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Documentary, Internet, Recent Articles, RP App, Sexuality

Fund a film about fighting sexual temptation

"Into the Light" will equip God’s people to fight the pull of pornography

This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast. Real Talk is a podcast of Reformed Perspective featuring great conversations on everything from propaganda to mental health, and if you haven't checked it out already, you really should. And you really can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca.

*****

On this, their 50th episode, Real Talk’s Lucas and Tyler invited filmmakers Jake Valk and John-Michael Bout to talk about pornography, its devastating effects on Christians, and how the Lord’s people can fight against this terrible pervasive sin.

Bout began by describing in a very real and personal way his own decade-long struggle with pornography – the feelings of guilt at what he knew was sinful, difficulties with anger brought on by his own hypocrisy, and his gradual drift away from the Lord with a conscience made dull over time. Bout described how grateful he is that God led other Christians on his path who had turned away from porn by the Lord’s grace, and dedicated themselves to helping others with this pervasive, insidious sin.

A providential conversation

So what made the two of them think about creating a documentary? Jake Valk shared a story of having coffee with Christian author Tim Challies, whose book Sexual Detox was of great help. Not (yet) knowing that Valk was a filmmaker, Challies wondered if books were the best means to address the problem of pornography: wouldn’t video be a better medium to reach those caught up in that cycle?

This suggestion fanned a spark into a flame: why not make a documentary that would inspire people to take the steps to get out of the grip of pornography? And that is just what Valk and Bout did. Their new film, to be called Into the Light introduces six speakers with expertise in Christian responses to porn, not just in understanding that porn is sinful and wrong, but with real and practical suggestions for how to stop sinful habits, from the perspective of both those struggling with the sin, and those trying to help “the struggler.”

Valk explained:

“(One of our speakers) is Deepak Reju; he wrote the book Rescue Plan. He and Jonathan Holmes wrote a pair of books that are really good. One of the things he talks about is the philosophy of locking down a phone: how to cut off all access, and he walks you through that process from the vantage point of someone who is struggling with porn, but also if you’re helping someone who is struggling, and understand how they would be tempted to get out of the full lockdown of a phone, and so you can be extra alert to make sure that you really are shutting down a device for all it’s worth.  So you can kind of take everything that our speakers talk about in the film from two different angles – the struggler, and the (one helping the struggler).”

Valk and Bout want the film to be made available for no cost to churches, organizations, and individuals, to be a resource to as many people as possible. To make this work, they’ve been fundraising through a Christian crowdfunding site with a target of $85,000. You can find out how to donate at their page GiveSendGo.com/IntoTheLight, and you can watch the trailer below.

It’s not about stopping the bad, but embracing the One Who is Good

Bout emphasized that freeing people from porn is not the end goal: the real goal is to help people find Jesus Christ, and to have Him be the foundation of their new life.

“There are other methods to get free from pornography that don’t involve God – there are many secular programs… but if you get free of porn and still lose your soul, what’s the point?”

Valk stated emphatically that a documentary can never take the place of a program like Life Renewal, with accountability, personal connections, and a thorough teaching program.

“Life Renewal is way better than what we can make. 100 percent! Life Renewal is so thorough; they really walk through the process and do it over a year. That’s way better than this!”

But there’s also a place for a film like Into the Light to help get conversations started, and to push a struggling sinner to seek help through a program like Life Renewal and other Christian resources.

“If you find this film, and you’re uncovering sin, and you’re bringing it into the light, and you’re really building your relationship with God, and you want to go to something like Life Renewal which will take you way, way deeper, please do! They do a phenomenal job.”

First, stop the bleeding

So what else is in the film? Bout summarized a section that deals with “triage”

“Deepak Reju gets into the radical practical measures of cutting off access (to porn)… if you walked into a hospital with an open wound, you’re not going to be getting asked ‘oh, so what are your symptoms, what are some things you need?’ The first thing they do is they take you in and stitch up the gaping bleeding wound so that they can have the healing take place, and to use that analogy, when you’re dealing with pornography it’s not legalism to say we have to start by cutting off access… cutting off total access.”

Valk remembered asking one of the speakers, Heath Lambert, when it was OK to introduce the internet or social media back into someone’s life.

“Heath gave a really thoughtful response to that, a large part of it being that you’re not necessarily the best person to make that choice, so having good community in your life saying, hey brother, you know it’s been two months since you last fell into pornography, you’re displaying good devotional habits, you’re really walking with the Lord, I can see that in your life. If you enjoy Instagram, I think it’s reasonable you can have it back, let’s see how that goes… So other people in your life can give you an opportunity to have a better perspective.”

Bout followed up on his own story:

“There are a lot of things that I cut out, and there’s (just) a couple of things I’ve reintroduced back. I never had to go as radical as going to a flip phone – actually, that may have been a good thing to do; I really respect people who do that. So for myself, I’ve actually kept most of the (guards) that I put in place, and just because I know I would so much rather live with the inconvenience than deal with the temptation or the potential relapse.”

What about relapse?

Speaker Ellen Mary Dykas is highlighted in one of the chapters in the film called “Endurance,” dealing with the reality of sinners struggling with a relapse, or a step backwards. Bout stated that it is very rare that one is able to “change instantly, although that is not beyond the Lord’s power. Your inadequacies, your failures do not mean that God is not able or willing to change you.” Valk summarized some of what Dykas taught:

“Your identity is not your track record. You are not your success last week, your success yesterday, the pattern of sin… even if you do really well, that’s still not your identity. Your identity has to be as a Christian, as a loved, cherished child of God, because that’s where you find your root in fighting in the first place.”

The last section of the film is presented by Garrett Kell, and reminds viewers of the hope that we have in Jesus’ saving work. Valk summarized: No matter what our sinful tendencies are today,

“one day all of this sin, that darkness, like what you did last night, all that’s going to be gone if you’re a Christian… God’s going to do away with this sin nature that we have, and that’s going to be incredible, and then there’s going to be (forever) of being porn free… I won’t have to shed another tear, an angry, frustrated tear (at my sins)… There is hope beyond this (life) where there are no tears anymore!”

You can download this and other episodes of “Real Talk” at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, on your favorite podcast app, or through the ReformedPerspective.ca home page. You can also watch the YouTube version of the 50th episode below. For more information on “Into the Light,” go to IntoTheLightDocumentary.com

Culture Clashes, News, Recent Articles, RP App

Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers

During the COVID lockdowns, some North American children began developing a British accent, and started using words like “mummy” and “water closet.” This development was tied to watching Peppa Pig, a popular British animated children’s show about a 4-year-old piglet. Too much TV isn't a good thing, but if ever your children were going to overdose on a TV show, this was one of the better options. Peppa is occasionally bratty, but more often kind, her dad is a bit too bumbling, but he is also very loving, and overall the show is gentle but not inane. For 18 years now, Peppa has been a peaceful pig, but not a bore. In fact, the most controversy the show has previously garnered was for having a stay-at-home mummy – that was seen as misogynist. However, on the September 6 episode, the show decided to begin promoting homosexuality to their young viewers. The scene involves Peppa’s classmate, a polar bear named Penny, explaining, “I live with my mummy and my other mummy. One mummy is a doctor, and one mummy cooks spaghetti.” Peppa is only the latest of many children’s shows to bow the knee to the LGBT lobby. Arthur has featured a teacher having a same-sex “marriage,” and a few years back Muppet Babies had baby Gonzo put on a dress and heels to become princess “Gonzorella.” And last year Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues and You featured an animated drag queen leading an animated gay pride parade to celebrate "Pride Month." Some conservative commentators have criticized this “woke” turn, but with one arm tied behind their back. For example, Matt Walsh described princess Gonzo as “silly,” “ridiculous,” and “creepy.” But because the Catholic Walsh studiously avoids basing any of his objections on what God says in His Word, he can’t go much beyond name calling. What could Walsh offer, if he was asked why a children’s show featuring a boy in a dress is silly? What Walsh doesn’t address is the real reason it is creepy: that it is rebellion against God, and against His plan for men and women and for marriage. That rebellion has consequences, which can include separation from God, emotional turmoil, radical disfiguring surgeries, the inherent instability of same-sex coupling, and the impact on a child of not having a father in their life. That's something a lot more substantial than mere creepiness. So what can we do about it? Should we start a petition? Maybe we can develop our own children's programming? Not bad ideas. But the easiest and quickest response is simply to tell our kids to turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and go outside and play. The picture is a screenshot from the 7th season, Episode 41 show titled "families."...

News, Recent Articles, RP App

Saturday Selections – September 17, 2022

What happens in a 2nd trimester D&E abortion (4 min) While this is nearly bloodless, and the animation as underplayed as possible, the topic matter means this is not a video for young children, though it might be something to show to your teens after previewing it yourself. This is also a vital tool in that it can be easily shared on your social media accounts. To the young inexperienced counselor In the course of our friendships and marriages and responsibilities we are often called on to offer advice, or, as it is otherwise known, counsel. So what if we're young and don't have a lot of "lived experience" to call on? That could work out to be a strength because older Christians can sometimes rely more on their own experiences, instead of their own experiences tested against God's Word. So if a young person has little experience, but loves the Word, he might actually have more to offer. Though this is an article directly addressed to counselors, it will be encouraging for young and old in our own personal counseling encounters, to challenge us to stand on God's Word when helping others, just as Paul encouraged Timothy to do. Queen Elizabeth's reign was the afterglow of a Christian civilization I love this tribute to the queen (though the title is a bit too dour – what God has enflamed once He can light up again). Greenland is not as big as you thought The curvature of the Earth means that the outer edges of any flat map you see are going to be stretched outward. The effect, as seen on a typical "Mercator projection" is to make Greenland look roughly the size of South America. But as you can see below, it's actually smaller than Argentina alone. Click on the link above to see an animation of the countries shifting from their Mercator size to their real size. Wow this #map does bring some perspective! #mercator Real Country Sizes Shown on Mercator Projection - Engaging Data https://t.co/3qs1NsXIOv — Saskia Vlaar (@LaVlaar) June 2, 2019 Could monkeys type the 23rd Psalm? "Darwin's Bulldog" Thomas Huxley famously argued that six monkeys, given eternity to type on six eternal typewriters, and with an endless supply of paper and ink, could eventually produce "a Psalm, a Shakespearean sonnet, or even a whole book, purely by chance that is, by random striking of the keys." This was his explanation/analogy for why we should believe that, given enough time, evolution could produce Man. What he fails to acknowledge is that it's quite a leap to go from Chance producing a psalm, to it producing a someone. But it turns out even the inconceivably easier task of typing a psalm would still take more time than even evolutionists believe the universe has existed.  And we could add trillions more monkeys and it wouldn't make a dent. State abducts child and church abandons her Abigail’s daughter Yaeli began to struggle with depression when she was in the 8th grade, her school steered her to "transition" without parental input, and eventually moved her to a group home, all in the name of helping her mental health. But, at age 19 she took her life. This was a state-perpetuated grave evil. But, as John Stonestreet writes, so too was her church abandonment. Making the moral case for mockery? (3 min) This week Seth Dillon, the CEO of the Babylon Bee, was discussing the morality of mockery with Allie Beth Stuckey. Watch: Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon discusses the “moral case for mockery” with Allie Beth Stuckey https://t.co/9ETOnfsNEF — Not the Bee (@Not_the_Bee) September 15, 2022 ...

Economics, Recent Articles

An abundance mentality in business

Christian entrepreneurs may be positioned to help the next generation become entrepreneurs too ***** Christian business owners often speak about an “abundance mentality”: the idea that God, in blessing their companies richly, has allowed them to be a blessing to others, providing a stable place of work for their employees while at the same time taking great care of their customers. And God’s generosity enables them to practice generosity to all sorts of good causes too. I recently had the privilege of speaking with a few Reformed Christian business owners, and I was struck by an additional characteristic of this mindset they shared. These men had a desire to see their valued employees become business owners themselves. Ryan VanDelft Ryzer Construction Services Bellingham, WA Ryan VanDelft initially started his company without any business partners. He set up Ryzer Construction Services after moving across the border from British Columbia to Washington State, and they’ve been installing and supplying windows, doors, and other materials to builders of higher-end homes since 2015. After some years of slow but steady growth, Ryan decided it was time to expand what the company offered its clients, and to give more responsibility to the growing team of employees he had developed. And as anyone familiar with Ryan knows (we go to the same church), one of Ryan’s passions is mentoring the young people who work for him – he’s eager to invest in their skill development, and coach them in the soft skills that will enable them to be successful in business, even while he’ll take time to help them outside of work. A walk around the Ryzer warehouse and board room shows a commitment to sharing the company’s statement of purpose, its values and strategies, and its mission statement – they are proudly displayed on banners for all to see. The last line of Ryzer’s statement of purpose reads “Grow profitably, and enjoy the process,” and references Psalm 127:1 – “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Ryan also refers regularly with his team to “the Four E’s” – his shorthand for the mission statement to “Empower people. Embrace Craftsmanship. Enrich Lifestyles. Enjoy work.” VanDelft has taken on a partner, Dave Hommes, a fellow believer whose skills in finance and organization complemented his colleague’s gifts. Ryan’s long-term plan is to bring in additional partners who have shown promise as employees, helping them to share in the risk and reward of business ownership. He talks about “making the pie bigger.” While some might see additional partners as a potential drain on a fixed profits number, Ryan hopes that enlarging the business as opportunities allow, while growing the talent pool of employees and associates, will result in a larger number of satisfied clients, and a larger “pie” to share with his partners. Bruce DeBoer Ontario Metal Products and Ontario Outbuildings Dunnville, ON Bruce DeBoer joined partner Brad Schutten in Ontario Outbuildings, and Ontario Metal Products just a few months before COVID came calling. Their company supplies metal roofing panels, siding, and accessories to local builders, priding itself on good pricing with excellent service. Despite the current challenging supply chain environment, Bruce and Brad have been able to grow their sales volume substantially. The whole team of about twenty associates begins their week with a staff meeting, that includes Bible reading and prayer, before launching into the goals and plans for the work week. DeBoer takes a keen interest in his associates, providing a listening ear in times of stress, and trying to understand what are the most important things in their lives. “We’ve switched to an employee market. Life is different than it was twenty years ago. Most families are double income now, so what they need is different. A husband might have to stay home when a child is sick, where years ago, that would have been the wife’s role.” DeBoer advises that in a low unemployment environment, it is wise to find what benefits and other intangibles might be important for your colleagues, and it’s not always about hourly wages or salary. DeBoer and Schutten have taken an innovative approach in helping employees become business owners. While it might be simpler and more profitable to continue with an owner-employee relationship, the business partners have encouraged those associates who show promise to form companies with DeBoer and Schutten: continuing to do the same work of installing or building, but enjoying a portion of the fruits of their labors as owners. The new companies take advantage of the all the economies of scale of a larger company – sharing bookkeeping systems, quoting software, and administrative expertise together. This makes the process of becoming self-employed less daunting than it might otherwise be for a young entrepreneur. The author of Ecclesiastes recognized the value of teams and partnerships: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow… a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12) When asked what advice he would give anyone looking to advance their career or become a business owner, DeBoer did not hesitate: “Find a mentor!” That’s good advice, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Find someone with experience and ask them out for a coffee. Most business veterans are eager to share what they know, and more than willing to help someone avoid the same mistakes they may have made or seen. King Solomon agreed that finding a mentor is a good path: “Listen to advice, and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20) “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1) ***** It was wonderful to hear about how the Lord has blessed these business owners in their decisions to help their employees also grow and prosper. Both VanDelft and DeBoer emphasized that their workplace mindset is not all about financial gain, and that part of their joy in their daily work is seeing others achieve more than they would have thought possible. Marty VanDriel is a writer and Assistant Editor for Reformed Perspective, a TV and film critic for WORLD magazine, and a Christian entrepreneur himself as the CEO of TriVan Truck Body....

News, Recent Articles, RP App

Saturday Selections – September 10, 2022

Economics 101: how profits answer the "knowledge problem" How can we know what to make? And how much to make? And who would be best to make it? This is a "knowledge problem" facing every economy: we need answers to these questions, but how do we get them? A centrally managed economy (socialism, communism, dictatorships of all sorts) looks to someone at the top being able to figure it all out. The problem is, their leader would need to be near-omniscient – he'd have to be god-like – to be able to pull that off. So how does the decentralized free market manage it? Well, it isn't going to pull it off perfectly – nothing ever is perfect this side of heaven – but it does have an answer to the knowledge problem that doesn't require anyone to be a god. As this video explains, the much-maligned "profit" is not simply a reward to the industrious and entrepreneurial, it is also a source of information for what to make, how much, and by who. Why the Dutch farmer protest is your cause too What's happening in the Netherlands isn't limited to that nation. "The ongoing food crisis in Sri Lanka is a particularly gruesome display of just how tragic the results of heavy farming regulation can be. About 90 percent of Sri Lankan families are skipping meals due to widespread food shortages and food price inflation of roughly 60 percent.....There are many reasons, but as Bloomberg explains, a major one is that, 'In April 2021, the government, led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, banned synthetic fertilizer imports to push the country toward organic farming.'” Evolution can't explain over-engineering in nature "Tardigrades can survive being subjected to extreme laboratory treatments (radiation, cold temperature, hydrostatic pressure) far more severe than any Earth environment." But why would evolution so equip them, when there weren't any evolutionary pressures for such an adaptation? Don't put off having children Nathanael Blake wants to remind us of practical reasons to place the having of kids ahead of your education or career advancement, including how much easier it is to deal with sleepless children and the sleep deprivation they cause you when you are in your 20s as opposed to doing so in your late 30s. (There are biblical reasons too – Prov 17:6 Ps. 127:3, Gen. 22:18). Most interesting tidbit from the article? Government-subsidized university tuition is backed by the best of intentions. But here's one negative impact it also has: encouraging young people to go as far as they can with their post-secondary education, even as they build up debt, means they'll likely put off having children for years, and have fewer of them. Faith in God is the only coherent basis for reason An atheist who thinks he came about without intent or design has no reason to trust his own thinking or senses... Trust the science? John Stossel highlights some of what's passing for science in the US, and the government's role in producing this material (particularly in the social sciences). ...

In a Nutshell, Recent Articles, RP App

Tidbits – August 2022

Great Communicator on communication and diaper changes Ronald Reagan was nicknamed “The Great Communicator” for his ability to connect with his listening audience. But that wasn’t something he was just born with – he thought a lot about it, as evidenced in this joke he told. I've always thought of the importance of communication and how much a part it plays in what you and I what all of us are trying to do. One day…a sports announcer, Danny Villanueva, told me about communication. He said he'd been having dinner over at the home of a young ball player with the Dodgers. The young wife was bustling about getting the dinner ready, they were talking sports, and the baby started to cry. Over her shoulder, his busy wife said to the ball player, “Change the baby.” Well, he was a young fellow, and he was embarrassed in front of Danny. He said, “What do you mean change the baby? I'm a ballplayer; that's not my line of work.” Well, she turned around, put her hands on her hips and she communicated. She said, “Look buster, you lay the diaper out like a diamond, you put second base on home plate, you put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound, you hook up first and third, slide home underneath. And if it starts to rain, the game ain't called; you just start all over!” God can use even a stolen book … A former homosexual, Rachel Gilson, recently explained how God turned her around. The author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next, shared that it began with her girlfriend dumping her for a guy who was basically homeless, living in his van. Then at an acquaintance’s house, a non-practicing Catholic, she noticed a bookshelf. “…and one of my favorite hobbies is to look at people’s bookshelves and judge them, you know? So, I’m checking it out, looking up and down.  And there was a copy – there was a book on this shelf. The spine read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and so I thought, ‘Oh, I really want to read that book,’ but I was too embarrassed to ask my friend for it. So, I just stole the book because, again, I had no moral code, right?.... So, I was sitting in the library soon after that, reading Mere Christianity, and while I was reading it one day, I was just overwhelmed with the realization that God exists….. I was just overwhelmed with the reality of God. And not like a store brand, you know, like Zeus or something, but the God who made me and who made everything and who was perfect. It was like I could sense God’s holiness even though I didn’t know that vocabulary and the only thing I felt was fear. I’m arrogant. I’m cruel. I’m sexually immoral. I lie. I cheat. I’m reading a stolen book. It’s clear all of the chips are in the guilty category, right? I had no confusion at that moment either, but really quickly with that I also understood that part of the reason Jesus had come was to place Himself as a barrier between God’s wrath and me. And that the only way to be safe was to run towards Him, not away from Him. SOURCE: John Stonestreet’s “On being saved from confusion: the testimony of Rachel Gilson” posted to Breakpoint.org on June 10, 2022. Gratitude lurking… In his autobiography, G.K. Chesterton expressed how even in the depths of despair, a man might not be so far from optimism. Though there is a chasm between the two, the bridge over is that of amazement, leading to gratitude. “No man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he actually alive, and be happy." The Journalist In the past, he had to “pay dues” And develop “a nose for the news.” Well, he still has a nose, But, my, how it grows When the facts must conform to his views. – F.R. Duplantier (used with permission) Forgiving vs. excusing “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology. I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.’ But excusing says ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites....When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.” – C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory 10 reasons English is a silly language Homophones – words that sound alike but have different meanings – are unique to the English language, but we have an awful lot of them. In looking at the examples below, I felt like I almost saw the thread of a story moving from one sentence to the next. If an aspiring student wants to try to make a coherent story using as many of these homophones as possible, please send it on in. You can reach the editor via our contact form. 1) The bandage was wound around the wound. 2) The farm was used to produce produce. 3) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. 4) A weak spring means I have wind my wind gauge once a week. 5) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. 6) Excuse me but there’s no excuse for this. 7) I need to read what I read again. 8) Wait just a minute – that’s making a mountain of something minute! 9) I object to that object and I’m not content with this content. 10) As there’s no time like the present, they’re going to present their present. SOURCE: here and there on the Internet Marriage matters materially “What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction in both the Black and White populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed.” - Economist Walter Williams (1936-2020) Someone wants you to talk Many a famous quote can’t be traced back to the person who was supposed to have said it. Here’s three of just that sort, the first two likely not said by who there are attributed to, while the third remains a maybe. So why pass them on? Well, after reading these three on the problem with silence you’re going to feel challenged to speak… even if you don’t know who exactly issued the challenge. “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” – attributed, almost certainly falsely, to Martin Luther Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. – attributed to, but probably not by, Dietrich Bonhoeffer “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become your sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” – credited to Abraham Kuyper (and it may be so) A law even a libertarian could love “Even many of us who believe in free enterprise have fallen into the habit of saying when something goes wrong: ‘There ought to be a law.’ Sometimes I think there ought to be a law against saying there ought to be a law. – Ronald Reagan...

Politics, Recent Articles, RP App

Why the Right always drifts Left

"O’Sullivan’s First Law" states: "All organizations that are not actually right-wing will, over time, become left-wing.” Coined by journalist John O'Sullivan back in 1989, it described the leftward tilt that we see happen among politicians, parties, and organizations of all sorts whenever they refuse to loudly and clearly establish their conservative bona fides. A recent example happened in the last Canadian election, when Conservative leader Erin O'Toole led his party so far leftward they shared the Liberal's positions on abortion, euthanasia, and all things LGBT. Then, once the campaign started, O'Toole also flipped his position on conscience protection, again adopting the Liberal Party position. This isn't simply a Canadian phenomenon, as this video highlights. However, as insightful as O'Sullivan's First Law is in its diagnosis, it doesn't point us to a cure. He might have thought he did: actually be right-wing! But O'Sullivan first wrote his Law in National Review, a magazine as firmly rooted as any conservative organization could expect to be (it was, at one point, described as "the bible of American conservatism"). Yet today the publisher is a man "married" to another man. They drifted too. The fact is, stopping the drift requires a firmer foundation than mere "conservatism." The need for a firm footing The weakness of conservatism is that it isn't even a foundation to stand on. At best it's an anchor that can be thrown out to slow down our rate of descent. O'Sullivan is partly right that the more energy a group expends in defining their brand of conservatism, the more weighty the anchor, and the longer they may be able to hold out. But to actually make headway back up the slope again requires a firm foundation to push off of, and that's something that mere conservatism doesn't offer. Conservatism is rooted only in human thought. A firm footing can only be found in God's thought, and in His Word. Conservatism is moveable; only God is not. So, O'Sullivan got us off to a good start, but we can take things further by riffing off of Matt. 12:30: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." The result is "O'Dykstra's First Law": "Those who are not unabashedly Christian, will over time – along with the organizations they make up – become unabashedly anti-Christian." The diagnosis is once again well established. Universities (Harvard and Yale), mainline denominations (the United Church of Canada), and charities (Bethany Christian Services), that were founded to spread God's Word, got embarrassed by parts of it, got quiet about those parts, and are now, in this way or that, actively opposing God and His law. So how about us? Are we embarrassed by God's Word? How often do you hear Christians – not simply politicians, but anyone at all – speaking in the public square and unashamedly presenting God's thoughts on an issue as God's thoughts? Conservative arguments have no foundation That doesn't really happen. Instead: When Christians defend the unborn they'll most often do so without any mention of the biblical principles involved, as they're found in Ex. 20:13, Gen. 1:27, and elsewhere. Instead, we'll focus on how the fetus can feel pain, or on when its heartbeat begins. We'll oppose euthanasia without mention made that our lives are not our own to dispose of as we wish. We'll instead point to the potential euthanasia laws have for abuse. We'll combat pornography, but not because it violates God's plan for sex, but because of its linkage to mental health issues like depression. We use these godless arguments because our target audience is a godless culture. We do it in the name of strategy, effectiveness, and common sense but, in an ironic twist, it is none of those things. Consider the arguments we just made, and how easy it is to rebut them. Abortion is wrong because the fetus feels pain? Implicit in this objection is the approval of abortion for children who don't yet feel pain. Did we mean to do that? The world says our value comes from what we can do, and they justify abortion because the unborn can't do much. We'll adopt the very same "able-ism" ideology to tout what the unborn can do. But the same argument protecting a 21-day-old unborn child because his heart has just now begun beating out its rhythm, is the same argument that condemns a 20-day-old who can't do it yet. If euthanasia is wrong because it can be abused, that's only an argument for more safeguards. It's, at best, just an anchor slowing the decline, with no effort directed at an actual reversal of course. Pornography is bad because it causes mental health issues? Well, that all depends on what we mean by "mental health." Some among the LGBT lobby have touted pornography for its mental health benefits since those who partake are more open to their "alternative" lifestyles. Standing unmoved Why is it so easy to rebut these conservative arguments? It's because they have no foundations. Abortion is wrong, not because the unborn can do this or that, but because the unborn are made in the very Image of their Creator, just like you and me. It's only when we offer up God's own Truth that we get to the heart of the matter. It's only then that we're actually countering the lie with Truth. It's only then that we're standing with feet firmly planted. Will the world listen? That's not in our control. But by setting our own feet firmly on God's Word, we can stop our own drift. When we profess His Name, and find our confidence in the victory He has already won, then the world won't be able to move us. And who knows how God might make use of our faithfulness?...

Christian education, Recent Articles, RP App, Theology

Why biblical poetry matters

Skim through any modern Bible and you will notice something peculiar: many pages are laid out as poetry, with appropriate spacing and indents. But have you ever wondered what makes these verses poetic? For most people, this subject remains an enigma, and some will wonder why they should even care. Poetry seems like the wrapping around a present, or the envelope for a card — superfluous and largely decorative. It is the message that is important, and paying attention to the form may be a distraction. Of course, for a believer that should be a flimsy argument. Surely God loves beauty and complexity (Gen 1:31, Psalm 139:14), and although beauty is fleeting (Prov. 31:30), that is no excuse to ignore it.1 It does not make sense when Christians stand in awe of a gorgeous sunset, or we all hang the same poem about footprints on our walls, but we cannot be bothered to learn how the Psalms were composed. Beautiful in any language The astonishing thing about biblical poetry is that it generally translates into any language. The principal technique is not a matter of meter or rhyme: it has to do with the structure of the lines. In most cases, two or more lines run parallel to each other. Consider Psalm 122:7: May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. You can see that the terms run parallel. Peace and security mirror each other, as do the walls and citadels. The name for this type of poetry is Hebrew Parallelism. In what follows, we’ll explore how this poetic technique works and why it matters. Robert Lowth’s rediscovery of Parallelism It was the Anglican Bishop Robert Lowth who in the 18th century rediscovered Hebrew Parallelism. For centuries, Christians had been confused about how best to describe biblical poetics. According to Lowth, Hebrew parallelism typically follows one of three patterns: Synonymous Antithetic Synthetic2 Let’s take a closer look at each of these. The example we just looked at is a form of synonymous parallelism. In such cases, the same idea is repeated in similar language. One of the more famous examples of consistent synonymous parallelism is Psalm 114: 1 When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, 2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion. 3 The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; 4 the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs. 5 Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back? 6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs? 7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, 8 who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water. In this psalm, every verse consists of a mirroring of terms. Lowth felt that parallelism might be compared to the way two choirs can sing back and forth — a type of chant known as antiphony. Lowth speculated that the Jews might have incorporated something similar in their worship. Think of Psalm 136, where the refrain “His love endures forever” is a repeated response. Lowth’s second type, antithetic parallelism, involves a sharp contrast. It is particularly common in the book of Proverbs: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22) The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. (Prov. 18:23) The idea is that when we reflect on such contrasts, we can grow in wisdom. Finally, Lowth used synthetic parallelism as a catch-all category for anything that is not synonymous or antithetic. Synthetic parallelism typically involves a progression of ideas, so that one thing follows another. Take this passage from Psalm 84: 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. While the end of verse 6 may contain an element of synonymous parallelism, these verses are more about developing an idea. In keeping with the focus on pilgrimage, the emphasis is on movement. Two of Lowth’s examples of synthetic parallelism eventually came to have their own names. The first is now usually called staircase or climactic parallelism. Psalm 93:3-4 provides a dramatic example: 3 The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. 4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty. The repetition of phrases (like a staircase) creates a crescendo that builds to a climax. In this passage, we can imagine the waves growing in size! Another type of synthetic parallelism is commonly called numerical parallelism. This is a poetic use of counting, something that is used to great effect in Amos 1: 3 For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not relent. The same device occurs four more times in the rest of the chapter. The Sharpening Theory Robert Lowth established the basics of Hebrew Parallelism, yet his simple categories were not beyond criticism. Scholars objected that the synthetic category was ill-defined, that the term parallelism may imply too much similarity between the lines, and that parallel structures are not exclusive to poetry, but can be found elsewhere in the Bible as well. The most forceful critique came in 1981 from James Kugel, the author of The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History.3 Kugel developed what we might call the “Sharpening Theory” of Hebrew Parallelism. To understand what he meant, it is good to reflect on the nature of proverbs. Proverbs are a bit like riddles. When someone says, “the apple does not fall far from the tree,” it takes us a moment to figure out what that really means. A proverb makes us stop and think. James Kugel points out that in the Bible this quality is sometimes described as a certain sharpness. A proverb pricks our conscience and makes us reflect on the proper way to act. Unfortunately, the fool feels the prick, but does not benefit from it: Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. (Proverbs 26:9) If we take these observations about proverbs and apply them to Hebrew Parallelism, then we see that the parallel lines also force us to slow down and consider their relationship. At first, we might observe mostly repetition, but a closer look reveals that there is more to the picture. The unique features of each line stand out in sharp relief. This makes reading the Bible exciting. The following verse provides a good example: Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6) Is the same thought expressed twice? Not really. Not only do the lines mention different, yet related actions (love and faithfulness; the fear of the Lord), but the verse makes us contemplate the connection between atonement and avoidance of sin. Atonement might make up for past transgressions, whereas avoidance is about future temptations. In this way, the proverb creates a complex picture that encourages the righteous to live wisely. Midrash James Kugel further pointed out that Jewish rabbis who interpreted the Bible preferred to focus on the differences between parallel lines. In the Jewish tradition, the word Talmud refers to a variety of rabbinic texts that came to supplement the Old Testament books. After the return from exile in Babylon (6th century BC), the Jews increasingly developed an oral tradition that interpreted the Torah (the five books of Moses) and added further regulations and customs. Written compilations of the Talmud stem from as early as the third century AD. The act of interpreting the Talmud and the Bible came to be known as Midrash. This word refers to both rabbinic interpretation and an actual written collection of such interpretations. Rabbis who practiced Midrash (especially during medieval times) often came up with ingenious ways to contrast poetic lines that seemed to say the same thing. Let’s look at a couple of examples that Kugel provides. First, we read in Genesis 21:1: Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised . Sounds the same. But at least one commentator suggested that the last “he” might refer to Abraham. A couple of verses earlier (Gen. 20:17), Abraham had prayed on behalf of Abimelek: Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again. Taking this line into consideration, Gen. 21:1 might be interpreted to mean: Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he, Abraham, had spoken to God about in his prayer, namely to provide fertility. Suddenly the two lines become quite different in meaning. The second pronoun he now refers to Abraham. Here is another example, from the instructions for Passover celebrations: Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread. (Deuteronomy 16:3) A midrashic reading might note that these are two different commandments—a negative and a positive one. Not only must bread with yeast not be eaten, but unleavened bread must be eaten. It is in part because medieval rabbis were so focused on the differences that a full understanding of Hebrew Parallelism was lost during this time and had to be recovered by scholars such as Robert Lowth. At the same time, the Midrash does remind us not to assume that parallelism is always about exact similarity. The differences are important! A dynamic movement Kugel’s Sharpening Theory has us examine each set of parallel lines on its own terms. Instead of reducing parallelism to a few main types, we look for a wide variety of features. For each verse, the question is, how does the second line (B) extend the first (A)? To use Kugel’s wording, it’s not “A=B” but “A, and what’s more, B.” Instead of Lowth’s three main categories, we can now have any number of relationships between A and B. It is up to each reader to meditate carefully on the subtle similarities and differences between the lines. The scholar Robert Alter, expanding on the work of James Kugel, provides a great description of this relationship between A and B. He talks about a “dynamic movement.”4 The second line should never seem predictable or merely repetitive. There’s something captivating about the way the thought is extended. For Alter, the second line often includes an intensification or focusing of the first thought. You can compare it to seeing something and then getting out the binoculars or microscope to take a closer look. The tricolon (a triple parallelism) in Psalm 100:3 provides a great example: Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Each line zooms in a little. Each line makes the thought more specific. This dynamic movement between the lines requires our participation. As readers, we are drawn into the text. If that sounds like a lot of work, then recall that Hebrew Parallelism is also quite slow-moving and unhurried. Each idea is expressed in multiple ways. The effect is somewhat like hearing a choir sing in a cathedral, repeating phrases and letting their voices echo through the cavernous space. This is not to say that an Old Testament psalm is like a Bach aria, but that in both cases the speed and cadence is measured and controlled. Important phrases and ideas come back in new form, so that we do not only listen for individual lines, but we also gradually gain a sense of the whole piece. The big picture Speaking of the composition as a whole, the final step is to put it all together. It is one thing to spot parallel structures, but it requires more practice to discern how the lines work together. For example, Psalm 133 has quite a neat and tidy structure, with two similes (verses 2 and 3a) framed by an opening statement (1) and a conclusion (3b): 1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. Verse 2 is a great example of what Robert Lowth called staircase parallelism. This technique is all about movement and intensification. Just as the oil runs down the high-priest’s beard, so the lines flow on and on. The liquid imagery is extended in the comparison to dew. Clearly, the author of Psalm 133 thought carefully about best to match the form of the poem to the content. The poetry helps to express the message. In other words, not only should brothers live in harmony, but the psalm itself has to have a sense of “unity.” Conclusion In addition to Hebrew Parallelism (the main feature of biblical poetry), God’s Word displays many other poetic techniques (personification, chiasmus, etc.). For a long time, Christians have been content to ignore these features, whereas in reality the beauty of the Bible provides an incredible appeal. Why is a passage such as Isaiah 53 so moving? Why do we memorize Psalm 23 or 103? The poetry in these passages does not detract from the truth of scripture, but makes it resonate in our hearts. I imagine many conversion stories also include an element of awe at the sublimity of Holy Scripture. Mission work is enhanced by bringing out those qualities that make the Bible the Great Book. I would therefore encourage Christian parents and educators to know the basics of biblical poetry, not only for their own appreciation, but also so they can teach children to marvel at the beauty of the Bible. Psalm 19 describes how the heavens “pour forth speech” (verse 3), before adding, paradoxically, “They have no speech, they use no words; / no sound is heard from them.” Creation can speak of the glory of God, without using actual words. Indeed, we teach children that Nature displays God’s goodness and faithfulness. But Psalm 19 points out that God’s Word (the “law”) is likewise worth meditating on, and it does contain words and speech. The “precepts of the Lord” are “sweeter than honey” and give “light to the eyes.” The fact that the Psalmist used paradoxes, metaphors, and parallelism to describe his delight in the Word can only mean that biblical poetry is an equally nourishing and eye-opening experience. So, take the time to study and appreciate the poetry of the Bible, not just to know why some lines are indented on the page, but to truly savour the divine artistry of the Word. Dr. Conrad van Dyk is Professor of English at Concordia University of Edmonton, where he teaches everything from medieval literature to children’s classics. Recently he has started creating online literary courses from a Christian perspective (and for a reasonable price). The very first course is a detailed introduction to biblical poetry which you can find at LitCompanion.com. Portions of this course have been used in this article. He attends Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church in Edmonton. Endnotes 1) Quotations from the Bible are from the NIV, with one exception. For Psalm 133, I have reintroduced the word “brothers.” 2) I have used G. Gregory’s English translation (1753) of Robert Lowth’s On the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, which is freely available online. 3) See James Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History (Yale UP, 1981). The examples of Midrash are taken from Kugel, pp. 98-106; the discussion of how A and B relate can be found on p. 8. Kugel’s ideas were developed by S. E. Gilllingham, The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (Oxford UP, 1994), who suggests that we tend to see three patterns of parallelism, i.e., A=B (comparison and contrast), A>B (the second line is subordinated to the first), and A<B (where the second line develops the first, for example through intensification or comparison). A summary of Gillingham’s approach can be found in William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Thomas Nelson, 2004), p. 289ff. Personally, I prefer Kugel’s less formulaic approach, where each set of lines is treated on its own terms. 4) Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (Basic Books, 1985), p. 10....

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Saturday Selections – August 27, 2022

Joe Rogan vs. Babylon Bee on abortion! (10 min) Last week Seth Dillon of Babylon Bee made an appearance on the world's most popular podcast, where he did a solid job of defending the unborn. Calling it "convergence" doesn't explain away the evidence of a Designer  When two species exhibit similar traits or organs but are otherwise so different from one another that even evolutionists doubt they had a common ancestor then what they share – ie. both man and octopus have a "camera-type eye" – will be said to have happened via "convergent" evolution. This is just saying that the same feature must have evolved two entirely separate times... or maybe even thrice, or many more times than that. But if a scientist isn't already committed to evolution, these similar traits in divergent species would instead be understood as evidence of a common Designer. Don't miss the Abbot and Costello "Who's on First?" comic at the bottom of the linked article. Can we get kids to 15 without a phone glued to their palm? A group in Australia is making the case for parents to push off giving their kids a smartphone until at least 15. Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance? Evidence is lacking Evidence of experts' fallibility came out earlier this summer when an umbrella study found that the idea depression is caused by a chemical imbalance – a theory presumed true for decades now – lacks empirical evidence. This seems another instance of what the experts know, not necessarily being so. That people get things wrong shouldn't be shocking to Christians, but as some in the world urge us to let the so-called experts handle the running of larger and larger aspects of our lives, it's worth remembering that experts can get it really wrong. (One caution: the article author has a passing reference to David Murray that is a bit of a shot, and doesn't line up with my own recollection of Murray's position.) Girl identifies as cat, and school runs with it Who defines reality? That's what this comes down to, with the Bible offering one answer, and the world another. So each instance like this is an evangelistic opportunity to contrast God's Truth with the world's foolishness. The temptation that Christians often succumb to, is to simply point out the foolishness and leave God's Truth implicit. But we ain't doing anyone any good if we point out foolishness and then presume that a world so blinded as to fall for believing people can be cats is somehow smart enough to figure out for themselves a Truth we aren't brave enough to share. What's the deal with BeReal? Chris Martin gives parents a heads-up on the newest social media app, BeReal: "The app creates this more “authentic” (theoretically, anyway) environment by notifying users via a smartphone notification that it is “⚠️ Time to BeReal. ⚠️” at a random time each day—users in the same timezone will have the same posting time each day—during which the users have two minutes to post." Jordan Peterson's message to the Church Jordan Peterson gives here, what one pastor has called "straight talk from a crooked foundation" and another describes as "painfully... mostly spot on." This is an outsider's perspective – Peterson is not (yet) a Christian – which makes it all the more remarkable that he has here accurately diagnosed, and has the courage to share, one of the Devil's key strategic efforts in undermining the Church: Satan is going after young men. Where Peterson falls short is in his response to Satan's attack. Yes, the Church needs to go after young men, and needs to disciple them, but not to save our families and our culture. That is not the purpose young men (or young women, or any old or young) are being called to. That is, instead, the fruit that comes with returning to the purpose for which we have been created: the worship and glorification of God. One word of warning: in the concluding seconds Peterson interjects God's name in a manner that on the one hand is actually factually so – "You are churches for God's sake" – but which here is being misused by Peterson as an expletive for emphasis. ...

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Saturday Selections – August 13, 2022

Fantastic fireflies! (8 min) Most everyone would say fireflies are super cool, but we really have no idea. God has crafted a creature that has a near 100% efficiency in turning the energy they produce into light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb that might well be just 10% efficient. A A biblical case for limited government (15-min read) J.P. Moreland offers up his 7-point argument for why Christians should want, and so far as they are able should promote, limits on government. Pastor, what are your 30-year goals? This is directed at pastors, but relevant to us all. It's said "man makes plans, and God laughs" but that's not a discouragement to making plans, but to making arrogant plans – it's in line with what Jesus said about a fellow building his "farming empire" who gave no thought to how God could call him to account that very night (Luke 12:16-21). For God's people, prayerfully setting off in a deliberate direction is about trying to best use the talents God has given you (Matt. 25:14-30). On job satisfaction Some are blessed with many job opportunities, particularly early on in their lives, so if they don't like what they have, the possibility exists for seeking out something more enjoyable. But what if you're stuck in a job you don't like, and there aren't options for anything better? Tim Bayly offers some insights and encouragement... 5 guidelines for dating without regret Tim Challies weighs in with some helpful direction... China's social credit system (6 min) A refugee from China warns us of the oppressive government monitoring system he fled. What he describes happening there is not simply technologically possible here, but is becoming ideologically so, as more and more are demanding government manage ever-increasing portions of their lives. ...

Articles, Entertainment, Movie Reviews, Recent Articles, RP App

Here’s the problem with just closing your eyes during the sex scenes

Several years ago, Kate Beckinsale was conned into signing a movie contract that required nudity—something she didn’t want to do. With her acting career in jeopardy, she found herself browbeaten by the director. At long last, she gave in to intimidation and performed the nude scene, which made her feel, as she put it, “violated and horrible.” Afterwards, she secretly urinated in the director’s thermos in revenge. In more recent history, Jennifer Lawrence wrestled with inner turmoil while filming her first sex scene (for the sci-fi movie Passengers). During an actress roundtable” for The Hollywood Reporter, Lawrence described the experience: I got really, really drunk. But then that led to more anxiety when I got home because I was like, “What have I done? I don't know.” And he was married. And it was going to be my first time kissing a married man, and guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach. And I knew it was my job, but I couldn’t tell my stomach that. So I called my mom, and I was like, “Will you just tell me it’s OK?” Notice three sobering facts about Lawrence’s experience. First, she battled anxiety before and after filming the scene. Second, she felt intense guilt for sexually acting out with a married man. Third, she tried several coping mechanisms to eliminate her distress: alcohol (which only made things worse), telling herself everything was okay, and asking for consolation. 1 Would you believe me if I told you that stories like these are numerous? Sadly, it’s true. The amount of pressure and intimidation Hollywood places on actors – especially women – to undress and sexually act out for the camera is commonplace. When asked about sex scenes, celebrities often reply with something like, “We’re actors; it’s a part of the job.” Indeed, those who want to make it as an actor won’t be taken seriously if they have qualms about nudity and bed scenes. The movers and shakers in Hollywood have acquired what seems to be an almost limitless amount of power to enforce the sexualization of actors. To cite one more example (this time from the world of television): director Neil Marshall once commented on how he was pressured by an HBO executive to put more sex and nudity in an episode of Game of Thrones: …one of the exec producers…took me to one side and said, “Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side – I represent the perv side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene. So you go ahead and do it.” Notice the implicit acknowledgement that the nudity had nothing to do with art – that it was designed solely for the satisfaction of a perverted audience base. The producer pushed his weight around, and the director (and everyone else) acquiesced. All of this to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Follow the money What gives entertainment executives the authority to force others into such compromising situations? What gives a producer the power to manipulate a director into catering to perverse fantasies? What gives a director the right to coerce an actress into agreeing to do more than she meant to? If this page was a mirror, you would be looking at the answer. You see, when average folks like you and me support films and TV shows like these, we are perpetuating the sexualized culture we say we deplore. My guess is that, because it’s often hard to see how “A” eventually leads to “X,” we think little of doing “A,” even if we abhor “X.” We may complain about the objectification of women (and men) in our culture. We may complain about how movies are ruined by sex scenes and gratuitous nudity. But if we then turn around and financially support that culture, something is askew. It doesn’t matter if you avert your eyes during sex scenes – at the end of the day, studios care about profit margins. That being the case, prudes and perverts give equal support for a film when they buy a movie ticket or purchase a DVD. The truth is, if people stopped financially supporting the abuse of actors, the industry would change. But producers follow the money, and there’s money to be made through the objectification of entertainers. As one acquaintance of mine with ties to Hollywood once put it in a Facebook discussion: I know how many of the women in these scenes (and probably men too, you just don’t hear from them) have talked about throwing up in the bathroom between scenes, crying, stressing out constantly, etc. So basically, I’m paying for that person to do that for me? .... There are perhaps no handcuffs involved with these performers, but social constraints/expectations/demands/culture can be equally, if not more, powerful. And that’s the problem. I’ve lived in Hollywood. I’ve worked with prostitutes one on one. The line between the two worlds is thin. I know no other culture more willing to use people and throw them away. Consider also that plenty of actors in the entertainment industry are not professing believers. They do not subscribe to a Christian sexual ethic. Still, their consciences bother them when it comes to nudity and sex scenes. Yet most moviegoers, including many professing believers, say their consciences are clear when they watch the consciences of others be violated – for entertainment, no less. They pay for actors to be abused or debased and experience no qualms about it. In contrast, Paul calls Christians to give up their rights if it means hurting the conscience of others (see 1 Corinthians 9 and Romans 14). We have it backwards: we participate in the violation of others’ dignity so we can benefit from their moral and emotional compromises. Granted, the context of Paul’s teaching on this matter is the relationship between members of the church, but I don’t think that gives us an excuse to disregard the wellbeing of unbelievers. As patrons of Hollywood, our pursuit of personal freedom has hijacked our ability to consider the needs of others. We have adopted a consumeristic mindset that disregards most every other factor in favor of us having a positive, cathartic experience. If the story is interesting enough, and if it “demands” the objectification and dehumanization of actors, then the needs of the story win out. Brothers and sisters, this should not be! What about actors who undress willingly? Now, it is true that some actors do sex and/or nude scenes willingly, with little or no manipulation involved. Even so, that shouldn’t be of supreme importance to people of faith. Not if we take seriously God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. With this command in mind, whether or not actors agree with the nudity and sex acts required of them is actually beside the point. Why? Because it doesn’t negate the fact that they are being objectified and degraded as human beings in what is essentially a pornographic act.2 It is unloving of us as Christians to support such actions, even when they are free from coercion. We see this principle at work in Romans 13, which says loving your neighbor includes avoiding adultery. The point is not that all adultery is rape. Some adultery – much of it, in fact– takes place by mutual consent. Does that suddenly make the adultery excusable? Not according to Scripture. By its nature, sexual perversion is sin, even if it takes place between consenting adults. All forms of immorality are inherently unloving. That’s the Bible’s stance. That should be the Christian’s stance. In contrast to this, the film industry has created a socially acceptable ménage à trois: two actors commit sexually intimate acts, and audiences sit in on the proceedings with complete approval. The law of love What finally opened my eyes to this culture of sexual abuse was Wayne A. Wilson’s book Worldly Amusements. Wilson himself became aware of the issue after watching a movie in which the director had his own daughter perform sex acts on screen. The fact that a director would sacrifice his child’s dignity for the sake of a movie changed Wilson’s perspective. He now implements what he calls the “law of love” in his movie watching habits: he refuses to support films that sexually objectify or degrade actors. He now asks himself, “Would I approve if my sister were asked to behave or expose herself in any way that undermined her purity?” It is a question we would do well to ask ourselves. This law of love exhorts us to consider the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of men and women in front of the camera. Is that restricting for a movie-going audience? I suppose so. It has definitely kept me from visiting the theater on several occasions where I otherwise would have willingly and excitedly done so. Not a restriction But this law of love is not “restricting” in a lastingly negative sense any more than monogamy is a negative restriction for married couples. It’s a law that protects, not harms. It’s a law that governs for good, not evil. It’s a law that helps one cultivate the greatest motive known to humankind. In the end, what is truly more freeing: living a self-centered or an others-centered life? The Bible’s answer is the latter. Think about the implications here. How would it affect you if you put the law of love into practice? What if you refused to financially support movies that objectified actors because you wanted to treat them with the humanity they deserve? Would you not start viewing the actors you encounter in the movies as real people and not just potential sources of eye candy or gratification? Would the law of love not help you fight sexual lust even more effectively with gospel power? Would it not help you keep from focusing on yourself (which is what lust does) and instead focus on the needs of others (which is what a healthy, Biblically-informed sexuality is all about)? Would that not be a gloriously countercultural way to demonstrate God’s love to your fellow human beings? I think it would. In fact, my personal experience has been that it does. I dare you (in the most positive sense possible) to prove me wrong. Endnotes 1 For a more in-depth treatment, see “A Tale of Two Sexual Assaults on Jennifer Lawrence” at CapStewart.com 2 This argument is fleshed out in my article “Promoting Porn for the Glory of God?” at CovenantEyes.com, and in the “Sex Scenes = Porn” blog series at CapStewart.com Cap Stewart blogs about movies and the arts at CapStewart.com. This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue....

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Recent Articles, RP App

Virginia Lee Burton: Queen of nostalgia

A mom reading Katy and the Big Snow to her daughters might remember her own parents reading the same book to her. Since they first came out in the 1940s, Virginia Lee Burton's books have been enjoyed by three generations. These are classics!  But there's more to the nostalgia, because even when they were brand new, they likely had a timeless feel because, rather than being about Burton's present, they were a look back, celebrating a not-so-distant past that seemed calmer, simpler, better. The idyllic yesteryear that Burton presents is just a bit before her own childhood, in the transition period between the late 19th and early 20th century. It's a curious time to pick as the wistful pinnacle of civilization. It's an age in which mechanization is already in place, so why is Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel worth celebrating, but the diesel shovels that followed are somehow threatening? But that is the pinnacle she picks, not only in Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, but Maybelle the Cable Car, and then again in The Little House. While these stories are all quiet laments at the technological advances that were revolutionizing the Western way life, they are also a hubbub of activity, with all sorts of machines at work, and so much to see on every page. This busyness is then contrasted by the happy, calm conclusion to each story. While it's fun to take a peek at the past from someone who really appreciates the age she's depicting, parents might remind their children of what the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:10: "Say not 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this." To romanticize the past can sometimes be to overlook the many blessings God is showering on us right now. Recommended Her four most popular are available separately and also in a compendium together. They are wonderful! Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel 1939 / 48 pages Mike Mulligan and his beautiful red steam shovel, Mary Anne, do a lot of digging in this story: cutting canals, lowering hills, straightening curves. But as technology advances, and new electric, diesel, and gasoline shovels come along, no one wants to hire a steam shovel. But instead of sending Mary Anne to the junkyard, Mike takes her to a small town looking to dig the cellar for their new town hall. He tells them that Mary Anne can do the job in a day, or they won't have to pay him. The real fun here is not in finding out whether she gets the job done in time, but in the sweet way the story ends, with Mary Anne and Mike finding new jobs to keep them both busy. The Little House 1942 / 44 pages The story starts with a solid little house in the country that can just see the lights of the city on the horizon at night. But as the decades pass, the city approaches and then engulfs the little house, making her sad. But when the first owner's great-great-granddaughter comes across, she decides to move the solid little house to a new spot, out in the country once more. Katy and the Big Snow 1943 / 40 pages A big red crawler tractor named Katy can push dirt in the summer, but when winter comes, she's the only one strong enough to push through all the snow. When a "big snow" hits, and all the plow trucks get stuck, and the snow piles up to three feet, five feet, and even more, then it's time for Katy to save the day. She clears roads for ambulances, fire trucks, the police, the mailman, the phone and electric company, and then even clears the runway for a plane that otherwise would have crashed. Katy saved the day! MayBelle the Cable Car 1952 / 52 pages Maybelle is a cable car who spends her days going up and down San Fransisco's steepest roads, and she's been doing so for decades. But now the city wants to do away with all the cable cars and replace them with big new buses. Will Maybelle be out of a job? No, because a campaign by citizens to keep the money-losing cable cars wins the day. Yay? What this presumes is that, so long as the majority says so, it's okay to use tax dollars for non-necessities of all sorts, including wistful ones. Parents might have to talk their children through this one, to ensure little ones don't walk away with that lesson. Take it or leave it Fun to read once or twice, these don't need to make the cut for personal or school library shelves. Calico, the Wonder Horse 1941 / 67 pages A peaceful Western county is disrupted by a gang of bad guys. The wonder horse Calico disguises herself with a black mud bath so that Stewy Stinker, leader of the gang, will mistake her for his horse. When he does, she gives him a wild ride to jail. He escapes and makes plans to hold up the stagecoach only to discover that it is full of presents for the town's children for Christmas Eve. Stinky starts crying because "I didn't know I was that mean… holding up Santa on Christmas Eve. I'm never going to be bad anymore." So the bad guys all decide to be good. This is a fun exciting story, but this people-are-only-bad-because-they-are-misunderstood turn at the end obscures that there is real evil in the world, fully determined to be wicked, and they must be fought and not coddled. Choo Choo 1937 / 48 pages A hard-working train engine, Choo Choo takes a bratty turn and decides she wants to go out on her own, so she runs away. After a misadventure, causing all sorts of mishaps as she flies through crossings and even leaps over an open train drawbridge, Choo Choo eventually runs out of steam and is left all on her own at the end of an abandoned line. Fortunately, her conductor, engineer, and fireman go after her, find her, and bring her home, much to Choo Choo's relief – she's learned her lesson and pledges never to run away again. Don't bother The second book below made this category on, admittedly, a bit of nitpick, but the first earned its spot, being nothing but propoganda. Life Story - At 80 pages, this is Burton's biggest book by far, and all of it a godless evolutionary account of how life on earth originated. We move through millions of years of history until, in the concluding pages set in Burton's time, there is on display, her wistful longing for a simple, country life. The Emperor's New Clothes - Burton illustrated this Hans Christian Anderson classic. As much as I like the story, what I'm looking for in an illustrated version for children is for the Emperor's nakedness to be strategically and artfully obscured. Burton almost pulls it off, but on the last page we have a naked butt, and yes, it is a cartoonish naked butt. However, she's already shown in previous pages that this nudity is unneeded. For this tittering age group, one naked butt is one too many. Conclusion If one could overdose on Virigina Lee Burton that might lead a child to romanticize the past, and maybe even take an anti-progress, almost Luddite turn. But Burton didn't write all that much, so this isn't much of a concern. Instead we can just enjoy her timeless books for the lovely look back that they are. We can dig up our own old copy, and point out all the action going on, the favorite bits that we recall from so many years ago "when your grandpappy used to read this to me." Burton at her best offers up stories that will endure at least long enough for you to read them to your grandchildren too....

Internet, Recent Articles, RP App

Is our curiosity controlling us, or are we controlling it?

Curiosity can be downright lethal... and not only to cats. In our Internet age, curiosity can quickly take us where we must not go. But curiosity can also be a force for good. This investigative itch can drive us to discover more about God, digging deep into His Word, or heading out into His creation, magnifying glass in hand, to see all there is to see. In Curious: the Desire to Know and Why your Future Depends on It Ian Leslie makes a useful division between two main sorts of curiosity – epistemic and diversive. There isn’t simply “good” versus “bad” curiosity but more a matter of “focused” versus “unfocused," though as you might guess, the focussed sort is generally the more helpful sort. Diversive curiosity “Diversive curiosity” is, as Leslie puts it, an “attraction to everything novel” and it “manifests itself as a restless desire for the new and the next.” Leslie explains: The modern world seems designed to stimulate our diversive curiosity. Every tweet, headline, ad, blog post, and app at once promises and denies a satisfaction for which we are ever more impatient. This quest for the “new and next” isn’t necessarily bad – this is why new questions get asked, new interests are discovered, and new people are met. But Leslie argues that while “unfettered curiosity is wonderful; unchanneled curiosity is not.” What problem is there with unchanneled curiosity? It doesn’t fix itself on anything. It lacks purpose or discipline – diversive curiosity might start off well-intentioned, but if it has nothing to focus on then a search for “Calvin’s thoughts on art” can quickly turn into hours spent on “The art of Calvin and Hobbes.” Leslie recounts a question that was posted to Reddit: “If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about today?” The favorite answer was: “I possess a device in my pocket that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.” We have access to an inexhaustible source of knowledge, right in our back pocket. Want to study Economics, or read Calvin's Institutes, or learn how to change the oil on your Toyota sequoia and it's all just a few key taps away. And when it comes to collaborations, we can call on people in the next town, the next state, or the next continent! But so long as we let our curiosity run free – flitting from one tweet, one game, one photo, one video to another – then this incredible potential will be unrealized. Channeled curiosity Here is where the second sort of curiosity comes in. “Epistemic curiosity” is curiosity with a purpose. Leslie describes this as a “deeper, more disciplined, and effortful type of curiosity.” This sort of curiosity pushes us after reading an intriguing blog post headline to go seek books on the same subject. It’s sustained curiosity. It’s directed curiosity. It’s the sort of curiosity that drives a boy to collect beetles and butterflies, and then when he wants to know more he heads to the library for books. It’s this sort of curiosity that has a girl trying out crayons and pens and pencils and paints to figure out how best she can draw a horse. To get good she’s going to need to sustain this appetite for paper and pen, but more importantly, she’ll need to steer clear of the constant stream of YouTube cat videos and other curiosities that are competing for her attention. Godly curiosity is fettered While Ian Leslie values unfettered curiosity, God expects our curiosity to be not only channeled but fettered too. There is every reason for Christians to be curious – God is infinite, and He’s given us a near-infinite universe to explore. But there are corners of it that we should not investigate. Article 13 of the Belgic Confession warns that we should not: …inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. Some of what God has done is too great for us to understand (election, for example) and when it comes to those matters we need to actively constrain our curiosity. We need to put on some fetters. There are also more earthy matters that we need to not investigate. We need to fetter our curiosity when it comes to: gossip – whether about people we know, or celebrities we don’t our rich neighbor's income sexuality – within marriage epistemic curiosity about sex can be a very good thing, but outside of, or before marriage, it can only cause trouble In other words, we shouldn’t be curious about matters beyond us, or matters that should be beneath us. Freeing us from distractions When it comes to diversive curiosity – the attraction to the new and next – there are no biblical texts telling us how many cat videos in a row are too many in a row. God hasn’t told us how many times we can check our Facebook newsfeed in an hour, or what time of night we need to turn off our phone. There are no stated limits as to how many tweets we can read, how many Instagram pictures we can view, how many blog posts we can click on, each day. So how can we know how much is too much? The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a clue when it explains that Man’s purpose here on earth is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." How does that help? Well, if we’re too busy to pray, too busy to read the Bible, too busy to be a part of the communion of saints, too busy to act as God’s hands and feet here on earth, too busy with all sorts of distractions to glorify God, and too busy enjoying these distractions to enjoy God, then wherever the line might be, we can be sure we’re way over it! So how can we free ourselves from these distractions? Part of it will involve putting down the smartphone, tucking away the tablet, and turning off the computer. We could consider: Putting tight limits on family members’ screen time each week, with more severe constraints for the very young (many doctors suggest children under 2 shouldn’t watch TV at all) and for out-of-control kids. Shutting down the Internet for the evening (which still allows kids to use their devices to read) or the afternoon, or only having it on for weekends or for homework. Going on a month-long technology fast to allow your family to get proper priorities back in place – this is an option that most children will hate (and many an adult) but the more passionate the resistance, the stronger the case for this intervention. While these practical suggestions will be helpful they also aren’t enough. We need to address this as the sin problem that it is. When we can’t control our curiosity, when it controls us, we’re enslaved. When our curiosity doesn’t direct us to God, but distracts us from Him, we’re committing idolatry, making YouTube videos and Instagram pics our first priority. Instead, we can seek ways to direct our curiosity in a God-honoring fashion. Our God is infinite, so there’s no shortage of wonders to explore, whether that’s God Himself, His Word, His world, the bodies He gave us, the family He placed us in, the talents He chose for us, the friends He provided, or the communion of saints He surrounded us with. There’s no shortage of wonders to wonder about. May God help us control our curiosity, so that in this too all we do can honor Him....

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