads lead to the same God. The logical problem with this view is it assumes that all religions are equally valid. My atheist friends would say that since there is no God, pluralism is true because all beliefs lead to the realization there is no God. That does not answer the evidence for God's existence that we present with each issue of this journal. It has also allowed the world to get into the quagmire of radical Islam. Pluralism has to believe that all religions are equally valid, and that simply is not the case. The Week news magazine said it well, “The unfortunate reality is that the Quran's 7th-century text provides ‘ample support’ for the belief that ‘armed jihad’ against nonbelievers is the duty of all Muslims” (November 27, 2015, page 6). It can be equally well said that the Ku Klux Klan does not represent the beliefs of all Christians, but the difference is that everything the Klan stood for opposed what Jesus taught. That is not true of Muhammad and the Quran. We urge everyone to compare the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount, with the teachings of Muhammad. There are many good, peaceful, kind, non-violent Muslims in the world; but the book they live by is not a book of peace. Pluralism will continue the wars and terror we have seen in the past years.

ANOTHER MILITARY UFO. Just when you think the whole UFO thing has been laid to rest, another one shows up. This time, it was in mid-November when a blazing light flashed over the skies of California. The singer Josh Groban got things rolling in style by tweeting “DID. ANYONE. ELSE. JUST. SEE. THAT. #ufo.” It turned out the Navy had just launched an unarmed Trident II (D5) missile from a Navy submarine, but the project was top secret, so no one knew it was coming. The rocket went over San Francisco, but was seen as far away as Arizona. There are no UFO sightings that do not have a probable explanation, and some have been verified as human-caused or the product of meteors. People are still looking for any way to get out of this life alive, and an alien abduction still appeals to some people. Source: The Week, November 20, 2015, page 7.

LESBIAN MAYOR PUSHES HER AGENDA. Annise Parker, the openly lesbian mayor of Houston, Texas, enacted a measure called The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The big issue was allowing any restroom to be used by anyone claiming to be of the right gender. Business owners who did not allow this would be fined $500 a day. When ministers in Houston resisted the ordinance they were ordered to turn over all text messages, phone calls, communications with parishioners, speeches, presentations, or sermons to the mayor. All of this has resulted in petitions and threats of court challenges. The Texas Attorney General referred to the ordinance as “a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.” On November 3, 2015, the ordinance was rejected in a city-wide referendum vote. Parker was replaced as mayor by Sylvester Turner on January 2. In his campaign, he vowed to reenact HERO. We can expect to see more of this in the future. For background on this continuing story see Citizen magazine, November 2015, page 12.

IS “BIBLE” A DIRTY WORD? In the September/October, 2015, issue of Biblical Archaeological Review (page 6), there is an interesting article by Dr. Hershel Shanks. In the article, Dr. Shanks tells of a change in archaeology that involves removing the word “biblical” or “Bible” from any academic writing in the Middle East. Shanks points out that the American Schools of Oriental Research has just changed the name of its popular magazine Biblical Archaeologist to Near Eastern Archaeology. They did that because it was the only way they could get articles about archaeological projects being conducted in Arab countries. Oxford University Press has changed the name of its new archaeological encyclopedia from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Archaeology to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East to enable the editors to obtain entries about archaeology in Arab countries. Jordanian authorities just changed a sign at Tall Hisban taking the word “Biblical” out of the title. Perhaps we can understand the motivation for all of this. Freedom of speech in academia apparently cannot include certain words depending on your prejudice or where in the world you live.

ATHEIST SIGN CAMPAIGN.A billboard reads Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness' sake. Happy Holiday! American Atheists has started a campaign in which billboards have been erected in North Carolina and Colorado that say “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness sake.” The fact remains that there is no compelling reason to be good if you can get great pleasure out of not being good and you have no one to answer to. Source: Associated Press release 12/24/15.

BRITISH GOVERNMENT BANS CROSSES AND PRAYERS. The European Court of Human Rights has agreed to hear a challenge by two women who were prohibited by the British government from wearing crosses to work. The British government also stopped the town of Bideford from opening its public meetings with a prayer. Interestingly Queen Elizabeth rebuked the government on the prayer issue. Source: Christianity Today, May 2012, page 10.

SPACE IS FLAT. One of the big questions in cosmology over the past 100 years has to do with the shape of space. Is space flat like a sheet of paper or is it round like a sphere? If space is curved and if you go far enough in one direction, you would end up where you started. If it is flat, that will not happen. The implications of this are enormous for cosmological theories. Many theories would have to be discarded if space is flat because matter would never return to its original position in space. As astronomical measuring devices have gotten more precise, the answer seems to be without a doubt that space is flat. Dr. Martin White in Astronomy magazine (June 2015, page 44) says, “We find that space is flat to the limits of our capacity to measure it.” Once again the biblical statement that there was a beginning and that there will be an end fits the data very well.

COMET IS NOT JUST ROCK AND WATER. In the past two years a lot of attention has been given to comets. This includes the close observation of a comet and an actual landing on another comet. Close analysis of a comet that passed through the solar system in 2015 revealed that there are some alcohols and sugars in some comets. The comet has been nicknamed “The Happy Hour Comet” because it contains these organic compounds. Unfortunately, it will not be back in this part of the solar system for 8,000 years, but what it shows us is that fragments of the compounds that make up life on this earth exist on other astronomical bodies. Organic compounds are not confined to planet earth. Source: Time magazine, November 15, 2015, page 10.

ORIGIN OF WATER ON EARTH MYSTERY GROWS.A beautiful lake surrounded by mountains There has been much research to answer the question of how Earth got all of its water. A favorite theory has been that the water came from comets early in Earth's history. The problem with that theory is that all the evidence seems to be against it. Deuterium (a heavy isotope of hydrogen) is found in smaller amounts in comets and dust particles in space (122 ppm) while it is found in the oceans of Earth in high amounts (156 ppm). There is water trapped in molten rocks in volcanoes, and its amount of deuterium is much closer to the level found in Earth's water. It appears that water was in the mind of the Creator as the materials producing the Earth were formed. That is no surprise when you realize the importance of water in allowing life to exist. Source: Science News, December 12, 2015, page 12.

Picture credits:
IDCS J1426.5+3508 from NASA, ESA, and M. Brodwin (University of Missouri)
Answers in Genesis/Ark Encounter via http://www.gctcc.org/ark-encounter.html
© karamysh. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.