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News

Leaving Frozen out in the cold?

For show biz, as elsewhere, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Hollywood stands to benefit from whatever controversy it can generate. Disney is one company learning this lesson well. Before Disney released Finding Dory in 2016, it was rumored there would be a small cinematic homage to same-sex relationships. The rumor created buzz around the film. After the film came out, discussion continued over whether or not a two-second shot involving two women and a baby carriage counted as Disney’s first foray into the new world order. In 2017, more rumors emerged over Disney’s next Star Wars installment. Some believed The Last Jedi would include a homosexual romance. Christians and other social conservatives bemoaned this possibility but, in the end, all for nothing. Disney created a conversation, but didn’t deliver on this one. When Frozen hit screens back in 2013, some wondered whether the main character Elsa was an in-the-closet lesbian. The discussion certainly didn’t hurt the movie’s bottom line – it grossed more than any other animated film in history, well over $1 billion US. Disney is planning the release of a sequel in 2019 and already there’s speculation over whether Elsa will come out of the closet and have an openly homosexual relationship. There are online campaigns for and against but, as usual, Disney is playing its cards close to the chest. See the pattern? It should make Christians cynical and distrusting of Disney and other Hollywood giants. They manipulate our concerns to create more hype – and make more money. Even if Frozen 2 doesn’t have a lesbian Elsa, they made you (and me!) talk about it. They got us aware and interested and that’s going to translate into dollars at the box office. The bottom line is the bottom line. Disney is not a business dedicated to upholding biblical marriage and family values – they’re pragmatic movie barons out for your money. Could it be time to vote not only with our feet, but also with our mouths and keyboards, and leave Frozen and Disney out in the cold?

Dr. Wes Bredenhof is the pastor of Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania, and blogs at Yinkahdinay.

News

26-year-old woman gives birth to 25-year-old girl

We start counting our age from the day of our birth, but if we think on that for a moment we realize that’s not, technically, accurate. Life begins at conception, not birth, so most of us are nine months older than we’ve been owning up to. But in the case of little Emma Gibson, the difference between conception and birth wasn't nine months, it was just over 24 years. When she was born this past November, she was already 25 years old because Emma had been conceived, via in vitro fertilization (IVF), back in 1992. And at that time her adoptive mother, Tina Gibson, was just 18 months old. Since 1992 Emma had been left in frozen storage. As WORLD magazine’s Jamie Dean reported, Emma isn’t the only child that’s been left waiting. At least 600,000 embryos sit frozen in storage facilities across the United States, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some reproductive experts believe the number is closer to 1 million. Canadian estimates are hard to come by, but a 2014 CBC article put the number at 60,000. To the world, these hundreds of thousands of embryos are a legal headache. While they don’t acknowledge them as human, they do seem to recognize there is something special about them, which is why so many of these children are not being destroyed but being indefinitely stored, without plans as for what to do with them. Emma’s rescue underscores the opportunity Christian couples have to save embryonic children via what’s called “snowflake adoption" – a frozen embryo can be thawed, and if it survives that thawing, can then be implanted in its adopted mother’s womb and, hopefully, carried to term. But even as Christians are involved in rescuing children from this frozen state, what should we think about IVF for our own infertility treatments? When couples struggle with infertility, IVF is presented as a near miraculous means to help them get the baby they’ve been yearning for. IVF is all about babies, and we’re pro-life, so we’re all about babies too! On the face of it, IVF would seem a life-affirming medical procedure. But there is a reason hundreds of thousands of children are left frozen, waiting to be born. IVF, as it is commonly done, involves the intentional creation of “excess” embryos – the creation of more children than will be implanted in their mother’s womb. That’s not how it has to be done, but that’s how it is done most of the time for reasons of cost effectiveness. These embryos then face one of four fates: Any that seem abnormal are, as a rule, “discarded” – British numbers indicate that this happens to roughly half the children. Some are implanted in the mother. A small number are donated to science for experimentation (where they are killed). The rest are left in a frozen state, waiting to be born. But unless something dramatic happens – unless “snowflake adoptions" start happening by the hundreds of thousands – the most likely fate for these children is eventual death. Christian couples struggling with infertility need to understand that the IVF industry offers hope, but has a great darkness to it. We don’t think of IVF doctors as abortionists, but when we recognize that life begins at conception then it’s no slur to make the comparison. Abortionists kill half their patients and it seems the same, or worse, can be said about IVF doctors too. So, of course, to rescue babies like Emma, we’ll need help from this IVF industry – there is a right way that IVF can be done. But we mustn’t be naïve about the darkness underlying this industry, lest, in our ignorance, we get caught up in it....

News

Chick-fil-A is always closed on Sunday… except when an ox falls into a pit

The American fast food chain Chick-fil-A is a favorite among Christians for the owners' unwavering stand against Sunday opening. But it turns out this unwavering stance has some jiggle room to it, when needed. In the past they’ve been so firm about their Sunday-closing position that even their outlet in the Atlanta Falcon’s football stadium stays closed for the 7 out of 8 home games the NFL team plays on Sunday. Not that it’s hurt their business - even though they miss these 7 games, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that the Chick-fil-A stand “sold the third most items of any stand in the stadium.” But, as consistent as their closed-on-Sunday position has been, they’re not Pharisaical about it – they recognize there can be a need for exceptions. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and, when the Pharisees confronted him about it, he put them in their place asking, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” For Chick-fil-A, an exception occurred this past December when the Atlanta International Airport was hit with a complete blackout. This is one of the world’s busiest airports, and the blackout resulted in hundreds of cancelled flights and countless stranded passengers. While Atlanta's municipal government was busy trying to find accommodations for these passengers they tweeted out that the passenger's meals would be handled by someone else: “@Chick-fil-A will provide food for passengers.” So a store that’s always closed on Sunday was happy to open their doors on this particular day of rest because thousands of people needed their help. Not only is this a wonderful observance of the 4th commandment, it is Matthew 5:16 lived out as well: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."...

News

Chip and Joanna Gaines and global warming

When Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines announced earlier this month that they were pregnant with child number five, the congratulations rolled in. Thousands of encouraging messages flooded the home-improvement-show hosts’ Twitter and Facebook pages. But over at CBC.ca there was one voice of dissent, notable for the objection she raised. In her article “It shouldn’t be taboo to criticize parents for having too many kids” Kristen Pyszczyk characterized the Gaines’ decision to have baby #5 as “a choice that affects everyone who inhabits our planet.” Yes, she was making the case that, due to the threat of climate change, the Gaines’ newest little one shouldn’t be seen as a blessing: “Procreation is becoming a global public health concern, rather than a personal decision. So when people do irresponsible things like having five children, we absolutely need to be calling them out.” Pyszczyk gets some facts wrong – she claims that “populations are multiplying exponentially” and they simply aren’t. But Christians don’t need to know the latest statistics to see through her argument. We just need to know our Bibles. It’s there we find that procreation isn’t a “public heath concern” and large families aren’t a problem. Children are a blessing, not a curse (Ps. 113:9, Ps. 127:3-5, Deut. 7:13, Gen. 48:4, etc.) But what of the increasing numbers of mouths to feed that Pyszczyk is worried about? Well, her worldview blinds her to the full truth. Yes, children come with their own carbon footprint, and a mouth that needs filling, but they also come with two hands to work, and a brain to dream up innovations. And as Solomon teaches us, we can “sharpen” one another (Prov. 27:17). Why have we seen so many technological leaps this past century? Because we have more minds on the planet than ever before, and that means all the more opportunities for one to sharpen another. We are not just consumers but producers and innovators too. The reason this matters is because Pyszczyk’s short-sighted “children as a concern” narrative isn’t just a minor mistake. This perspective has been a major justification for abortion, which, over the last half century, has killed hundreds of millions. So it’s vital, then, that we teach the world to see children as God sees them. We can do that by congratulating families, like the Gaines, who are blessed with growing families, and we can do so by, when God allows, embracing that blessing ourselves....

News

The Mike Pence rule won’t save us…but can it help us?

In the spring of 2017 the Washington Post got mainstream media pundits chortling, when they revealed that US Vice President Mike Pence had a rule that he wouldn’t dine alone with any woman other than his wife. The media hated this “Mike Pence rule” mocking it as some combination of childish and prudish. It was said to be sexist, suppressing advancement opportunities for women since they wouldn’t be able to get the same alone time with the boss as the boys. A half year later the New Yorker ran an exposé on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, accusing him of sexually harassing or assaulting 13 women. The publication of these accusations prompted dozens of other women to come forward with further accusations. This spawned a “#MeToo movement” with more and more women coming forward, alleging abuse at the hands of powerful men of all sorts, including US senator Al Franken, Today host Matt Lauer, storyteller Garrison Keillor, US senate candidate Roy Moore, actor Dustin Hoffman, and, just this week, the now former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Patrick Brown. And while most of the accused admitted to at least some sort of misconduct, others, like Brown, claim to be completely innocent. So in light of the #MeToo movement, and the enormous abuse of power it exposed among influential men of all sorts, is it time to revisit the Pence rule? Some say no, Christians among them. A month after the Weinstein allegations came out, Katelyn Beaty, an editor at Christianity Today wrote “A Christian case against the Pence Rule” for the New York Times. In it she gave this less than flattering assessment of the rule: “The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, ‘I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.’ If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.” This is quite the condemnation! And yet Beaty granted that the Pence rule – also known as the Billy Graham rule, as he adopted it long before the Vice President – has saved Pence from ever facing the same allegations that were leveled at Roy Moore, Patrick Brown and others. Beaty also grants that the “Bible says a lot about humans’ proclivity to sin.” In fact, she makes a good case for the rule before she then presents her case against: the Pence rule can be frustrating to women who know that alone time with the boss, and “the informal and strategic conversations” that can occur in that setting are “the stuff of workplace advancement.” There’s something to what she says – the Pence rule may make it harder for women to advance in some workplace settings…though a smart boss will be sure to create such opportunities other ways for valued female employees. But even if we grant the rule can cause such hindrances, so long as we live in an imperfect world, we need to acknowledge there are no perfect solutions, only tradeoffs. So then the issue is not, is the Mike Pence rule perfect? It is not. Instead we should ask, does it help more than it hinders, and is it better than the available alternatives? And in answer to that, consider: A large numbers of men have been accused of, and many have then admitted to, victimizing women. The harassment or assault often occurring when they got a woman alone. Other men have been accused of assault or harassment and deny it by women they spent time alone with. One man has a system by which he not only would never commit sexual sin, but could never even be accused of it. That man is mocked as a prude, Pharisee, fool, misogynist, etc. The Pence rule does more than shield women from male predation, so, no, it doesn't presume every man is a "lustful beast." It acknowledges that sexual temptation is real, and the workplace environment involves long hours of time spent together. This rule, then, also helps both men and women avoid workplace temptation. And it serves as an assurance to their spouses. Finally, it helps protect men from false accusations. There are downsides to this rule, but it also has quite the upside. It's important to note that, while there is a biblical basis to the Pence/Graham rule – it acknowledges the fallen nature of men and women and the powerful pull of sexual temptation – we aren’t going to find the rule itself in Scripture. That’s why we mustn’t treat it as something sacred or something every Christian business owner must be implementing. Maybe they have their own ways to combat sexual harassment, minimize temptation, and protect against false accusations. But there is a reason that Mike Pence and Billy Graham have never been tainted by sexual scandal, even as so many others in their positions have – there is wisdom to be found here. That said, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking this rule is going to save us. As Reformed blogger Tim Challies writes: Rules have their place, but they must never be separated from a prayerful determination to put sin to death. Picture is modified from file by Laurel L. Russwurm. It is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license....

News

The Top 5 most overlooked articles of 2017

Next week we're going to share a Top 10 of the most popular article we've published in 2017, but today we're sharing 5 articles that weren't all that popular – none of them got over a thousand reads on our site (though some were reprinted elsewhere) –  but which we sure wish had gotten a wider hearing. These are 5 of the most overlooked articles published in the past year. #5 - Counting our blessings: ways the world is getting better The news by its nature focuses on what's going wrong in the world. So it's understandable that, when we look around us, we can lose sight of the incredible abundance of blessings God has given us. But how can we properly thank God if we're overlooking his gifts? In this article Michael Wagner shares some of the remarkable material ways in which the world is better off than it has ever been. #4 - Four things you can do when someone challenges your faith Author Greg Koukl writes: "Have you ever felt 'the big chill'? It’s the term I use for the cold shiver that runs up your spine when you’re confronted with what seems at first glance to be a persuasive challenge to your Christian convictions, that terrible suspicion that begins to settle in your bones that the challenger has a point. And it seems convincing. And it shakes you. "I have those moments, too, and they’re not fun. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a simple, practical system to deal with the “chill” and I want to pass it on to you. It’s not especially clever or novel – thoughtful people have been using it for ages. But it works well to sort things out and help you get to the truth of the matter." #3 - Mankind is rusting out...and that's a problem for evolution In this one-hour presentation Dr. John Sanford outlines there are two conflicting worldviews at battle in out culture: 1) we as a species are naturally going up 2) we as a species are naturally going down The first is the theory of evolution: Mankind is supposed to the end result of a long process of beneficial mutations that changed us, improved us, from our origins as a single cell, simple organism, to become the incredibly complex creatures that we are today. We as a species are improving. The second is the Biblical worldview. After the Fall into Sin we know that the world was put under a curse. Things started off perfect, but are broken now. We as a species, like all of creation, are breaking down. So which is it? Well, what Dr. Sanford explains is that the supposed driver of evolution – mutations – are hurting, not helping us. While an occasional beneficial mutation can happen, Sanford discovered that the rate at which we are mutating, from one generation to the next, is so rapid that we, as a species, are not long for this world. #2 - The Overton Window shows what speaking the unthinkable can do Understanding the Overton Window is the key to understanding why – practically speaking – it simply makes sense for Christians to speak with boldness in the public square. #1 - Not all humility is humble In this article, later reprinted on Creation.com, Rev. Witteveen details how there is a billion-dollar foundation trying to promote evolution in conservative Christian churches like ours. This is quite the eye-opener....

News

Saturday Selections - Dec 16, 2017

Ten books every teenager should read It isn't important that your son or daughter has read all the books on this list, or even any. What is important is that, as parents, we're encouraging our teens to make it their business to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. And that's where a list like this can help, offering an assortment of awesome books, so that hopefully something here will spark their interest. John Piper's tribute to RC Sproul (1939-2017) There have been any number of tributes this past week, after RC Sproul passed on to be with his Father, and John Piper's may be the best because he gives a number of examples of Sproul's "jolting exposition." Evolution vs. the Bible A ten-minute read on how "Francis Collins and BioLogos seek a different story of our origins than the one told in Genesis" Who's distracted by a girl wearing skintight leggings? Maybe the girl?  This isn't a Christian perspective - it's from Psychology Today - but it is an interesting one on how tight clothing may be a distraction in the classroom...for the girls wearing it. On how the Reformation freed and elevated women This is a fascinating 40-minute presentation from the author of Popes and Feminists. On courtship vs. dating - a conversation between Joshua Harris and Thomas Umstattd Jr. This 17-minute conversation features Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Thomas Umstattd Jr., author of Courtship in Crisis: The Case for Traditional Dating. It is a congenial and helpful discussion by two men who used to represent very different sides of this debate....

News

Science politicized: when democracy doesn't suffice anymore

In the West most citizens take pride in their democratic institutions, pointing to how it’s through democracy that change can be peaceably pursued. Of course, not all change is positive. As Christians we understand that getting the government we deserve – the government that most of us have voted for – is not always a good thing. Why? Quite simply, the majority can be wrong. But that’s an insight available to us because we have an absolute standard – God’s Word – by which we can evaluate the “will of the people.” But for the secular West, which has rejected God and his Word as their ultimate standard, democracy has largely been the replacement standard, and government is said to get its legitimacy from being supported by the largest number of voters. So it is with some interest, then, that we can see the idea that the best governments are democratically selected has come under serious scrutiny from some in the international community of scientists, and a new ultimate standard is being proposed. Scientists vs. democracy? For the last couple of years the influential scientific journal Nature has touched on this topic repeatedly. In editorials and other articles it has been suggested that some voter choices are more legitimate than others. In other words, not all votes are equally valid. The new assertive stance of many scientists became evident during the April 22, 2017 “March for Science,” when tens of thousands of scientists marched in Washington and in at least 600 other cities around the world. A news item in Nature (April 27, 2017) said this event “may have been one of the largest-ever demonstrations in support of scientific research and evidence-based policymaking.” These objectives may sound quite harmless, but the rationale was that the scientific agenda is under threat and needs to be more forcefully promoted in the political arena. These people apparently believe that the recommendations of scientists are not making it into policy choices nearly often enough. Thus an editorial in Nature on May 11, 2017 declared: “…fears are increasing that anti-science forces are on the march. Indeed, on last month’s March for Science, a ‘war on science’ was frequently invoked as a reason for researchers to mobilize.” Obviously the conflict cited is not overt, such as one with guns and other weapons. But it is a power struggle and the scientists want to make sure that they win. So who are the others involved in this conflict? Commentary in Nature labels the other side as “idiots” (December 1, 2016) or “dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals” (January 5, 2017). Those are strong words to describe political adversaries. But this battle is intense. Globalism vs. democracy? The scientific view, at least as it is articulated by activists in Nature, includes a desire for governments to move further towards international, or even global control. This would involve taking it out of the hands of democratically-elected representatives. For example, a trio of advocates declared that countries need to put scientifically-advocated programs and ideals ahead of national priorities (Nature, October 6/16 p. 29) But what does this mean? Consider the case of the province of Ontario. A news item in the Edmonton Journal (November 21/17) reported that electrical power exports from sources with nearly zero carbon emissions (for example solar and wind energy) resulted in a loss to the province of Ontario of between $732 million and $1.25 billion over a period of 21 months. This is happening at a time when consumers in Ontario are suffering from exceptionally high electricity costs. This is an example of placing international priorities for climate control ahead of local interests. The scientific community keeps promoting international agendas in other ways too. For example, a Belgian microbiologist declared in Nature (February 16, 2017): “To prevent further breakdown of the EU, scientists must shout from the rooftops that many of our problems today can be solved only at a European, or even a global, level. We must challenge time and again the current populist view that countries are better off trying to address the most pressing problems on their own.” Similarly, a Dutch sociologist from Utrecht declared that: “Academics also have a moral obligation to protect liberal democracy. By promoting social and political pluralism, the system produces the circumstances under which researchers can do their jobs and science can flourish” (December 15, 2016). The people who favor policies which protect the interests of the voters, are considered to be right wing, according to the scientific press. These people are also much less interested in “racial, gender and sexual identity politics” (Nature December 1, 2016) than are many in science and academia. An editorial in Nature (same date) declares that scientists and academics are rightly worried about allowing political discussion to include conservative and religious viewpoints. The scientists consider that this latter initiative would lead to “unacceptably broadening the limits of acceptable discourse – and freeing and normalizing people’s worst base instincts and a rhetoric of hate.” This editorial admits however that academics are often “tolerant,” but only of their own point of view. Liberal democracy vs. populist democracy? With recent electoral results that are the opposite of what left wing interests had hoped for, some scientists are warning about an increasing tension between populism and liberal democracy. Thus Matthijs Rooduijn, a Dutch sociologist, declared that there are two types of voters: those that support “liberal democracy” and those who support “populism” (Nature, December 15, 2016). Obviously liberal democracy sounds very appealing, but what about populism? This latter term is what many scientists have suddenly adopted as a way to portray in an unfavorable light the opinions they do not like. Thus voters who make political choices that many scientists do not like are described as populists. So what are populists? The implication seems to be that populists represent an ignorant mob (such as in the French revolution.) Alternatively a sympathetic definition in an editorial in the Edmonton Journal (November 10, 2017) stated: “A populist political culture is one that includes a widespread belief in the moral and intellectual capacities of the ‘common people’ and thus a strong reluctance to defer control over decision-making to the state or other elites.” Dutch sociologist Rooduijn elaborated on this point: “populists not only attack political and economic elites; they also target ‘snobby intellectuals’ in academia” (Nature, December 15, 2016). Well, fair enough. The Dutch sociologist nevertheless declares: “Academics also have a moral obligation to protect liberal democracy.” A lead editorial in Nature on April 20, 2017 echoed the above sentiments: “Social scientists rightly see this co-opting of far-right policies by mainstream parties as being as dangerous to liberal democracy as populist far-right parties themselves…” It should be noted that some people succumb to the temptation to label anything with which they disagree as “far-right.” Media and academic elites vs. democracy? It is evident that scientists applaud some voter preferences but suggest that others are to be discouraged. Matthijs Rooduijn rejected the idea that voter preferences (as declared in the ballot box) should in general be translated into government policy. Thus he declares: “Right wing politicians in the crop currently making headlines are populists in that they want the will of the people to be the point of departure for political decision-making. This ‘general will’ should, according to their populist message, be translated as directly as possible into actual political decisions” (Nature, December 15, 2016) But the scientific view is to reject such an approach. There are many reasons such as climate change considerations or human rights that might discourage implementation of voter preferences. Liberal democracy, according to views expressed recently in Nature and other scientific press, apparently promotes whatever the scientific community prefers: pluralism (many cultures all equal), internationalism, human rights that take priority over religious values, and a climate change agenda. Populism apparently represents the opposite. Sensible people, informed people, one hopes will not be discouraged by unflattering terms. Let the voters make their own choices without intimidation from the media and academic elites. Let us all be aware that “Science is only one of many factors and interests that a thoughtful politician needs to weigh when choosing a position on a complex topic” (Nature editorial May 11, 2017). Indeed that editorial ends on a high note, and so will we: “Name-calling and portraying the current political climate as a war between facts and ignorance simply sows division.” Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of No Christian Silence in Science, a book every Christian teen considering a career in Science should read before heading off to university....

News

Canadian couples may have had adoption/fostering nixed because of their Christianity

An Alberta couple filed a lawsuit in November, accusing provincial authorities of discrimination after their application to adopt a child was rejected. The suit claims that Alberta Child and Family Services disqualified the couple based on their personal belief that homosexuality is wrong. According to the filing documents “The casework supervisor explained that our religious beliefs regarding sexuality were incompatible with the adoption process.... The casework supervisor said this stance was the 'official position of the Alberta government.'" The case, is expected to be heard in Fall 2018 This isn’t the first Christian couple to make the news this year after running into trouble with Canadian child welfare authorities. In April, Derek and Frances Baars filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society. The Baars, in their suit, claimed a child support worker demanded the couple tell two girls in their care, aged three and four, that the Easter Bunny was real, despite the couple’s belief that lying is wrong. The children were abruptly removed from their home, even after the Baars attempted to negotiate an acceptable alternative. It is unclear when their case will be decided, but the Baars have insisted that the caseworkers viewed them as poor candidates because of their religious convictions. It’s important to acknowledge, as Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society, did, that there are two sides to every story and in both of these cases we’ve only heard one. That said, when asked if the Easter Bunny was real, Verticchio replied, “It depends who you ask.” Time will tell if these high-profile cases having an impact on the future of adoption and foster parenting in Canada. It’s worth noting that using a faith-based adoption agency may not help head off these kind of confrontations – the Alberta couple went through Catholic Social Services. However, if legal roadblocks do occur, one option may be to contact the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is representing both couples. Their website is www.jccf.ca. As discouraging as these stories can be, Christians must never let them have a chilling effect on their interest in taking in children. There is an acknowledged need for parents willing to adopt and foster, and the secular dogma that committed Christians aren’t up to the task must never be dignified. Rather, Christians should focus their concern on loving children who so often get forgotten in the smoke of social and political correctness....

News

Saturday Selections - Oct 21, 2017

Welcoming vs. affirming In the LGBTQ debate there is a demand that for a church to be welcoming, it must also affirm people's lifestyle. Trevin Wax highlights the problem with that - it's not the church's business to be affirming anyone. "What is the crux of the problem here? It's the expectation that the church would be in the business of affirming anyone at all. The Bible teaches that God's righteousness cuts us all down to size. If a church were to close its doors to sinners, it would be empty. And if a church were to empty itself of only some kinds of sinners, it would soon be full only of self-righteousness. Better then for the church to close its doors entirely." Paul Tripp video offers encouragement for every parent Paul Tripp offers some insightful and encouraging biblical principles for parenting in his new videos series and the first session can be watched for free. This is a great hour-long session to watch with your better half (skip ahead to the 18:30 mark to get right to the talk). Should teens own smartphones? Some giants in the tech industry are questioning whether it's wise. Related, here is a Jewish a cappella group encouraging a shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) rest from more than just work Does Liberal Christianity leads to atheism? Bart Campolo says that his atheistic turn started when he gave up on believing that God is sovereign. After that, it was just a matter of working out things to their "logical" ends. Godly dominion vs. Environmentalism Dr. Calvin Beisner headlined Reformed Perspective's 2017 speaking tour, sharing a message similar to this one. What I want from the news Tim Challies gives a good summary of what we'd all like from the news (which is what RP tries to deliver).  ...

News

Saturday Selections - Sept 30, 2017

This edition has been brought to you by the number 6: six items, six actions, and six surprises.... God painted ants on fruit fly wings Some things are just too cool not to share: God has crafted detailed pictures of ants on the tiny wings of a particular fly. Why? Because it is brilliant! Lots of astonishing pictures here. 6 actions to take when grieving the death of a loved one Thought this is a very short post, it has helpful suggestions summarized from the twice-widowed missionary-wife Elisabeth Elliot. 6 surprises every premarital counselor should cover Even the apostle Paul speaks of marriage as a mystery. To minimize some of the surprises, this is a good article for engage or newly married couples to read together. And it's a good reminder for all couples. More on why euthanasia safeguards can't work From the article: "Safeguards are ineffective to prevent slippery slopes. As British moral philosopher Dame Mary Warnock has put it in another context, 'you cannot successfully block a slippery slope except by a fixed and invariable obstacle.' In governing dying and death that obstacle is the rule that we must not intentionally kill another human being." The only flaw in this article is that the Christian ethic, serving as the foundation to Margaret Somerville's argument, is never acknowledged. So we need to take her point as to the weakness of "safeguards" but then be explicit as to the eternal standards we are appealing to. Or, in other words, don't just tear down the lie, as Somerville does here, but also present the full Truth, as founded on God's Word and his Law. How to avoid poverty Everyone wants to reduce poverty, and in the West, the way to do so is clear. But the in the West, our culture doesn't want to hear it if it involves doing what God wants. Now this article doesn't present it quite that way, but the prescription – finish high school, then get a job, then get married, then have kids – lines up nicely with God's will for marriage, and his commandment Don't commit adultery. Around the world, capitalism has helped raise millions out of poverty, but why? Perhaps because at its ideal (ie., not the crony capitalism type) it also lines up with God's commands not to steal or covet. On social justice I've only had a chance to dip my toe in this free resource, but this video series looks fascinating, and solidly Christian. It addresses questions like: "What is social justice today?" and, "What sort of social justice should Christians pursue?" (This does require you share your email address with them.)...

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Destruction only destroys - the "broken window fallacy"

We are halfway into the 2017 hurricane season and tropical mega-storms in the Atlantic basin have already broken several records. Hurricane Irma has sustained its destructive power longer than any super-storm ever recorded (and our data goes as far back as the 1970s). At the time of writing, the expected damage caused is upwards of $250 billion US. In the midst of this destruction, some are speaking of an economic “silver lining” – that the incoming hurricanes might in fact be good for the economy. For example, William Dudley, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, argues that, “the long-run effect of natural disasters is that it actually lifts economic activity.” The reasoning is that after the initial harmful effect on human and economic resources, the inevitable rebuilding efforts will stimulate local economic activity. It will also increase demand for labor, driving up wages and ultimately making people wealthier. And if we consider the way economic activity is most often measured – via Gross Domestic Product (or GDP) – reconstruction efforts might seem to cause an increase in the economy. Unfortunately, this is not true. Simply put: destruction does not benefit the economy. In the case of Hurricane Irma, the GDP figure will show the value of reconstruction efforts, but not the value of what was destroyed. It is true that the reconstruction of infrastructure and housing spurs on economic activity. However, this argument ignores the opportunity cost – it ignores what could have been done with that money if it didn’t have to be spent on reconstruction. This observation was first made by the French economist Frederic Bastiat. He illustrated the concept that destruction does not benefit the economy through the example of a broken window. Replacing the window may improve the economic position of the repairman, but it means that the owner of the window has lower disposal income to spend on anything else. If the window hadn’t broken he could have had a window and a pair of news shoes. Now he can only afford to replace the window. Similarly, the destruction caused by the hurricane requires the government to spend money on reconstruction and aid, at the expense of what it might otherwise have done with that money. The government has to use resources to rebuild something, as opposed to using the resources to build something new. As Christians, we need to be sensitive to this fallacy in the measurement of economic activity. The task of stewardship of God’s creation is not only about the utilization of the resources within it. It is also about considering the destructive impact we have on creation through our activities. Far too often do we only consider the value that was generated through our activities, but we forget to properly count the cost of our activities, whether it be environmental or socioeconomic. May the Lord be a refuge and strength to those affected by the destructive power of the ongoing natural disasters across the world....

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Canadian colonialism dressed up as aid

Red tomatoes and purple onions pile in front of her. Behind is sugar, bagged by the kilo. Bottles of Fanta and 7-Up stand on a white shelf in this small, road-side kiosk, one of many in sub-Saharan Africa. In the midst of it she stands, a smiling woman in a blue shirt and white head wrap. Her smile adorns the official website of the UN’s Family Planning Summit, which met on July 11 in London, UK, to decide what to do with her. The website reads like a sales pitch: “Family planning is a best-buy in global development.” The Canadian government stood out as a champion of reproductive health at the Summit, part of its Feminist International Assistance Policy. Policymakers, donors and leaders have solved the life problem of the smiling African woman. But have they asked for her opinion? Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Minster of International Trade, told the House of Commons that our national values “includes sexual reproductive rights and the right to safe and accessible abortions. These rights are at the core of our foreign policy.” This statement profoundly concerned the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops, which argued in an open letter that abortion advocacy cannot be the core of Canadian foreign policy when it is “not only legally contentious but completely contrary to the deeply held convictions of many both within and beyond Canada’s borders.” The numbers underscore their concern: $119 million in international aid will go to famine relief and $650 million to abortion and sexual reproduction rights. Fifty percent of the latter is dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa, including countries where abortion is illegal except to save a mother’s life. An African proverb says, “the absent are always wrong.” The same donors who are so eager to end poverty are proving deaf to the voices of those they claim to help. A different view of procreation I have lived in East Africa since the age of three. Congolese mothers often counted their children to me, including those who died as babies. Mama Rebecca, a gentle old woman, cried over her five children, each of whom died tragically and far from her. In Africa, children – all children – are carefully remembered. To speak of Africa is to speak of an immense continent with 54 nations and many unique tribes, each with their own culture. Yet commonalities do exist. Father Bonaventure Turyomumazima of Uganda wrote that generally traditional African cultures are centered in life. Procreation completes marriage. Children are the continuation of a physical line, important both for the living and the dead. It is commonly expected for the entire community to raise the child. That means there are few unwanted children or “orphans.” Elaborate taboos and rituals preserve the lives of mother and child. Faith Kasiva, author of the report "Robbed by Choice," explains, “We live in an African cultural setting where having a child or motherhood is glorified in a way that probably it’s not in other societies.” Telling a woman in such a cultural setting to not have children is almost like telling a Canadian woman to empty all her bank accounts, quit her job and publicly defame herself on all social media, just to avoid poverty. It doesn’t make sense, given the social construct. “Unwanted pregnancies” are not the problem as much as unwanted wars, unwanted famines, unwanted rape, unwanted incest and unwanted displacement. Mama Rebecca didn’t weep because her children ought not to have been born. She wept because they ought not to have died. A strange irony plays out here: the world’s first feminist policy warring against a culture that glorifies mothers! But do Minister Freeland and the Family Planning Summit tell the whole truth? The dark side of depopulation Often, benevolent NGOs hold out family planning with one hand. The other is behind their back, shut tight on hundreds of statistics linking abortion and family breakdown, psychological health, increased poverty, community disintegration and isolation. The contraceptive Norplant is one example of this. Designed to keep a woman infertile for five years, Norplant has suffered tens of thousands of lawsuits in America for its side-effects. Now Norplant is exported to developing countries as “aid.” It’s an old story. Norplant is even harder on the bodies of malnourished women. The consequences are often not fully explained. When faced with unexpected complications, life-long sterility and even death by hemorrhage, these women are without health support. More than that, long-term barrenness can ruin marriages and isolate women from communities. Family planning as the West understands it will not end poverty. Tying aid money to such an agenda prompted Nigerian activist Obianuju Ekeocha to hail Canada as the new “number one colonial master of the world.”  New face, old story Over a hundred years ago during the rubber trade in Belgian Congo, the colonial army raided the village of a woman named Ilanga. As the chained villagers were marched from their burning homes, soldiers forced Ilanga’s baby from her, tossing it aside so she could carry their looted pot. The agony of such men and women being “civilized” bleeds into one of their songs: “We are tired of living under this tyranny/ We cannot endure that our women and children are taken away/ and dealt with by the white savages.” Today, the Canadian Prime Minister can use the force of the dollar to tell millions of women in Africa – “Drop the baby. Carry the pot of civilization. We know what is best. Your child would never have a good life. You may as well kill it now.” At least, this is what is heard on the other end. According to a writer in the Lusaka Times in Zambia, “Abortion is one way of saying ‘do not multiply anymore.’ Our multiplying is disturbing the depopulation plans.. . . These NGOs in Zambia came in the name of ‘helping’ suffering Zambians; on the surface they do good things, but in the background, they start their main program.” Canada is the first donor country to call its foreign policy a feminist one. An “ism” denotes a belief system. Emil Hagamu of Tanzania writes, “In African communities, the death of a child is no small matter . . . . Expanded legalization of abortion is being forced upon us by the traditional colonizing powers of the West.” Ekeocha, founder of Culture for Life, told Catholic News Service that Western funds are used to bribe African politicians to accept abortion, “The polls show overwhelmingly that Africans hate abortion . . . . By ignoring the will of the people, this is spitting in the face of the very type of democracy we are supposed to have in African countries.” ‘Tired of tyranny’ The Democratic Republic of Congo, the giant heart of the African continent, is targeted by Canada to the tune of $97 million. Minister Bibeau told the Globe and Mail that the aid would be “subtle,” working to provide adolescents with extensive sex education and to push abortion in a country where it is illegal. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a deeply troubled nation. Her children already suffer because of greed-based violence. Instead of helping living children, Canada will prevent the birth of more. Maybe that musical country will sing again the old song, “We are tired of living under this tyranny/ We cannot endure that our women and children are taken away/ and dealt with by the white savages.” If Canada does not consider the true situation of the woman in her road-side shop or listen to the bereaved grandmothers, then Canada’s aid is just colonialization in a new outfit. The colonizing powers of Africa-past were confident in their superiority. They were sure their agendas were right. But blood and tears mark those pages. Canada is currently writing a colonization of Africa-present. This too, history will remember. This article was originally published August 28, 2017 in Christian Courier (www.christiancourier.ca). Trudeau picture credit: Shutterstock.com...

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