Review of John Clayton
The purpose of the following review of John Clayton and his teachings is not meant to be a complete look into the man and his teachings. It is only a summary of some of the errors that are taught in his materials. A more extensive review of his teachings may be found in the book, In the Shadow of Darwin A review of the teachings of John N. Clayton.(1) The importance of such a review is seen in the connection of John Clayton with the teachings of Hill Roberts (discussed elsewhere in this issue). The teachings of Hill Roberts will at times evoke the names of men like Clayton and Hugh Ross. In Robert's Lord I Believe seminar, the presentation titled "Tool 3: Origins" is "Adapted from John Clayton's A Practical Man's Proof of God"(2) Some of the materials handed out at these seminars encourage the listener to read the top 8 books from Robert's list. One of these books is The Source by John Clayton. Hill Roberts also promotes the "Does God Exist" ministries of John Clayton in his handout "Reaching Out to the Skeptic" and provides catalogs of Clayton's material at some of his lectures.
John Clayton was born in 1938 and is a high school teacher in South Bend, Indiana. He has taught General Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science. He has a M.S. in Education and a M.S. in Geology and Earth Science.(3) John is a member of the Donmoyer church of Christ in South Bend, Indiana. A phone call to the building will route you to the "Does God Exits ministries". Does God Exist is both the title of Clayton's lectureship series and a BI-monthly periodical that he publishes. He is the author of The Source a book setting forth his views on the creation / evolution issue, a correspondence course, and other religious materials. In an autobiographical statement published in the appendix of Evolution and Faith, we learn that he was an atheist at age 16 and set out in high school to write a book he would entitle All the Stupidity of the Bible. He began his studies in Genesis in order to disprove the scripture's accuracy and eventually became a Christian through his studies and the influence of his girlfriend who was a member of the church.
Clayton is not a young earth creationist. Though he denies that he is a theistic evolutionist, he accepts much of its tenets. Tom McIver is an evolutionist who has reviewed much of Clayton's materials. He is quoted as saying that Clayton, "argues that the Genesis order of creation is the same as the geological record (reinterpreting some of the Bible terms) but also maintains that there were long ages before the six days of creation. Clayton's hybrid scheme thus allows for some day-age interpretation and also, perhaps, some theistic evolution in addition to its modified gap theory".(4) When this evolutionists reads John's material he sees him for what he is.
From the beginning of his studies of Genesis Clayton is found forcing the Genesis account of creation into portions of the evolutionary theory of origins. This is seen specifically in the realm of time and inorganic evolution. John Clayton believes the earth to be about 4.5 billion years old and matches up verses in Genesis 1 to the evolutionist's geologic time table. According to his theory Genesis 1:1-13 cover a period from the Pre-Cambrian (3.5 billion) through the Mesozoic (65 million).(5) Then beginning in v. 14 "chronometry" (time measurement) is set up with the sun, moon, and stars being put into orbit. This is when "creation week" begins according to Clayton. John's creation week contains only three days!(6) During these three days man and animals known to man today were created. Dinosaurs and other living organisms were created at an earlier creation. To see how he fits the Genesis creation account into his old age earth view let's look at John Clayton's "gap theory".
Clayton advocates what has been called a Modified Gap Theory.(7) In The Source he states, "Genesis 1:1 is an undated verse, no time element is given and no details of what the Earth looked like are included. It could have taken place in no time at all or, God may have used eons of time to accomplish his objectives. I suggest that all geological phenomena except the creation of warm-blooded life were accomplished during this time. There was no way God could have described amoebas, bacteria, viris [sic.], or dinosaurs to the ancient Hebrew, and yet these forms of life were vital to the coal, oil and gas God knew man would need. Thus God created these things (in verse one, ser) but did not describe them just as He did not describe a majority of the million species of life on this planet. Changes took place in the Earth (but no gap destruction) [John doesn't believe in the standard gap theory destruction between vv. 1 and 2, ser] until God began the formation of man's world with birds, whales, cattle and man in the literal days of Genesis"(8). Bert Thompson quotes John as saying, "Not only does the first verse give us the creation of celestial objects, but of a functional earth itself .... By the end of Genesis 1:1 there was a functional, living, working earth. If you had stood upon the earth at this point in time, you would have recognized it. Let us once again remind you that how long God chose to use to accomplish this creation is not revealed in this passage.... It is very possible that a living ecosystem operated in Genesis 1:1 to produce the earth. Bacteria may have swarmed in the oceans and giant plants may have lived in great swamps. Dinosaurs may have roamed freely accomplishing their purpose in being. The purpose of all of this would have been to prepare the earth for man. This living ecosystem would have produced the coal, oil, gas, and the like, as well as providing the basis of man's ultimate food supply!"(9)
So in the very first verse of Genesis you have a fully functional, working earth. Then he says that the earth "became" void in verse two(10) and further preparations were made in vv. 3-13 (over eons of time) until v. 14 when God "began the formation of man's world." Basically John has two creations or two "worlds"! This explains his views that the dinosaurs and man didn't live at the same time. He believes that dinosaurs may lived in Genesis 1:1, great catastrophes may have killed them, and by the time that God creates "man's world" the dinosaurs were part of the fossil record.(11)
Note what he does with Exodus 20:11. "The most commonly used biblical text to prove the earth is very young in age is Exodus 20:11. 'For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested.' If this passage were all that existed in the Bible about the creation, certainly we could conclude that the entire creation took place within six days, including everything that has ever existed on the earth being formed during that time. This is a very shallow conclusion, however, and in the view of the writer is inconsistent with the Genesis record as well as other parts of the Bible (emp. added).(12) John goes on to say, "First of all, the passage in Exodus is a reference to Genesis 2. The purpose of the passage in Exodus is not to reveal the age of the earth, but to establish the Sabbath as a day of worship to God. The week described in Exodus refers to the week described in Genesis 2:5-31. The week in Genesis 2:5-31 describes the creation of man and a few forms with which man is familiar, but it is not a total description of every living thing that does or has ever existed on earth."(13)
This is some exegesis! First note that John agrees that looking at this text alone, one would come to the conclusion that everything that has ever existed on the earth was created in six days. Of course! That's what the text states, " in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Ex. 20:11). But John calls this a shallow conclusion. No, it's just accepting the text for what it says. Secondly, he asserts that the "week" in Exodus 20 is the "week" of Genesis 2:5-31. This is based on another assertion that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are separate accounts.(14) Looking at the text of Exodus 20:8-11 we see that Jehovah is stating why that the Sabbath is to be hallowed because "in six days" He made heaven and earth. Where do we read about six days in relation to creation? We read it in Genesis chapter 1! You don't read about two different "weeks" one in Genesis 1 and another in chapter 2. Moses didn't even give us the chapter divisions! We do read that "the evening and the morning were the first day second day through the sixth day. On the seventh day God rested. Genesis 1 and 2 record the account of the creation of all things and God said it happened in "six days", just like the Israelites could work "six days" before they were to rest (Exodus 20:8-11). John Clayton says that the purpose of Exodus 20 is not to reveal the age of the earth. True, but it does reveal how long it took God to make (asah) it. When you couple the six days of creation with the genealogies of Genesis 5 and those in the rest of the scriptures you have evidence for a young earth the age of which is registered in the thousands of years not millions or billions!
get eons of time into Genesis chapter one by utilizing a common argument of Gap theorists. The claim is made that the Hebrew word bara must always mean to create something from nothing and that the word asah always means to make something from pre-existing materials. They then assert that God only created certain things in Genesis and the rest He "made" possibly using natural means that could have taken eons of time. Briefly we will note that such is not the case by looking at two verses. In Gen. 1:26, God is said to have made (asah) man and in the next verse He is said to have created (bara) man. Then note Gen. 2:4, "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created (bara), in the day that Jehovah made (asah) the earth and heaven." These simply are not mutually exclusive terms as used by Moses.(15)
many subjects John has written and spoken on both sides of the issue. On the matter of the days in Genesis one being 24-hour days, John has said, "It has always been our position that the days of Genesis were 24-hour days."(16) He is quoted in a lecture, however, as saying, "I believe it is totally inconsequential as to whether or not the days of Genesis were literal 24-hour days or not. It isn't until the fourth day until the sun and moon were established as chronometers. There were no days, seasons, etc. at least as we know them before the fourth day" (emp. added).(17) So then, days one through three were not as we know them, ie. 24-hour days! What does he really believe? He states, "On the other extreme there have been those who have maintained that the Genesis week is seven literal 24-hour days and that the entire creation, from absolutely nothing to the world as we see it today, was accomplished in six of those days." John calls this position "extreme" but three sentences later claims to be undogmatic!(18)
On the matter concerning Noah's flood, Clayton states that he believes in the world-wide flood of Genesis 6 but argues for a local flood!(19)
He claims that if the flood were only local it wouldn't negate the Biblical account. Genesis 7:19 records that the waters prevailed upon the earth and all of the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered! The apostle Peter stated that the world was overflowed with water (2 Peter 3:6). In one article he praises the theory that the flood (local) was caused by the Atlantic Ocean. Claims are made that the Mediterranean Sea was small like the Dead Sea and was cut off from the Atlantic Ocean by a land mass at the Straits of Gibraltar. "A major geologic change opened the Straits of Gibraltar and allowed the Atlantic Ocean to invade the Mediterranean."(20) The flood waters then rushed in and shoved the ark up and inland covering the mountains. Clayton suggests that this theory fits the Genesis account.
Clayton simply misuses the text in the Scriptures to fit his theories. He asserts that Genesis 1:1 is a historical event (stands by itself) and not a summary of the verses to follow. Then he claims that the rest of Chapter one is not a historical account of how God created the earth, but rather is written to show that God was the one responsible for it.(21) Where's the textual evidence for this? Moses connected verse one and the following verses with the word "and" over and over. Will this exegesis work with Mt. 4:1-11? Can we say that verse one is an event (Jesus was tempted by the devil) and the rest of the verses are not a historical account but merely written to show that man can overcome the devil's temptations?
His dealings with Chapter one of Genesis are similar to his dealings with other chapters. In expressing his views on the genealogies of Genesis 5, he states, "The genealogies in the Bible were designed to show descendancy, not chronology."(22) If this assumption is true then why did Moses bother to include the ages of the men when they begat sons and record how old they were when they died? There sure are a lot of numbers in Genesis 5 for a passage that is not concerned with chronology! He claims that the Bible cannot be used to calculate even as approximation of the time of Adam's existence with any credibility!
He claims that he takes a "super-literal" view of the words in Genesis. The word literal is defined as, "Being in accordance with, or upholding the exact or primary meaning of a word or words; Avoiding exaggeration, metaphor, or embellishment; factual"(23) History is a record of facts. However, John claims that Genesis 1:2 2:5 are not historical. He further asserts that Chapter two is only written to show why man should cleave to his wife. Chapter five is written only to show descendancy. What about the literal numbers and ages? John denies that Methuselah lived to be 969 years old.(24)
According to him these "years" may have been more like months. As seen earlier, his dealings with chapter six and Noah's flood show he doesn't take all of that literally either. So much for literalness!
John Clayton has certainly published many articles that describe evidences for the existence of God. He has answered the skeptic and the atheist on a number charges that they have made against the Bible. But one needs to be very cautious when recommending his writings. John's "scientific" views and theories wreck havoc with the text of God's word. Sound exegesis of the scriptures is placed second to his interpretation of scientific facts.
1. 1 In the Shadow of Darwin, a review of the teachings of John. N. Clayton (Apologetics Press, Inc., 1992). The authors, Bert Thompson and Wayne Jackson have gathered extensive material on John Clayton and have been reviewing his teachings for some time. Their book Creation Compromises also contains reviews of some of John Clayton's positions.
2. 2 See the presentation series for MS Power Point, Origins and Intelligent Design, second chart (Lord I Believe CD_ROM, Ver. 99.01).
3. 3 Evolution and Faith (ACU Press, 1998), p.219.
4. 4 In the Shadow of Darwin, a review of the teachings of John. N. Clayton, p.69
5. 5 Ibid, p.117.
6. 6 Some object to the phrase "creation week" noting that it is not a Biblical phrase. However, in Exodus 20:11 the scriptures state, "for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day." All textual evidence shows that these were 24 hour consecutive days. Verse 8 of chapter 20 tells the Israelites that they were to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Why? Because six days were given for work (a six day work week) and the seventh day, the sabbath, was for rest. This paralleled God's work of creation in six days (creation week) and His rest on the day that followed (the sabbath). What did the Israelites understand about their six days of labor? Were these to be six "days" or ages of work like the day-age theory? Could they have four long ages of work and toward the end of their life work three 24 hour days and then observe the sabbath once? Moses said that God made the heaven and earth and all that is in them in six days, John has it in three. Who's right?
7. 7 Creation Compromises (Apologetics Press, Inc., 1995), pp. 194-199.
8. 8 The Source (Published by John Clayton, 1976), pp.147-148.
9. 9 Creation Compromises (Apologetics Press, Inc., 1995), pp. 195-196.
10. 10 Ibid., p. 198.
11. 11 See the article Dinosaurs in Evidences of God VI (Published by John Clayton, 1993), p. 65-68.
12. 12 Evidences of God VI (Published by John Clayton, 1993), p.217. This contains selected articles from the Does God Exist journal from 1990 to 1992.
13. 13 Ibid.
14. 14 John Clayton believes that Genesis 2:5-24 is not historical but was written to show why man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. (See The Non-World View of Genesis in Does God Exist, June, 1977)
15. 15 For a more extensive study of these words see Dan King's article in this issue.
16. 16 In the Shadow of Darwin, a review of the teachings of John. N. Clayton, p.84.
17. 17 Ibid.
18. 18 One Week Creation Of Man or God? (Evidences of God I-III, Published by John Clayton, 1993), p.155-161. This contains selected articles from the Does God Exist journal from 1972 to 1983.
19. 19 The Flood Fact, Theory, and Fiction (Evidences of God I-III, Published by John Clayton, 1993), p.155-161. This contains selected articles from the Does God Exist journal from 1972 to 1983.
20. 20 New Discoveries In Mediterranean Support the Flood Account (Evidences of God I-III, Published by John Clayton, 1993), p.122-124.
21. 21 The Non-World View of Genesis, (Evidences of God I-III, Published by John Clayton, 1993), p. 52.
22. 22 How Old Is Man? (Evidences of God IV, Published by John Clayton, 1987), p. 70.
23. 23 As defined in Microsoft Office 97.
24. 24 The Question of Methuselah, (Evidences of God I-III, Published by John Clayton, 1993), p. 96-97.
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