Browse By Topic
Saturday Selections – Feb. 18, 2023
Recycling paper and cans can make sense. Despite what we've been told, recycling plastic most often doesn't.
Tim Challies on how "In some way each of us carries a heavy load through this life. In some way each of us finds it a long marathon more than a brief sprint. In some way each of us is called to endure with fortitude, even for a very long time."
As George Orwell wrote, "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four" - it is the freedom to say what really is, including that men can't become women, and homosexuality is a sin. Declare that anywhere around Sydney this upcoming week, and you will not be tolerated or celebrated for your diverse thinking - you will be instead a candidate for the "two minute hate."
A new study is debunking the “Dutch Protocol” research that was being used to promote and legitimize "trans" treatments. Creationist Christians were always aware that ideologically-driven bias exists in "Science" but now the trans agenda is making that increasingly plain to everyone else too.
Adopted children can struggle with their sense of identity. How can we help them to cultivate a biblical identity?
If you've ever had to replace a missing screw from this or that gizmo in your house, you already know the importance of coherence – it isn't enough to have a screw; you need to have the exact right screw that the gizmo has been designed to work with. The coherence in our bodies – eyes that precisely fit eyeball sockets, wrist bones that each, individually fit alongside the other wrist bones, muscles that attach at just the right points, arteries that carry blood to exactly where it is needed, etc. and etc. – is clear evidence of our own brilliant design.
Soup and Buns
Friends or acquaintances?
Loneliness can make you pretty sad. In lonely times, you may ponder your relationships and realize that they are superficial. Perhaps you have wanted ...
News, Pro-life - Abortion
Abortion was the leading cause of death in 2022
According to the organization Our World in Data, 67 million people died in 2022. Among the leading causes of death were heart disease (approximately ...
Pro-life - Abortion
A day in the life of a pro-life intern
A summer internship gives young people an opportunity to build friendships and grow in courage while speaking up for the unborn **** It’s 5:30 AM....
Economics - Home Finances
Simple steps for living generously
Jesus says: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). It should go without saying that our giving is a reflection of our devotion to Him. God calls on us to share His wealth, for all you have is in fact His. And if you don’t, might that mean that you don’t belong to Him in the first place? In today’s climate of “earn more to buy more,” it can be hard for Christians to focus on any other uses for their time, talent (skills) and treasure (material resources). Regardless of this challenge, Scripture clearly calls believers to a life of giving and living generously. “Do we have to?” misses the point In the Old Testament, the tithe was introduced as a 10% minimum for Israelites to give back to God to show their thankfulness and dependence on Him. This practice is shown in both Abraham and Jacob’s life (Gen. 14:19-20 and 28:20-22), and then introduced into Israelite law in Leviticus (27:30). Additional giving – the freewill offering – was also encouraged (Lev 22:18 and Num 15:3). Giving at this level would have been very difficult at times; the Israelites frequently went through seasons of war and poverty. The word tithe literally means “a tenth” and denotes the minimum amount that Israelites were required to give to God. The nature of the type of gift God desired is described as the first fruits (Prov. 3:9, Lev. 19:23-25). Giving of the first fruits was meant to be a gift of the first and best that God provided. It is important to understand that giving of the first fruits is an exceptionally sacrificial act. It is the small harvest at the beginning of the season that follows a long winter and spring filled with the sweat and labor that goes into the growing season. There was often hunger and self-denial involved in this sacrifice. The Israelites would have had a strong recognition that the rest of the harvest, the part that would provide for their family’s daily food and provisions for months or maybe even the remaining year, was still pending and not at all guaranteed. This required much trusting in God for His provision. Whether tithing is mandated today is a hotly debated topic in Christian circles. But what should not be in question is the discipline and sacrificial nature of giving that the tithe and first fruits promoted, and the generosity Christ put on display by giving up His life for us. Making regular giving a natural and normal part of your financial routine is critical to promoting a life of generosity. Also, the recognition that God has blessed you with what you have, and you are entirely dependent on His provision, is a difficult but necessary reality for Christians to live within. Getting giving going Many have good intentions to give regularly and generously, but often those intentions are not fully acted upon. Sometimes all that is required is the creation and implementation of a good financial plan. Practically speaking, this includes the application of sound financial principles, such as: Spend less than you earn and do it for a long time. This requires you to know where your money is going, to communicate effectively with family members, and to be a disciplined spender. Live in a home you can afford. Do not presume upon the future. God provides for your needs, but He does not guarantee you a smooth journey. Be very careful with your use of debt and avoid it if possible as a form of slavery (Prov. 22:7). Strive purposefully to provide for your family’s needs (1 Tim. 5:8). Build into your life financial accountability, especially in areas where you may struggle. To give deliberately and sacrificially, some practical steps to implement might include: As soon as income is received, remove a portion to give. This could mean transferring it to another bank account, immediately writing the check for Sunday’s service, or even e-transferring to your church if that is an option. Take regular (quarterly or annual) inventory of your personal and business net worth and give on the growth. This includes a portion of the return on your investment portfolio, inheritances received, and dispositions in property and business. Devise and implement a plan to give of your time and skills as well as your material wealth. If you have a spouse and children, get them involved and make it a family plan. Teach your children to give with paper money and not with coins since God is not a God of leftovers (Mal. 1:8; Luke 6:38). Consider the challenge contained in the concept of the first fruits. What will you give to feel the sacrifice of the gift? Would you still give at the same financial level if a tax incentive was not offered? Is your lack of intentionality and organization preventing you from giving at a level that is truly worshipful? Consider including your time and your talents as part of your giving plan. Do not offer God worthless gifts. Give deliberately, sacrificially and excellently. This has been a father-daughter collaboration: Rev. Hank Van der Woerd (MDiv) is an emeritus minister (URCNA) and past president of the Mortgage Brokers Association of BC; Maria Dawes CIM CFP is a Portfolio Manager for Capstone Asset Management (www.capstoneassets.ca)....
How to have a proper conversation
or, Confessions of a Loquacious Person ***** Loquacious: tending to talk a great deal We might all think that we know how to have a conversation, having learnt a particular style of conversing from how we were raised. But conversational styles differ greatly from family to family, anything from the children being almost afraid or forbidden to say a word (i.e. “children should be seen and not heard”), to everyone at the dinner table talking at the same time. Family members may have had to wait a long time to be heard if their extroverted siblings hadn’t learned conversational etiquette – “manners” may or may not have been taught, depending on whether the parents ever learned them, or whether they considered free-for-all conversations to be a problem! In my case, I thought that it was normal for family members to talk over one another. But my husband found it completely disorienting as my side of the family got louder and louder, switching subjects frequently and repeating anecdotes when someone in a separate conversation caught a snatch of it and requested to hear all of it right then. Since we loved to hear ourselves talk, we were most happy to oblige, even if we didn’t realize at the time that “talking” was what was most important to us. Loquacious people love to share details about their lives. After church, they might go from person to person telling the same stories and bits of information about their week, their trip, their surgery, or their job challenges. It’s what’s on their mind so they share it with others. But what about the people they are talking to? Do they ask about what happened in other folks’ lives during the past week? When they get home, do they even remember whom they “conversed” with since they did the majority of the talking? This article began with a bit of blaming: “This is how my family did things.” But there’s more to it than that. So let’s take a closer look at why a person talks too much and is not a good listener because, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” It’s not simply a learned habit. Self-centeredness When we talk too much, as mentioned already, it is because we like to hear ourselves talk and we – rightly or wrongly – imagine that others are entertained, inspired, or enlightened by what we have to say. The first consideration should be whether our subject matter meets those criteria! We can all think of people whose conversation could bless us for hours, and others with whom we would be bored. We have probably all been the talker in both situations! We also ought to realize that we like to talk because we like to be in control. Celeste Headlee points out in her TED talk Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation that we control the conversation so that “we won’t have to hear anything that we are not interested in.” It makes us the center of attention, and perhaps is essential to “bolstering” our own identity. Ouch! But as Headlee concludes, “Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.” Did we even realize that we were being self-centered? We need to, because self-centeredness is destructive to relationships, whereas love for others is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Being a good listener In order to have a proper conversation, we need to be intentional and attentive listeners. One of the most difficult challenges is to realize that when people are relating their experience, that conversation is not about us. As Stephen Covey has said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.” While someone is talking, we automatically think of our experience that we think parallels theirs, and eagerly formulate how we will present our information. My parent also died. I also have knee/car/kid/plumbing trouble. I also took a vacation to Timbuktu and here’s what I did. To launch directly into our somewhat connected experience shows that to us, their commentary was merely a catalyst to get ours started. And whether we realize it or not, we may be, as Headlee suggests, taking that moment to prove how amazing we are or how much we have suffered! Self-centered. When we truly listen, we should squelch those thoughts because our experience, even with grief, is not the same as theirs. Squelch them, and instead ask follow-up questions, seeking to understand what their experience was like and how it affected them. Think about what they say. Ask them how it affected them and what they think about it now. Tell them you’d love to hear more about it. Tell them how wonderful (or awful) it sounds. Sincerely offer prayer or assistance if the situation calls for it. A proper conversation includes and indeed emphasizes listening. It takes energy and effort to truly listen to the point of caring about the speaker and the content, and not just planning our response while we wait for them to finish, or even worse, interrupt them as soon as they take a breath. To interrupt is to declare that you consider yourself and what you want to say more important than the other person’s words. There may be a good reason to share some of our experiences later, but only after we have sufficiently listened, and only if it may truly benefit the hearer. Listening to your children It is particularly important to learn to listen attentively to your children. Parents need to learn to listen to what their children are saying and to ask questions that show a desire to understand and appreciate them. Listening needs to be done in a non-judgmental manner where the kids aren’t afraid that a rebuke or lecture will flatten them as soon as they speak their mind and open their heart. It may be that an issue will have to be addressed laterif wise counsel or discipline are necessary. But a thorough listening should come first. Proverbs 18:13 gives the admonition that, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Half-hearing or speeding through the conversation so that we can go do something “more important” is not really listening. We sometimes think as parents that we need to have “the answer” immediately. We are not perfect and it may be best on some occasions to state that we are going to think about a matter for a while before we fully respond. Of course, this takes more time and effort than giving a quick answer while multitasking. But it is time well spent. There’s a popular adage that nobody when growing old will say, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” or, as a companion to that remark, “I wish I’d cleaned my house better when the kids were young.” But we may wish we had listened more attentively. Scripture says… The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about our speech. Proverbs 10:19 states: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” and 17:28 says: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” We are taught that our speech is to be truthful (4:24, 6:12), noble and straightforward (8:6-9), wise (10:31), gentle (15:1), knowledgeable (15:7), righteous (8:8; 16:13), and pleasant (16:24). We are commanded that our speech should not be devious (4:24), destructive of our neighbor (11:9), rash like sword thrusts (think about that image!) (12:18), a scorching fire/perverse/slanderous (16:27-28). Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Paul says: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” Jesus and Paul taught us to love our neighbor as ourself. Should this not include listening carefully with a desire to learn and understand, rather than just popping off the first connection that comes to mind? We can learn to not be self-centered. Quick to listen In James 1:19, we read, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” What if we would rush in to listen to others, instead of to talk? These verses show us that we should analyze our recent conversations, and perhaps ask friends, family, and the Lord if we have been “too loquacious” and not a good listener. We should ponder Paul’s words from Philippians 2 which certainly apply to how we converse with others: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4)....
Arrogance: a necessary element of the liberal worldview
In his book Makers and Takers (2008), Peter Schweizer not only sings the praises of conservatives, he exposes the arrogance of liberals. One example is particularly telling – Schweizer writes about the media’s reaction to a Presidential IQ report that looked at the scores for each American president in the last 50 years. The report found that the last six Democratic (liberal) Presidents had an average IQ of 155, with Bill Clinton scoring the highest, at 182. Republican Presidents (conservatives, or at least, more conservative than Democrats) average more than 40 point lower at just over 115. The lowest Republican score was George W. Bush, at 91. Now to give this some context, Albert Einstein’s IQ has been estimated at between 160 to 180, which puts him a shade below Bill Clinton. And George W. Bush’s reported score was exactly half that given for Clinton. If that strikes you as a little suspect, congratulations – that’s means you must not be a liberal, because a host of them did fall for it. The press including “The Economist magazine, the St. Petersburg Times, London's Daily Mirror, radio talk show hosts and liberal bloggers eagerly ran with the story.” Even editorial cartoonist Garry Trudeau swallowed it whole, basing one of his Doonesbury comics on this Presidential IQ report. But while many in the press were ready to believe anything – no matter how implausible – that said liberals were smarter than conservatives (and smarter even than Einstein) the report was a hoax. The only real info the report provided was the illumination it had given on the press’s hard bias against conservatives. Think I’m been a little hard on the gullible media? Not at all, As Schweizer notes: “Imagine if someone had published a report claiming that conservatives had much higher IQs than liberals. Would newspapers and commentators run such a story uncritically? To the contrary, they would likely first check on the results and subject the findings to serious scrutiny. In short, the bias in favor of ‘smart liberals’ seems widely accepted in our society.” Why did they fall for it? While it might seem odd that liberals are so ready to think themselves much smarter than conservatives, this arrogance is an integral part of the liberal worldview. Or, at least, it is central to liberalism in as far as liberals believe in bigger government, with the government taking an increasingly prominent role in education, healthcare, the arts, childcare, and, of course, all aspects of the economy including the arts, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and sports stadium construction. Government on such a grand scale is going to require some astonishingly brilliant leaders if things are to be run competently. So if one presupposes, as liberals do, that bigger government is the answer to many of our problems, it is necessary for them to also presuppose that the super smart, near-all-knowing administrators that would be necessary to run it, do actually exist. Or to put it more succinctly liberals overestimate their intelligence, because they need to, to maintain their trust in big government. Conservatives, on the other hand, have historically thought that such a huge responsibility is beyond any one person, or any one group’s competence, no matter how smart, or how knowledgeable. This insight was at one time based on – and still today aligns with – what God tells us about ourselves, that He is the infinite all-knowing God, and that we are not. So conservatives, and particularly Christians, want the government to take on only the limited responsibilities, like those of justice and defense, (Romans 13:4) which God has specifically assigned to it. Conclusion While liberals think conservatives to be of limited intelligence, conservatives think this true of both liberals and conservatives – everyone, even the smartest among us, have only limited intelligence and no one has the omniscience that would be needed to competently oversee all that Ottawa and Washington are involved in today. This touch of humility is as central to conservatism as a sense of arrogance is to liberalism. A version of this article first appeared in the June 2011 issue of Reformed Perspective....
Saturday Selections - Feb. 4, 2023
How different athletes act at home (4 min) Some fun goofiness to share with the kids... though only if you don't mind some imitation. Jack Phillips battles on,... and his reward will be great! Jack Phillips is rather ordinary-looking for a hero. He isn't muscle-bound, doesn't have martial art moves, and he isn't braving bullets to save a damsel in distress. What he has been risking is his business, and for more than a decade now. Amazingly, among the people he is risking his business for are the very people trying to shut him down. A decade back this baker was taken to court for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual "marriage." All the world was eager to celebrate this coupling, but Jack was not, because he knew such a marriage was a lie, and harmful to the people involved because they were committing themselves to a lifelong rebellion against their Maker. The good news is he won a Supreme Court decision back in 2021. The bad news is he was targeted again, but this time by a trans activist who wanted a cake to celebrate "transitioning." And once again, Jack wouldn't participate in a harmful lie. Most of us understandably wouldn't want to be in Jack's shoes. But is that because we've gotten things backwards? We were created to glorify God, and just consider the opportunity Jack has been given because of this to glorify God in a louder way than he otherwise ever could. We also shouldn't doubt what Jesus promised in his Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:10-12). Start with one We're called to make disciples. Yet so many of us don't. So, the author advises, start with one, just one. 6 ways socialism isn't social If it's voluntary, it isn't socialism. It's that simple: socialism is compulsion. Abortion arguments are failing badly One of my university profs tried to justify abortion through all nine months by arguing that there was no point in the pregnancy where a child was all that different from the moment before. He reasoned that if it was okay at one month after conception to abort (which he thought was a given) then it must be okay at one month plus one day. And if it is okay at one month and a day, how is the child all that different at one month and two days? And so on. But his argument proved too much, as it would also justify "aborting" the already born, even adults, as there is no point in which we are all that different from the moment before. In the article above, Gary DeMar turns that logic on its head: if it is a given the born are valuable, then why not the born, minus a day? And so on. DeMar's flipped argument aligns with Scripture, where we find our value isn't found in how different we are from one stage to the next, nor in what we can do, but in Whose Image we are made (Gen. 1:27, Gen. 9:6). This is not a banana This is not an ad about how boys can never be girls even when some people might say otherwise. This is not about how boys remain boys, even if someone screams "girl, girl, girl" over and over again. And even if you start to believe that boy is a girl, he's not; he's a boy... and this ad is still not about that. This is a CNN ad. From 5 years ago. It was directed against President Donald Trump's accusations that CNN peddled "fake news." It argues that there are no alternative facts. There is only one truth. Bravo. Do you think they'd still make this ad today? ...
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics
Economics in One Lesson
by Henry Hazlitt 1946 / 193 pages Universal basic income, a four-day work week, and government-funded daycare are just a few big-ticket proposals ...
In a Nutshell
Tidbits – February 2023
What Darwin didn’t know Darwin, ignorant of the inner workings of the cell, could imagine them to be simple. But the more we learn of the cell toda...
Articles, Book Reviews, Interview with an artist
Stephanie Vanderpol has a zoologist in the house
Interview with an artist Stephanie Vanderpol is the author and artist behind RP’s “Come and Explore” children’s pages, and she’s also the a...
Population of the world’s largest country begins to decline
For the first time since the early 1960s, deaths have outnumbered births in the world’s largest country – over the course of 2022 China’s population shrunk by 850,000. This development was a long time coming, as the country has seen a steady decrease in births since the 1970’s. That is thanks in part to China’s One-Child Policy, which stayed in force till 2015, and which penalized parents for having more than one child. The Communist government has been trying to reverse the downward trend since then, but with no success. China’s fertility rate is a dismal 1.28 children per woman, and still decreasing each year. To simply stay stable, a country’s fertility rate needs to average out to 2.1 children per woman, the two children to take the place of their two parents in the next generation, and the .1 to account for the fact that not all children reach adulthood. According to the Globe & Mail’s coverage: “no country has successfully reversed birth-rate decline, which tends to track with development, as wealthier, urbanized populations choose to have less children.” “China’s demographic and economic outlook is much bleaker than expected,” demographer Yi Fuxian commented in response to these findings. China is realizing quickly what Psalm 127:3 proclaims: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him.” However, even as China is being confronted by this truth, Canada and much of the Western world continues to discourage children and is relying on immigration to keep the population and economy stable or growing. But where are these immigrants coming from, and what happens when these countries too need people? And if no country has been successful with reversing a decline, what happens when the world’s population begins to decline, as is expected later this century? Through birth, fostering, and adoption, Christian families have an opportunity to show to the world the gift that life is....
Science - Creation/Evolution
How does the world explain the origin of life?
or, highlighting the problems with a Naturalistic explanation ***** Naturalism can be defined best by what it doesn’t believe: in the Supernatural; it denies the existence of God. That means that all naturalists are left with to explain all that exists, why we exist, and how we came to be is Nature and natural laws. And that presents them with a problem. Nature cannot provide us with an explanation for abiogenesis – life coming from non-life. You don’t have to take my word for it – this is also acknowledged as a foundational problem by many scientists, sometimes explicitly, and sometimes only by the irrational arguments they’ll offer as an alternative to acknowledging God. In what follows I’m going to share both the publicly acknowledged problems with naturalistic abiogenesis, as well as some of the theories the world has proposed to address those problems. Both are revealing. The RNA problem In paleontologist Peter Ward’s book Life As We Do Not Know It, he addresses how RNA (or ribonucleic acid) – because it is simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) – is theorized as an evolutionary step in the development of DNA. But, Ward notes: Amazingly, one of the major criticisms of RNA life…the hypothesized last common ancestor of all DNA life, is that it probably did not exist because it would have been impossible to build RNA through natural chemical processes. Paul Davies notes: .… ”without a trained organic chemist on hand to supervise, nature would be struggling to make RNA from a dilute soup under any plausible prebiotic condition.” Or, as organic chemist Clemens Richert wrote in the Dec 12, 2018 edition of Nature Communications: Experimentalists in the field of prebiotic chemistry strive to re-enact what may have happened when life arose from inanimate material. How often human intervention was needed to obtain a specific result in their studies is worth reporting. When Diego Maradona was asked about having used his hand to score a goal in the quarter-finals of the 1986 soccer World Cup, he initially claimed that there had been divine intervention, and the term “Hand of God Goal” was coined. – There had been manual intervention, and there had been an understandable interest of the player not to admit it. – Organic chemists, if not all experimentalists in the field of prebiotic chemistry, are faced with a similar dilemma. We do our best to perform experiments that we believe re-enact possible steps of prebiotic evolution, but we know that we need to intervene manually to obtain meaningful results. Further, the ideal experiment does not involve any human intervention. He also frankly said: Understandably, this has drawn the ire of those who feel that no or only minimal intervention is allowed for a process to be called prebiotically plausible. After all, it is not easy to see what replaced the flasks, pipettes and stir bars of a chemistry lab during prebiotic evolution, let alone the hands of the chemist who performed the manipulations. (And yes, most of us are not comfortable with the idea of divine intervention in this context.) Whether divine intervention or human intervention, there’s a conscious entity doing the intervening. So even if our friends were to succeed in creating life in the lab, that would only demonstrate that intelligence and deliberate intent are needed to create a living thing. I'm glad this issue is explicitly acknowledged. Every honest Origin of Life (OOL) researcher will agree fully. It’s one thing for highly trained chemists to create RNA in a lab, but another thing entirely for unaided Nature to accomplish the same. Especially considering that Nature is not trying to make RNA, and has no intention of doing so. The multiverse “solution” But, if the researcher is committed to Naturalism and atheism, then he has no choice but to maintain a strong (and unrealistic) faith that Nature did it anyway, even though he knows it’s not possible. One such researcher, Eugene Koonin, resorted to “an infinite multiverse” as a potential way out of this problem. This is the view that supposedly, anything that can happen will happen in an infinite multiverse, and this would also include the chance origin of life. In a 2011 book, The Logic of Chance: the Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution, he added this: The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science, but it is also one of the most important. Origin-of-life research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the “dirty” rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is due not to a lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life, from the synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation; through the multiplication of probabilities, these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle. “Almost like a miracle” is a frank admission of what OOL entails. Nevertheless, in the same book, Koonin continued to cling to the multiverse hypothesis as a guaranteed solution to the problems involved with OOL. Here’s the summary of Koonin’s argument, in his own words: Simply put, the probability of the realization of any scenario permitted by the conservation laws in an infinite universe (and, of course, in the multiverse) is, exactly, one.... Thus, spontaneous emergence of complex systems that would have to be considered virtually impossible in a finite universe becomes not only possible but inevitable under MWO … What he’s saying is that if you have an infinite number of universes then anything, no matter how improbable, not only can happen, but will happen… in some universe somewhere within the multiverse. Including naturalistic abiogenesis. According to Koonin (and some “Many Worlds” physicists who agree with him), in some universe somewhere right now, there’s a guy who’s a practicing neurosurgeon, a janitor, and the lead actor in a recent blockbuster movie – simultaneously. He owns 271 cars, and is married to his high school sweetheart (who happens to be a princess from a tribe of highly-advanced super-beings). Their son adopted a pet chimpanzee named Wilson, while their twin daughters are ballistic missile experts in the local galactic army. No, this isn’t a hypothetical story I just made up. Or, rather it is, but according to Koonin’s logic these things are actually going on right now as we speak, in some universe somewhere. The pet chimp is also very clever, and has learned how to fly a helicopter, among other things. Now think about this trained monkey trying to synthesize life in a chemistry lab. What are the odds of him succeeding?? Exactly. But even the monkey has a better chance than a prebiotic Nature which has no intent or purpose whatsoever. In any case, simply postulating an infinite multiverse in an attempt to overcome the problem does not help – Koonin doesn’t put forth any mechanism whereby life could be naturally synthesized, but just makes the bold assertion that it must certainly happen given a multiverse. Time is no solution Another factor that is usually seen as a possible helper for abiogenesis is Time. If Nature has billions of years to work with, she should be able to eventually get the right combination to the safe, right? No, not at all. That would be akin to claiming a blind engineer could invent a BMW, or a Model-T Ford, given billions of years to live and try. It’s clear why time isn’t the problem. The blind engineer actually has better odds in this analogy than Nature does, since he at least knows what he’s attempting to accomplish. The language/information problem The origin of life gets all the more complicated when we realize it also necessitates the origin of information, and the origin of a language to convey that information. I could employ many quotes here concerning what information is, but I like how physicist and information theorist Hubert Yockey put it in this simple statement: The meaning, if any, of words, that is, a sequence of letters, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement ... For example, "O singe fort!" has no meaning as a sentence in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means, "O sing on!" and in French it means "O strong monkey". Like all messages, the life message is non-material but has an information content measurable in bits and bytes. Or, as chemistry professor Michael Polanyi already noted way back in 1958, in his book Personal Knowledge: Information in the DNA could no more be reduced to the chemicals than could the ideas in a book be reduced to the ink and paper: something beyond physics and chemistry is encoded in DNA. The origin of encoded genetic information is also assumed to have just happened miraculously under the multiverse scenario. Information here isn’t just the physical nucleobases, or even their sophisticated ordering alone, but the ribosomes’ understanding of the language, and their ability to decode and use those instructions to build the specified proteins. And then we have multiple regulatory genes in addition, which are all information networks. There’s actually a $10 million challenge out there still ongoing, for anyone who can demonstrate a set of coded information that didn’t originate from a mind, i.e., that can be spontaneously generated by Nature. The judges include well-respected biologists George Church and Denis Noble, and the Royal Society has also gotten involved recently. No one has claimed the prize (find out more in the 2 minute video below). The complexity problem Most of us don’t actually know, much less appreciate, the number of things that need to be done in order to arrive at the “simplest” cell. Nature has no goal or aim or plan to create a cell. The fact that highly trained, highly intelligent chemists still can’t do it, speaks volumes. So how is it that some lay naturalists and even some with degrees think all that’s needed is lots of time, and then Nature will eventually produce a living cell? The sheer amount of intellectual effort that goes into OOL research is more than impressive, and we still can’t make life ourselves – we can’t pull it off. But a mindless prebiotic Nature with no intention of creating a cell somehow did? Consider the ingredients needed to make a basic candy. Here’s the list for Skittles: Sugar Corn syrup Hydrogenated palm kernel oil Citric acid Tapioca dextrin Modified corn starch Natural and artificial flavors Colors (Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake) Sodium citrate Carnauba wax Now consider just a miniscule piece of a Skittle. Would Nature alone be able to synthesize and assemble the ingredients needed to make a tiny piece of a Skittle? No. Never. Not in ten billion years! But many adults believe Nature somehow synthesized and assembled everything that’s needed to make a living, metabolizing, self-replicating cell. The extraterrestrials “solution” But what if we were to claim that life on earth resulted from panspermia – that Extraterrestrials (ETs) seeded the first life on Earth? This is indeed what some among our SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) friends propose. Well, then they’d have the problem of explaining how Nature produced those ETs. As Richard Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion: …there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century…In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense…the crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way…They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution. Saying ETs put the first life on Earth still keeps us inside the box of Naturalism. And then Nature still has to create and evolve the ETs, so the abiogenesis problem – how life can ever have come from non-life – remains. Then there’s at least one scientist in peer-reviewed publication who also thinks panspermia by ETs isn’t a good enough proposal. Brig Klyce concedes there’s one of two possibilities: “supernatural intervention or intelligence” (aka God) or that cellular life has existed from eternity This concession appeared in a paper (“Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?” in the August 2018 edition of the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology) that Klyce co-authored with more than a dozen other scientists. He believed “that the complexity and sophistication of life cannot originate (from non-biological) matter under any scenario, over any expanse of space and time, however vast.” But if that’s so, then how is life here? Rejecting the possibility that God was involved, Klyce then proposes this: A strictly scientific way around this dilemma would be to amend or tweak the big bang theory to allow for life from the eternal past. After all, the big bang theory is relatively new and still occasionally amended. Therefore, it seems unready to forever overrule the unviolated principle and consistent evidence that life comes from life. Yes, that’s an actual suggestion from a peer-reviewed secular scientific paper – that life started here from a universe before the big bang. So either God did it, or self-replicating microbes have always existed. The difference between the two proposals is that: God is an eternal Supernatural This is logically consistent and plausible, and even a metaphysical necessity to avoid an infinite regress of causes. On the other hand, proposing an eternity of replicating microbes, each of which had a beginning and an end, is trying to say that abiogenesis never happened because there was no “first ever microbe.” But things that have a beginning still need to have an explanation for that beginning. Trying to hide that behind an infinite regression isn’t an answer to this problem. Conclusion For decades, highly trained experts have been striving to create life from scratch, using the raw materials found in nature. They have yet to succeed. Even if they did eventually succeed somehow, that would only demonstrate that a high level of intelligent input is needed to create biological life; which is what we’ve been saying the evidence has always shown. Proposing an infinite multiverse where “anything that can happen will happen” is an unsubstantiated assertion with no empirical evidence whatsoever, and doesn’t offer a mechanism for abiogenesis or even address the issue that Nature has no intent to create life. The suggestion that microbial life has always existed and self-replicated is a logical absurdity, since there can be no such thing as an infinite regress of causes. Thus in the question of God vs Naturalism, there is no question as to which answer is absurd. Kenechi Okoli is a Christian who loves science, and in his free time he enjoys reading, music, and cooking. While he lived for over a decade in the US, he now resides in Nigeria....
Economics, Science - Environment
Thinking on the margin, or why some pollution is better than none
Another economic principle Christian teens (& adults) need to know ***** An important aspect of economics is counting the costs of an action or purchase, and, on the flipside, also evaluating the benefit that could result. With these two concepts, cost and benefit, we can understand how people make their decisions. When the benefit of taking an action is greater than the cost, people will take that action. For example, if buying a soda would bring you $3 worth of enjoyment, but it only costs $1, then you’ll choose to buy the soda. And afterwards, if you’ve had your fill of soda, you might hardly enjoy another soda, and perhaps value it at just a quarter. So of course you then won’t buy it for $1. What is “marginal thinking"? This example illustrates the meaning of the concept of marginality. When economists use the term “marginal benefit,” they are referring to the benefit added by the last unit purchased – in this case the last soda. Another example: when you decide whether to work for another hour, you don’t consider the cost and benefit of all the hours you already worked. Instead, you consider the cost and benefit associated with the final (or marginal) hour under consideration. So when you “think marginal," then think about the cost and benefit of “one more unit.” And whether people realize it or not, we all engage in marginal thinking. Imagine you’re deciding to buy an ice cream cone. Let’s say a single scoop cone costs $2, and every additional scoop costs 50 cents. When deciding whether to buy a single scoop you have to compare how much benefit you get from the single cone to the cost of the cone ($2). So long as you value the single scoop cone at more than $2 you buy it. When the marginal benefit of an action is greater than the cost, people will do that action. What about the second scoop? Well, each scoop is 50 cents, so you’ll choose to buy the second scoop if you enjoy it at a value more than 50 cents. You’ll keep purchasing more scoops but at some point, another scoop just won’t be worth another 50 cents to you, so you’ll stop. Why does it matter? So hopefully you understand marginal thinking, because now we have to consider why it matters. Marginal thinking is valuable in all sorts of applications. For students, marginal thinking can help you prioritize your studying. I always tell my students that, if their goal is a good GPA, they shouldn’t spend much time trying to improve their grade from a 96% to a 98%. Why? First, both grades are an “A” so the marginal benefit to your GPA is nothing. Also, once your grade is already high, it’s much more difficult to move it up. Therefore, the cost is high and the marginal benefit is low. Most students would be better off dedicating their time to working on a class where they have a 79% since the cost is lower – just a little more study could boost them up a letter grade – and the marginal benefit is higher. In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of a man who manages the money of a rich man. The manager is going to be fired because of his wasteful practices. When he discovers this, he forgives the debtors of his master to make friends before he’s fired. Jesus tells us in Luke 16:8a, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” In 16:9 He goes on to give the meaning of the parable, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” The point of the parable is not that we should be dishonest in our dealings. Instead, it’s that we should use our resources shrewdly for the Kingdom. Christians are called to be good stewards of the resources we are given, which includes our time. As the studying example above illustrates, effective use of time requires the ability to consider the relevant costs and benefits of a given decision. There’s a “good” amount of pollution and crime? Marginal thinking is also valuable when it comes to thinking about policy. Economists have a pithy saying: the efficient amount of anything is not zero. It’s tempting to believe bad things should be eliminated completely. For example, many people would likely support the phrase, “politicians should eliminate pollution.” But imagine what it would mean to eliminate the very last “units” of pollution. Almost every vehicle, either personal or those used for transporting goods and services, relies on some form of pollution to operate. If we had zero pollution, our grocery stores would receive zero food deliveries because we wouldn’t have semi-trucks, and they would receive zero visits from us, because we wouldn’t have cars. Elimination of all pollution, at least at this point, would result in most of humanity returning to subsistence conditions – the cost is too high, and thus that is a “purchase” we shouldn’t make. Of course, some pollution should be eliminated. If a factory is dumping toxic waste into a public river, the cost of allowing the pollution to continue is very high. As strange as it might sound, the efficient amount of crime is also not zero. Imagine how much money and how many resources would need to be spent to ensure zero crime. We’d need a police officer on every street corner 24/7. Think of how high your taxes would need to be to support those pensions! Surely taxpayers have other priorities with higher marginal benefits than preventing some minor traffic violation. No Nirvana naivete This sort of logic can be summarized neatly by saying economics as a field is inherently opposed to the Nirvana fallacy. The Nirvana fallacy is the mistake that is made when people compare the real world to an unrealistically ideal alternative. We would all like to get a grade of 100% in every class and live in a world without crime or pollution. But these are unrealistic desires for this world. A solid understanding of marginal analysis complements the Christian understanding of our fallen world. When politicians offer us a vision of a world where all bad is eliminated, a clear understanding of marginal analysis provides us with an argument for why such a world is out of reach. Economists Armen Alchian and William Allen rightly summarize this in the foreword of their book Universal Economics. They say: “since the discouraging fiasco in the Garden of Eden, all the world has been a place conspicuous in its scarcity of resources, contributing heavily to an abundance of various sorrows and sins. People have had to adjust and adapt to limitations of what is available to satisfy unlimited desires.” In sum, marginal thinking helps us better understand the nature of our own decisions. When applied properly, this way of thinking provides a more sober view of the important decisions we make in our personal lives and in the public square. 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, Work, and Economics....
Canada taps the brakes on the runaway euthanasia train
After the Society of Canadian Psychiatry (SCP) sounded the alarm late last year, the government of Canada has now temporarily put the brakes on its expansion of the country’s already liberal euthanasia regime. It had planned to make euthanasia available to the mentally ill as of March 2023, but is giving the system more time to get ready. The SCP’s warning was based on clinicians’ current inability to assess when a mental illness is or is not “irremediable” (i.e., irreversible/incurable). The SCP asserted as a given that euthanasia shouldn’t be given to people who may still recover. So, their argument went, since we can’t yet tell when someone with a mental illness will or won’t recover, it is premature to be offering it to the mentally ill. The organization Dying with Dignity, which has been leading the charge for state-sponsored death in Canada, was upset by this decision. "We must avoid creating barriers that will prolong grievous suffering." Sounding very similar, Justice Minister David Lametti said: “Remember that suicide generally is available to people. This is a group within the population who, for physical reasons and possible mental reasons, can’t make that choice themselves to do it themselves.” Before Canada legalized assisted suicide back in 2016, ARPA Canada urged the Supreme Court of Canada and the federal government to recognize that once the sacred line of the 6th Commandment is crossed, condoning some killing, it will become impossible to draw a new line that will hold. The past six years bears this out. Our society no longer knows which suicides should be prevented and which should be celebrated as an expression of choice. Lobbying government to stop (and reverse!) the train is important and needs to continue. But given that the train keeps roaring down the tracks, the Church needs to do what it can to get people off the tracks. More than ever before, Canada needs to hear the hope of the Gospel, which gives meaning to all lives. Have your neighbors heard it?...
Saturday Selections – Jan 21, 2023
Should we force all men to get vasectomies? (3 min) Since the overturning of the US Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision – the ruling that originall...
Book excerpts, Book Reviews, History, Human Rights, Politics
The bad king that prompted the Great Charter
How Robin Hood’s nemesis Prince John was the impetus behind the Magna Carta In this excerpt from “A Christian Citizenship Guide” by André Schu...
USS Meredith Victory: the “Gallant Ship”
There was nothing about USS Meredith Victory that would make it stand out from the crowd. The ship was a cargo vessel, built as part of the merchant marine during the Second World War. It was 455 feet long from bow to stern. The width at the widest point was a mere 62 feet. To give that context, a Canadian football field is 450 feet long from the farthest part of the endzone to the tip of the other end zone, and 195 feet wide. The Meredith Victory was not an especially big ship. The ship, however, was destined for a brief moment of fame. During the Korean War, the vessel was sent to bring supplies for the troops of the United Nations forces. With the Chinese invasion in December 1950, United Nations and South Korean forces were pushed to the brink. Close to 100 ships, including Meredith Victory, were sent to the port of Hungnam to evacuate 100,000 troops and as many of the 100,000 civilians as possible. Leonard LaRue, captain of Meredith Victory, offloaded any cargo or weapons that had been on board and set off for the port in order to accommodate as many refugees as he could. Room for two dozen On December 22, his vessel was guided through the minefield in the harbor by a minesweeper, and was then left to load passengers. Meredith Victory normally had a crew of 35, with 12 officers, and bunks for up to 12 additional passengers. There was food, water, and sanitation supplies for only that small complement of 59. By the time the ship had been fully loaded, around 11 the next morning, Meredith Victory had brought on approximately 14,000 Korean civilian refugees. No one would have blamed the captain if he had left the port hours earlier, leaving many of the refugees behind. The ships that had escorted Meredith Victory safely in had left during the night, making the vessel’s trip out through the minefield extremely perilous. All around, United Nations ships were shelling the port in order to deny it to the enemy forces. Yet Captain LaRue stayed until his ship was, literally, standing room only. Left vulnerable without a military escort, the ship arrived in the port of Pusan on Christmas Eve. First Mate D.S. Savastio, with only basic first aid training, had delivered five babies en route. Despite the bitter December cold, the lack of light or heat in the holds, and the fact that many were forced to stand on the ship’s deck shoulder to shoulder due to overcrowding, there were no injuries. However, Pusan already had its own problems with refugees, and was only able to accept those injured before boarding the ship. Meredith Victorysailed another 50 miles to Geoje Island, where it was able to unload the refugees on Boxing Day, December 26. Seeing rightly begets bravery After the war, the South Korean government awarded the ship the Presidential Unit Citation. An act of the U.S. Congress gave the vessel the title “Gallant Ship.” And the Guinness World Records group has called the event the largest evacuation from land by a single ship. Considering when it happened, it’s tempting to look at this story as a Christmas Miracle, the kind you might find in a Hallmark movie. The description certainly fits. However, it’s worth noting that Leonard LaRue, the captain of Meredith Victory, said that he believed “God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship.” His words are backed up by his later decision to give up the sea in favor of a life in a monastery. While that was a wrong turn, it’s clear that LaRue saw his life, and the lives of these thousands of others, as gifts from God. So he cherished them. And took enormous risks to try to protect these fellow Image-bearers. Faith isn’t a guarantee of success, but trusting God fully can be the catalyst for us to show love to others – even at great risk to ourselves – because we know that come what may, God’s got us. James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster at History.icu “where history is never boring.” Find his podcast at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts....
Saturday Selections – Jan 14, 2023
Blue hair as a death sentence? A few years ago headlines declared that Iceland had nearly eradicated Down syndrome. But they hadn't eradicated the syndrome - they were killing those with it. Paul Ehrlich: wrong on 60 Minutes and wrong for 60 years In Deut. 18 God provides a test for a prophet that's pretty simple: if what he says doesn't come true, then we don't need to worry about him. That's a principle that has ready application in the global warming debate as well, and specifically when it comes to Paul Ehrlich. He's a scientist who has been off the mark for almost 60 years now, always predicting imminent doom, but who was recently given a platform on the American news program 60 Minutes to make his same old predictions once again. As Peter Jacobsen explains, he gets it so wrong because he sees only the cost of having children, and overlooks how they are a blessing. What is music for in corporate worship? "Music is a gift of God, a unique way of connecting His revelation with our hearts and minds. St. Augustine is thought to have said, 'he who sings, prays twice.' The Church must recover a more robust understanding and practice of music." More concerns with projectors in church "Using screens for worship devalues Scripture and the Book of Praise as merely books we read and sing from. Not physically using a Bible may result in not knowing which books are OT and NT, where the Minor Prophets are, the five books of Moses, or the Four Gospels...." How competition got my third grader reading Boys don't read. Boys are competitive. So what if we pitted the boys against the girls in a reading contest? This would need to be carefully done, with, most likely, a lesson included about winning and losing graciously - ie. competition sans trash talk. But could it work? Jordan Peterson says no to Ontario's thought police Jordan Peterson is in trouble again, and this Australian article is a great outsider's perspective. Why so many movies have a "Christ-like figure" in them (10 min) Pastor Jake Mentzel explains why Christ-like figures pop up in so many blockbusters. And it's not, he notes, because these movies are so insightful. This could be a great one to share with the kids, to show them that when a story – film or book – features a self-sacrificing figure, that doesn't mean it is deep... or good. ...
Red, White, and Blue? Are there greener pastures south of the border?
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” These words are engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, calling out to countless immigrants to America, who were longing for freedom from persecution, from poverty, from overcrowding, from a restricted way of life. These words, when written in 1883, were mostly aimed at citizens of the “Old World,” but lately more Canadians are hearing the call of “Lady Liberty,” and wondering if life would be better south of the 49th parallel. Are Americans really freer than Canadians? What would our lives be like if we moved to the USA? I would like to make clear that I’m not entirely unbiased. I’m proud of my Canadian heritage, and I love Canada, but my wife Faith and I moved from B.C. to the U.S.A. in 1996, first to Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and later to Lynden, Washington, where we have lived since 2002. We love the U.S. but we also recognize that there are many things about moving that should be considered carefully before making a momentous decision that will have generational consequences. I hope that this article may give good food for thought to RP readers who are thinking about pulling up stakes, or who know others who are considering such a move. Freedom Both countries’ national anthems espouse freedom: America is “the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” while Canada is “The True North, strong and free.” As a test case, the COVID restrictions and lockdowns of 2020-2021 are a fascinating study in how much freedom was or wasn’t prized, with all the different policies that were implemented in the hopes of saving lives. In general, Canadian provinces locked down more tightly and for a longer time than most American states. Bryan Grim and his wife Leanne moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota this past summer from Surrey, B.C. with their seven children. Bryan recalled that in B.C. for long stretches, they were restricted in their movements within the province, forbidden to travel between arbitrarily designated zones. Travel restrictions were tough, but having “in-person” worship services forbidden was another matter entirely. For many months, most Canadian churches did not gather together for worship in their church buildings, but resorted to live streaming of a pastor preaching to a mostly empty church. As these restrictions stretched on, church members debated and argued over whether or not they should defy the shutdown orders, or reluctantly obey. Church councils across the country had to deal with division among office bearers and among the members, and in some cases these wounds are still healing. In the U.S., with fifty different governors, and fifty different legislatures, there were many different responses to COVID. Some more rural and conservative states (including Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Utah, and Wyoming) had very few state-wide restrictions, and no enforced “stay at home” orders. Other states like Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas opened up to regular commerce, worship services, and in-person education much more quickly than more left-leaning states like California, New York, and Washington. One common pattern in both countries is that most big cities were tougher on lockdowns: whether you lived in Los Angeles or Toronto, at times you would have felt very restricted. In more rural parts of both countries, there may have been more lenience by police forces and local governments. In my adopted home town of Lynden, the local police and the county sheriff’s department did not enforce any of the state governor’s directives restricting worship services, and local mayors and elected officials encouraged churches to use common sense in deciding whether or not, and how, to hold in-person worship services. Many of the “lesser magistrates” in different parts of the USA recognized the vital (literally, life-giving) importance of worship services to the lives of a free people, upholding the First Amendment of the Constitution that states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” RP readers may be aware of areas in Canada where overly burdensome regulations from provincial or national governments were not enforced by local governments, but it’s safe to say that these cases were few and far between. Canadians are by and large brought up to respect those in authority over us, and most Canadian Christians can quote from Romans 13 by heart: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…” Americans, of course, have the same Bible! But somehow, there is a spirit of independence among citizens of the U.S. that pushes back strongly against any authority that is deemed to have over-reached its powers as granted in national or state constitutions. Americans rebelled against what they judged to be the unlawful and unjust authority of King George III in 1776; many who were loyal to the British crown and did not believe rebellion was the proper path left the country and moved to Canada. Are Americans more free than Canadians? That likely depends greatly on the state or province in which you hang your hat, and on the size of the city you have made your home. But the spirit of independence of citizens, and their desire to curtail government powers to those specifically granted by constitutions does seem to be more alive in most of the fifty states than in the provinces and territories. Drifting in the same direction? The Canadian Charter of Rights guarantees fundamental freedoms such as “freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and freedom of expression.” Yet many Canadians are angry about the government’s power being directed against them when they exercise these freedoms, and call homosexuality a sin against God, or when they speak out against government policies they judge to be unjust. (Some truckers who spoke out against the COVID lockdowns found themselves frozen out of their bank accounts!) But how different are things in the U.S.? The recent mid-term elections in the U.S. were disappointing for many American Christians. If the exit polling is accurate, millions of voters were swayed by pro-abortion advocates to keep the Democrat party in control of the Senate. Conservatives had hoped that the leftward drift of the country would be rejected by its citizenry. Instead, the voters appeared to endorse the leadership of President Biden, who despite his Roman Catholic faith, has embraced abortion as a “reproductive right.” Self-identified independents who can sway election results for either side mostly voted for the Democratic candidates: in particular younger, female voters helped push results in favor of the more liberal of the country’s two major political parties. (The Republican party did gain control of the House of Representatives, but with a far slimmer margin than pollsters had predicted.) One election does not necessarily indicate a permanent shift, but Canadians who wish to escape liberal trends in government might pause to look carefully at directions in the United States. Church communities Nate and Victoria and their son Jaxon – show off some of their geographical connections, sitting in front of the US, Canadian, and Australia flags. A generation or two ago, many Reformed people would narrow down the locations that they’d be willing to move, to areas where they could find a church from within their own federation, or one that was already recognized as a “sister church.” There is definitely some safety and wisdom in this approach: if we move for greater economic opportunities, or political freedom, but compromise in our choice of which church to join, we may live to regret that decision. Nate and Victoria VanAndel recently moved to Maryville, Tennessee from Brantford, Ontario with their son Jaxon. The VanAndels were grateful for the ability to watch recorded worship services from churches they were considering; it helped them make their decision to join Sandy Springs Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) near Knoxville after also visiting some local congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). “Sundays include a pre-service Sunday school in the morning, a bi-monthly potluck lunch, and an evening service,” said Victoria. “We have found this church to be very inviting, and we felt at home here very quickly.” (The OPC is in a fraternal relationship with both the URC and CanRC federations; the PCA is recognized within NAPARC as a faithful church body.) Canadians who have been members of long-established Reformed churches back at home may be surprised by how small many of the conservative Presbyterian or Reformed churches are in the USA, particularly in areas where there has not been a large Dutch immigrant community. For example, the OPC has an average congregational size of 110 members. Smaller churches can have many benefits, with greater opportunity for strong relationships between members, and community involvement, but some of the resources of a larger church community may not be present. Christian schooling Bryan Grim found this to be the case in particular with regard to Christian education. Grim grew up in the Fraser Valley of B.C., and appreciates the schools founded by Canadian Reformed people in the 1950s, with many United Reformed members also joining these school societies in the last twenty years. Grim stated that the local Christian school society in Sioux Falls appears to have drifted from its Reformed roots, and not many members of his new home church, Christ Reformed URC, send their children there (although Bryan and Leanne’s children are attending). More parents have chosen to homeschool their students, rather than worry about what the young people are taught when away from the home. This appears to be a more common trend in long established American Christian school societies in Reformed communities, which after a period of years, drop their requirements that teachers and leaders adhere to the Reformed confessions and maintain membership in a faithful church body. How the parents and educators who worked so hard to establish these schools would lament these developments! How about our grandparents? Those in favor of moving out of Canada might point to their grandparents or great grandparents, many of whom moved away from the Netherlands without having issues of church membership or schooling finally settled. No doubt, many of the Dutch who left Holland had not thought through every detail of family and church life, but judged that greater opportunity in Canada, and further distance from European wars and struggles made the risk a responsible one. In the rear-view mirror, they may judge that they made the right decision, that they by and large were able to establish strong, faithful churches, schools, and communities, and leave behind a country that had much less opportunity for the average citizen. This did not come easily, however, and these older generations had difficult years and struggles along the way. The Lord blessed His people as they worked faithfully wherever He placed them. Affordability In the last thirty years, real estate prices in Canadian cities have increased by leaps and bounds. In southern Ontario, in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and in the larger prairie cities, young people may have a very hard time buying their own home. Research firm Oxford Economics recently reported that overall Canadian real estate prices rose 331% from 1990 through today. The report sounded an alarm that with rising interest rates, many Canadians would have difficulties making their mortgage payments. The study also reported that real estate had risen 289% during the same time period in the USA, which sounds like a similar rise in value, but as any realtor will say, all real estate is local, and the top three factors in a home’s value are “location, location, location!” Home prices in rural American states remain much more affordable for the average wage-earner. Bryan and Leanne Grim were able to buy a home on a four-acre property that would be far out of reach for the average buyer if that home were located in Surrey or Mississauga or Los Angeles. In addition, mortgage rates in the U.S. can be locked in for up to thirty years, giving cost certainty for buyers who can be confident that their payments will remain constant as long as they stay in the same home. With housing prices so high in the lower B.C. mainland, Bryan believed his children would likely have had to move away to become homeowners. By moving to Sioux Falls, he and Leanne have a greater chance that as their children grow up and form their own households, these might be near Dad and Mom. So far, the Grims have found the cost of living in Sioux Falls to be significantly less than in B.C. with the exception of Christian schooling. Many Christian school societies in Canada charge at a discounted rate for large families, while these discounts might be smaller or non existent in the more typical American Christian school system. Federal tax rates are substantially lower in the U.S. than in Canada, and there are nine states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Washington) that have no state-level income tax at all. Michigan, with an abundance of Reformed churches, has the fourth lowest cost of living of the fifty states, and is among the most affordable for housing costs. Family and friends Adam, the oldest son of Bryan and Leanne Grim children, shown exercising his American "right to bear arms." Emigrants inevitably leave behind precious loved ones in their family circle – parents, siblings, cousins, extended church family, and friends. When four of Gary and Cindy Wieske’s six grown children began to move south, one by one, it made the decision to pursue a move themselves easier. Daughter Jodi was already settled in suburban Chicago with her husband. Son Caleb, an entrepreneur like his dad, had always wanted to move to the States, and eventually chose Tennessee as his destination, where he and his brother Dustin have started an outdoor living company, supplying patio furniture, barbecues, smokers, and similar products. As owners of Ontario Stone Supply in Dundas, Gary and Cindy Wieske were able to buy a similar company in Fort Myers, Florida, where they moved along with son Rodney and his family: Rodney is manager of the new location in Fort Myers, while son Luke and daughter Nadia are running the company back home in Ontario. Gary Wieske is thankful to be able to travel to see his kids and grandkids in Florida, Tennessee, Illinois and southern Ontario. In South Dakota, Bryan and Leanne Grim are also glad that Bryan’s sister and her family moved to the same neighborhood, giving all the children the benefit of having cousins and friends nearby. Most of those who move, however, will not have the benefit of frequent in-person contact with extended family and long-time friends. While staying connected through phone and internet is easier and more affordable now than it’s ever been, it isn’t the same as in-person visits or catching up over a cup of coffee. In particular, parents with young families may find it hard to be away from the network of babysitting grandparents, and friends ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice. Can you do it? There are a number of possible legal paths that Canadians can consider for a move to the U.S. Many American companies are looking for professionally qualified employees in diverse fields, and may be able to help with the immigration procedure. Investors’ visas are another common route: they do require a good amount of capital, a good business plan, and a lot of paperwork to qualify, but the route is a well-trodden one. It is possible to take care of the paperwork and filing to immigrate without a lawyer but it may be a much more frustrating and time-consuming endeavor. Everyone I spoke to for this article mentioned the value of a good immigration attorney. “They give you the confidence that you can do it,” said Gary Wieske. “Although there is still a lot of planning, and a lot of paperwork and charts.” In general, immigration attorneys know their business and are able to find the most expeditious path to a visa, including advice on which visas can lead to eventual permanent residence status (also known as a “green card”). It may be wise to find a lawyer who you know has been able to help other Canadians make the move legally: in our Lynden community, we could readily recommend which lawyers have been excellent, and which may not have quite as sterling a reputation. Should you do it? When asked, “Why make the move?” Gary Wieske quoted his son Dustin: “For faith, for family, and for freedom: if that’s what we’re doing it for, then we’ll be blessed.” So far, Wieske has no regrets: his family appreciates living among so many more outspoken Christians than back home. He recalls the simple gesture of a waitress in a Tennessee restaurant who reminded Wieske’s grandkids to pray for their meal: “That’s something I’ve never seen in all my years in Ontario!” For Bryan Grim and his family, the move has so far been all very positive: he appreciates that South Dakotans value their freedom, and, in particular, their freedom of expression. Grim finds that folks in his relatively small town are tolerant of other viewpoints: “In South Dakota, you’re still allowed to have your own opinion.” While Victoria VanAndel misses family back in Ontario, she instantly felt at home in the south: “The first week here in Tennessee I remember saying to Nate that I had such nice people serve me at the grocery store, and wherever I had to run errands that day. After a week of this though it became clear that the people are just friendlier and happier here! We had neighbors welcome us with baskets of veggies, porch flowers and a kind word of ‘welcome to Tennessee, this here is God’s country!” Whether or not a move out of your community is right for you and your family is really a question that you can only answer yourself. As has been discussed, there are many factors to consider. God has called us to live faithfully before Him as prophets confessing His name, as priests presenting ourselves as living sacrifices to Him, and as kings fighting against sin and the devil, and we may and must do all these things wherever we find ourselves living on this earth. As we consider our roles as members of God’s Church, as parents, as children, as employees, and as citizens, let us use wisdom from God’s word, listen to good counsel from those we respect, and pray to the Lord for guidance in these decisions. Marty VanDriel is the Assistant Editor of Reformed Perspective....
Is it time to leave Canada?
I had to answer this question in front of a live, though physically distanced, audience in Toronto in the fall of 2021. The presentation occurred in the midst of numerous Covid restrictions and concerning developments in Canada’s Parliament and legislatures, including a proposal to criminalize “conversion therapy.” Since then, the hypothetical has become a reality for some Reformed families, who have decided to uproot and move to the USA, and Marty VanDriel is sharing some of their stories in this issue’s feature article. While talk is cheap, action often inspires others to action. Their decisions to leave is provoking many of us to search our hearts and make our own decision about whether to stay or think seriously about relocating. If I were to follow my heart or even my mind, it wouldn’t be too hard to convince me to move, especially if the new location comes with a warmer climate and a few palm trees thrown in. Yet I also know we are called not to follow simply our hearts, but God’s Word and law (Ps. 119) and to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). God’s Word makes it clear that whether we stay or leave, what should ultimately motivate us is the furtherance of His kingdom, not our own. Don’t look for Heaven on Earth C.S. Lewis once said that “if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” So when our hearts long for a better place than Canada, that longing isn’t a bad thing. It only means we are pilgrims, looking for a country of our own (Heb. 11:14). We just shouldn’t be fooled by the hope that the USA, or any other region of this world, is going to satisfy that longing. The problem with going to a new location is that we take ourselves with us. And that is a problem because “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9). A change of location doesn’t change our broken condition, as much as we may want it to. Although some places in this world may have more freedom than Canada, there isn’t a place on the planet that is free of the effects of the fall into sin. And even if one location is better than another, it might be just a matter of time before that changes, especially because it will attract people like ourselves, stained with sin even before we were born (Ps. 51). God wants the Earth filled and the Gospel spread This doesn’t mean that we have a divine mandate to stay put. On the contrary, God has given humanity two commissions or mandates, and both come with a calling to move. God’s first instruction to humanity was the cultural mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). As beautiful as Eden was, God didn’t want Adam and Eve’s children to stay there. They were instructed to inhabit the entire earth. When we fast-forward to Genesis 11, we read about people starting to move eastward and then settling down and deciding to build a city, “otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). In response, God confused their language and “the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth” (11:8). He didn’t want them to get comfortable. At the end of Christ’s ministry, He gave us another commission – the Great Commission – which once again included a global focus, to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The apostles wasted little time and brought the Gospel throughout the known world. Centuries later, that Gospel reached our forefathers. Without people obeying that call to spread their wings, the Gospel wouldn’t have reached us. Reaching the world without leaving the country Canada has recently seen a massive influx of immigration and is set to welcome 500,000 more immigrants every year. That means we don’t need to move to a different continent to reach others. God is sending them to our own neighborhoods. And even though Canada has a Christian heritage, even most of the children growing up in this country don’t know the basics of the Gospel message. In northern BC, where my family currently lives, many communities still don’t have access to faithful Gospel preaching. When we think about where to settle down, we often look at where our relatives are, where job opportunities may be, and the cost of real estate. These things matter a great deal, as we have to first be responsible for our own families. But many of us are capable of relocating. In fact, technology has made it easer than ever to work and study in other places. Speaking from my own experience, our family has been able to stay very connected to the family members that we left a thousand kilometers away. So if Canadian Christians are able to move, instead of looking at other countries, why not consider Prince George, BC, Niverville, Manitoba, or Powassan, Ontario? These communities have small Reformed church plants that are eager for more members. It may not be as attractive to head to communities where the climate is colder, where there aren’t established Reformed schools, and there’s little or no family or friends. But that is how most Reformed communities in Canada started just 50-70 years ago. We already know the language and the culture, we have skills that we can utilize immediately and there are often jobs waiting. In other words, although it may not stir our hearts in the way that a full-time mission position overseas may, moving to these communities is practical and impactful for God’s kingdom. Seek the welfare of the country where we have been placed Whether we stay or go, it is helpful to keep in mind that throughout the ages, most of God’s people had little choice about where they would live. They had to work to survive and didn’t have the luxury of uprooting. That is true of many of us today too. Even if we wanted to move to a better country or a different community, it doesn’t mean that country would allow us to come or that a move would work for our spouse or children. When God’s people were forced to uproot in the Babylonian exile, God’s instruction to them through His prophet was to “build houses and settle down” and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile“ (Jer. 29:5,7). Regardless of where we settle, these are words we can still take to heart. God’s people are generally encouraged to “live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them” (1 Cor. 7:17). But, lest we conclude that God intends that we just accept our situation, only a verse later he tells slaves “Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (vs. 21). In other words, we should bloom as kingdom citizens where we are planted, but that doesn’t mean that we need to wilt if the conditions are poor and another good option is possible. Building off of this, if we are concerned by the direction of our land, we need to “be the change we want to see.” God has given us opportunities to shine our lights in this land and even to serve in institutions and offices of government, or to support those who are. Knowing solid Christians who have answered that call and been willing to serve as MPs, MPPs, town councilors, and leaders in business or other realms, I’m convinced that we can do a better job of encouraging and assisting them in these roles, rather than just criticizing them. It is incredibly difficult to serve as a Christian in a secular land. Let’s help each other rather than tear each other down, discouraging others from serving themselves. Exceptional circumstances may force a move The points above apply in times of widespread freedom and safety. But circumstances can change quickly. Jesus experienced this early in His life. His parents were warned to leave Israel when he was still a baby, seeking refuge from political persecution by relocating to Egypt (Matt. 2). When it was safe to move back, his parents were warned in a dream about going to Judea, so they settled instead in Nazareth, the community where Jesus was raised. And it isn’t just our safety that can change quickly. The same can apply to our spiritual health. We confess that the preaching of the Gospel is one of the two keys of the kingdom of heaven (Lord’s Day 31, Heidelberg Catechism). In other words, we need to be under the preaching. The last two years have made it clear that many of Canada’s leaders simply don’t care much if Christians can’t gather for worship. In my home province, we were told that gathering virtually is a sufficient long-term replacement, even though churches respectfully explained that God’s Word, not the government, should determine what is sufficient when it comes to worship. If it were up to many of our leaders, they would have no problem with shutting down churches for good. Thankfully, God has restrained wickedness and still allows the freedom to preach the Gospel. This is something to be grateful for and to use while we have it. Don’t be paralyzed There is a lot, then, to prayerfully consider. But we shouldn’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. If an opportunity arises where we can best further God’s kingdom and bless our families in a different country or community, and if people who know us well advise us to pursue it, we can embrace the move with enthusiasm, not held back by those who don’t agree or understand. God’s kingdom isn’t limited by earthly borders. In his superb book, aptly titled Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung advises: “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.” So whether in Canada or beyond, let’s be strong and courageous, taking risks for His kingdom, not our own. Mark Penninga is the Reformed Perspective’s Executive Director....