The subterranean origins of certain Equality and Justice doctrines
A page from Hell's playbook
If I were the devil – which some of you may believe after reading on – if my sworn mission was to devour the Christian faith from the inside out, then here is what I would not do.
I would not slither into a Sunday service, breathing blasphemy and dragon fire, bragging about my triumphs at Auschwitz, commanding the congregation, “Deny that God is God!” I would not be an idiot.
If I was the devil…
I would dress up to look like justice, compassion, or equity, or some other ideal Christians would be quick to “Amen!” I would sink my teeth and suck the true, biblical content from those words – not that many of the Enemy’s people know the true, biblical content of those words to begin with – and then inject it with the venom of new meaning, a meaning that is antithetical to the Enemy’s definition of such silly words.
Then I could get nearly every faithful Tom, Dick, and Sally to deny the Godhood of God while they think they are merely being more just and compassionate. I could get them to deny the Gospel itself while they think they are merely caring for the oppressed. Even better, I will include in that injection certain policies that are almost certain to further hurt the oppressed, the same policies I’ve used over and over to crush image-bearers.
It’s the perfect evil trifecta I try to achieve in all my ploys. Rob worship from the Enemy, dupe the Enemy’s church, and inflict even more oppression on as much of that despicable race who bears the Enemy’s obnoxious image as possible.
The oldest trick in the book
Consider "equity," one of my favorite words. The ideologues use it often, but I’ve smuggled it into the average person’s mind under the common objection, “That’s not fair!”
It’s literally the oldest trick in my book. When the first of the Enemy’s image-bearers stood at the tree, I convinced them that God and God alone knowing good and evil wasn’t fair. Why shouldn’t there be equity between Creator and creature? I like to think that I did my job so well that when they took the first bite they believed they were doing justice, righting some cosmic inequity by trying to equalize the powerful Have from the powerless Have Nots.
It was the same trick I pulled with great success in Germany several millennia later. “Why should all the Jews be doing so well? Of course it’s because of their sinister plot to keep you Germans down. Wipe out their race and equity and justice will return to your beloved Deutschland.”
And they fell for it, the damned fools, to the destruction of millions of Jewish souls. I robbed God of worship as they worshipped their Fuhrer, I duped much of the German church, and I inflicted even more carnage and misery on the Enemy’s image-bearers. And all under the guise of equity and justice.
Those three powerful words: It’s–not–fair. I had the Soviet’s repeat it like liturgy about the Kulaks in Ukraine, “Why should they be such lucrative farmers while we scrounge.”
I had the French revolutionaries singing hymns about equality, sowing the word egalite into their protest banners, while their guillotines fell and their Age of Equality became my Reign of Terror.
And what was Marxism but a rallying cry for equality between the rich and poor, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat? I managed to turn the 20th century cry for economic inequality into state worship and obliterate over 100 million of the Enemy’s image-bearers in less than a hundred years. A million-plus per year, one of my finest centuries.
And here we are in the 21st century, and, I can hardly believe it, they seem to be falling for the same old trick all over again. Wrap the Anthrax in something shiny, conceal the poison in an apple, dress the monster up like an angel, use words like “justice” and “equity” and “compassion” to describe tyranny, and the Enemy’s image-bearers will almost always take the fruit, open the anthrax, embrace the monster, and help me usher in tyranny every time.
Fools. They deserve the ruin I relish bringing them. Yes, there have been a few – Douglass and Tubman in America, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Havel in Eastern Europe, the Scholl siblings and Bonheoffer’s resistance in Germany, to name a few from that loathsome cadre – who have exposed my plot. But few listen to them. And the Enemy’s image-bearers have such lousy memories and so few good historians, that I can roll out the same devious plot within a generation and no one is the wiser. I’ve got the majority on my side and the majority would kiss a snake, club a grandma, or crush a baby if I told them it was for "justice."
Dr. Thaddeus Williams serves as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Biola University. This article is an excerpt from his upcoming book “21 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice” and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. It is a homage of sorts to C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" and if you liked to learn more about Lewis's book you should click here. If, on the other hand, you would like to hear more of Dr. Williams thoughts on social justice, check out the 30-minute interview below on the topic of "How should Christians think about social justice?" on the Think Biblically: Conversations on faith and culture podcast.
Culture Clashes, News
Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers
During the COVID lockdowns, some North American children began developing a British accent, and started using words like “mummy” and “water clos...
Culture Clashes, News
Lorie Smith: another Christian battling to preserve a freedom we all need to use more often
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Samuel Sey on Critical Race Theory
This is an edited excerpt from Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast Episode 43 where they discussed Critical Race Theory with...
A beginner’s guide to contending
For decades there has been talk of a “culture war” in North America. This is the ongoing battle we’re having over which beliefs our society will use as its foundation, to build atop them our institutions, laws, customs, and even our art and literature. Many books and articles have been written about this war, explaining it in various ways. Some people probably just tune out the controversy, not fully understanding its implications. However, it is possible to provide a summary of the main issues at stake, so that everyone can understand the basic conflict and react appropriately. Such a summary has been written by Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He offers it in his 2002 book, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis. While Kreeft is a Roman Catholic, and his theology openly affects his analysis, he gets the key issues right. 2 major fronts, 1 central issue Since the late 1960s, the two major fronts in the culture war have involved abortion and homosexual rights. There are related but less salient conflicts over pornography, divorce law, and sex education. Strange as it may seem, all of these matters, in one way or another, involve sexuality. Why is that the case? It all comes down to the traditional family and the “progressive” or left-wing campaign to fundamentally change society. As Kreeft explains: “The most powerful means to destroy society is to destroy its one absolutely fundamental building block, namely the family.” The best way to destroy the family is by destroying its foundation, stable marriage. And the best way to destroy stable marriage is, Kreeft notes, “by loosening its glue: sexual fidelity.” Commitment to sexual fidelity is destroyed by characterizing traditional Christian sexual morality as repressive or confining. The Sexual Revolution of the last few decades has been a campaign to “liberate” people from their obligation to sexual fidelity. Thus the central element of the culture war is a conflict over society’s ethical norms for sexuality – recognizing that is the key to understanding the ongoing culture war. The Culture War is a religious war In the West our traditional norms have often been rooted in Christianity. The norms of the so-called progressive Left are religiously based too, though some will undoubtedly dispute it. But it is religious in the sense that it a belief system through which they understand the world around them and everything in it. It is in this sense, Kreeft argues, that “sex is the effective religion of our culture” It is this all-encompassing religious basis of the progressive sexual norm that explains its enthusiasm for the murder of unborn children. As Kreeft puts it, the progressives: “don’t defend murder, except murder in the name of sex.... Abortion is backup birth control, of course, and birth control means the demand to have sex without having babies.” This is a key point to remember, especially with the current high-profile controversy over pro-life laws in some American states. The progressives, Kreeft writes, “are now even willing to murder to defend their so-called sexual freedoms. And to murder the most innocent among them, the only innocent among them. And the most tiny and weak and defenseless of all. And in the teeth of nature’s strongest instinct: motherhood!” Of course, humanity’s weakness for sexual temptation has always been a problem and it has led to a multitude of sins over the centuries. It’s not like the Sexual Revolution initiated rampant sexual immorality for the first time: Sodom and Gomorrah were perverse millennia ago. But something has changed in the last few decades. Until relatively recently, sex outside of the confines of traditional marriage was considered to be immoral, even by those who participated in it. Today, engaging in sexual behaviors that were deemed abominable just a few decades ago are considered to be very respectable, even something to celebrate with parades. The Enemy In order to properly fight the culture war, it is vital to recognize the enemy. Kreeft identifies two. “Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.” We are in a spiritual war, so naturally we have spiritual adversaries. As Ephesians 6:12 puts it, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV). The second enemy is even worse, and that is sin. It is our own depraved tendency towards evil that must be fought most of all. The greatest enemy lies within each one of us. From this fact Kreeft explains that if, “…sin is the enemy, then the Savior from sin is the answer, and He is infinitely more powerful than his enemy. The weapon that will win this war – this war’s atomic bomb – is saints.” In other words, the key weapon consists of Christians who will commit themselves to live truly holy lives in obedient service to God. Saints Our normal tendency as individuals is to see the political problems we face as somebody else’s fault. The other guy needs to change. He needs to correct his bad behavior and live right. But that’s the wrong way to think about it. We each need to focus on our own sinfulness, not somebody else’s. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become the people God can use to bring victory for His cause. As Kreeft explains: “Can you imagine what ten more Mother Teresas would do for this world? Or ten more John Wesleys? No, you can’t imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can’t imagine it. But you can do it. You can become a saint.” Kreeft uses the word “saint” to describe a Christian who is fully committed to living a holy life in service to God. This is how he explains what is necessary to be a saint in his terms: “Give Christ one hundred percent of your heart and life one hundred percent of the time, holding nothing back, absolutely nothing at all, anywhere, ever. This means martyrdom – and for most of us, a more extended and difficult martyrdom than that of the noose or execution block. It means the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for as long as you live, dying to all your desires and plans, including your pet plans about how to become a saint.” The best way to fight the culture war, in other words, is for every Christian to be the very best Christian he or she could be. Victory will not be found in certain political parties or laws that get passed. Those kinds of things may be necessary at various times, but the focus must be on how we can live holier lives, not on how we can get something else to change. Conclusion The culture war is essentially a conflict over sexual morality that began with the Sexual Revolution of the late 1960s. Left-wing forces have sought to fundamentally transform Western society by undermining the monogamous, heterosexual family. Liberating people from the strict confines of traditional Christian morality requires legalized abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, with all that they entail. Peter Kreeft explains that the best way to fight the culture war is for every Christian to be the best Christian they can be, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are no special political strategies that can bring victory, just old-fashioned holy living and service to God. That’s not to say that political and social activism are of no value. Rather, it’s that our first priority must be on dealing with the sin in our own lives. Good things will flow from that. Michael Wagner is the author of “Leaving God Behind: The Charter of Rights and Canada’s Official Rejection of Christianity,” available at Merchantship.ca....
The problem with pacifism
“Wars are not abnormal; peace is abnormal” ***** The 20th century was the bloodiest in history. It started badly with the 1914-1918 conflict, which was called "the war to end all wars." People sincerely believed that after that terrible event a halt would be put to war preparations. An effort was made – in the years after this World War there were many proposals and negotiations for disarmament. In 1928, for example, the “Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy” known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, promised to "outlaw war." In 1931 the influential Dutch Reformed (GKN) pastor S.G. De Graaf wondered if the time had not come to condemn every war as sin. In Canada such interchurch groups as the Fellowship of the Christian Social Order strongly opposed war. And the United Church of Canada was heavily in support of the pacifist position. But all their well-meant efforts had dismal results. And all the duly signed peace treaties neither produced disarmament nor were able to prevent World War II. But the world keeps on trying. The United Nations Charter (Article 2) outlaws both the threat and initiation of war. But we still face entrenched dictatorships and totalitarianism on every side. Disease, poverty, and disorders are found in wide areas of the globe. Pacifism Pacifism - the belief that all disputes can be settled peacefully – was a strong movement in the 1930s. Many then believed that historical progress was inevitable and believed that human perfectibility was possible here on earth. The dream of a perfect society, a utopia on earth, seemed within reach. The famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy's (1828-1910) idealistic-pacifist ideology had a great impact on the liberal mindset. He believed in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth rather than anticipating it in an afterlife. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was for Tolstoy the key to achieving this end. This sermon expressed the essence of love and the guidance for conduct that must follow it. And love admits no exceptions. Tolstoy wrote, "The Christian teaching in its true meaning, recognizing the law of love as supreme, and permitting no exceptions to its application to life, ruled out any form of violence and consequently could not but condemn the whole structure of the world founded on violence." He looked for a world where "men who practice daily in preparation for a universal war of extinction no longer hate those whom they must fight, and not one of the leaders has the courage to declare war." However, while he preached progress through a gradual evolution of moral self-perfection, men, women and children were being slaughtered on the streets of Russia. Tolstoy's most lasting influence was in India. He and Gandhi had begun a correspondence in the early years of the twentieth century, with Gandhi referring to himself as Tolstoy's "humble follower." In fact, Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience and passive resistance owes much to Tolstoy. For many Americans, Gandhi, with his rather successful resistance of British "imperialism," became the grand exemplar of the Christian "way,” the "strategy of love,” the "politics of the Cross." The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) didn't share these utopian illusions. He abandoned pacifism to oppose Hitler, trying to persuade the Protestant church that military intervention was necessary. He regarded most Christian pacifism as not only a deplorable political strategy but also a pernicious heresy. He stated that it reduces the "good news" to a "challenge" and to a gospel of "we must try harder." But the heresy of the goodness of man seems to have a life of its own. Of all people who should know better, the famous South African Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, sounded more like Tolstoy than the apostle Paul when he addressed a crowd in Grand Rapids in March 2003. He said that after watching enemies in South Africa reconcile themselves with the past, he was more convinced that goodness prevails in the human heart. "At the end of the truth and reconciliation process, I came away exhilarated by the fact, that yes, we have this capacity of evil, but we have this remarkable glorious capacity of good. It is quite extraordinary. We are fundamentally good!" Sin But we are not "fundamentally good." The Bible paints a realistic picture of human nature. It plainly states that "there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom. 3:12). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We live in a fallen world where evil people do dastardly things. We are all capable of doing real harm to our neighbor. We confess with the Heidelberg Catechism the brutally frank truth about ourselves that we have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbors (Q&A 5). Human nature, therefore, may not make war inevitable, but it does make war difficult to avoid. Far from the world being a safer place than in the past century, terrorist groups have access to weapons that were previously restricted, or not even imagined. Wars are signs that we cannot and will not live in peace and harmony in this present age. We cannot be trusted to keep the peace. John Calvin said the Anabaptist pacifist position would be right "were we angels in this world." But the sad fact is the world is full of "cruel monsters and wolves and rapacious men. The rise of the sword will therefore continue to the end of the world." In his sermon in response to the war in Iraq, Philip Jensen, dean of Saint Andrew's Anglican Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, stated that wars and rumors of wars are normal in the last days. "Wars are not abnormal; peace is abnormal." Pacifism is a mistaken ideology. It is an impossible position to hold in a fallen world. The horrors of World War II led many pacifists to change their minds. German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) became deeply involved in the German resistance movement, which to him was more important than his natural inclination to pacifism. He saw how war exploits the baseness of the human heart. His deep commitment to Jesus Christ led him to do his utmost to oppose the barbaric-pagan tyranny of the Nazi regime. For his participation in the plot against Hitler, he was hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp, within a month of the end of the war. Bonhoeffer observed that the French Revolution revealed the true nature of man. He wrote, "The French Revolution was the laying bare of the emancipated man in his tremendous power and his most terrible perversity." Since the French revolution, the western world has become essentially hostile to the church. When people turn their backs to God, people will risk all for their own gain. As Bonhoeffer put it, "It is only when Christian faith is lost that man must himself make use of all means, even criminal ones, in order to secure the victory of his cause." So how can we expect a peaceful world when violence in the movies and on television is tolerated? How can we expect peace among nations when many families cannot keep peace among themselves? What are we doing to improve conditions for peace? How many in our Western society would be willing to lower their standard of living for the sake of the suffering people in the Congo, Ethiopia, or Haiti? Instead, in our consumer society many appear convinced that the good life can be bought. As one reads the newspapers and watches television, one can hardly avoid the impression that the interests of many people largely concern jobs, strikes, houses, inflation, prices, entertainment, sports, and cars. What is peace? What do we mean by peace? The horrors of modern warfare have made this question a matter of agonizing daily concern for every sensitive spirit. It has always thrown the Christian community into a fundamental struggle over the nature of the Gospel itself. It throws into clear relief our understanding of salvation, the nature of man and history. When we hear the word peace, we immediately think of it as the absence of war. But peace can also refer to war. Augustine said that those "who fight for peace" may do so because this is a way to ending an armed conflict. But real peace can only come when rebellious sinners become reconciled to God through Christ's shed blood on the cross (Col. 1:20). One cannot be a peacemaker until first he finds peace for himself. Reconciliation with God enables us to be reconciled with ourselves and with people from every race, nation, or background (Cf. Eph. 2). True peace then is not the result of human enterprise or transaction, but it is received. It is a gift of God. It is Christ Himself. "He is our peace" (Eph. 2:14-17; cf. Rom. 5:1). Peace means salvation from sin and death, from the devil and hell, being surrounded by the goodness of God, and living under the Lordship of Christ (cf. Luke 1:79). But peace with God does not guarantee a tranquil life. In fact, it is accompanied with warfare against the demonic powers still at work in our world (Eph. 6:12). Wherever the Gospel is preached, the devil opposes. We are sheep among ferocious wolves. Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him, but also of the coming victory. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). So in the midst of tribulation we can have amazing peace. In this fearful world, Jesus' message for His people still is, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). But this peace is an active peace that we have to manifest in our daily lives and in the public square. Positive peace True peace then, is more than the absence of war. The Bible describes it as shalom. Shalom seeks the good and opposes evil (Jer. 29:11). Shalom brings joy to life (Isa. 55:12) and brings harmony. It means everything that is needed by the individual and society for wellbeing and happiness. It makes life worth living. But this “positive peace” is costly. It calls for responsible action. To be a peacemaker means more than sitting on a study committee to discuss peace; it requires more from us than demanding the Western world right the wrongs in underdeveloped nations; being a peacemaker means much more than demonstrating against the war in Iraq or elsewhere. As Christians we are to live in peace. It is the fruit of Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The Bible exhorts us to "live in peace," to "be in peace," to "seek peace with all." Furthermore, the Bible does not allow us to take refuge in our private little world and in our private virtues. We may not be blind and deaf to the wrongs we see and hear in our world. We have been given the word and deed ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20). And positive peacemaking is an implicit part of it. Peacemaking calls for loving your neighbor. As Christian this cannot be some type of abstract love – we can’t merely talk about our love. Talk is cheap, so deeds are demanded! Think of the many missionaries, for example, who have been called idealistic, unrealistic, and so on, but who use their talents, their resources, and accept cheerfully untold difficulties as positive peacemakers. They proclaim the liberating Gospel, feed the hungry, seek justice for the oppressed, not because they are do-gooders or taken in by a social gospel, but out of gratitude for what God has done in their lives. The history of missions tells us how during the 19th-century explosion of missionary activity, peacemaking often arose out of an encounter with immoral religious practices and unjust social structures. In India, for example, missionaries focused on sati, the burning of Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands, infanticide, and the caste system. In China, missionaries and mission stations were the main providers of modern medicine and care until the state began to take over the function in the 1920s. Millions of Chinese were treated. Hundreds were given medical training in Christian schools such as Peking (Beijing) Union Medical College. Missionaries were also among the leaders of the movement to abolish the horrible practice of footbinding. The toes of girls, usually aged between seven and eight, were bound under their insteps until the arches of their feet were broken. A crippling experience, it left women with short pointed feet that Chinese men found erotic. In her book The Small Woman, Alan Burgess tells the true and amazing story of Gladys Aylward, a London parlor maid who became an effective and courageous missionary. She did not only bring the Gospel in word. When she saw injustice, she spoke out. When she was asked by the Mandarin of Yangcheng to become a Foot Inspector to break down the centuries-old custom of footbinding, she accepted this position for the sake of the Gospel. Universal peace But despite all the best efforts of Christians, an ideal society will never be achieved. Many will continue to dream about a world without violence and war, with everyone living in peace and harmony, but it will remain a dream. We will have to live with wars and rumors of wars until the end of time. There is never any time or place for saying: Peace - when there is no peace (Ezek. 13:10)! The coming universal peace is bound to the coming of our Lord. The earthly city of self-love and rebellion against God will be replaced then by the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. In the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21), there won't be any more wastage of the earth's resources for war preparation, no more fear of nuclear proliferation, no more terrorist attacks, no more sickness, no more death, and no more senseless luxury of some or senseless poverty of others. The followers of Jesus, therefore, look forward to the end of time when God will intervene to bring about peace, "when nation shall not take up sword against nation, nor will train for war anymore” (Isa. 2:4). While the Church waits, prays, and longs for the Lord's return, she has the responsibility to proclaim "the good news of peace by Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years and many of his articles have been collected at Reformed Reflections. This article first appeared in the December 2003 issue....
Culture Clashes, News
The Great Reset: don't let a crisis go to waste
Over the past several months, the phrase The Great Reset has swirled around media headlines and social media. Many Christians are asking, should we support The Great Reset? But a better question would be which Great Reset should we support? We should also consider why any great reset is needed in the first place, and why now might be the time for it. So, why now? So why is there a push for big changes right now? To answer that we can turn to a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, which argues we should: “Never waste a good crisis.” Democratic governments normally change course gradually. Since humans are slow to change their minds and admit that they'd been wrong, the political views of an entire population of a country tend to change slowly rather than very quickly. Thus governments’ policies will also tend towards incremental rather than revolutionary change. Thus, during regular times, the window of opportunity for policy change is open only a crack. But a crisis swings this window wide open. When the perspectives of an entire citizenry change rapidly, the revolutionary becomes ordinary. We see this in our country’s response to COVID-10. In the eyes of most Canadian citizens, journalists, and politicians, COVID-19 has triggered a crisis. This social, economic, and health crisis – and the fear that it provoked – have enabled the federal and provincial governments to do the previously unthinkable in an incredibly short time: prohibit international travel restrict religious worship services shutter businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars And this isn’t just the preferred response of politicians and scientific experts foisted on an unwilling public. Public opinion polling throughout the pandemic consistently reports that a significant majority of Canadians support these measures. COVID-19 has thrown the policy window wide open for change. The question is, what sort of change, what sort of great reset, will take advantage of this opportunity before it closes? The Great Liberal Reset The World Economic Forum (WEF) has one proposal to seize this opportunity. The WEF is an international organization aimed at improving partnerships between governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations. With governments unshackled from normal budgetary and policy constraints, the WEF proposed that government use this opportunity to tackle current public policy issues in new ways. The World Economic Forum calls this general plan The Great Reset. The Great Reset was the theme of the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which took place in the last week of January. On their website, the World Economic Forum describes The Great Reset: “The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies, and contradictions of multiple systems – from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties. As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.” More concretely, The Great Reset focuses on strengthening environmental protection against pollution and climate change; encouraging private companies to do more to care for their workers, their communities, and the environment; fostering multilateral cooperation; and promoting a rather left-leaning interpretation of inclusion, justice, and equality. So, let’s call this The Great Liberal Reset. To be clear, this is not a conspiracy by a secret elite. No, this is all out in the open. This is about world leaders (politicians, businessmen, activists, the wealthy) who share a common idea of how the world could be a better place trying to implement their vision through conventional channels – government policy, business decisions, grassroots advocacy, and targeted private investments. They are using the policy window opened by COVID-19 to advance their vision. While there are aspects of this vision we might be able to support, Christians should be cautious about supporting this Great Liberal Reset, as it also includes policies that Christians should oppose. More fundamentally, The Great Reset misdiagnoses what ails the world. That ailment is not COVID-19. The Great Moral Reset? Christians know that sin, not COVID-19, ails the world. Rather than reshaping the world according to a liberal vision (or conservative, or socialist, or libertarian agenda for that matter), we should seek to shape the world according to God’s Word. Christians should support a "Great Moral Reset" of sorts, one in which our government’s policies would be aligned with the morality of God’s Word. COVID-19 has opened the possibility for this sort of change. Our society has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the lives of those vulnerable to COVID-19. Now we should go to even greater lengths to protect lives vulnerable to abortion and euthanasia, and provide better care for our elders. Many provinces have closed schools or moved classes online in their monolithic education system in their response to COVID-19. Promoting educational diversity, including supporting independent schools, homeschooling, and distributed learning in a decentralized education system where parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, should be the new priority of provincial governments. The federal government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into supporting families and businesses through the pandemic. It should continue to defend the vitality of families by upholding a biblical understanding of marriage, gender, and sexuality and uphold the dignity of work. But a Great Moral Reset isn’t enough. The Great Spiritual Reset Ultimately, Canada and the world do not need a Great Liberal Reset or even a Great Moral Reset. It is useless for our country to be a whitewashed tomb on the outside but full of dead bones on the inside. Our society needs a Great Spiritual Reset like the Great Awakenings spurred by George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Dwight L. Moody. This spiritual reset isn’t the task of governments, businesses, or general non-profit organizations. This spiritual reset is the responsibility of the Church. COVID-19 has opened the window wide open for evangelism. With millions of fellow Canadians searching for hope, worrying about their employment stability, struggling with their mental and physical health, and mourning the passing of loved ones, many more people may be receptive to the Good News right now. As Jesus testifies, the gospel isn’t for those who are healthy and those who think that they have life figured out. The gospel is for those who have realized their brokenness and their need for a Physician. Are all our efforts directed to defending our personal freedoms (even if they are unjustly infringed upon)? Or are we bringing the gospel to our neighbors who need it now more than ever, using both our words and our deeds? Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, two metaphors that ARPA often draws upon. Christians have taken more seriously their calling to be a salt and a light in the realm of politics and public policy through the COVID-19 pandemic and the infringements on our freedom to worship. Let’s not miss the opportunity to also speak the gospel of life to a suffering world. Let’s not waste this crisis. Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada. For more on the Great Reset, be sure to check out Chris deBoer's Focal Point podcast episode on the same topic which you can download here, or watch below. ...
"Let's meet in the middle": the con in compromise
A new administration has taken over in the US, and President Joe Biden and friends are using a lot of conciliatory talk about unity, and working together. This same sentiment made an appearance during Superbowl LV, where the viewing audience of millions was treated to a sermon from Jeep and Bruce Springsteen about "meeting in the middle” as Americans. But the middle of what? "We should meet in the middle" is: a charitable statement if you and your friend live an hour away, have relatively equal means, and want to get dinner at a central location. a terrible idea if there's a yawning chasm between the two of you. Without fixed goalposts, you really don't know where you'll end up when you aim for the middle. Republicans in the States would agree that meeting in the middle with former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken moderate Democrat, is a very different thing from meeting in the middle with Sen. Bernie Sanders. And Democrats would agree that meeting in the middle with Mitt Romney, a moderate Republican, is a very different thing than meeting in the middle with Donald Trump. If you’re negotiating the price of a house, there’s a great difference between meeting in the middle on a price with someone who starts the bid at $1, and someone who starts the bid at $100,000. A tactic Often in negotiations the term functions in a similar manner to the word "fair." Nobody wants to be thought of as unfair, so by leading off as the “fair one” you can cast your opponent as the other, unfair side. The same tactic is sometimes stated as “finding the common ground.” When your opponent in the negotiation is not budging, or more often, before they even know what direction you want them to budge in, you establish that you are, in point of fact, aiming for "the middle." It sounds so agreeable, but just as soon as a political actor says, "We hope to meet in the middle" he is maneuvering to make his opponent look like the stubborn and unreasonable one. The effect and often the intent is to weaponize people's sense of neighborliness and appeasement to push a point of view. In short, it's not negotiation, but manipulation. We can’t compromise with evil This middle-ground appeal is both caused by and a symptom of the general lack of conviction of our society. If there is no absolute truth, it’d make sense for everything to be negotiable, right? In fact, meeting in the middle may be entirely sensible on how the last $10 million of the budget should be allocated between 3 worthy projects. But meeting in the middle about whether a panel should decide who lives or dies by euthanasia is impossible. There is a fixed right response to euthanasia as an idea, because the government is tasked with punishing evil and murder is evil. Because believer and unbeliever alike know of the Truth (Rom. 1:18-22), and especially because those of us who have the Spirit have had our eyes opened to see and understand it, we must reject "meeting in the middle" on morality. We must reject "compromise" and "fair-mindedness" whenever it is proposed on principles that cannot be compromised. Right and wrong cannot be bargained, and the man on TV telling you they can is manipulating you. Need for uncompromised truth As Christians, we understand the need for showing love to our neighbors and seeking the peace of our community. But we also heed the warnings of David in Psalm 28, who pleads with God to “Not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.” This ought to lead us to recall the words of Christ in sending his disciples out, saying “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) And as Christians, we are called to seek the peace of the country God places us in, and to love our neighbors. But these commands find their grounding in the first and greatest commandment, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:36-40) This calls us to exercise wisdom in identifying where there is common ground to stand on, and where the only ground to stand on is the solid Rock that is Christ. In so doing we will ensure that we are no more: “tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15)....
Animal rights vs. animal welfare
If you think that a dog’s owner shouldn’t be allowed to beat it for fun, you might think you support animal rights. But Wesley Smith, the author o...
Can one culture be better than another?
Yes, in so far as one culture can be more Christian than another ***** Can one culture be better than another? We use to think so. We used to unders...
Black Lives Matter – the slogan
Since Christians must oppose the abortion-supporting, LGBT-agenda pushing Black Lives Matter organization should we still be embracing the Black Lives Matter slogan? **** This article is also available in an audio version on YouTube, and on the Focal Point podcast site. The death of George Floyd in May was met with chants across the US, and in other countries too, that: “Black lives matter!”This cry, being undeniably true, resonated with Christians, leading many to march, and others to “black out” their social media pages in solidarity. But as clear as it is that Christians must not be racist and must fight against this sin, what I am presenting in this article is why both the organization Black Lives Matter, and even the slogan itself, shouldn’t be embraced by Christians. Why? Accusations need to be specific to be actionable To begin, the entirety of the movement is based on the blanket assertion that by simply being Black, a person is oppressed. The claim is made that there aren’t just individual cases of discrimination, but there is “systemic racism” – it is a feature of, and built right into the whole fabric of our culture and institutions, public and private. It is important to understand that there could well be evidence of systemic racism or other individual racism, but the first step to addressing problems is identifying them…specifically. Where there are specific examples given of racial injustice, we can then work to find specific solutions. If police are targeting Black drivers in expensive cars, or for driving through a rich neighborhood, that would be racial profiling and would be wrong. This specific problem would require specific solutions such as restricting police officer’s ability to pull over vehicles without evidence of just cause or probability. If Black people are being killed in “no-knock” police raids – operations where the police break down the door without first identifying themselves – this specific problem could also be addressed with a specific approach that might involve completely re-examining this practice. To be sure, widespread systemic racism has existed, with laws in the US that restricted where Blacks could sit, or eat, or even what water fountains they could use. And examples could persist in certain institutions today. But those laws are now gone. And for many years there has been an effort towards affirmative action, both codified (by law) or de facto (local hiring policies), opening greater opportunities for historical minorities to have a better chance for post-secondary education or certain jobs. We could explore the pros and cons of affirmative action in a future article, but the point here is only to note it was certainly an effort to address systemic racism and to provide increased opportunities for those whose opportunities may have been lacking. Unspecified claims of systemic racism suggest that it is intentional and state-sponsored; that the cultural power elites have set up a system where they can continue to suppress any opportunity that Black people, or members of other racial minorities, could have of empowerment. How they account for the many successful and middle-income members within the Black community is not very clear. They don’t fit the victim narrative and their success seems to be either ignored, or they themselves are attacked as sellouts (as Larry Elder highlights in his new documentary Uncle Tom). The idea of systemic racism does not allow much room for individual success for Black people, and any example of such success isn't allowed to counter the narrative of oppression. The point I’m trying to make is that we can address specific problems with specific solutions. In contrast, it is impossible to fix nebulous unspecified problems, especially with riots and looting. The BLM organization is specifically anti-Christian Why we should not support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization becomes clear when we take a closer look at what that organization supports. This is from their website: We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. It is not a societal “privilege” when your sexuality and gender match – it is healthy, natural, and normal. The Creator God made it so. It is possible that this division between gender and sexuality becomes normal language even among Christians, and we must resist this, entirely. We have to understand that we are up against a Great Deceiver, who is prowling around like a lion seeking to devour. There is a battle going on for us and our children and we need to equip ourselves and our young people with clear unambiguous language about the created order. Where there is evidence of gender dysphoria, then empathy, compassion, and help should be readily available; but by seeking to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” and “uplift Black trans folk” the BLM organization is attacking what is good, and celebrating what is broken. They boldly state: BLM foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise). The “Black Lives Matter” slogan has many people thinking this is about racism. To be sure, the organization addresses racism in its statement of faith, but the organization’s focus is fixated on sexuality and gender identity too. By using charged language of “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of…”, they are affirming that all those who are not part of the cultural elite (white, male, able-bodied, cis-gendered, etc.) are oppressed. They hate the idea that heterosexuality is normative, but as Christians, we confess its normative status from creation. We acknowledge, in humility, that there are Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction and the church needs to develop greater empathy for such brothers and sisters, but that does not take away from the norms that God has established in creation. As we look through their website their radical anti-Christian intent becomes more and more clear. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. The very foundational structure of civilization, all civilizations, is the family unit. It is the Christian worldview that highlights the importance of fathers and mothers, both. God created both male and female in his image; God demands that children honor both father and mother; the Triune relationship includes that of Father and Son, etc. While Christians express the importance of belonging to the communion of saints or the “extended family” and “village” that “collectively cares for one another,” we stress the biblical truth that the primary responsibility for children are parents, both fathers and mothers. It is the task of both parents to train up their children in the fear of the Lord. You’ll also notice that BLM mentions mothers and parents in this statement, but not fathers specifically. They are focused on ensuring they don’t make any allusions to anything that could be remotely close to patriarchy. They would object to orthodox churches refusing to allow women to serve in the office of elders and deacons. They would object to asking a wife if they would “honor, love, and obey” her husband. Any language that suggests that a husband is the head of his household would be forbidden. The BLM slogan is 100% true and still shouldn’t be embraced The brand “Black Lives Matter” was strategically chosen. Who can disagree with it? Black lives do matter, and all people, especially Christians, must fight injustices including racism. But we may not support in any way, shape, or manner the BLM movement which ties the slogan and organization so tightly together. We need to see that the driving force behind the Black Lives Matter movement is an organization that is entirely ungodly, unchristian, unbiblical, and wrong. It is a deceptive movement, seeking to deceive whole nations of people in an effort to portray all the things God teaches us are right and good, as being wrong and unjust. And their influence is seen everywhere, especially, these days, on the professional sports playing field. Might it be time for us to stop watching NBA basketball or NFL football, since these organizations have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement uncritically, and ideologically? Maybe it is time we stop cheering and spending money on BLM ideologues and their paraphernalia whether that is pro-sports or any other organization. Going forward, we will have to choose our words carefully. When we want to express how unjust racism is, we will have to find another way than to echo a slogan that is tightly linked to so much more than the words it says. Perhaps we can find a way to say that all people of all races are “image-bearers of God”? We can no longer use “black lives matter” because it implies that we agree with the organization and what it stands for, but we don’t, and we can’t. I want to conclude this article by suggesting that BLM is not the root of a new tree, but it is a fruit of a tree planted many years ago. The founders of BLM are synthesizing instruction from those who have gone on before them including Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky – one of the co-founders has even described herself and her colleagues as “trained Marxists.” In future articles, I hope to explore some of these foundational developments that have provided the fertile soil for BLM and other such causes. May the Lord help us to remain diligent in keeping his Word, using it as a light to our path, shining the light of His Word on the darkness around us. We are the salt and light in this world; let’s be sure we know what needs preserving and how to preserve it. ***** What could we say instead? If we can’t join in the chants of “Black Lives Matter!” what can we say instead? Imagine this: what if Christians who were upset with the seemingly cavalier death of George Floyd would have responded with “George Floyd was an image-bearer of God too”? That would have underscored the importance of treating him and everyone as persons with dignity and respect. It also would have been specifically targeted to George Floyd’s death. To address the larger challenge of racism, some have suggested “Black lives matter too!” The benefit of adding “too” makes it clear that the sentence itself is not racist. It highlights that racism against Black people is a problem while also recognizing that all races matter. Would a phrase like “Erase racism” capture the same point? Perhaps “Christians against racism” could be a phrase we “meme-ify.” It demonstrates Christians’ opposition to racism, while also confessing we are followers of Christ. Finally, a more wordy suggestion, but that would include the reason for why we oppose racism: “The New Jerusalem will be filled with a mosaic of peoples. Stop Racism Now.” Our anticipation of the perfection that is to come should motivate towards working towards the standards of perfection. As R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries remind us regularly, “Right Now Counts Forever.” So, right now, let’s do our best to hold up every human being, from conception to natural death, as the image-bearers of God that they are, and demonstrate our desire to help those who may be victims of racism. Chris deBoer is the Executive Director of the Reformed Perspective Foundation and the host of the Focal Point podcast. Picture credit: Shutterstock.com/Footage Force. ...
Are you “blessed” or “privileged”?
They might seem close synonyms but the Devil is in the details **** A couple of years back a viral video showed a large group of older teens getting ready to race for a $100 bill. It was men and women, blacks and whites, athletic sorts and not so, and all things being equal, we’d expect one of the long lean guys to run away with the money. But the point of the video was to explain that things are not equal. The leader of the group, Adam Donyes, had a series of eight statements to tell the students before the race got started. The teens were supposed to take two steps forward for each one that applied to them: “Your parents are still married.” “You grew up with a father figure in your home.” “You had access to a private education.” “You had access to a free tutor growing up.” “You never had to worry about your cellphone being shut off.” “You never had to help mom or dad with the bills.” “It wasn’t because of your athletic ability that you don’t have to pay for college.” “You never wondered where your next meal was going to come from.” Doynes was trying to make a very specific point. He told the group that each of his statements had “nothing to do with decisions you’ve made.” The students up front were there not because of anything they had done, but because of the position they had been born into, or their parents had put them in. He told those students: “…if this was a fair race, and everybody was back on that line I guarantee you some of these black dudes would smoke all of you. And it is only because you have this big of a head start that you’re possibly going to win this race called life. That is a picture of life, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing you’ve done has put you in the lead that you’re in right now.” Then he shouted “go!” and the race was on. Drawing out biblical truths There are some clear biblical truths that could be drawn out of this video. Luke 12:48b might come to mind: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Or we might think of how the three servants were given different amounts of money in the Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25. It’s important for us to understand that for those who have been blessed with more, God has raised expectations for us. The video also lines up well with 1 Cor. 12 where Paul notes our different gifts, comparing them to parts of the body. One person might be a hand, another a foot, and another an eye. And just like the "eye cannot say to the hand 'I have no need of you'" so too we shouldn't look down on those with different gifts than our own. That's an important lesson, and Doynes tries to make that specifically to those out in the front. But in this same chapter Paul also makes another point that would have been an important one for all those farther back. We are all part of the body, and we shouldn't overlook what God gifts has given us: "...the body does not consist of one member but many. If the foot should say, 'because I am a hand I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body....there are many parts, yet one body." Guilt vs. gratitude So there was a lot to love in this video. But what made it go viral was how it seemed the perfect illustration of “privilege,” and specifically “white privilege,” since blacks were clustered in the back, and the very front was populated with whites. The way the term privileged is used it can seem like a close synonym to blessed. One person says, “I’m blessed to have always had a roof over my head” and another says, “I was privileged to never have to worry about being homeless.” Just a matter of tomato/tomatoh, right? Two terms for the same idea. But there’s an important sense in which the two words are actually opposites. Blessed is an inherently positive word. When we say we are blessed in this way or that, it is a note of appreciation to our “blesser” whether that is God, or maybe our parents, spouse, friends, or children. But whereas we celebrate the ways in which we are blessed, one admits to being privileged – we’re supposed to “check our privilege.” Being blessed makes us grateful, but being privileged brings guilt. Parents stayed together? You got to go to a basketball camp last summer? Lucky you, but not all of us are so privileged. There's more to privileged than just guilt. Often times it is shorthand for something like: "You're privileged so you don't know me – you haven't lived through what I've had to endure." There's truth to that – if we've been sheltered from some of the world's harshness that can bring with it a naivety. And that might leave a gulf between us and others who haven't been so blessed. But even in this usage privileged is a negative word. Noting differences can be a step to understanding, to beginning to know one another. But the way privileged is used it is not a conversation-starter. This is a putdown used as a conversation-stopper. While Donyes didn’t use the word privilege in his video, there was a reason so many others thought it fit – his video wasn’t a celebration of blessing; there was a touch of shame instead. If the difference between blessed and privileged is still muddy consider this: when we are blessed and others are not, what do we want for them? Don’t we want them to have what we have? But when we admit to being privileged, is that a state we’d wish on anyone else? Being privileged isn’t something you aspire to. This is part of the “victimhood culture” where the worse off you are, the less guilt you have to feel for what you have. But when it’s good, or at least less shameful, to be hard off, then it’s bad to become more “privileged.” A wise man once said that the battle we're in is over the dictionary, and this is an example. These two words – blessed and privileged – seem almost synonyms, but whereas the first takes us to gratitude and God, the second leads to unremitting guilt and stagnation. Inequality vs. poverty Inequality and poverty are also used interchangeably. When we see people who don’t have a warm bed to sleep in, or don’t have money for needed medical expenses, then we’ll quite naturally wish their situation wasn’t so unequal. We want them to have what we have, and wish that they could live like we do. But what we’re really lamenting here is not inequality but poverty. If inequality was our concern, we could be happy as long as everyone was equally needy. But that’s not what we’re after. Our real goal is for the poor to be raised out of poverty. So here, too, there’s a sense in which this is all just tomato/tomatoh– we might use different words, but we all want to help the poor. But once again there is an important sense in which two seeming synonyms have dangerously different meanings. Whereas “fighting poverty” is focused on helping the poor, fighting inequality is sometimes about tearing down the rich. That shift of focus happens whenever we start believing that one person’s success happens at other people’s expense. That’s what Donyes taught in his video. Donyes told students that his $100 race was like “this race called life – this is a picture of life ladies and gentlemen.” But his race had only one winner. And that winner could only succeed if others failed. In this setting every two steps someone got to take forward diminished the chances of winning for all those left behind. If that’s how you thought the world operated, what sort of attitude would you have towards millionaires and billionaires? If you believed they got their wealth by impoverishing the rest of us, what would you see as the best way to help the poor? Just that quick, concern for the poor becomes “Let’s get the filthy rich!” The world’s wealth isn’t fixed and limited. If it was, would the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17) make sense? There God tells us it’s none of our business what our neighbor has, but if our neighbor could only get wealthy by keeping others poor, wouldn’t we all have a legitimate interest in making sure he didn’t get too much? The truth is, life is not a winner-take-all-race. We can thank God that’s true spiritually, with God’s children numbering as the sand on the seashore – God has made us all champions, and there are too many of us to even count. And it’s just as true materially. Even if someone beats me out for my dream job, that doesn’t mean I have to go jobless. There are other careers. I can succeed too. And if I start a successful business, yes, I might grow wealthy, but I’ll be making my money by creating a product that others find useful enough to pay for. I won’t become wealthy at my customers’ expense. They’re only buying my widget because they think it is worth more than I am asking for it (or they would never buy it). In a very real way in all the countless merchant/customer exchanges that take place around the world both sides are the wealthier for it. That’s why both customer and merchant will say thank-you at the conclusion of a sale – both have become richer...and at no one’s expense. Of course, robbers do exist – some people do become wealthy only by taking from others. But that’s not the rule. God has so made our world that we can work together to each other’s benefit. That’s why the Tenth Commandment makes sense. And when we realize that our neighbors’ wealth isn’t making anyone poor, then we can get back to fighting poverty in fruitful, rather than covetous ways. Conclusion Does that mean we should shake our finger at anyone who speaks of being privileged or uses the word inequality? Not at all. We can put some care and attention to what terms we use, but we don’t need to stress it when others use something else. Rather than going all grammar-nazi on them we can listen in humility, try to be understanding, and use context to hear what they are saying. What’s actually important is seeing through the Devil’s gambit here. Many a best-of-intentioned Christian loves the Lord with all his heart, but there’s a reason God also demands our minds (Matt. 22:37). The Prince of Perversion loves to misdirect what is good and right to his own completely different ends, and our guard against Him is knowing God’s Word, and learning how to apply it. Otherwise, the Devil might have us, in the name of helping the poor, casting covetous eyes at the wealth of our neighbor. And if he could, he’d love to rob God of the praise that is His due by making us feel guilty, not grateful, for all the blessings our Father showers on us. Thankfully, in the great blessing of the forgiveness of sins, we can put away all guilt and all envy, and instead respond in wholehearted, full-throated gratitude to our great God....
Culture Clashes, Theology
May I judge?
I hear repeatedly that we’re not supposed to judge another. Young people express themselves this way, and that’s not surprising – after all, not judging others fits hand in glove with the postmodern dogma of tolerance that’s so rampant today. Different strokes for different folks, so let the other be; who am I to say that what you’re doing or thinking is wrong…. I’ve heard Christians appeal to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to provide Biblical justification for the position, for Jesus told His disciples: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Case closed: do not pass judgment on another. Inconsistent But the Internet is full of comments passing distinctly unfavorable judgments. These leave me puzzled. We’re quick to repeat the mantra "do not judge" but judgments abound. Something is not consistent here. This sort of thing happens more often. In our relatively small community we hear numerous details of what happens in the life of the person in the next pew, or in the congregation up the road. And very quickly we have a judgment ready on what we hear. It affects what we say to one another, and affects too how we think about or treat the person(s) about whom we heard a story. Do not judge rashly A quick judgment is simply unbiblical. Solomon put it like this: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). The Lord in the 9th commandment gave the instruction not to “bear false witness against your neighbor,” and the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes the instruction of this command with this confession: “I must not … condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard” (Lord’s Day 43). That counts for what we say on Facebook too. We do well to repent before God and man of our easy judgmentalism and seek to learn that God-pleasing habit of doing to others as we’d have them do to us (Luke 6:31). As we hate being on the receiving end of perceived gossip or slander, so we need studiously to avoid being on the giving end of gossip or slander. Test the spirits This does not mean, however, that I’m to be neutral concerning all I hear. The postmodern mantra that I’m to be OK with whatever anybody else thinks or does is simply not biblical. Consider, for example, John’s instruction to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). So much gets said, and people believe so many things. But I’m to test whether what they say and believe is “from God.” John emphatically wants us to have an opinion on that – and then reject what is not from God. Testing, of course, involves so much more than hearing one thing and swallowing it dumbly as the final word on the subject. Testing involves listening carefully, understanding the details and circumstances, and then evaluating in the light of the revelation of the Lord of lords. You’re meant to have a considered opinion. That’s why, in 1 Cor. 5, the apostle Paul was emphatic to the Corinthians that they needed to pass explicit condemnation on the brother in their congregation who lived in sin, sleeping with his father's wife. They were not to be neutral on this man’s behavior but were to take a stand and excommunicate him. That’s because in this instance the details were abundantly clear (it wasn’t hearsay but indisputable facts evident to all parties), and so the saints of Corinth were obligated before God to form a judgment and carry it out. That obligation was so self-evident that Paul put the matter in the form of a rhetorical question: “is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). Judging: that’s your duty…. Jesus wrong? Is Jesus wrong, then, when He in the Sermon on the Mount tells His disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged?” (Matthew 7:1). Actually, Jesus does not tell us not to have a judgment on what we hear or see. Instead, Jesus’ point is that we’re not to judge rashly. That’s clear from Jesus’ next line, “For” – yes, note that connecting word! “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged...” (vs. 2a). If you are quick to condemn another, do not be surprised when others will be quick to condemn you; “...and with the measure you use it will be measure to you” (vs 2b). So if you hear one side of a story and condemn before you’ve heard the other side, be prepared to have folk condemn you on hearsay before they’ve heard your side of the story! Similarly, if you, from a self-righteous height, condemn others' behavior while you are yourself entangled in sin, do not be surprised that you’ll find no sympathy when others find out about your sin. Jesus puts it like this: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (vs 3). That, Jesus adds, is hypocrisy (vs 5). As long as you try to hide skeletons in your own closet, you are in no position to draw attention to skeletons you think you see in someone else’s closet. Clincher But Christians are not to hide skeletons in their closets! True Christians are repentant of their sins, and confess those sins to God and to those they’ve hurt by their sins. Then you’ve pulled the log out of your own eye – and at the same time have great understanding and empathy for another’s weaknesses and failures. Then you’ll test the spirits, and you’ll have an opinion on what you hear, and carefully avoid condemning the other in a spirit of lofty self-righteousness – and certainly avoid trumpeting your condemnation to John Public. The person who knows his own weaknesses and failures will instead sit down beside the sinning brother to show him his wrong and lead him on the way back to the Lord. It’s Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Judge? May I judge another? It depends on what you mean by the word "judge." I am not to condemn rashly and unheard. But I am to have an opinion on my brother and help him in the way the Lord wants him to help me. This article was first published back in 2014. Rev. Clarence Bouwman is a pastor in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church....
Bruce Jenner & Micklewhite: Adult problems lurk amongst the picture books
It was a beautiful day. The temperature had soared to eighty degrees plus and one of our daughters and four of our grandchildren were over for a few days. Together we watched the Baltimore oriole as he perched on the hummingbird feeder and pecked at a slice of orange. The downy woodpecker showed up as well as the cardinal and an indigo bunting. We carefully tiptoed past a ruffed grouse sitting on its eleven eggs. Here in our backyard was a wonderful array of color and sound made by the fifth-day creatures God has made. And we, the sixth-day image-bearers of Himself were privileged to see and hear them. It was a work-holiday. The kids helped us with raking, gathering up leftover leaves from last autumn, as well as mowing huge swaths of lawn. Our daughter straightened flowerbeds, and weeded. And afterwards there was swimming and splashing in the pool. Children and grandchildren are truly a marvel! After supper, Tirzah, our daughter's youngest child, was ready to curl up on the sofa next to her Mom for some before-bedtime reading. It's my wont to always visit the library prior to a visit, if I know about it, and to stock up on a variety of books. Tirzeh and her Mom were rummaging through the pile and I was putting away some laundry. Half-way up the stairs with an armload of towels, sheets and shirts, I heard my daughter call out. "Mom!!" I paused. Was there a problem!? She called out again. Actually it was more like a yell. "Mom – this is awful!" I turned, descended the stairs, still carrying the laundry. "Have you looked at this book, Mom?" I was in the hall by now, searching my brain as to what she was talking about. Entering the living room the most aghast look of the twenty-first century hit me. "Mom, did you know that you took out a book on cross-dressing?" "No," I responded, and truly I had not known it. Then I recalled that when I had gone to the library the previous Saturday, it had unfortunately been fifteen minutes before closing time. Quickly scanning the shelves, first for literature for the older grandchildren (and becoming rather engrossed in some of these volumes), I had been nudged by the librarian that they were closing and that it was time to leave. Running into the children's section of the branch, I had raced around the room taking all the display books off the racks. I figured that these were likely popular favorites and probably indicated good reading. Obviously it was not a well-thought out assumption! "Mom! This book is horrible! Do you know what it's called?" I shook my head: "No, I don't." "Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress!" Cute name, Morris Micklewhite, but the glaring truth was that it was a boy's name – and boys, unless they are Scottish and kilt-oriented, ought not to wear dresses. Deuteronomy 22:5 is very clear on that: "A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman's garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord your God." I'm very thankful that my daughter is a conscientious child of the covenant and that she recognizes evil when it approaches, even under the innocent guise of a child's book cover. There are, sadly enough, a number of Morris Micklewhites in the world. Bruce Bruce Jenner was born on October 28, 1949, in New York. This means that he will be 70 years old this fall. Like all children, Bruce was sent to school when he turned 6. Dyslexic, Bruce had trouble with spelling, reading and grammar and disliked school very much. Not diagnosed until the fifth grade, he had nightmares about the teacher having him read in front of class. Like Morris Micklewhite, he had to overcome certain fears about going to school. But Bruce managed to complete grades one through twelve. Not an academic, he turned all his energies into outdoor activities. He had such a penchant for sports, as a matter of fact, that he earned a football scholarship in 1968 which allowed him to attend Graceland College in Iowa even though his grades were not very good. A knee injury, however, soon forced him to stop playing the sport of football in which he excelled. Worried about losing his scholarship and being drafted into the US army, he changed his sports focus. Having a natural gift for track and field, Bruce made the switch to the decathlon. In 1973 he graduated from Graceland College with a degree in physical education. He married his high school sweetheart, a minister's daughter, and set his mind on training for the Olympics. His wife, a flight attendant, worked, even as Bruce trained during the day, selling some insurance on the side. Although he finished tenth in the 1972 summer Olympic Games in Germany, his rigorous day training eventually paid off and he won the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Rugged and tough, Bruce was built like a natural athlete. Had he lived during King David's time, he possibly would have qualified as one of his mighty men. But after winning the gold medal, muscular Bruce Jenner settled for being the spokesperson for Wheaties breakfast cereal for several years, posing for the cover of the box. This supposedly encouraged buyers to think, "If you eat this cereal, you could possibly be as brawny and sports-oriented as Bruce Jenner." He also drank orange juice for Tropicana and took pictures for Minolta. Six foot two and 194 pounds of well-distributed muscle, he gradually evolved into a public advertising idol. It paid his bills. It made him rich. Outside of the athletic arena, Bruce Jenner was making more money from winning that single gold medal than any other athlete had before him. He continued to be in demand for countless commercials, promotions, and public appearances. All this publicity took a heavy toll on his marriage – a marriage which dissolved in 1980. In the wake of his broken marriage, Bruce turned to a film and television career, and married again. During the next five years, he also became a successful racecar driver. Then there was another divorce and another marriage. In all, he fathered six children – two by each of his three marriages. Truly the man was a broken puzzle, a sad book to read! The 2015 chapter in Bruce Jenner's life, however, was the saddest one yet - on page April of this chapter he announced that, like Morris Micklewhite of the children's literature, he wanted to wear a dress. In other words, he announced that he was transitioning into a woman, a yearning which, he said, had always lived within himself. Although he had been created a male by the Lord God, Bruce Jenner questioned his Creator's decision, rebelling against it. Changing his name from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner, he went on to pose, two months later, for the cover of Vanity Fair, as a female. As to be expected, Bruce was praised for his “courageous” action by all those who love evil. That same year of 2015 saw him as the winner of the Social Media Queen award; Glamor magazine named him one of its 25 glamour women of the year; in December he was named “Barbara Walter's most fascinating person of 2015” and he was on the Time's short-list for the 2015 person of the year. Looking back on his athletic career, it would appear that Bruce had been dissatisfied with it, that he'd had no long-term goal for which to aim. He is quoted as saying: "I spent twelve years training for a career that was over in a week." And apparently having no handle on who he is as a male person made in the image of God, he referred to his transition as a “female” by saying: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self." Conclusion What a sad thing to so blatantly disregard God's good intentions for one's life! Healthy and wealthy, he fell far short of being wise, fell far short of fearing God. Throughout all this there is no doubt that Bruce Jenner is looking for meaning, searching for fulfillment, but he will fall flat on his face unless he acknowledges that the only meaning in life is to be found in our Lord Jesus Christ; that the only fulfillment is to praise God and enjoy Him forever. God have mercy on the Micklewhites of the world. They will never find peace following the intention of their own base hearts and the prodding of the devil's evil strategies. All this to say that no matter how cute little boys can look in tangerine skirts, we do well to remember that the words of Deuteronomy 22:5 are not cute, are not to be dismissed lightly. A person detestable to God lives in darkness and the Micklewhites of the world are heading for eternal darkness....
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