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News

Saturday Selections - June 30, 2018

A refresher on the Columbo Tactic This past Spring, RP brought Tim Barnett around Canada to teach a couple of very effective apologetic tactics. In this clip his boss, Greg Koukl, gives a short refresher on one of them, the "Columbo Tactic." (4 minutes) Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford on how to bypass Facebook and Google's control of the Internet Facebook and Google are filtering the news you read. But it's not hard to bypass them...though few are bothering. How to share the Gospel with someone "My first question is generally, “Who do you think Jesus is?” This keeps the conversation on the person and work of Christ, which I find hard if we begin with a broader topic. It also gives people an opportunity to pull out of the conversation early, rather than after five minutes when they finally realize you want to chat about Jesus..." The Atlantic reports that some transgender surgeries are regretted Jonathon Van Maren on the controversy that occurred after a secular magazine reporting that some transgender folk have changed their minds about their gender....even after having surgery. Dangerous people are teaching your kids Jordan Peterson on the college/university experience on some secular universities in Canada. (5 minutes) Is heading to college more hazardous than joining the Normandy invasion? New St. Andrews (a Reformed college) President, Dr. Ben Merkle (speaking on the Glenn Beck Radio Program) on the hazards involved in sending our kids off to college.

“We've seen a number of surveys that have demonstrated that of kids who are attending church regularly in their senior year in high school, by the time they finish their freshman year in college three out of four of them will have walked away from their faith and they're no longer involved as Christians….One of the statistics, a visual image that I think helps parents to think about it is, if you were to sign your children up to be in the boats on the Normandy Beach Invasion they would have a better chance of surviving that than surviving spiritually in colleges now. That experience is not something most parents are eager to sign their children up for, but we do it in a pretty unthinking way right now.”

For the longer version, see the 1-hour presentation below.

News

Possible evidence of life on Mars may have been discovered...perhaps. Or not.

When the Mars Rover’s latest findings – organic molecules – were reported in early June it unleashed the latest round of hype about the possibility of life on Mars. Stories on FoxNews.com, and in the New York Times ran the far too hopeful headline “Life on Mars?” but clarified further on in their articles that, no, this wasn’t actually proof. Of the three possible causes for these organic molecules, biology – life – was one of them, but there were two other less hype-worthy possibilities: geology and meteorites. Anyone who reads the newspaper science section regularly knows that life-on-Mars stories pop up repeatedly, with the previous round happening just a year ago. FoxNews.com ran this headline: “If you're hoping humans find evidence of life on Mars, scientists have some very good news.” That story talked about evidence of there being water and oxygen in Mars’ distant past. Water and oxygen are key elements that life might have needed “if it ever existed on Mars.” But this finding was akin to saying since cars need aluminum, if we were to find evidence of aluminum deposits this would be an exciting development in our search for evidence of cars on Mars. Perhaps the biggest “life on Mars” story of them all took place back in 1996 when all the newspapers covered a NASA team’s announcement that the Martian meteorite they were studying seemed to have evidence of microscopic life. It was billed as being possibly the greatest scientific discovery of the century. Except it wasn’t. Ten years later and scientists had found non-biological explanations for all the meteorite’s microscopic features. So why this ongoing hype about life on Mars, despite the less than encouraging findings to date? Because secular science needs to find life elsewhere. There is a problem with the evolutionary account, one that even evolutionists acknowledge – life’s origins. Selection and mutation need something to be already living – and self-replicating – before they can operate. In other words, evolution can’t begin until after life has begun. So how, then, did that first simple life form come to be? Just consider, even with thousands of brilliant minds, and billions of dollars worth of the most amazing tools and machinery, and we still can’t create life on purpose. How very far we are then, from explaining how it could happen by accident. But if we could find evidence of life on Mars, well wouldn’t that show life can just…happen? Finding life on Mars would make things a little less awkward for evolutionists. Thus the search continues....

News

New euthanasia code illustrates Dutch slippery slope

Doctors in the Netherlands are getting mail. Every single general practitioner in the country – some 14,000 – will receive their own copy of the new national code of practice for euthanasia. An updated edition of the code was published in May by the Dutch committee that oversees euthanasia. The committee reviews each reported instance of euthanasia to ensure the doctor followed the law. This new code of practice is supposed to help doctors understand how they will be evaluated. However, the new code also illustrates how quickly the Netherlands has gone down a slippery slope The Dutch government’s Minister for Public Health, Hugo de Jonge, inadvertently hit the nail on the head when he told a Dutch newspaper, “The new code of practice has to offer guidance because for many doctor it feels unnatural to administer euthanasia.” The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002. The law was written to permit euthanasia for patients with “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement.” Thus, it was not strictly limited to patients with a terminal illness. At the time, critics pointed out that this wording was highly problematic and would eventually lead to euthanasia for people who are still years or even decades away from their natural death. How right these critics were. The new code of practice devotes considerable attention to euthanasia for patients with an "accumulation of old age complaints.” These complaints are described as things like “sight problems, hearing problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, balance problems, cognitive decline.” In other words, these are the degenerative conditions that are a normal part of getting older. The patient does not need to have a terminal illness. In fact, there is not even a minimum age requirement. The only consideration is that the patient has unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement. And the code of practice readily admits this can be subjective. “The unbearability of the suffering is sometimes difficult to determine because the experience of suffering is deeply personal. “ Doctors are instructed to look at “the medical history, biography, personality, values, and pain threshold of the patient.” From there, a doctor should place himself “not only in the situation but also in the perspective of the patient.” The code of practice also talks at length about euthanasia for patients with advanced dementia, even though this practice is highly controversial and many doctors refuse to participate. In January, ethicist Berna van Baarsen resigned from the oversight committee because, as she told a Dutch newspaper, she considers it to be “indefensible.” The new code of practice also discusses euthanasia for psychiatric patients. They are eligible if their suffering meets the criteria of “unbearable with no prospect for improvement” – even if they’re still very young. In January, psychiatric patient Aurelia Brouwers was euthanatized. She was 29-years-old and had no terminal illness. The code of practice says doctors must consider carefully whether there are further treatment options for the psychiatric patient, but it also says the patient is not obligated to try every option. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the oversight committee, told a Dutch newspaper, “You can always argue that there’s another treatment to try. But the question is – given strength of the patient and the odds of seeing improvement – whether it is worth it.” Euthanasia for psychiatric patients has grown at an astonishing rate. In 2011, there were only 13 reported instances. In 2017, that number had shot up to 83. Euthanasia in general has increased enormously in the Netherlands. In 2010, there were 3,316 reported instances. In 2017 there were 6,585. Thus, death by euthanasia has doubled in less than a decade. The chairman of the Dutch Royal Medical Association recently asked the Dutch Ministry of Public Health to communicate to patients that euthanasia not a “right” and that doctors are never obligated to administer it. Even if this is successfully communicated, rates of euthanasia are unlikely to decrease any time soon. As the new code of practice illustrates, the threshold for euthanasia in the Netherlands keeps getting lowered....

News

Saturday Selections – June 2

Why do churches need good organs and good organists? An interesting perspective on organs from someone outside Dutch Reformed circles. Antony van Leewenhoek: a Dutchman who opened up the microscopic world Though a layman, with no formal scientific education, Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) devised microscopes more powerful than any others of his time, allowing him to be the first to see bacteria. He also helped show that life only comes from life – his work rebutted the idea of "spontaneous generation." New Christian news aggregate site Adam Ford, best known as the founder of the Babylon Bee, has sold his Christian satirical news site so he can focus on his daily news aggregate site. Who needs God when you have government? A government big enough to provide everything we need is a government trying to replace God. Untangling assisted reproductive technology As Breakpoint.org's John Stonestreet explains, with more and more couples turning to IVF, Christians need to know where we stand on this issue: "silence on assisted reproductive technologies is no longer an option." Does God love everyone? R.C. Sproul gives a careful and clear answer below, which is a mix of "sort of" and "definitely not." ...

News

Australian rugby player won’t back down

Editor's note: After this article was posted, it was suggested that Israel Folau might be a Trinity-denying (and thus, heretical) Oneness Pentecostal, and he did make a Jan 18 tweet that does sound like that is what he believes. But he is reported as attending the Trinitarian denomination, the Assemblies of God. So, that makes it a little less clear what he believes. We will let you know should we get clarification. **** In Australia there are four main “football codes” (i.e. sports that fall under the general heading of “football”): Australian rules football, soccer, rugby league and rugby union. Recently, one of these, rugby union, had a major problem on their hands. A player had responded to a question he had been asked online, and his response was causing outrage both on and offline. Through it all, the player, a young deeply Christian man called Israel Folau, stood tall. Lets consider what he did, and try to summarize his response using some of his own words as you can find them in his April 16 article, “I’m a sinner too.” So what happened? Twenty-eight-year-old Folau currently plays rugby union for the Waratahs club in the Super Rugby competition that has teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He also plays for his country, the Australian team known as the Wallabies. This very talented sportsman has played professionally in three of the four football codes, having previously played rugby league and Australian rules football. Earlier this year he was ranked in the top ten rugby union players in the world. (Speaking of rankings, 105 countries play rugby union. New Zealand is ranked number 1 in the world and by quite a margin. Australia is currently ranked fourth, the USA fifteenth and Canada twenty-first.) Folau had injured his hamstring quite badly in a recent game and was likely going to be sidelined for some time. Folau wrote: “…that afternoon I put up the following Instagram post, referring to James 1: 2-4: ‘Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, because the testing of your faith produces endurance … so that you may be lacking in nothing.’” He continued: “In the comments section of that post, I was asked a question by somebody about what God’s plan is for gay people. My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10…’Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’” This response created a furore, and not only in the media. Some key Wallabies sponsors, such as Qantas Airways and Asics sportswear, threatened to withdraw their financial support. Many fellow players also condemned him for his position, and there was a strong implication that he shouldn’t be allowed to hold his view, at least not publicly. Sports commentators were very strident in their condemnation of Folau and called for him to be sacked or resign. Rugby union governing body, Rugby Australia, tried to diffuse the situation and issued a statement that Folau had been spoken to, and that he would tone down his message. Folau denied ever agreeing to this, and reaffirmed his opposition to same sex marriage, and same sex relationships. This is what the world has come to: a man stands up for God and for his faith, and he is railed down. You might expect that he would back down. Not Folau. In a meeting with the code’s hierarchy he told them that if they “…felt the situation had become untenable – that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through – I would walk away from my contract, immediately…I would sooner lose everything – friends, family, possessions, my football career, the lot – and still stand with Jesus, than have all of those things and not stand beside Him.” Folau is not without support and supporters. In fact, his stance has gained the attention of many international teams who would be willing to pay considerably more than he is currently receives. It is a shame that so many of our politicians don’t have the same backbone and willingness to openly live and declare their worldview. Bill Shorten, the leader of the main opposition party, the Labor Party, is one among quite a number of Australian politicians who claim to be Christian, but from whom we see no actions or words to back it up. If only they dared to be a Daniel, or that they took a lesson from Israel Folau, then perhaps integrity may return to the corridors of government. Now we might question why Folau chooses to play professional sport, which includes much time away from Sunday worship. We could assume that we might disagree with him on other things as well. But would any of us be so open, so courageous and steadfast when the pressure is put on? Folau started his column with a confession, “I have sinned many times in my life. I take responsibility for those sins and ask for forgiveness through repentance daily.” Quite the start! Then he continues: “But I would like to explain to you what I believe in, how I arrived at these beliefs and why I will not compromise my faith in Jesus Christ, which is the cornerstone of every single thing in my life. I read the Bible every day. It gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find in any other area of my life. It gives me direction. It answers my questions.” Like us, Folau believes the Bible to be the truth, and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear. “If you see someone who is about to walk into a hole,” says Folau, “and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course, and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do? In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people. There are many sins outlined in that passage from 1 Corinthians and I have been guilty of committing some of them myself. No man or woman is different from another – if you sin, which we all do, and do not repent and seek forgiveness, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Folau clearly holds some very traditional Christian beliefs about sin, heaven and hell, and homosexuality. In a supposedly free country, surely Folau should be able to express his genuinely held religious beliefs, especially when asked to do so? It is clear that it is getting more and more difficult for a Christian voice to be heard. Sadly, this episode joins so many from around the world that indicate we are steadily losing our rights to freedom of speech, conscience, and religious belief. As Folau noted, freedom of speech means that sometimes people will say things that others find disagreeable. So we should, firstly, stop trying to silence those who offend us. We cannot argue for these freedoms if we don’t allow them ourselves. We are heading into a new world, a new kind of tyranny, where contra opinion is muzzled, and dissent is howled down and crushed into submission. This is what we need to highlight, to raise our voice of concern on the silencing of opinion and freedoms. Secondly though, it is one thing to fight for these freedoms, it is a bigger challenge to honestly and openly use them and express God’s truths, our worldview, just as Folau has done, and continues to do. Are we, and would we be, willing to do the same? Would we be willing to actually exercise our diminishing freedoms? Would we be willing, for example, to stand up and openly call out homosexuality as a sin? We can hope and pray that Folau’s message has struck a cord in some ears that should be listening. A version of this article first appeared in the May 19 edition of Una Sancta. Photo is adapted from one by David Molloy and used via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license....

Music, News

U2 shows us how love can hurt

It’s been quite a week for U2. In the space of just four days, the Irish rock band took public stands in favor of homosexuality, transsexuality, and abortion. On May 1st the group tweeted their support for legalizing abortion in their native land. They told their 1.5 million Twitter followers that they wanted to “Repeal the 8th” which is the amendment to the Irish constitution that protects the unborn. Three days later they released the video to their song Love is bigger than anything in its way. More than three dozen people are shown, all in brief clips, and what’s most noticeable is the fashion choices made, particularly among the gentlemen. One man is wearing a bra, another a corset with thigh high boots. Many of these men have lipstick, pink shirts, pink pants, or a pink backpack. Among the women are some who look to be men dressed as women. Lest anyone think this all just a case of unique fashion choices, the video also includes shots of lesbian and gay couples kissing. We wouldn’t expect different from most any other rock band, but this is U2. The group has never publicly identified itself as Christian, but their songs contain dozens and dozens of biblical references, including 40, which is based on Psalm 40 and Psalm 6. And the lead singer, Bono, has professed to be a Christian, publicly talking about his family’s prayers, and noting that they regularly read Scripture. In an interview with music journalist Michka Assayas he gave a decent explanation of the atonement: “The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled. It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.” So it was to the surprise and disappointment of Christian fans that the band is ignoring God’s prohibitions against murder and homosexuality and is encouraging their fan-base to do likewise. Bono has often spoken of God as being love. Now it seems, he thinks love is God. What’s the difference? When we understand that God is love, then we are willing and even eager to submit to His wisdom and direction. Then we know that it isn’t loving to encourage behaviors He forbids. We understand that His restrictions protect us, in much the same way that a loving parent’s rules protect their children. Why does God forbid homosexuality (and abortion too)? Because as our Maker and our Father He knows this isn't good for us. But for Bono and his band, “love is bigger than anything in its way.” Are God’s commandments standing in the way of you and the same-sex partner you crave? Well, U2 wants you to know that love is bigger than God. But pursuing love while running from God isn’t going to bring anyone happiness. Oh, sure, rebellion can make us happy for a time. So can drugs, sex, and fame. But it doesn’t take long for the meaninglessness to become evident. In a strange turn, this brokenness is even evident in the video for U2’s latest song. More than three dozen lesbians, homosexuals, and transgender men and women dancing, hugging, and kissing. U2 is trying to tell us that this is love worth celebrating… so why does everyone look so miserable? Yes Bono, God is love. But love as a replacement for God? That’s going to be misery....

News

Saturday Selections - April 28, 2018

Rosaria Butterfield on hospitality On how hospitality is both easier and more radical than we know. And far more important too! Why I am a creationist Kenneth Gentry weighs in with a thorough response to the Framework Hypothesis, while, near the bottom of this page nine PhDs explain why they believe in a 6-day creation too. What Christians should know about embryo adoption Hundreds of thousands of children are waiting to be born. Here's what God's people can do to help these helpless children. Advice to guys who want to date my daughters "Do not tell her you 'like' her and put the ball in her court. Take some responsibility....Make a formal, in-person invitation. Since this is a 'date,' ask the girl to go out with you. Call her if you have to, but take the highest form of communication. Don’t be a coward and text it. Don’t post it on Facebook. Ask cheerfully. Ask privately. Ask clearly. And by the way, don’t just ask her to 'hang out.' What’s that?" What are the biblical warnings about government? "The debate about the size and role of government has huge implications for the lives of individuals all over the world. Important as the issue is, Christians are divided about what scripture has to say about government. What are some considerations that can help us frame this debate and work towards a conclusion? The Bible sets out four principles that can provide a foundation for the discussion." The deadly gospel of nice "...nice isn’t the same thing as love. True love is concerned with the good of the beloved, and can never be divorced from the truth of how God created us and intends us to live. When we ignore that truth, we can “nice” people to death."...

News

South Korean babies: going, going….

Last year South Korea had the lowest number of babies born since their statistics agency started tracking this back in 1970. The decline has been enormous: in 1970, just over one million children were born, while in 2017, the number had dropped to a third of that, at just 357,000. Back in 1970 women were, on average, having about 4.5 children each. Last year that number dropped to 1.05, or half the 2.1 number needed to keep the population stable. South Korea is facing a demographic crisis – as The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson reported, Statistics Korea says that by 2060 the population will have declined as much as a third, from the 51 million it has today, to somewhere between 34-44 million. Why has the South Korean baby become such a rarity? The same reason babies are becoming a rarity all over the developed world: having children is seen as a hindrance to personal fulfillment and career advancement. So, for example, the South Korean government’s Family Minister Chung Hyun-Back – the official tasked with addressing her country’s population crisis – is herself a childless 64-year-old woman who chose to remain single so she could pursue her career goals. She sees the problem as being one of discrimination and excessive work demands. Women who take maternity leave are often pressured to resign, rather than return, because companies find it problematic to accommodate their time away. And, when women have children and a career the statistics show that their husbands are not carrying the same load at home as they are. Thus women feel pressured to choose either a career or children. And more and more are choosing careers. Chung’s solution is to increase the accommodations companies make for mothers, and to push for more help at home from husbands and fathers. She doesn’t want women making a different choice – to choose children as a more important priority than career – but wants them to be able to do both. But is this realistic? In the real world we have only so many hours in the day. We recognize this limitation means that if the CEO of Apple also wanted to be the CEO of Microsoft – if he knew he had the talents and interest needed – time simply wouldn’t permit him to hold two full-time careers at once. So why do many think that time allows for both a committed career outside the home, and committed parenting inside it? It's only because the world has so belittled the importance of parenting that we've come to believe it can be done on a part-time basis, or handed off to daycare workers and schoolteachers. But deep down, even the world knows a choice is involved, because justice simply can’t be done to both roles. If both mom and dad are at the office or on their way to and from it for 9-10 hours a day, who’s caring for little Timmy after school? And when mom and dad get home, which parent is going to have the energy to listen patiently, correct lovingly, and seize teaching opportunities enthusiastically in those short hours that remain before the children head to bed? Maybe some do have that energy reserve, but for most of us this is why doing both isn't an option – not if we understand how important the parenting role is. That means that if South Korea and the West want to address their coming demographic crisis, then they need to stop pushing the impossibility of both. Instead the world needs to elevate the role of parenting, honoring it as a task worthy of our energies, our intellect, and our passion. It is challenge to take on that demands much but offers its rewards too. Christians also need to remember that raising children is no part-time gig, and no trivial pursuit. God has given parents the task of being our child’s primary educator, their disciplinarian, and their example of godly living. Raising them up in the ways of the Lord is quite the challenge but also quite the opportunity. Finances don’t always allow for one parent to stay at home. Divorce and death sometimes take one parent away. And when our kids head to school, then there might be time for parents to take on additional roles. But if we recognize parenting as the God-given calling it is, then we’ll understand that having a parent readily available to meet our children’s needs is an ideal worth pursuing....

News

Saturday Selections – March 31, 2018

Materially blessed like no other generation "...if the media truly reported the important changes in the world, “they could have run the headline NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN EXTREME POVERTY FELL BY 137,000 SINCE YESTERDAY every day for the last twenty-five years.” Who spends less time outdoors than inmates? A three-minute film about how many of today's children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Three tips for responding to criticism Tim Challies offers tips that we could all use. The difference between Calvinists and Arminians John Piper argues that the difference comes down to the Calvinist capacity for mystery. Do we accept what the Bible puts forward as truth — even when we can’t fully comprehend it — or do we try to fit everything into our own philosophical boxes in order to avoid mystery? On our culture's never ending guilt What if our culture had just enough light to know it is guilty, but it also rejected God with such ferocity that it had no glimmerings that forgiveness is even possible? Christian satire site plays it straight Sometimes satire is as simple as stating our opponent's position out loud....

News

New Gerber “spokesbaby” has Down syndrome

Since 2010, Gerber, the baby food company, had conducted an annual photo contest to find real-life Gerber babies – the winner is then their “spokesbaby” for the next year. One hundred and forty thousand families entered the contest this year, and the winner was one-year-old Lucas Warren, the first child with Down syndrome to be named a “Gerber Baby.” “Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s long-standing heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby,” Bill Partyka, chief executive and president of Gerber, said. The Warrens won a $50,000 prize, and with Lucas’s new title as the Gerber baby, he will be featured on Gerber’s social media channels throughout the year. He is the eighth winner of the Gerber Baby Photo Search. We can be thankful that Gerber is celebrating Lucas, but we should also understand why it is that the world is valuing him. Lucas’s smile won him the iconic contest; he was picked because he is cute. But around the world Down syndrome children are not being valued – these babies are being aborted, to the extent that in Iceland and Denmark there are almost no Down syndrome children. That’s because many think people with disabilities don’t amount to anything because they have more limited abilities in specific areas. But our value should not be about our abilities and what we can do; Lucas is valuable even when he’s not smiling! And that’s because his value – everyone’s value – comes from being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27)....

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

Euthanasia in the Netherlands: So bad even some supporters are now opposed

The Netherlands is a pioneer in the field of euthanasia. In 2002, it was the first country in the world to legalize physician-assisted suicide, and today it is becoming a case study in the slippery slope that quickly follows. The quick slide down has prompted even some prominent euthanasia supporters to ask, “Where does this end?” One such supporter is ethicist Berna van Baarsen. For the last ten years, she served on one of the euthanasia-oversight committees established by the 2002 law. The committees are supposed to review each reported instance of euthanasia to ensure the doctor followed all the legal requirements. As a member of one of these committees, van Baarsen obviously supports euthanasia. However, she resigned in January because she objects to the way euthanasia is now increasingly being administered to patients with advanced dementia. “That’s my boundary, based on ten years of reflection and reading dossiers,” she said in an interview with the journal Medisch Contact. She is using her resignation to make a public statement…and perhaps to ease her conscience. Under Dutch law, a patient must have unbearable suffering to become eligible for euthanasia. They must also make a request to die that their doctor believes is voluntary and carefully considered. A Dutch person can draft a written declaration stating they wish to be euthanized when they develop advanced dementia and, thus, are no longer able to make an oral request. To date, such written declarations have only resulted in a handful of deaths, but the numbers are likely to rise in coming years. The Dutch Right to Die Society (NVVE) claims that one in twenty Dutch people has a written declaration requesting euthanasia, usually for the case of advanced dementia. It is these written declarations that are giving van Baarsen her moral qualms. “In this phase {i.e., advanced dementia}, it is impossible to determine if the patient is suffering unbearably because they are no longer able to express this,” she told Dutch newspaper Trouw. Van Baarsen is not alone. Last year, 220 doctors published an open letter in a major Dutch newspaper to express their unwillingness to euthanize patients with advanced dementia. “Giving a deadly injection to a patient with advanced dementia on the basis of their written declaration? To someone who cannot confirm that they wish to die? No, we’re not going to do that. Our moral abhorrence at ending the life of a defenseless person is too great.” Patients with advanced dementia typically are not aware that they are being killed. A doctor begins by secretly administering a sedative, usually via the patient’s food. A 2016 case that attracted considerable controversy involved a woman with Alzheimer’s who woke up from the sedative and began struggling. She was restrained by family members so the doctor could administer the fatal injection. Sadly, van Baarsen’s proposed solution is for dementia patients who truly wish to die to orally request euthanasia while they are still able to do so – her solution would have patients killed even sooner. She does not understand that legalized euthanasia in the Netherlands has undermined the valuing of human life. A few tweaks to existing law will never solve the much bigger problem....

News

Billy Graham (1918-2018): The last of the Great Revivalists

Without a doubt, Billy Graham has had a huge role in shaping American Christianity. His death on February 21, 2018 signals the passing of an era. American revivalism was a movement of spiritual wakening that began in the 1700s with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. It carried on with celebrity preachers like Billy Sunday and Dwight Moody – but it really reached both its climax and end with Billy Graham. Reformed roots, but Arminian  He was born and raised in a Christian home. His parents were members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. His wife Ruth was also a Presbyterian. He dates his conversion to 1934, when he was sixteen years old. Billy Graham says his conversion happened during an evangelistic campaign. Before he became a full-time evangelist, he served as a pastor of two churches and was also the president of a Bible College. By this time, he was a member of the Southern Baptist Church. Many Southern Baptists are monergistic in their doctrine of salvation (believing that salvation not a cooperative act between the Lord and Man, but rather the work of God alone) but sadly, Billy Graham was not. Let’s be up front with this fact: Billy Graham was an Arminian. The “Statement of Faith” of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association signals this clearly when it says: “…repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ results in regeneration by the Holy Spirit.” Rather than regeneration resulting in faith (the biblical view found in Reformed theology), the BGEA says faith results in regeneration. First you believe (using your free will) and then you are born again. Regeneration follows faith, rather than preceding it. That’s Arminianism and it was also evident in Graham’s 1977 book, How to be Born Again. Ever since that book was published, Reformed critics have pointed out that you can’t lay out steps for people to follow to be born again – regeneration is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit who works this, as the Canons of Dort say, “in us without us” (CoD 3-4.12). Telling someone how to be born again is just as absurd as telling a baby in the womb how to be born. Preached to millions Graham began doing evangelistic work in about 1944. The first few years were spent in obscurity in the United States and England. But this changed dramatically in 1949. It happened in Los Angeles where Graham was doing a series of revival meetings. William Randolph Hearst was the head of an American newspaper chain. Somehow word about Graham reached him. He liked what he heard. Graham was patriotic and young people were attracted to him. Hearst was also an American patriot, and because this was the time of the Cold War, he was deeply concerned about the communist threat from the Soviet Union. He saw Graham as a figure who would encourage and support American values. Graham could be helpful in shielding America from the Soviet Union’s plans to dominate the world. Hearst sent a two-word telegram to all his newspapers to “puff Graham.” And they did. Newspapers all over the United States were covering Graham’s crusade in Los Angeles. He soon appeared on the cover of leading American news magazines. His crusade in Los Angeles was planned for three weeks, but because of the news coverage, Graham extended it to eight. And this is where the story of Billy Graham’s celebrity status begins. In 1950, he started the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The Association started organizing crusades around the world. It also started a radio broadcast called “The Hour of Decision,” and eventually that led to his appearance on television as well. When I was a boy, I can remember watching the Billy Graham crusades on television sometimes. I grew up in a church of Dutch immigrants and I wasn’t used to hearing a preacher without a Dutch accent. He preached clearly. He often had a Bible in his hand, and he seemed to be preaching about what the Bible says. Billy Graham was a skilled communicator. He was simply a preacher, a man who preached with sincerity and seriousness. Over the years, Graham did over 400 crusades in 185 countries. His largest event ever was in Seoul, South Korea in 1986 where one million people attended a single crusade evening. His last crusade was in 2005. Through television and radio, he has preached to millions of people. Consider this fact: more people have heard Billy Graham preach than any other single preacher in the history of the world. That’s amazing. Minimized key doctrinal differences So what were some of the features of Billy Graham’s revival ministry? He preached for individual decisions for Christ. Following in the footsteps of revivalists before him, public relations campaigns were crucial. So was getting the sponsorship of local churches. Graham also made efforts to involve churches by having them send volunteers for his crusades. They would work as counsellors and in other capacities. Local churches would also be involved with follow-up. Billy Graham wanted to make sure that the people who made decisions would be contacted by local churches soon afterwards. Graham even said this was the most important aspect of his work. This became controversial in the late 1950s because of who he was working with. He worked with evangelical churches, but he also worked with the large mainline churches that were friendly to liberal theology. Converts from his crusades would be directed to become members of these liberal gospel-denying churches. That caused many fundamentalist Christians to become angry with Graham. Eventually Billy Graham even came to cooperate with Roman Catholic Churches. If someone would come to a crusade and make a decision and identify as a Roman Catholic, then they would be directed back to the Roman Catholic Church for spiritual care. Billy Graham was surprisingly open to Roman Catholicism. At one point he said, “I have no quarrel with the Catholic Church.” In another place, he said, “I feel I belong to all the churches. I am equally at home in an Anglican or Baptist or a Brethren assembly or a Roman Catholic Church.” He was invited to worship alongside Pope John Paul II at a service in South Carolina in 1987, and he would have if not for an unexpected invitation to China. Doctrinal differences were minimized and became irrelevant. Carrying on the tradition of previous revivalists like Dwight Moody, another important feature of the Billy Graham crusades was the music. Especially at the “moment of decision,” it was important to have the right music played and sung by skilled musicians. Billy Graham had a long-standing relationship with George Beverly Shea. Shea began working with Graham in 1947. Shea would sing a solo before Graham gave his message. That was to prepare the crowd to receive his words. After the message, however, Shea turned the singing over to the choir. They would sing the well-known hymn “Just As I Am” and people would be invited to come forward and make their decision. The music set the mood. The end of an era Billy Graham retired from active ministry in 2006. Since then, there hasn’t really been anyone to replace him in American revivalistic evangelism. His son Franklin has done some crusades, but he’s not as popular as his father was. The phenomenon of revivalism appears to have run its course. Revivals as big events with preaching and music can hardly compete with television, movies, and the Internet. With Graham’s death, the era of American revivalism definitely seems to have drawn to a close. End note All of this is from Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided, 68-69. This post is reprinted with permission from Dr. Bredenhof's blog, Yinkahdinay. The picture is from Shutterstock.com. __________________________ Quotes by and on Graham Fighting segregation “Millions of people were intensely charged over segregation, and any preacher defying the color line in the South in the 1950s was exposing himself to physical harm and even death….The story is told… of how at one of his early 1950s crusades, Graham asked the head usher to take down the ropes used to segregate blacks from whites. The usher refused. So Graham walked down off the platform and took down the ropes himself. I don’t care what you say, that’s courage right there.” - Dr. Joel McDurmon On staying free of scandal "We all knew of evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. We determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young pastor Timothy would be ours as well: “Flee … youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 1:22, KJV)." - Billy Graham on what would come to be known as the “Billy Graham rule” that he and his ministry team crafted back in 1948 in Modesto, California. On death "Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God." - Billy Graham, adapting a quote from D.L. Moody...

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