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News

Saturday Selections – July 20, 2024

Reagan's deeply personal argument for a Creator (10 min read / 1 min video)

It was an analogy he returned to frequently, with students at an evangelism camp, and even with the leader of the Soviet Union...

Syphilis is up this year. What can a godless government do?

"Just as smoking a cigar is bad but puffing on a joint is OK, so spreading illnesses by being unvaccinated is evil while spreading disease through sexual indulgence is a mere technical problem."

Christian nationalism is a much discussed topics these days, and while this article doesn't make the case for it, it does highlight the problem with the opposite: a godless government simply isn't able to offer the moral answer needed to stop the spread of a sickness that is caused by immoral choices.

US women to be draft eligible?

US men over 18 have to register for the draft so that, should a war occur, the government will have a list at the ready of fighting-age men. And now they want women to register too, pretending that women are just as capable as men of being mean, green, fighting machines. But when most women failed the required fitness standards, the problem was addressed by lowering the standards. Why does the world cling so desperately to the pretense that men and women are not simply equal, but identical in all abilities?

It's because ability is their basis for equality. We don't normally treat dissimilar things the same – a kid's art is hung up on a fridge, and a Rembrandt is hung up in a museum even though both are art. So on what basis would we treat men and women – obviously dissimilar in many ways – the same? All the world's got is pretending that they are equal in all abilities...even though they are obviously not.

Christians too, believe in an equality of the sexes, but we have a firm foundation for it – one that does not require us to willfully blind ourselves to reality. God made us male and female, and our worth comes not from being identical in ability, but in us all being made in God's Image (Gen. 1:27). Thus, the argument we have to offer against women in the draft is also the evangelistic one: to point people to reality as God defines it. 

Best predictor of happiness? Marriage

More than money, location, or education, the God-given gift of marriage turns out to be the best predictor of happiness.

Archeology shows the Bible was telling the truth

All sorts of experts have critiqued the Bible as not being based in history. And when such a critique is first offered, it might be hard to counter it. But, eventually, the truth comes out: "a recent article in Britain’s The Daily Mail suggested that the prophets Amos and Zechariah may have had something right."

Rachel Holt's heartbreaking pro-life song, "I was gonna be"

This young lady's first big song had a hundred thousand hits this past month.



Assorted

Cremation: why and why not

Three things got me thinking about cremation.

One was a phone call from someone asking me if I would like an information package about funerals. This was tacky – a telephone solicitation from a funeral parlor? – but I was so surprised, I found myself saying yes. A week later the package arrived and I discovered that in comparison to how expensive funerals were, cremations could be substantially less so.

The second incident was an email, with a story about a woman who organized her own funeral and asked to be buried with a fork in her right hand. Why a fork? Well, when people saw it she knew they would ask the pastor about it, and that would give him the opportunity to tell them a little story from the woman’s youth. When she was a little child she loved to attend church suppers, and she especially loved it near the end, because just as people were clearing away the dishes, one of the older ladies would always lean over and tell her, “Save your fork!” That would get her really excited because she knew something better was coming – whether it was apple cobbler, or delicious blueberry pie, or perhaps some rich chocolate cake. Whatever it was, she knew it was going to be good. So to her the fork was always a reminder that something better was coming. “When I die,” she told the pastor, “and people ask about the fork, I want you to tell them my story and then tell them the good news – that when you belong to Jesus Christ, you too can be assured that something better is coming.”

I don’t know if this story is true but it got me thinking about how many non-Christians might attend my own funeral. Funerals force people to consider their own mortality, and Christian funerals naturally bring up the idea of immortality so this sort of event can’t help but be evangelistic. The woman in this story took things a step further as she tried to really drive home the gospel message. Her approach was a little strange, but the evangelistic tone of her funeral was intriguing.

The third event was a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. This is the United States’ most famous cemetery, a shrine of remembrance to the country’s honored dead. But for every remembered president buried there, like John F. Kennedy, there are dozens of forgotten generals and thousands of anonymous privates. A row of large statues had me thinking of the Preacher’s cry: “Vanities of vanities” (Eccl. 1). These grave markers were huge, but the men underneath weren’t special enough to be mentioned in my guidebook. The whole thing reminded me of the people today who seek after fame hoping that when they die members of the media will celebrate their life and say things like, “He’ll live on forever in our hearts” and “As long as we remember him, he’s not really dead.” Then, like the pharaohs of old, a giant grave marker will be erected over top of their bodies and their name will be engraved in stone in the hopes that this will ensure their remembrance.

I left Arlington Cemetery depressed. So many people in the world seek after immortality but trade the real thing for a sham.

Immortal for a different reason

These three events left me leaning towards cremation. So far I had three reasons.

First, it would save money.

Second, getting cremated was a stark contrast to the huge grave markers that I had seen in Arlington National Cemetery. I liked that contrast.

Third, cremation would be very much like getting buried with a fork – people would want to know why I did it. And when they asked, the minister could tell them a little story: “At a funeral you will sometimes hear it said that the departed has not really died because ‘he lives on in our memories.’ But if he lives on only in our memories what happens when all the people who remember him die? He’s been cremated and his ashes scattered to the wind so there isn’t even a gravestone to mark his time here on earth. In a short thirty or forty years there will be no memory of him at all, so if his immortality depends on people remembering him, what happens to him then? Well, the Bible tells us that he will still live on, not because people remember him, but rather because Jesus Christ remembers him, and has died for him. Through Jesus’ death on the cross our friend lives, now and forever. This is the real deal, the only type of immortality that endures.”

The case against cremation 

After bouncing this idea off a few friends and theological types I soon found out that some Christians are strongly opposed to cremation. It’s true there is no explicit command against cremation in the Bible, but there are still some texts that may apply in a less direct way.

  • A brief look through Scripture will show that, at the very least, burial was the normal thing to do among God’s people. For example, the Bible specifically mentions that Abraham, Isaac, Samuel and David were buried (Gen. 24:9, 35:29, 1 Samuel 25:1, & 1 Kings 2:10 respectively). Additionally, when Moses died God selected a burial spot for him (Deut. 34:6).
  • Also, when the Bible talks about fire, and specifically fire burning bodies, it is almost always portrayed in a bad light. In Gen. 38:24 Judah threatens to burn his daughter-in-law to death as a punishment for adultery. This same punishment is prescribed in Leviticus 20:14 for any man who marries a woman, and her mother. In Numbers 16 fire from God consumes 250 rebellious Israelites. The Lord curses Moab in Amos 2:1 “because he burned, as if to lime, the bones of Edom’s king.” The New Testament also links fire with punishment. In Revelations 20:15, for example, those whose names were not written in the Book of Life were thrown into a lake of fire.
  • Jesus was buried. Combine this with God’s treatment of Moses and we have God burying someone, and God being buried.
  • There is a lot of symbolism associated with burial that finds its origins in the Bible. For example Col 2:12 talks about how we have been buried with Christ through baptism. There are no similar passages for cremation.

The case in favor

While these texts do at first seem to make a compelling case for burial, there is more still that can be said.

  • Burial may have been the custom throughout Israel, but there are many Israelite customs we do not follow. We do not, for example, wash our feet after entering someone’s house. Just because something is done a certain way in the Bible, does not mean that God commands us to do it that way today.
  • While the Bible does talk about burning as punishment, it often refers to it as a way of killing the guilty, rather than as a means of disposing of their bodies. So this really isn’t cremation. If you do want to make the link then it is worth taking a second look at Numbers 16. It is here that the earth swallows up Korah and his household, and all his men. “They went down alive into the grave” (vs. 33). So just as “cremation” can be a punishment, so too can “burial.”
  • 1 Sam. 31:12 recounts one of the very few examples in which cremation is specifically brought up in the Bible, and it is portrayed in a neutral, if not positive light. The bodies of Saul and of his sons are retrieved from the Philistines and burned by the “valiant men” of Jabesh Gilead. (But, as has been pointed out since this article was first published, the next verse, 1 Sam 31:13, then recounts how their bones were buried.)
  • While fire is often spoken of as a means of punishment, John the Baptist promised that Jesus would baptize people with “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). Fire is also mentioned positively as a means of refinement (Rev. 3:18). So it seems clear then, that this is symbolic language, and that fire is not, in itself, bad.

Christian stewardship can also be a consideration here since cremation usually costs substantially less than burial– the main saving is in the cheaper casket and the fact there is no plot to buy. Some people will bury the urn, but that at least means a smaller plot is needed, or the same plot can be shared by more.

Cost is not the most compelling reason, of course. The best case for cremation is really the case for Christian liberty: if there is no scriptural directive on this issue, then each Christian is free to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience.

Conclusion

Cremation seems to be a rarity in our churches so this may not be much of an issue for us today, but when you consider that cremation has gone from 4 per cent of Canadian funerals in 1961 to 46 per cent in 2001, it’s clear we will have to think about it soon. It’s best then to discuss this issue now, rather than when it is forced on us. If you have any thoughts on cremation, or have any points or arguments you would like to contribute, please send me a note.

For further study, Christian resources on (and primarily against) cremation

This article first appeared in the June, 2003 issue.


Today's Devotional

July 21 - Continue in prayer

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” - Colossians 4:2 

Scripture reading: Colossians 4:2

Paul continues his staccato directions about love in the church, family and household. He also speaks to our hearts when he calls us to continue praying. Interestingly, we need reminding of that. Yet, I think it is true for many of us that we are not consistently >

Today's Manna Podcast

A Criminal on a Cross

Serving #545 of Manna, prepared by Gerrit Bruintjes, is called "A Criminal on a Cross".











News

Dominion Report: a free and solidly Christian news source for Canadians

The Dominion Report is a Canadian news website (DominionReport.ca) and newsletter that offers up a Christian perspective on the week’s events. It delivers that perspective via two- to six-paragraph introductions to articles they link to from other media outlets. If you’re familiar with RP’s weekly Saturday Selections column, it’s a lot like that, but the Dominion Report goes a little longer and has more of a specifically news focus. As an example, last week’s edition offered up: Canadians' beliefs on the Resurrection a conservative student forced out of a university election a Chinese military hacker who was allowed to become a Canadian permanent resident how Toronto auto thefts have doubled since 2021 and a few more “quick hits” They’ve been online since mid-2023, and their past 35+ weekly newsletters showcase what sort of Christian perspective they are offering. I don’t know if it is specifically Reformed, but it is certainly a conservative sort of Christian, and strongly pro-life, with writers regularly turning to Scripture for guidance. Importantly, it doesn’t seem to be over-torqued. WORLD magazine, one of the very best Christian publications, has as one of their slogans, “sensational facts, understated prose.” We live in pretty outrageous times, so we don’t need anyone to hype up the hysteria, and from what I’ve read, the Dominion Report presents the facts with a pretty level head. Check them out at DominionReport.ca, and if you like what you see, be sure to sign up for their weekly newsletter. (Their RSS feed is DominionReport.ca/feed and you can find out how to use it here)....





Adult biographies, Book Reviews

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock

by Iain H. Murray 240 pages / 2011 Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 John MacArthur has been a help and a hero to me. The help has come from his insights on important issues like creation and evolution, psychology, Pentecostalism, gender roles, and the need for fruit in a Christian’s life. I really appreciated books like Charismatic Chaos (on Charismatics) and The Battle for the Beginning (on Creation vs. Evolution) which were educational and accessible. But the biggest reason I became a MacArthur fan was due to his regular appearances on the Larry King Live show. This was an interview show on CNN and when the host wanted to talk about religious issues there would be MacArthur, alongside of Deepak Chopra, a full-on new age guru, and some forgettable weak-kneed Roman Catholic priest. The setting wasn’t exactly hostile – while Larry King is agnostic, he’s quite polite – but sitting there, in the midst of three fellows who not only had no idea what the truth was, but at points even denied there was a truth to be found, it was certainly a challenging position. MacArthur, as the sole voice for God’s Truth, had to not only present that truth, but in a winsome way that would give God his due. And he nailed it! It was just so encouraging to see him clean up, coming off as the only sane one on the panel. I think he even got me clapping, after a particularly good answer. So, a help and a hero. And to top it off he’s Reformed. But he’s also Baptist and a Dispensationalist. He's wrong about these major matters. That’s why, when I found out Iain Murray had written a biography on him, I knew I’d have to check it out. On the matters where we differ with MacArthur, Murray does too, so his biography highlights the great good God is doing through this man, and takes gentle note of areas where both Murray and we too would differ. Topics covered What Murray offers us here is a more topical than chronological look (though it is that too) at MacArthur’s life. So, for example, a chapter is spent on his wife, both on her influence, and a major car accident that nearly killed her. Another chapter is spent on the spiritual state of Russians after the Berlin Wall fell when MacArthur was invited to preach and teach there. We also learn about the role MacArthur had in fighting the “easy-believism” that was found in many evangelical churches. Pastors were teaching that not only is salvation not due to our works, after we are saved we still don’t have to do good works! MacArthur’s book The Gospel according to Jesus was a response to this error. Of course, Murray does also give un a look at the man himself. One little factoid that I found of interest was that one condition he set on accepting the call to Grace Community Church, the church he has served these last 40+ years, is that they allow him 30 hours a week for Bible study. He said that if he was going to teach the Word he needed time to be in the Word. I’m sure he works more than 30 hours a week, but even if he was at his task 10 hours a day six days a week, this still amounts to half of all his time. How much time, I wonder, do we give our ministers to simply study God’s Word? Murray clearly admires his subject, but that doesn’t stop him from, when needed, rebutting him. For example, Murray takes up the issue of Dispensationalism in a chapter titled “Objections and Corrections.” There is no better example of loving criticism to be found than in this chapter in how Murray corrects MacArthur! Conclusion While I loved this book – I liked it so much I took the luxury of reading through it slowly – it is not the sort of biography that everyone will enjoy. The battles MacArthur has fought have been of a spiritual nature, which doesn’t make for quite the same gripping nature as, say, a biography about a shot-down World War II pilot who had to contend with actual bullets and bombs. But spiritual battles should be of interest too – after all, we’re all in one. And for anyone who has read or heard MacArthur and wanted to know more about the man this will be a wonderful treat. Here is a man who sought the Lord first and foremost. A version of this review first appeared in the June 2015 issue. ...





News

Christian college to replace plaque that calls murderers “savage”

Wheaton College, a US evangelical liberal arts college, has taken down a plaque “dedicated to the glory of God” and “in loving memory of” two martyred alumni, because it used the adjective “savage” to describe their murderers. The plaque was erected in 1957, exactly one year after five missionaries, including the two Wheaton alumni, were killed by the tribe they were trying to reach with the Gospel. But now the plaque is down, with plans to have it reworded and replaced. Wheaton’s president Philip Ryken explained in an email: "Recently, students, faculty, and staff have expressed concern about language on the plaque that is now recognized as offensive. Specifically, the word 'savage' is regarded as pejorative and has been used historically to dehumanize and mistreat indigenous peoples around the world. Any descriptions on our campus of people or people groups should reflect the full dignity of human beings made in the image of God…" But is this a problem of word choice? Did the Class of ’49, who erected the plaque 64 years ago, use a word that they shouldn’t have? Here is the problem passage, in context, (with “savage” highlighted in bold – emphasis mine): Because of the Great Commission Ed and Jim, together with Nathanael Saint, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming, went to the mission field, willing for “Anything – anywhere regardless of cost.” They chose the jungles of Ecuador – inhabited by the Auca Indians. For generations all strangers were killed by these savage Indians. After many days of patient preparation and devout prayer the missionaries made the first friendly contact known to history with the Aucas. On January 8, 1956 the five missionaries were brutally slain – martyrs for the love of God. The story of Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nathanael Saint, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming might be best known today for what happened afterward. Two years after their murders, Rachel Saint, sister of Nathanael, and Elisabeth Elliot wife of Jim, went to live with this same tribe, to evangelize to them.  What they did was remarkable, because they were not going to a peace-loving tribe. And the miracle God worked in many tribesmen’s hearts was all the more remarkable precisely because of how savage they had been before – six of the very men who murdered the missionaries later turned to the Lord. So is it wrong to call murderers “savage”? To answer that question we must first establish by what standard are we going to assess what is “offensive” and “pejorative.” Christians should, of course, turn to the Bible for our standard. In the world, many today think feelings – and their feelings in particular – are the measure of all things. Before we roll our eyes and be done with this nonsense, let’s remember there is a biblical command that takes feelings into consideration. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would want done unto you” (Matt. 7:12). And since we wouldn’t want to be called savage, we shouldn’t call others savage, right? As the college president noted, this word has also been used to dehumanize indigenous peoples in the past. So, case closed? Well, no. This “Golden Rule” applies to our own actions: what we should or should not do. Thus if you find “savage” a “pejorative” and needlessly “offensive” word, then you really shouldn’t use it on any plaque you might be planning to erect. But how do we assess the actions of another? By what standard should we judge the word choices of a previous generation? In Matthew 7, just a few verses earlier, Jesus shows us the way here too: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (7:1-2). So the question we should ask is, how would we want a generation, 64 years from now, to evaluate the words we say today? If there is no offense expressed and no offense intended when we first say them – if there was no sin at the start – would we want them to read in a sin six decades hence? Would we want our bronzed words taken down because they offended the current day's sensibilities? There is, of course, an argument to be made here since, as the Wheaton president noted, some peoples in the past have been written off as "savages," as if that was an irredeemable part of who they were. But that overlooks the completely opposite point this plaque is making: what is being celebrated here was an attempt to bring the message of redemption to the Aucas Indians. The five men who went, and the class that celebrated their efforts, did so because they knew the Word of God was for every tribe and nation, and because they knew that the Aucas were made in the Image of God too. There is no attack on anyone's dignity or any dehumanization being done here. While the word "savage" is a very good adjective for murderers, it is, of course, okay if today's Christians don't want to use it. What's worrisome is when they want to scrub it. If God's people become so sensitive about offense that could be taken, even when no actual offense is committed, that they feel the need to edit bronze, it's hard to imagine how they'd ever have the courage and frankness to speak to the world about such sins – such sensitive issues – as homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion. This plaque was erected to remember how these five missionaries were willing to risk everything to bring God’s good news to a savage people desperately in need of it. Instead of finding fault where none exists, we should be looking to these missionaries' example, asking, "What are we willing to risk to present His Word to our own savage culture?"...

News

Joe Biden and the unworkable, unbiblical (but I repeat myself) "believe all women" standard

The presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, was accused of sexual assault in late March, and most of the mainstream media, and a key member of the #MeToo movement, doesn't want to hold him to the same standard he has proposed for others. It was only two years ago that the former vice president supported a "believe all women" standard. When the Trump-nominated candidate for the US Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, was publicly accused of sexually assaulting a woman, Biden told reporters: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time. But nobody fails to understand that this is like jumping into a cauldron.” But now it's Biden in the crosshairs. In a podcast released March 24, one of Joe Biden's former Senate staffers, Tara Reade, accused him of sexual assault. It is a case of she said/he said, with no corroborating witnesses to the alleged event. Biden has, through his campaign spokeswoman, denied the charge, but, of course, that's what accused men do. So the obvious question is, why should we believe this man when this man has otherwise insisted we should believe women? One of Biden's defenders, actress Alyssa Milano, has been a public face for the #MeToo movement. But as ArcDigital.media's Cathy Young pointed out, when it was Republican nominee Kavanaugh being accused, Milano held to the same "believe all women" standard Biden was backing. Milano tweeted at the time: You can’t pretend to be the party of the American people and then not support a woman who comes forward with her #MeToo story. However, now that it's Biden being accused, Milano wants to modify that position: #BelieveWomen does not mean everyone gets to accuse anyone of anything and that’s that. It means that our societal mindset and default reaction shouldn’t be that women are lying. Theirs hasn't been the only hypocrisy evidenced. The mainstream media was slow to cover the accusation, with most waiting a couple of weeks or more before writing anything. If the lack of coverage had been due to them holding to a very different standard than the former vice president – if they believed that a reputable news organization can't simply pass along every unsubstantiated accusation they hear – then their lack of coverage would have been understandable. But as commentators on both the Right and Left have noted, that hasn't been the media's standard in the past. The same CNN that took more than two weeks to mention Reade's charges, reported the accusations against Kavanaugh immediately. The Christian satire site Babylon Bee summed up the extent of CNN's early coverage with their headline: "Cricket In CNN Newsroom Gives Detailed Report On Biden Allegations." But there something more noteworthy than the hypocrisy going on here. The #MeToo movement sprang to life in late 2017 when a number of women came forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Though Weinstein's behavior had been an open secret for years he hadn't faced this kind of negative attention before, because most of his encounters had involved just himself and the victim – like the accusation against Biden, they were mostly she said/he said situations. So, previously, victims hadn't come forward because these women weren't confident that they'd be believed when it was just one person's word versus another's. So how can we help women who are victimized in circumstances in which there are no other witnesses? The #MeToo movement proposed one sort of "solution" to this problem: always believe the women. The shortcoming to this approach was clear from the start though it took the Left until now, with their own guy getting accused, to finally realize it: women don't always tell the truth. There was always another solution available but, based as it is on biblical principles, it wasn't their go-to. God says in Deut. 19:15: One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If we, instead of pretending there is some way of picking one witness's testimony over another, acknowledge that it can't be done, we'll be on our way to recognizing the risk that comes with one-on-one situations. And when we acknowledge that risk, then it'll become clear, too, how to minimize it. The only way to protect a woman from victimization in one-on-one circumstance is to so craft our culture that it is unacceptable to suggest such private pairings. Hollywood agents who send their young starlets off to see a powerful Hollywood mogul alone in his suite should be understood to be encouraging sexual predation. And any US senator who went off with his young intern for alone-time would be publicly condemned for creepy behavior. If we want to protect women from being victimized in one-on-one situations, we seem to have just the two choices. We either: Don't believe a man Don't have a man alone with a woman (other than his wife). This second approach is, of course, the much-mocked "Billy Graham Rule." Now that the Biden accusations have even the Left acknowledging the unworkability of the first approach, will they recognize the merits of the second? And if they don't, what alternative can they offer? Picture is cropped from the original by Michael Stokes and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license....


News



Featured



Today's Devotional

July 21 - Continue in prayer

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” - Colossians 4:2 

Scripture reading: Colossians 4:2

Paul continues his staccato directions about love in the church, family and household. He also speaks to our hearts when he calls us to continue praying. Interestingly, we need reminding of that. Yet, I think it is true for many of us that we are not consistently >

Today's Manna Podcast

A Criminal on a Cross

Serving #545 of Manna, prepared by Gerrit Bruintjes, is called "A Criminal on a Cross".


Book Reviews



Movie Reviews



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Indigenous peoples



alternative media



Children’s fiction



John MacArthur



Pro-life - Fostering



Do not judge