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Saturday Selections - March 6, 2021

Tim Challies on 10 books every Christian should read Challies is a Reformed baptist so it isn't surprising that Reformed baptists Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, and John Piper have a place of prominence on his list. What books would you put on your own list? British doctors order "Do not resuscitate" for the mentally handicapped Here's one to share, with the note that this is the logical result of denying we are all made in the very Image of God. If our worth doesn't come from Him, but from what we can do, then those who can do less are treated as being worth less. COVID charts that CNN forgot

This is a free ebook offer for The Covid Charts that CNN Forgot by Tom Woods. It's just 30+ pages, and while it can be argued that any covid comparisons of one place to another are apples to oranges, I think, by weight of one comparison after another, Woods makes a good case for his position, which is:

" admit that they don’t fully understand it, and that it doesn’t behave the way their mitigation guidance seems to suggest it does....Graph the results any way you like: lockdown stringency, people’s mobility patterns, mask mandate dates, whatever. The results are completely random. They absolutely do not show a clear pattern whereby ruining your life solves the problem."

Woods is a libertarian Roman Catholic, and the libertarian comes out far more than any Judeo-Christian perspective. But what libertarians and Christians both know is that government isn't God, and thus it doesn't have God-like powers - there are things beyond its control. That's a point that seemed seldom raised over the last year, but it is a point this booklet drives home. To get it you do need to give your email, but you can unsubscribe easily (he's not a spammer).

An Australian human rights tribunal is being given the authority to investigate prayers "...Parliament has outlawed praying and even talking with another person about sexuality and gender. People are free to discuss, pray, and counsel so long as their view of sexuality and gender conforms to the current set of theories being preached by activists." A boy who has a smartphone/laptop/TV in their bedroom has a fool for a father This pastor puts it plainly and that may offend some. But isn't repentance the better response? Jay Adams tribute (3 minutes) Jay Adams (1929-2020) can rightly be called "the Martin Luther of biblical counseling" because, like Luther, he was pointing people back to the Bible. Like Luther, others came after and built on his work, and differed with it. But these differences only underscored the importance of his initial insight – that we need to go back to the Bible! – so long as the discussions involved turning to God's Word for direction. 

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#MeToo movement


News

Justin Trudeau, and what the need for two witnesses would have us do

On August 4, 2000, the 28-year-old Justin Trudeau was in Creston, BC to have fun at a festival put on by a beer company. Ten days later an editorial appeared in the local newspaper, the Creston Valley Advance, alleging that Trudeau had groped reporter Rose Knight and then offered this apology: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” On June 6, 2018, eighteen years later, the allegations resurfaced when commentator and former Liberal Party strategist Warren Kinsella shared a clipping of the old editorial on his twitter account and later on his blog. Will the PM apply the same standard? Why was Kinsella bringing this up now? He wanted to know if Prime Minister Trudeau was going to treat this allegation with the same zero-tolerance approach he’d been using with other Liberals MPs. Since 2014, he has expelled two MPs from caucus, and accepted the resignation of a third from caucus, and a fourth from Cabinet, when they were faced with allegations of sexual harassment. In the most recent instance, Kent Hehr had been the Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities until he was accused of sexual harassment earlier this year. A day after the allegation – made via tweet – and before an investigation was conducted, the Prime Minister accepted Hehr’s resignation from his Cabinet post. Kinsella wanted to know “If what Kent Hehr did resulted in him being considered unfit for Cabinet, is Justin Trudeau similarly unfit?” He concluded his blog post with this question “Why aren’t you facing the same fate Kent Hehr did?” A confusing answer In responding to the allegations, the Prime Minister noted this event occurred long ago and stated “I am confident I did not act inappropriately.” But he went on to add that “often a man experiences an interaction as benign, or not inappropriate, and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently.” Was Trudeau saying he was innocent? Yes. So the reporter had wrongfully accused him? Well, no, he wasn’t going to say that. To understand Trudeau’s answer we have to view it in light of the #MeToo movement that sprang up late last year. The movement started when, over the course of October and November, over one hundred women came forward to accuse one of Hollywood’s most powerful men, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The #MeToo hashtag went viral when it was used by many others stars to make allegations against other powerful entertainment figures. It was no shock, to Christians, that in an industry that exploits women’s sexuality onscreen, women would be exploited off screen too. We could cheer as, one after another, sexual predators were being exposed. The wrong solution But the #MeToo movement wasn’t anchored to a Christian idea of justice, and without that foundation, it couldn’t provide the right sort of correction. Soon demands were made for the accuser to always be believed. It was said that in a he said/she said situation, the accuser is less powerful so we should presume they are telling the truth because their risks in speaking out are great and they don’t have much to gain in reporting. Trudeau echoed this position in January shortly after the allegations against Kent Hehr were made. He told the World Economic Forum that when women bring forward accusations “it is our responsibility to listen and more importantly to believe.” This is why Hehr had to resign, even before an investigation. It’s also why Trudeau was so hesitant to say his accuser was wrong. Because the accuser must be believed. Point people to the answer So is Trudeau hypocritical for disciplining others facing allegations, and not resigning himself now? Maybe. But that’s not the point we should be making here. The very different lesson that needs to be learned here is that the standard Trudeau applied to others – always believing the accuser – is one that shouldn’t be applied to anyone (Matt. 7:2). To be clear, I'm not trying to argue that Trudeau is innocent of what’s been alleged. The point is, unless another eyewitness comes forward, we can’t know...so we shouldn’t find him guilty. After all, false accusers do exist. As Douglas Wilson noted Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor is in the Ten Commandments for a reason. This is a common sin –  it's not like it only happens "every 25 years or so." So we need a better standard to guide us – we need God’s standard. And in Deut. 19:15 He tells us how to proceed: 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.” In other words, we aren’t even to entertain allegations made by just one accuser. But what of the women who are exploited and harassed away from any witnesses? It’s only when we understand that the guilty, in such circumstances, can’t be punished that we will understand what sort of societal changes need to be made. What we need is to demand less privacy, and bring in more light. As Jesus says in John 3:20-21: Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. And like any needed change, God’s people can model it first. So what would loving the light look like? We can see it in structural changes like how, in new schools, the offices now include one wall made entirely of glass. The school counselor or principal can still meet with a student behind a closed door but they are in full view of any number of passersby. In professional settings meetings can take place in public areas, or in an office with the door open. And if ever we get a Christian movie mogul he should invite a star’s agent to accompany the star for any meeting. This isn’t a full-blown Billy Graham rule but if sexual exploitation is as common as the aftermath of the #MeToo movement has made it seem to be, then there is good reason for this move towards more accountability and less privacy. Does that mean we’re letting Trudeau off the hook? Yes, because he should never have been on the hook in the first place. While God knows what did or didn’t happen, until and unless a second witness is found we can’t know, so we mustn’t judge. ADDENDUM After this article was published online, a number of issues were raised that need to be addressed. What might a second witness be? Some readers noted that evidence can serve as a witness: (DNA, security camera footage, electronic banking records, self-incrimination, etc.). That’s a good outworking of the biblical principle requiring multiple witnesses. Now, what sort of evidence rises to the level of being a second witness? For guidance on this point we can ask whether we would be satisfied if such evidence was used as proof against us (Matt. 7:1-2 & Matt. 7:12).  The consistory is not the police A concern was expressed that this article might encourage church consistories not to go to the police unless there are two witnesses when members come to them with allegations of sexual abuse. To be clear, the government, and not the church, is tasked by God to deal with crime (1 Peter 2:13-17). So if a crime is alleged, then church leaders must report it to the authorities. The issue of abuse and how to prevent it, and expose it, is a complex one, so it’s worth noting that this article has a limited focus. I am asking what Deut. 19:15’s two or three witness requirement would have us do in the context of the public debate about the allegation against Trudeau. As citizens of democracy, we have a say in the laws that the police administer, and we have a role in the public debate. So what direction should we give the world about the sort of laws we should have? And, just as important, what sort of rules of business etiquette can we encourage? One possibility: it should be seen as inappropriate/creepy for the powerful to invite the vulnerable to have business meetings alone in their hotel rooms.  What about abusive marriages? Some wondered, if this two-witness requirement was followed, whether it could make it difficult to get out of an abusive marriage. A particularly manipulative spouse might only be abusive when no one else is around to see it. The elders have to report any criminal abuse allegations to the police, but they do have a role in counseling. So if a wife claims abuse, should church leaders required two witnesses before they’d approve of a divorce? My article doesn’t touch on how elders should apply Deut. 19:15, but this is a pressing question that needs an answer. Douglas Wilson digs further into God’s Word to addresses it in his article, “On a wife deciding to leave her husband” to explain that while two witnesses are needed to prove abuse, the same isn’t required to flee such abuse....


Popular but problematic


Parenting, Popular but problematic

Patricia Polacco gets woke

In my idyllic and very Christian small town I keep forgetting that even here there’s a spiritual war going on. This past weekend I got a reminder in amongst the books we borrowed from the public library when two titles were pushing the same agenda. The first was by well-loved children's author Patricia Polacco about a family with two moms. God's view of marriage – as being between a man and woman – was represented in the story by a snarling, glaring neighbor. The second was a chapter book about a girl competing in a TV game show who had two dads. While we parents should know what our kids are reading, if you have a child who reads a lot this becomes harder and harder to keep up with as they get older. But, as the Adversary knows, you are what you eat. And if he can sneak in a diet of "homosexuality is normal," he can win our kids over before parents even know a battle is happening. So, what's the answer? Should we monitor our children’s book intake closer? That's part of it. Should we rely on Christian school libraries more (if you have access to one)? That seems a good idea. Would it be wise to invest in a high-quality personal home library – only fantastic (and not simply safe) books? That’s a great idea. But, as our kids get older, it's going to come down to talking through this propaganda to equip them to see through it. It will mean explaining to them that we oppose homosexuality because God does, and that even in prohibiting homosexuality God shows his goodness. As Cal Thomas put it: “God designed norms for behavior that are in our best interests. When we act outside those norms – such as for premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual sex – we cause physical, emotional, and spiritual damage to ourselves and to our wider culture. The unpleasant consequences of divorce and sexually transmitted diseases are not the result of intolerant bigots seeking to denigrate others. They are the results of violating God’s standard, which were made for our benefit.” We have to share with our children that our Maker knows what is best for us, and homosexuality isn't it. Like many an idol (money, sex, family, career, drugs) it might even bring happiness for a time, but, like every other idol, it doesn't bring lasting joy, it won't save us, and it will distance us from the God who can....

Popular but problematic

Fifty Shades of Grey - the phenomenon

I have to begin this piece with a couple of confessions. The first is that I have not yet read Fifty Shades of Grey, the bestseller that “everybody” is talking about. The second is that I have no intention whatsoever of doing so. The downright tawdriness of it all just doesn’t appeal. Now, as everyone knows, it is bad form to review a book that one has not read so rather than fail miserably in the attempt, my aim is simply to look at the Fifty Shades phenomenon through a Christian worldview lens. If you are wondering why we even have to consider this sort of thing, the answer is simply this: the walls of the church and of families are probably more porous than they have ever been, and rather than light pouring out from them into the surrounding culture, the traffic is largely the other way. Stuff is getting in, much of which is not good. Pretending it doesn’t exist is not an answer. Even Christians are reading books like this, which is obviously not good, but even if they weren’t touching it, the influence of such stuff would still manage to find its way into Christian families and churches as once cultural taboos become cultural norms. The only way to stop its pernicious effects is to know what it is we are dealing with and to be fully persuaded that we have the antidote. What is it? Just in case you have managed to remain blissfully unaware of its existence, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey is the biggest selling book in the world right now, having sold somewhere in the region of 40 million copies. It is also reputed to be the fastest selling paperback of all time, knocking J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series off the top spot. The plot centers on the “relationship” between a naïve 22-year-old woman, Ana Steele, and Christian Grey, a successful 27-year-old businessman whom she meets when interviewing him for a college paper. She is attracted to him and hopes for a romance, but it soon becomes clear that he is not the “flowers and chocolates sort” and the only kind of relationship he is interested in is a purely sexual one involving BDSM (bondage, dominance, sado-masochism). I won’t bore you with any more of the tacky details, suffice it to say that the rest of the book is littered with scenes that would find a comfortable home in any “hardcore” pornographic magazine. Why feminists love/hate it The most interesting thing about the Fifty Shades phenomenon is that the overwhelming majority of its readers are women. Why interesting? Well here we are half-a-century after the apparent emancipation of women, and millions of women are eagerly lapping up a pornographic book about a girl who submits to an overbearing, domineering deviant and lets him do pretty much whatever he wants to her. How empowering! How emancipating! Feminism can be mighty confusing to those of us outside the loop. Do feminists approve of pornography or do they condemn it? Is it a liberating and empowering force in the hands of women, or is it a demeaning and oppressive tool in the hands of men? Well that all depends on which feminists you happen to be speaking with. During the late 70s and early 80s a schism opened up amongst what were known as the Second-Wave Feminists, and in the ensuing Feminist Sex Wars two groups emerged, both using the term “feminists” to describe themselves, yet managing to come up with diametrically opposite views on issues such as pornography. A quick search of the web reveals precisely this divide over Fifty Shades of Grey. For instance, over on Feministing.com are the “Fifty Shades is liberation” sisters who speak in gushing terms about how refreshing it is for women to be able to read such apparently enlightened literature without feeling ashamed. One commentator says, “To me, the popularity of Fifty Shades is evidence that, at the very least, women like reading about many kinds of sex – and people should probably try doing all of them, because they all seem really great.” Meanwhile over on Hercirclezine.com, the “Fifty Shades is oppression” sisters stand aghast wondering how on earth their fellow feminists could possibly endorse such a book. As one commentator says, “These books tell women that they want not only to be objectified … but also that they want to be dominated – in the bedroom and outside of it. It’s pornography in its purest form, and pornography thrives because men demand it.” I must admit that if I have to stand with one group, I come down fairly and squarely on the “Fifty Shades is oppression” side. Of course pornography turns women into objects – that is the entire point of it. It is specifically and intentionally anti-relational. Fifty Shades of Grey is no different, and if the “Fifty Shades is liberation” sisters really believe that books such as these will not do their bit to further chip away at what is left of honor and kindness between the sexes then they need to do three things: Get with the real world; Study the statistics on the increase in sexual and violent crimes over the last 50 years and set them next to some figures charting the explosion in pornography; Go figure. What biblical submission isn't But much as I am with the “Fifty Shades is oppression” sisters in their criticisms of the book, this is as far as any alliance can go. They are right in-spite of their worldview not because of it. This is seen in the following comment posted on Hercirclezine.com, reacting to the news that the Anglican diocese of Sydney is about to include a pledge by the bride to “love and submit” to her husband: What I find especially disturbing is this new trend happening in Sydney in which women have adopted a trend from Fifty Shades of Grey. Their wedding vows includes a submission contract. This is degrading and is a giant leap backwards. All of these women who revel in being submissive are pathetic sheep stuck in a different time era (or possibly need psychological help). Somehow this lady and many others like her, seem to believe that the kind of submissiveness being vowed in the Sydney marriage service – lifted from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians – is the same as the kind of submissiveness being portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey. For such folks, there are only two possible types of submissiveness in male/female relations: Islamist-style, where the woman is nothing but a drudge, emptied of any thoughts of her own and made to walk behind her husband dressed in something resembling a bat costume, or sexual-chattel submissiveness, where the woman is a mere slave to the demands of some overbearing deviant. And so when Paul writes that women must submit to their husbands, he must be urging either Islamist-style submission, or sexual deviance submission. Or both. Right? Well, not quite. This is what Winnie-the-Pooh might have called A Very Big Misunderstanding. Let me put it like this: Fifty Shades of Grey did not come out of a Christian culture. Nor could it have come out of a Christian culture. The culture it came out of is a secular humanist one which puts sex and the right to an orgasm on a par with the liberties granted in the Bill of Rights. So to the feminists who confuse the Apostle Paul with E.L. James: much as you might loathe Fifty Shades of Grey, you didn’t get it from my worldview, you got it from yours – a worldview that specifically rejects Christianity and all it has to say on male/female relations. What it is For the record, the type of submissiveness envisaged by Paul does not resemble the relationship of shoe to doormat, nor the relationship of pimp to prostitute (see Hebrews 13:4), but rather a wife submitting herself to a husband who “loves his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:22,25). Of course it will be objected that many women aren’t married to such selfless men and so how can they be expected to submit. True enough, but Paul is writing to Christians within the context of the New Covenant, and so if any husband behaves in such a way as to make it just about impossible for her to submit to his headship, then as a last resort she has every right to go to the elders of the church, and they have every obligation to deal with it. At the same time, such an objection is a red-herring. For the feminist rejection of Paul’s teaching is not that a woman might have to submit to a lousy skunk, but that she has to submit to anyone – even to a self-sacrificing, loving husband. What they simply don’t get is this: the Christian woman’s submission is not a sign of inferiority. It does not mean that she is in any way beneath her husband in dignity or honor, or that her opinions and desires are of any less worth than his. On the contrary, she is his equal in every respect – the glory of her husband as Paul makes clear elsewhere – but with one exception: in the hierarchy established by God it is the husband that is the “family CEO.” He is the one who bears responsibility for its direction and he is the one who will have to give an account for what went on in it. Fifty Shades of Grey will no doubt continue to draw in its millions, and in so doing will give the hordes of women reading it a false sense that what they are reading is female emancipation. It is not. Neither is female emancipation to be found in first rejecting a Fifty Shades type of submission and then rejecting an Ephesians kind of submission because you can’t tell the difference. The truly emancipated woman is one who first trusts in Jesus Christ and then seeks a man who strives to resemble Him. Submitting to that kind of man will be her glory and her delight. This article first appeared in an edited form for Samaritan Ministries International....

Popular but problematic

The Shack

The Shack, the sensational book by William P. Young, was the #1 paperback trade fiction on the New York Times Best Sellers list for more than a year and a half. Over 18 million copies have been sold. It has been praised by none other than Regent College theologian Eugene Peterson and recording artist Michael W. Smith. The Shack is a gripping story. Mack's little daughter, Missy, is kidnapped and murdered while Mack is on a camping trip with his three children. The place where she was killed, a shack in the mountains, is discovered, though Missy's body and the killer are not found. Some time later, Mack receives a letter from God, "Papa", inviting him back to "the shack." Mack goes to the shack and meets the Trinity there. God the Father is an Afro-American woman; Jesus is a mildly clumsy blue jeans-wearing man; the Holy Spirit is an ethereal woman called Sarayu. In unique sessions with each of the Trinity, Mack struggles with anger against his abusive father and his hatred against Missy's killer. After he forgives his father, God the Father appears to him – and for the rest of the story – as a man. After Mack forgives the murderer, God leads Mack to Missy's body and the four of them bury her. Mack, then, returns home to his wife Nan and his other two children. It is a very imaginative story, but contains some serious theological difficulties. Running up against the second commandment Young runs into trouble with the second commandment which says that we are not to make an image of God in any way and that God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. When Young "paints a picture" of God with words, he bumps up against the second commandment. Arguably, one could portray Jesus, since he is a true man, but one may not portray the Father nor the Holy Spirit. "You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman.…" (Deu 4:15,16). Wrong on the Trinity Young's view of the Trinity is not right. God the Father, at one point in the book, says that he is truly human in Jesus, and he has scars on his wrists to prove it. The wrong teaching that Youn g subscribes to at this point is likely patripassionism, the teaching that the Father also suffered. Young confuses the persons of the Father and the Son. The ancient Athanasian Creed warns against this. Wrong on the atonement Young also espouses a wrong view of the extent of the atonement. Whereas scripture teaches that Christ died for the forgiveness of the sins of his people, Young says that God has forgiven all sin in Christ and that it is up to the human individual to choose relationship with the Father. His view of the atonement is Arminian (see Chapter II, Canons of Dort); his view of man's unregenerate will is Pelagian (see Chapter III/IV, Canons of Dort). Although it's a nice story to read, I cannot recommend The Shack because of its many doctrinal errors. This review was originally published in December, 2008 Year End issue of Clarion magazine, and is reprinted here with permission. Some of the numbers have been updated to 2016. Rev. George van Popta is the Minister Emeritus for the Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church....


journalism


Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Media bias

A call for Christian journalists: an interview (of sorts) with Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky has been many things – the Editor-in-Chief of World magazine, a journalism professor, the author of more than 20 books, and a baseball fanatic. Two of those books lay out his radical notions concerning journalism, on how it used to be a Christian enterprise, and how it can be again. This is an "interview" with those two books, and the text in italics are his words as they are found in Prodigal Press: The Anti-Christian Bias of American News Media and Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism. **** JON DYKSTRA: Let’s start with the title of your first journalism book. What does Prodigal Press refer to? MARVIN OLASKY: The title refers to the relationship that today’s secular press has with the Christian journalism of yesteryear. Though few know it, American secular journalism is the wayward son of Christianity. JD: Do you mean newspapers used to be Christian? MO: Yes, indeed. For example, the New York Times was founded in 1851 by Henry Raymond, a Bible-believing Presbyterian. Throughout the City of New York there was at one time fifty-two magazines and newspapers that called themselves Christian. JD: A Christian New York Times? That is pretty hard to believe. MO: It was a great Christian paper! It became known for its accurate news coverage and for its exposure in 1871 of both political corruption (the “Tweed Ring”) and abortion practices. A reading of the New York Times in the mid-1870s shows that editors and reporters wanted to glorify God by making a difference in this world. JD: The 1800s seemed to be a good time for Christian journalism. Is that when it all started? MO: Oh, it started much earlier than that. You could even say that Luke was one of the first journalists. At that time published news was what authorities wanted people to know. The Acta Diurna, a handwritten news sheet posted in the Roman forum and copied by scribes for transmission throughout the empire, emphasized governmental decrees but also gained readership by posting gladiatorial results and news of other popular events. Julius Caesar used the Acta to attack some of his opponents in the Roman senate – but there could be no criticism of Caesar….The Bible, with its emphasis on truth-telling – Luke (1:3-4 NIV) wrote that he personally had “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” so that Theophilus would “know the certainty of the things you have been taught” – was unique in ancient times. New Testament writers comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. JD: But if journalism had a Christian origin, what happened to change things? Most journalism today could hardly be called Christian. MO: There were a number of reasons for the change. First newspapers started shying away from tough stories. Evil unfit for breakfast table discussion or considered unfit to print was ignored and thereby tolerated. Several generations later it was embraced. More importantly, just as Christianity was being attacked by ideas like evolution and materialism, Christianity in North America underwent a period of revivalism that emphasized individualism. Many were saved thankfully, but this emphasis on personal faith did not stress the importance of a Christian worldview. So instead of confronting all problems from a biblical perspective, newspapers pushed Christianity to the sidelines. Furthermore, many Christians began to believe that the general culture inevitably would become worse and worse. They thought that little could be done to stay the downward drift. Christian publications should cover church news, they thought, and ignore the rest of the world. JD: So instead of responding to these attacks, Christian journalists just retreated? MO: Exactly. JD: When did this shift take place? MO: It’s hard to put an exact date to it, but by the 1890s things were underway and by the 1900s journalism had turned rather vicious under the leadership of men like William Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. JD: But weren’t Hearst and Pulitzer giants in the newspaper industry? MO: Yes they were, but you wouldn’t want to get on their bad sides. Hearst, for example, was the first journalistic leader to assault regularly those who stood in his path. When Hearst could not get the Democratic presidential nomination in 1904, he called Judge Alton Parker, the party’s nominee, a “living, breathing cockroach from under the sink.”  JD: Nice. Well, if we’ve lost our way, how can we make journalism Christian again? MO: For too long Christians have contented themselves with singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” all the while forgetting that a fortress was an offensive as well as defensive weapon: From it soldiers could make sorties. We have to go out boldly and engage culture, and contrast our Truth with their opinion. JD: But don’t we already have a number of Christian columnists who do just that? MO: We have columnists, but not many journalists.  We need to have people covering the day-to-day news from a biblical perspective. Too often Christian newspapers fill their pages with warmed over sermons rather than realistic stories of successful independent schools or corrupted churches and thereby miss an opportunity to teach boldness. We need to confront culture boldly! JD: Boldness is the key then? MO: Well…no. Boldness alone won’t do it. In fact, none of this will make much difference unless Christian communities view journalism as a vital calling and Christian journalists as ministers worthy of spiritual and economic support. The picture of Marvin Olasky has been modified from one found here, and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. A version of this article first appeared in the March 2008 issue....

People we should know

Pieter Jongeling (1909-1985): husband, father, Nazi-fighter, prisoner, Member of Parliament, children’s author…and Reformed journalist

When one writes about Reformed journalism one inevitably thinks about the sort of journalism that for so many years published newspapers and weekly papers in the Netherlands. In our English-speaking world there are also magazines of Reformed persuasion that do a good job of informing believers. However, most of these magazines (Reformed Perspective excepted) are by and large magazines with a religious focus – magazines aimed at informing people in the pew about what is happening in other pews around the country. On the shoulders of giants Reformed journalism in the Netherlands was different in that it addressed the day to day events going on outside the Church. This type of Reformed journalism has a long history in the Netherlands – we can go back to G. Groen van Prinsterer, the Dutch statesman and Reformed historian (1801-1876) whose aim, in his writings, was to return the Dutch nation to its Reformed roots. While influential, van Prinsterer was often only read by those well off enough to be able to buy a newspaper. Ordinary people back then (such as the members of the Reformed churches) were not able to afford a newspaper – a Dutch tax on newspapers made them hard to afford. Still, Groen started us down the road of Reformed journalism, and later his successor, Abraham Kuyper, broadened the effort, in large part due to the abolishment of the newspaper tax. And, of course, it helped that while Kuyper's journalistic efforts had a particular appeal to those of a Reformed persuasion, they were appealing to the nation as a whole too. Following in the tradition of Groen and Kuyper, there was an important Reformed journalist much closer to our time. I refer to Pieter Jongeling. He was for many years the editor of a Reformed Dutch newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad, member of the Dutch Parliament and author of many children’s books which he published under the pseudonym Piet Prins. Without the example of van Prinsterer, Kuyper and Jongeling (and there are others as well) I would suggest it is highly doubtful that Reformed Perspective would have seen the light of day. His early years Jongeling was born in Winschoten, a town in the northern part of the Netherlands close to the German border.1 The year was 1909. Less than 5 years later his father died and his mother was left alone to care for her family. She did this by running a grocer’s shop – I guess today we would say a corner store. Those were difficult years in which to grow up. Money was scarce, economic conditions far from rosy. Yet despite this, through ardent self-study, Jongeling was able to get a senior teacher’s diploma but with little hope of getting a job. He was active in the young men’s bible study group and also began publishing stories and poems in the Christian papers of those days. As a result he was employed by one of these papers as a foreign editor. It’s said of Jongeling: ”he was a man who lived with the Bible.” This was quite evident in his work as a journalist. World War II All too soon this work came to an end when the German hordes overran the Netherlands and soon the paper was closed down. But that didn't mean Jongeling stopped writing. Due to his ongoing journalism efforts in the following year – efforts aimed at informing his readers about the activities of the German occupiers – he was arrested in the Spring of 1942. The Germans did not believe in proper legal procedures at that time, with the result that Jongeling was asked to sign a paper admitting his guilt. The paper claimed that he was: “a fanatical opponent of National Socialism” – i.e. Nazism. This was something Jongeling agreed with wholeheartedly so he signed the paper with pride. Together with many Reformed people, he regarded National Socialism as totally contrary to what the Bible teaches. The outcome was that he was sent to Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, 30 kilometers northwest of Berlin, where he spent the next three years. Who can possibly understand the privations suffered by these people, not knowing what was happening at home, and the trauma involved in being held by people who were utterly ruthless? Jongeling relates that he and 40 other men were sent to Sachsenhausen but as far as he was aware only 5 returned after the war. Many were executed without charge or based only on an accusation! Jongeling’s wife undertook a number of schemes to get messages to her husband. For example, a Christmas card featured the photo of their daughter to give him some idea of what she looked like. All in all, the following years were quite harrowing when considered from my comfortable armchair in Australia. As the Russians advanced on Germany from the east, Jongeling and his fellow prisoners were marched out of Sachsenhausen. The fanatical, ruthless S.S., the Nazi police force, were put in control of the group that left Sachsenhausen. These Nazi butchers still insisted that their prisoners keep order as they marched on. Many were unable to do that following the brutal privations in the camps and as they collapsed from exhaustion by the side of the road there was no hesitation by the S.S. to put a bullet in the head of a fallen man. Even after reading what Jongeling and his compatriots suffered, I find it is still hard to imagine. But as he confessed on arriving back in the Netherlands, it was God who saved him and restored him to his wife, family and church. Back to work However, changes had taken place during the years Jongeling had spent in Germany. There had been synodical proceedings that resulted in many faithful members of the Reformed churches finding themselves outside the church denomination that they had belonged to since birth. Jongeling and his wife were now members of the new Reformed churches (Liberated). When he went back to his job as a journalist Jongeling described journalism as follows: “A journalist must above all be able to tell a story. He must make the matter clear to the people. If he wants to do that well, then he must, according to me, start from the law of God. That must be the norm. Else the danger exists that evil is called good and good evil and then he misses his target.” He needed two or three months to recuperate, to bring his body back to something like a normal weight. On his return he had weighed 45 kg (99 pounds) and so time to get back to some normality was not out of place. He returned to work on May 20, 1945 and on July 1st that year he resumed work as Editor-in-Chief of the daily paper he had worked for before the war. Editor extraordinaire One would think that upon returning to his post he would be able to do his work with joy, and with the full support of his superiors. But that was not to be. The paper, formerly a Reformed publication, had under the direction of its previous temporary Editor-in-Chief been turned into a newspaper with only a general Christian character. In other words, it was now a paper that did not comment on the struggles within the Reformed churches of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Jongeling fully understanding where the direction was coming from, approached his work as a Reformed believer. If they wanted him to write from a general Christian basis, well, as he said, “I took general Christian basis as one based on Scripture and the confession. What is contrary to that, I regard as unchristian and revolutionary …” The next three years were often difficult because of the basic disagreement between the editor and directors about the church question. When in 1948 he realized the end of his editorship was nearing, and he was offered the job of editor of a magazine called De Vrije Kerk (the Free Church), he accepted that offer. As he relates, it meant that he had a task and some income, although considerably less than in his previous position. The magazine received a name change to Gereformeerd Gezinsblad – Reformed Family paper. It sought to inform and encourage people throughout the Netherlands to follow the Reformed course. At first, the paper was issued only a couple of times per week. It had very little news but consisted of an editorial, a review of what was happening nationally and internationally, together with opinion and comment rather than news. I remember those days, and do recall it was indeed very small and basic but still the readers were being informed about what it meant to be Reformed in the state and the world around us. For many years after we migrated to Australia, this paper, which later received a new name Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch Daily Paper), was read in our home even after I married an Australian who spoke not a word of Dutch. It never failed to teach me much about politics from a Reformed perspective. For this work we have to be truly thankful to Piet Jongeling. Always teaching He also taught and gave direction to Reformed Christians when he was persuaded to stand for election to the Dutch Parliament, and in 1959 received enough votes for the G.P.V (the Reformed Political Union) to enter parliament as its lone representative. They were difficult times, editor, parliamentarian, husband, and father to three sons and six daughters. Adding to his load, one of his sons died not long after the child was born. And yet Jongeling was highly regarded for his principled approach to his various tasks. He saw it as his task to inform and instruct his fellow believers in the world in which they were placed. I read somewhere the following: “Jongeling wanted in the first place to contribute to the molding and strengthening of his fellow believers. He was somewhat worried about the future. The Christian Dutch nation had become neutral in the 19th century and seemed to be degenerating into one that was antichristian. There would come a time when there would be no place for truly Christian life in it. On the other hand, he did not doubt that God would fulfill his promises to His people. In his childlike faith he remained in all circumstances certain of God’s faithfulness.“ Well done, good and faithful servant Here, then, was a man used indeed by God to build and strengthen the faith of many. In addition to all his other work he also wrote many novels for youth, some 60 or more of them, and wrote poetry, and was indeed an all-rounder in the journalistic sphere. And as some old-time Reformed Perspective readers may remember, he even contributed articles to this magazine. Our brother died in August 1985. Endnote 1 For most of this information, I am indebted to Rik Valkenburg, a Dutch author, and journalist, who interviewed Jongeling and published the result in the book, Jongeling, Ten voeten ui A version of this article was first published in the July/August 2004 issue. Rene Vermeulen published more than 150 articles in the pages of Reformed Perspective from 1984-2010....


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