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Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism: there aren’t just the two positions
As my wife and I have been facing big decisions over the last few months, it’s been neat to see the way God has transformed our marriage from its fledgling stages to something a little more beautiful.
It’s also got me thinking about the whole complementarian/egalitarian debate, and how my views over the years – though still complementarian – have shifted from a kind of misogynistic immaturity to what my wife and I both perceive to be a more Christ-like model.
It’s made me realize there aren’t just two positions on this: egalitarianism and complementarianism – and when people are arguing against one or the other, they’re normally arguing against a flawed diversion, rather than the real thing.
That being said, let me lay out a few different options.
MISOGYNY: The husband asserts his desires, the wife submits.
Though this is what chiefly comes to mind to those in the egalitarian camp, this is the furthest thing from the biblical picture of complementarianism possible. Unfortunately many, wounded from a history of misogyny, reject all hierarchy within families whole-sale based on their experience.
If I’m honest, both my wife and I came into marriage with a subconscious commitment to this kind of relationship, and the results were not only personally devastating, but anti-gospel. Jesus never asserts his personal desires over and above his bride.
MATRIARCHY: The wife asserts her desires, the husband submits.
Though I doubt any would publicly subscribe to this, it is, unfortunately, a settled pattern in many Christian homes. In this model, the husband mistakes weakness for meekness and, rather than honoring his wife, becomes bitter and distant (in effect dishonoring her).
Jesus was not weak, he was meek – he asserted his bride’s good, he didn’t passively give into it.
PRAGMATISM: We both assert our desires, and we both win.
The reason this sounds so ideal is that it is so idealistic. The truth is, we don’t have the time, energy and resources to try and make “win-wins” out of every minute situation in life. Nor, I might add, does this sound much like the Christ who called us to marriage.
Jesus didn’t come to earth saying: “You get what you can out of this, and I’ll get what I can.” Pragmatism (a focus on what works), is a denial of the purpose of marriage – the point of marriage is not to do the greatest good to the greatest number (both of us, in this case), but to assert the image of Christ and the church to a watching world (Ephesians 5:23). So “work”, in this case, is contingent upon a definition of marriage’s purpose which goes little beyond realizing my own, personal desires.
Besides, if “work” means, “does what it’s meant to do,” then pragmatism, in that sense, doesn’t “work.”
NAIEVETY: We’ll never disagree.
Point 1: Okay, sure.
Point 2: Jesus called us to be peacemakers, and that in the church. This assumes there will be conflict, and it assumes a non-passive approach. We’re not called to be peace keepers, but makers, meaning: we have work to do.
A quick read through the New Testament ought to wash us clean of this one. Jesus had (has) conflict with his bride, and he’s perfect. So, to put it strangely – if there’s no conflict, something’s wrong.
DEMOCRACY: We both assert our desires, and someone wins.
The truth will out, is the thought here. Except, there’s no real “truth” to whether we ought to go out for ice-cream or pizza. No argument can solve it. There’s no “right” answer to whether we should move to California or Timbuktu – these are morally neutral issues. In fact, let me be controversial: there’s no real truth as to whether the house should be clean or messy. We attach virtues to these things because we inherently view our personalities like good Pharisees – we make rules from them, and work outward.
Besides, this looks nothing like Christ and the church. Notice I’m not saying that we shouldn’t communicate our desires to one another: communicating our vulnerability is actually an investment, not a withdrawal. It’s a compliment to say, “I need you.” But saying, “Therefore, you must do this” is patently wrong on every account.
COLDNESS: Neither of us assert our desires, and no one submits.
Clearly, when you’ve reached this point, there’s bitterness and the whole operation’s gone amuck. Jesus communicates his desires toward us, and he invites us to communicate our desires to him. So – this is radically anti-gospel as well. This is a roommate scenario, not a Song of Solomon one.
ABSURDITY: Both of us assert the others’ desire, and no one submits.
This is the closest to true complementarianism, but its only flaw is that it’s absurd. I believe it is in The Four Loves that C.S. Lewis points out that two people sitting at a dining table insisting that they pour the others’ tea has less to do with love and more to do with absurd false-humility. The beautiful thing about complementarianism is that it’s just like this, without the absurdity, which leads us to…
COMPLEMENTARY: Both of us assert the others’ desire, and the wife submits.
In a recent decision my wife and I made, it became clear that our desires were in conflict. The position being offered to us would have been a wonderful fit for one of us, and a terrible fit for the other. Sparing you the details, it became evident to both of us the beautiful irony of the situation: my wife was insisting that we do things my way. And I was insisting we do things in a way that was best for her.
And because we are complementation, I “won out” in the end: I asserted her desires over mine.
That is a long and winding journey, but I think it’s good for many of us to hear, on every side of the debate. While we think we may be in one camp, we may actually be in some permutation of it that is actually unrecognizable from its original intent. The truth is, the real model is like two people leaning toward one another for balance – it’s a total act of trust on both parts, and it requires an “all in” approach, not something half-baked.
But when we both lean in – curiously – it forms something like a steeple.
Nicholas McDonald blogs at ScribblePreach.com where this article was first posted. It is reprinted here with permission.
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews
How in the world did we get here?
by Jim Witteveen 2022 / 183 pages Ten years back, anyone who’d said that cultural forces already in play would soon have our public schools teac...
Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion
If the unborn are not our equals...
In the West we believe all people should be treated equally, no matter their age, race, religion, etc. But why is that? Why should we treat all people...
Making hospitality easier: how onion dip changed the world
Everyone has likely tasted onion dip and millions of homemakers have made it. The recipe is incredibly simple: mix dried onion soup mix with 2 cups of sour cream – voilà you are done! Place it in a bowl and surround it with chips, crackers, celery and carrot sticks, and any other veggies you think your guests will enjoy. Be suave and call it crudités! I still remember the first time I tasted it, at a Tupperware party in the early 80s (though it has been around since 1954!). I tentatively took a tiny beige blob and placed it on my plate. After tasting it with a ruffled potato chip, I eagerly returned for more. I was fascinated to observe a display about homemaking through the decades in a museum that showed a 1950s-type kitchen and mentioned onion dip (also known as French onion dip, and originally known as California dip, where an unknown homemaker first created it). Their interpretation was that this “California dip” totally changed hospitality throughout America and Canada. Previously, if one was going to entertain, a full dinner would be expected, perhaps with intricate hors d’oeuvres beforehand. Remember, you couldn’t run into Costco or Walmart’s frozen section and grab mini quiche or ready-to-cook breaded shrimp back then. After the recipe was printed in a newspaper, the Lipton Company got hold of it and began advertising it on the popular Arthur Godfrey Show on television. The California dip usage spread like wildfire and Lipton’s onion soup mix flew off the shelves. Pictures were shown of a host and hostess cheerfully serving chips and dip and veggies to their guests. This was so easy to prepare that people began inviting friends over more often, because the workload had lessened significantly. Not only did it become incredibly popular in the 50s, it has remained so ever since. Don’t let pride get in the way Onion dip probably didn’t “change the world” in a big way, but by providing an easier way to entertain, it did promote friendship and fellowship. It was a step in the right direction. How often have you heard someone say that they don’t have the time, energy, money, or nice enough house to provide hospitality to others? With an attitude that “We cannot do it unless we reach a certain level of perfection,” we actually may fall into pride and ignore God’s Word that calls us to care for one another. Rosaria Butterfield in her book The Gospel Comes With a House Key says: “God calls Christians to practice hospitality in order to build loving Christian communities, to build nightly table fellowship with fellow image bearers, to ease the pain of orphanhood, widowhood, and prison, to be qualified as elders in the church, and to be good and faithful stewards of what God has given to us in the person, work, example, obedience, and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ…. God calls us to practice hospitality as a daily way of life, not as an occasional activity when time and finance allow…. God promises to put the lonely in families (Ps 68:6) and he intends to use your house as living proof.” If we only think about our own family and relatives and do not reach out to others, we miss the opportunity to build up one another in our churches. Instead, by inviting others to our imperfect home for some basic food and company, we make time to listen to one another. We learn that Joe just lost his job and we might have a connection that could help him. We find out that Sally is an expert seamstress, and maybe she can help us understand how to make the shirt we were confused about. We learn that Janet has a book group that meets monthly at her home and Jed can no longer cut his lawn because of his back trouble. Myrtle just found out she has cancer and she is frightened, and Darius is worried sick about his teenaged son. We pray together. We sing hymns or psalms together. We show love, and we rack our brains to think of what else we can do to help. We follow Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Or, alternatively, we say that we are tired or too poor, and we always stay home alone and watch television or plug ourselves into our phones or computers. Sports and movies and funny videos are way more interesting, and even easier than serving onion dip. Some people say that they need all day Sunday to spend time with their immediate family because they work and have other activities on the other six days. Consider the fact that showing hospitality is a family activity that your kids will learn from. And if you only use two to three hours, you will still have time left over to interact as family. The amount of hospitality shown will vary from family to family. But every adult should be exhibiting some, even if they just have a small apartment – they might invite two people over for coffee and discussion. It’s the time together that counts far more than the fare that is served or the furniture and house that it’s served in. Simplify Fellowship doesn’t have to include a meal! Invite someone for chatting, singing, praying, and/or talking about what God taught you in the sermon, and serve nothing, or only coffee and store-bought cookies or coffee cake. There’s no need to one-up someone else. As mentioned, onion dip, chips, and veggies have been one way that people can easily show hospitality to others. You could meet in a park on a beautiful day, as well. Other easy ways might include: Serve hors d’oeuvres from the frozen section, heated in your oven for a short while. Have a meal of soup and buns, as has been the tradition for years. If you cannot manage homemade soup, canned soup as is or “doctored up” (such as adding leftover chicken and carbs to the basic soup) is fine. Homemade bread or biscuits are great, but store-bought Italian bread (available for a low cost at Walmart) can suffice as well. Pre-made frozen meatballs, heated with marinara or sweet and sour sauce are always good. Buy the sauce or make an easy one by mixing one jar of chili sauce (found in the same grocery aisle as the ketchup) and one jar of grape jam/jelly; heat, thicken if necessary, and pour over the meatballs. Cookies, cake, pudding, ice cream, or pie, whether homemade or store-bought are a good option. Fruit is a healthy choice. If you don’t have time to make a fruit salad, just serve sliced watermelon, bunches of grapes, orange slices, or strawberries. Make a practice of inviting people over regularly, perhaps once or twice a month to get started. Take an interest in them. And don’t just invite the same family and friends – work your way through your church directory and invite people that you barely know. The point is to get to know them better so you can build one another up in the Lord. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11...
In a Nutshell
Tidbits - May 2023
Get ready to be reviled "Pastors need to teach their people about how to handle with grace being looked down on more than ever before. I heard of John Stott reflecting that as a young man at Cambridge when people said 'O, he's a Christian,' what they meant was that he was a goody-two-shoes. But now to be called a Christian means that you are viewed as a morally-deficient person, because you have not swallowed the gay agenda." - Dr. John E Benton, Managing Editor of Evangelicals Now in the July 2012 issue on how the world will change as gay marriage becomes the norm. Do you think God can't use you? When we reflect back on the mistakes we've made, the sins we've commited, the struggles we have, and the weaknesses that plague us, we might think there is no way that God could use us. But we would be wrong. As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:27-28 "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.... so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." Consider who God has used in the past: Abraham was near dead, Jacob a deceiver, Gideon afraid, Rahab was a prostitute, Jonah ran away from God, David was an adulterer and murderer, Job was ill and impoverished, the Samaritan woman was divorced, Peter denied God (three times!) and Lazarus was dead for three days! Yes, we are too weak, broken, and sinful to do anything for God... in our own strength. But we're just the sort of folk that God has chosen to use for His own glory. SOURCE: Inspired by a post on Eddie Eddings' Calvinistic Cartoons Were there TULIPS on the Ark? Cartoonist Eddie Eddings makes a pretty compelling theological point. Martin Luther on sanctification "This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” The cleanest windshield... The focus of Greg Dutcher's Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology From the Inside is about how Calvinists can make their doctrine – though it is the true-est, and most biblical – unattractive to other Christians. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is that we sometimes fall in love with our theology for its own sake, rather than for Who it allows us to see: "I am concerned that many Calvinists today do little more than celebrate how wonderfully clear their theological windshield is. But like a windshield, Reformed theology is not an end in itself. It is simply a window to the awe-inspiring universe of God’s truth, filled with glory, beauty, and grace. Do we need something like a metaphorical windshield of clear, biblical truth to look through as we hope to marvel at God’s glory? Absolutely. But we must make sure that we know the difference between staring at a windshield and staring through one. Idle hands... “The idle man tempts the Devil to tempt him.” - C. H. Spurgeon Watch your language Christians have their own vocabulary – we have our own jargon – which can be downright confusing to unbelievers. Think of the word faith. In his September 2012 newsletter, Christian apologist Greg Koukl noted that when Christians say we have faith, we mean we are confident that God – Who has already shown Himself trustworthy – will fulfill his promises. The world, however, understands this same term as some "kind of useful fantasy, a 'blind' 'leap of' religious wishful thinking.'" To clear away some of the confusion, Koukl suggests finding and using "substitute words – synonyms for religious terminology – to brighten" and improve our communication. "For example, instead of quoting 'the Bible' or 'the Word of God' (both easily dismissed), why not cite 'Jesus of Nazareth,' or 'those Jesus trained to communicate His message after Him' (the Apostles), or 'the ancient Hebrew prophets'? These substitute phrases mean the same thing, but have a completely different feel. It’s much easier to dismiss a religious book than the words of respected religious figures. When referring to the Gospels, try citing 'the primary source historical documents for the life of Jesus of Nazareth.' That’s the way historians see them, after all. "Avoid the word 'faith.' Substitute 'trust' for the exercise of faith ('I have placed my trust in Jesus') – which is the precise meaning of the original biblical term, anyway – and 'convictions' for the content of faith (i.e., 'These are my Christian convictions'). "For the same reason, don't talk about your 'beliefs.' It's too easy to misunderstand this word as a reference to mere beliefs, subjective 'true for me' preferences. Rather say, 'This is what I think is true,' or 'These are my spiritual convictions.' "I’ve even found myself avoiding the word 'sin' lately, not out of timidity about the topic, but because the term doesn’t deliver anymore. Instead, I talk about our moral crimes against God, or our acts of rebellion or sedition against our Sovereign. By contrast, abandon 'blown it' and 'messed up.' They don’t capture the gravity of our offenses." We want to communicate effectively, and when words start to lose their saltiness it is time to find a new way of communicating God's Truth. We need to, as Koukl writes, "watch our language." SOURCE: The Page, September 2012 "A simple communication tip" by Greg Koukl, www.STR.org. No such thing as an Arminian prayer Douglas Wilson passed along a great quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the subject of Arminian prayer. Spurgeon said: "You have heard a great many an Arminian sermon, but never once heard an Arminian prayer. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say, but you have never heard an Arminian prayer, for the saints in prayer, appear as one in word and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot prayer about free will. There is no room for it." Headline haiku He didn't see it, the melting mutt's drooping tail. Thus, "HOT DOG BITES MAN" English - more important than you knew! Students always want to know "Why are we studying _____ anyway?" When it comes to English, the answer is as simple as the old joke below: our littlest word choices (James 3:3-12), and even the way we emphasize what we say, can have an enormous impact on the message we send. Now ignore the punctuation, and consider the different messages we can send simply by stressing a different word each time: Let's eat grandpa – we want to eat grandpa instead of grandma Let's eat grandpa – we want to eat grandpa rather than, say, hug him Let us eat grandpa – we want to eat him rather than let someone else Let's eat grandpa – we want to eat him even though someone disagreed Same words; very different meanings communicated. That's a silly example so here's one more: I said I was sorry! I said I was so sorry. Two very similar sentences, but one sentence all about sorrow and repentance, and the other very much not so. We all know which is which, but the stubborn child offering up the first might not. He doesn't understand that while he might have said the right words, he didn't deliver the right message. So there's quite some power in the way we use words, and the ones we choose. And isn't that power worth studying, so we can best put it to use? We are all religious "Religion has no place in the schools," secularists declare, so they certainly won't admit to being religious themselves. But this is only smoke and mirrors - as Bob Dylan famously sung, all of us are "gonna have to serve somebody." In his book Leaving God Behind, Michael Wagner notes that back in 1963, political philosopher George Grant made this point while he discussed the definition of “religion”: "The origin of the word is, of course, shrouded in uncertainty, but the most likely account is that it arises from the Latin 'to bind together.' It is in this sense that I intend to use it. That is, as that system of belief (whether true or false) which binds together the life of individuals and gives to those lives whatever consistency of purpose they may have. Such use implies that I would describe liberal humanists or Marxists as religious people; indeed that I would say that all persons (in so far as they are rational beings) are religious…. It will, of course, seem unfair to the exponents of secularism that I have called what they advocate a religion…. all men are inevitably religious…. "Indeed the present controversy is not concerned with whether religion should be taught in the schools, but rather with what should be the content of the religion that is so taught. It is perfectly clear that in all North American state schools religion is already taught in the form of what may best be called 'the religion of democracy.' That the teaching about the virtues of democracy is religion and not political philosophy is clearly seen from the fact that the young people are expected to accept this on faith and cannot possibly at their age be able to prove the superiority of democracy to other forms of government (if indeed this can be done). The fact that those liberals who most object to any teaching about the deity are generally most insistent that the virtues of democracy be taught, should make us aware that what is at issue is not religion in general, but the content of the religion to be taught." All schools will teach students to worship and the only question is, who will be worshipped? 4 words which should exist Inventing words can be fun. Got any good ones? Arghument – assertions back by vehemence, not evidence Heil’d – Damned with faint praise, particularly by noting that he/she probably isn’t a Nazi Questian – someone in search of their next cause Squarcle – a square circle, synonym to “gay marriage” or "preferred pronouns" ...
People we should know
Francis Schaeffer: Intellectual leader of the Christian Right
During the late 1970s and early 1980s many conservative Protestants in the United States became involved in social and political activism for the first time. The movement emerging out of this activism is often referred to as the "Religious Right" or "Christian Right." While a number of factors combined to produce this phenomenon, one of the most important was a theological shift. Conservative Christians who had previously avoided any form of activism came to believe that they had a duty to speak out on behalf of Biblical positions regarding social issues. More than any other individual, a Presbyterian pastor named Francis Schaeffer was responsible for this shift. A recent book by Barry Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America (Eerdmans, 2008) provides a good overview of Schaeffer’s life, work and influence. Reformed foundation Francis Schaeffer was born in 1912 to a nominally Christian family in Pennsylvania. As a young man he converted to Biblical Christianity as a result of hearing an evangelist. After completing college he enrolled in Westminster Theological Seminary in 1935. In 1937 Westminster Theological Seminary split, and a number of professors and students left to form Faith Theological Seminary. Mirroring this split, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had a rupture, with a number of people leaving to form the Bible Presbyterian Church. There were a number of issues involved, one of the most important being eschatology. Those who formed the new seminary and new denomination were premilleniallists, and Schaeffer was among them. After completing seminary, Schaeffer became a very effective Bible Presbyterian pastor in St. Louis. In 1948 he moved with his family to Switzerland as a missionary under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM). To make a long story short, Schaeffer's relationship with both the Bible Presbyterian Church and the IBPFM deteriorated. He left both organizations. (Ultimately he joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod which merged with the Presbyterian Church in America in 1982.) Come and question! In 1955 Schaeffer formed his own mission group called L'Abri, the French word for shelter. It was basically a small community in Switzerland that would receive guests who had questions about Christianity and life in general. L'Abri was very effective and gradually emerged as an influential evangelical organization. People came from all over the world to learn about Christianity from Francis Schaeffer. Many people became Christians in this way, while many who were already Christians had their lives and careers paths changed in a positive direction. Schaeffer’s ministry focus was on demonstrating that only Christianity provided an answer to life’s questions and problems. Schaeffer could explain why the popular philosophical movements of the mid-twentieth century were deficient. Doing so provided an avenue for presenting the Gospel. As Barry Hankins writes, “Apologetics had two purposes for Schaeffer: the first was defense of the faith, and the second was to communicate Christianity in a way that a given generation can understand the message.” L’Abri, however, was not just about providing intellectual answers from a Christian perspective. It also provided shelter and care for people who were having personal problems. The love and care provided by his ministry substantially increased Schaeffer’s credibility and his esteem among believers and unbelievers alike. Hankins notes, “Schaeffer taught that the ‘final apologetic’ for the Christian faith was the fulfillment of Jesus’ command that Christians love one another.” A wider audience Schaeffer would speak to people individually about their questions and concerns, but he would also lecture regularly. By the end of the 1950s, many of the lectures were being taped. Gradually, an audience for these taped lectures spread throughout the world. “By 1968, there were Schaeffer listening groups across the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Taiwan, Japan, India, South Africa, France, New Zealand, Australia, and nations in South America” Even before 1968, however, Schaeffer’s influence was being noticed. Hankins records that, “His growing popularity was noted in a 1960 issue of Time magazine.” As a result of his increasing notoriety, Schaeffer began lecturing tours, first in Britain and later in the USA. These lectures were very popular. Many were subsequently published in book form and this caused his fame and influence to spread even further. Schaeffer was teaching evangelicals about modern philosophical trends and how they related to Biblical Christianity. This had not really been done before, so Schaeffer was on the cutting edge of Christian cultural analysis for English-speaking conservative Protestants. “To whatever extent evangelicals by the mid to late 1970s were analyzing culture instead of rejecting it, Schaeffer was largely responsible,” Hankins argues. By the mid-1970s Schaeffer was so well-known that he became acquainted with some American politicians and was even hosted at the White House by President Gerald Ford. Pivotal books In 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that women had a right to abortion. This was a momentous decision and Schaeffer began to speak out increasingly for the pro-life cause. Actually, he was the most prominent evangelical leader promoting the pro-life cause because so many evangelicals during the early to mid-1970s were ambivalent about this issue. In 1976 Schaeffer (with substantial help from his son Franky) produced a book and film series called How Should We Then Live? that described the decline of Western Civilization due to the rise of secular humanism. It was an effective combination, introducing many conservative Christians to worldview thinking for the first time. Then in 1979, he produced another book and film series called Whatever Happened to the Human Race? that presented the Biblical position on abortion and other life issues. This book and series had a major impact in activating evangelicals into the pro-life cause. Schaeffer's influence continued to increase. In 1981 he wrote a book called The Christian Manifesto, demonstrating that secular humanism was replacing Christianity as the basis of the United States. If Christians did not resist this trend, he argued, it would only get worse. This book is arguably one of the most important ever produced by the Christian Right. Then in 1984, he wrote The Great Evangelical Disaster, which criticized a trend among some evangelical leaders to question the inerrancy of the Bible. If these men continued in that direction, Schaeffer warned, they would soon be embracing theological liberalism. He called on conservative Protestants to continue to defend the Bible as God's inspired and inerrant Word as his last message to the church. In the same year this book appeared, he died of cancer. No coincidence he was Reformed Hankins notes that Schaeffer’s “attempt to alert Christians to the need for intentionally and self-consciously forming a Christian worldview based on solid Christian presuppositions was the central part of his intellectual project.” This continues to be a major component of his legacy. It’s important to recognize that Schaeffer’s theological background provided him with the intellectual tools to confront popular culture from a Biblical perspective. “His training within the Reformed branch of American fundamentalism by scholars such as J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til served him well in this regard.” Reformed theology provides the most robust Christian challenge to our modern secular culture and it was foundational to Schaeffer’s own ministry and success as an apologist. Photo by Dr. Gary Lee Todd, taken sometime in 1981 (Flickr.com/public domain)....
Saturday Selections – May 13, 2023
Burning Ember (8 min) Steve Bell and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra may just give you the shivers – this is wonderful! Are Proverbs an ancient form of tweets? Proverbs are concise, and because they are memorable, they are also pass-along-able – they can go viral! But as author Harma-Mae Smit notes, "the most significant difference between Twitter and Proverbs is obviously the end result of reading them" – Proverbs are for developing wisdom! The restless heart of Generation Z and the mental health crisis "The timing of this unprecedented outbreak of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, Haidt points out, corresponds suspiciously with the rise of smartphones and social media apps." Is it loving for a Christian to attend a "gay wedding"? A couple has asked you to come to their ceremony where they plan to pledge themselves to a lifelong rebellion against their Maker - should you go and lend your support and encouragement? A parent's guide to bullying (and teaching your kids to stand up for the little guy instead) Kids in Christian schools get bullied too. Might that be because Christian parents don't take the topic seriously enough? Are too many presuming their kids are immune to being bullied? And could never be bullies? Maybe we think of bullying as only a physical thing, and don't even consider how constant put-downs (perhaps disguised as biting "Dutch" humor) can cause kids to hate school. If we want to deal with bullying in our schools, this guide is really a must-read for all parents. It's crafted by the Christian parents' group Axis, short at just 16 pages, and free to download. It could be the start of something. Johnson & John's Sons & Son's (2 min) For all the English teachers out there... ...
Canada replaces the cross with a snowflake
On the same day that the world’s attention was fixed on the coronation of Charles III, Canada’s federal government took the opportunity to show of...
Al Siebring: councillor & Christian
How one municipal politician brings God’s Word to bear on taxes, government budgets and private citizens’ property rights ***** This appeared in...
Saturday Selections – May 6, 2023
The amazing Archer Fish (4 min) This critter has crazy accuracy as it shoots its food down from the leaves and branches above. Trump's pivot on ...
What I learned from my Oma
Solomon tells us the first step to learning wisdom is to pursue it (Prov. 4:7), so I recently sat down with my Oma and listened to her share her immigration story. Leny Bosveld (nee Plug) was born Dec. 18, 1937 on the coast of Holland, the 4th child out of 8. Her father originally was a fisherman, but gave up his trade to sell coal and oil. He prospered in his new role of businessman and owned a three-story house that included a shower and toilets, which was a luxury in those days and not common to most households. Though prospering himself, Leny’s father did not think there would be enough work in Holland for his sons, so in 1950 the family made plans to immigrate to Australia. So it was, a mere 73 years ago, while Europe was still recovering from World War II, my Oma moved from a life of wealth to a life of poverty; her story is much like any pioneer or immigrant in history past. Years in nothing but a tent Oma's temporary post-tent makeshift house After a four-week boat ride, the family landed in Albany, Western Australia, and for the next three months lived in their moving container, and slept in a large army tent which was shared with their oma and two uncles. You were only allowed to bring a certain amount of money along when you immigrated, and even though Leny’s dad had his fishing boat, he did not know how to fish in Australia and was not able to make a steady income. After 3 months, Leny’s family moved to Fremantle, and set up the tent in the bush. Living in the tent was a hard life for Leny’s mom, and at one time she said, “If the sea was not between Australia and Holland I would crawl back home.” There was no water and no electricity. To get water the children had to walk far and carry buckets of water uphill, so that by the time it got to their living area much of it had splashed out. Cooking was done with a kerosene cooker, and later with a stove over an open fire outside. Their refrigerator was a small cupboard that held a block of ice, which was changed twice a week by an ice man. There was a big copper pot outside to boil the water in. There were containers and a board for washing laundry. The toilet was outside in a big bucket, and the boys had to dig a hole and bury everything every two days. Once a week the children took turns washing in a tub. This was normal life for the children and did not bother them, though my Oma does remember getting made fun of at school for their poor life. After two years in Fremantle the tent seam broke, and a temporary house was made from timber and the remains of the tent. Eventually the family bought a house that included a proper outside toilet. More families followed The wedding of Leny and Johan in Dec. 1957. While Leny’s family were the first Dutch immigrants to the Albany area, eventually more families came and the immigrants could meet for church together. Leny and Johan met at church, though Leny was shy and avoided contact with him after her mother told her not to chase boys. But Johan liked Leny and asked her father to be her boyfriend. The pair dated for 4 years, seeing one another just once a week. Johan asked to marry Leny when she was only 20 and was told to wait until she was 21, so they got married on her 21st birthday! They had a simple wedding in a courthouse, then went to church for a blessing. Johan worked hard and as their 10 children came along they moved into bigger houses together and were not in want of the necessities of life. Contentment in wealth and poverty My Oma mentioned how living with wealth, as we do today, can be harder than poverty. Having everything can be a curse when we buy and are not satisfied. She said they were satisfied when they got a handkerchief from a lady next door. Comfort became less important for her as it became less available, and trusting God to provide was taught to her at a young age. Not only was my Oma poor, she was also a foreigner in a new land, learning English and navigating how to be in the world but not of it. As our world becomes more hostile to Christians, as inflation and housing prices shift the kind of wealth the next generation may have, I was reminded not to fear or despair. Oma’s life helped me reevaluate what is a need versus what is merely a want that I have elevated to a “need” status. Oma also reminded me not to focus on what kind of life to have in comparison to others, or to worry over deciding what comforts to hold onto and how many children fit or do not fit into a certain plan. Children are a blessing, and I needed the reminder to self-examine what I am keeping “busy” with, and to instead be praying, “Your will be done.” Home life does not need to be fancy; living simply and faithfully for God are what I am called to. Older saints help us reconsider what does and does not matter. My Oma helped me see that the plague of ideas and expectations sprouting from our phones cannot overtake the faithful day of small things (Zec. 4:9-10). It is a lesson that I know I will need to be reminded of over and over again, and spending time with elderly saints is one way God continues to challenge me in that. Growing in sanctification Even though this is a brief snapshot into my Oma’s story, it testifies to God’s covenant faithfulness being handed down from generation to generation. My Oma and Opa have 10 children, 50 grandchildren, and 57 and counting great-grandchildren. Perhaps the greatest gift to learn from my Oma is her example of self-forgetfulness; she is not looking to be an Instagram image, but an Image Bearer who points away from herself to her God. The stories and examples of the elderly give us encouragement that we too are heading there in our sanctification, towards a deeper relationship with God where the need and drive for our own glory fades, as His glory more and more becomes the focal point of our thoughts and actions....
Economics - Home Finances
Home ownership for Christians: how it happened in the past, and how it might now
As home prices have risen in most of Canada, young people may be wondering if they will ever be able to afford to own their own home In BC’s Fraser Valley, and in the golden triangle of southern Ontario, prices have fallen recently, but a rise in interest rates have kept mortgage payments at a rate that are unaffordable for many. Is a house with a white picket fence to call one’s own an impossible dream today? How should Christians approach the concept of home ownership, and are there ways that we can be of service to one another in this important part of our lives? I interviewed young couples, homeowners, renters, realtors, and others to get some insight into how Christians view real estate ownership, and to provide helpful advice for those who are wondering what the best course of action is for their family. SOME BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES We turn first to Scripture for some general principles on home and land ownership. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it!” Christians know from God’s Word that all of creation belongs to our God: He made it all, and He owns every square inch. Because we acknowledge God’s ownership of every bit of creation, Christians view our “ownership” of a home, or a business differently. We acknowledge that the Lord calls us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us, and that He expects us to “be fruitful, to fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The Lord gave wise laws through Moses that emphasized a family’s ownership of land. One who was in financial difficulty could lend his land to another, but this was not to be a permanent change in ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land you shall allow a redemption of the land.” (Leviticus 25:23-24) Further in Leviticus 25, Moses draws a distinction between agricultural land, and houses in “walled cities.” “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year, he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed with a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer throughout his generations.” (vs. 29-30). Homes attached to farmland were treated differently; they did return to the family who originally owned them. Since many of us now live in “walled cities” – that is, we do not depend on the fruit of the land for our income – it makes sense that these two types of properties were treated differently. More than 2,000 years later, we may look at the principles laid out in Scripture for guidance as we consider real estate and home ownership. We no longer live in God’s promised land, with guidelines for generational ownership, yet we observe that the Lord commanded His people to care for the land He entrusted to them, and that He blessed Israel as they did so faithfully, from generation to generation. THE CANADIAN DREAM Home ownership has long been part of the Canadian dream. For many in the Reformed community, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents emigrated from the Netherlands with the hope of better economic opportunities, and a desire to buy their own farm, homestead, or family home… which may have been out of reach in the old country. Then, as now, a house was a costly purchase, and required diligent saving for a down payment, and prudent money management to make the monthly mortgage payments. Despite the challenges, most families in decades past found ways to get into home ownership, and by living below their means, and perhaps doing without some of the non-necessities, they were able to make their mortgage payments. It was not uncommon among our immigrant community for a couple to make do with one car for the family, and it was likely not a brand new vehicle but one that was purchased at least a few years old. THEN VERSUS NOW These condo apartments in the Niagara area went for $130,000 ten years ago, and are now listing for almost $400,000. And even as prices have recently dipped a little, that’s been countered by a rise in mortgage rates. (Photo: Danyse Van Dam) We are accustomed these days to inexpensive electronic devices, and to Wi-Fi access throughout or homes. A generation or two ago, a television was a costly appliance, and many families did without these: having a screen for everyone in the house was not considered a necessity! Another area that families did without was luxurious vacations. Although a trip to Mexico or Europe would be wonderful, many decided that camping at a lake, or making a road trip to cottage country would be a great way to make memories with their children. From 2003 to 2018, prices for free-standing houses increased up to 330% in parts of Canada. Especially in greater Vancouver and southern Ontario, supply and demand drove prices up to levels that seem unimaginable to those who considered home expensive already decades ago. Immigration to Canada from all over the world drove part of the demand side of this equation: in the last two years, more than 830,000 immigrants have moved into the Great White North, and many of these people have moved to areas that already had booming real estate prices. Construction costs for newly built homes have also ballooned. Higher wages for construction workers, increased costs for materials, and more and more red tape from local government all contributed to the costs that builders incurred, and passed on to new home buyers. At the same time, the earning power of workers has grown exponentially. The average salary of a Canadian wage earner increased 2.45% each year the past twenty years, with large spikes in the past two years (including over 10% in 2020). This is slightly lower than the 3.8% overall inflation rate in Canada over the same time period, but not outrageously different. WISDOM FROM GOD’S PEOPLE Given all of the above, what wisdom can we offer a young Christian couple today? We all have different gifts and abilities; we live in different parts of the country, with different real estate pricing: what Scriptural principles can we apply to our lives today to honor the Lord in all aspects of life? I talked to several couples and families in different stages of their earthly journey, seeking wisdom for God’s people today. Bert and Linda Vane are members of the Aldergrove Canadian Reformed Church in BC, and are parents of eleven children. Bert began his career as an entrepreneur in landscaping, employing many young people in landscape maintenance and new construction. As the Lord blessed them, the Vanes also invested in agricultural businesses, in real estate, and other opportunities. Bert believes that God gives all His creatures the obligation to work, and gives us stewardship of different pieces of life on earth. “God grants us the right to ‘own’ a piece of His creation, to provide shelter and food for our families. He gives us the responsibility to provide for our families, and home ownership is a part of this calling.” Bert believes without a doubt that ownership of one’s own house is a Godly desire, that ownership of property grants many blessings in the course of one’s life. These blessings include financial increase, but also add the stability granted to families when they are able to remain rooted in a location where they can be a dependable part of a church community. MORTGAGE HELPERS Since owning a home has become increasingly expensive, renting our primary residence has become another reasonable choice for Christians. Especially for young couples, needing only a one or two-bedroom home or suite in their first years of marriage, renting can be a wise decision for a period of time. This is most often not a wise choice for the long term (longer than 18 months), since ultimately costs for a rental unit are based on real estate prices, which change with time, and in the 21st century, mostly increase at or above the level of inflation. When we were newly married, way back in the day, my wife Faith and I returned from our honeymoon to a one-bedroom suite in the basement of brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Christine VanderPloeg. I never thought to ask at the time, but I’m sure that our meager monthly rental payments were appreciated in Ken and Christine’s financial journey as they used that suite as a “mortgage helper,” and raised six children in that same home. We lived in that basement suite for a bit less than two years, when we were blessed to be able to buy our own home. It was also in Surrey, BC, and also contained a basement suite that was our own mortgage helper in the following years. I can recall a few sleepless nights as Faith and I wondered whether or not it was the right thing to do, to buy our own home, especially as the purchase price seemed so impossibly high, more than ten times our annual earnings back in 1993. With good council from parents and in-laws, we went forward in faith, and bought our first home. We had enough funds for a good-sized down payment, thanks to my wife’s diligent savings, and we were able to borrow from family instead of the bank for the remainder, at a favorable interest rate. Later I learned that my parents-in-law, Henk and Jennie Schoen, had been able to offer similar assistance to all of their nine children, a result of their own stewardly financial management, and a generous spirit that was a blessing to all of us. Thanks Dad and Mom (since departed to glory)! Readers may glean a few principles from the example above. First, living in less than ideal circumstances, with a suite as a mortgage helper, or a partnership arrangement of some kind, can be a great stepping stone to home ownership. And second, when parents or family are able to help financially or otherwise, they can be a huge blessing to a young couple that otherwise might not be able to afford a house of their own. A FEW CURRENT EXAMPLES Sean and Lauren Stel have been able to buy a house by doing so with Lauren’s brother Ben Ravensbergen. Younger readers might be forgiven for scoffing at my own example of getting into the real estate market: “That’s well and good for you, old timer, but things have changed today! Prices are so high compared to your day!” That is certainly true: real estate prices are far higher today, but income levels are also much higher than past generations. Further, thriftiness as our parents and grandparents practiced, creative solutions like basement suites or partnerships, and tapping into the generous spirit of family and friends, are all still enormous opportunities today just as they were in previous generations. Sean Stel is a software engineer working for L3Harris Wescam; he and his wife Lauren have two children. The Stels have been shopping for the right real estate deal for some time in the Smithville, Ontario area. Sean and Lauren brought Lauren’s brother Ben Ravensbergen into the buying process, and are together on the cusp of buying a home together. Ben works in construction, and hopes to be able to build a suite in the home for his own use. Sean and Lauren are very thankful for the opportunity to make this work, and hope to be able to live in their new home for many years. Sean shared the good advice that he received from family and friends: “Write down whatever you agree to, so that you don’t have any forgetfulness or misunderstanding down the road!” Especially as property values fluctuate, and as life circumstances change, this is indeed good counsel for anyone who buys a home with a partner. Ben and Meagan den Boer are Australian immigrants living in the Fraser Valley of BC. Ben is a teacher at Credo Christian High School, and Meagan, a former nurse in Australia, is a stay-at-home mom. Right now, the den Boers can’t see a way to buying a home in the Fraser Valley. With a teacher’s salary, with home prices as high as they are, and with most family connections being back home in Australia, it doesn’t seem to make sense for the young couple. The den Boers are very grateful for their current living space, as they rent a two-bedroom apartment (mortgage helper) at a reasonable rent. Meagan stated that none of her friends in BC have been able to buy a home yet at this point, and many are renting basement suites or apartments from family and acquaintances. Ben and Meagan do already own a home back in Australia, and are glad they did not sell it upon their move to Canada. Ben and Meagan den Boer, along with their little guy Micaiah. Like many young couples in BC’s Fraser Valley, they haven’t found a home purchase that makes sense for them. OWNING VERSUS RENTING Tim Bratcher and Brian Bratcher are twin brothers, and immigrants to Canada from Pennsylvania. Tim and Brian were born and raised as members of the Blue Bell American Reformed Church; both brothers married Canadian spouses, and both ended up living in southern Ontario with their families. Brian and his wife Alicia bought a home in Dunnville about seven years ago. Although the purchase price was high compared to house prices in other parts of the U.S.A. or Canada where they could have moved, Brian and Alicia were able to borrow funds from relatives that made the purchase work. Seven years later, their home is worth more than double what they paid for it, and they have been able to put down roots in Dunnville. Tim and his wife Amanda have not been able to make that same leap into the market, but have been able to rent a home that has worked for their family. Tim and Amanda moved out of Guelph to Welland, where rents are more affordable. Tim has strong opinions on real estate and landlords, and believes that a part of the increase in housing prices has been small investors who buy homes to rent them out. “I’d advise against buying a $500,000 home as a rental income property, if you know that you’ll have to charge at or above the current going rate. It just bumps that average higher, and each new unit will ‘snap’ to that new rate.” HELP FOR THE NEXT GENERATION Reformed Christians in 21st century Canada have been tremendously blessed in so many ways by our God. This includes incredible financial blessings! On average, “baby boomers” (born between 1946 and 1964) are considered the wealthiest people ever in the history of the world, and members of “Generation X” (born from 1965 to 1982) are not far behind, perhaps on a trajectory to surpass their parents in wealth. How might we use what God has entrusted to us for the good of God’s Kingdom? God calls us to recognize His ownership of everything on earth: even while we think about “our” wealth, or “our” savings, we do well to remember that ultimately it is all the Lord’s. Might we be able to take part of our long-term savings or investments and have it be a blessing for our brothers and sisters, as well as for ourselves? Here are a few ways that family can help younger people get into home ownership: 1. Celebrate the wedding, help with the house! We’ve all seen wedding celebrations that become ostentatious displays, with lavish and unnecessary spending on things that mean very little in the long run. Are there ways that we as parents and grandparents and friends can encourage our children to appropriately celebrate their wedding with family and friends, while not digging a financial hole at the very start of their married life? When young couples are presented with the huge consequences of putting $15,000 towards the down payment on a house, and $10,000 towards a wedding celebration, versus $25,000 towards the wedding, we can help them make decisions that will be of huge benefit to them in the long term. (Hint: no one remembers what kind of napkins you had at your wedding, or what kind of food was served, but everyone remembers the speeches and the gezelligheid!) 2. Sharing our homes Many of us still live in the homes in which we raised our families, and no longer need all the room that we have. Yet, it might not make economic sense for us to move because of the cost of moving, or we might just enjoy the home in which we live. Could we find a way to accommodate our married children in our homes for a few years while they get established? This may be for a few months; it may be for a few years, but however it is accomplished, it can be a huge savings for a young family. 3. Lending funds at a low interest rate, or co-signing a loan With mortgage rates much higher than they were three years ago, interest has become a much larger component of buyers’ monthly payments. Could you lend your relatives or friends some of your savings at a lower rate than the bank would lend to them? Or could you lend them a portion of the down payment at low or no interest? Co-signing a loan, while potentially risky for the co-signer, is also an avenue to helping a young couple to establish credibility with a bank. (Co-signers need to be aware that they are responsible for continued payments on loans, even when things get messy!) 4. Lending funds as a shared investment Many economists believe that real estate prices in Canada will continue to rise well above the rate of inflation. For your long-term savings, could you find a way to invest in real estate with your children or grandchildren, providing part of the capital required in exchange for a percentage of the increase in value? This concept requires careful documentation so that all parties are aware of how increases or losses in value are shared, but may be a good investment for the older generation, as well as a huge helper for the younger generation. CONCLUSION From the examples above, and from our own experience, we can observe that home ownership has been an enormous blessing for generations of Canadian Christians. In the long term, owning one’s own home is foundational to financial stability and good stewardship of the resources the Lord has entrusted to us. May the Lord give wisdom to young couples considering how they may become homeowners, and may He give a spirit of generosity to older generations wishing to help their children and grandchildren in this good and Godly goal....
Christian education as violation of children’s “human rights”
Two topics that are commonly discussed in Reformed Perspective are Christian education and the modern notion of “human rights.” Christian education is a good thing, of course, and its supporters need to be encouraged. On the other hand, the phrase “human rights” is too frequently used as a cover for anti-Christian positions on abortion and homosexuality. Now what happens when Christian education and “human rights” are thrown together? An outcome that is bad for Christians, that’s what. Christian education and the modern notion of “human rights” don’t fit well together. Diminishing parents The clash of so-called “human rights” and Christian education is discussed by American law professor Martha Albertson Fineman in an article entitled “Taking Children’s Interests Seriously.” She is a “children’s rights” proponent. But children are too immature to exercise their rights, so “children’s rights” are commonly used to empower government officials at the expense of parental rights. From a Christian perspective, we know parental rights should be paramount in education. But Fineman certainly doesn’t think so. She says that an emphasis on parental rights in education can be an obstacle to children’s best interests. For example, it is assumed by many that parents are in the best position to determine which school subjects and methods of preparation are most likely to prepare their children for the future. But that assumption is flawed, according to Fineman. As she sees it, that “type of expertise is almost certainly within the province of certified teachers and school boards, not parents." In fact, having parents making decisions is seen as a problem: “Certain parental decisions can create handicaps and inhibit a child’s entry into the secular and complex world in which she or he must live and function as an adult.” In her view, it makes much more sense for educational decisions to be made by public education professionals. Parents don’t really know very much, after all. Why allow them to make the important decisions? Besides, the parents are clearly up to no good, at least those who send their children to Christian schools: "Parents in these contexts are often part of a larger religious or ideological community, a community with an independent interest in and intent to indoctrinate children. Such communities conspire with member parents to separate their children from diverse secular, and therefore competing and dangerous, alternatives." So, those of you reading this who send your children to a Christian school are, in her view, conspiring with church leaders against secular society. Mandatory public education? To fix this situation, Fineman thinks that “human rights” rather than parental rights should be the paramount consideration in educational decision-making. Her perspective reflects that of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which, in a 2006 ruling, upheld a decision by authorities in Germany to prevent a Christian couple from home schooling their children. The ECHR said that home schooling would violate the children’s right to education. Fineman warmly welcomed this decision, noting that the "approach of the ECHR provides a competing framework for making decisions regarding the educational and social welfare of the child: that of the best interests of the child, as evaluated through the paradigm of human rights." In this view, educational decisions must be made in light of “the child’s interest in the diversity and independence-conferring potential of a secular and public education.” By allowing parents the option of selecting private Christian education for their children, the children’s interests are being neglected, according to Fineman: “Indeed, the long-term consequences for the child of being home schooled or sent to a private school cannot be overstated.” Think of the specific consequences for female students, for example. Fineman cites one notable study which: "has exposed the ways in which private Christian schools instill sexist beliefs into children and pressure young girls into traditional patriarchal roles rather than professional careers." That’s right. Girls in Christian schools are taught that being wives and mothers is a worthy and meaningful role in life. They are encouraged in this direction rather than being steered towards rewarding professional or business careers. But what about their “human rights”? Who’s watching out for the interests of these girls? Clearly it’s not their parents, who are allowing them to be guided towards the demeaning and worthless roles of wives and mothers. What should be done about this? Well, the choice is obvious for Fineman. In her view, the solution “for our current educational dilemma is that public education should be mandatory and universal.” What she is demanding comes down to this: secular humanism is the truth, with its various permutations of feminism and “diversity” (read: homosexuality) therefore all children should go to schools where the truth is taught, namely, public schools. In this way the children’s interests and “human rights” will be protected. When two worldviews collide Of course, what she calls “human rights” sounds more like “might makes right” to a Christian. A secular humanist government should (in Fineman’s view) force all children to learn secular humanism in its schools. This is not really a case of “human rights” versus oppression, but an issue of one worldview versus another. From a Christian perspective, using the power of the state to force all children to attend secular humanist public schools does not advance “human rights” one bit; quite the contrary, in fact. Fineman opposes the Christian worldview and wants to ensure that children from Christian homes are taught her worldview instead. This is what’s really involved in her proposal. She would not see it this way because for her, secular humanism is the one true religion and she wants everyone to believe it. I don’t say that to demean her — everyone has a religious perspective they consider to be true. But she doesn’t seem to be self-conscious of this or the implications. Conclusion Originally, human rights involved protecting people from the state. In recent decades a new perspective of “human rights” has arisen that involves using the power of the state for social engineering. This is Fineman’s conception of human rights. So when the issues of Christian education and “human rights” are mixed together, the outcome is bad for Christians. For those with a social-engineering view of “human rights,” Christianity is oppressive and Christian children need the “independence-conferring potential of a secular and public education” as Fineman puts it. If academics like Fineman continue to promote this agenda, it may be that Christians will need to defend their schools from accusations of “human rights” violations. This first appeared in the November 2012 issue under the title "For the sake of the children?"...
Saturday Selections – Apr 29, 2023
How was the canon of Scripture established? (3 min) Stephen Nicols shares that the Church hasn't established the canon, but recognizes it, and that truth is a key difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Should AI be shut down? "When our science and technologies are guided by an 'if we can do something we should' kind of moral reasoning, bigger and faster is not better." Housing prices up, builds are down Canada's housing-to-population ratio is the lowest of any G7 nation, because Canada has seen a general decline in home builds since the 1970s, despite a growing population. While the linked report doesn't get into why it is happening, it presses for an investigation to figure it out. Some government policies have focussed on increasing supply without increasing builds, by taxing foreigners who buy homes here. But this doesn't get at the root of the problem – we need more houses. So why aren't builders building, if there is money to be made? Parents need to be able to opt out of "woke" education Michael Zwaagstra is on to something here as he makes a case against Canada's public school system. But he's also a senior fellow at a secular think tank, and that's where his diagnosis falls flat. Zwaagstra thinks "...teachers should be politically neutral" and schools shouldn't be "indoctrination centres." But schools can't help but present doctrine, and the only choice is which. Will they celebrate God as Lord of all, or oppose Him, either explicitly, or implicitly by treating Him as irrelevant to all that students are learning? Reflecting on the Church during the time of COVID The author presents a helpful standard: did we act out of fear, or love for our neighbor? This is a question of motivation, not the end result, since the same act – closing a church, for example – could be done for either reason. However, only one of these motivations is God-honoring. So, now, 3 years later, are we in a place where we can ask, how did we do? How the Earth cleans itself If you believe our astonishingly complex Earth came about by chance and time, one lucky happenstance after another for millions of years, then you'd have ever reason to think it fragile. But if you knew it to be designed, then you wouldn't be surprised to discover that the Earth has been crafted with some impressive self-cleaning abilities. That's not a reason to neglect our stewardship responsibilities (Gen. 1:26-28), but realizing the Earth isn't a delicate egg is a reason to resist climate catastrophism. Unbelief isn't a sin...or is it? Doubters will ask all sorts of questions, but only some will put in the same effort to actually seek answers. When a person's objections are more smokescreen than sincere, we should be sure to call them to "repent and believe" and not simply dig up more answers for them that will never satisfy their rebellion anyway. The article above and video below approach doubt and unbelief from two different but complementary angles and both are worth checking out. ...
Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion
How to defend the unborn in under a minute
I live in a town that’s so pro-life that when I go outside wearing a pro-life t-shirt the only reaction I get is, “Hey Jon, great-looking shirt th...
Saturday Selections – Apr 22, 2023
Identifying misinformation Three great tips on offer here to decipher all the inputs we receive via social and mainstream media... The false promise of electric cars (15-minute read) "The reckless pace at which vehicle electrification is being pushed through — a hallmark of central planning — will add to the pressure on electricity grids on both sides of the Atlantic, at a time when the grids are sinking deeper into the disorder brought on by their decarbonization. Europe’s energy miseries are no secret, but there have been signs of trouble here too, including grimly amusing requests to EV owners not to charge their cars during a couple of extremely hot days in Texas and California." What is the Christian perspective here? Well, one biblical principle that applies is humility. Our leaders don't know enough to make choices for all of us, whether that's what foods farmers should plant, what clothes factories should produce, or what car manufacturers should make. In humility, politicians need to quit taking on problems that are beyond them and start addressing the issues God has charged them with, like stopping the slaughter of the unborn (Ps. 82:3). The gospel of self-forgiveness? What if you've done something so bad you just can't forgive yourself? The good news is, you don't have to. Is raising the minimum wage a Christian thing to do? Raising the minimum wage would help some people and hurt others so does that just make it unclear what we should do? This article offers 3 biblical principles to clarify the case against the minimum wage. Contention in the creationist camp... and that's a good thing! (10-minute read) Dr. Randy Guliuzza is the president of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR.org), so his creationist roots run deep, and any critique he's offering of creationist conclusions is going to be worth considering. So what new point is he making? Guliuzza thinks creationists have conceded too much when we say that random mutation and selection can have beneficial results. One example creationists will share of a beneficial result is the loss of eyes in fish trapped in a dark cave. Their eyes aren't needed in the lightless conditions, and perhaps could be harmful as they are vulnerable spots on their bodies. Another often-cited cited example is the loss of wings on a beetle that lives on a windy island where flight might result in getting swept out to sea. Creationists (myself included) have acknowledged these as examples of where mutation might lead to a creature becoming better suited (fitter) for its environment. But we were quick to add, such a benefit is coming through a loss of information which is very different from the gain of information and increase in complexity – taking us from molecules to Man – that's needed for evolution to be true. Now Guliuzza is saying that even this concession to the power of random mutation and natural selection is too much. Why? He says we are attributing to chance what should be credited to brilliant design. How is it that so many creatures are so adaptable? Is it just happening, or did God build in that adaptability? Do, for example, blind cavefish go blind because that's a built-in adaptation they've got hidden somewhere in them? Good question (Prov. 27:17). And I suspect that Guiliuzza is taking us in a very good new direction. This might well turn out to be a pivotal essay for the creationist movement. Top 10 problems that government spending has solved Waaaaaaaait for it.... ...
Whose children are they?
Many parents don’t realize the radical and harmful governance shift in “parent-child-State” relationships taking place over the past decade. Here in Alberta, for example, successive governments have declared they know better than parents what is in their children’s sexuality and gender development best interest. Since 2015, Alberta Education has said its 733,000 students have the right to join so-called “Gay-Straight Alliance clubs,” as well as declare a sexual orientation or gender identity starting at age five, independent of parental knowledge and consent. Harmful impacts In Tom Blackwell’s January 5, 2023, National Post article “Some parents object as Canadian schools quietly aid students’ gender transition,” he showed where this can go: “When a student in a Calgary Grade 6 class came out as transgender this year, the teacher made one thing clear to the other pupils: they mustn’t let slip their classmate’s new gender identity to her parents. The couple was not yet aware of the change...It’s just one way the education system has become intimately involved in the transgender process, affecting an exponentially growing number of young Canadians. Schools accept name and pronoun preferences, provide gender-neutral washrooms and teach from a young age about gender identity. In some cases, they can even refer students directly to gender-treatment clinics.” Parents have the right to know who is influencing their children’s sexual/gender development, where and when this is happening, and what their children are being told and doing while at school. Parents should be alarmed that young children are encouraged by the State to make life-altering sexuality and gender “identity” decisions without the knowledge and consent of their parents. These children are at risk of jeopardizing their future by making declarations and associations they do not have the maturity to contemplate fully, nor understand the long-term ramifications. Disenfranchising parents In addition to secret Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club membership, the Alberta governance assault on the traditional family (parents and children) has the following legal/policy characteristics: Students starting from age five can change their name at school and wear whatever gender-expressive clothes they wish without their parents’ knowledge or approval All school staff is authorized to deceive parents regarding their son or daughter’s involvement in a GSA club and their self-identification declarations, thus sending the message to students that parents shouldn’t be trusted in sexuality and gender matters, the State knows best The GSA clubs are connected to an adult-run, unaccountable GSA Network which is further associated with activist agencies also not responsible to the State Note that these laws have been affirmed by three successive governments: PC, NDP, and UCP. Conclusion We know that God gave us families to raise children, and charged children in the Fifth Commandment to obey their parents. It is vital that the State doesn’t undermine them. As Paul counsels in Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may turn out well for you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We need to be able to fulfill this call, so the State must be pushed back. Carman Bradley is the founder of Parental Consent Alberta (ParentalConsentAlberta.ca) where our Alberta readers can find out more about what his group is trying to do – including a petition initiative – to protect children by empowering their parents. ...
A new lead in the search for life beyond Earth
Is there life beyond our earth? And are there planets out there waiting to be inhabited? Dating all the way back to ancient Greece, philosophers and scientists have sought answers for these questions. More recently, there has been a concerted push to advance space technology. We now have: Telescopes that see billions of light years distant A space station that orbits the Earth every 90 minutes Vehicles on Mars searching for life But even with these incredible tools, scientists still have not been able to answer these questions. However, a group of scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) think they may be getting closer. Ana Lobo, Aomawa Shields, Igor Palubski, and Eric Wolf believe that they have found planets that have the potential for liquid water and thus, in their minds, potential for extra-terrestrial life. Their study was summarized in a March 16, 2023, ScienceDaily.com piece: “‘Terminator Zones’ on distant planets could harbor life.” A "terminator zone" is a dividing line on a planet that always has one side facing its star and the other side in constant darkness. On the dark side of the planet, temperatures would always be extremely low, causing any liquid water to freeze. On the planet's dayside, temperatures would be scorching hot, causing any liquid water to evaporate. The terminator zone, where the dark meets the light, has the potential to have temperatures suitable for liquid water and, thus, for extra-terrestrial (ET) life. These types of planets do not occur in our Solar System but are common enough among planets orbiting the stars seen in our night sky. So what should we think about this search for ET? Well, we know all of Creation has been affected by Man’s fall into sin. The key question then is, would God allow intelligent life on other planets to be judged because of Man’s fall on this planet? That seems implausible. However, even if intelligent extra-terrestrial life is unlikely from a biblical perspective, there wouldn’t seem to be any biblical reason to rule out the possibility of non-intelligent lifeforms existing outside of Earth. As Christians, we can view UCI’s work and other studies like it with curiosity, and also a lot of skepticism. Secular scientists look around our planet and see an abundance of life, so they presume that life coming into being is relatively simple. However, if it is so simple, then why can’t they find life anywhere else? Surely, it has to be somewhere out there! So they begin the cycle of searching, possible discovery, and eventual failure. Then their desperate search begins anew. And as it does, Christians can simply sit back. We have nothing to prove, and no need to find extra-terrestrial life – unlike evolution, our biblical worldview doesn’t require (or rule out) life on other planets. ...
Reformed communities stepping up to provide “Safe Families”
It takes some courage to get into the public to show love for our neighbors, with a meal for an elderly person, taking part in a Life Chain, or helping at the local soup kitchen. Some may even take their children so they are exposed. But how would we feel about welcoming the public into our own homes to live with us temporarily? A different sort of fostering It was at a legal seminar in London, Ontario, about ten years ago, that I first heard of a movement called “safe families.” Jennifer Francis, a young woman at that seminar, was intent on launching the organization, modeled after Safe Families for Children in the USA. Not only has it taken off in Canada, members of the Reformed church community are helping it expand to new areas. Safe Families exists to keep children safe and families together. As they describe on their website, they “temporarily host children and provide a network of support to families in crisis while they get back on their feet.” What sets them apart is that they do this outside of the government system. Yet their effectiveness has made them a go-to place for child welfare agencies, who regularly refer families to them, encouraging these families to make use of their care so that they don’t get into a crisis mode where the government needs to intervene. “Instead of waiting for bad things to happen to children, we can step in to help,” they explain. “By design, child welfare systems are designed to react after something bad happens to a child. Such interventions can be necessary in cases of abuse and neglect, but we can help before bad things occur.” In the 20 years of their existence, the Safe Families movement has provided over 35,000 hostings, utilizing 25,000 volunteers and 4,500 churches, most of those in the US, UK, or Canada, with 93 percent of the children returning home. The concept immediately struck a chord in my heart, as it provides an opportunity for Christ’s church to open our arms to vulnerable families and children in a way that is both practical and simple. Having witnessed the enormous sacrifice, and occasional heartache, of families who served within the government system as foster families, this appeared to be an option that would be far more doable for ordinary families. God blessed that young woman’s vision and Safe Families was incorporated as a Canadian non-profit in 2012. Francis has since been faithfully leading the organization, first as the Executive Director, and now as the interim chair of the board. Safe Families started ministering to families in the Greater Toronto Area but has now spread to many cities across Canada. Reformed folk seizing the opportunity to serve When I was first introduced to the concept, I couldn’t help but consider the potential for the Reformed community in Canada to get on board, as we are blessed with so many solid families who would be able to provide temporary care to children in need, outside the foster system. Sure enough, quietly and humbly, some in the Reformed community have been getting involved with the new chapters that have been formed. Most recently, a chapter is being formed in BC’s Lower Mainland. I reached out to Jessica Wildeboer, who is chairing the steering committee to form this new chapter and is a member of the Langley Canadian Reformed Church. I asked her what sparked the idea of bringing a chapter to the Fraser Valley. She explained that she heard about the organization from her sister, who attended an information session in Edmonton, but she didn’t give it much thought until a friend sent her a link to the Real Talk podcast episode, where Lucas Holtvluwer and Tyler Vanderwoude sat down with Hildy Sloots from Safe Families last year. “I rarely listen to podcasts at all, but somehow (God's work) I found myself washing dishes while listening to it. I was hooked. I loved all that I heard” shared Wildeboer. And she didn’t stop there. “I knew this needed to happen here in the Lower Mainland. I sent an email to Safe Families and asked about a BC chapter. They replied saying that a Zoom meeting was coming up and I was welcome to join. This was in September. By November we had a steering committee established with nine Christians, from Vancouver to Chilliwack, and we started planning steps forward.” Different ways to help In February of this year, Jason Peters, the Western Canada Director of Safe Families, led three information sessions in the Fraser Valley. They were thrilled to have about 230 people come out, representing 25 different churches. Three members of the steering committee shared with the audiences why they believed Safe Families was needed and important. “As chair, I shared my own experience of seeing my church rally around my family in times of crisis” Wildeboer explained. RCMP officer Steve Vandelft, and social worker Kathleen Vanderveen, also shared how in their work experience they would often see families who needed extra support. Wildeboer explained that “We put out sign-up papers asking for people to express what areas they might be interested in helping with in the future. Different areas include being a resources friend (organize meals, pick up groceries, help with a reno), family friend (do some babysitting, offer encouragement), family coach (overseeing the volunteers surrounding the family in crisis), and host family (hosting children overnight in your home for short periods of time, sometimes weeks).” The response was incredible. “After the three info sessions, we had so many people check so many boxes with wanting to help, and we even had 18 families sign up wanting to become a host family! Amazing!” A Christian witness What also sets Safe Families apart is their faith-based approach, “motivated by the compassion and grace that they first received from Jesus Christ.” And the beautiful thing is that instead of this closing doors to working with the child welfare system, they form a bridge between families who are in need and the Christian community. “When a family in church is in crisis, meals are brought, babysitting is arranged, rides are organized, whatever is needed is provided,” shared Wildeboer. “But how do people without a church community survive when a crisis hits? Our churches seem rich with resources such as stable homes. How can we bless our community with our resources?” She also liked that the service is local and hands-on. “I think there is also something precious and vital about being more intentional within our own communities. I like my kids to help with babysitting. I like my kids to help with making a meal and dropping it off. I like my kids to write cards to neighbours and hand-deliver them. Sometimes we can be too busy in our own safe comfortable bubble with people we know, but we could improve with meeting new people and warmly welcoming all those we meet. It is good to get uncomfortable, that's what Jesus did.” To learn more about Safe Families and find the locations of their chapters, go to SafeFamiliesCanada.com. You can also listen to or watch the Real Talk interview below that first inspired Jessica Wildeboer (you can also find it at RealTalkPodcast.ca). Pictured at the top: Six of the nine steering committee members, along with the Western Canada Director for Safe Families Jason Peters. Jessica Wildeboer is second from the left. ...