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Economics

THERE'S NO FREE LUNCH – an economic principle Christian teens (& adults) need to know

Small revolutions in schooling are occurring across the world. From homeschooling to microschools, many parents find themselves wanting more for their children in terms of education.

Resources are available for independent schooling now more than ever, but some subjects remain difficult to tackle. My own field of economics remains elusive for many educators. Part of the difficulty is that many people don’t know what economics actually is. Many think economics is just composed of principles budgeting and investment. This view of economics and finance being the same is common, but it’s wrong.

Instead, economics considers how people interact in a world where there are limited means but unlimited desires. The study of this interaction and the rules that govern it is of fundamental importance for anyone who wants to understand human flourishing, politics, or any topic of social importance.

My high school economics teacher used to say, “everything goes back to economics.” Math and science, for example, are the tools people use to accomplish their goals. But the reasons they use these tools are economic.

And I can’t think of a better starting point for understanding economics than the concept of opportunity cost.

What is an “Opportunity Cost”?

One of the most famous phrases in economics is, “there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.” This phrase is meant to illustrate the always present role of opportunity costs.

Whenever you make any decision to do anything at all, you’re essentially choosing between two possibilities – your best option and your second-best option.

Consider an example. Molly has three offers of how to spend her Saturday evening. She can study for her college algebra final exam, she can babysit for 3 hours at a rate of $15 per hour, or she can hang out with her friends.

Let’s say her favorite option is to study, her second favorite is babysitting, and her third pick would be having out with friends. Since studying is Molly’s most urgent desire, she decides to allocate her time that way.

But what did she give up? You might be tempted to say she sacrificed $45 and time with friends, but that isn’t really the case. After all, Molly couldn’t have babysat and spent time with friends. So even if she hadn’t studied, she would still have only been able to do one of these other options, so in a very real sense that’s the only option she was sacrificing.

In this case, her second favorite option would have been to earn $45 babysitting. So, the “opportunity cost” of Molly’s studying is $45. To say it again, the opportunity cost is the option you value second highest and sacrificed when you decide to pursue your first choice.

In this light, we can see every action has a cost. Time spent resting could be time learning or fixing up the house. Another hour of overtime at work is one less hour at home with family. Every time you say yes to one opportunity, that prevents you from accepting another. There is no free lunch.

Why does it matter?

The concept of opportunity cost is important for people to understand for several reasons. First, opportunity cost helps us understand some of the hard-to-see downsides of certain policies.

Consider the income tax. If a government increases the income tax from 25% to 40% this has major ramifications for someone deciding whether they want to work an extra week during the summer for $1,500. With a 25% tax rate, the person takes home $1,125, while at 40%, the person only takes home only $900.

Now let’s say this person values their relaxation time as being worth about $1,000 a week to them. Then this tax policy will make a big difference. The opportunity cost of working this week will be the equivalent of what this fellow valued for his time off: the opportunity cost for working would be $1,000.

Now with a 30% tax rate, that extra paycheck is worth more to the person than the extra week off ($1,125 is greater than $1,000). But with a 40% tax rate, suddenly the relaxation is worth more ($1,000 is greater than $900)!

So, by understanding the concept of opportunity cost, we can also understand that higher income taxes will mean people will work less.

Even free comes with a cost

Opportunity cost has practical usefulness too. Why is it that sometimes deals sound too good to be true? It’s because implicitly, we all have some understanding of opportunity cost. If a person offers to give you a free car, his opportunity cost is, at minimum, keeping the car for himself. Why would he give it away rather than keep it? Is it possible he is getting something from you?

Something having a price of zero dollars is not the same as something being free. When my local ice cream shop offers “free” ice cream, I know there’s going to be a line going out the door. When I take into account the fact that my time is valuable, I realize waiting half an hour in line for free ice cream could have a higher cost than paying the regular $3 but without waiting.

To learn more…

If you’re interested in learning more about opportunity cost and how it applies in the world, I highly recommend reading Economics in One Lesson. Author Henry Hazlitt does an excellent job of applying the logic of opportunity cost, and the book will only cost you your time (as it is a free download at fee.org/resources/economics-in-one-lesson). And trust me when I say, it’s worth the opportunity cost.

Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He has previously written for both the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics.

Christian education

KINGDOM WORKERS WANTED... for frontline role

THE APPEAL IS REAL: This ad may not be genuine, but it's still been ranked among the best ads of all time. In 1900, British explorer Ernest Shackleton was said to have posted this in London’s The Times newspaper to recruit crew for his 1901 expedition to the Antarctic. The appeal is certainly real: it recognizes that there are things more important than money and a comfortable life. (It misunderstands that the “more important” isn’t fame or honor.) Extensive training required, lower pay, high expectations, few advancement possibilities. Opportunity for eternal impact. ****   When I started my undergraduate studies at university, I was on track to become a history teacher. It didn’t take long before I fell off that track. I’m not alone. The feature article in the Nov/Dec 2022 issue includes an encouraging statistic: based on surveys of grade 11 and 12 students that were done in 2019 and 2021 in Reformed Christian schools, about 40 percent of students considered teaching as a career. Yet good intentions don’t necessarily translate into reality. Reformed schools are reporting that the number of qualified applicants that they are receiving dropped from an already-poor 1.2 applications per opening in 2020 to a dismal 0.76 in 2021. Ouch. Canadian businesses are feeling the pinch of a worker shortage this year. But this is nothing new for Reformed schools, which have struggled with a lack of teachers for years now. With many different school communities all operating independently across a huge country, it seemed to the editorial team at Reformed Perspective that the issue of teaching and teacher shortages would benefit from some investigative research and extensive coverage. A common theme Listening to the thirteen individuals who graciously shared their insights with me as I worked on the feature article, I began to see a theme arise: A carpenter shared that he decided to teach and exit his former profession after being told by a client “I don’t really care what it costs, I just want my neighbour to be impressed.” He didn’t want to build structures that are just for showing off. He wanted to do something “with permanent value.” Convicted by a sermon about seeking God’s kingdom rather than his own, his journey led him to serving as a high school shop teacher. Read his full story in the Nov/Dec issue. A successful consultant with a degree in chemical engineering shared “I saw the need for Christian educators, listened to some advice of those much wiser than me, and decided to give teaching another chance. It was the best decision of my life to date.” You can find his testimonial in the Nov/Dec issue as well. Six high school teachers shared their thoughts about the pros and cons of their profession. At the top of the list was “Can feel a lot of satisfaction helping covenant kids grow in the Lord and helping parents fulfil their baptism promises.” While interviewing John Wynia and Kent Dykstra – two of the leaders behind “Teach With Us Canada,” a relatively new effort to address the teacher shortage – I pressed them on the question of the salary discrepancy between teachers and many other professions. They politely pushed back, reminding me that their surveys showed that those who pursue teaching are motivated less by financial gain and more for advancing God's kingdom. A school administrator who devoted many years to serving in Reformed schools before working in an interdenominational school, said he was struck by, and impressed with, how the interdenominational school spoke of teaching as a ministry. This wasn’t something he heard in the Reformed teaching context. What is “kingdom work”? These perspectives challenged me to consider some terms that get thrown around but are rarely defined. Is teaching a calling? A ministry? Kingdom work? Which careers do these terms apply to? Only pastors? The mission statements of Reformed schools make it clear that a teacher’s role is deeply spiritual in nature. But isn’t it dualism to elevate spiritual missions over physical or practical ones? Our Reformed heritage is hesitant to distinguish some professions as “callings” when we know that every task and job can be a means through which we honour God and further His kingdom. I have seen first hand how Christians can faithfully serve in God’s kingdom in many different realms and careers. My dad was a plumber all his life who has blessed countless families (including my own) with his skills and services. A school can’t stay open without plumbing! The same is true of my mom, who cared for our family of ten her whole adult life, never making a penny from her hard work. Likewise, I have seen very honourable people who were motivated to expand their business for financial gain. But their motivation was not selfish. It was for God’s kingdom. Because of their kingdom hearts, I can get paid a salary to work for Reformed Perspective, and many other worthy causes are given the means to exist. Does teaching belong in a special category when it comes to importance in the Christian community? We need more, but not just any Well, next to parents, teachers often have the most influence on our lives. Pastors have commented that they notice the difference of serving in a congregation where the youth attend a Reformed school or not. Where they don’t, the students are further behind when it comes to their understanding of biblical truths. Because of this great responsibility, it is appropriate that the apostle James reminds us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). Yet alongside this warning, the entire Old and New Testaments include a consistent and frequent calling to teach. But simply being a teacher (or a pastor, or a stay-at-home mom) doesn’t make someone a kingdom worker either. The role has to be filled with someone who actually uses it to further God’s kingdom and glory. We have likely all seen examples of where a pastor, teacher, or stay-at-home mom can cause great harm to God’s kingdom and glory. However honourable the intentions are with starting a Reformed Christian school, that doesn’t mean that what happens inside is going to be kingdom work. Who we serve, not just where The key, then, to whether we are doing kingdom work, is that wherever we serve, we do so “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Each of us has to make decisions every day again to put God and His kingdom first. That applies to deciding which career to pursue, as well as how to actually fulfill the vocation we have been given. We can move forward with confidence, trusting that God will take care of us. In regard to the current teacher shortage, the feature article makes the problem and some potential solutions clear. What we now need is a willingness from some of God’s children to step up for service: For some, it could be a courageous transition from a career where they aren’t doing much to advance God’s kingdom, even if it translates into less pay or more instability. For current teachers, it may mean choosing to endure some trials (like large classrooms filled with ungrateful children) with joy (James 1:2). For those who need to choose a career soon, it can be a decision to not waste years trying out a variety of studies and careers to see which feels the most meaningful. We won’t find heaven on earth. It may also mean intentionally forgoing opportunities that offer treasure on earth “where rust and moth destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). For many of us, it may mean cheerfully giving more for school tuition, or as donations to schools, so that they can help cover some of the debt that new teachers incur, and ensure salaries allow a teacher to provide for his or her family. It’ll take courage… and trust When it comes to our choices for careers and how we spend our finances, Reformed Christians have to be mindful of the temptation to be too careful, looking out for ourselves rather than trusting God to provide. As Kevin DeYoung says so well in his book Just Do Something: “We should stop looking for God to reveal the future to us and remove all risk from our lives. We should start looking to God – His character and His promises – and thereby have confidence to take risks for His name’s sake.” He later adds: “We walk into the future in God-glorifying confidence, not because the future is known to us but because it is known to God. And that’s all we need to know.” Speaking for myself, if some of the strategies that are being pursued by the Teach With Us Canada team (see the feature article in the Nov/Dec issue) were in place twenty years ago, I may well have stayed on track and been serving as a teacher today. Yet I’m grateful that the LORD has many places for us to serve, as long as we do so for His kingdom and glory. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” – Romans 2:7 Mark Penninga is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective. This first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2022 issue....

News, Pro-life - Euthanasia

“Markus showed us how to find meaning in suffering”

On Nov. 25, 2022, Mike and Jennifer Schouten testified before the Parliamentary Committee that is considering expanding euthanasia to children **** On May 29, 2022 Markus Schouten was promoted to be with His Lord, at the age of 18 and after battling cancer for over a year. Just six months later, his parents Mike and Jennifer had the very difficult job of appearing before the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, in Canada’s Parliament, to share their story of walking with Markus through his suffering and death, and to urge our leaders to promote care for those suffering, rather than aid them with, and encourage them towards, suicide. They were the final witnesses to appear before this group of MPs and Senators, and their presentation made quite the impression, as they received questions for the next 45 minutes. We highly recommend you take the time to watch it. We reached out to Mike and Jennifer the following week to ask them about this experience. **** How did you get invited to share Markus’ and your family’s story with this Parliamentary committee? In April 2022 we sent in a written submission to the committee. At the time we had exhausted all treatment for cure and were focused on quality of life for Markus. We sent in the submission in consultation with Markus and with his blessing to use our experience as we were able to impact the current cultural conversations about euthanasia and assisted suicide. The invitation to appear before the committee came as a reply to our emailed submission in April. We had about ten days notice, but it came as quite a surprise to us. Was it a difficult decision for you  to agree to this? There was some initial excitement about this opportunity that God had put before us, but quickly we began to relive those last days with Markus and this brought up the variety of emotions of his suffering and death. It was only with the help of God, and the prayers of the saints carrying us along that we were able to push through. What were some of your hopes or goals with doing this? Even prior to the invitation we were having more frequent discussions about suffering and how we (as Christians and as a country) have so much to learn about suffering well. The main focus we had as we prepared for the presentation was to present a Christian perspective on suffering and death, with the purpose of ensuring the committee members had to wrestle with their own pre-existing worldviews on euthanasia and assisted suicide. While we were there to speak into the conversation about expanding this to minors, we purposefully framed some of our remarks in such a way as they would apply to all aspects of the euthanasia debate. You  had to endure a lot of questions from the MPs and Senators, some of which would likely have hurt. How did you feel about the questions that you were asked? We were surprised that they asked so many questions. Quite honestly we were preparing as though we might only receive one or two questions from sympathetic committee members, with those opposed to our perspective not giving us more opportunities to repeatedly emphasize our message. That so many MPs and Senators wanted to question us just meant we could speak truth to them in different ways each time. You shared that “Markus showed us how to find meaning in suffering.” Can you share any advice with others who are in the midst of suffering in similar ways right now, or perhaps will face this in the future? Suffering is hard and it looks different for everyone. Even though God has taken our family through the furnace of suffering (Isaiah 48:10) we have much to learn. Perhaps the most helpful advice we received early on in Markus’ cancer journey was the virtue of submission. Submitting to God’s will, especially when it appears His will is to go through a very hard season, and the only thing we (humanly speaking) want to do is flee from it, is challenging. Yet, through the power of our Saviour Jesus who has gone before us in traveling the road of suffering, we can submit to God’s will. This is not only right, it is liberating; it allows the sufferer to give his/her afflictions over to God and live in the assurance that He will carry us in the arms of Jesus, come what may. The love and hope that you have for Markus and our Lord radiated through your presentation and answers. Did you sense a spiritual battle being fought? Do you have any indication as to how your presentation went over? Absolutely. The most challenging part of the time we spent in the committee meeting was the spiritual component. The antithesis was palpable and became more apparent the more questions that were asked. The Senators, in particular, clearly had their minds made up and were trying their best to have us agree that even though it wasn’t something we would support, we should support it for others. We had a few committee members thank us personally immediately after the meeting. Since then we have reached out via email to all those who had questions for us and can thankfully share that one of the more strident members expressed that it helped her “think through the tough stuff.” What would you like to see Christians doing in the face of Parliament’s study into expanding euthanasia to minors? We need to be in prayer for the testimony of witnesses to touch the hearts and minds of the committee members. While our testimony was unique in that it was the only personal story to come before the committee, there were many other witnesses who cautioned the committee in expanding euthanasia to minors. Please pray that God would work through all the evidence before the committee with the result being that they recognize the dangers in making euthanasia available to children. There is still much opportunity to impact the recommendations that the Special Joint Committee will be drafting. They plan to have their report concluded by February 17, 2023 and we would encourage Christians to communicate to both their MP as well as the committee members before then. This can be done using ARPA Canada’s EasyMail system or by visiting the committee website where you can find contact information for all the members. Is there anything else you wish to share with RP’s readers? We are so appreciative for the many people who have reached out to us with words of encouragement and prayers on our behalf. We truly felt carried by your prayers. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) **** Presentation to the Special Joint Committee on MAiD A transcript of Mike and Jennifer's 9-minute presentation to the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) follows. You can also watch their presentation, and the question and answer period, in the hour-long video below. JENNIFER: This is our dear son Markus. On February 26, 2021 Markus was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. After 20 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation, numerous surgeries, including the replacement of his entire upper right arm with an internal prosthetic, we made the decision with Markus and his doctors to end treatment for cure and focus on quality of life. Markus’ care was then transferred from BC Children’s Hospital to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. The palliative and hospice care Markus received at our home was focused on addressing his suffering and valuing his dignity. The doctors and nurses knew his days would be short, and their efforts ensured that the days he had left were lived well. Markus wanted to die at home, surrounded by his family. But he also didn’t want to experience the intense pain and suffering that he knew would come as his lungs filled with tumours. On what turned out to be his last Friday, nurse Shana assessed Markus and said, “His time is short.” She advised us to take the window we still had for Markus to be transported to Canuck Place Hospice in Vancouver. With the increased intensity of his care we agreed. Our whole family was together at the hospice, and as we entered the evening it appeared that Markus would only last a few more hours. As each of his siblings said good night to Markus, he told them he loved them, and said, “See you in paradise.” Mike and I didn’t sleep at all but took turns sitting beside Markus. The nurses maintained his medication and Markus assured us that he was very comfortable and not in any pain. At one point he said to me, “This is how I hoped it would be.” As dawn arrived we realized that God had another day in store for Markus. Early that morning Markus’ friends arrived at the hospice and together they cried, laughed, and prayed. That afternoon both of Markus’ sets of grandparents also came to say goodbye. By early Sunday morning Markus was non-responsive and his breathing had become a lot more shallow. Just before 2:30 that afternoon Markus’ breathing slowed and with each of us around his bedside he took his final peaceful breaths and Markus’ soul departed from his broken body. MIKE: Markus died 6 months ago, on May 29, 2022, only 15 months after his diagnosis. If he was here today his appeal to you would be to not expand euthanasia to minors, for two reasons. Earlier this month it was reported in the news that CAMAP, the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers, is recommending that physicians have an obligation to bring up medical assistance in dying with patients who meet eligibility requirements. As Jennifer just shared, Markus met the eligibility requirements. This means that if euthanasia is extended to minors, the day will come when families just like ours, sitting with their dying children, will feel an obligation to end the suffering of their child by having a doctor euthanize him or her. Dear committee members, we recommend against the expansion of euthanasia because by giving some minors the right to request, you put all minors and their families in a position where they are obliged to consider. If that happened to Markus the message heard would have been clear: we don’t think your life is worth living and if you want we can end it for you. The second reason we recommend you don’t extend MAiD to minors is because by doing so you eliminate unimaginably beautiful experiences. When we went to the Canuck Place Hospice, we didn’t know how long Markus would live. We hadn’t even wanted to go the hospice initially, but being there allowed us to embrace each moment we had with him, and him with us. If euthanasia becomes available to minors then that Friday night when we thought Markus was going to go… after we’d all had our time with him to say our goodbyes… It would seem like the thing to do right? “It’s time,” the nurse would say. “It’s the compassionate thing to do. You’ve all said your goodbyes… he doesn’t have to suffer anymore…he should go now,” the nurse would say. But, then we wouldn’t have had Saturday…a most beautiful day filled with precious memories. We suffered much with Markus, and we miss him terribly. But Markus showed us all how to find meaning in suffering and was thankful for each day God gave to him. It is our heartfelt recommendation to this committee, on behalf of Markus and our family, that you do not extend MAiD to minors and instead focus on providing the necessary palliative and hospice resources to ensure the best quality of living, even when someone is dying....

News

Saturday Selections – Dec. 3, 2022

Wage gap bake sale (4 min) For a while "wage gap bake sales" were a thing at schools, where men would have to pay more for the baked goods than women. Why? To show them what it was like to be financially discriminated against. But the "wage gap" these sales were meant to highlight wasn't the act of discrimination that the feminist Left made it out to be. This video is a little over the top, but a good overall explanation. What Kuyper can teach us about managing social media Do we want the State doing it, or parents stepping in to save our kids from social media scarring? How you answer that will depend on what you expect from the "sphere" of State and "sphere" of family. I am not my body? To justify transgenderism, euthanasia, and more, the world subscribes to a dualism of body and self - ie. they say you are not your body. Then that allows them to also say you are not the sex you were born as since you are not your body. Or they can ignore caring for their elderly mother because that's not my mother; the "real her" left long ago.  Christians would say we are not merely our body; there is more to us, but there isn't less, because our bodies are an integral part of who we are. This is a deeper article, but worth reading even if just to get the gist, because dualism is the worldview behind so much of what the world is promoting. If Canada’s incoming "assisted dying" rules were there a decade ago, I’d be dead Andrew Lawson explains how his struggle with depression a decade ago would likely have led to a state-assisted suicide, had that option been available then. Honoring parents when they don't deserve it Tim Challies speaks to the 5th commandment to honor our father and mother, and he addresses the hard cases of what that looks like with abusive or otherwise wicked parents. Overly excited soccer announcer Maybe you've come across one of these lately... ...

Amazing stories from times past

Four days in the life of Albert Tenfold

What you'll find below is a Reformed Perspective tradition that started back in the winter of 1991 – 31 years ago! Each year since then, at year's end, and just in time for Christmas holiday reading, Christine Farenhorst has gifted us with a longer short story, and what follows below is her latest edition. We've also included links to reviews we've done for seven of Christine's books, so that when you're finished, you'll know where to go to find even more of Christine's stories. “I’m going out tonight” "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have..." Albert always felt slightly uncomfortable reading this passage. He ran his hand over the thin paper of his Bible page and cleared his throat. "What's the matter? Do you have a sore throat?" "No, mother." His mother sat across from him, regal and straight, in the red, high-backed plush chair that had been his stepfather's. She peered at him through her bifocals. "Shouldn't let your thoughts wander, Albert." He cleared his throat again and continued to read. "...should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." His mother's voice picked up where he had left off. They took turns reading two verses each after meals. He regarded her for a moment as she read, ring-fingered hands resting in her lap. It was one of the few moments he could observe her without her knowledge. Her rather coarse face had an equally coarse voice. Loud it was, and monotonous to the point of dull. She hadn't gone to school here, so perhaps the English.... But then, come to think of it, when she read in Dutch there was no inflection either. The voice was always flat and without feeling. Her gray, rheumy eyes suddenly met his. "Albert, where are your thoughts tonight? Verse five, child." He found the place and read on. "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent...." As he read, his thoughts smoothed out, smoothed out ridges which he occasionally tripped over and when he later breathed the words: "for it is better to marry than to burn with passion...," he was able to keep his mind on Paul without focusing on the lack of passion in his own life – a passion he occasionally desired. **** Before Albert cleared the table, he helped his mother to the couch. "Do you want the paper? Or shall I turn on the television for you?' She shook her head to both questions. "I'm a bit tired, son. I think I'll have a small nap while you do the dishes. In that way I'll be fresh for Scrabble when Mrs. Dorman comes later. Be sure to set out the cups for tea and the cookies..." He stopped the avalanche of words with "I know, mother. I know." There was a certain resignation in his voice as he pulled the afghan over her body but a thin thread of irritation unraveled in his hands and a sudden clumsiness overtook them. **** Christine serves up biographies of six very different men: Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer, Rembrandt, Samuel Morse, Freud, Norman Rockwell. Click the cover for our review. In the kitchen Paul's words swam about as Albert placed the dishes in the sink. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion..." Had Paul known more about passion than he did? Had Paul been married? Had he taken a wife with him on his missionary journeys? Or a mother? If Paul had had his mother... He suddenly grinned at the suds but then became serious. What did he, Albert, know about marriage anyway? His expertise lay in being single. He scrubbed at the potato pan with vigor and frustration. The small kitchen surrounded him with apathy. There was nothing new. Coffee mugs hung on a small rack in the same way that they had hung for years and years. A birthday calendar, with numerous Dutch aunts and uncles enshrined on separate dates, hung beside it. The white refrigerator stood squarely and the patterned tiles on the floor reflected cleanliness and care. The wooden plaque on the wall spoke to him in Peter's voice. "Cast all your care upon Him for He careth for you." "But what are my cares, Peter?" Albert questioned the apostle out loud and repeated: "What are my cares?" "What's that, Albert? I can't hear you." "Nothing, mother. Just go to sleep." "I'm sure I heard you say something." "No, mother." He folded the dish towel over the rack and walked into the living room. "Are you sure you didn't say something, Albert?" "Yes." He stood in the middle of the room, undecided as to what to do. "Sit down, son, and read the paper." "I'm going out tonight, mother." "Out? But Mrs. Dorman..." "She's your friend, mother. She's coming to play Scrabble with you." "But you always play with us. She..." "I'm going out tonight, mother." His voice was firm. "Where are you going?" She half sat up, reaching for her bifocals on the side table. "I'm going out." It was all Albert could manage. "But..." "You'll be all right. And I'll be home in good time." He was out in the hall before she could formulate a reply. ''Albert?" Opening the closet door, he took his coat off a hanger. "Albert?" Her voice was growing in intensity. "I'll see you later, mother." The door handle felt cold under his hand and the hinges squeaked. "Albert?" It was more of a shout this time and he shut the door firmly, feeling both guilt and relief. Into the night Albert Tenfold lived on the fifth floor of a high-rise apartment building with his widowed mother. He was thirty-five and she was seventy. His stepfather had died when he was a teenager. Cast into the mold of male provider at an early age, he had never really been young. Fiercely dependent, his mother had leaned on him heavily, and he had settled under the weight. To the outward eye, they were a model family - a stalwart son providing constant love and care for an aging, frail mother. And it had seemed that way to Albert also - had seemed that way until this last month. Perhaps because he was rapidly approaching his thirty-sixth birthday, he had been doing some thinking. Ten years from now he would be forty-five, almost forty-six, and his mother would be eighty and then, ten years later, he would be in his mid-fifties and she would be ninety. Unless she died - but somehow he could not envisage his mother dead - even though deep down he sometimes wished it. He would be her son forever, her son and not someone's husband. And then guilt would flood over him like a wave of hot wind and he would break out into a sweat. How could he be thinking such thoughts? The hall was empty. As he plodded heavily towards the elevator, Albert awkwardly buttoned up his coat. It had all been very well to tell his mother that he was going out, but the truth was that he had no inkling as to where he would go. He had few friends - few friends outside his mother's circle, that is. There were a great many Mrs. Dormans; widows who delighted in visiting back and forth; who excelled in speaking of rheumatism and the weather; and who always commented on how fortunate his mother was to have him. The elevator had brought him down to the first floor. He legged it towards the front door. It was raining outside and he stood for a moment, contemplating the sidewalk through the heavy glass panels. He could possibly go to the library. As he resolutely opened the entrance, both the sound of the rain and the fresh air comforted him. Raindrops were a sound he had always enjoyed. Sighing deeply, he pulled up his collar and struck out. It was quiet outside and almost dark. The faint glow of streetlights reflected and trembled in the puddles. He wished he were going somewhere - somewhere where someone was waiting for him. It began to rain harder as he passed Mary's Dome, the large Roman Catholic cathedral. Although he had quickened his step with the downpour, he stopped for a moment to contemplate the cathedral’s colossal size and grandeur through the sheets of rain. Stone arches glistened in their wetness. He suddenly shivered and coveted shelter. Perhaps he could sit inside for a while. Just until the rain stopped. Turning, he climbed the stone steps which led to massive wooden doors. Gingerly pressing down on a wrought-iron door-handle, he pushed. As the door creaked heavily, an aperture appeared and Albert stepped inside. Flickering candles The cathedral foyer was dark and smelled slightly musty. Behind him the massive wood fell heavily into place, the sound echoing and re-echoing. Hesitantly he walked on through the foyer into the lighted sanctuary. It was huge compared to that of his own church - and comparatively quiet. There people talked and whispered behind their hands when they walked in. They rustled bulletins and took out peppermints. But perhaps because there were so few people here... He inhaled the quiet and relaxed. Three or four people were present in the front pews, heads bowed and silent, praying, as far as he could tell. Albert stood for a moment and then slowly made his way toward the middle of the church, sliding into a seat on his left. The pew was small - almost too small for his bulk. He grinned to himself. What would his mother say? Or his ward elder? Or Mr. DeVries, his employer and an avid commentator on false churches? After a while the quiet had embraced him to such a degree that he felt as if time had stopped. Did it matter to God whether you sat in a Reformed church or a Roman Catholic one? Of course it did, he knew that. But it was raining proverbial cats and dogs outside and the state of one's heart, was that not what God considered? He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face dry. If a church happened to be on your way in a rainstorm and that church was Roman Catholic, well then... Well then, what? It certainly was peaceful here. He cautiously examined the stained-glass windows on his right. Impressive and grand, they made the raindrops outside them glow with color through the matted glass as they danced their way down in rivulets. He shifted his frame somewhat and his foot knocked against a wooden slat beneath the pew in front of him. He contemplated the kneeling bench with interest. Padded with red leather, it appeared comfortable. He glanced about again. There was no one present except the few worshippers at the front and the only one staring at him directly as he peered about was a statue of Mary in the aisle next to him. Clad in a sky-blue stone robe, she eyed him serenely. Cautiously he slid his knees onto the padded red leather and bowed his head. "Our Father..." He could not recall ever before having knelt for prayer in church. He did kneel for prayer when he went to bed. It is not a matter of knees or kneeling, the minister had told them in catechism, but a matter of the heart. And yet, kneeling always made his heart more submissive. Was it submissive now? So many thoughts.... Could you be submissive with so many thoughts running around in your head? "Hallowed be Thy name..." There was a strange smell here. It reminded him of... What was it? Christmas was the time when mother brought out the candles. It was the scent of sweet tallow. Mary's statue, just ahead of him in the center aisle, had a number of candles in front of it. Several of them were burning. Luther had knelt in such churches and so had Calvin. But he was neither a Luther nor a Calvin. Imagine people four centuries from now saying that they were Tenfoldian or Tenfoldistic. He ran his hand over the wood in front of him. The grain was smooth. Sometimes he was not even sure of the truth he stood for. Was the truth always smooth? He went to church, had gone to a Christian school, read the Bible at mealtimes and before he went to bed, prayed at set times and was able to recite a fair number of the catechism questions and answers. Did those matters encompass the truth? And if he heard a lie, would he be able to detect it? He sighed. All of life, all of life... was it not one confrontation after another? Were simple problems not large ones in miniature? And each spoken word... Were you not judged for it? "Thy kingdom come..." Most times, he admitted to himself as he shifted his knees on the red leather, he had no thoughts of God's kingdom at all. There were only the day-by-day affairs of coping with small things, of pleasing his mother and of doing his work properly for Mr. DeVries. "Thy kingdom come...." He moved his body back up onto the bench again and rubbed his knees. In heaven there would be no marriage. The statue of Mary smiled at him benignly. The Roman Catholics believed that she was immaculate, pure, undefiled; and that she had never had relations with her husband Joseph. The figure certainly seemed flawless. There was one thing he had never doubted about her and that was that she surely must have loved her Son. But then, Jesus would have been easier to love than an Albert. Contemplating the statue, he began to whisper confidentially. "I know that you were highly favored, but you were human - you did have sin." Mary kept on smiling. A dozen candles shone brightly at her feet. He imagined lighting candles at his mother's feet, imploring her to intercede, begging her to help with some problem. Did candles have to be made of tallow? Did he not often light candles at his mother's feet in other ways? Did he not do it by always deferring to her and conceding that she was right; by asking if he might do this or that; by permitting her to take a role that somehow made him weak and ineffective, even though it seemed to all the world that he was the provider and the man of the house. Tonight was actually the first time that he could recall that he had actually done something without asking her permission. He regarded the statue again. The sky-blue of the robe was peaceful and Mary’s eyes were pensive, as if she was thinking deeply. But there was a hair-line crack along the folds of her stone robe. He knelt down again on the leather and rested his forehead against the pew in front of him. He did love his mother. Hadn't he taken care of her all these years? Perhaps, perhaps he just didn't like her. Did she love him? Had she reason to not love him? His forehead rubbed against the smooth wood and slipped just a bit as sweat trickled past his eyebrows. He could not recall that she had ever said, “I love you, Albert.” There had been phrases like “I'm proud of you, Albert,” when he had graduated from college, and if he donated money to the church or Christian school, she would say, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver,” but that was about as close... “You are a priest, then?” A slight noise to his right startled him. He raised his head and saw a woman standing by Mary's statue. She fumbled with her purse and Albert watched her take out a wallet, fish out and fold a ten-dollar bill before depositing it into a slot. She made the sign of the cross and lit two of the candles. Hunching down, her clasped hands almost touching the carpet, she was evidently praying. Her blue raincoat dripped water onto the carpet staining bright red. He watched her for a long time. She was motionless but he could see that her lips were moving. What petition, he wondered, was worth ten dollars? What question so burned her heart that she had to kneel down on a faded, red carpet in front of a lifeless statue? Had Eli watched Hannah in this manner? She rose and turned and he could see that there were tears in her eyes. Ashamed to be watching, he bowed his head down on the pew wood again. "...a rare treasure, a must for all parents!" click the cover for the rest of our review. "Excuse me. Could you tell me what time it is?” He opened his eyes. The woman was standing by his side. "I'm sorry to bother... to bother you." She stuttered a bit in embarrassment and he pulled up his coat sleeve to check his watch. "That's all right. It's a quarter after nine." "Thank you." Her blue raincoat was still shiny with rain and black hair curled damply around an oval face. She was fairly young. He would guess her to be around twenty-four or five. "Are you the... the priest?" She looked at him rather anxiously and he wondered if he had put on his collar backwards. The statue of Mary silhouetted behind her and compassion overcame him for her misplaced faith. "The priest?" "Yes... He was to meet me at nine. I thought... thought that you ...?" Clearly, within the chambers of his mind, he heard Peter's words, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." The girl continued to stare at him. Her dark blue eyes were pensive and he smiled at them. "I'm not the priest. That is to say, I'm not the priest you're looking for." "Oh, but you are a priest then?" "Well..." He looked for words to explain to her that as a believer he reflected the glory of God and... His thoughts got no further. "If you're not busy, maybe you have time to speak to me for a moment?" He saw the statue smiling at her back and got a whiff of the tallow. "I'm not Roman Catholic." For a small moment looking into her dark, blue eyes, he was sorry he was not. The girl blinked and took a step backwards. "You're not?" He shook his head. "No, I'm sorry if my being here misled you." "You were praying." She said it defensively. He felt a trifle foolish and stood up. "I came in out of the rain. It's very peaceful here. Yes, I was praying." "I'm not Roman Catholic either." She suddenly smiled up at him and he could see strong, irregular, white teeth. "Oh?" "If you were praying," she was earnest again, "maybe you know about God... about prayer…?” “You might be a king, but…” Albert Tenfold had led a very structured life. It had been drilled into him that organization and discipline were next to godliness. When he was growing up, his mother had always made sure that he had porridge for breakfast, drank milk with his lunch and went to bed at a set time after dinner. Christian grade and high school were givens and catechism lessons a must. There were always two services to attend every Sunday, regular Young People's meetings, and occasional youth rallies. After he had made a public confession of his faith at age seventeen, he had tithed, celebrated the Lord's Supper every two months and attended study weekends on various Bible topics. "About God...?" he answered the girl slowly. "About prayer?" She nodded at him. During his entire thirty-five years of Christian living, Albert had never been confronted with questions of this sort by anyone outside of his church circle, and they hung in front of him like an unused banner. He played for time. "Do you want to go for a coffee and talk for a while?" She considered him for a long moment and he wondered if she felt that this cathedral was a safe place, a place where strangers could be approached without fear. "I'd talk here but it's just that..." He stopped abruptly and made a small gesture towards the front pews with his head. There were still some people there and Albert's whisper carried. "Sure, I'll go for a coffee." Turning her back on the statue, she walked down the aisle ahead of him and he followed. **** 74 short stories make for great devotionals with your kids! Click the cover for our review. The rain had eased off considerably. There was a smell of sweetness in the air and in the distance a dog barked. "What's your name?" She asked the question almost as soon as they reached the pavement. "Albert. What's yours?" "Victoria, but my friends call me Vicky." He grinned. "Why are you laughing?" "Albert and Victoria." She looked at him blankly. "You know," he explained, "the king and queen of England." She grinned too. "Well, you might be a king but I'm not exactly a queen." He awkwardly offered her his arm as she gingerly edged past a puddle on the sidewalk. She took it lightly. He barely noted her touch. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that her hand was small and that her fingers had well-rounded, clean nails. He could not help but think of how his mother would cling to him in this sort of weather. His mother who always wore gloves. Her voice bounced off the sidewalk now and he heard her command clearly within the chambers of his mind. "Your arm, Albert! Give me your arm!" He sighed and quickened his step. She looked up at him questioningly. "You probably have other things to do, right? Actually you don't..." He didn't let her finish. "No, no. I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that ... that I'm not enjoying myself." He finished the sentence rather lamely and almost blushed. **** The coffee shop was crowded and the noisy atmosphere fell about them like an intrusion. They stood in line for a while behind one another, not speaking, studying the pastry behind the glass. "I'll pay for my own." She spoke curtly and avoided looking at him. "No, please..." He didn't really know what to say but went on hesitatingly. "I'd be honored to pay for your coffee and..." "Maybe," and she interrupted in a low voice, "maybe you won't be honored after we talk." He felt unsure suddenly. Maybe this girl was a prostitute; maybe she had committed a murder; maybe... He got no further with his thoughts. "Can I help you, sir?" "A glazed donut, please, and a coffee." "To go?" "No, we'll eat here." Vicky ordered the same and allowed him to pay. “Sometimes, you want to redo time…” Providentially there was an empty table by a window. It had begun to rain again and the sound eased the tension between them. Albert stirred his coffee and wondered how to begin the conversation. But he didn't have to. "Do you still want me to talk to you?" she said. He looked at her. She was fingering her donut without eating it. Damp hair clung to her forehead. "Yes, of course... but if you'd rather not…" His spoon sploshed some coffee over the side of his cup and she reached for a napkin from the holder on the table. "Oh, I'd like to talk to someone. Actually I have to talk to someone or..." She stopped and rubbed the brown puddle on the table fiercely, small fingers white with the pressure. "Well," he said, matter of factly, "well, I'm here and at your service." She took a small sip of her coffee, smiled nervously at him and began. "A year ago I was a student at the university here in town. I was enrolled in Political Studies..." She lifted her coffee with both hands and stared out the window. He waited. He didn't have to wait long. She no longer seemed to be speaking to him but, considering her reflection in the window, addressed it. "I resented most things... rich people, styrofoam, male chauvinists, acid rain and apartheid. I joined Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Amnesty International and talked about a lot of things without really understanding any of them. I said that I was an agnostic and I was flattered when I raised eyebrows." She paused for breath, put down her cup and crumbed off a piece of her donut. Not eating it, but turning it over in her hand, she went on. "All my friends were saying the same sort of things. One of them... One of them..." She picked up her coffee, sipped again and returned to her reflection in the window. "To make a long story short... Well, I became pregnant... The father was someone I hardly knew... and the baby I conceived was just another thing I didn't really understand." Albert had been watching her face. He had been listening to the sound of her voice thinking that it didn't really fit in the story. She had a child's voice and her hands were a child's hands. "The group I hung around with all advised me to go for an abortion. So I did what was expected of me. I scheduled an appointment for an abortion at a health clinic." Albert sat up straighter and took a bite out of his donut. His heartbeat increased and he felt sweat trickle down his armpits. "But my friends... they suggested that I try a new abortion technique. It was a drug. So I... I looked into it. There was a special clinic and it was close to where I lived. I went to it." **** Some people passed their table and Vicky stopped talking. She gulped down some of her coffee and coughed. Albert cleared his throat. He racked his brain for Biblical texts - prayed for some homily to come to him which he might deliver here at this coffee shop which would relieve the tension and which would both teach error and convey compassion. "I... There was a staff." Vicky seemed not to notice his discomfort. Engulfed in the past, her voice kept on confessing. "They examined me and had me sign two documents. One was a release form and one was a government something or other. Then a nurse came and she had this small suitcase. She explained things... like how this drug would work. I didn't understand it all but didn't let on. I was scared." Albert took another bite of his donut. It tasted bland and he had trouble swallowing it. "Was I sure I wanted to go ahead? That's what the nurse asked. And I said, yes... yes, I was sure. And then she opened the suitcase and gave me a small box. There were three pills in the box, just three little pills. She brought me a glass of water and then I... I swallowed those pills. Just like that... just like that." Her voice broke and Albert took a swallow of his coffee and cleared his throat again. Vicky pushed her donut towards the center of the table and picked up her napkin. "Sometimes you want to redo time, to relive just one moment. Have you ever had that?" She turned her face to him fully for the first time and he noted that her eyes were blue with small flecks of green in them. He answered slowly. "I've had that. Yes... I've had that lots of times. It's because we continually do things that we regret later. We always..." "Yes," she interrupted, "but what if the thing you do is so..." She stopped again and then went on. "The pills made me sick. I had cramps, nausea and diarrhea and I bled... I just bled and bled. I phoned the clinic and they told me not to worry but I felt so ghastly. I could barely get out of bed to make it to the bathroom. There was so much pain and I couldn't focus properly. I finally phoned for an ambulance. They came and took me to the hospital." "Did you... Had you..." Albert couldn't help but ask, "Had you lost the baby?" She stared at him with her blue eyes. "Lost it? You don't understand. If you lose something... Well, you can maybe find it later. I failed to abort with the pill but it had done the job. The child in me was dead and, as a result, I had to have a surgical abortion and... And during that surgical abortion my uterus was punctured. There was infection, a bad infection, and then I had a hysterectomy." "Oh." It was all Albert could manage. He played with his cup and noted that it had stopped raining. Were these the words Vicky had prayed to Mary? Was this what her silent lips had been speaking of to a mere statue? Had she lit a candle to atone for murder? He shivered. “I have to apologize to someone” "They didn't tell me that I would be feeling such guilt. No one ever mentioned the fact that I would feel such a..." She stopped and tried again. "No one explained. You see, I know for a fact that it was a child... not just a nothing... and I killed this child... my child. My friends didn’t understand when I tried to explain how I felt... and I was so lost." “Your family..." Albert got no further than two words. She laughed. "I have no family. That is, my mother died when I was seven and my father is living with wife number four. I haven't been home for years and don't plan to go there now." "Oh." Again, it was all Albert was able to say. How would his mother react to a Vicky? "Mother, may I introduce you to Vicky. She just had an abortion and is feeling a little down." "I... I realize that whatever it was that I was trying to be or say last year and before that, was a fraud - was not real. But I know that there is something real. There has to be! And I'm trying to find it. So I wanted to ask the priest about God and then he wasn't there. But you were there." **** There are 9 short stories here, and “I was a Stranger” is reason enough to pick it up. Click the cover for our review. Albert was suddenly calm. "You see," she went on, staring out of the window again, "if there is nothing, then I wouldn't be able to live. I... I... I don't know if you understand, but I have to be able to apologize to someone for... for killing this baby." There was a sudden clap of thunder outside and the rain resumed with thick drops splattering the sidewalk. Vicky shivered. Albert began to speak. Cautiously his voice crept across the table. "I think I understand what you mean," he said. "Can I tell you something about myself - something I haven't told... something I have never told anyone." He stopped. She turned her eyes towards him. He could read neither approval nor disapproval in them. "Sure." Her passionate voice had become flat. It had turned bland, disappointed perhaps. Maybe she wanted a quick answer. But he wouldn't be able to answer quickly. He looked her full in the face. "It isn't easy for me to speak actually. I'm more of a doer than a speaker." She didn't respond and he went on hesitantly, choosing his words with care. "I was born during the first year of the war. We lived in a small village somewhere in the north of Holland. I don't remember much." His hands crumpled the napkin he was holding. "It’s funny, the things that I do remember though. Things like the creaking of the cradle I must have slept in; things like a horse pulling the milk cart passing our house every morning. My mother says that my first word was horse." He looked at her, waiting for some sort of response, but there was none. And his intuition told him that she wasn't really listening because the words meant nothing to her, nothing at all. But he went on all the same. “My father had a good job. He was a lawyer, a very good lawyer my mother tells me. He conducted a lot of business and people liked him very much. When the war came, he helped people. He helped Jews in particular. The strange thing is that I don't remember my father's face but I do remember that he was tall, very tall. Perhaps I remember that because he used to throw me up into the air and catch me in his arms." “My heart accused me…” Vicky was still not reacting to his story at all. If anything, she was slightly uncomfortable. But Albert persisted. "During the first years of the war my father lived at home. He was not suspected by the Germans of any subterfuge even though he was involved in the underground. His specialty had something to do with illegal documents. But later on he had to leave our house and go into hiding. My mother and I only saw him on those few occasions that he deemed it safe to come for a short visit. On one of those visits the Gestapo must have been tipped off because shortly after he arrived they surrounded our house. My mother was frantic and father hid behind a secret panel in the living room. When they came into the house a moment later, she and I were in the kitchen. They didn't ask where he was but simply began searching." Albert stopped and stretched his legs under the table. He wasn't looking for a reaction in Vicky's eyes anymore. He had actually almost forgotten she was there. "And then... What happened then?" Her voice called him back and he saw that she had become genuinely interested. "Then? Well, miracle of miracles, they didn't find him." He stopped and stretched his legs again. "What was the point of telling me that story?" "The point? I'm still coming to that. You see, after their combing of our entire house, one of the officers hunched down by me, small boy of three that I was, and began to play with me. He had a chocolate bar in his pocket and even though my mother frowned, I took it when he gave it to me. He helped me unwrap the candy and I began to eat... and all the while my mother was glaring. But it tasted wonderful and the man seemed so friendly. When he took me on his lap a moment later, I completely ignored my mother and freely smiled at him. He joked with me and then asked if maybe my father was maybe playing hide and seek. I laughed out loud, greatly amused that he would ask such a question. He laughed too and asked where my father, who must be very clever indeed, might be hiding. I slid off his lap, walked into the living room and stood by the panel. When they discovered my father a few moments later, I remember that I did not feel quite right about it but didn't really understand why. When I ran to my mother for comfort, she spat in my face. Then they... they took him out into our yard and shot him, right in front of the house. The soldier who had given me the chocolate said, 'Danke schön,' bowed to my mother and myself, and left. He was mocking us. Afterwards, my mother made me go out to look at the dead body of my father... and I screamed and screamed until the neighbors came and took me away." "You didn't mean it," Vicky said. "You didn't know what you were doing. You were only a little child." "Yes," Albert answered thickly, "you are right. I was only a child." The thunder rolled in the distance and Vicky's eyes were sympathetic when she said, "How did you... How did you manage? What did your mother...?" "She... I lived with the neighbors until the end of the war. She didn't want... me." "Oh." She drummed her fingers along the table edge and regarded Albert seriously. "You were praying in church. You told me that you were praying. So, what did you do with your guilt? Or, didn't you pray when you were little? Or, what I'm trying to say is how did you deal with the fact that you caused...?" 7 stories from the 2 World Wars. Click on the cover for our review. She stopped abruptly. He smiled at her. The fact that he now felt forgiven for the death he had caused did not make it any easier to speak of this time. "No one really spoke to me about my father's death. The neighbors were very kind. But as I grew older I felt, also because of what other children said to me at school, that I was solely responsible for the fact that my mother was a widow. When my mother remarried in 1946 I had been living with her again for about a year and my stepfather made plans to emigrate to Canada. We never spoke of my own father. As I grew older my mind told me that I had only been an ignorant child during the war, but my heart accused me of murder every day. We went to church, yes, and we read the Bible." Vicky's eyes were wide with affinity. Albert went on. "What finally saved me from this terrible guilt feeling, Vicky, was the fact that God allowed me to see that He was totally in control of all things." He was quiet and for a moment saw himself earlier that evening, kneeling in the pew. He had been thinking about truth, the truth that God controlled one's life, the truth that God's tender, loving control had always drawn him with cords woven throughout everyday life. Vicky continued to look at him and he went on. "God was in control of my father's life. He had stipulated when and where my father would die. And, I was also led to see that, but for my father's death, I would not have been as drawn to study the Bible so thoroughly to investigate the mighty God I worship, the God Who forgives when we are truly sorry." Vicky stared at him unblinkingly. He wondered if she had understood what he was saying. "I think that if you are looking for God, Vicky," he finally ended, "it's safe to say that He is making you look, that He has used this very tragic thing that has happened to you, this abortion, to make you look for Him." “I can tell you where to look” A waitress stopped by their table. "How is everything with you folks? Anything else you need?" "No, thank you." Albert was quick to answer but then amended, "Maybe you would like some more coffee, Vicky?" "No, no thank you." Her voice was thin and lifeless. The tables around them were almost empty. The waitress smiled. "All right. We'll be closing soon. It's after eleven." Albert glanced at his watch. He imagined that his mother would be livid by now. He took out the small notepad and pen he kept in his pocket and jotted down his church address. "I can't give you faith, Vicky. I can't give you forgiveness either. But I can tell you where to look for it." "I know God is there." Vicky whispered the words. "I know... but I don't know how I know." "Do you have a Bible?" "Yes, I bought one last week." "Then you must read it every day." The lights in the restaurant dimmed and they automatically stood up. The rain had let up again. "I'll walk you home." "No, no... I live very close by." "Well, then it shouldn't be a problem." "No, no... please, I need time to think and be by myself. Thanks." The waitress eyed them impatiently as they walked past her to the door. "Thanks again, Albert." "Goodnight, Vicky." He watched her walk away, small and slight in a coat the color of her eyes, and felt some pain. “It’s your mother…” In the elevator ride up to the fifth floor, Albert rehearsed what he would say when he walked in. There was no doubt in his mind that his mother would still be awake. "Albert?!" "Yes, mother." "Where were you all evening?" "Out with a girl, mother. She'd had an abortion and felt rather miserable. So I took her to a coffee shop and tried to tell her about the forgiveness we can have in Christ." He contemplated the elevator buttons and continued his conversation. "Do you know about forgiveness, mother? You don't, do you?" "Albert, what kind of way is that to speak to your mother?" "Sorry, mother, but I had to say it sooner or later. Even though God forgave me for inadvertently causing father's death you never let me forget that I made you a widow. You never let me forget that I was the one who..." The elevator had reached the fifth floor. The hall was quiet and Albert's inward voice dissolved. **** He took out his keys as he walked towards the apartment. They jangled and he stifled a yawn, hoping against hope that his mother would, after all, be asleep. Before he could fit his key into the lock, however, the apartment door opened. Mrs. Dorman stared up at him. "Albert, you're finally home." "Yes, but what are you still doing here, Mrs. Dorman?" "Your mother, Albert... It's your mother." "What about my mother? What's the matter with her?" They were still standing in the doorway and he moved past the small, dark woman into the apartment. "Maybe you should sit down before..." "What's the matter with my mother, Mrs. Dorman?" "She felt ill, Albert. She had a pain in her chest. So I called an ambulance..." "Yes?" A strange feeling came over him. "They came within five minutes of my calling and the attendant said that it was her heart." He stared at Mrs. Dorman. The woman was nervously twisting her hands together. "It was a heart attack, Albert. I rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital. They took her to intensive care. But before they took her there I promised that I would come back to the apartment and wait for you." "Thank you, Mrs. Dorman. That was kind of you." "Are you going down to the hospital now?" She looked at him, her eyes wide and helpless. His mother was her best friend. "Yes, I will and I'll phone you in the morning to let you know how things are." "Thank you, Albert. Thank you." She walked towards the door and then turned. "Wasn't it too bad that you were out just tonight of all nights?" "Yes. Goodnight, Mrs. Dorman." **** After he closed the door behind her, Albert walked into the living room. A just-begun Scrabble game lay on the table. The words apple, tax and problem stared up at him - three words made by his mother and Mrs. Dorman. He ran his fingers through the word “problem” and then tilted the board, emptying the letters back into the Scrabble box. Maybe his mother had already felt ill when he had left. She had looked just a bit off color. He closed the box and sighed. A great weariness crept over him. But greater than the weariness was the feeling that he had failed somewhere - again. He sat down and cupped his face with his hands. If he was really honest with himself he had to admit that he had no great affection for his mother. “Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” He didn't really know at this precise moment whether or not he had honored his mother. Holding him with invisible ropes as it were, she had made him aware of the past in innumerable ways. The small clearing of her throat, for example, when the minister read the sixth commandment. It had always made him edgy, nervous, countless times as a child, and still caused him to squirm. Not because God had not forgiven him, but because she had not. He sighed again and slowly stood up. Better go to the hospital and see how things were. “Forgetting what is behind…” It was still raining when he drove the car through the streets not five minutes later. The windshield wipers beat a soft rhythm and the quiet of the hour calmed him somewhat. He could not stop thinking about his mother's life. She had been happy, as far as he could tell, with his stepfather. His stepfather had been a good husband, a kind father, a gentle and hard-working man. But his mother had always been reserved, had always held back. Albert could not remember that he had ever seen her kiss his stepfather. Neither had she ever kissed her son for that matter. He could not remember either, that she had ever sung spontaneously or laughed genuinely at something silly. On the other hand, she had always cooked good meals, had provided adequate clothing and had kept the house very neat. She had led an ordered existence, an ordered existence that would now, he went on to think, maybe come to an end. What could he say to her as she lay on her hospital bed? If he could never speak to her again but this one time, what was it he should say to this woman who had, after all, borne him in her belly for nine months and who must, it seemed to him, have harbored some love for him. But he could not feel that love as he sat in the car and drove through the dark. **** The streets were deserted but he stopped punctually at every red light, playing for time, having no particular desire to get to the hospital quickly. He thought of Vicky - a compassionate, young woman who had wept because she had killed her unborn child. Perhaps Vicky had more compassion for her dead child than his mother had ever had for him. No, that was a ridiculous thought, an unfair thought. He rubbed his forehead with his right hand and, returning it to the steering wheel, found it wet with sweat. He should not be unfair. What was it he had said to Vicky? Nothing, he had said, nothing is outside of God's control. God had used the tragedy in his life to make him realize just how dependent he was on God. What was it the minister had preached on last Sunday? Oh yes, forget what is behind and strain toward the goal for which God has called us. Another red light - he brought the car to a slow stop. His mother had been unable to forget what lay behind her. They had never really talked about his father and what had happened - never. Would they be able to talk about it now? If they talked about it, would she be able to forget - to forgive? Was it hampering her road to heaven? He should have talked to her at some point. The light turned green. He stepped on the gas and began to drive faster. Was it not also true that, if she had maintained a grudge against him all these years, he had also nurtured a grudge against her? He drove through the next red light. **** The hospital entrance was quiet. The glass doors opened silently under his push. "Can I help you, sir?" The nurse at the desk looked efficient. "My mother was admitted earlier this evening - a heart attack. I've just heard and now...." "What's your mother's name?" "Drooger." She consulted her book and peered up at him from her swivel chair. "She's in intensive care, sir. Fourth floor. You'll have to ask at the desk there." "Thank you." He walked on towards the elevator. “Perhaps it was a blessing” The fourth floor corridor had a red carpet - red, the color of blood. He walked over it quickly and with some trepidation. Two nurses presided at the desk. They both looked up at him and smiled. "Yes?" A unique look at Luther and his times - click the cover for our review. "My mother was admitted earlier this evening with a heart attack. I understand she's in intensive care." He eyed the double doors behind their desk to the intensive care unit with some degree of dislike. They appeared so grim, grey and dismal, as if they only let in and not out. "Your mother's name, sir?" "Drooger." He spoke with some impatience. "Drooger?" "Yes." There was some hesitation on the nurses' part before one of them responded, "Could you wait in the waiting room, sir? I'll ring for the doctor on call to speak with you." "The doctor?" He spoke cautiously, tripping over the word. "Why must I speak with the doctor? I just want to..." "He'll be with you directly. You can sit down over there, sir." They indicated a small lounge behind the desk and smiled at him. "All right." He walked towards the lounge, clumsily scuffing his feet on the red carpet, uncomfortably aware that both nurses were eyeing him behind his back. **** There were three brown chairs and a leather couch. Indecisively he stood for a moment and then sank down heavily into one of the chairs. The table sported magazines - colorful editions featuring smiling men and ladies. The clock on the wall told him it was 12:01. He picked up one of the magazines and then laid it back down. "Mr. Drooger?" A young man had materialized at the entrance of the lounge. Albert stood up. "My name is Tenfold, Albert Tenfold. Mrs. Drooger is my mother." "Please, remain seated. I'd just like to speak with you a moment." "My mother..." Albert was afraid to phrase the question. The young man came closer and bending down, offered his hand. "I'm Dr. Ellis." "Glad to meet you." Dr. Ellis sat down on one of the other chairs and Albert waited. "Your mother was admitted around nine o'clock this evening. I happened to be on duty and so I attended her." "It was a heart attack?" Albert began searching out the pieces of the puzzle that lay between him and a finished picture - pieces that the doctor held. "Yes," Dr. Ellis nodded and queried, "You live in town?" "I live at home with my mother. I was not there tonight when she became ill." Albert's voice was meticulous and short. "Ah." "My mother..." Albert began again. "Yes, your mother did have a heart attack." It was now 12:05. The clock, Albert thought, seemed to move faster than this young man. "How is my mother?" Dr. Ellis reached out a thin and long hand and placed it on Albert's knee. "I'm sorry, Mr. Tenfold. Your mother passed away about an hour ago." Albert sat very still. The doctor removed his hand and regarded him solicitously. "Is there something I can get for you - a coffee?" "No, no, thank you." "It may sound callous, Mr. Tenfold, but perhaps it was a blessing. You see, it was a massive heart attack. There had been extensive damage - several organs were not functioning anymore." "May I see her? May I see the body?" “Perhaps milk and honey” The room in which his mother's body lay was very quiet. The doctor had offered to come in with Albert but he had refused, saying that he wanted to be alone. As the metal door fell shut behind him, he stood leaning against it for several moments, breathing in the nothing odor of the room. His mother’s form scarcely made a dint under the covers of the bed. For a moment he thought he saw the sheet moving, moving up and down as if his mother was still breathing. But it was fool's gold, because when he moved closer there was only stillness, unbroken stillness. **** Might be Christine's best. Click the cover to read our review. He stood at the foot of the bed and held onto the railing. "Hello, mother." Moving to the side, he pulled up a chair and sat down. "I've been gone most of the evening, I know," he went on, "but I didn't know. I really had no idea that you would die tonight." She didn't answer and he looked down at his hands. "You know," he went on, looking up again, "I thought that I might get a chance to talk to you tonight about the past. As I drove down in the car I was thinking about all the things that I would say to you. And now it's too late." He stopped and pulled his chair a little closer to the bed. "But maybe it's not too late, not too late for me, that is. You see," and he looked up again at her dead form, "you see, maybe if I had brought it up, maybe if I had told you that I was sorry, the way I told God that I was sorry, you might have forgiven me. Now you died without forgiving me." His voice caught and he lay his head on the edge of the bed's steel railing. But the words flowed on, the words tumbled out past all the years of stifle, hitting the floor with their vehemence. "Yet maybe this evening you did forgive me. Before you died, perhaps you thought, ah, I should have told my son that I love him. I should have..." His voice broke again but still he went on. "I do not know that you did. I cannot judge that. God will judge that... and this is what I want to say to God and to you - I forgive you, mother. I forgive you for haunting me, for never allowing me to have my own life outside of yours all these years." He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve, before he went on. "... and yet it was my own fault too. Because I let you do it and I could have stopped it." **** He stood up and regarded her face. Smooth and unperturbed, she lay silently. It was almost as if she would open her eyes in a second and say, "Albert, is the tea ready yet?" "No - no tea, mother," he whispered, "but perhaps milk and honey -perhaps that." Then he left the room, not stopping to turn for a last look. “It’s been three days…” Three days later there was a funeral. Although Albert accepted myriad condolences at the funeral home, he was not quite comfortable with the “I'm sorry about your mother...” remarks. Was it necessary, he reflected, as he sat in the left front pew, flanked only by the three church members whom he had asked to be pallbearers, that others knew how he felt? Was it necessary that someone understood? The minister read from John, unperturbed by Albert's thoughts. "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now...’" **** There was no clock in the sanctuary. The coffin stood directly beneath the pulpit. His mother had always sat in the ninth row from the front. Albert turned his head slightly and almost expected to see her there, smartly dressed in her green summer coat, straight and dignified with her eyes on the minister. There were a lot of people behind him and his gaze passed over them impersonally, passed over them and then suddenly stopped. In the exact place where his mother had been wont to sit, was a slight figure in a blue raincoat. “‘If You had been here,' Martha said to Jesus, 'my brother would not have died.’” The minister's voice rose and fell about his being. "These words of Martha tell us a lot about what she was actually thinking. She was thinking, if you had been here, and you could have been because we sent you a message, then you could have prevented Lazarus' death." Albert turned again and saw that Vicky's face was turned towards the pulpit with studious attention. Why would Vicky be here? He'd given her the address of the church, of course. But it wasn't Sunday and... "Jesus’ direct statement, 'Your brother will rise again,' evoked an earthly response from Martha. 'Yes, I know that he will rise again on the last day.'" Albert eyed the coffin again. His mother would rise again. The lid of the coffin would open and she would climb out, maybe jump out. "Martha wanted an immediate resurrection - she wanted a 'now' answer, brothers and sisters. We all often want a 'now' answer and we forget that God has His own agenda, His own way of working things out for good." Albert shifted his feet and listened, listened with his own ears and also with Vicky's. "‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’" A shaft of sunlight fell through the window at the right and a pool of brightness bathed the front section of the church. "The question is not, brothers and sisters, whether Martha believed Jesus' words. The question is, do you believe them?" He walked out behind the minister. The pallbearers walked with him and the people from the funeral home pushed the coffin sedately ahead of them all towards the door and on to the parking lot. The small figure in the blue raincoat reached his side before he reached the hearse. "Albert - wait." Scores of heads turned, turned and listened. "It's been three days - and I've been reading and looking. I just wanted you to know." The pallbearers had stopped walking and Albert smiled broadly as he gestured to them to move on. You can read some of Christine Farenhorst's other Christmas stories here....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – November 2022

Chesterton saw it coming… A hundred years ago, in the Aug 14, 1926 edition of the Illustrated London News, G.K. Chesterton wrote a column that could be a commentary on our own time. The extreme skepticism that leads some to reject God was going to lead them to reject ever more of the real world.  “The Declaration of Independence, once the charter of democracy, begins by saying that certain things are self-evident. If we were to trace the history of the American mind from Thomas Jefferson to William James, we should find that fewer and fewer things were self-evident, until at last hardly anything is self-evident. So far from it being self-evident to the modern that men are created equal, it is not self-evident that men are created, or even that men are men. They are sometimes supposed to be monkeys muddling through a transition stage before the Superman. But there is not only doubt about mystical things; not even only about moral things. There is most doubt of all about rational things. I do not mean that I feel these doubts, either rational or mystical; but I mean that a sufficient number of modern people feel them to make unanimity an absurd assumption. Reason was self-evident before Pragmatism. Mathematics were self-evident before Einstein. But this scepticism is throwing thousands into a condition of doubt, not about occult but about obvious things. We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green. Thomas Sowell on those who can’t, critiquing those who do “The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society, except their constant criticisms, can feel both intellectually and morally superior.” Secular isn’t a synonym for neutral “It turns out that, however you might wish otherwise, you eventually wind up wherever it was you were going. If you get on the plane to Chicago, and I would ask you to follow me closely here, you are going to land in Chicago. We are now arriving where a godless education must necessarily go. The public schools in America were not secular, they were godless. The public schools in America were not neutral, they were godless. The public schools in America were not even agnostic, they were godless.” – Douglas Wilson Wit and wisdom of Benjamin Franklin While best known as one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin was also a printer, postmaster, scientist, diplomat, and inventor. On top of all that, he had quite the reputation as a public wit, spouting such well-known aphorisms as “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead,“ “Fish and visitors stink after three days,“ and “Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.” While he was likely not Christian (he seemed to deny Christ’s deity) many of his common-sense witticisms have some depth to them. Might it be because he was riffing off of the inspired Word? What follows are a few Franklin selections paired with texts that say something similar. Is the connection real or imagined?  “Well done is better than well said.” “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22 “Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it.” “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” – Prov 12:15 “He’s a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom.” “A prudent person conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” – Prov 12:23 “He that lies down with dogs, shall arise with fleas.” “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” – Prov. 13:20 “Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices.” “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” –Philippians 2:3 Lyric of the month This might be an oldie but it is a real goodie from the Newsboys: Real Good Thing Born to sin / and then get caught. All our good deeds / don’t mean squat.  Sell the Volvo / shred the Visa, send the cash to Ma Teresa. Great idea / the only catch is you don’t get saved / on merit badges. Doctor’s coming / looking grim: "Do you have a favorite hymn?"  Check your balance through the years, All accounts are in arrears. Guilt is bitter. / Grace is sweet. Park it here / on the Mercy Seat.  When we don’t get what we deserve, that’s a real good thing. When we get what we don’t deserve, that’s a real good thing. Why is only the other side quoting the Bible? In US politics one party is still acknowledging God’s Word as authoritative. And it’s not the Republicans. In an October debate with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Democratic challenger Charlie Crist alluded to both Matthew 7:1 and 7:12 to, blasphemously, defend abortion and to justify allowing double mastectomies and other genital mutilations on children. “I believe that we need to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. It’s called the Golden Rule…. we’re all children of God. And that doesn’t mean that you are the one who’s supposed to judge what others are supposed to do, particularly women, with their bodies.” A month earlier, another prominent Democrat, California governor Gavin Newsom, ran billboards in Mississippi and Oklahoma that read: “Need an abortion? California is ready to help.” This offer of abortion was justified with Mark 12:31, included underneath, which reads “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” Such mangling of the Bible for political purposes is nothing new of course. In the 2004 presidential campaign, the Democratic contender, John Kerry, called “Honor your Father and your Mother…one of the oldest Commandments” seemingly unaware that God gave all Ten Commandments at the same time. But even as Democrats continue to cite the Bible, it’s worth considering, why does it increasingly seem that the only folks willing to quote God’s Word are the murderers and mutilators? They do so blasphemously, taking God’s Words in vain… but in a strange way they, at least, are treating God’s Word as both relevant and authoritative in the public sphere. Hit back? It is a Christian parent’s repeated role to explain to their pint-size progeny that Jesus did not tell us to“do unto others as they did to us.” But, as Greg Koukl recently pointed out, there can come a time in debate or discussion when that is good advice – you may need to give as good as you got. It is the appropriate response when someone tries to pin you with what’s called the “Kafka Trap.” In his novel The Trial, Franz Kafka presented a Soviet-style interrogation where the denial of something would be presented as proof of guilt. So, for example: I think you have a drug addiction What? I do not! That just proves it – drug addicts always deny it! Today this Trap is most often used to accuse people of racism: if you deny you’re racist, that just proves that you are. When you’re hit with this you’re-hooped-either-way attack, Greg Koukl offers this tactic: do unto them as they’ve done to you ...accept his approach, then turn the Kafka trap back on him. Here’s an example: “I knew you’d say that, and I’m glad you did.” “What! Why?” “Because it proves you’re wrong.” “Huh?” “No one says that unless they’re mistaken. Don’t you see it?” “No.” “That’s even more proof you’re wrong. Sorry.” Or… “Do you know what ‘social justice’ means?” “Of course I do.” “That proves you don’t. No one who really understands social justice thinks he understands it.” Doing to others as they’ve done to you isn’t wrong here because this isn’t about revenge, but rather clarity. You’re exposing them for just how insubstantial their rhetoric really is. Coaches with a parenting tip for us all It’s said that practice makes better… but better at what? A basketball player that practices badly will engrain those bad habits. Then, whatever he might be doing wrong, whether it’s a high dribble, or putting no arc on his shot – he’ll actually get more consistently bad by practicing at it. And parents, the same is true for our children: if they’re mouthing off with regularity, or responding with the right words but the wrong tone, they are practicing being bad. And if that’s left uncorrected then they’ll get really good at being bad… especially when they hit the teen years. So just as it is important to practice basketball the right way, our kids need to not just say the words, but practice saying them the right way… lest they be practicing and reinforcing and engraining the wrong way. Free vs. free “There are constant calls from NDP candidates and MPs for free post-secondary tuition, free childcare, free dental care, free drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational), free housing, free wifi . . . even free money (Universal Basic Income). The only thing they don’t want free is ‘dom’ . . . (as in freedom). They don’t want a free press. They don’t want free speech. They don’t want parents free to raise their children as they see fit. They don’t want a free conscience. They don’t want free thinkers at universities. – Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor, “Socialism …on the Instalment Plan”...

Science - Environment

7 biblical principles of environmental stewardship

As environmental issues have become centerpieces in recent elections, policy-making, and public discourse, Christians must promote a biblical understanding of what the environment is, what humanity’s relationship with the environment is, and what God’s plan for the environment is. The mandate to care for the planet – including the animals, plants, land, water, and air – is a theme present throughout God’s Word. Christians have a responsibility to articulate these biblical principles and to shape environmental public policy in a way that is consistent with Scripture. Here are seven biblical principles about the environment and how humanity should interact with the non-human creation. These principles form building blocks for a Reformed Christian perspective on public policy concerning environmental care and expose flaws in other environmental perspectives. PRINCIPLE 1 God, the Creator of all things, has commanded mankind to exercise fruitful stewardship over His creation “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”1 Those opening words of Scripture form the foundation of environmental stewardship. Because He created the earth and everything in it, God is the sole proprietor of all creation. All of creation belongs to Him.2 No human can lay ultimate claim over any aspect of creation – land, natural resources, or animals. Nevertheless, God delegated authority over creation to humanity at the very beginning of history. In Genesis 1:28, often called the cultural mandate, God commands mankind to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”3 In Genesis 2:16, He also placed the man “in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Caring for the earth is one of God’s purposes for humanity. The first command in the cultural mandate - be fruitful - can be understood through the Parable of the Talents.4 In this parable, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God, which encompasses all of creation, to a master who entrusts his property to his three servants. The servants understand that the property under their care is not ultimately theirs but belongs to their master. This master will eventually demand an account of how his servants managed his property. The two servants who fruitfully invested their master’s money were rewarded. The third servant, who neglected to fruitfully invest it, was condemned for his unproductivity. If the servant who allowed his master’s property to remain stagnant was condemned, how much worse would it be for a servant who deliberately wastes or ruins his master’s resources? This framework of fruitful stewardship over financial resources can also be applied to mankind’s treatment of the rest of creation. God entrusts the non-human creation to humanity, not necessarily so that humanity can simply preserve it in its natural state, but so that humanity might be fruitful with it.5 This requires mankind to develop and transform the earth’s natural resources, while also preserving ecosystems that provide valuable goods and services to mankind and that declare the glory of God (see Principle 2). Progress and development are implicit commands of God.6 As Dr. Cornelis Van Dam writes: “The divine mandate involves harnessing creation’s resources and making the most of its potential while being careful to use the resources wisely… It is telling that although the world began with a garden it will end with a great and beautiful city.”7 At the end of our lives or at the end of the world, God will reward those who fruitfully managed the creation that He has given to humanity, but will punish those who have not repented from their neglect or active destruction of it. Fruitful stewardship is mandatory. PRINCIPLE 2 All creation is valuable, but humanity, as the image-bearers of God, is the most valuable created being Scripture demonstrates that the whole of creation has intrinsic worth in the sight of God.8 After each day of creation, God declared his creation to be good – day and night, land and sea and air, plants, sea creatures, birds, and all animals.9 He commands the living creatures to “be fruitful and multiply”10 and to “abound on the earth.”11 After the great flood, God covenants with Noah and “every living creature” that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17); in this passage, God mentions “every living creature” six times.12 God also covenants with the earth (Genesis 9:13) and the day and the night (Jeremiah 33:19-25). The book of Job and the Psalms abound with descriptions of how God delights in His creation. Matthew 6:25-33 also illustrates God’s care for His creation; He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field with glorious lilies. The various parts of creation, in turn, also declare the glory of their Creator.13 The environment also has value to mankind.14 The resources of creation have – food, water, air, stone, wood, metals – nourish us and allow us to improve our standard of living. Creation provides many ongoing services that are indispensable to human flourishing:15 For example, plants use photosynthesis to transform carbon dioxide into the oxygen required for human respiration. Because creation is valuable both in the sight of God and humanity, God decreed how Israel was to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment in the Old Testament. Humanity was to allow animals to rest on the Sabbath16 and to treat animals well.17 Productive fruit trees were not to be cut down during the siege of a city, so that the productive capacity of the land would not be diminished.18 Even the land itself was supposed to rest fallow every seven years.19 Although these commands were made in the specific context of Old Testament Israel, the underlying principle to be responsible stewards over creation still applies. While God values all of His creation, He uniquely values mankind that He made in His image.20 Although after every day of creation God pronounced His creation to be good, God declared that creation was very good only after His creation of man. Thus, humanity is not merely equal to the animals or some other part of creation. He set humanity to rule over the rest of creation and gave plants21 and later animals22 to humanity as food. God established His original covenant with humanity and made humanity the object of this covenant. And, in Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus says that if God devotes such care for birds and grass, how much more will He care for humanity? Thus, a hierarchy exists in the created order.23 God, the sovereign and providential Creator, presides over both humanity and the other parts of creation. Humanity, the image-bearers of God, is below God but above the rest of creation.24 The non-human creation, although inherently valuable in the sight of God and man, rests at the bottom of this hierarchy. Humanity therefore should not adopt a “biocentric” philosophy that aims to preserve all life, nor an “ecocentric” philosophy that aims to preserve the environment in its natural state, nor an “anthropocentric” view in which nature’s only purpose is to serve humanity. Instead, humanity should adopt a “theocentric” view of both caring for and subduing the rest of creation in a manner prescribed by God.25 PRINCIPLE 3 God commands that humanity exercise both dominion and care over all of creation 26 In the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28, God commands humanity to have dominion over the earth and to subdue it. Theologians point out that the original Hebrew word for subdue (kavash) is a “fairly strong term” that “means to overpower, to conquer, to bring under control.”27 This subduing of the environment includes extracting the natural resources of creation to increase human standards of living (both before and after sin infected the world). For example, God created hills out of which humanity “can dig copper”28 and trees that men could “cut down” for wood.29 Jesus both curses an unfruitful fig tree and suggests that it should be cut down, for “why should it use up the ground?”30 The Mosaic Law prescribed a number of practices to prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, our ability to properly exercise dominion over God’s creation is limited by humanity’s finitude and is marred by sin.31 Humanity has the capacity to overconsume, pollute, and destroy as we endeavour to exercise dominion over the non-human creation.32 Focusing only on Genesis 1:28 may lead us to think we have the “right to do anything we want to the earth”33 – that the sole purpose of the environment is to serve as raw materials to fuel human needs and desires.34 We might ignore the health of other living creatures or long-term sustainability. In case humanity is tempted to simply exploit nature, God balances this command to subdue the earth by revealing His purpose for humanity: to keep (ESV), to take care of (NIV), to tend (NKJV), or even to serve(YLT) the garden.35 Exclusive attention to this command in Genesis 2:15 may also lead to an incomplete understanding of environmental stewardship. Under a care-only philosophy, humanity is to preserve the environment the way it is, to never harm or kill animals, or to make conservation the highest calling of humanity. Combining the commands of both of these verses (subdue and serve) may seem contradictory, but a proper Christian understanding of these terms makes them perfectly compatible. Authority and service go hand in hand within families, within government institutions, and within environmental stewardship.36 Christians acknowledge that human beings have an imperfect capacity to exercise responsible stewardship over the rest of creation. This requires humanity to continuously refine and re-evaluate its exercise of dominion and stewardship over the environment. We should study how our activities may threaten animal species, interfere with a nutrient cycle, or pollute a water source. The solution to imperfect stewardship is not to abandon the responsibility of stewardship altogether, but to develop our stewardship techniques. PRINCIPLE 4 God commands humanity to multiply and fill the earth In the cultural mandate, God also commands humanity to multiply and to fill the earth, exercising stewardship – fruitfulness, dominion, and care – as they go.37 Indeed, He scattered humanity when they failed to spread out around the world.38 Humanity’s capacity for multiplying and filling the earth expanded markedly with the Industrial Revolution and modern medicine, prior to which the world population grew much more slowly and numbered only in the hundreds of millions. Earth’s population has multiplied many times over in the past two centuries, reaching approximately 7.8 billion people in 2020. The UN projects that the human population will peak at around 11 billion by the end of the century.39 Although this rapid population growth allows humanity to fulfil God’s command to multiply and fill the earth at a whole new level, this significant growth has come with growing pains. This growth has led to problems such as the overexploitation of natural resources and excessive pollution. However, these problems are the result of specific human choices and habits, such as rampant materialism and consumerism,40 not simply the overall number of people. Although a large and growing population may exacerbate existing problems and even create new challenges, a growing population should be considered inherently good. Indeed, “inquisitive, creative, and resourceful human beings” are “the ultimate resource” in this world.41 Many secular environmentalists fail to recognize this. In their zeal to care for the environment, they oppose both population growth and particular human habits. Some go so far as to claim that humanity is a parasite destroying the environment, worthy of eradication.42 But such a perspective ignores the fact that God has placed humanity as active stewards over His creation. Human multiplication must be considered “a blessing, not a curse.”43 PRINCIPLE 5 Although God allows humanity to suffer the consequences of poor environmental stewardship, the end of history will occur according to God’s sovereign plan A society’s eschatology – their view of how the world will end – will inform its policies on environmental stewardship. Secular environmentalists, ignoring the creation and providence of God, attribute the end of the world to human action or some natural disaster – an asteroid, a virus, or variation in the sun’s rays, for example. The fate of the planet rests in either the hands of humanity or the whims of chance. A biblical worldview, however, understands that all of history, including the end of this world, is directed by God. God “created heaven and earth and everything in them” and continually “upholds and rules them by His eternal counsel and providence.”44 This includes animals, plants, and the physical environment. God upholds His creation in ways we describe as laws of nature (e.g. the law of gravity, the law of thermodynamics, the law of biogenesis, etc.). Indeed, these laws of nature illustrate the covenant faithfulness of God.45Although humanity may mistakenly ascribe these laws of nature to nature itself, Christians know that these laws are issued by a Supreme Lawgiver. Absolutely nothing in creation occurs without God’s direction or permission. Despite the reality of God’s providence, God also allows humans to suffer the natural consequences of their actions. Adam and Eve’s disobedience and its consequence – the introduction of sin and evil into a good world – profoundly changed creation.46 As a consequence of man’s actions, God said, “Cursed is the ground because of  you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”47 These thorns and thistles represent how all of creation has been impacted by the Fall. Because of the original human sin, the living creation now naturally experiences suffering, sickness, and death.48 Romans 8:19-23 also speaks about how “creation was subjected to futility,” is in “bondage to corruption,” and is “groaning together in the pains of childbirth.” In the same way humanity must continue to grapple with the environmental effects of sin today. Human activity can cause catastrophic environmental damage (e.g. the Chernobyl nuclear disaster or the Exxon-Valdez oil spill). A basic Christian eschatology does not “guarantee that some form of global or cosmic catastrophe will be averted,” just as we do not believe that any natural catastrophe – a devastating earthquake, hurricane, or volcanic eruption – will be averted because of God’s promise to Noah.49 Although God allows humanity to suffer the environmental consequences of sinful actions or negligence, the fate of the world is in God’s hands, not in human hands. Many prophesy that human activity will cause an environmental apocalypse, while others envision a technological utopia. Christians should reject both visions as unfounded. Although human care and dominion may contribute to the redemption or reconciliation of creation, only God can ultimately fix the sin and brokenness that afflicts this world.50 PRINCIPLE 6 God created the environment to be simultaneously resilient and dynamic 51 God created every individual organism, plant, animal, person, and the wider environment with an astounding resiliency. The human body, for example, can survive weeks without food, can heal cuts to its skin, and can run a marathon. The earth also has positive and negative feedback loops that keep weather patterns predictable, animal populations in check, and nutrients recycling themselves all across the globe. However, the environment is also fragile.52 Microscopic doses of certain natural and man-made drugs are lethal.53 An extra copy of a particular gene on a particular chromosome causes Down syndrome. The eruption of a single volcano – such as the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 – can temporarily lower the world temperature and cause local or global famines. A single virus like COVID-19 can kill millions of people worldwide. The environment is sufficiently resilient to support huge numbers of people, even well beyond the current number, without apocalyptic impacts to our atmosphere, oceans, or critical habitats, if managed well.54This is a comfort to Christians who rest in the sustaining, providential care of God who will bring history to its conclusion in His timing. But the environment is not so resilient that we can do whatever we want without regard for our impact on the environment. The fragility of the environment necessitates the exercise of environmental stewardship by Christians and non-Christians alike so that we do not reap the consequences of our unwise actions.55 PRINCIPLE 7 Although cost-benefit analysis is an important tool to determine the wise use of resources, cost-benefit analysis cannot be completely comprehensive Many attempts to preserve or exploit the environment stem from an incomplete assessment of the value of the environment. Carefully weighing the costs and benefits is required in effective environmental stewardship.56 Of course, the challenge is to account for all the relevant costs and benefits (e.g. monetary, health, and environmental costs and benefits across wide swaths of the human population) as much as is reasonably possible. These costs and benefits cannot be properly estimated by experts in any single field. Although ecologists, biologists, chemists, and atmospheric and environmental scientists may lead the evaluation of the effect on the environment, experts in other fields – economics, political science, law, ethics, sociology, and psychology – must also contribute to developing the best human response. However, much debate exists about how to value the benefits that the environment provides and the cost of disturbing the environment. Some secular environmentalists, immersed in their study of nature, assign almost infinite value to the natural environment. Other professionals and laypersons, ignorant of the existence of many goods and services that the environment provides, assign virtually no value to the environment. Both forms of creation’s value mentioned earlier – its intrinsic value in God’s sight and its utilitarian value to humanity – must be considered when estimating costs and benefits. It is impossible to precisely appraise this value that God places on His creation and plug it into a cost-benefit equation. Instead, Christians should marvel at the handiwork of God, remembering that humanity is a steward of His creation. Even if a forest did not help convert carbon dioxide into oxygen or its trees provide useful timber for construction, it still reflects God’s creativity and praises Him; it should not be destroyed without ample cause, even if humanity cannot assign monetary costs and benefits to it. Thus, although empirical cost-benefit analysis is critically important, the moral component of environmental stewardship must be considered as well. CONCLUSION These seven principles outline a faithful Christian understanding of environmental stewardship that is fundamentally different from a secular understanding of the environment. Christian environmental stewardship recognizes that the environment is the creation of God and properly understands the responsibility of humanity, as the image-bearers of God, to exercise stewardship over the resilient yet fragile environment. Although humanity should carefully consider the consequences of their actions, Christians understand that God – not man – controls the end the world. May each of us be active, biblical stewards of the world that God has entrusted to our care! Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada where he endeavors to bring biblical principles to bear on political issues of all stripes. In his spare time, he enjoys playing hockey, tickling the ivory, sharpening his wits with a good board game, and fellowshipping with friends and family. He and his family reside in Mission, BC, and attend the neighboring Abbotsford United Reformed Church. This is a slightly abbreviated version of a longer article available at ARPACanada.ca. References and Notes 1) Genesis 1:1 2) Psalm 24:1 3) See also Genesis 1:29 and Psalm 115:16 4) Matthew 25:14-30 5) Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science (Ontario: Freedom Press Canada Inc., 2008), 41–42. 6) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” in Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Acton Institute, 2007), 44–45; Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York: Random house, 2006). 7) Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 178; see also Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 322. and Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science, 43 8) Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 120. 9) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 35. 10) Genesis 1:22 11) Genesis 8:17 12) Genesis 9:9-10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17; see also Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 92. 13) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 36. See also Job 38-41; Psalm 19; Psalm 104; Psalm 148; and Psalm 150 14) E. Calvin Beisner, Creation Stewardship: Evaluating Competing Views (The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, 2020), 10. 15) Sandra Diaz et al, “Assessing Nature’s Contribution to People,” Science Magazine 359, no. 6376 (2018): 270–72; W. M. Adams, “The Value of Valuing Nature,” Science Magazine 346, no. 6206 (2014): 549–51; Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 157. 16) Exodus 20:10; 23:12; 34:21 17) Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10 18) Deuteronomy 20:19-20 19) Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25 20) Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 325; see also Matthew 12:12, 10:31 21) Genesis 1:29 22) Genesis 9:2-3 23) Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 173. 24) See Psalm 8 25) Calvin Beisner et al., “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” in Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, n.d., 70; Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 78, 96–98, 112. 26) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 39. 27) Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 176. 28) Deuteronomy 8:9 29) Deuteronomy 19:5 and 2 Kings 6:4 30) Matthew 21:18-22 and Luke 13:6-9 31) James R. Skillen, “Stewardship and the Kingdom of God,” in Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care, ed. David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press, 2019), 102. 32) Calvin Beisner et al., “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” 84. 33) David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun, Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creational Care (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press, 2019), 9, 12–13. 34) David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun, 12–13. 35) Genesis 2:15; for a fuller explanation of how humanity is to “serve” the garden, see Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 64. 36) Steven Bouma-Prediger, “From Stewardship to Earthkeeping: Why We Should Move beyond Stewardship,” in Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care, ed. David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press, 219AD), 81–91. 37) Genesis 1:28 38) Genesis 11:1-9 39) United Nations, “Population,” 2020, https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/population/index.html. 40) Steven Bouma-Prediger, “From Stewardship to Earthkeeping: Why We Should Move Beyond Stewardship,” 71. 41) David VanDrunen, Politics after Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 243; Robert A. Sirico, “The Ultimate Economic Resource,” Acton Institute, 2010, https://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-8-number-3/ultimate-economic-resource; Julian L. Simon, The Ultimate Resource (United States: Princeton University Press, 1996). 42) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 51; Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science, 31; Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 182; Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible. 43) Calvin Beisner et al., “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” 86. 44) Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 26; see also Question and Answer 27 for a definition of providence 45) Arnold E. Sikkema, “Laws of Nature and God’s Word for Creation,” Fideles 2 (2007). 46) Genesis 3; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 6 47) Genesis 3:17-19 48) Clarence W. Joldersma, “The Responsibility of Earthlings for the Earth: Graciousness, Lament, and the Call for Justice,” 63–64. 49) David Atkinson, “Climate Change and the Gospel: Why We in the Church Need to Treat Climate Change More Urgently” (Operation Noah, 2015), 17–18, http://operationnoah.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Climate-and-Gospel-David-Atkinson-30-01-2015.pdf. 50) Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, 133; David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun, Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creational Care, 6. 51) Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science, 2. 52) Richard A. Swenson, “How Balance Is Displayed in Every Quadrant of the Created Order,” in In Search of Balance (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010). 53) For example, the lethal ingestion dose of botulinum toxin is 30 nanograms; 39.2 grams of the toxin would “be sufficient to eradicate humankind;” see Ram Kumar Dhaked et al., “Botulinum Toxin: Bioweapon & Magic Drug,” The Indian Journal of Medical Research 132, no. 5 (November 2010): 489–503. 54) Michael Shellenberger, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Digital Edition (Harper Collins, 2020). 55) David Atkinson, “Climate Change and the Gospel: Why We in the Church Need to Treat Climate Change More Urgently,” 13. 56) Cornwall Alliance, “The Biblical Perspective of Environmental Stewardship: Subduing and Ruling the Earth to the Glory of God and the Benefit of Our Neighbors”; Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, 58; see also Luke 14:28...

News

Saturday Selections – Nov 12, 2022

Should Christians use someone's "personal pronouns"? (12 min) J.D Greear, former president of the conservative-learning Southern Baptist Conference, said he would, if asked, refer to a man as "she" and he would do so out of a "generosity of spirit." This is a pitting of truth vs. love, with Greear choosing to side with love. But it is a false contrast. In the same way that it would not be loving to affirm an anorexic in their delusion, it's not loving to affirm a transgender in their lie. As James White notes, some of the Christian confusion here comes from believing there is some sort of moral neutral ground. And some of it comes from not being prepared to pay the cost for standing up for God's Truth. (For more see When Steve wants to be called Sue.) Tim Challies on love covering a multitude of sins "There are as many ways to react badly to sin as there are ways to sin against one another. There are not nearly as many ways to react well to being sinned against. The Bible gives us two: lovingly overlook that sin or lovingly address that sin. The question is, when are we to overlook and when are we to address?" The "knockout punch" syndrome Gary Bates explains "why creationists are sometimes too quick to embrace the latest apparent ‘evidence’ for biblical creation." The problem with declaring a "pandemic amnesty" The problem isn't simply that mistakes were made when we didn't have enough information. The problem was, "when we did not have adequate information to know what was best, interventionist policymakers nevertheless acted as if they did know." Though this isn't a specifically Christian article (it cites a rabbi), it has thoughts on the nature of forgiveness and repentance which aren't far off. The case for kids (10-minute read) Kevin DeYoung: "I do not urge Christian couples to have as many children as possible. But I do urge them to have more children." On the significance of beards The beardless John Piper recommended this article, and I, equally beardless, add my kudos. In an emasculated world, beards can be a bit of a counter-protest and even a signpost. Voddie Baucham on how they're normalizing sin to our children... and us too (10 min) I've been asked why I wear pro-life shirts; do they prompt conversations? And the answer is, no, most often they don't. I either get a thumbs up, or a lady might make a throat clearing, scoffing sound. So, why wear them then? And why put a pro-life sign on your lawn, or an "Adoption, not Abortion" bumpersticker on your car? To, as one friend put it, normalize dissent. In our godless age, God's Truth is so infrequently presented that when it is, it might well be immediately ruled out as the crazy thoughts of some fringe minority. But the unborn's defenders number in the millions; we're no fringe element. We only seem like it because we're being quiet. So, to further the case for the unborn – to get it moved out of the crazy camp to a place where conversations can happen – we need to normalize being pro-life. The video below is on how impactful normalization can be, though the other way around. Consider just how many Christians feel uncomfortable when God's thoughts on homosexuality are shared publicly. That's the culture impacting us. And now, through children's shows, the world is trying to impact our kids: from Peppa Pig and Muppet Babies to Sesame Street and Blue's Clues. They seek to normalize what God condemns. Countering this involves more than just shutting off these shows (though it certainly involves that too). There's really no escaping the pervasiveness of this normalization effort. So we must acquaint our children with both God's truth and how to most winsomely communicate that truth on issues like transgenderism, and homosexuality, the unborn, marriage and more. And we need to hear preaching that isn't embarrassed by God's stand, but highlights how our good God, who loves us, knows what is best for us. ...

Sexuality

The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion

Sexual temptation caught up Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and David, a man after God’s own heart. Our kids are not immune. ***** I gave my first presentation on the dangers of pornography eleven years ago at a United Reformed youth camp in Alberta. At the time, as Internet use became ubiquitous and smartphones were becoming the norm, the availability of digital pornography was beginning to become an increasingly dangerous problem. Pastors and community leaders were noticing that porn use was becoming increasingly normal. Nobody, however, suspected just how prevalent it would become over the next decade. I have given presentations to Reformed audiences – high schools, churches, youth camps, and other events – of nearly every denomination, and in the past several years I have reached an awful conclusion. Pornography use has increasingly become normal. Reformed kids are getting addicted I know this is difficult for many Reformed people to believe. We would like to think that preaching, parenting, and education have made us at least partially immune to this scourge. Unfortunately, as I have written in this publication before, we underestimated the extent to which the digital age would make this tremendously addictive sexual poison a nearly omnipresent temptation to nearly everyone with access to a digital device with Internet capacity – and the ways in which the porn industry works to place these images in front of every Internet user, young and old. I have spoken to hundreds of Reformed people who were exposed to pornography by accident, and ensnared as a result. I’ve now spoken with many kids who have been hooked on pornography prior to the age of ten – something I almost never encountered just a few years ago. One young man was fifteen, and had been addicted since the age of five. Several others first encountered porn at the age of 7 or 8. I’ve lost count of the number of kids who say that they began using porn in Grade 6. Many of them got addicted by using one of the unused cell phones lying about the house, which they used to connect to Wifi and access porn – circumventing any protections their parents had put in place. (Indeed, many of the kids I spoke to came from homes where the Internet was monitored and parental efforts had been made to keep the home porn-free.) Many young men who have reached out to me have shared that because their addiction started so young – indeed, profoundly impacted the brain development – they have been rendered incapable of viewing women and girls in a pure way. One, in desperation, told me that he badly wanted to ask a girl to graduation, but that he couldn’t even look at a girl without pornographic images surging through his mind. Young men – and increasingly, young women – are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of sexual toxins directly into their minds for years. They are taking these images into their relationships. Young women too A key development that I have noticed over the past several years is the spike in porn addiction among girls and young women in Reformed communities. Pornography addiction among young women has always existed, but has generally been different than male porn addiction – pornographic books, for example. But the sheer prevalence of porn addiction and its common usage amongst many teens has changed that. At one Reformed school, every girl in high school had at least watched it. Some were struggling with several addiction issues. Accompanying this trend is sexting – personalized pornography. Most Reformed schools have had to deal with this issue at least once, and the young ages of some of the participants highlights the extent to which this problem has exploded. I’ve also lost count of the stories I have been told by young men and women who entered marriage with an undisclosed pornography addiction (and very frequently, a consequently deformed view of sexuality), causing their spouse tremendous pain. Many of these couples struggled to heal their marriage for years; therapy is often necessary to do so. “Betrayal trauma” – which psychiatrists compare to post-traumatic stress disorder – is becoming a norm for young spouses in the first years of marriage (or, if the addiction remains hidden for years, later on.) Pastors and church leaders have told me that porn use within the Reformed community is a leading cause of marriage strife, pain, and in the worst cases, divorce. The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion I know there are many parents who will read this and think: This couldn’t be my children. This is other people’s kids. I had one mother come up to me after a presentation and tell me how glad she was that her sons hadn’t struggled with this poison; both of her boys had talked to me about their struggles with porn. A father told me after a parents’ evening on the porn problem that he didn’t think it was that big of an issue, but he supposed it would be worth it if one kid quit. At least one did quit as a result of attending – his son. Because pornography is everywhere, all kids have access to it – and “good kids” get hooked just as often as rebellious ones. The Scripture warns us never to think that we will not be susceptible to sexual temptation – to say this would be saying that we are wiser than Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; stronger than Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and closer to God than David, the man after God’s own heart. Job was called a perfect man, but he knew his own heart well enough to commit to making a covenant with his eyes to avoid sexual sin. Parents, we need to talk After presentations at high schools, I take questions from the students on pieces of paper (so that they will be willing to ask whatever is on their mind). Over and over again, I get the same question: How can I get help? There are hundreds – very likely thousands – of kids in our communities who are struggling with this, too scared and ashamed to ask for help; too nervous that the adults will not be able to handle their struggles. Many have sought and received help, but many struggle alone. It is essential that we have these conversations in our homes first, but also in our schools and our communities. The teenagers are ready. Couples struggling with this are ready. It is time for us to start fighting in earnest—and begin rebuilding....

Assorted

Aging in hope!

I am 68 years of age and retired, so I suppose I am considered old. In our politically correct times, I am called either a “senior citizen" or "chronologically gifted." What is aging? How do we react to it? These questions are no longer academic for me. When I was in my teens, I thought that people in their fifties were old. At this juncture in my life, a fifty-year-old seems relatively youthful. So aging is ambiguous. Bernard Nash describes aging as a paradox: "Does it not strike you that we all want to live longer but none of us want to grow old?" Throughout our lives we think other people grow older until we gradually realize that we ourselves have aged. Some say that aging can be compared with the fall season when the fruits ripen and the leaves fall; others claim that the moment of aging has arrived when the sum total of memories has become greater than our expectations. Aging, says the American gerontologist Howel, "is not a simple slope which everyone slides down at the same speed. It is a flight of irregular stairs down which some journey more quickly than others." To grow old also means to lose acquaintances and lifelong friends to distance, illness, and death. Obituaries testify that life is the process of aging, and aging is the steady progress of dying within us. Every moment we are alive, we are aging. Life and death are intimately linked. The day is coming when all our earthly possessions will be swept away, including our ability to enjoy them. This is not a morbid view of life – it is simply reality. As the 17th century poet Robert Herrick wrote, Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying. And this same flower, that smile today, Tomorrow will be dying. So how do we cope with aging? We live in a society that has shown little understanding of growing old, and valued it even less. The Christian literature on aging seems sparse, with far more attention paid to child-rearing. Too little attention has been given to caring for aged parents. DENIAL CAN'T LAST It’s seems the fear of aging has contributed to a denial of reality – if we don’t talk about it, maybe it won’t happen to us, right? This sort of denial is why some find visiting a nursing home a burden. They can't imagine themselves ever being there. They don’t want the reminder of their own mortality. Our society views frankness about death as deviant, a subject not to be discussed in polite company. For many death is the last taboo in Western culture; for others it has become an exploited sentimentality: people don't attend funerals anymore, but instead “celebrations of a life lived.” And when they do talk about death, it is to make light of it, with styrofoam tombstones on the front yard on All Hallows’ Eve. But their atheistic naturalism leaves them unable to face the brute finality of death. And because they are unwilling to return to a biblical perspective, a new generation puts their faith in reports of out-of-body experiences and in New Age mysticism. Still, try as it might, the world cannot keep death out of sight and mind. The moment we are born, we begin to die. PERPETUAL TEENAGERS The world’s death denial is evident, too, in how it is now a common goal among the aged to stay young. Or, rather, not just stay young, but stay immature. Whereas in the past becoming an adult was the ideal, today the older generation wants to look as young as possible, with some trying to camouflage their age by dressing like teenagers. In his own inimitable and not very flattering way, British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported on a month he spent at a resort in Florida. He said that everything was done to make senior citizens feel that they were not really aged, but still full of zest and expectations; if not teenagers, then keenagers. These seniors, he said, had withered bodies arrayed in dazzling summer wear, hollow eyes glaring out of garish caps, skulls plastered with cosmetics, lean shanks tanned a rich brown, bony buttocks encased in scarlet trousers. Muggeridge's description may be exaggerated, but it does say something about the affect contemporary youth culture has on our society. It has a negative and morbid view of aging. FOREVER ON EARTH? The advertisement industry contributes to this mood. Wherever we look, there are ads for anti-aging creams, yoga routines, nutritional programs, and medical interventions. Growing old is seen not so much as part of the human condition but rather as a solvable medical and scientific problem. Hence, doctors and scientists search for a solution to the "problem of old age." What are the chances that scientific advance will find a way to extend life indefinitely? A number of investors have paid large sums to have their bodies frozen at death by means of cryogenics, which is used to freeze beef and vegetables, as well as people. But as Dr. Russell points out in his secular work Good News About Aging, those who cherish dreams of being defrosted and living forever some time hence are probably cherishing an implausible dream because freezing destroys human body cells. He adds: "…even if we can overcome this and other problems, no scientific evidence suggests that we can expect to eliminate death now or in the future because all things break down over time." And what if we could live forever? In our fallen world, would we really want to? In his 1922 play The Makropulos Secret, Karel Capek probes this issue with the 337-year-old character Emilia, who notes: "… no one can love for three hundred years – it cannot last. And then everything tires one. It tires one to be good, it tires one to be bad. The whole earth tires one. And then you find out there is nothing at all: no sin, no pain, no earth, nothing." What a hideous future! To be given an everlasting longevity without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, without hope to be with the Lord in the new heaven and earth, is a dismal prospect. It is to live under a curse. If we could live on in this world with all its pain, conflicts, without solving the immense human problems, a medically-expanded life would simply set the stage for more of same human conflicts and social injustices. IMPATIENCE INSTEAD OF HONOR Death denial is also evident in our youth’s treatment of the elderly. Aging frustrates modern youth – it interferes with their desire "to get things done." Have you ever noticed the impatience shown in a lineup at the bank when a senior is trying to carry out a transaction? Their slower pace often exasperates the clerk and the younger customers waiting for their turn. These young people can’t imagine ever being in the same situation. Sure, other people age…but not them. The conflict between the generations is a subject of much discussion. Many seem to view aging as a process to endure and suffer through, rather than as a temporally contingent gift from God to be approached with gratitude. The Canadian philosopher George Grant observed that old age is more and more seen as an unalleviated disaster, not only for those outside of it but by those people who are old themselves. And he noted that we do not see age as that time when the eternal can be realized, and we therefore pity the aged as coming to the end of historic existence. Sociologists even refer to ageism, which can be defined as a general distaste for the elderly in our culture – equivalent to racial prejudice, but in this case unfair generalizations are made about any who are old: “all elderly people are forgetful," "all elderly people are ill-tempered," "all elderly people suffer from depression,” or “mental impairment is endemic to aging.” Contrary to the myth about aging, seniors do not necessarily decline in intelligence or lose their decision-making abilities. History gives us countless examples of creative, active, and productive seniors. At 71, Michelangelo (1475-1564) was appointed the chief architect of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. After he was 63 years old, Joost Van den Vondel (1587-1679), Holland's greatest poet, wrote Jephta, Lucifer and Adam in ballingschap (Adam in exile). George Bernhard Shaw (1856-1679), Irish dramatist and author, wrote Farfetched Fables at 93. Polish-born Arthur Rubinstein (1888-1982) gave a stunning performance at Carnegie Hall at the age of 90. Like these famous people, there are millions of elderly people who are still productive and active in their own way and want to remain so. Ageism seems to comes about because people know little about old age, and because what they know is based on myth and fear. People even talk about generational wars. In recent years, the conflict between the generations has become most noticeable due to the decreasing ability of government to pay for health and pension benefits. The pinch is already provoking generational conflict in the ambitious welfare states of Northern Europe, where birthrates and immigration rates are lower than in the United States and where the elderly wield considerable political clout. Young Europeans are complaining about the high cost of healthcare for the elderly, and are resentful of fees that are eroding the tradition of free university education. One German youth leader gained notoriety by suggesting that old folks should use crutches rather than seek expensive hip replacements. Unfortunately, this generational conflict is also seen in churches today. Seniors don't like to call their dominee “pastor Jack” and they certainly don’t like his casual appearance when he comes visiting. But when a vacant church thinks of calling a pastor there is a strong emphasis on youth. It seems that some search committees look for a twenty-five-year-old man with thirty years of experience. A CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE The differences between the generations don't need to lead to conflicts. Christians can offer alternative understandings of aging. The Bible views the conflict between generations as abnormal. Yes, youth is a wonderful thing, but it is not the only thing. It is a blessing in many ways, but it can, on some occasions even be a curse. When Isaiah pronounced judgment on Jerusalem and Judah, he said, "I will make boys their officials; mere children will govern them" (Isa.3:4). Young and old can come to mutual understanding and appreciation of each other. In the Kingdom of God, "Children's children are a crown of the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Prov. 17:6). Old men dream dreams and young men see visions (Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:17). And God promises that He will be with His people of every age bracket. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you" (Isa. 46:4). So how do we face the twilight years of life? With feelings of dread… or of hope? Let’s delve further into God’s Word and see. AGING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT In the Old Testament we find that God regards great age as the supreme reward of virtue. The aged were shown respect and honor. Old age is a blessing and not a curse. Scripture says, "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God" (Lev.19-32). The psalmist testifies to growing old in hope. He says, "The righteous ... will still bear fruit in old age; They will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him" (Ps. 92:14-15). Growing old became a symbol of blessing, wisdom, and righteousness – an honorable process by which God rewarded those who were obedient, for example, in honoring their own parents: "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12). In Proverbs readers are essentially promised a long life if their hearts will but, “keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they give you" (3:1-2). The very display of gray hair itself, a sure sign of growing old throughout the centuries, becomes in Scripture "a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" (Prov. 16:31). By pushing the elderly aside to fringes of society, we diminish them and make our society the poorer through the loss of their experience and maturity. When Moses was 80 years old, God called him to lead His people to the Promised Land. At that greatly advance age, Moses became the historian, leader, and statesman of Israel. At about 85 years of age, Joshua was divinely commissioned to succeed Moses. At his death at 110 years of age, he was deeply mourned and his eminent service widely acknowledged (Josh. 24:29-31). A NEW TESTAMENT BLESSING TOO In the New Testament the attitude towards aging is no different from that in the Old Testament. Those who reached an advanced age were honored and esteemed in the community. Aged saints have a significant role in the opening chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first characters to appear on the stage are the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who were both "advanced in years" (Luke 1:7). They are the instruments of God's purposes and the first interpreters of God's saving acts. Simeon and Anna are the prophetic chorus welcoming the child Jesus on the occasion of his purification in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38). The remarkable thing is that the aged Simeon dies in the beginning of the Gospel account. His eyes are fixed in hope on the one newly born, in whose life, death, and resurrection the world will know peace. He has long been hoping for "the consolation of Israel," and has been promised by the Holy Spirit that he will not die before he has seen the Lord's Messiah. Anna – an eighty-four-year-old prophetess who frequents the Temple to worship and pray night and day – recognizes Jesus, gives thanks to God, and declares the news about him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38). As people who have clung to God's promises over many years, they embody the virtues of long-suffering patience and trust in God's ultimate faithfulness. They also exemplify faith and hope, even when circumstances seem hopeless. Aging was not seen by the early Christians as a "problem" to which some sort of religious solution was required. In the entire New Testament, particularly in the Pastoral Epistles, the respect due to older members of the community is emphasized. The exhortations imply and speak explicitly of dutifully caring for widows, honoring the elderly, imitating their faith, and faithfulness. For example, "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father." Here we find also specific directives that the community should provide assistance to widows over age of sixty, and that women recognized by the Church as widows should devote their energies to prayer, hospitality, and to service to the afflicted (1 Tim.5: 3-16). In our youth obsessed culture, the elderly are strongly tempted to act youthful. They are expected to get a workout to remain in shape, get beauty treatments to rejuvenate themselves, and to dress in youth fashions. Should seniors long to be young again? I don't think so. For Christians old age is not a dead-end street. As we age, we can still grow spiritually. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians "Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). He said to the Ephesians that we can progressively succeed in putting off the old self and putting on the new self and "be made new in the attitude of our minds." This renewal through the Holy Spirit impacts our mental attitude, state of mind, and disposition with respect to God and His world throughout our life. In other words, we continue to develop our walk with God (Eph. 4:22-24). NEVER TO OLD TO SERVE THE LORD Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, who suffered unspeakable horror in Nazi concentration camps, says that there is no reason to pity old people. And he adds this remarkable statement, "Instead, young people should envy them." Why? Because seniors have something young people don't possess. Frankl says that seniors have realities in the past – the potentialities they have actualized, the values they have realized – and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past. In Book X of his Confessions, Augustine (354-430) calls memory a "vast court" or "great receptacle." The elderly have a rich storehouse of memories, and inner landscape to explore: times lost in idleness, opportunities well used, a fulfilling career, children grown up, and suffering gone through with dignity and courage. What an opportunity for our youth to tap into the memories of their grandparents! Covenantal obligations never cease. The Christian faith is passed on from one generation to the next. It depends on that transmission. That’s why there must always be a most intimate relationship between the present and the coming generation if there is to be a future generation of Christians. The Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. They are the embodiment of the Church's story. Of course, we do not expect that all the elderly will be able to express the "wisdom of their years." But there can be no substitute for some old people in the Church passing on their wisdom to the younger generation. The youth simply cannot do without the older generation. In our culture, for a few years young adults may pretend (egged on by social and cultural forces) that they can live forever as autonomous, self-reliant, self-fulfilling beings. The pretense, however, collapses soon enough. The presence of the visible vulnerable elderly is a reminder that we are not our own creators. All of us will age; dark and blond hair will turn grey. Consequently, young Christians need the elderly so they will not take their lives for granted. I will say it again: the Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. That's why throughout history the Church has frowned on separating the young from the old through conducting youth services. I have even read about a Church where no older people were expected to attend. But according to Scripture old and young belong together. They are all part of the great family of God. Our covenant youth need to hear from their grandparents and seniors in the Church what it means to be a Christian. Grandparents know the family traditions and values. They can tell the story of their wartime experiences, their immigration with its hardship and adventures, and the reasons for leaving the country of their birth. Seniors can give to the youth the lessons and spiritual resources that have been harvested over a lifetime. Our times are so confusing and threatening for our young people. Why not explain to them that the Christian faith is for all of life: hence the founding of Christian schools, colleges, universities, a Christian labor association, Christian magazines and bi-weeklies, and a Christian political party? Why not tell them that doing good works is doing your work well? Why not testify to them how the Lord's promise "Surely I am with you always" (Matt.28:20) is a reality and not a myth? The lessons learned from godly grandparents and other Christian seniors are often long remembered. HOPE IN CHRIST As we age, we become more aware of the swift passing of years. We can either let the fear of death put a mental stranglehold on us or we can look to the future with hope. Let’s remember, the best is yet to come! Jesus Christ, the risen and ascended Lord is the ground of our hope and the promise of our deliverance. The hope of the resurrection lies at the heart of the way in which Christians embody the practices of growing old. We serve a faithful God who will never forget us! We are strangers and pilgrims on earth, the older we become the nearer we are to our eternal home. This truth encourages even the oldest individual to cherish each moment of life while preparing to relinquish it. Each day is a gift from God. We look to Him for our daily bread while making sure that we seek first the kingdom of God rather than squandering our time and energy on secondary concerns. With the prospect of a glorious future for all who are in Christ, we can identify with Martin Luther's suggestions that "in the purpose of God, this world is only a preparation and a scaffolding for the world to come." I also think of John Calvin's teaching in his Geneva Catechism that we are "to learn to pass through this world as though it is a foreign country, treating all things lightly and declining to set our hearts on them." We all face death some time or another. When we are old, it is more of a reality than in the days of our youth. I pray that our attitude toward death may resemble that of Lutheran pastor, scholar, and resistance leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who with shining face in joyful expectation, said to the two Nazi guards who had to come to take him to be executed, "For you it is the end, for me the beginning." Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years and many of his articles have been collected at Reformed Reflections. This is an edited version of a two-part article that first appeared in the 2004 November and December issues. ...

CD Review, Music

Why you, too, should listen to Jamie Soles

I like Jamie Soles! From his music telling Bible stories for kids to his versifications of the Psalms, there is something for every Christian in his repertoire. As his website, SolMusic.ca, says, "If you love how the whole Bible testifies of Jesus, you will love this music!" A bit of history We've been listening to Jamie Soles for a long time. Our boys grew up on his Bible stories from albums like The Way My Story Goes and Fun and Prophets. To give you a bit of a taste of some of my favorites, I’ll share some excerpts. My son Isaac and I once performed “Chariots” from Fun and Prophets. Imagine these words sung in a lovely, boyish treble. I won my heart's desire when a chariot of fire And a horse named Blaze took my master away. Imagine my delight to behold such a sight Of Elijah in flight on the wind. Soles turned stories about lists of kings and apostles and repeated sacrifices by Jewish tribal representatives into memorable and singable songs that prompted questions and looking up of Bible passages. We are indebted to him for helping us to teach our children the Bible because, as he put it in “These Are They,” "stories are your biblical A-B-Cs." These are only part of it, This is but the start of it, Stories are your biblical ABCs! Now… All these stories, they show My glories. These are they which speak of Me. I think we were introduced to Jamie Soles back when we lived in the Hamilton area. I played violin at our church and was teaching music to one of our pastor's daughters. We visited with their family a lot, and on one visit the children came to me and excitedly asked me to listen to "This is the Sign," which is about the covenant significance of circumcision. It begins with God explaining his covenant to Abraham: Ninety and nine seems a long time But I have been waiting longer than you have To give you My Word that you’ve become Mine The father of kings and nations... I remember thinking, "Wow! That's not something most people write a song about." I've been hooked ever since. We took our boys years later to one of Jamie's concerts, and met up with him at Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Connection conferences as well. His music is still a part of our lives and I find myself humming tunes like "These are the Prophets" and "Jesus to the Rescue" on a fairly regular basis. I've even purchased his albums as gifts for friends on more than one occasion. Why I'm telling you about this Music is a big deal! It's an important way to teach your children about God's word. It's also an important way to help fill your heart with scripture and worship. Music is obviously an essential aspect of corporate worship on Sundays as well. The thing is, Christian music should be skillfully done and it should be theologically sound. Jamie Soles delivers on both counts. You can't go wrong with teaching his songs to your kids, and you can't go wrong with walking around humming them yourself either. Until my family was introduced to Jamie Soles, the music that often played in my head when reading scripture came from the libretto of Handel’s “Messiah” or Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” not to mention the songs of Michael Card. But now, as I read through Numbers 23 I hear the sounds of “Dust of Jacob.” Jamie’s songs will be with my family and me for the rest of our lives, and we’re thankful. Soles' music is very difficult to categorize. It ranges from what sounds a bit like folk to songs that are more akin to rock and roll. But his music and his words always suit each other and he seems to always have a fresh take on a biblical theme or a little-known Bible story. It doesn't hurt that his wife and his children have often been a part of his albums and their contributions make many of his recordings that much better. I highly recommend Jamie Soles' music. You can find all of his albums on Spotify and you can purchase them as CDs or MP3 downloads at SolMusic.ca. I want to leave you with one song that I especially love. In “Gates of Nain” Soles' wife Valerie sings the poignant story of Luke 7:11-17 from the perspective of the widow whose only son has died. My sons call me a softy, but this never fails to bring me to tears, mainly because of the widow's realization that this man is the great prophet whom God has finally sent to Israel. Through my tears I see the crowd has grown A Man approaches with compassion shown He says, "Do not weep." And our march of death and time stands still Nothing could prepare me for this What could have prepared me for this.... He spoke to my son, my dead son, my only son And He told him to arise, and he did!...

News

Saturday Selections – October 15, 2022

Perfect timing Here's a fun one for the whole fam that's sure to inspire some imitation... Scientists revive 100 million-year-old bacteria? For anything to be alive that long is, of course, impossible... unless it's actually much younger. Vaping tax led to an increase in cigarette usage... The practical case for government being small is simply that they are fallible. One of the latest illustrations of that fallibility is a tax on vaping that was intended to discourage use. But instead it prompted a turn to even more harmful cigarettes. As the article asks, "How many times do their efforts have to backfire before bureaucrats and politicians learn the limits of their abilities?" Fossil fuels: still essential to human flourishing In his new book, Alex Epstein notes that there is still a pressing need for the poor to get access to fossil fuels. As this review notes: "One example of the suffering which energy poverty imposes is the fact that almost 800 million people have no access to electricity, while around 2.4 billion people still rely on wood and animal dung to cook and heat their homes...." By using "human flourishing" as his measure for environmental policies Epstein is, whether intentionally or not, placing Man at the pinacle of creation just as God has done. Tips for homeschooling when you have a toddler in tow When mom is teaching the olders but has a little one toddling about the juggling act can get hectic. This article, and its two sequels, offer some tips on keeping that toddler busy so you can have time to help with lessons. Public schooled! In the video below a student discovers that government schools teach that whatever the problem, government is the answer. As Douglas Wilson has noted, why would parents be surprised that their kids are indoctrinated in socialism when they've sent them to what is a socialist school system? Similarly, Voddie Baucham wrote, "We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” ...

Assorted

G.K. Chesterton on the difference between reformers and deformers

As a young man I had questions about how my denomination conducted services: Why did we have an organ and the style of music we had? Why did we sing so many psalms, and so few hymns? Why did we have two services? Why did we have Heidelberg Catechism sermons? Why did we get so dressed up for services? And I thought that because I had questions, and because answers were not always at the ready, that clearly meant we should do away with all these practices. Not so fast However, just because an answer isn't easy to come by doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And Chesterton had a caution for young guys like me when it came to doing away with old practices - old "fences": “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.' “….Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease.” (The Thing, “The Drift From Domesticity”) Seek out that other side Now, no denomination is perfect, so there will be practices that could be improved, and maybe some that will need to go. But before any change is made, a properly humble Reformer is going to want to first find out why things are being done this way in the first place. This is living out Prov. 18:17 – only after we hear "both sides" can we then evaluate whether a change is truly needed....

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