Saturday Selections - March 13, 2021
This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 1:20, that God's power and divinity are clearly perceivable in the things that God has made. You don't have to understand everything being said here to be awed by what God has done inside our brains.
Bethany's capitulation to cultural pressures is sad. But with 20% of gay couples looking to adopt and only 3% of Christian couples doing so, is one takeaway that the Church must do more for orphans?
In many countries, there has been a systematic and mandatory paralysis of worship, schooling, work, leisure, mobility, and hospitality. And of the churches that are now worshipping in person, attendance is down.
Lots to celebrate in this story of how Christians brought water to every village in Liberia!
God designed and defined marriage, and we know His way is best. So it's no wonder then that "children living with a mother and her boyfriend are eleven times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than children living with their married, biological parents." But as REAL Women explain, the push for legal recognition of polyamory is already happening...
An accusation sometimes leveled against God is that the atonement is an example of "cosmic child abuse" - the Father monstrously taking out his anger on his innocent Son. This excerpt from the excellent documentary American Gospel: Christ Crucified, answers this objection by showing that this isn't simply a child having punishment inflicted on it, but Jesus freely taking this one. And this isn't God inflicting this punishment on someone else, but in Jesus, taking it on Himself.
It's worth noting that this "cosmic child abuse" accusation does have application to Jehovah's Witness theology (and maybe Mormons too?) that sees, not eternal God, but a created being taking on other created beings' punishment.
You can find out how to rent and stream American Gospel: Christ Crucified here.
Saturday Selections - March 6, 2021
Tim Challies on 10 books every Christian should read Challies is a Reformed baptist so it isn't surprising that Reformed baptists Charles Spurgeon, J...
Saturday Selections - February 27, 2021
Actors react to facts about the "wage gap" (3 min) These actors were asked to give a "cold read" – they hadn't previously had a chance to see their...
UK hospital to get more "gender inclusive"
Pop quiz: if you heard that a hospital was offering “gender inclusion” mid-wifery, what would you expect that to involve? The problem here has to ...
Saturday Selections - February 20, 2021
Organ harvesting and more in China (7 min) What China is doing in its various prisons and "re-education" camps is slowly coming out. But why so slowly? Might it be that the evil done is so outrageous as to be almost unbelievable? If so, this video from David Kilgour might be of help – a few years back already, one of Canada's most respected politicians brought his credibility to the charges against China regarding Falun Gong And in the linked article above, the BBC reports on the credible charge of genocide that China is perpetrating on its Muslim Uighurs population. Australian church set to defy gay conversion ban bill "A law before the Victorian parliament seeking to outlaw parental, therapeutic or religious discussions on issues of sexuality and gender is the biggest threat to our democratic freedoms in Australia’s entire legislative history." In response, the Presbyterian Church of Australia is going to "preach the whole counsel of God." Why not cut off more? What's coming after the transgender revolution... Wesley Smith explains that since transgender breast and genital amputations are now being celebrated, the next inevitable step is for delusional people to start lobbying for a right to cut off their limbs. This lobbying is already happening, and after conceding on transgenderism, the world won't be able to marshal a logical argument against this "transablism." But we can. So it is up to us. This is why Christians can't speak someone's "chosen" pronouns, because we can't hurt them by going along with this destructive lie. God made us male and female, and if our minds think we should start cutting off healthy body parts, then it is our mind (and spirit) that needs help, not our body. The Aetherlight: a Christian online video game Our household isn't much for videogames but one game we've been playing – maybe once a month, a few hours at a go, with dad and the kids together – is The Aetherlight. The linked article above shares a lot of helpful specifics, but gives an overall middling grade to the game. I will note, however, that their grade is based on how an experienced gamer would view Aetherlight, and yes, for them it would be quite tame. But for us, with kids 5-9 when we first started playing, that "tameness" is a feature, not a fault. The story is also a Christian allegory though not all that overtly, which might also be a feature. I liked that the bad guys are robots, so there's no ethical problems in beating them up. For my girls, their favorite feature might be the different wardrobe options (all of them modest) that our character can change into. While you can start playing for free, we ended up putting some money down to continue the adventure - I think maybe $15 so far. Not bad for a couple of years' worth of play so far. Christian mom, others, gave up their liberty to protect her daughter A now Christian mom, originally in a lesbian relationship, had to flee the US to keep her child away from the LGBT lifestyle that her former lesbian lover wanted to expose the girl to. More than ten years later, now that her little girl is an adult and free from the threat of court-ordered visitations, her mom has turned herself in to the authorities. Some podcasts be like... (1 minute) https://twitter.com/jogdenUK/status/1346442437376552962?s=20 ...
Culture Clashes, News
The Great Reset: don't let a crisis go to waste
Over the past several months, the phrase The Great Reset has swirled around media headlines and social media. Many Christians are asking, should we support The Great Reset? But a better question would be which Great Reset should we support? We should also consider why any great reset is needed in the first place, and why now might be the time for it. So, why now? So why is there a push for big changes right now? To answer that we can turn to a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, which argues we should: “Never waste a good crisis.” Democratic governments normally change course gradually. Since humans are slow to change their minds and admit that they'd been wrong, the political views of an entire population of a country tend to change slowly rather than very quickly. Thus governments’ policies will also tend towards incremental rather than revolutionary change. Thus, during regular times, the window of opportunity for policy change is open only a crack. But a crisis swings this window wide open. When the perspectives of an entire citizenry change rapidly, the revolutionary becomes ordinary. We see this in our country’s response to COVID-10. In the eyes of most Canadian citizens, journalists, and politicians, COVID-19 has triggered a crisis. This social, economic, and health crisis – and the fear that it provoked – have enabled the federal and provincial governments to do the previously unthinkable in an incredibly short time: prohibit international travel restrict religious worship services shutter businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars And this isn’t just the preferred response of politicians and scientific experts foisted on an unwilling public. Public opinion polling throughout the pandemic consistently reports that a significant majority of Canadians support these measures. COVID-19 has thrown the policy window wide open for change. The question is, what sort of change, what sort of great reset, will take advantage of this opportunity before it closes? The Great Liberal Reset The World Economic Forum (WEF) has one proposal to seize this opportunity. The WEF is an international organization aimed at improving partnerships between governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations. With governments unshackled from normal budgetary and policy constraints, the WEF proposed that government use this opportunity to tackle current public policy issues in new ways. The World Economic Forum calls this general plan The Great Reset. The Great Reset was the theme of the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which took place in the last week of January. On their website, the World Economic Forum describes The Great Reset: “The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies, and contradictions of multiple systems – from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties. As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.” More concretely, The Great Reset focuses on strengthening environmental protection against pollution and climate change; encouraging private companies to do more to care for their workers, their communities, and the environment; fostering multilateral cooperation; and promoting a rather left-leaning interpretation of inclusion, justice, and equality. So, let’s call this The Great Liberal Reset. To be clear, this is not a conspiracy by a secret elite. No, this is all out in the open. This is about world leaders (politicians, businessmen, activists, the wealthy) who share a common idea of how the world could be a better place trying to implement their vision through conventional channels – government policy, business decisions, grassroots advocacy, and targeted private investments. They are using the policy window opened by COVID-19 to advance their vision. While there are aspects of this vision we might be able to support, Christians should be cautious about supporting this Great Liberal Reset, as it also includes policies that Christians should oppose. More fundamentally, The Great Reset misdiagnoses what ails the world. That ailment is not COVID-19. The Great Moral Reset? Christians know that sin, not COVID-19, ails the world. Rather than reshaping the world according to a liberal vision (or conservative, or socialist, or libertarian agenda for that matter), we should seek to shape the world according to God’s Word. Christians should support a "Great Moral Reset" of sorts, one in which our government’s policies would be aligned with the morality of God’s Word. COVID-19 has opened the possibility for this sort of change. Our society has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the lives of those vulnerable to COVID-19. Now we should go to even greater lengths to protect lives vulnerable to abortion and euthanasia, and provide better care for our elders. Many provinces have closed schools or moved classes online in their monolithic education system in their response to COVID-19. Promoting educational diversity, including supporting independent schools, homeschooling, and distributed learning in a decentralized education system where parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, should be the new priority of provincial governments. The federal government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into supporting families and businesses through the pandemic. It should continue to defend the vitality of families by upholding a biblical understanding of marriage, gender, and sexuality and uphold the dignity of work. But a Great Moral Reset isn’t enough. The Great Spiritual Reset Ultimately, Canada and the world do not need a Great Liberal Reset or even a Great Moral Reset. It is useless for our country to be a whitewashed tomb on the outside but full of dead bones on the inside. Our society needs a Great Spiritual Reset like the Great Awakenings spurred by George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Dwight L. Moody. This spiritual reset isn’t the task of governments, businesses, or general non-profit organizations. This spiritual reset is the responsibility of the Church. COVID-19 has opened the window wide open for evangelism. With millions of fellow Canadians searching for hope, worrying about their employment stability, struggling with their mental and physical health, and mourning the passing of loved ones, many more people may be receptive to the Good News right now. As Jesus testifies, the gospel isn’t for those who are healthy and those who think that they have life figured out. The gospel is for those who have realized their brokenness and their need for a Physician. Are all our efforts directed to defending our personal freedoms (even if they are unjustly infringed upon)? Or are we bringing the gospel to our neighbors who need it now more than ever, using both our words and our deeds? Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, two metaphors that ARPA often draws upon. Christians have taken more seriously their calling to be a salt and a light in the realm of politics and public policy through the COVID-19 pandemic and the infringements on our freedom to worship. Let’s not miss the opportunity to also speak the gospel of life to a suffering world. Let’s not waste this crisis. Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada. For more on the Great Reset, be sure to check out Chris deBoer's Focal Point podcast episode on the same topic which you can download here, or watch below. ...
Saturday Selections - February 13, 2021
Who was Saint Valentine? The ads might make this day seem to be mostly about earthly love, but the fellow it is named after gained his fame for his love of the Lord. Soft tissue in 180 million-year-old ichthyosaur There is a joke told about a man who was convinced he was dead. No one could convince him otherwise, and so, in desperation, his wife took him to the doctor. The doctor grabbed a small pin and asked the man, "Do dead men bleed?" The man thought about it for a moment before answering, "No, dead men certainly don't bleed." The doctor then pricked his finger with the pin, and when a big red drop formed the man looked down and replied: "Oh doctor, I was entirely wrong - it turns out dead men do bleed!" When soft tissue was first found in dinosaur bones, mainstream scientists ridiculed the find since millions-of-years-old dinosaurs couldn't possibly still have soft tissues. Strangely enough, on that point, both evolutionists and creationists were in agreement. But as more of these soft-tissue finds were unearthed, evolutionists were faced with the choice of either backing down on the fossils actually being millions of years old, or backing down on soft tissues not being able to survive millions of years. They picked the latter. They concluded, in effect, that like dead men, long dead dinosaurs might well bleed. Ravi Zacharias seems guilty as charged An investigation conducted at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries' (RZIM) request has found lots of evidence that their late founder was guilty of sexual misconduct. Ray Comfort weighs in here, and, for those with Facebook, James White has some helpful thoughts here. How to show hospitality I loved the opening experiment, picking which of a dozen faces was a "neutral" expression. The one almost everyone picks is neither mad nor happy, but, as author Nick McDonald notes, how would we feel if someone greeted us with just such a face? Would we feel they were being neutral...or cold? BC gov't requests authority to detain folks who might be planning to go to church "Many politicians have gotten far too comfortable with far-reaching powers over the last year, and this is an extremely unsettling example." A return to multi-generational households This isn't a specifically Christian movement, but it's something Christians can get excited about...particularly as a means of living out the Fifth Commandment. About to start caring again (2 min) With a Democrat president now in office, a Republican congressman finds he's back to caring about the budget deficit once again... ...
Saturday Selections - February 6, 2021
The jewels of winter (6 minutes) You might sort-of know how snowflakes are made, but how they are actually made is more amazing than you knew! If $2,000 stimulus checks are good, wouldn't $200,000 be better? (10 min read) We've gotten so used to the government handing out money it no longer seems crazy or outrageous. But what if we took the same logic behind the US $2,000 "stimulus" and used it to argue for $200,000 checks for everyone? To frame this another way, does God encourage us to help the world by spending and consuming? Or by producing? (Eph 4:28, Matthew 25:14-30, Gen. 1:28). Where Salome danced Archeologists make a fascinating find that verifies once again "the Bible is the best-attested book of antiquity, and nothing else comes close." Addictions: a banquet in a graveyard A solid review of an important book looking at addictions from an explicitly biblical perspective. Do as I say, not as I do? An American group has mapped out instances where political leaders have imposed COVID restrictions they haven't then followed. That raises the question of whether these politicians believe in the rules they have imposed. If they find the restriction too strict to be able to follow themselves, shouldn't they ease them for others? The two helmet act In light of the two masks talk... ...
Saturday Selections - January 30, 2021
Should we erase income inequality? (5 minutes) Abraham was rich and Solomon too. So how should we respond when we're "in a conversation and someone s...
Saturday Selections - January 23, 2021
The magical birth canal The state of things under Canadian law... How to enjoy wealth to the glory of God In 1 Tim 6:17-19, the Apostle Paul gi...
Saturday Selections - January 16, 2021
Sea shanties go viral (7 min) If you have boys who think singing is girly, there's a new viral trend of men singing manly. For more on this sea shant...
Saturday Selections - January 2, 2021
Faster, faster! (5 min) Two friends race down a marble maze - it's some innocent fun for the kids. These buddies also appear in "Don't smash." Top 10 biblical archeological finds of 2020 Even as many and maybe most of the people doing the digging don't believe the Bible is the Word of God, the places, names, and details they uncover often show the Bible to be accurate history. 10 ways to foster gratitude in our kids' hearts Some great tips here for all parents...and to apply to ourselves as well. Seattle considers making it permissible to steal...if you really need to The intent behind the law is to help the desperate. but this should bring to mind the proverb that "the compassion of the wicked is cruel" (Prov. 12:10b). This will drive businesses out of the poorest districts if they can't afford the extra losses, or the cost of extra security, that would come with such a law. Their exist would means a loss of employment, and higher security would mean higher costs for goods for those who can least afford it. Good intentions, without good sense (Prov. 27:14), are not good. Rearrange, Remove, and Ruin – Evolution that isn't evolution at all This is a fun one, something that mom or dad can read, and then use the illustrations to give their kids an easy-to-understand explanation of evolution's shortcomings. The 7 habits in 7 minutes (some discernment required) Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a very popular self-help book, and like many books of this type, there's a lot of common sense to it. And, as you might expect from a Mormon author who operates from a largely Judeo-Christian worldview, much of what he write lines up with Scripture, particularly what's captured in this 7-minute summary. This summary is actually better than the book, because in the book there's more of a specifically Mormon theology discernible. That's a long way of saying, there's common sense captured in this video that is well worth pondering...but it is valuable only in as far as it does line up with Scripture. ...
5 most overlooked article of 2020
Last week we shared our 10 most popular posts of 2020, all of which got thousands of reads. In contrast, the readership for each of our Top-5 "most overlooked" articles numbered only in the hundreds. Sometimes the reason an article is overlooked is obvious – they got stuck with a lousy picture, or the powers-that-be at Facebook wouldn't let us promote it to our audience. Other times, it's more of a mystery: a great article just fails to launch. On this list, we're giving the best of this bunch one last boost. Here, now, are the 5 most overlooked articles of 2020. #5 - The triangle curvature inclusion bill If we've let "compassion" redefine this, that, and the other thing too, why shouldn't the definition of "triangle" be changed too, in favor of something more inclusive? #4 - A conversation on authority Zach and Owen don't agree about what the Church should do in response to government lockdown orders. But they do agree that iron sharpens iron, so they want to talk it out. #3 - Five things Christians should know about Income Inequality Fighting income inequality is not the same thing as fighting poverty. If you liked this, you might also appreciate another overlooked economics article: How free trade helps even poor countries. #2 - The cost of an old earth: Is it worth it? Short and succinct, Dr. John Byl explains why a belief in a millions-of-years-old earth can't be reconciled with the Bible. #1 - Our kids online...how to keep them safe This was more than just a review of an important documentary that every parent needs to see; it also includes tips and links to other very helpful resources....
Saturday Selections – December 26, 2020
Do college kids know the difference between men and women? (4 min) It takes a lot of education to get things this wrong (and this is even from 4 years ago!). Physics and free will "Materialists have long insisted, because they kind of have to, that human actions and decisions are determined, not free." It's another example of how the real world doesn't fit with the atheists' theories. Co-parenting by contract and design? "Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. Disconnecting sex from childbearing gave us abortion and abandonment. Disconnecting childbearing from marriage gave us a generation of fatherless children. The idea that we can have children without sex gave us rented wombs and robbing them of either a mom or a dad. That children should be created out of contractual arrangements without the burden of mutual love is also a bad idea. Once again, the victims are children." A tribute to economist Walter Williams (1936-2020) In this tribute, Bill Muehlenberg compiles a number of "best of" quotes from the economist, including: "...for those of us who are Christians, I’m very sure that when God gave Moses the commandment Thou Shalt Not Steal, he did not mean …unless you get a majority vote in Congress.” Speak the truth in love Sometimes we need to be encouraged to speak truth in love rather than in exasperation. Other times, as in this article, the encouragement is to speak truth in love – if we love our neighbor, child, friend, we will actually speak the truth to them rather than leave them in their destructive sin. The great chicken war...or how tariffs hurt innocent consumers To protest the way that European countries' tariffs were hurting US chicken farmers, the US decided to hurt European truck manufacturers and hurt US truck buyers. Tariffs shelter a country's producers by making goods more expensive for that country's consumers. That's the logic of tariffs: favoring one group at the expense of another. If we don't think the government should make it their business to make our favorite goods and services more expensive, then we shouldn't ask them to do so even when it might be to our company's benefit (Matt. 7:12). ...
2020's Top 10 articles
It's not surprising that three of 2020's top articles addressed the coronavirus and governments' responses to it. But, in a blast from the past, C.S. Lewis also takes up a couple of spots. Other than that, the year's most popular articles are as different as different could be, united only in recognizing that God is working through it all. Without further adieu, here are Reformed Perspective's top articles for 2020, starting at…. #10 - The hidden meaning of "The Chronicles of Narnia" It's been recently discovered that C.S. Lewis, seemingly just for his own private entertainment, linked each of his famous Narnia books to one of the 7 planets as medieval cosmology understood them. #9 - Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” sells transgenderism to its preteen/teen audience The streaming giant brought a much-loved pre-teen/teen girls' book series to the small screen but "updated" it with transgenderism. #8 - The Regulative Principle and church lockdowns Is live-streaming the equivalent of in-person worship of God? What does the Regulative Principle tell us about that? And if it is not the equivalent, how should that impact our interactions with our elected leaders, and the message we would want to communicate to them? #7 - C.S. Lewis's Apologetics: a Reformed assessment C.S. Lewis's second entry on our Top 10, this time we're examining his approach to apologetics from a Reformed and presuppositional perspective. #6 - 3 ways of confronting the problems of diminishing attention spans through the reading of the Great Books Like even this article title, the Great Books stretch us. If you want to give reading "the Great Books" a try, this article includes a listing of 50 of them to choose from (with links to download a half dozen for free). #5 - Solomon on smartphones and the pull of pornography King Solomon didn't know smartphones but had insights into the power and pull of sexual temptation, which he shares with young men in Proverbs 7. Older men, and young and older women, can also benefit from the wisdom shared here. #4 - Twice a Sunday needs to happen Chris deBoer encourages a more creative approach to getting people back in the pews and singing God's praises together: if the government restricts church attendance to 50%, then let's double our services! Or let's come out with some other, similarly creative, way to come together again, twice each Sunday. #3 - TikTok passes 2 billion downloads A social media platform that was already big in 2019 became enormous in 2020... and parents who wanted the basics were checking out this primer. #2 - Calvinism in the time of coronavirus Written at the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, it reminded us that we can be comforted knowing that, no matter what craziness might be going on out in the world, our Lord remains in control! #1 - A great-grandma 100 times over...and counting Our top article of 2020 is a short but sweet story about God's abundant blessings – 100 times over! – to this grand great-grandma....
Saturday Selections – December 19, 2020
Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is not a Christmas song (1 min) Like many a pop song, the lyrics of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah are hard to decipher but a...
A conversation on authority
It was the type of conversation that, in other circumstances, the two friends might have had at a quiet pub, over a couple of beers. But with the pub ...
A great grandma 100 times over…and counting
In mid-October, 92-year-old Elizabeth Vreugdenhil got to meet her namesake Elizabeth Grim – this newborn was her 100th great-grandchild! Getting...
Saturday Selections - December 5, 2020
Living clouds (5 min) How do they do it? Thousands of starlings, flying at speeds of 50 miles per hour, moving in such precision together that they look like living clouds! We can't control COVID (or much of anything else) "How quickly we went from the 'we acknowledge we can’t control this' of the UCSF panel of experts to the 'we absolutely can and will control this' of elected officials. The shift from 'most of us are going to get sick but let’s care for and protect the vulnerable' to 'everyone must avoid getting sick at all costs' is a significant one. Now, if anyone contracts COVID, it’s not because it’s a novel virus we don’t understand, but because someone failed. Practical atheists want control. When control is lost, someone is to blame." A less controversial way to reduce gun deaths? Guns are used to kill, but also to save lives too, so any time a government tries to impliment any form of gun control, it is controversial. But is there a way to reduce gun deaths that would be far less controversial? Blessed are the unoffendable This is an article that will greatly help a great deal of us. 5 biggest little ways to improve your marriage This post is based on a 1992 book, very popular in Christians circles, called The 5 Love Languages, which proposed that there are 5 different ways that people like to be loved and like to express love. While this isn't an idea that should be put on par with biblical revelation, it does have a common-sense appeal: we all know that some folks really like gifts no matter how small, and others who respond to touch, and some who best appreciate words of encouragement. And the Golden Rule, as spelled out in Matthew 7:12, is a biblical grounding for the general underlying principle that just as we would like people to show affection for us in the way we best like to receive it, we should offer the same consideration in how we express love. Thomas Sowell on the difference between conservatives and liberals (4 minutes) While Sowell is not making a specifically Christian argument here, his definition of the conservative understanding – that Man is intrinsically flawed – lines up with what the Bible says about our fallen nature. He also speaks to the very biblical notion (Prov 27:14) that good intentions are not enough, and that utopia is an impossible ideal (so long as we on this side of heaven). That last point might be misunderstood as being apathetic, or an uncaring response to evil, as if he is saying "We can't do anything, so why bother!" But his point is, we can do many things, but we can't do everything, so choices need to be made. And possible good achieved is better than impossible good intended. (To clarify the conservative and liberal labels used here don't reference Canada's political parties, though the Liberal Party does largely align with Liberal values as Thomas Sowell defines them.) ...
29-year-old mom gives birth to 27-year-old baby
It’s a headline that seems better suited to National Enquirer, but it gets crazier still. The 29-year-old mother, Tina Gibson, doesn’t have just one baby almost as old as her, but two! The story starts back in 2016, when Tina’s father told her about a news story he’d seen on snowflake adoption – adopting, and implanting an abandoned embryo that has been left in cold storage since being conceived. After months of investigation and prayer, Tina and her husband Ben went forward – Tina was implanted with an embryo that had been frozen since 1992. Then, in November 2017, the Gibsons were able to welcome their daughter Emma Wren to the world. Now, three years later, Tina and Ben have another little girl to take care of, Emma’s biological sister, Molly. She had been frozen at the same time as Emma, and was born in late October, 27 years later. While secular news has covered this as an amusing, sweet story, LifeSiteNews.com shared the damage done to children when they are frozen: 25% don’t survive the unfreezing process, and those that do have a higher risk of genetic abnormalities. For these reasons and more, we should not freeze children. But some parents have inflicted this on their children, to the point that there are hundreds of thousands of frozen babies. That’s a tragedy. But just like God’s adoption of us, “snowflake adoption” is a rescue plan. So what a joy it is that Tina and Ben can reflect our Heavenly Father in bringing these two little girls into their family!...
Equality found in the Bible, not on the football field
After COVID quarantines eliminated their other kickers, the Vanderbilt Commodores football team turned to Sarah Fuller. The starting goalkeeper for the university’s women’s soccer team, Fuller was already used to kicking a ball pretty far. But when she came on the field in the second half of the Nov. 28 competition against the Missouri Tigers, the coach didn’t ask her to blast it. Instead, the designed play was for her to hit a squib – a low bouncing kick that is hard to return. And that’s what happened: she booted it 30-yards, and the receiver fell on it for a return of zero yards. That was Fuller’s only action, with the punting handled by a teammate, and Vanderbilt never getting close enough for her to attempt a field goal. While a handful of women have kicked for other lower-level college teams, Fuller became the first woman to officially take the field in a major conference football game. That is an understandable reason for interest, but from the play-by-play announcers on up to major media networks, this was treated as a cause for celebration. One of the game’s announcers described it this way, as Fuller was lining up the kick: History is on the field in Columbia, Missouri, as Sarah Fuller is about to put her right foot into a football, speaking volumes to women around the world. Fuller’s appearance won her the SEC “special teams co-player of the week” honors. That she had just the one kick – solid but not amazing – meant this wasn’t about athletic prowess. An ESPN headline framed it as: “Vanderbilt kicker breaks barriers…” But what sort of barrier was it that the Vanderbilt kicker broke? This was treated as if it was a blow for women’s equality. However, if anything, it was the opposite. Why? Well, there are two very different grounds for women's and men’s equality. The first is the declaration in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It is in this sense that male and female (as well as every ethnic group, the unborn and children and adults too) are the same – we are all made in the Image of God. But for a culture that rejects God, another grounding for equality is needed, and another “sameness” needs to be found. The best the world has been able to do is an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-too basis of equality. It’s on this basis that Fuller is being celebrated: because she showed that just like men, women can play football too. But that an exceptional woman athlete can fill in, in a non-contact appearance, for a COVID-devastated, winless football team in a meaningless game that they lost 41-0 doesn’t prove women can do football just like the boys. Under ordinary circumstances, Fuller would never have taken the field. It’s here that things take a nasty turn: if we stick with the world’s anything-you-can-co-I-can-do-too basis for equality, then if women can’t play football that would mean they aren’t men’s equals. While biblical headship is often blamed for chauvinism, this abilities-focused basis for equality is the true culprit. As hard as the world tries to obscure them, the physical differences between men and women are obvious to all. So if our worth is determined by what we can do, then a man who sees he can lift twice what a woman can will come to a chauvinist conclusion. And this issue is bigger than women’s rights, impacting both the unborn and aged too. That the unborn can’t do much yet is why they can be killed. That the elderly and the disabled can’t do all that we can do is why euthanasia is offered to them. They are deemed as being worth less because they can do less. To counter that argument, we don’t need to show how much the unborn, or the elderly, or the disabled can do. We don’t need to show that women can play football too. And we don’t need to point to jobs and tasks that women are able to do better than men. To fight chauvinism, and abortion, and euthanasia, we need to acquaint people with the true basis for our worth and our equality: our Maker, who made us all in His very Image....
The Regulative Principle and church lockdowns
Returning to gathered worship is of vital importance *** “All of Manitoba moves to CRITICAL (RED) on #restartMB pandemic response system” So declares a press statement from the Government of Manitoba. With those twelve words, Christians in Manitoba are once again being plunged into the murky realm of “virtual worship.” For several months in early 2020 a full lockdown was mandated in the province and churches there were forbidden to open their doors. Now, once again, “religious and cultural gatherings must close or be provided virtually only,” states the government release. The dark, cold months of winter promise only a long, exhausting lockdown for our fellow believers in that province. British Columbia even more recently followed suit, with their provincial health officer declaring: “In-person religious gatherings and worship services are suspended under the order.” By every indication, the rest of the country may not be far behind. The COVID-19 crisis has created a tension between principles. We know we are called to love our neighbor and submit to the government on the one hand, but on the other, we know that we are also called to gather together for worship, and called to provide spiritual, physical, and mental care for our neighbor. I can’t think of a recent issue affecting the Church that has brought such polarized responses from within the Reformed community, and within individual congregations themselves. Christians raise their children on stories of the brave martyrs who gave their lives to worship the one true God. Were the State to say, “you may not hold services because of your religious beliefs,” Christians would be unanimous in agreeing that we should disobey such a regulation – it would be unjust and unbiblical. Were the State to raise up a golden calf and call on us to bow down, we would be similarly clear and decisive. How then should we live in a time of pandemic? What is the relationship between the Church and the State in a time of pandemic? The answer doesn’t seem to be as simple today. Questions we need answered Theological issues and questions raised only in church history class have now become everyday considerations. Manitoba’s “Critical Red” stage is forcing churches to close. British Columbia has now enacted policies curbing social interaction outside of households and suspended in-person worship services. Each provincial government, and even every municipal government, has different regulations: mask bylaws, maximum church gathering limits, bans on singing in church, restrictions on the sacraments, restrictions on the life of the church and its work through catechism classes, youth groups, men’s and women’s societies, Bible studies, ministries to the poor, to the elderly and more. Never in my lifetime has the hand of the State reached so far into the life of the Church. The Regulative Principle of Worship In the face of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many have chosen to hold corporate worship via some sort of online live-streaming video. In most provinces, this means a skeleton crew is present in the church. This might include the pastor, a sound and video technician, and either someone playing music or a recording to facilitate singing. The rest of the congregation is at home, either alone, or with their family watching this service. So what should we think of this form of worship service? To best answer that question we should look back at what, historically, we have understood worship to be. Along with some other Protestant denominations, Reformed churches have held to some form of the “Regulative Principle of Worship.” That principle extends from an interpretation of the second commandment and it stipulates that only those things prescribed in God’s Word are to be part of worship. The Bible explicitly calls Christians to worship and to gather physically for worship services (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 3:16; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:31; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 11:18–34). Worship is to include singing, the reading of the Word of God, sacraments, the preaching of the gospel, and corporate prayers. The principle also stipulates that things not prescribed are not permitted. This is distinct from the way many other denominations worship, both Catholic and many mainline Protestant churches. For them, anything that has not been forbidden in Scripture may be permissible, particularly as it relates to church tradition. This Regulative Principle extends from the following statements of faith: Belgic Confession: “… we reject all human inventions, and all laws which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore, we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God” (Art. 32). Heidelberg Catechism: “Q: What does God require in the second commandment? A: That we in no wise make any image of God, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded us in his Word.” (Q&A 96) Westminster Confession: “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture” (21.1). The Reformed understanding of Scripture has historically been opposed to worship services that include an aspect of “performance.” In response to the Reformation and the “priesthood of all believers,” Reformed denominations have tended to resist musical presentations, choirs, bands, and more. The focus has always been on facilitating worship for the corporate body. The congregation is there to partake, to engage in all the acts of worship, not just to sit by and observe. In fact, Reformed liturgy is commonly laid out in the form of a conversation between God and His people. God gives a blessing, the people respond with singing, God’s Word is read, the people respond in prayer, the offering is taken, and so on. Two possible responses So, if we consider the Regulative Principle, how should we evaluate COVID-caused online worship? The response from Reformed churches, so far, seems to fall into two camps: those who see virtual worship services as an acceptable replacement for corporate worship, and those who do not. Response 1: Virtual worship is valid corporate worship One could argue that live-streaming is better than nothing. Due to the emergency lockdown, it is simply not possible to hold corporate worship, and the believers cannot gather together, and yet via live-streaming we are praying and hearing the Word of God preached. We can gather as families and sing at the same time as the many other families in our congregation. We can give our offerings via email transfer. Many Reformed churches have provided church telephone and live-stream accessibility options for decades. Those beloved members who are subject to disability or the impact of old age can still join us in hearing the Word preached, and partake in aspects of the service they would otherwise have no access to. These technologies are a blessing that the church hasn’t had before, and we should be thankful. Response 2: Live-streams are not the same as corporate worship While this technology is a blessing to those who are unable to attend church, as well as a means to provide excellent content online, there are reasons why joining church via live-stream was never considered the same as attending in person. Those reasons remain even in the midst of a pandemic. Worshiping in this manner allows believers to avoid the sometimes-messy reality of church family: the coming together of people of all ages and types, in a shared bond of faith in Christ. It also removes the accountability of membership. And it raises all sorts of questions. What message does virtual worship give our church members about the value of being present in person? Couldn’t members join from a vacation spot in the future, or from home if they don’t want to drive in to church? Can someone be part of the worship service by watching it three hours later? Or is it only in watching simultaneously? What if there’s a 30-second lag, and each individual device buffers differently as there is? We’re certainly not all singing together in unison! Can someone in Europe join our services weekly by live-stream? If so, can they become a member of the church? The Regulative Principle that teaches us puppet shows are not a substitute for opening the Word also teaches us that virtual services are no substitute for corporate worship. The in-person (embodied) nature of worship The passage at the heart of many of the COVID-19 related discussions is Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Being “together” is the essential element of the author’s directive here. Stirring one another up to love and good works and encouraging one another is an aspect of being together. The physical gathering of the church together is connected to the doctrine of the resurrection. Around the time I first drafted this article in April, the Ezra Institute released an excellent article that raised this point that I want to quote here: It is an unscriptural theology of creation and incarnation that believes the body of Christ can exist and function equally well in an abstract digital world, reducing the Lord’s Table to relative unimportance, and the preached Word to a “talk” just as effectively delivered digitally via pre-recorded video or live feed. Such an idea is a modern form of Docetism, the heretical belief that Christ merely took on the appearance of humanity, and that his human form was an illusion. If these things were even partially true, Jesus’ suffering, death, and bodily resurrection would be unnecessary and meaningless, and person-to-person contact where believers are gathered in Christ’s name would become optional for Christians. I fear that, in readily accepting the validity of virtual worship, we are releasing hold on a central tenet of the Christian faith. The idea of eternal disembodied spirits living forever is not unique. The Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, Midianites, Cushites – in fact almost every people group throughout history – have shared this belief. The Egyptians built their massive pyramids thousands of years ago based on this belief. What is stunningly radical about the Christian faith is the embodied, physical resurrection of Christ from the tomb. This is the wonder, and the counter-cultural nature of our faith. We worship our risen Lord each Sunday morning! We do not worship a disembodied soul. Crucially then, we are not called to worship as disembodied congregations – no, we worship Him in body and in spirit! And we will for eternity. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 12-14 Practically, this has implications for the liturgy and sacraments of worship. The direct result of misunderstanding this biblical truth by choosing to not be physically present means we cannot partake in the Lord’s supper, baptism, offering of tithes, the ordination of elders and deacons and more. Disembodied “virtual worship” must not be viewed as a valid replacement for in-person corporate worship. Implications for political action There are more questions for us to consider. If we cannot return to church for months, what happens to the congregation in the meantime? Can the church remain intact after a long period apart? How does the church leadership maintain the faithfulness of the body if corporate worship is banned? The central concern I am trying to raise is this: in becoming comfortable with the technological means, have we been giving too much leeway to the State to dictate what may or may not be done in worship? Through the months of lockdown, here in Ontario, we became used to live-stream services. We watched our pastor on a flat screen, and he couldn’t see back. Indeed, the statistics show that many churches became so comfortable they have never returned from virtual services even when restrictions eased – their buildings remain closed and empty. If instead, we believe that total lockdown means the end of corporate worship, how would that change our response? If we recognize that corporate worship cannot be done virtually, there will be a higher urgency to our interaction with the State. Could we then continue complying without concern? I believe that if total lockdowns return our way, as they are in Manitoba and BC, then political action in response to our government is necessary. The time has come for us to engage with our governments. We need to act to show that we will not sit by when it comes to the restriction of embodied worship of our risen, embodied Saviour. If we view our gathering together as essential to corporate worship, then it is not a matter of convenience where technology can substitute at any time. Corporate worship is essential. We can’t expect our secular governments to understand that – we are the ones who must tell them. And, like the widow of Luke 18:1-8, we must do so insistently. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)...