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Saturday Selections - January 23, 2021

The magical birth canal The state of things under Canadian law... How to enjoy wealth to the glory of God In 1 Tim 6:17-19, the Apostle Paul gives 3 warnings about wealth and teaches 4 purposes it can be put to. What they aren't telling us about electric cars The push is on to move from gas to electric autos, but what we're not hearing about are the downsides to electricity. Everything in life requires tradeoffs because we have limited time and resources: what we spend in one place can't then be spent in another. That's why, when one side presents their idea as trade-off free – as if it has no notable downsides – we should seek out further information. Pandemic parenting: why some kids are less stressed than usual COVID, coupled with the government's restrictions, has left some of us extra anxious. However, it seems that some children are actually less stressed than normal. How could that be? Might it be related to extra time and attention from mom and dad? A final assessment of the Trump presidency (15-minute read) How should Americans (and others) assess the Trump presidency? David Bahnsen offers this:

1) With gratitude that...we have bought ourselves time as it pertains to the Supreme Court’s protection of our most basic liberties;

2) With regret for the significant losses, embarrassments, and failures evident throughout the last four years; and

3) With renewed wisdom and understanding that the “character doesn’t matter” angle didn’t work for us...

How to speak during the coronavirus A little levity to lighten the load...

News

Saturday Selections – December 26, 2020

Do college kids know the difference between men and women? (4 min) It takes a lot of education to get things this wrong (and this is even from 4 years ago!). Physics and free will "Materialists have long insisted, because they kind of have to, that human actions and decisions are determined, not free." It's another example of how the real world doesn't fit with the atheists' theories. Co-parenting by contract and design? "Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. Disconnecting sex from childbearing gave us abortion and abandonment. Disconnecting childbearing from marriage gave us a generation of fatherless children. The idea that we can have children without sex gave us rented wombs and robbing them of either a mom or a dad. That children should be created out of contractual arrangements without the burden of mutual love is also a bad idea. Once again, the victims are children." A tribute to economist Walter Williams (1936-2020) In this tribute, Bill Muehlenberg compiles a number of "best of" quotes from the economist, including: "...for those of us who are Christians, I’m very sure that when God gave Moses the commandment Thou Shalt Not Steal, he did not mean …unless you get a majority vote in Congress.” Speak the truth in love Sometimes we need to be encouraged to speak truth in love rather than in exasperation. Other times, as in this article, the encouragement is to speak truth in love – if we love our neighbor, child, friend, we will actually speak the truth to them rather than leave them in their destructive sin. The great chicken war...or how tariffs hurt innocent consumers To protest the way that European countries' tariffs were hurting US chicken farmers, the US decided to hurt European truck manufacturers and hurt US truck buyers. Tariffs shelter a country's producers by making goods more expensive for that country's consumers. That's the logic of tariffs: favoring one group at the expense of another. If we don't think the government should make it their business to make our favorite goods and services more expensive, then we shouldn't ask them to do so even when it might be to our company's benefit (Matt. 7:12). ...

News

2020's Top 10 articles

It's not surprising that three of 2020's top articles addressed the coronavirus and governments' responses to it. But, in a blast from the past, C.S. Lewis also takes up a couple of spots. Other than that, the year's most popular articles are as different as different could be, united only in recognizing that God is working through it all. Without further adieu, here are Reformed Perspective's top articles for 2020, starting at…. #10 - The hidden meaning of "The Chronicles of Narnia" It's been recently discovered that C.S. Lewis, seemingly just for his own private entertainment, linked each of his famous Narnia books to one of the 7 planets as medieval cosmology understood them. #9 - Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” sells transgenderism to its preteen/teen audience The streaming giant brought a much-loved pre-teen/teen girls' book series to the small screen but "updated" it with transgenderism. #8 - The Regulative Principle and church lockdowns Is live-streaming the equivalent of in-person worship of God? What does the Regulative Principle tell us about that? And if it is not the equivalent, how should that impact our interactions with our elected leaders, and the message we would want to communicate to them? #7 - C.S. Lewis's Apologetics: a Reformed assessment C.S. Lewis's second entry on our Top 10, this time we're examining his approach to apologetics from a Reformed and presuppositional perspective. #6 - 3 ways of confronting the problems of diminishing attention spans through the reading of the Great Books Like even this article title, the Great Books stretch us. If you want to give reading "the Great Books" a try, this article includes a listing of 50 of them to choose from (with links to download a half dozen for free). #5 - Solomon on smartphones and the pull of pornography King Solomon didn't know smartphones but had insights into the power and pull of sexual temptation, which he shares with young men in Proverbs 7. Older men, and young and older women, can also benefit from the wisdom shared here. #4 - Twice a Sunday needs to happen Chris deBoer encourages a more creative approach to getting people back in the pews and singing God's praises together: if the government restricts church attendance to 50%, then let's double our services! Or let's come out with some other, similarly creative, way to come together again, twice each Sunday. #3 - TikTok passes 2 billion downloads A social media platform that was already big in 2019 became enormous in 2020... and parents who wanted the basics were checking out this primer. #2 - Calvinism in the time of coronavirus Written at the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, it reminded us that we can be comforted knowing that, no matter what craziness might be going on out in the world, our Lord remains in control! #1 - A great-grandma 100 times over...and counting Our top article of 2020 is a short but sweet story about God's abundant blessings – 100 times over! – to this grand great-grandma....

News

Saturday Selections – December 19, 2020

Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is not a Christmas song (1 min) Like many a pop song, the lyrics of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah are hard to decipher but a close listen shows this isn't the Christian song it might initially appear to be. The story behind Handel's Messiah  "Two-and-a-half hours of the world’s most magnificent music was composed in less than twenty-five days." Why (some) Reformed pastors won't use COVID to preach the gospel You don't have to agree with Tim Bayly's take 100% to think there's something here we all (not simply pastors) could benefit from considering. For the many in the world who are scared COVID might kill them, are we pointing them to their only hope in life and death? A creationist take on RNA vaccines (15-minute read) This is sure interesting but also involved, so to give it the attention it warrants, you're going to need to block out some time. Parents should focus on humility Rev. Tim Schouten – and C.S. Lewis – pass along a helpful warning against a parenting "tool" most of us have used at one time or another. ARPA Canada on governmental authority and Christian submission (30-minute read) Here are wise folk, working together, to think how best to honor God in the face of government lockdowns on churches and God's command to honor our authorities. It's a 4-part series, with each part well worth reading slowly. Part 1 - God's commission to the civil government and the Church Part 2 - Biblical freedom ≠ personal autonomy Part 3 - So what if we have legal rights? Aren't we called to submit to government? Part 4 - The freedom to do as we ought Modern child sacrifice (3 min) In the past babies were sacrificed to secure prosperity: they were burned on altars to get rain, or victory in war. Today we abort babies to secure prosperity too: they are torn limb from limb to secure a career, or freedom, or to pursue sex without consequences. While the visuals in this video are muted, this is not an all-ages video. It is well worth sharing on social media. ...

News, Theology

A conversation on authority

It was the type of conversation that, in other circumstances, the two friends might have had at a quiet pub, over a couple of beers. But with the pub closed, and travel restricted, Zach and Owen were making do: beers from the fridge, a couple of comfortable office chairs, and a Skype call to bridge the distance between them. Zach was the one who had suggested the chat. One of his go-to verses, Proverbs 27:17, spoke of how, like iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another, so he was grateful that Owen had been up for it. After some opening how’s-the-weather small talk, Owen got them right to the topic at hand: “Okay, Zach, how about you start us off by defining the two sides of the debate as you see them?” The two sides? “Sure, I can give that a go. There are all sorts of related issues, but I’m most concerned with the government-ordered church lockdowns. I think we’d agree that we don’t like them – the government shouldn’t be treating the church as “non-essential” or, as is happening in some places, closing churches while leaving bars and strip clubs open. But the real question is, how should we respond to that order? The two stands I’m hearing are: Churches should listen because we should submit to the government. Churches shouldn’t listen because the government doesn’t have the authority to close churches. “I think I fall in with the first group, and from what you’ve been posting on social media, you seem to be in the second.” “I do probably fall on a different side of this than you,” Owen agreed, “ but I’d define the two sides differently. I think a lot of people are framing it just the way you did, but defining the sides that way also defines away any possibility of common ground: either a person is for listening, or he’s against it. What if it wasn’t two entirely opposing sides, but instead was two different emphases? God calls his people to submit to authority. Not every order is an authoritative order. “Like you, I believe we are called to submission. And when I argue against church lockdowns, I’m not rejecting God’s call to submission – that’s not where we differ. What I’m arguing is that the order isn’t legitimate. If my son ignores what you order him to do, that isn’t a rejection of parental authority. He just doesn’t believe that your orders have parental authority for him. I think this is the same type of thing.” Two reasons to obey: submission and agreement Zach nodded slowly: “I appreciate that clarification. Your approach – seeking out the common ground – makes me want to take a step back and see where else we might agree.” “Sounds good. Why don’t you start us off with why we should submit?” Zach clicked on his mouse to pull up a document he’d written earlier: “The big reason has to be because in passages like Romans 13:1-6, 1 Peter 2:11-20, Titus 3:1, and Deut. 5:16, God makes it a command. He’s telling us to submit to the authorities that He has put in place, so children should submit to parents; a wife to her husband; the congregation to the elders; slaves to their masters; and citizens should submit to their rulers.” “Right, and let me offer a second reason: agreement. This might seem to go without saying, but Christians who don’t believe we have to submit to a lockdown order might still want to suspend their church services if members comes down with COVID. I don’t think the government has the authority to issue that order, but I wouldn’t want my congregation to ignore it just for the sake of ignoring it. Listening might be the sensible thing to do.” One reason to disobey: obeying God rather than Man “Okay, Owen, we basically agree on those points, but now we’re back to when and why it would ever be right to defy a government order. I can start us off with one ‘reason to defy,’ but I’ll add I don’t think it applies to these lockdowns.” “Okay, go ahead Zach.” “In Acts 4-5, Peter and John are commanded by the authorities to stop talking about Jesus, and their response is, ‘we must obey God rather than Man.’ I guess this would be related to what you were saying about not every order being authoritative. All authority comes from God, so if some lower authority issues orders that conflict with God’s own orders, then we should listen to God, and can, in good conscience, ignore the orders from Man.” “Can you give me an example outside the Bible of that happening?” Zach smiled: “I’m not going to say the church lockdown but…” “Go on.” “Well, I’ve heard some people pointing to church closures in China. The government there is ordering some churches to close permanently, and when members defy those orders and continue meeting in secret, I think that’s a case of obeying God rather than Man. But I don’t think you can link that to what’s happening here in the West. China’s church closures are because the State there is deliberately attacking the Church. Our church closures are in response to a health crisis. And our closures are temporary – however long that temporary had been – or only partial, and we can still hear the preaching of the Word via technological means.” “Can you think of that kind of obeying-God-rather-than-man situation happening closer to home?” Owen asked. Zach considered the question for a few moments before shaking his head. “No. But it seems like you’ve got something.” “I do. It’s actually what’s happening on the home front that has me almost happy about these hard conversations that we’ve been forced to have right now. It’s stressful and it's been divisive, but the silver lining – one of the ways I can see God turning this to our good (Rom. 8:28) – is that these are conversations churches and Christians in the West need to have. In the past, submission was our unthinking default. And, I guess, it should still be our default now – I heard one pastor put it this way: when the Church does have to defy the government, our reputation for honoring and respecting the authorities should be such that the government’s response is ‘What? You guys?’ But trouble is coming, and we need to understand the limits of our governments’ authority if we’re going to be ready for it.” Zach leaned forward: “Okay, you’ve got my attention.” “The most recent example,” Owen continued, “of a government order that runs right up against God’s commands is the conversion therapy ban that’s been passed in different Canadian municipalities. The gist of it is that pastors and Christian counselors could get in legal trouble for pointing homosexuals and transsexuals to God and trying to help them turn away from their sinful lifestyles. This ban looks like it’ll pass federally too. The government would be telling us to leave these troubled individuals alone. But we’d have to defy that order because our Greater Authority has told us to love our neighbors. Another example might be the Canadian government’s ban on corporal punishment for children under two. God has specifically given us a tool for nurturing and disciplining our children, and the government has specifically said that we can’t use it for the first two years.” “You want to spank newborns?” Owen put both of his hands up, and though he was smiling, his voice took on an insistent edge: “I’m not saying that, and I don’t remember when we first spanked our kids. But I am certain that at, say, 18 months, they sure benefited from it. But now, following God’s instructions on this point, we would risk having the State take our kids. That’s scary!” “Okay, good point. And bad joke on my part. I don’t have kids yet, so I haven’t really thought through spanking, but I think I’m mostly on board with what you’re saying here. I’ve answered a few of your questions, so let me ask you one: do you think there are other reasons we can disobey the government?” Another reason: the authority isn’t actually in authority “I do,” Owen said, “I gave the example before that it isn’t insubordinate for my son to ignore orders from you. He has to listen to orders from his parents, but that doesn’t mean he has to listen to orders from any and every parent. It’d be the same sort of situation if the Premier of Alberta started ordering around folks in Newfoundland. They wouldn’t listen, not because they are rebelling, but simply because the Premier of Alberta has no authority over them. Sometimes an authority isn’t actually in a position of authority…no matter what they might be claiming.” Zach nodded: “Okay, I’m with you so far.” “So let me ask you a question: in what ways is a government’s authority limited?” “Well, with your Premier of Alberta example, you’re showing that their authority can be limited by geography – it doesn’t go beyond their boundaries.” “Anything else?” Owen asked. “Well, I guess their authority is also limited by things like constitutions and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I’ve been reading about how John Carpay’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is appealing to the Charter to argue that the Alberta government exceeded its authority in their latest round of COVID restrictions. In the US, some churches are appealing to their country’s constitution to argue governors don’t have the authority to shut down church services. But while they’re winning some of those cases, they’re losing others.” “Sure,” Owen agreed, “but for our purposes here, what’s relevant is that Man’s authority can be limited by Man himself. We can write up laws that restrict what the government can do. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the countries that put the tightest restrictions on their government are ones with a Christian heritage. We remember Samuel’s warning about kings (1 Sam 8:10-22).” Spheres vs. chain of command “But,” he continued, “there’s another sort of restriction on government authority that we haven’t talked about yet. A Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, called it Sphere Sovereignty, and it’s the idea that God gave authority, not just to government, but to the family, and to the Church too. When John MacArthur’s church started meeting regularly again, in defiance of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s closure orders, the church issued a statement that appealed to this divvied-up notion of authority. Let me read you something from that statement: Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained. However, while civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers jurisdiction over the church. God has established three institutions within human society: the family, the state, and the church. Each institution has a sphere of authority with jurisdictional limits that must be respected. A father’s authority is limited to his own family. Church leaders’ authority (which is delegated to them by Christ) is limited to church matters. And government is specifically tasked with the oversight and protection of civic peace and well-being within the boundaries of a nation or community. God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church. The biblical framework limits the authority of each institution to its specific jurisdiction. The church does not have the right to meddle in the affairs of individual families and ignore parental authority. Parents do not have authority to manage civil matters while circumventing government officials. And similarly, government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders. When any one of the three institutions exceeds the bounds of its jurisdiction it is the duty of the other institutions to curtail that overreach. Therefore, when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority… (Matthew 16:18-19; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).” “That’s a lot to take in,” Zach commented. “It is. But the gist of it is that the Grace Community Church was saying they weren’t actually defying the governor. They were arguing that whether the church opens or closes is under Church, and not State, authority.” “I think I get it,” Zach said. “They were saying that the authority that comes from God isn’t a chain of command with the State at the top and the Church and family somewhere underneath.” “Right. And while I think Grace Community is right, I’ll add that the Bible doesn’t make clear where exactly one sphere of authority ends and another begins. I think we’d both agree the State shouldn’t be dictating doctrine to a church, but do they have an interest in public health? And if so, would that give them the authority to close a church in pandemic circumstances? That’s what muddies things: these spheres of authority overlap. To give a different sort of example, it’s a family’s business to raise and educate their children, but if they were to abuse any of those children, then the State’s responsibility over justice would give them authority to intervene.” Charity Zach gave one last long draw on his beer before continuing. “I appreciate our conversation, but I’m not sure if it clarified or complicated things for me. So, let me put it to you plain: does a church have the authority to keep its doors open when the State orders them shut?” Owen gave a tug on his chin. “Would you be satisfied with an ‘I think so’?” “I guess I’ll have to be. But maybe I can finish us off with something I am sure about, and which I know we can both agree on?” When Owen gave a nod, Zach continued. “In all of this, we want to honor God, and if we’re less certain about how to do that in some ways, we know exactly how to do it in others. We know what God meant when He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to do unto others as we would want done to us. In our COVID/lockdown discussions, it means working at producing more light than heat by assuming the best of, and listening carefully and charitably to, brothers and sisters we might disagree with, just like we’re hoping to get the same back from them. That’s how we can have fruitful ‘sharpening’ discussions. ‘Doing unto others’ also means having patience with the authorities. Most don’t have God’s Word as their guide, so on the one hand, it’s no wonder they’re acting fearfully, and on the other, that might even be a reason for more, and not less charity towards them…even when they are overreaching.” To that, all Owen could add was a heartfelt, “Amen!”...

News

Equality found in the Bible, not on the football field

After COVID quarantines eliminated their other kickers, the Vanderbilt Commodores football team turned to Sarah Fuller. The starting goalkeeper for the university’s women’s soccer team, Fuller was already used to kicking a ball pretty far. But when she came on the field in the second half of the Nov. 28 competition against the Missouri Tigers, the coach didn’t ask her to blast it. Instead, the designed play was for her to hit a squib – a low bouncing kick that is hard to return. And that’s what happened: she booted it 30-yards, and the receiver fell on it for a return of zero yards. That was Fuller’s only action, with the punting handled by a teammate, and Vanderbilt never getting close enough for her to attempt a field goal. While a handful of women have kicked for other lower-level college teams, Fuller became the first woman to officially take the field in a major conference football game. That is an understandable reason for interest, but from the play-by-play announcers on up to major media networks, this was treated as a cause for celebration. One of the game’s announcers described it this way, as Fuller was lining up the kick: History is on the field in Columbia, Missouri, as Sarah Fuller is about to put her right foot into a football, speaking volumes to women around the world. Fuller’s appearance won her the SEC “special teams co-player of the week” honors. That she had just the one kick – solid but not amazing – meant this wasn’t about athletic prowess. An ESPN headline framed it as: “Vanderbilt kicker breaks barriers…” But what sort of barrier was it that the Vanderbilt kicker broke? This was treated as if it was a blow for women’s equality. However, if anything, it was the opposite. Why? Well, there are two very different grounds for women's and men’s equality. The first is the declaration in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It is in this sense that male and female (as well as every ethnic group, the unborn and children and adults too) are the same – we are all made in the Image of God. But for a culture that rejects God, another grounding for equality is needed, and another “sameness” needs to be found. The best the world has been able to do is an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-too basis of equality. It’s on this basis that Fuller is being celebrated: because she showed that just like men, women can play football too. But that an exceptional woman athlete can fill in, in a non-contact appearance, for a COVID-devastated, winless football team in a meaningless game that they lost 41-0 doesn’t prove women can do football just like the boys. Under ordinary circumstances, Fuller would never have taken the field. It’s here that things take a nasty turn: if we stick with the world’s anything-you-can-co-I-can-do-too basis for equality, then if women can’t play football that would mean they aren’t men’s equals.  While biblical headship is often blamed for chauvinism, this abilities-focused basis for equality is the true culprit. As hard as the world tries to obscure them, the physical differences between men and women are obvious to all. So if our worth is determined by what we can do, then a man who sees he can lift twice what a woman can will come to a chauvinist conclusion. And this issue is bigger than women’s rights, impacting both the unborn and aged too. That the unborn can’t do much yet is why they can be killed. That the elderly and the disabled can’t do all that we can do is why euthanasia is offered to them. They are deemed as being worth less because they can do less. To counter that argument, we don’t need to show how much the unborn, or the elderly, or the disabled can do. We don’t need to show that women can play football too. And we don’t need to point to jobs and tasks that women are able to do better than men. To fight chauvinism, and abortion, and euthanasia, we need to acquaint people with the true basis for our worth and our equality: our Maker, who made us all in His very Image....

News

The Regulative Principle and church lockdowns

Returning to gathered worship is of vital importance *** “All of Manitoba moves to CRITICAL (RED) on #restartMB pandemic response system” So declares a press statement from the Government of Manitoba. With those twelve words, Christians in Manitoba are once again being plunged into the murky realm of “virtual worship.” For several months in early 2020 a full lockdown was mandated in the province and churches there were forbidden to open their doors. Now, once again, “religious and cultural gatherings must close or be provided virtually only,” states the government release. The dark, cold months of winter promise only a long, exhausting lockdown for our fellow believers in that province. British Columbia even more recently followed suit, with their provincial health officer declaring:  “In-person religious gatherings and worship services are suspended under the order.” By every indication, the rest of the country may not be far behind. The COVID-19 crisis has created a tension between principles. We know we are called to love our neighbor and submit to the government on the one hand, but on the other, we know that we are also called to gather together for worship, and called to provide spiritual, physical, and mental care for our neighbor. I can’t think of a recent issue affecting the Church that has brought such polarized responses from within the Reformed community, and within individual congregations themselves. Christians raise their children on stories of the brave martyrs who gave their lives to worship the one true God. Were the State to say, “you may not hold services because of your religious beliefs,” Christians would be unanimous in agreeing that we should disobey such a regulation – it would be unjust and unbiblical. Were the State to raise up a golden calf and call on us to bow down, we would be similarly clear and decisive. How then should we live in a time of pandemic? What is the relationship between the Church and the State in a time of pandemic? The answer doesn’t seem to be as simple today. Questions we need answered Theological issues and questions raised only in church history class have now become everyday considerations. Manitoba’s “Critical Red” stage is forcing churches to close. British Columbia has now enacted policies curbing social interaction outside of households and suspended in-person worship services. Each provincial government, and even every municipal government, has different regulations: mask bylaws, maximum church gathering limits, bans on singing in church, restrictions on the sacraments, restrictions on the life of the church and its work through catechism classes, youth groups, men’s and women’s societies, Bible studies, ministries to the poor, to the elderly and more. Never in my lifetime has the hand of the State reached so far into the life of the Church. The Regulative Principle of Worship In the face of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many have chosen to hold corporate worship via some sort of online live-streaming video. In most provinces, this means a skeleton crew is present in the church. This might include the pastor, a sound and video technician, and either someone playing music or a recording to facilitate singing. The rest of the congregation is at home, either alone, or with their family watching this service. So what should we think of this form of worship service? To best answer that question we should look back at what, historically, we have understood worship to be. Along with some other Protestant denominations, Reformed churches have held to some form of the “Regulative Principle of Worship.” That principle extends from an interpretation of the second commandment and it stipulates that only those things prescribed in God’s Word are to be part of worship. The Bible explicitly calls Christians to worship and to gather physically for worship services (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 3:16; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:31; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 11:18–34). Worship is to include singing, the reading of the Word of God, sacraments, the preaching of the gospel, and corporate prayers. The principle also stipulates that things not prescribed are not permitted. This is distinct from the way many other denominations worship, both Catholic and many mainline Protestant churches. For them, anything that has not been forbidden in Scripture may be permissible, particularly as it relates to church tradition. This Regulative Principle extends from the following statements of faith: Belgic Confession: “… we reject all human inventions, and all laws which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore, we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God” (Art. 32). Heidelberg Catechism: “Q: What does God require in the second commandment? A: That we in no wise make any image of God, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded us in his Word.” (Q&A 96) Westminster Confession: “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture” (21.1). The Reformed understanding of Scripture has historically been opposed to worship services that include an aspect of “performance.” In response to the Reformation and the “priesthood of all believers,” Reformed denominations have tended to resist musical presentations, choirs, bands, and more. The focus has always been on facilitating worship for the corporate body. The congregation is there to partake, to engage in all the acts of worship, not just to sit by and observe. In fact, Reformed liturgy is commonly laid out in the form of a conversation between God and His people. God gives a blessing, the people respond with singing, God’s Word is read, the people respond in prayer, the offering is taken, and so on. Two possible responses So, if we consider the Regulative Principle, how should we evaluate COVID-caused online worship? The response from Reformed churches, so far, seems to fall into two camps: those who see virtual worship services as an acceptable replacement for corporate worship, and those who do not. Response 1: Virtual worship is valid corporate worship One could argue that live-streaming is better than nothing. Due to the emergency lockdown, it is simply not possible to hold corporate worship, and the believers cannot gather together, and yet via live-streaming we are praying and hearing the Word of God preached. We can gather as families and sing at the same time as the many other families in our congregation. We can give our offerings via email transfer. Many Reformed churches have provided church telephone and live-stream accessibility options for decades. Those beloved members who are subject to disability or the impact of old age can still join us in hearing the Word preached, and partake in aspects of the service they would otherwise have no access to. These technologies are a blessing that the church hasn’t had before, and we should be thankful. Response 2: Live-streams are not the same as corporate worship While this technology is a blessing to those who are unable to attend church, as well as a means to provide excellent content online, there are reasons why joining church via live-stream was never considered the same as attending in person. Those reasons remain even in the midst of a pandemic. Worshiping in this manner allows believers to avoid the sometimes-messy reality of church family: the coming together of people of all ages and types, in a shared bond of faith in Christ. It also removes the accountability of membership. And it raises all sorts of questions. What message does virtual worship give our church members about the value of being present in person? Couldn’t members join from a vacation spot in the future, or from home if they don’t want to drive in to church? Can someone be part of the worship service by watching it three hours later? Or is it only in watching simultaneously? What if there’s a 30-second lag, and each individual device buffers differently as there is? We’re certainly not all singing together in unison! Can someone in Europe join our services weekly by live-stream? If so, can they become a member of the church? The Regulative Principle that teaches us puppet shows are not a substitute for opening the Word also teaches us that virtual services are no substitute for corporate worship. The in-person (embodied) nature of worship The passage at the heart of many of the COVID-19 related discussions is Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Being “together” is the essential element of the author’s directive here. Stirring one another up to love and good works and encouraging one another is an aspect of being together. The physical gathering of the church together is connected to the doctrine of the resurrection. Around the time I first drafted this article in April, the Ezra Institute released an excellent article that raised this point that I want to quote here: It is an unscriptural theology of creation and incarnation that believes the body of Christ can exist and function equally well in an abstract digital world, reducing the Lord’s Table to relative unimportance, and the preached Word to a “talk” just as effectively delivered digitally via pre-recorded video or live feed. Such an idea is a modern form of Docetism, the heretical belief that Christ merely took on the appearance of humanity, and that his human form was an illusion. If these things were even partially true, Jesus’ suffering, death, and bodily resurrection would be unnecessary and meaningless, and person-to-person contact where believers are gathered in Christ’s name would become optional for Christians. I fear that, in readily accepting the validity of virtual worship, we are releasing hold on a central tenet of the Christian faith. The idea of eternal disembodied spirits living forever is not unique. The Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, Midianites, Cushites – in fact almost every people group throughout history – have shared this belief. The Egyptians built their massive pyramids thousands of years ago based on this belief. What is stunningly radical about the Christian faith is the embodied, physical resurrection of Christ from the tomb. This is the wonder, and the counter-cultural nature of our faith. We worship our risen Lord each Sunday morning! We do not worship a disembodied soul. Crucially then, we are not called to worship as disembodied congregations – no, we worship Him in body and in spirit! And we will for eternity. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 12-14 Practically, this has implications for the liturgy and sacraments of worship. The direct result of misunderstanding this biblical truth by choosing to not be physically present means we cannot partake in the Lord’s supper, baptism, offering of tithes, the ordination of elders and deacons and more. Disembodied “virtual worship” must not be viewed as a valid replacement for in-person corporate worship. Implications for political action There are more questions for us to consider. If we cannot return to church for months, what happens to the congregation in the meantime? Can the church remain intact after a long period apart? How does the church leadership maintain the faithfulness of the body if corporate worship is banned? The central concern I am trying to raise is this: in becoming comfortable with the technological means, have we been giving too much leeway to the State to dictate what may or may not be done in worship? Through the months of lockdown, here in Ontario, we became used to live-stream services. We watched our pastor on a flat screen, and he couldn’t see back. Indeed, the statistics show that many churches became so comfortable they have never returned from virtual services even when restrictions eased – their buildings remain closed and empty. If instead, we believe that total lockdown means the end of corporate worship, how would that change our response? If we recognize that corporate worship cannot be done virtually, there will be a higher urgency to our interaction with the State. Could we then continue complying without concern? I believe that if total lockdowns return our way, as they are in Manitoba and BC, then political action in response to our government is necessary. The time has come for us to engage with our governments. We need to act to show that we will not sit by when it comes to the restriction of embodied worship of our risen, embodied Saviour. If we view our gathering together as essential to corporate worship, then it is not a matter of convenience where technology can substitute at any time. Corporate worship is essential. We can’t expect our secular governments to understand that – we are the ones who must tell them. And, like the widow of Luke 18:1-8, we must do so insistently. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)...

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Saturday Selections - November 28, 2020

Lockdowns: if it saves one life? (3 min) It's not simply lives vs. money. Some lives are being endangered by the lockdowns to the extent that, worldwide, 150 million people could be thrown into extreme poverty this year. It's not as extreme in the West, but there are crucial surgeries and diagnostic doctor visits being postponed, as well as an increase in mental health issues caused by the business closures and enforced isolation. There are no solutions, only trade-offs, so we need to count the actual cost. Free book: Randy Alcorn's Pro-choice or Pro-life This short, fantastic e-book ably dismantles 15 pro-choice arguments. The only flaw: this is largely a secular presentation. The end result is that even as author Randy Alcorn can show the pro-choice position to be unreasonable, contradictory, or inconsistent, readers aren't confronted with the clear contrast that exists between the pro-choice position and the Christian position...or at least not until chapter 15. The book remains valuable because the arguments can be improved simply by stacking them on the foundation of God's Truth. So, for example, that the unborn aren't all that different than the newborn is a good point, but unless it is rooted in the biblical truth that all of us are made in God's Image, that argument could be turned around and used as a reason to "abort" newborns...as has been done! It is by arguing as Christians – by stacking our arguments on God's Word and His Truth – that we can be sure we have a solid foundation. Happily married? A 10-step relationship assessment While the article doesn't contain anything we haven't heard before, this 10-item list is a good encouragement to invest energy and effort into our spouse and marriage. A creationist take on global warming (30-minute read) It's a long piece, matching its importance. There's no such thing as "safe sex" for kids The lie about government sex-ed is the presumption that sex outside of marriage can be safe. It leaves kids open to heartbreak and disease, and is an act of rebellion against a holy, righteous God. Quite the lie indeed, to call that safe. A call to divine obedience over civil obedience (10-minute read) This is a strong stand against the latest state-imposed limitations on worship services. In that it is a strong stand, it is controversial too: most everyone could find at least a point or two of disagreement. My own disagreement is with a concession that author Aaron Rock didn't explicitly make. He notes how churches aren't getting treated as well as schools. That is a good point: a government that treats worship as less important than school has gotten things backwards. But if and when churches are treated no different than schools, movie theaters, bars, and businesses, that shouldn't satisfy us. To our government, congregational worship is just another service provided, or another entertainment option. While it's understandable that they think so, that doesn't make them any less wrong. Shuttering God's Church is a big deal in a way that shuttering Ciniplex Odean just isn't. We don't want the worship of God to be given equal treatment; we want the government to understand that shutting a church should be the last thing they'd consider doing. The Marxist Trojan Horse (15 minutes) Larry Alex Taunton on "the Marxist Agenda in America...and how it relates to Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and White Privilege." This is a longer video, at 15 minutes, but worth the time invested. ...

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Dutch make it easier to kill patients with advanced dementia

Like many countries around the world, the Netherlands has been imposing shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19, a virus that is particularly dangerous to the elderly. Thus, it is ironic that the Dutch have simultaneously issued new euthanasia guidelines making it much easier to kill the elderly. Last year, Dutch doctor Marinou Arends was prosecuted for giving euthanasia to a 74-year-old woman in 2016. The patient’s Alzheimers had become so advanced that she no longer recognized her own face in the mirror. One of the aspects of the case that attracted the most criticism was the fact that Arends began by secretly adding a sedative to the woman’s coffee. Thus, the woman had no idea she was about to be put to death. However, she awakened when the lethal drugs were added to her IV and began to struggle. Her husband and daughter restrained her so Arends could finish. The Dutch media nicknamed the case “the coffee euthanization.” Arends was found “not guilty” of breaking the euthanasia law and we are now seeing the impact of that verdict. The Dutch committee that oversees the practice of euthanasia has issued new guidelines for dementia patients in line with the verdict. And it is basically anything goes – the committee has given explicit permission to doctors to secretly administer sedatives ahead of a lethal injection if they believe the patient may become restless or aggressive. A person can write a legal declaration requesting euthanasia should they develop advanced dementia in the future. Under the old guidelines, even if a patient had a legal declaration, a doctor had to get a final verbal affirmation that the patient still wished to die. Arends had failed to obtain this from the patient she euthanized, and that is part of the reason why she was prosecuted. The committee’s new guidelines allow doctors to skip the verbal affirmation if a dementia patient is no longer able to give it. The new guidelines also give doctors more room to interpret a legal declaration. In the Arends case, the patient had written that she wanted to die “when I am still somewhat mentally competent and I decide the time is right.” Arends had not honored this part of the legal declaration because the patient was no longer mentally competent when she was put to death. Because Arends was acquitted, doctors will now be permitted to ignore these types of stipulations. Under Dutch law, even if a patient has a legal declaration requesting euthanasia, a doctor must determine the patient is “suffering unbearably with no prospect of improvement” before administering a lethal injection. In its new guidelines, the oversight committee indicates it will never question any doctor’s determination that a dementia patient is suffering unbearably. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the committees that oversee euthanasia, explained the new standard in an interview with Dutch media: “The doctor does not have to worry about us as oversight committee and the court should stay at arm’s length on the question of unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement. This is a medical-professional judgment by the doctor. The court and the oversight committee cannot stand in the place of the doctor. The question is: has this doctor acted reasonably in this situation?” Up to now, euthanasia for dementia patients had been extremely rare in the Netherlands, and it was very controversial. Even some euthanasia supporters were opposed because advanced dementia patients are unable to give consent. In 2018, ethicist Berna van Baarsen resigned from her position on the oversight committee over this issue. “That’s my boundary, based on ten years of reflection and reading dossiers,” she said at the time. The new guidelines brush aside those concerns. Euthanasia for advanced dementia is likely to become much more common now that it is much easier to obtain. Perhaps euthanasia supporters like van Baarsen will stop and ask, “Where does this end?” ...

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Saturday Selections - Nov 7, 2020

What cobras can teach us about incentives Prov. 27:14  teaches that good intentions are not enough. And yet many a government policy is implemented, not because it has been shown to be effective – not because of evidence – but simply because the policy's drafters mean well. But, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions. Operation Manna - a story for Remembrance Day In the winter of 1944-1945, the northern Netherlands were facing starvation. And they were still occupied by the Nazis so the Allies couldn't reach them with relief supplies. In episode of the History.icu podcast we get to hear how "manna" of a sort was delivered from the skies. "Born this way" is old science During her US Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Amy Coney Barrett used the term "sexual preference" instead of "sexual orientation" and in what seemed a response (it happened the very next day) Merriam Webster changed their definition for that term to now describe it as an offensive term. Why the fuss? Well, as Senator Mazie Hirono declared at the confirmation hearing, “Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term…used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice—it is not.” Except that newer science says preference is probably the better word choice after all. How an affair really begins "One of the great misconceptions about affairs is that they begin with sex. Affairs do not begin with sex.... Instead, it is a culminating decision in a long list of terrible, self-centered decisions." A sensible and compassionate anti-COVID strategy What's most striking about this article is its calm tone. But calm doesn't mean insignifigant, as it highlight the importance of correcting a lockdown strategy that the UN estimates might lead to 130 million more deaths by starvation this year. Biblical vs. Christian counseling: What’s the difference? (3 minutes) Dr. Heath Lambert provides a brief, general overview of the difference between Biblical counseling and Christian counseling. ...

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Dutch mayor threatens church’s rented space over “conversion therapy”

Many churches around the world rent a space for their weekly worship services. But are rented spaces going to become a new front in persecution of Christians? A disturbing recent event in the Netherlands suggests this is where we are heading. In September, the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, proposed having a “serious conversation” with the landlord of the local Hillsong Church congregation based on unsubstantiated claims that the church engaged in “gay conversion therapy.” Mayor Halsema had not discussed the issue with the church’s leadership directly and she also did not initially indicate any interest in doing so. Gay conversion therapy is currently not illegal in the Netherlands. Thus, Mayor Halsema was proposing using her office to strip a church of its rented building for something that – if they did it – would be entirely legal. Hillsong Church, which originated in Australia, is best known for holding rock-concert style services and for attracting celebrity members like Justin Bieber. Within the Christian world, Hillsong’s theology is not regarded as particularly orthodox. However, it appears that any association with Christianity is grounds for suspicion. The Mayor’s comments came during a city council meeting September 17 to discuss recent incidents of violence against LGBTQ residents of Amsterdam. The role of churches in promoting the “inequality” of gays came up in the course of the meeting. Mayor Halsema said: “If there are any signs that churches are preaching or offering gay healing, we get in touch to let them know that we don't like it. We state that we have no powers, but that does not prevent us from having a serious conversation, for example with the landlord of Hillsong.” Hillsong Church NL rents its worship space from a large theatre. The theatre is also currently hosting a musical called Anne about the life of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who kept a diary of her life in hiding from the Nazis and subsequently died in the Holocaust. Mayor Halsema stated in the council meeting that it would be a “tragic irony” if the same stage where Anne is performed was also used to promote intolerance. Mayor Halsema’s comments sparked a backlash though, unfortunately, most of it was focused on the fact that Hillsong does not engage in gay conversion therapy. That is not really the point; Mayor Halsema’s tactics should be the primary concern. Hillsong Church NL’s leadership sent an open letter to the Mayor which did note “This is an attack on freedom of religion and freedom of speech” but most of the letter was devoted to refuting the allegation: “We are troubled that this false accusation has been disseminated by various media outlets and that the good name of our church, our leadership and the thousands of members of our congregation has been maligned” In response to the outcry, Mayor Halsema finally had a phone call with Hillsong Church NL’s leadership. They reassured her that they do not engage in gay conversion therapy. However, she did not apologize for her initial comments. Moreover, she says that during the phone call “we agreed the church would enter into dialogue with representatives of the rainbow community to remove any possible concern in this area.” In other words, even though Hillsong has done nothing wrong, they need to make atonement. She also wrote, “The city council has put representatives of the rainbow community in touch with the landlord.” Thus, the threat of losing their weekly worship space has not fully passed. Hillsong Church NL is a large congregation with significant resources. They were able to rally popular support to stand up to Mayor Halsema. But how would smaller, less famous congregations fare if they were the ones to be targeted? That question should be deeply troubling to all churches, particularly those that rent a building....

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Calvin U's student president is openly gay

For over 100 years, Reformed Christian parents have scrimped and saved for their children to study at Calvin College (now Calvin University), praying that these students' post secondary learning would happen in an environment with Christian teachers and classmates. Many students, of course, paid their own way, including my own Uncle John VanHemert, who left Holland Marsh in Ontario to study for the ministry at this Christian Reformed (CRC) institution back in the 1960s. But much has changed at Calvin. In October, Claire Murashima announced, via an op-ed in the Calvin Chimes student newspaper, that she is the school's first openly gay student body president. "It's beyond time that the LGBTQ community is represented in the highest student leadership position at Calvin," wrote Murashima. She went on to suggest that, "Calvin's hetero-normative and relationship-focused culture can leave us feeling excluded… Not seeing anyone who loves like us makes us feel like we don't fully belong at Calvin." Miss Murashima's words are not aligned with the university's official policy. Calvin University has adopted a stance on homosexuality which states that while homosexual attraction is not in itself sinful, sexual relations have "their proper place in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman." The Bible clearly calls homosexuality sin, in both the Old and New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul identifies homosexuals along with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, revilers and extortioners as those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In the letter of Jude verse 7, the writer reminds us that, "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." It’s worth asking then, why we would call anyone a "gay Christian"? To do so is to identify them with an adjective that describes their sinful condition. All Christians are sinful, and each of us is subject to different temptations to sin but we wouldn’t call someone a “murdering Christian,” or a “thieving Christian,” or a “fornicating Christian,” would we? In earlier generations, Calvin College took a leading role in advocating for evolution (remember Dr. Howard Van Till?) and for women in office. That infamous pedigree was referenced in the comment section for Miss Murashima’s article. One reader wrote, "Thank you Claire for your courage and leadership! It gives me hope that your example will help change the CRC official position on homosexuality. When I was at Calvin, we fought for women in leadership - which was just as heated, biblically justified, and now seems ridiculous. Hoping that Calvin and the CRC will stop being judgmental gatekeepers and instead embrace all people with open arms." How very sad it is that an institution like Calvin University, closely identified with a Reformed theologian and a Reformed church federation, has become a place of danger for Christian students....

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Saturday Selections - October 31, 2020

Robot hummingbird spies on half-billion butterflies (3 min) How do you get the inside scoop on 500 million wintering Monarch Butterflies? Send in a very small spy. How to have more fun with your kids: 10 suggestions There'll be something in this list that any parent will enjoy doing with their kids. Making progress: Intelligent Design paper passes peer review  Mainstream science has rejected, for decades, that God's creation gives evidence of having been designed. This rejection was not due to any lack of evidence, but due instead to Science's a priori commitment to materialism, the belief that matter is all there is and that, therefore, a non-material Creator must not be. However, Materialism can't be proven, and is actually disproven any time scientists use the non-material rules of logic to drawn their conclusions. So it is a step forward that now – finally – an Intelligent Design paper has made it past peer review and been published in a major journal. Poll: 30% of US women under 25 now identifying as other than heterosexual? Any shocking poll should be taken with a grain of salt. And yet this is far from unbelievable. Do not repay racism with racism "God doesn’t instruct us to repay evil for evil or racism for racism. God doesn’t instruct black people to assume the worst of white people because some white people assume the worst of black people...." Why Atheism can't account for morality (5 minutes) Jeff Durbin breaks down the 3 explanations atheism gives for morality. Generally speaking they are: 1) preference 2) societal convention 3) the desire to survive and flourish ...

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Saturday Selections – October 3, 2020

What is hate speech, and why should we be leery of banning it? (5 minutes) Most everyone agrees that some sorts of speech need to be limited, with the obvious example being threatening speech. But there's a real danger in demanding that government – or social media platforms – regulate what can and can't be said. For a secular take, see the video below, and for a Christian perspective, click on the link above. FREE: A parent's guide to "Cancel Culture" Axis is a generally conservative Christian group trying help parents keep up with teen culture. They do so by writing short 10-20 pages guides – cheat sheets – to get us up to speed on everything from social media apps, to hit TV shows, the latest pop bands, trending teen books, or even topics like helping teens deal with failure. The guides go for $4 US, but they also give some of them out for free. To get their cheat sheet on Cancel Culture, click on the title link above. To check out their other guides go to Axis.org. Money in the first years of marriage "Many marriages have been ripped apart over riches. Many newly married couples don’t know how to handle their finances in a way that honors God. I don’t want you to be one of them. I don’t want you to be caught off guard." Man drops battle to force salons to wax his nether regions Common sense does sometimes beat craziness...especially when you have a good lawyer in your corner. If the future belongs to the fertile, we might not have one On average every women needs to have two children to keep the population stable from one generation to the next. Ten years ago New Zealand's birth rate was averaging 2.18 children for every woman, but today it is just 1.69. And the same type of drop is happening the world over. In a pandemic, dogmatism is the real enemy What does the science tell us about how to respond to COVID-19? John Jalsevac argues that if we think there is a clear scientific answer then we don't really understand how science works. Even as we can benefit from doing careful, cautious science, to look to it as the the one clear guide is to fall for scientism. Dismantled: new documentary shows how "the evolutionary model is getting more biblical" (2 minutes) A new documentary debuting in a week's time looks like it is going to be a good one. Dismantled shares new discoveries that highlight how even mainstream science is having to move towards the biblical model. There is a free one-time premiere Oct. 9-11 that you should plan for, available via the link above. ...

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Vancouver ads presume big families hurt the planet

Ads popping up around Vancouver, BC encourage couples to reconsider any plans for having a big or even medium-sized family. Some of the ads read: “The most loving gift you can give your first child is to not have another” “Traffic congestion begins at conception” “We chose one!” “Climate crisis? Think small.” The group behind the ads is the US-based non-profit “World Population Balance” which believes the planet is threatened by an overpopulation crisis. Their “One Planet, One Child” campaign features ads that go even further, celebrating “childfree” living. One Vancouver news outlet framed this as a freedom issue, with the interviewed passersby seemingly unanimous in their insistence that family size is nobody’s business but the couple’s. News 1130’s Kelvin Gawley went deeper, interviewing a disabled Vancouver writer, Gabrielle Peters, who put the campaign in a historical context. “By blaming overpopulation for climate change and environmental degradation, said the billboards revive a debunked theory known as Malthusianism, named for an 18th Century reverend, Thomas Robert Malthus, who warned humanity would soon outgrow its food supply. His dire predictions never came to pass, but that didn’t stop others – including Nazi eugenicists and the author of The Overpopulation Bomb, a bestselling 1968 book – from remixing Malthus’s ideas to bolster their beliefs, Peters said. “‘It’s based on bunk and it invariably leads into dark places,’ she said.” “Peters said that the theory of scarcity is especially alarming to disabled people, who ‘may not be highly productive in the eyes of capitalism’ while consuming medical and other resources. “This thinking has led some modern academics to call for forced birth control and government-mandated licensing for parenthood, she said. “But Peters said her fear of this philosophy backstopping real-world action aren’t merely hypothetical. She cited a new “frailty scale” used to determine eligibility for health-care services in Ontario.” That was some deep perspective for a secular news source, but there is deeper still we can go by highlighting the biblical truth these ads attack. God speaks of children as blessings (Gen. 1:28, Ps. 113:9, 139:13-16, 127:3-5, Prov. 17:6, etc.) while World Population Balance says the fewer the better. So how has that worked out where it's been tried? For decades China had a mandatory one-child policy and that's meant many a Chinese couple will be caring for two sets of parents, and four sets of grandparents without any siblings or any cousins to help them. As the Christian Heritage Party’s Peter Vogel put it in his article about the ad campaign: “Imagine there’s no uncles…no aunts, no cousins too. No siblings either. This is what young people today are being told to imagine for their grandchildren.“ While human beings' value isn’t based on what we can do (but rather on being made in the image of God – Gen. 1:27, Gen. 9:6), more kids does mean more hands at the ready, and imagine how helpful those extra hands could be in caring for aging parents! More children also means more creative thinking. Want to figure out cold-fusion, or safer fission? The more brains the merrier, right? Those family relationships, those extra hands to lighten the load, the multiplying impact on ingenuity that results when heads are put together – those are the blessing we’d forgo if we all did as these ads encourage. But what of the climate crisis that World Population Balance is afraid of? Their “solution” isn't one, so can we conclude the same is true of their problem? That doesn’t necessarily follow; that a group is wrong on one point gives us reason to question them in other areas, but we can’t rely on the foolish to be consistently so. We can't count on them to always get everything wrong. So when it comes to the supposed climate crisis, here is what we can know for sure: if children are a blessing (and they are) and each one comes with their own carbon footprint (which they currently do), then either that carbon footprint isn’t the problem it’s being made out to be or children don’t have to be accompanied by a carbon footprint. And what we can know for sure is that children are a blessing we will never have to reject for the sake of our planet....

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Saturday Selections – September 26, 2020

A Christian take on Jordan Peterson the man, and the phenomenon (5 minutes) There's much to admire about Jordan Peterson...but we don't want to leave people where he's leading them. People deficient in vitamin D 54% more likely to get COVID-19 ...or to put a more positive spin, folks who get enough Vitamin D have a lower chance of getting COVID-19. There is also such a thing as getting too much Vitamin D, so this is a good one to bounce past your doctor. Texts to tell theistic evolutionists Gen. 1:29-30 and Gen. 9:3-4 are problematic texts for theistic evolutionists. Why are there so many wildfires in California, but not in the southeast US? Christians understand we are to steward God's creation – we are to actively take a role in managing nature – while the secular approach to the environment too often sees Man as only a problem, and therefore his absence as the solution. But that hands-off approach hasn't worked out well in California. WORLD magazine's Julie Borg also weighs in here. Legalizing "assisted dying" can lead to an increase in suicides Assisted-suicide proponents didn't expect that legalizing assisted suicide would increase the number of people taking their lives without assistance. But that's how it seems to be, and that shouldn't have surprised anyone: when legislation tells people that life is not sacred but disposable, people might just believe it. Embarrassing testimony (5 minutes) Tim Barnett offers up this interesting defense of the Gospel's trustworthiness: because they make the disciples look bad. ...

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Saturday Selections – September 19, 2020

Chickens are fearfully and wonderfully made too! (4 minutes) This incredible video shows how a fertilized egg becomes a chicken and it is amazing! Should parents spank their children? While spanking isn't the only tool in the discipline toolbox, Sam Crabtree of DesiringGod.org explains why it is an important one. Creation scientists debating their Flood models If you follow the creation/evolution debate you've come across creationist critiques of holes in evolutionary theory. But did you know creationists critique each other's theories too? This is an intriguing overview of some different Flood models creationists have proposed. The economic stimulus program that won't cost taxpayers trillions As the article explains, if President Trump (and Prime Minister Trudeau) would simply cut their tariffs on incoming goods, they could quickly and greatly increase their citizens' wealth and opportunities for investment and job creation. But doesn't cutting tariffs cost local jobs? Tariffs do protect some jobs but at the expense of other jobs. By making all of a country's consumers – including manufacturing companies – pay more for a good they could have bought cheaper from overseas, those extra expenses represent money that these companies can't use to invest in their own business. That's why tariffs cost jobs too. Tariffs are the federal government interfering in the economy to favor some companies at the cost of all consumers...which include some other companies. Would we want them to take from our company to favor another? Then Matt. 7:12 – do unto others as you would want done unto you – tells us we shouldn't be asking them to do it for our benefit either. RedeemTV.com offers free Christian films and TV shows RedeemTV is the latest free streaming service and while Christian films do often suffer from a lack of quality, there are a few offerings here worth checking out: C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert  - a fantastic one-man stage production with Max Maclean as C.S. Lewis Tortured for Christ - a well-done drama about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand's stand against the Romania government Martin Luther - this 1950s film was nominated for an Oscar Francis Schaeffer: How Should We Then Live? – This 1970s documentary series remains very relevant today Torchlighers - this series about "Christian heroes" features some figures we might admire for their bravery even as we don't want to present them as "heroes" to our children. Another caution: though animated, some episodes are too intense for younger children, as sometimes martyr's deaths are depicted. Parents should be sure to preview. The Jenny Geddes Band: Hold your peace (5 minutes) Romans 9...with a beat. ...

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Saturday Selections - August 15, 2020

Thomas Sowell on the benefit of the 10th Commandment While Thomas Sowell doesn't mention the Bible, the point he makes here is a biblical one. Correcting "income inequality" requires us to do as the 10th Commandment forbids - it makes a virtue out of looking over the back fence and making plans for what our neighbor has. It's only when we forget about redistributing his wealth that we are free to mind our own business, and use and invest and grow what God has entrusted to us for our own good, and the good of 4 principles for talking to your kids about sex (3-minute read) Talk positively, talk often, talk freely, and talk soon... Netherlands contemplating assisted suicide for any over 75 who are "tired of living" While there probably isn't enough time to pass the bill before the next election, it is significant that there is now a push for euthanasia of the healthy. And once it is allowable for those over 75 what reason would there be to refuse it to those under 75? What reason is there for any limits once we ignore that life is created by God, and is not ours take? Morally speaking, not all COVID vaccines will be alike Some of the perspective offered in the article is specifically Roman Catholic, but the problem it points out – that some vaccines are being developed using cells from aborted children – should concern us all. 3 questions to ask before we fill up the family schedule again The summer break, along with COVID craziness, have cut into family busyness: we aren't running from soccer practice to piano recital to playdate pickups like many a family is when the school season is on us. So before all the busyness arrives once again Lauren Miller has 3 questions for us to consider before we add an activity on to our weekly schedule. Even cell death is amazingly designed! (10-minute read) Over the course of 7-10 years, every cell in your body gets replaced. That's amazing, but it also presents a problem: what to do with all the dead cells that are being replaced? Well, it turns out, your body has an amazing recycling system! While this is a somewhat technical read, even just skimming it over will give you a deeper appreciation for God's brilliance. Upcoming documentary on the Red Sea crossing This looks like it will be really interesting. The team behind this film has made three others about Israel's time in Egypt, and in an interesting wrinkle, a secular expert they consulted in the first film, who thought the Bible a great archeological text, in this film thinks the Red Sea crossing must have happened somewhere shallow because he assumes it must have occurred via natural (even if unusual) circumstances. He rules out miracles because he has ruled out God...even as he knows the Bible to be validated by archeology time and again, and believes, therefore, that Israel's crossing did happen. But what happens when we go searching where only a miracle could have permitted the crossing? The trailer seems to show there is evidence of chariots on the seafloor.  ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 8, 2020

Our Kids Online: Porn, Predators & How to Keep Them Safe A new documentary making the rounds is an eye-opener and can be rented for $5 US at the link above. Read our review here. What do you believe? The value of knowing...in words "You say one picture is worth a thousand words? Well, let’s see about that. You give me one thousand words and I’ll give you the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm; and the Hippocratic Oath; and a sonnet by Shakespeare; and the Preamble to the Constitution; and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address; and I’ll still have enough words left over for just about all of the Boy Scout oath. And I wouldn’t trade you those things for any picture on earth." Why science and atheism don't mix "Science proceeds on the basis of the assumption that the universe is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to the human mind. No science can be done without the scientist believing this, so it is important to ask for grounds for this belief. Atheism gives us none, since it posits a mindless, unguided origin of the universe’s life and consciousness." While John Lennox is not a six-day creationist he does solid work here pointing out this gaping hole in atheistic evolutionary thinking. Two fantastic responses to racism Black conservatives are frequent targets of racism. These two Christians show how to respond with grace and power. The most frightening text in the Bible? Michael Kelly weighs in on Matthew 7:21-23, and the Church's role in addressing self-deception. When they say "Assisted Suicide is compassionate" (6 min) Why is suicide wrong? For the same reason that murder is: because we are taking the life of an image-bearer of God, and that is His, and not ours to take. This video overlooks this Christian foundation, and lists four practical problems that often result when a nation accepts Assisted Suicide. The four points are fantastic, and the video important viewing. But when we miss out on the Christian foundation, then any arguments we build won't have a firm footing. If it is only practical problems that prevent us from supporting Assisted Suicide, then that is where the debate will be had, and the other side will offer practical solutions. So, for example, if "sometimes a terminal diagnosis is wrong" there is an easy solution to that: a second opinion (or even a third, and fourth). Practical problem solved! Why won't such a practical solution actually work? Because once we think life something that is ours to take, then we won't value it enough to protect it this adamantly. The core problem is not a practical one, but whether we are going to treat life as given by God. When we understand that is the core issue, then we can point out the practical problems that result from seeing life as anything short of sacred. But those practical arguments will only stand if they rest on a foundation of Rock (Ps. 78:35). This post has been edit to correct a wrong link for the Michael Kelly article, which in its original mistaken form, took readers to what seems to be a cult's page. So, yeah, not the intended destination. Our thanks to the reader who caught this mistake - it is now fixed!...

News

Saturday Selections - August 1, 2020

Why this valedictorian regrets finishing on top (6 minutes) It took him a whole year to learn this lesson, and he's happy to share it. Free episode from Tim Challies' new documentary EPIC (25 min) In his 10-episode documentary EPIC, Christian blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies takes us around the world to investigate Church history by looking at a variety of key historical objects. In this first, free episode, we head to Israel to see what may (or may not) be Jesus' tomb, and go to Italy to see some ancient anti-Christian graffiti. NBA player wanted his jersey to highlight the national debt Now that the NBA has resumed play, we're seeing jerseys that, instead of the player's name, feature one of several approved "social justice" messages. A message that didn't make the cut was Spencer Dinwiddie's request for "trillion" which, coupled with his jersey number 26, would have been the current US national debt. 8 lessons from a friend whose life (and death) preached Christ A young pastor who was never famous passed away this past month. Part of his legacy was teaching a small group of men how to be godly men. "No Justice, No Peace"? Do two wrongs now make a right? (10-minute read) A 70-something-year-old waving a "No Justice, No Peace" sign at a BLM protest probably doesn't understand the threat implicit in that slogan. But the rioters do. Intent on burning down the system, they are acting as if two wrongs can make a right. But as Hendrik van der Breggen explains, that simply isn't so. Pornography is harmless. What would you say? (4 minutes) This is a great video laying out some practical problems that result from pornography use. But where the video falls short is that, even as it is produced by Christians, it fails to address pornography as the spiritual issue it is. The real problem with pornography is that it breaks the 7th Commandment (do not commit adultery). Sinning does bring with it practical problems, but if that was all there was to it, then we could address those problems with practical solutions. For example, if porn use makes someone lonely, only using it with someone else. Practical problem solved! What we need to do, then, is to stack these practical objections on top of a solid Christian foundation. Then our argument might sound something like this: Pornography isn't harmless; it's a sin against God. As a sin, it is destructive, causing – as this video describes – loneliness and sexual disfunction. ...

Gender roles, News, Sexuality

Netflix’s "The Baby-Sitters Club" sells transgenderism to its preteen/teen audience

From 1986 to 2000, the more than 200 Baby-Sitters Club titles sold more than 175 million copies to a target audience of teen and pre-teen girls. While God is absent from the series, the books were popular in many Christian households largely because of what else was absent: sex, vulgar language, and violence. Still, dating, death, and divorce were recurring topics, and always addressed from an entirely secular perspective. That’s why this was not a series to overindulge in; it was mostly inoffensive but also mostly empty calories. In contrast, the Netflix version is poison. The kids are as sweet as ever but now the adults include several gay couplings. There is passing mention made about adult topics like The Handmaid's Tale, a menstruation sculptor, painting nude models. and the dating site Tinder. Then, in the fourth episode, Dawn teaches her friend Mary Anne that just like Mary Anne is right-handed and it would be weird to be forced to act left-handed, some boys know they are girls…and it would be just as weird to try to make them act like boys. Mary Anne takes this to heart, and when a doctor and nurse refer to the boy she is babysitting as a he, she asks them to stop this “misgendering” because he wants to be known as a girl. These exchanges are troubling because of just how compelling they are. Dawn comes off as super cool – she dresses sharp, and talks with confidence. Mary Anne, in her confrontation with the nurse and doctor, is polite but firm – she displays the sort of courage we would love our kids to exhibit too. So this defense of transgenderism is…winsome. It’s only when we consider what Mary Anne is politely and courageous arguing for that we understand just how wicked this is: Mary Anne is encouraging the boy, Bailey, to embrace his delusion, she’s pushing him down a path to sterilizing drugs and surgeries that will cut off healthy body parts. Hers is a “love” that leads to disfigurement (Prov. 12:10b). But that’s not how the show’s target teen audience is going to see it. The Baby-Sitters Club is only the latest children’s book series to get an LGBT makeover. PBS’s 2020 season of Clifford the Big Red Dog now has a recurring homosexual couple, and back in 2019, their Arthur series featured a homosexual “wedding.” Sesame Street will feature the cross-dressing Billy Porter wearing his tuxedo dress in an upcoming episode. Amazon’s Pete the Cat and Bug Diaries – both animated features aimed at the very youngest viewers – feature characters with two mommies or two daddies. And on both TV and in the comics, homosexuality has also become a part of the Riverdale/Archie Andrews universe. Parents already know the TV doesn’t make for a good babysitter. But whereas in the past it was more an utter waste of time, now it’s eager to teach our children that wrong is right. If you have teenagers it might be worth reading Genesis 1:27, or Mark 10:6, then watching the clip below, and discussing the techniques Netflix is using to obscure and deny God’s Truth about sex and gender. When Bailey comes down with a fever, Mary Anne rushes her to the hospital, where two doctors misgender her. Mary Anne firmly corrects them. Misgendering is traumatic. This is one of the baseline ways cisgender people can show up for the trans people in their life pic.twitter.com/EyrenC5QDK — Netflix (@netflix) July 23, 2020 ...

News

Even heroes carved in marble will have feet of clay

This afternoon I was driving my son home from his work at a garden center. His job is ½ hour away from where we live but we have been more than willing to make the drive twice every day as many of the jobs high school students normally fill during our hot Ontario summers are not easy to come by in this post-COVID world. As we sped past farmland filled with newly planted crops we listened to CBC as the host fielded calls from Ontario listeners.  The topic under discussion was the question of whether or not we should change the names of cities and streets if the current names had been adopted from those in history who might have had a shady record when it came to slavery. The callers were passionate in their feedback, ranging from deep affront that our current society would disregard the past and in effect try to erase it, to emotional pleas from parents who, because of the color of their skin, found the memorializing of these names to be hurtful in the extreme and impossible to explain to their children.  The host did her best, but it was clear she was not sufficient for navigating such tempestuous waters. The callers’ responses led, in turn, to a compelling discussion between my son and me. Searching for a hero What was most remarkable in the entire radio discussion was how disappointed everyone was to "discover" that their heroes were flawed; to learn that the men and women of the past had sticky records, with bad decisions and reprehensible viewpoints dotting their lives. My son noticed that there seemed to be more than disappointment in the voices of the callers, many were just plain outraged. Why? Why are we shocked when the sins of our heroes materialize and besmirch what we believed were impeccable records? Why are we almost personally offended when we unearth brokenness in the lives of past men and women? Could it be that we are angry because we have placed our trust in cracked vessels, and now these men and women are failing the faith we have put in them?  It appears that many of us are in an ongoing search for a truly great hero, for one who will not disappoint. Perhaps the callers on the radio show were simply expressing a longing deep within every human heart. That we would find one who will not let us down. One who will not only measure up to every impossible standard that we set for others, (never for ourselves because we, of course, need grace), but one who will far surpass those expectations. The good news is that there is a hero who shines through the mists of history, One who is truly faultless.  And the true beauty of this One lies in the fact that our expectations of Him will never be enough; He is utterly and incandescently lovely, and our hearts will never be disappointed when they rest in Him.  Every time we think He cannot possibly be as heroic as our hearts long for, He will prove Himself to be more so. The answer to the question of when to tear down statues or when to stand behind street names is complex, requiring both wisdom and determination. To his credit, the biblical Gideon tore down the high places his family members had built, being willing to shoulder their outrage rather than disobey God.  And yet, to his fault, he later made an ephod in an effort to memorialize the triumph over Midian with the result that all Israel worshipped it – causing them to give honor to something detestable instead of what was true. Grateful There are not always easy answers when we try to unravel what to do with the tangle of sin threaded through the lives of the various characters that line history’s wall. But just as we have been thankful for the work that was provided for our son this summer, we can be even more thankful for the work that was accomplished by another Son thousands of summers ago. A work that covers the snarl of sin that is present not only in the lives of others but is also found starkly in our own broken hearts.  And the work of that Son will never disappoint, for He will never fail. His name is Jesus Christ....

News

Saturday Selections - July 4, 2020

Reformed College ad causes a wonderful fuss When a Reformed college put out the recruitment ad below – starring their small town's newly built washrooms – the town's mayor felt the need to issue an official statement. He wanted everyone to know the ad, touting that there are two distinct genders, didn't represent their little town. But as local pastor Douglas Wilson noted: That bathroom, for those of you who do not live here in Moscow, is brand, spanking new. It was built on Mayor’s Lambert’s watch. He was the one who built that brand new segregated bathroom, that brand new “girls go this way, boys go that way” bathroom, that brand new Hate Space. He is the one who built that standing affront to Moscow’s world-famous inclusive values. And then, when the ad spot shows a young man going into the side ASSIGNED TO HIM BY THE CITY OF MOSCOW, and a young lady going into the side ASSIGNED TO HER BY THE CITY OF MOSCOW, our mayor calls US out for our lack of inclusiveness. All we did was indicate — in that endearing little way we have — our agreement with the mayor in having built what he built. We are sorry that he feels bad about what he did now, but there it is. In today's culture wars Christians too often act as if we're actually worried God might lose this thing. We are so angry, annoyed, and fearful about what's going on. The folks at New Saint Andrews College want to show us what it would look like if we were eager to jump into the fray because we understand – because we are certain – that God had already been won. (Another example: their latest ad "Why All Black Lives Matter"). Home is underrated For family's that are able to do it, there are many advantages to having mom at home. Big Science needs to repent In a recent Nature article, two dozen scientists joined together in a "manifesto that calls for sweeping changes in the way scientific modeling is done." Though it isn't the Nature article's intention, the manifesto highlights how Science isn't unbiased – there are so many ways that findings can be twisted to fit particular ideologies. And it's only once we understand there is no neutrality that we can best assess the "facts" we are given by viewing them in light of the biases that were involved in their production. 5 things I learned debating a professor who wants to ban homeschooling There are those who want the State to be our "co-parent" and who, despite the State's dismal track record running their own schools, want to make sure no is "allowing some parents to escape" the public system. Pro-life group denounces Peter MacKay, Erin O'Toole as "Trudeau Tories" Canada's Conservative Party leadership race is drawing to a close, and there are 4 candidates on offer, two of whom – Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis – have been endorsed by the pro-life Campaign Life Coalition. The other two have been denounced as "Trudeau Tories" because, like Trudeau, Peter MacKay and Erin O'Toole endorse the greatest evil of our age: the slaughter of unborn babies crafted by God in His very Image. When we consider the outrage over the brutal death of another such image-bearer, George Floyd, were we then to multiply that outrage by 300 – the number of babies murdered each day in Canada – and then consider that this happens to 100,000 babies each year, we would begin to understand how outraged we should be when Justin Trudeau, Peter MacKay and Erin O'Toole say "Unborn lives don't matter." 81% of Canada's COVID deaths were long-term care residents Do we need to rethink old age homes? The wonder of the hummingbird's tongue (3 minutes) While the video doesn't specifically mention God, narrator Paul Nelson notes: "I think in some respects the wonder of a hummingbird almost transcends language.... It's almost like responding to the work of an artist. You just stand there and applaud." ...

News

Saturday Selections - June 27, 2020

Is Critical Theory Biblical? (6 min) If you haven't heard of Critical Theory, you've likely encountered aspects of it: wokeness, white privilege, identity politics, and even the #MeToo movement's slogans "believe all women" are all elements of Critical Theory. It's being embraced by some Christians because it seemingly helps the poor and oppressed. But as Joseph Backholm describes in the video below "critical theory reduces human beings to categories according to race, gender, sexual preference and orientation, income, and on and on." And in doing so, our worth is based, not on in Whose Image we are made, but according to our category. One nit to pick with Backholm's terminology: he says we are all equally sinful. That makes it sound like we've all committed exactly the same amount of sins, but Backholm's point is that we all share the same need for a Saviour. That nit aside, this is a fantastic summary of an ideology that we're going to need to understand. A devil offers advice on evangelism In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shared letters from a senior demon to a junior demon advising how best to keep their "patients" from being saved. In Lord Foulgrin's Letters, Randy Alcorn shared more devilish correspondence, including Letter 30 shared here, about how best to distract and misdirect a Christian from ever actually sharing his faith. Sweden gives some elderly morphine, rather than the oxygen, to "treat" COVID “Elderly people were not taken to hospitals—they are given sedatives but not oxygen or basic care.” Euthanasia is not legal in Sweden, but, as Michael Cook reports, that didn't stop doctors without consciences from "throwing their patients overboard." That's the key for us in Canada to understand and share: this is what happens when we stop caring about every life. Who is discipling your children? David Murray explains, "Our children are being discipled. The only question is, who’s discipling them? You or the world?" Bad cops - bad unions? This lacks depth, but the point it raises – that some police unions have been defending bad cops – is one worth raising. As Calvinists, we know that Lord Acton's adage, that "power tends to corrupt," is based on a solid understanding of human nature. That is a reason, then, to hand over only as little power as necessary – it is a reason to have small government, including not overly large police forces – and a reason to be on guard for when, and not if, abuse happens. Police are a necessity, and the reason we want to defend them is that we have an inkling as to how hard their job can be, and we are grateful to find people willing to do this difficult dangerous job. But defending the police doesn't mean pretending that bad cops don't exist. Figuring out how best to weed out the bad apples is one part of defending the police. Looking closely at police unions might be a place to start. For those with more time, be sure to check out two ten-minute podcasts from WORLD magazine (a Christian, and often times specifically Reformed publication), the first on the Democrat police reform proposal, and the second on the Republican proposal (both podcasts are also available as transcripts at the links). The story behind the Bible app that's been downloaded nearly 500 million times (15 min) It was almost an accidental success - the YouVersion Bible app was an afterthought to what was meant to be a Bible website. But when the website got mild interest, one young programmer suggested getting something on the Apple's App store, which was opening shortly. Since then it has been downloaded almost a half billion times! There's so much more to the story - this is a fascinating peek at what God is working at behind the scenes. ...

News

Saturday Selections - June 20, 2020

Homosexuality vs. transgenderism This video below is fantastic, but there's a lot packed in here, so the argument is worth writing out as well. What the narrator, Joseph Backholm, is explaining is that there is a fundamental conflict between homosexuals and transgenders. Whereas homosexual men say they are attracted to men, transgenders say you can't even know someone is a man by looking at him because gender is not tied to biology. Or, in other words, maleness and femaleness can only be known by asking not by seeing. It then makes no sense for a homosexual to say they are physically attracted to one gender or the other, because there are no physical attributes unique to one gender or the other – ie. men can have breasts, and women, penises. So transgenderism and homosexuality can only remain allies so long as they don't discuss their foundational assumptions. While homosexuality and transgenderism can't both be right, they can both be wrong. Backholm notes that "Our fundamental identity is not found in our sexual attractions, or in our feelings about how masculine or feminine we are." But he leaves it at that. Christians need to carry on and note that attractions may fade, and feelings may change, so grounding our identity in either of those is going to be disappointing. But we can find our true identity by turning to the One who made us.  Does systemic racism exist?  "Systemic racism isn’t whatever I – as a black man – says it is. My perceptions are not proof. My experiences are not authoritative. I am not God. "....Therefore, if we’re going to accuse our governments of participating in systemic racism today, we should be able to list examples of systemic partiality against black people today. ...Social justice proponents are unable to list racist laws or policies to support their accusations, so they usually resort to perceptions and racial disparities as evidence for their accusations.... Systemic racism theory essentially demands groups to prove they’re not systemically racist – instead of demanding social justice proponents to prove the legitimacy of their accusations." Deepfakes show the need for knowing your sources are trustworthy Deepfakes are faked videos of celebrities or political leaders that can't be distinguished from the real thing. We live in a world in which Justin Trudeau can be made to say anything, the video posted on YouTube, and the viewing audience would not, just from seeing and hearing it, be able to tell it from the real thing. The only way to discern whether it is true or not would be whether it was received from a trustworthy source, or not. But with trustworthy sources at a minimum these days, it underscores the need for higher standards in our media consumption. We can't believe everything we find in our social media feed...and we shouldn't be passing on what we ourselves don't know is reliable. Vaccines that use aborted fetuses' cells draw fire COVID-19 vaccines are being developed using cells from aborted fetuses. These fetuses were aborted long ago – more than 30 years ago – so the question is raised, does it really need to concern us now? Pastor Douglas Wilson proposes that before answering that question we should reframe it properly and ask: "Is it lawful for Christians knowingly to use vaccines that were grown in the cultivated remains of a murder victim?" Men: don't let chivalry die on your watch J. Aaron White (and the apostle Peter) on how gentlemen should be studying our wives, serving our wives, and enjoying our wives. Romeo and Juliet 2020 remix For all the English teachers out there... ...

News

Racism is wrong…

Racism is wrong. The Minneapolis police officer, holding his knee on George Floyd’s neck for a lengthy period of time, may have been motivated racially, or by pride, or by hatred, etc. I do not know. If the police officers involved behave as racists or as “judge, jury, and executioner,” they deserve to be punished.  We can empathize with protests demanding justice in this way; some may even participate. Christians in Minnesota should be writing to their newspapers, political leaders, and law enforcement personnel, encouraging everyone to fight for justice, but to do so in a godly way. Action can be taken throughout our various countries, but our action needs to be in step with who we are as Christians and it must respect the dignity of all others. Racism is wrong. And the root cause of racism is sin. …because we are all made in God’s image Racism is wrong. Anyone holding to a solid biblical worldview cannot help but arrive at that conclusion. We know that all people are created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). Originally, being created in God’s image, man: “was adorned in his mind with true and wholesome knowledge of his Creator and of all spiritual things; his will was upright, all his affections pure, and therefore man was completely holy.” – Canons of Dort, Chapter 3/4, Art. 1 However, man fell from this glorious state of being as we rebelled against God in paradise. Nevertheless, we confess that man’s fall did not make him like the animals, but that a light of nature remains in mankind after the fall: “whereby he retains some notions about God, about natural things, and about the difference between what is honourable and shameful, and show some regard for virtue and outward order. But so far is he from arriving at the saving knowledge of God and true conversion through this light of nature that he does not even use it properly in natural and civil matters… man wholly pollutes it in various ways and suppresses it by his wickedness.” – Canons of Dort, Chapter 3/4, Art. 4 All of mankind share in this new fallen state of being. There is no alternative until the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds, making us alive again in Christ, and the image of God is being renewed in us. …because diversity was always God's intention Racism is wrong. We are reminded of the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. This story tells us of one united nation that did not want to fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis 1 in filling the earth. Man’s rebellion against God increases exponentially when there is a united purpose against him and his revealed plan for mankind. At the Tower of Babel God decides to create new cultures through confusing the languages of the people there. This confusion drives the people apart and the earth begins to be filled. Physical, racial, and cultural diversity develops. This mosaic of diversity is a result of sin, but is not sin in itself – God wanted mankind to develop culturally and spread throughout the earth and He will not let his plans be manipulated. …because the Gospel is for all Racism is wrong. When Abram was addressed by God to leave his home country he was encouraged by the promise that God would make of him a great nation and that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). God develops a nation through Abraham, a special distinct nation in all the earth, as he works out his plan of salvation for his people from all tribes, languages, and nations. Racism is wrong. When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross he fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament, also the promises to Abraham. Christ gives his disciples the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Much of the New Testament scriptures are about taking the gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading that message indiscriminately among the nations! There is no room for racism in Christianity. Where racism is evident, together with any and all examples of injustice, Christians should be engaged in various Godly activities to provide a witness to the truth and to fight the injustices as they are able. …because it is what’s inside that counts Racism is wrong. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Racism looks at the color of one’s skin and makes a judgement ignorant of the content of that person’s character. Racists look at the outside of a person, make an unjust judgement, and so reveal the depravity of their own heart and mind. Those who love and defend the just cause of their neighbour because God has loved them reveal a heart that is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, while those who hate their neighbour, who judge them falsely or on the basis of skin colour, still live in darkness and delusion. …but not all disagreement is racism Racism is wrong. But not all that is called racism is racism. In this context we can think of disagreements between the worldview of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Christians who argue that the Islamic religion is false and dangerous, are not behaving in a racist fashion. Although most Muslims are from the Middle East, this does not mean that Christians are racist against Middle Eastern citizens when we express the implications of the cultural battles that exist between these two significantly different worldviews. When Christians tell Judaists and Muslims that the promise given to father Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we are not making a racist comment but the very opposite – we are inviting them to accept Christ as Saviour and so be our brothers and sisters in Christ! Godly mission work directed towards individuals of other faiths or those who profess no faith is not driven by a cultural or racist superiority rooted in idolatry, but in a love for our neighbours, fellow image bearers who also need the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved from meaninglessness in this life and eternal punishment in the life to come. …but riots are not the answer Racism is wrong. Christians need to fight against this form of injustice wherever it rears its ugly head. But Christians do not riot. The evil evident in the riots over the past weeks demonstrate an unchristian worldview bearing fruit. Evil begets evil. These riots are not being indiscriminately condemned: a number of actors are contributing to a "protester bail fund," including Steve Carrell, Janelle Monae, Seth Rogen, Ben Schwartz, and Halsey. Justin Timberlake is also encouraging people to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund which is raising funds to bail out protesters. But which protesters? In the larger cities, many among the protesters are not fighting against injustice; they are perpetrating it! Stores and much property of black citizens, and others, are being destroyed by "protesters." The violence and damage will do nothing to address injustice or racism. It is an unchristian and an inhumane response. Love is not the overriding principle, idolatry is. Unbelievers are developing (or have created) a worldview that has no foundation and the idol of self is at the centre. Justice for George Floyd is not the goal of those rioting – it is the excuse for open “acceptable” rebellion. …and the Gospel is the answer Racism is wrong. The solution, despite opinion to the contrary, is the gospel rightly understood and applied. May the Lord, the king over all the earth, so work by his word and spirit so that justice is restored in this world. In the meantime, we are busy fighting for justice in a godly way. We are also praying that the Lord will usher in his kingdom in all its glory so that his people from all tribes, tongues, races, and languages can be gathered together in one united kingdom to praise our King! ...

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Saturday Selections - May 30, 2020

Dolphin sonar is incredibly designed! (4 min) The many different components of dolphins' echolocation system allows it such a level of precision it can tell the difference between a golf ball and a ping pong ball. The closer we look at God's creation, the more we have to praise Him about! This is an excerpt from the fantastic documentary Living Waters. How David Livingstone's brave publicity stunt helped end slavery (15-minute read) John Piper writes about how David Livingstone's famed expedition, supposedly to find the headwaters of the Nile, actually had a very different purpose – Livingstone wanted to bring British attention to the horrors of the Slave Trade. Are purebred dogs ethical? God calls us to be stewards of creation, and that includes the creatures in it. When we breed a creature for a particular look, knowing that this look also leads to specific health problems – as happens with many purebred dogs – aren't we being bad stewards? Cessationism: what it is, and the case for it, in just 10 minutes While most Reformed folk hold to cessationism – the belief that the gifts of tongues, and prophecy, and miraculous healing have passed (even as we acknowledge that miraculous healing itself has not) – but don't know why. Professor Robert Rothwell lays out the cessationism case here. Scientists often lie Every time we read another headline about "millions of years," or this evolving into that, conservative Christians are reminded once again of how mainstream science can be very, very wrong. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, some are encouraging us to "Just trust Science" and we know that's more than a little naive. Is Science now our infallible guide? There's good reason to be grateful for the guidance scientists can offer (Prov. 11:14, Prov. 15:22), but if we treat them as our one sure guide (ignoring, for example, the input of economists) – if we treat them as if they were God – then they are sure to disappoint. On the other hand, we shouldn't forget why we can be so certain scientists are wrong in some cases, and yet not be as certain in others. We can know they got it wrong when scientists' conclusions run right up against the Bible as they do on the subject of origins. Then we have God's infallible Word vs. fallible Man and it shouldn't be hard to know who to believe. But when scientists make declarations about things that God hasn't spoken to directly – like how harmful COVID-19 actually is – we might still have reasons to doubt what is said but not with the same degree of certainty. This is not what Man says versus what God says, but rather one group of experts vs. another. BC pastors appeal to government to free Christians to worship Occasional RP contributor Rev. Rob Schouten was one of those behind an open letter to BC Premier John Horgan asking for churches to receive attention as to when they can start to safely worship together once again. The letter is considerate, and well-argued, asking only for the same sort of accommodation as is being given to businesses and others. So far 85 churches have given their support to the letter. If you want to find out how you can too, or if you live outside BC and want to see a wonderful example of calm, winsome, yet persistent interaction with the authorities, then be sure to check out the website: ExpandBCWorshipServices.ca. The man behind Ravi (15 min) On May 19, the well-known apologist Ravi Zacharias died of cancer. God used him to "tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5) via public events, often times on university campuses, around the world. God used Ravi in a big public way, but in this wonderful, tear-jerking (God is so amazing!) short film we get a glimpse at the "man behind the man," D.D. Davis, who God also called, but to work behind the scenes to equip and encourage Ravi. Few of us are called to be on the stage, in front of the mike, but all of us can be "Gospel patrons" – equippers, encouragers, and in smaller ways too, proclaimers – who can help those called to lead. ...

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Saturday Selections - May 23, 2020

Surfin is illegal in the USA: A Beach Boys parody (2 min) There's no better way to kill the funny than to discuss a joke. But with all the vicious memes, and cruel editorial cartoons circulating the Internet, before I pass along this bit of parody it's worth considering what Christians can, and must not, say about our elected officials. Romans 13:6-7 instructs us: "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." That rules out the careless insult, and the casual disobedience. We can't call our Prime Minister names, and can't disobey his lawful orders without being able to show how those orders violate God's commands. But in our democratic system, our elected authorities are also our employees, and one of our roles is to evaluate their performance – we could even describe that as an authoritative role God has given to the electorate. So there may well be a time when, in the process of a"performance review" on our authorities, we have to use language they'd rather not hear. But it isn't disrespectful or dishonoring to explain why Joe Biden is a hypocrite for insisting we should believe women except when one accuses him. And it isn't violating Romans 13 to question the intent of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent gun ban. That's legitimate job performance review material, even if the "interviewee" might prefer we don't go there. When it comes to our current COVID-19 crisis, we also aren't violating Romans 13:6-7 when we highlight governmental excesses, even when we do so with a dose of humor. The fellow behind this video below may or may not be a Christian, but his Surfin USA parody illustrates an important point: some of our authorities are not exercising their powers with restraint. These are the questions I asked about the viral "Plandemic" video An investigative journalist tracked down the documentary's producer and asked him some key questions. Michael Cook offers some sage advice as well, in his "How should we tackle conspiracy theories about COVID-19?" UN provides us some unintended comedy This week the United Nations tweeted out a request to have folks ditch the words "husband" and "wife" to "help create a more equal world." As Jonathon Van Maren shares, "the global community united in side-splitting gales of laughter." Why surrogacy is oppression "...surrogacy exploits the vulnerable....Increasingly, surrogacy is about two wealthy men using a woman for her body, while appropriating a role that only she can fulfill." John Stonestreet and Maria Baer followed up their article above with: "Adoption is beautiful; surrogacy isn't." Frog fossils found in the Antarctic Does a warmer earth spell our doom? Frog fossils in the land of ice and snow would seem to say no. Parents: slow down and listen Tedd and Margy Tripp with important advice for parents: "If your children are saying 'You never listen to me,' it is because they feel you never listen to them. Slow down and listen." The spread of the Gospel (2 min) "Every frame is one year in the last 2000 years of the Great Commission....It shows everywhere the Gospel has been preached, where churches and Christian gravestones first show external evidence of that work, and where churches and Bibles are accessible today." ...

News

Saturday Selections - May 16, 2020

What's the Reformed perspective on the UFO videos? (1-hour podcast) Last month the Pentagon declassified three videos of what they termed "unexplained aerial phenomena." The videos had previously been leaked to the Internet back in 2017, so what was newsworthy now was the official confirmation of their authenticity. What should Christians think of claims that we are being visited by alien civilizations? Pastor Jeff Durbin and his crew at Apologia Radio offer a fascinating take. If their 1-hour podcast is a bit too long for you, a Reformed perspective on UFOs can also be found in our review of Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection. The problem with mailed-in ballots With COVID-19 keeping people in, there's been pressure in the US for more States to switch from in-person voting to using mail-in ballots instead. While voting by the post might be more hygienic, it has a downside: mail-in ballots aren't secure. When we go into a voting booth, no one knows what choice we make, so no one can threaten or bribe us to vote as they want us to. But when someone can watch you fill in your ballot, then pressure can come from spouses, parents, friends, careworkers, and others. The false dilemma of Science vs. Faith  Dr. John Byl has a fascinating summary of a debate over Science and Faith that took place in the pages of the Dordt University publication Pro Rege. It began with an explanation as to how "Science vs. Faith" is "the Great False Dichotomy" (because the real battle is not Science vs. Faith, but actually between the Christian worldview and an anti-Christian worldview). and then heated up when Dr. Arnold Sikkema wrote a letter to the editor, against the original article. And then his letter garnered its own reply. 5 ways to protect your kids from pornography The most important way? Talk to your children early – be their first teacher, and therefore their go-to, for this topic. Don't let a video, seen on their friend's phone, be their first exposure to what sex is. Parents: don't shame your kids Tedd Tripp on how we parents have to come alongside our kids as fellow sinners, and not simply as judges. Quarantine stereotypes (10 minutes) The 5 friends at Dude Perfect offer up a slice of quarantine life. ...

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

Saturday Selections – April 18, 2020

Are you tolerant? (4 minutes) This is as funny as it is informative! Environmentalism has killed its millions Earth Day, April 22, is upon us once again, and while it may have a different feel this year we can be sure all things environmental are still going to be celebrated by the secular media. However, there as an important aspect of environmentalism that is not praiseworthy: placing the interests of plants and animals either alongside or above those of people. This is a difference that distinguishes environmentalism from biblical stewardship, where we are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for creation (Gen. 1:28) but are also the pinnacle of it (Gen. 1:26-27, Ps. 8:3-9).  This article highlights the enormous damage done when that is forgotten. How long does it take to read each book in the Old Testament? (infographic) Would we dive into our Bibles more eagerly if we understood just how little time it takes to dig deep? Click for the full chart. Babylon Bee encourages us to hold our medical opinions with humility... The Christian satire site, in their own unique way, made their point with the headline: "Facebook to award everyone printable medical degree." FREE MAGAZINE: Ezra Institute's Jubilee Looking for a good deep read? The articles in Jubilee, a conservative Reformed publication, often require some investment but diligent readers will be rewarded. And while the print subscription is $25 a year, past digital issues can be enjoyed for free. As always, readers should practice discernment. Is opposing same-sex marriage like opposing interracial marriage? (4 minutes) You're in a conversation about marriage, and someone says, "The Church opposing same-sex marriage is like how the Church used to oppose interracial marriage" How would you respond? ...

News

Don’t wish you were here: illustrator’s National Park posters go viral

Illustrator Amber Share always wanted to create a vintage travel poster for each of the 63 National Parks in the United States. After sharing some of her posters on Instagram (@subparparks) and an article on BoredPanda, her efforts went viral. Her posters are beautiful, but what garnered the most attention was the wording: she added a tongue-in-cheek humorous twist to them by lettering the worst comment that was ever posted online by a visitor. Some of the results were: Olympic National Park in Washington state: "No WOW factor” Grand Teton National Park: "All I saw was a lake, mountains, and some trees.” Grand Canyon National Park: "A Hole. A very, very, large hole.” Yosemite National Park: “Trees block view and there are too many gray rocks” And perhaps the worst one of all, " Isle Royale National Park: “No cell service and terrible wifi." While this is humorous, it is sad to note two things that this says about our culture. First of all, it reflects our real national pastime: complaining! Secondly, it shows what an indoor culture we have become, as these visitors completely missed the value in the beauty of creation. In contrast, Christians can be a light in this world just by following the command in Philippians 2: 14-15: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Instead of limiting ourselves to small screen entertainment, we will better appreciate God’s amazing landscapes firsthand, and rejoice with Psalm 96:11-12: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord….” A line from an old John Denver song says, “I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly.” Let’s not trade reality for an inadequate substitute. Go outside and rejoice in God’s magnificent creation! And don’t let Junior say, “Uh-huh” and sit in the car with his video game. Pictures are used with permission of the artist, Amber Share....

News

States, cities, reverse course on plastic bag bans

In 2007, San Francisco was the first city to ban regular single-use plastic bags, directing businesses to use compostable plastic bags, paper, or, preferably, reusable bags. In the years since, more than 120 other cities, and some states have followed their lead. But now the city is reversing direction, at least in part. In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the city's Department of Health issued a new guideline: people were not permitted "to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home" to coffee shops, grocers, and other stores. An April 9 Wall Street Journal editorial noted: "The department was responding to fears that the reusable bags are more prone to carry coronavirus than the disposable bags that were standard before the 2007 ban." San Francisco isn't the only government changing course. Massachusetts, Oregon, New Mexico, Maine, New Hampshire, and other locales across the US are responding to the coronavirus by discouraging or prohibiting reusable bags, and often times suspending or delaying the implementation of single-use plastic bag bans. While the coronavirus has brought increased attention to the health risks that can come with reusable bags, those risks have always existed. An earlier March 16 WSJ editorial shared that when researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University randomly tested grocery shopper's reusable bags they found, “Large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half.” The same researchers also discovered the reason why: most shoppers either rarely or never washed their reusable bags. One of the key benefits of all sorts of disposable plastics has been hygiene. As the Fraser Institute's Ross McKitrick wrote: We used to get our meat the way we still get most of our vegetables – from open counters. But people grew uncomfortable with the exposure of meat to insects and germs, not to mention the problem if people handle raw meat in one aisle then touch products in other aisles, so stores responded with those little Styrofoam trays with absorbent liners and clear plastic wrap, to which we all soon grew accustomed. Lots of things got wrapped in cellophane to avoid being touched by other customers. Would you want to buy a toothbrush from a bin that a hundred people rummaged through? As for disposable plastic water bottles, this is surely one of the great public health inventions of the modern age. They are remarkably cheap and they save us the ordeal of shared public water fountains. So the question might be asked, why does anyone have a problem with these plastics? What was motivating these bans? Part of the answer is probably related to plastics being produced from oil. But even in a world obsessed with global-warming, this doesn't make them worse than paper, which seems to have the higher carbon footprint. The real issue is pollution. Environmentalists point to the amount of plastic being ingested by animals, particularly marine animals. You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or one of the other ocean garbage patches where the currents collect plastics into large islands, meters deep in some places. While this pollution is a problem, it is not a Western problem. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, in their article "Plastic Pollution" published on OurWorldinData.org make the case that as of 2010 Canada and the US combined accounted for less than a percent of the "global total mismanaged plastic waste." They define this as "the sum of littered or inadequately disposed of waste...that could eventually enter the ocean..." The big polluters are China (28%), Indonesia (10%), the Philippines and Vietnam (both at 6%). These four, together, amount to just under 50% of all such mismanaged plastic. This is due in large part to inadequate or non-existent garbage disposal, with waste flowing directly into key rivers, and then out into the ocean. This isn't to dispute that there are plastic bags littering North American streets. That is a problem. But it a much smaller problem. And it is a problem that is eradicated by creating other problems: ban single-use plastics, and their replacements might well make us sick. Those who reject God will often look to the government as a replacement, turning to it to solve all their problems. In contrast, Christians, understand the government can't address every problem and shouldn't try – God has assigned them a limited role because they are made up of limited people. Our government should legislate with restraint because we live in a broken world and, consequently, any "solution" politicians settle on is going to come with tradeoffs – any benefit will come with a cost. One cost common to all government action is a loss of freedom for citizens to make choices for ourselves. It is, after all, the government that demands we do things their way or else. That "or else" might amount to fines, or jail time, or the loss of a business's license, but whatever the punishment might be, the ability to mete this out to dissenters is a fearsome power and one that, therefore, should be used with restraint. Another reason for restraint is simple humility – an acknowledgment of our finite abilities. If reasonable, informed, intelligent people can disagree about what approach might be best, the government should be hesitant about stepping in and deciding for everyone. With bag ban reversals highlighting how politicians missed something in their original deliberations, will they take the lesson and act with restraint going forward?...

News

Saturday Selections - March 28, 2020

John MacArthur on the coronavirus crisis (17 minutes) While the coronavirus quarantine led to the canceling of the Ligonier conference, it freed up some time for one of the featured speakers to address how Christians can respond to this crisis and use it as an opportunity to witness to how the Gospel is good news to us, as well as to any who respond to Christ in faith. Tips for talking to your kids about sex I once heard a pastor share what he called "The Law of First Explanations" – that one reason parents have to be the first to talk about sex with their kids (and be the first to talk with them about any other important topics) is because our kids will sift all subsequent information they get on that topic through the filter of the first explanation they get. Parents will often notice the impact of this law when they come in second (or third, or fourth...) because now, whatever we have to say, is going to be tested against the filter of "But my teacher said..." or "But my friends all think..." But it works in our favor too, when we act early. Or, as the article author puts it, "Better a year too early than five minutes too late.” In addition to the article above, a helpful book series – one you can read along with your daughter or son, with different books for different ages – is the "Learning about sex for the Christian family" series put about by Concordia Publishing House. Getting creative... When government restrictions made it impossible to gather inside our church buildings, one congregation came up with a creative way of still meeting together at their usual time. This past Sunday, the Christ Community Church in Blaine, WA met outside, singing and listening to the sermon from inside their cars, assembled in their parking lot. Teaching our kids how to manage their devices Tim Challies titled this article "When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time" because, when it comes to helping out kids figure out how to use their phones, tablets, and computers to best effect, we know we aren't doing it right. There's plenty of reasons for it, not the least of which is as trailblazers in this area (this is not something our parents could teach us how to teach our kids) we are bound to get it wrong. But that also means there is plenty of ways to improve. So, for the love of our kids, let's be the parents and take that leadership role. And Challies has some wonderful help to offer. How the coronavirus has revealed what's core to Roman Catholicism An Italian pastor explains how the Catholic Church's response to the coronavirus is revealing what's core (and consequently what's deficient) in their doctrine. In related news, the Pope has said that, due to the crisis, Catholics can confess their sins directly to God...at least until they can reach a priest once again. Choice42 with another tool for the pro-life toolbox (1 minute) There is a truth about the unborn that needs to be shared – that they are every bit as valuable as you and I because, just like you and I, they are made in the very Image of God (Gen 1:26-27, 9:6). And there are also lies that need to be knocked down – many, many lies. And as she shows here once again, Laura Klassen, and her crew down at Choice42, are among the very best at knocking down those lies. ...

News

An update on Conversion Therapy Bans in Canada

To fulfill an election promise, the federal Liberal government has introduced a bill to criminally ban conversion therapy. As I noted in my Nov/Dec article, “What is conversion therapy and why does it matter?” the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and many municipalities in Alberta have already banned conversion therapy. This federal bill would ban conversion therapy across the entire country with the threat of criminal sanction, including jail time, a penalty not available to provinces and municipalities. The entire legislation hinges on the definition of conversion therapy. A main recommendation in ARPA Canada’s policy report on conversion therapy was that conversion therapy only include “coercive and aversive therapies” and specifically clarify that body-affirming counseling and spiritual counsel are not conversion therapy. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation – Bill C-8 – has a broad and biased definition of conversion therapy. It bans both harmful therapies as well as beneficial counseling. It bans efforts to change someone’s sexual attraction – which is psychological and based in the mind – and also bans attempts to change someone’s sexual behavior. This means this legislation would forbid Christian counselors from trying to help gay men address their same-sex attraction, and also forbid them from counseling gay men not to engage in same-sex sexual activity. Ironically, this legislation only bans attempts to draw someone away from same-sex attraction or a transgender identity. The legislation says nothing about attempts to draw someone into same-sex-attraction or a transgender identity. Thus, this legislation bans God-glorifying counseling but permits seductions into sinful lifestyles and identities. As one pastor commented, “If a man in my congregation confesses to me that he’s been cheating on his wife, I can reprimand him and tell him to repent. But if his affair is with another man, then I’m prohibited from saying anything at all.” The legislation also is riddled with contradictions. The preamble notes that it is a myth that gender identity can change. Yet, queer theory says that gender is quite fluid, changing all the time. Further, the definition of conversion therapy explicitly “clarifies” that services to support a person’s gender transition are not to be considered conversion therapy. But if a gender can’t change, how can one transition to another gender? Federal Justice Minister David Lametti, who introduced the bill, reveals his moral worldview on this topic, saying, “Conversion therapy is premised on a lie, that being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is wrong and in need of fixing. Not only is that false, it sends a demeaning and a degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals.” Christians recognize that virtually everything in that quotation is false. Acting on same-sex attraction or deliberately undermining one’s biological sex is sinful and wrong. Sin always needs fixing. Human dignity is not based on following our own impulses; it is based on being the male and female image-bearers of God. Justice Minister Lametti boasts that the proposed conversion therapy ban will be the “most progressive and comprehensive in the world.” But Christians know that true progress cannot be based on man’s view of right and wrong. True progress must be based on God’s standards of right and wrong. Bill C-8 must be amended. The definition of conversion therapy requires greater clarity and should not include body-affirming counseling or spiritual counseling or teaching on sexual behavior. ARPA is already working to have the definition changed but will need the support of many Christians across the country to also speak up. May we continue to labor and pray that God’s perfect will, not man’s fallen will, be done here on earth as it is in heaven, also on the issue of conversion therapy. Levi Minderhoud is the ARPA Canada BC manager. You can read ARPA Canada’s Policy Report on Conversion Therapy here....

News

Saturday Selections - March 21, 2020

How is the moon's design evidence for creation? (6 minutes) The unique characteristics of our moon – its size and distance from us relative to the sun's size and distance, the plane of its orbit, the ratio of its mass compared to the Earth, and more – make it a perfect aid to study our sun's corona and to stabilize our planet's rotation. RC Sproul's Ligonier Ministries makes all their teaching series free The best response to coronavirus fear? Learn more about our good, trustworthy, sovereign God. So as their response to the coronavirus crisis, RC Sproul's Ligonier Ministries is making their entire library of hundreds of teaching series free to stream online. C.S. Lewis on Modesty Lewis chips in on the Christian modesty discussion/debate. There's more to be said, but this is a helpful contribution. Eviction rights: "My building, my choice"? In this spoof of the abortion rights argument, reporters ask a political candidate about the "My Building, My Choice!” campaign that has the US government proposing rules to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. How far is too far? When Christian young people are dating, "The question, 'How far is too far?' is often asked with the wrong motive. The real question usually being asked is, 'How much can I get away with?' Purity doesn’t ask that; purity asks, “How can I honor God in this relationship?” Many a reader won't agree with one of the suggestions in this article: no kissing before marriage. But whatever you think of that particular outworking, there are biblical principles here well worth discussing. 15 Reformed theologians on anxiety and fear The folks at the Westminster Bookstore have done something special, collecting key chapters from 15 Christian authors addressing the topic of anxiety and fear and then distributing those chapters for free (at the link above). These chapters include, in order: EDWARD WELCH - A small book for the anxious heart (4 daily readings) PAUL TAUTGES - Anxiety - Knowing God's Peace (4 readings) SARA WALLACE - Created to Care: God's Truth for Anxious Moms (Chap 8) MARK VROEGOP – Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy (Intro/Chap 1) JOHN CALVIN - Everyday prayer (Ps 130, 143) DAVID POWLISON - God's Grace in your Suffering (Intro) DALE RALPH DAVIS - In the Presence of my Enemies (Ps 29 - Chap 6) DAVID GIBSON: Living Life Backwards (Chap 1) JOHN MURRAY - O Death, Where is Thy Sting (Chap 13) PURITANS - Piercing prayers ALISTAIR BEGG - Pray Big (Chap 2) CHARLES SPURGEON - The Promises of God (5 daily readings) PAUL DAVID TRIPP - Suffering (Chapter 11) IAIN M. DUGUID - The Whole Armor of God (Chap 1) GROVES + SMITH - Untangling Emotions (Chap 13) TIMOTHY KELLER - Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Intro) Crisis, Christ, confidence and the coronavirus (27 minutes) Two professors from the Westminister Theological Seminary, a doctor, and Martin Luther, weigh in on how God would want us to respond to the coronavirus crisis. ...

News, Theology

Calvinism in the time of coronavirus

When I was about nine or ten, at the height of worldwide panic about AIDS, I stumbled across a newspaper article that outlined the symptoms of the dreaded disease. I can still recall reading, to my horror, that one of the telltale signs was “thick, white matting on the tongue.” You see, I had a few small but obvious patches of white matter on my tongue. And my ten-year-old self became utterly convinced: I had AIDS. The fact that I was in the world’s lowest-risk category didn’t matter, nor did the fact that I was asthmatic and regularly took large doses of medication that left white deposits on my tongue. For at least a week, I was convinced that my end had come. In my early 20s, it was a brain tumor. After all, I had a few really bad headaches on the way to university one week; what else could it be?! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become slightly more sanguine, but I’m still highly susceptible to fear setting in. Honestly, I feel like I’m tempting fate (even though I totally don’t believe in “tempting fate”) by even writing this piece. I am a card-carrying hypochondriac. So you can imagine how the last few weeks have made me feel. I’ve had to dig in and battle hard to not give in to the paralyzing fear of the coronavirus that’s been sweeping the globe. How have I fought this battle? I’ve armed my household with facts, vitamins, soap, and statistics (but no, not with extra toilet paper as yet – I live in New Zealand, not Australia). I’ve chewed off my wife’s ear about how the media is blowing it out of proportion, mostly preaching to myself in the process. But underneath all those strategies, I’ve fallen back on one simple, underlying reality: God is completely sovereign. I’ve always found it slightly surprising that Christians find the notion that God is completely sovereign (sometimes called “Calvinism,” after theologian John Calvin) to be so controversial or complex. Maybe it’s the way Calvinism was initially taught to me when I was a young Christian. It was totally plausible, and just seemed the obvious, inevitable conclusion that anyone should reach from studying the Scriptures: God is completely in charge of everything, and nothing takes him by surprise. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not belittling anyone who finds it hard to grapple with the many thorny issues that this topic raises. Far from it. A high view of God’s sovereignty doesn’t numb the pain of real-life or provide cheap, easy answers. We should all sympathize with the Psalmists who bring their laments to God and cry out, “How Long, O Lord?” But the basic concept itself has (thanks be to God) always just seemed obvious to me. Can I really conceive of the God who spoke the universe into existence now sitting fretfully on the edge of his throne, desperately hoping that everything will pan out? Can I picture the God who raised Jesus from the dead muttering, “That wasn’t supposed to happen! Oh well, I guess I’ll try again tomorrow”? But more than that, I’ve also struggled to understand why some people see this as an obscure, irrelevant question – a topic for the “ivory tower – rather than as a real-life game-changer. As I was once told, there is nothing as practical as good theology. The sovereignty of God has been an enormous comfort to me again and again and again in my life. So while we may be tempted to think that the panic-inducing Covid-19 is no time to get all theological, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s moments like these where we need the deep realities about God to sustain us. If, like me, you’re even slightly given to extra nervousness at a time like this, it might be worth stepping back and planting your flag on some simple yet marvelous truths about our great, sovereign God. Remember, there is no such thing as "luck" – even moments that seem totally random are controlled by God (Proverbs 16:33). Remember, not even a tiny, insignificant sparrow falls to the ground without God’s say-so – and you are worth more than many sparrows (Matt 10:29-31). Remember, God shapes the decisions and the fate of the world’s most powerful people (Proverbs 21:1). Remember, whether or not your plans for tomorrow come to fruition depends far more on God than on you (James 4:13-15). Remember, God can do all things (that’s a lot of things) and no purpose of his can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Remember, God works all things (which, again, really is a lot of things) according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). Remember, God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask him to do and all we think He can do (Ephesians 3:20). Next time you get sick, remember that God never faints or grows weary, not even for a second (Isaiah 40:28). Remember, God never sleeps or slumbers; He never takes a day off (Psalm 121:3-4). Remember, even the very faith that you place in Jesus is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and God is in charge of the fruitful spread of the gospel (Mark 4:14-25). Remember, God forms the light and creates the darkness; He makes well-being and He creates calamity (Isaiah 45:7). And even if some things – including coronavirus – remain a mystery to us, we can trust that He’s using his sovereign power for our ultimate good. For He didn’t even withhold his own Son from us; we shouldn’t doubt that He’ll also give us the other good things we need. (Romans 5:6-8; Romans 8:32) Remember, the days God formed for you were written in his book before you lived even one of them (Psalm 139:16). When the whole world is in a panic, when people are inexplicably hoarding in a desperate attempt to calm their fears, when our neighbors fear that the sky is falling, it’s easy to join them and give in to anxiety. But it’s unnecessary. And it’s wrong. One of the best ways for Christians to love one another, love our neighbors and honor the Lord during this time is simply to “be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9) That promise was to Joshua, but we have even more reason than Joshua to be sure that those words apply to us. We have the gospel of Jesus. We have a Savior who has promised to be with us, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). We have a loving God who is not far away, but who is near to all who call on him, and who is mighty to save. Knowing all this, we are invited to entrust ourselves to God: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) Trust the sovereign Lord of the ages who is working out his plans and purposes for the world, and for you, moment by moment, even (especially) when things are scary or unknown. Tell your children that God can be trusted more than hand-sanitizer. Boldly bear witness to a frightened world – a world that’s having the deceptive veil of safety and security pulled back before its very eyes – that there is a genuine, lasting source of security and peace. Take your stand on the Bible’s great truths about our sovereign God, now and forever. And try not to touch your face. This article first appeared at GeoffRobson.com and it is reprinted here with permission....

News

Saturday Selections - February 22, 2020

Roe vs. Wade trailer Coming soon, a film about the politics, ignorance, and deception behind the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (this is the court ruling most responsible for abortion in the US). Based on this trailer it looks like it could be as impactful as Gosnell. "I have three minutes to live!" Witnessing to cults Ray Comfort has an interesting response for cultists when they come knocking at his door. "I warmly ask for their names, and then say, ‘Someone stabbed me in the back. I am dying and have only three minutes to live. What do I need to do to enter heaven/paradise/the kingdom of God?’” Is evolutionary tail-telling affecting Bible translation? In Job 40:15-18 the Lord describes a beast with a tail that "sways like a cedar." What sort of creature might that be? Would you believe some translators rendered is as a hippopotamus? Why would they do that? Might a compromise with evolutionary thinking have blinded them to a more likely possibility? The euthanasia slippery slope is real Once killing patients is deemed medicine, then on what basis are we going to withhold this "treatment"? It turns out that once we give up on all life being precious – given as it is by God – then any subsequent lines we draw are arbitrary, and it is a simple matter to erase and redraw them further down the slope...again and again. Biblical history in broken pots "Stop me if this sounds familiar: Archaeologists digging in Israel discover artifacts buried for about three millennia. Upon close examination, their find either confirms the biblical narrative or at least undermines a long-accepted dismissal of a biblical claim. Okay, don’t stop me. After all, it won’t matter if you try, because I never get tired of telling stories like these...." My 3-year-old son is a girl now "Who am I to question my three-year-old?" ...

News

Saturday Selections - February 15, 2020

Newsies learn to clickbait (4 minutes) Who knew that fake news could be so toe-tapping? Canadians waiting longer to receive healthcare Free healthcare comes with a cost, and it isn't just the taxes we pay – when the government is the only provider, then there is no competition to push innovation or efficiencies. It shouldn't surprise us, then, that by the Fraser Institute's estimates, Canadian wait times to receive healthcare have more than doubled since 1993. You can see the infographic at the link above, or the longer Fraser Institute report here. Yes, you can trust the gospels...even when they seem to conflict (10-minute read) Some scholars argue that the gospel writers didn't care about the facts, but were just trying to send a message. Christian philosopher Lydia McGrew explains the message only has meaning if it is factual, and shows a way how alleged discrepancies can be resolved. 5 ways you are probably not a Calvinist Dr. Wes Bredenhof lays out 5 views that John Calvin held that most Reformed folk probably don't... Follow your passion? The Christian vision of work We've been telling young people to "follow your passion," but is that a biblical view of calling? Separating Church and State? (3 minutes) The Devil is all about twisting truth right around so that what is good and right is then used for evil. So it is with the separation of Church and State. As Dr. Michael Wagner explains here, Church and State should be separate. But it is a very different thing to say that the government should be separated from Christian beliefs. Of course, the Devil would like God's truth silenced. And our godless government doesn't want Christians shining their reflected light in the halls of Parliament. That's what they're after when they speak about the separation of Church and State. However, by their own standards, they have no basis on which to shut us up. We don't ask anyone else to abandon their beliefs when they pursue political office, so why should Christians be expected to? Everyone hates double standards (Matt. 7:2). ...

News

Saturday Selections - February 8, 2020

Long story short: Homology (8 minutes) One of the main arguments Darwin used for his theory was homology – that very different animals have some odd similarities, like how a whale, human, and bat have similar "arm" bone structures. Darwin asked, how could these similarities exist other than that we're all related? But it turns out, homology is no proof of evolution! Time to hit pause on gene-editing When it comes to human gene-editing, China is acting more responsible than the West, where "we insist on charging ahead despite our imperfect knowledge with an unbounded confidence in our abilities." Woodpeckers are freaky cool! Football players get concussions at impacts of 80 g, but woodpeckers deal with impacts amounting to 1,200 g. How do they escape brain injuries? This article is not from a Christian perspective, but in laying out how wonderful these critters are, it points us to their amazing Designer. Watch the embedded video to see the impacts in slow motion! (h/t to Crev.info) Your face was designed to show emotion Did you know about half the muscles in your face are there to make facial expressions? A license for your thoughts? "You need to get a government license for many things in Canada; so far, publishing your thoughts is not one of them. But in recent weeks two warning shots have been fired…" The Riot and the Dance: Water (3 minutes) Riot and the Dance: Earth (reviewed here) was one of the most original nature documentaries made, exploring not just the beauty, but also the "riot" of what is going on in this created, marvelous, but also fallen, world. Now there is a sequel coming out, and the trailer looks good! ...

News

Saturday Selections – February 1, 2020

World's largest pro-life march, in 60 seconds This past week hundreds of thousands came to march in Washington D.C. to highlight the need to protect the unborn. May God bless these efforts on their behalf. Roger Scruton on beauty Philosopher Roger Scruton (1944-2020) was a favorite among many Christians, though he was not one himself, disputing the resurrection. But in the same way that Jordan Peterson gets many things right because, even in his unbelief, he takes much of the Bible seriously (and more seriously than many self-professed Christians) so too Scruton has some valuable insights on art that are discussed here. 3 ways boys can benefit by reading "girl books" "Reading about women will not lift the veil and reveal all the mystery that women will always have for the young man. It can, however, help a young man know the difference, to borrow characters from Pride and Prejudice, between an 'Elizabeth' and a 'Lydia.' If it helps in this way, it is worth so much." Sesame Street pushing an agenda Billy Porter, a cross-dressing LGBT activist, will make an appearance on the upcoming 51st season of the children's show. Free Documentary: By what standard? The Southern Baptist Convention is a large American denomination with a Calvinist leaning, it is the home of Albert Mohler and also Beth Moore, and it has been wrestling with the issues of complementarianism, social justice, and also something called "Critical Race Theory." This 2-hour documentary certainly isn't for everyone, but it is eye-opening in showing how troubling worldviews can sneak into the Church via the best of intentions. CNN helps Christian satire site grow... (5 minutes) It's amusing to see how attacks by Snopes.com and CNN have only helped the Christian satire site Babylon Bee grow. It's also instructive to watch how Babylon Bee enters the fray. Christians needn't be fearful – after all, we know God has already won! – so we can contend with a spirit of joy. This is what winsome looks like. ...

News

Saturday Selections - January 18, 2020

Pine tree fire vaults (2 minutes) God has designed these trees to preserve their seeds until after a forest fire passes. BBC: Most scientists can't replicate studies by their peers When so many treat science like it is the one sure source of Truth it's worth noting how science is nowhere near as unerring as it has been made out to be. 10 ways porn culture will target kids in 2020 The folks at Protect Young Minds offer this to prepare, not scare, parents. CNN reporter thinks Babylon Bee satire is too believable A reporter who is quite the fan of the leftward satire site The Onion thinks the Christian satire site Babylon Bee is tricking people with  headlines like: "Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani." FREE BOOK: 7 Considerations in the age of video games In this 29-page booklet, an old-school media expert encourages parents to teach their kids how to work with wood, or paint, or read, rather than spend their time on video games. Why? Here's one of his reasons: "In his book, Boys Adrift, Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. gives five factors driving the decline of boys from growing up to fulfill their potential. Can you guess the number one factor? 'Video Games. Studies suggest that some of the most popular video games are disengaging boys from real-world pursuits.'” Islam's 99-1 rule (14 minutes) Apologist David Wood explains how Islam uses the unquestioning 99% of its adherents to pressure and intimidate into silence the 1% who have done the research and have questions. ...

News

Saturday Selections – January 11, 2020

If conversion therapy is bad why is "sex reassignment" good? It's been said that our culture wars are really just a battle over the dictionary. "One trick of LGBT activists is changing the meaning of words. We see this in the way they celebrate 'sex reassignment' as 'gender affirmation' but condemned conversion therapy as 'sex reassignment.'" Impeachment: Quid Pro-choice Christianity Today's editor, Mark Galli, sparked controversy last month when he came out in favor of US President Donald Trump being impeached. Is the President guilty? Galli acknowledged the process wasn't fair: "No, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment. But the facts in this instance are unambiguous..." Two Scripture passages leap to mind – Prov. 18:17 and Matt. 7:1-2 – and the question, is Galli judging here by a standard that he'd want directed his way? Carl Trueman and Peter Jones weigh in. Untangling the theology of Star Wars This 300-word read gives a quick overview of the confusing and empty theology of George Lucas' space trilogy². Evolutionists are playing word games Both evolutionists and creationists believe animals change over time – we all believe in that sort of "evolution." The controversy is over how we got from molecules to man – i.e. how simple early cells gained information over time to eventually produce the incredibly complex creatures that we are. When evolutionists demonstrate wolves can beget Chihuahuas if you break the right genes – when they show change over time that involves a loss of complexity – and then pretend this is evidence for the molecule-to-man sort of evolution, we need to recognize this for the dishonest word game that it is. As evidence of evolution, they are presenting devolution.  And as the author writes, much of the changes we see in animals comes from broken genes, not new genes. "Behe... learned that one of the favorite examples of evolution — the change from the brown bear to the white polar bear — was also an example of breaking genes: 17 genes in this case." US Park to remove all "glaciers will be gone by 2020" signs Turns out things are "much more complex" than they knew... Extreme poverty in a historical context "On every day in the last 25 years there could have been a newspaper headline reading, 'The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 128,000 since yesterday.'” But you haven't seen those headlines, have you? Why not? Because it's harder to foster envy and ingratitude when things are getting objectively better. God has blessed us materially, and we're being tricked into believing that our rise in population is dooming more and more to poverty. Don't be fooled. This article has charts and diagrams, and while not a difficult read, it is a somewhat dry one. But it is one well worth reading, or even skimming if that's all your time permits....

Graphic novels, News

This isn’t your parents' Katy Keene…or Archie Andrews

This February, Katy Keene will be the latest Archie comics character to get a modern updating. While the original Katy was a one-dimensional highly successful fashion model, in the new version she's an aspiring, but as of yet, entirely unsuccessful, fashion designer living in New York. What parents need to know is that this isn't the only updating that's been done. Katy Keene is being spun off of Riverdale, which re-imagined Archie and his gang as murderous, drug-running occultists. In what wasn't even the show's weirdest twist, they put Archie Andrews in a sexual relationship with his teacher Miss Grundy. While details about the new Katy Keene show are still scarce, from the trailer we do know one of her roommates will be a gay broadway dancer who, because he isn't tough enough for the male roles, auditions for a female role. And, as Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reports it, he's also "looking to take his drag career to the next level." (A new comic book Katy is also set to debut, but in that version she’ll live in Riverdale). This is just one of the notable changes Archie's gang has undergone in recent years. It began in the comics back in 2010 with the introduction of Archie's new gay friend Kevin Keller, who was then paired off via a same-sex “marriage” to an Iraq War veteran. Other changes have included: Jughead Jones declaring himself asexual Veronica Lodge starring in a spin-off comic as Vampironica, a blood-sucking killer another spin-off series, Afterlife with Archie, featuring a zombie Jughead trying to kill and devour his friends and family (with some success) yet another spin-off series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, featuring more occultism and a character by the name of Madam Satan What's tricky about all these changes is that in the comic digests this "new Archie" is often paired with "old Archie" stories. So sometimes the outside of the comic looks just like it always has, but inside a handful of the stories will have this "modern" twist. Parents who grew up reading the old Archie comics might be shocked at this new direction, but before we ask “Why were the former days better than these?” (Eccl 7:10) let’s remember rightly the Archie of old. I came across a few of my old Archie digests and, looking at them with adult eyes, I was struck by something: Archie was never a paragon of virtue. At best “America’s favorite teenager” could be described as an indecisive boy who led girls on (poor Betty!). But would it be a stretch to describe a guy who secretly dates two girls at the same time (sometimes on the same night!) as a player? A frequent storyline involved Betty and Veronica vying for Archie’s leering attention by wearing as little as the Comic Code Authority would allow. This was every timid teenage boy’s dream – two bikini-clad gorgeous girls after a goofball guy. As the comic’s creator, John Goldwater explained, he reversed “the common wisdom. Instead of ‘boy chasing girl,’ I would have girl chasing boy.” While sexual tension and romance were a constant theme, nuptials weren't mentioned – not for more than 60 years. In Archie’s world dating was simply a social activity, completely unrelated to finding a spouse. Archie and his pals had a lot of laughs and adventures too. But the subtext to the series was always dating, dating, and more dating and it always got that wrong, wrong, wrong. Now the new TV shows and comics are getting it wronger still....

News

Saturday Selections - January 4, 2020

A Mighty Fortress is our God (8 minutes) This is a pretty amazing performance of Martin Luther's most famous hymn. Gender identity and the infamous John/Joan case revisited In 1967, a botched circumcision left a baby boy without his penis, and his parents were told to raise him as a girl. John, afterward called Joan, was hailed as proof that it's how we're raised, and not how we're made, that determines our "gender identity." But in this column (from a 1997 issue of Rolling Stone magazine...so, not a Christian perspective) it makes clear that was not at all so. The Netherlands to stop using Holland "nickname" in its tourism materials "The Dutch government has announced it will stop using the moniker Holland in favour of its official name the Netherlands." Free commentary on John 1-12 While I'm not familiar with author Josh Moody, the publisher, The Good Book, is broadly Reformed, publishing John Piper, Albert Mohler, and Sinclair Ferguson. That has me thinking this could be a good one, though I've only just started reading it. They will ask for your email address, but you can easily unsubscribe from their updates. How to approach new medical research (26-minute podcast) How should Christians approach and evaluate new medical research? Dr. Dan Gannon offers insights based on his experiences with the pharmaceutical industry and his biblical understanding of human nature. This is a real eye-opener into how research overall, is done. Anyone interested in how bias impacts medical research, and even the scientific studies we read about in the media, should check this one out. Ark of Noah virtual reality tour (5 minutes) A few years ago Dutch carpenter, Johan Huiber, completed a life-size replica of Noah's Ark. A virtual reality tour of the ark can be viewed below which allows you to move the screen around a full 360 degrees. So don't just hit play - use your mouse or, on a tablet, your finger, to explore up above, down below and all around. ...

News

Saturday Selections - December 7, 2019

FREE E-BOOK: Why sex is the best argument for creation The folks behind the fantastic documentary Is Genesis History have created a short 115-page e-book with ten of their most popular essays, including the title essay. You can download the pdf for free here, the Mobi (Kindle) version here, and the Epub version here. Should we use "preferred pronouns"? (10-minute read) J.D. Greear, a prominent US pastor, recently told listeners that he will use a transgender person's "preferred pronouns" out of a “generosity of spirit” – i.e. Greear will call a guy a she, if that's what the guy asks Greear to do. Now, there is some nuance to be had in this but also a clear line that shouldn't be crossed. The clear line? We should not lie, even if people ask us to, so we cannot refer to men as women. The nuance? If we meet a transgender fellow, our opening line doesn't have to be: "You need to stop wearing dresses." We can start with "Hi" or "How's it going?" And if that fellow asks us to call him Sue, we can even do that, because, while it is an odd name for a guy, we can pick our names, even as we can't pick our gender. This Rod Dreher article is fantastic in that it includes a lot of other's thoughts as well. How I make a sermon (3-minute read) Dr. Bredenhof gives us a peek behind the curtain to see what's involved when he crafts his sermon. No Canadian Anglicans by 2040? And no United Church either? (10-minute read) This article, by a veteran religion reporter, collects a few other articles to explore whether mainline denominations in Canada and the US might be gone by 2040. And while this is far from certain, this isn't simply hype from some journalist trying to get click-thrus – we're hearing this straight from the horses's mouth: "A 'wake-up call.' That’s what Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, called a new report showing there may be no members left in the mainline Canadian denomination in 20 years." Praying backwards (2-minute read) We'll often conclude our prayers with the words "...but Your will be done." What if we began our prayers that way, putting God's desires first? Your eyes are AMAZING!!! (9 minutes) The funnest bit starts just after the 4-minute mark when Dr. Wells spells out an evolutionary critique of the design of the eye. But what evolutionists present as an example of bad design (and therefore as proof of unguided, undesigned evolution) is actually an example of genius. Or, rather, Genius. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kboUBQnMP8w  ...

News

Saturday Selections – November 30, 2019

Is surrogacy the same as adoption? (4 minutes) This short video offers three ways in which surrogacy is different than adoption: 1. Adoption seeks to mend a family wound. Third-party reproduction creates a family wound. 2. With adoption, the child is the client but with third-party reproduction- the adult is the client. 3. With adoption, adults support the child. With third-party reproduction, the children support the adult. The why behind Christian education Trevin Wax shares 4 reasons to turn to Christian, rather than public, schools. Transgender teen regrets his "Frankenstein" transition Here's the story of one 19-year-old who regrets what doctors and others encouraged him to do to himself. His is a sad story, but an important one to know about so we can share it with confused friends, family, or neighbors. When your child looks at porn Four thoughts on how to help our children when, not if, it happens. How beauty in art points us to God There is a tension in great art. So will there be art in Heaven once the tension between good and evil has been resolved? How Big Government hurts women (6 minutes) God says He made us male and female, we're made in His Image, and it matters (Gen. 1:27, Deut. 22:5, Eph. 5:22-33). So, of course, our God-hating world says no He didn't, no we aren't, and no it doesn't. But their contrarian stance leaves the world scrambling to explain the equality of the sexes (what do we all equally share, if it's not being made in God's Image?), and to explain away the obvious differences that exist between the genders. The most obvious difference is that only women can carry and sustain a child for nine months and for the weeks that follow. Obvious, too, is that a woman who is away from the office caring for her child is not being as productive for her company as the man who continues to put in his 8-10 hours every day. So how does the world address the glaring holes in their worldview? By papering over them with government policies like mandatory maternity leave which requires an employer to keep a woman's position available for her while she is away recuperating and caring for her new little one. It means a woman won't have to quit her job to have a child, and won't have to start from scratch again when she gets back. But such a policy is premised on the idea that a woman at home is a wrong that must be righted, and that women are only doing productive work when they are working outside of the home, so we have to get them back out there. This policy also pretends that a woman who is away from her job for weeks or months is just as valuable to her employer as the man who never left. None of it is true, and as the video demonstrates, reality-denying policies like government-mandated maternity leave make women more expensive, less desirable employees. A better approach? We need to keep preaching, teaching, and living the truth that male and female are equal, not because we are interchangeable, identical, and called to the same roles, but because we are made in God's image. ...

News

Saturday Selections - November 23, 2019

The power of words One of the greatest challenges of marriage is how you speak to your spouse. Science says Adam and Eve are impossible...or does it? Science is often portrayed as entirely unbiased and indisputable. So when scientists say that mankind's genetic diversity couldn't have come from a single original couple – when they say they've disproven Adam and Eve – many, Christians among them, will treat that as the final word. But this ignores the assumptions that underly scientists' conclusions. Science doesn't make pronouncements; some scientists based on their assumptions make pronouncements that other scientists might well dispute. Recently two Intelligent Design (ID) proponents used their own starting assumptions and discovered – voila! –  that the data can be made to fit easily enough with an original starting couple. Their findings still don't fit with a recent creation – they put the date for this common couple as being half a million to two million years ago – but, of course, ID proponents and creationists also operate from different starting assumptions. Christians have to remember and remind the world that there is a huge difference between unchangeable, unassailable truth, and what some scientists conclude based on their data and starting assumptions. The most politically incorrect Bible passage Alan Shelmon nominates 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 and explains why politically incorrect is also powerfully correct. Greg Koukl lays out his "Inside Out" tactic This 10-minute read is well worth your time, as apologist Greg Koukl demonstrates how we can use truths people already know – God's law written on their hearts (Romans 2:15) – to point them to God. When there are no more volunteers In showing how Christians can, in their volunteer roles, be a light to the surrounding community, John Stonestreet is inadvertently making the case for single-income families – after all, it's hard to volunteer when both mom and dad are busy with their day and maybe night jobs. So is this an attack against families who have to have both mom and dad working full time? No, parents need to provide, and if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. But, the thing is, for many that isn't what it takes and yet we still do it. Why? Part of it might be because the world judges worth by the size of a person's paycheck, or by the status of their career. Thus many women are influenced to then choose to work full time outside the home to prove their worth. Part of it is due to our young men settling, early on, for jobs that might well provide a plush income for a single man, but won't be nearly enough for a family man, which then necessitate double incomes. If we want to be a community of volunteers, part of it will involve being a community in which young men are taught they should start businesses or seek out jobs and careers that will provide for all the financial needs of their family. That often isn't possible. But when it is, it opens up possibilities..like letting our light shine through volunteering. How do transgender activists view sex and gender? (5 minutes) If "man" and "woman" have no set meaning, then how can transgender advocates argue that a man can feel like, and actually be, a woman? ...

News

Did YouTube ban a video because of this one sentence?

A couple of years ago The Daily Signal published a video by Dr. Michelle Cretella on transgenderism. It was titled “I’m a Pediatrician. Here’s What I Did When a Little Boy Patient Said He Was a Girl.” While the video was successfully posted to YouTube, some months ago Daily Signal discovered the video had been removed for violating YouTube policies. In a November 5 article, editor-in-chief Katrina Trinko reported that they discussed the matter with YouTube and learned the tech giant took issue with one specific sentence, labeling it as “hate speech.” In the offending line Dr. Cretella stated: “…if you want to cut off a leg or an arm you’re mentally ill, but if you want to cut off healthy breasts or a penis, you’re transgender…” We’re only hearing from The Daily Signal’s side of the story here, and maybe YouTube has a very different take (I did reach out to YouTube last week but haven’t heard back and don’t know when or whether I should expect to). But if they’re banning videos for factual statements, then all of us using the site need to evaluate how dependent we are on YouTube for keeping us informed. Fortunately, these days there’s more than one way to get a message out – this same video has been viewed on Facebook more than 70 million times....though in July it was briefly dropped by Facebook too....