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Religion, Religion - Mormons

Mormons and Masons have their secrets. We don’t.

There’s nothing esoteric about the Christian faith. There is no secret mystery into which you must become initiated in order to be admitted. It’s not like the Gnostic sects where one had to become an initiate for years before he became a full member. Jesus spoke to this issue plainly when He said in John 18:19:

"I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues, or in the temple court, where all the Jews assemble, and I didn’t teach anything secretly."

Christianity isn’t Masonry, or Mormonism, where you take vows “never to reveal and always to conceal” rituals that you are required to perform in a Lodge meeting or in a “temple” ceremony. It has always been completely aboveboard about its beliefs and practices. Indeed, as Jesus said, He always spoke “openly.” If an organization – or pseudo church – has anything worthwhile to offer, let it be open to examination. How can anyone vow to never reveal something before he knows what it is? That is one form of what the Bible calls a rash vow (Prov. 20:25, Eccl. 5:2-7, Judges 11:29-40). It is sinful to make a vow that one doesn’t know whether or not he ought to keep before he knows what it is he is vowing to keep secret. Suppose, after taking a vow, one were to realize that he must expose the error or sinfulness of what he learns – he’d then find himself in an intolerable position. On the one hand, he’d be obligated to expose it; on the other hand he would have vowed not to do so. That is an unacceptable dilemma, one into which one must never allow himself to be inveigled. One more thought – if a group of any sort has something worth becoming a part of, it has no right to conceal it from anyone; but like our Lord said, it is something that should be proclaimed “openly to the world.” If it’s worthwhile, spread it abroad. Why would you selfishly cling to it as private truth? If it’s not something worthwhile, then don’t get into it in the first place. On every score, then, no Christian should ever become involved in a secret society. A fundamental principle of our faith is to preach the message of salvation to all the world. We have nothing to hide.

Dr. Jay Adams is Dean of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and the author of more than 100 books. This post first appeared on his blog at www.nouthetic.org and is reprinted here with permission.

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Riot and The Dance

Documentary 2018 / 83 minutes Rating: 8/10 Biologist Gordon Wilson is excited about God's creation, and it's catching! In The Riot and the Dance, Wilson explores locations both exotic and familiar, showing us how amazingly the Lord has made his creatures in his awesome world. Nature films are most often spoiled by the Darwinian approach of their makers; we're accustomed to using the "pause" button while we remind our children and ourselves that it's God who made all the beauty we are watching, not random chance. How refreshing to hear Scripture quoted, and God's creative hand praised, in these beautifully filmed scenes. Wilson starts in ponds near his home in the northwestern US, finding the familiar in water striders dancing across the water's surface, and the less familiar in giant water bugs. He pauses in Montana for bison, in Manitoba for a snake den, and in California for comical but dangerous elephant seals. He dives across gravel paths in the Sonoran desert of Mexico, catching snakes and lizards to bring their beauty right up to the camera, and ends his world tour in Sri Lanka, marveling at elephants and water buffalo. Wilson believes Christians can and should find out more about the Creator by exploring what he made.

"If we wanted to study someone like Michelangelo, we would want to study all his works, his art. The way you get to know God, you study everything He wrote, and made, His living creation, His creatures. They are not only paintings but sculptures!"

Wilson does not ignore the brokenness of creation: "Life is not a basket of kittens... and there's all this death, and predator-prey relationships, and parasite hosts. But even in the midst of a fallen creation, the glories of God are still very present. Man needs redemption, and so does creation." Thus he includes some brief moments of gore – as a water buffalo is devoured by warthog and other scavengers – though there are not a lot. There is much to commend in this beautiful film. Give this one a viewing; you'll find yourself ready to dive into that field or pond, eager to explore your own corner of God's handiwork.

Americans with Amazon Prime will be able to watch this there.

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.

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction, Teen fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Brave Ollie Possum

by Ethan Nicolle 373 pages / 2019 If you were ever a scaredy-cat, or if you might have one in your family, this could be a fun story to read together... though you might have to do so during the daytime, with all the lights on. It's about nine-year-old Ollie Mackerelli, who is so afraid of things that go bump in the night that he's taken up permanent residence in his parents' bed. This is about how he learned to be brave. But his transformation doesn't happen quickly. Things start off with cowardly Ollie running to his parents' bedroom yet again to crawl under the sheets with them. That's a safe place to be, but it does come with a cost: three people in a double bed leave his dad with bags under his eyes and a scowl on his face. He wants to know when Ollie is going to grow up and stop being afraid of imaginary monsters. Then, mysteriously. Mizz Fuzzlebuzzle, a very strange, very large lady shows up at the Mackerellis' door. She offers to take their son to a "special go-away fun place where children like Ollie can be taken and all his fears will be gobbled up." Who is this lady? Her card says she specializes in "professional anti-scary therapy and comfortology." Desperate, the sleep-deprived parents hand off their son to the expert, hoping she'll be able to help. But here's the twist: Mizz Fuzzlebuzzle isn't actually an expert in anti-scary therapy. She's actually an ogre. And all those bumps in the night? It's her pet monster making them. Ollie was right all along! But being right won't get him out of the clutches of this ogre. And to make matters worse, she wants to eat him. It turns out scared children are an ogre delicacy. But despite being scared, Ollie gathers enough courage to spray the ogre with one of her own magic potions. Sadly, ogres aren't susceptible to magic potions. People are, though, so when the ogre spits the potion right back at him, Ollie is transformed into a creature that passes out in the face of danger: Ollie becomes a possum. The rest of this rollicking tale is about Ollie, with the help of some animal friends, learning what true courage is: that it's not about being unafraid, but about facing our fears and going on anyway. The author of Brave Ollie Possum is one of the folks behind the Christian satire site Babylonbee.com so the book is every bit as funny as you might expect. Another highlight is the artwork. This is a full-size novel, but it could almost be called a picture book, with fantastic, fun illustrations every three pages or so. CAUTION The only caution I'll note is that this book about being brave is, at times, scary. I think it might be the book I am most looking forward to reading to my children, but there is no way I could read this as their bed-time story, or even in the middle of the day. I'm going to have to wait a bit, probably until they are all at least nine. CONCLUSION But for kids over ten and over, particularly boys, this will be so much fun. And for certain 9-year-old kids who are scared of what goes bump in the night, this could be a good day-time read with mom and dad to help a little one learn what being brave is all about.

Movie Reviews

GOODBYE HOLLAND: The destruction of Dutch Jewry

Documentary
90 minutes / 2004
RATING: 8/10

I grew up reading Piet Prins’ Scout books and Anne DeVries’ Journey Through the Night, learning about the courage of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. I also heard stories about how my grandparents and my friends’ grandparents hid Jews from the Nazis.

So it with shock that I learned three-quarters of the Jews in the Netherlands didn’t make it through the War alive. This was not the story as I had understood it! But it turns out that the heroes I read and heard about growing up were the exceptions, not the rule. That courage was so rare overall, but more common among our Reformed relatives, says something about the love they had for God. They were willing to risk their lives because they knew that whether they lived or died, they were the Lord’s (Roman 14:8).

However there were not many like them. Along with Anne Frank, more than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to concentration camps, and they were often rounded up by Dutch policemen, whose work was overseen by Dutch officials, and they were shipped off on trains run by Dutch engineers. The Dutch weren’t merely silent; many were among the Germans’ most helpful allies. It wasn’t simply apathy; it was betrayal.

That’s the point that director Willy Lindwer makes in this documentary. A son of one of the few Jewish survivors, he set out to discover why the Dutch allowed the Holocaust to happen in their country. He interviews both those who had the courage to help, and those who felt they had no other option but to go along with what the Germans were demanding.

It is with this second group, those who went along, that some of the most compelling discussions happen. This film was made in 2004, so six decades has passed since the War’s end, and yet some had still not learned anything from it. One 70-something-year-old described his wartime boss as a “righteous man” – this same boss had been a police chief who rounded up thousands of Jews for the Germans.

Though about half the film is subtitled (because the interviewees are speaking Dutch) it’s conversations like this that make the film so gripping. Evil men are supposed to look like Hitler, or Saddam – raving, shouting maniacs. But this man looks like your grandpa.

LEST WE FORGET

The Remembrance Day phrase “Lest we forget” speaks to how we must learn from the past. The value in this film – the reason it is a must-see – is precisely because the evil it uncovers is not at all dissimilar from the sort we see today.

Long before orders were given to deport Dutch Jews, they were excluded from government jobs. Then they were kicked out of public schools, and a few months later they were ordered to publicly identify themselves by sewing a Star of David on their coats. It continued step by step.

Why didn’t more of the Dutch resist? Maybe it was because each step, on its own, didn’t seem quite so objectionable. When the Dutch restaurant owners were told they had to exclude Jews or risk having their businesses shuttered, how did these businessmen think through their decision? Perhaps they thought, “I have to feed my family. And surely the Jews can…just buy their food at the grocery store, right?” So the Voor Joden Verboden (“For Jews Forbidden”) signs went up.

Today we also face a step-by-step mounting pressure to conform to evil. Abortion is the biggest evil of our time, of course. But remember Melissa and Aaron Klein, the Oregon couple who were asked to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple? They were fined $135,000 for refusing. So the message the government sent was that Christians bakers can either bake the cake or lose their business. They can spend a few hours making a cake – just flour, sugar, eggs, and some icing – or lose the business that it took them years and piles of money to build. It’s no coincidence that so much pressure was brought to bear on something quite inconsequential – a $135,000 fine for not baking a cake that the same-sex couple could have easily purchased at any number of other bakeries. But the Devil wants to present the first compromise like it’s the only logical course to pursue.

BEST TIME TO SPEAK IS NOW

We can ask, as one of the film’s interviewees does, why didn’t someone just throw sand in the engine of one of those Nazi’s transport trains? It wouldn’t have taken much to slow down the Jewish deportation if only someone had being willing to sabotage the trains.

But the film also acknowledges the fears that drove many to inaction and collaboration. The Jews weren’t the only ones being shipped away to concentration camps – if you helped them, you risked being deported along with them.

And yet…there was a time when action wouldn’t have been so costly. There was a time when speaking out might have, yes, cost someone their job, but it wouldn’t have cost them their life. And we can only wonder what might have happened if more had spoken up then. Could the Germans have killed nearly so many if there had been a loud early voice arguing against Dutch collaboration?

What we must never forget, then, is that we shouldn’t delay in speaking up for what is right. We need to resist now, because if we wait, the pressure to stay silent and to go along will only increase. We need to speak now, because it is easier to turn things around before we’re heading full speed in the wrong direction.

Speaking up doesn’t guarantee success, but it is obedient. It does bring God glory. And because God has chosen to work through us, we never know what changes God might effect through us, if we’re willing to act in obedience. We can shake our heads at the state of our culture, or we can ask, like Paul, how can the world respond to God’s Truth if we’ve never shared it with them (Romans 10:14)?

There are so very many reasons to speak now.

CAUTIONS

The only caution to consider in this film is a perspective it offers on Jewish orphans being adopted by Christian couples. There were more than a thousand Dutch Jewish orphans at war’s end, and a well-meaning Christian group wanted to ensure they all went to Christian homes. They wanted to save these children’s souls, and planned to use adoption as a conversion tool.

What this overlooks is that God places us with parents, and He has also gives our larger families a role in raising us too. So should a child’s parents die, then it is because we are Christians and respect the God-given role of the family, that we would arrange for a Jewish child to go their closest relatives, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever it might be.

But the director pushes for more than that. He thinks that a Jewish orphan, one with no relatives to adopt her, should still be sent to a Jewish family. But this elevates ethnic ties to the level of family ties. And that is giving ethnicity a status it doesn’t deserve – God doesn’t say we have to stay with people who look and act like us.

CONCLUSION

One hundred thousand Jews were deported from the Netherlands. It is a shocking figure. It took three years and 93 trains loads to take them all to Germany. And very few did anything to help them.

One hundred thousand is also the number of unborn children killed each year in Canada. What are we doing to stand up to the great evil of our time?

One place to start might be watching this film together with your family, or in a high school history class, and discussing the place of courage, fear, and apathy in our day-to-day conversations and interactions with the world. Many of our Christian grandparents didn’t see the matter of hiding Jews as a question to be weighed and considered – they simply did it because they knew God wanted them to love their neighbors (Mark 12:31). And they were comfortable with placing their families, their fortunes, and their lives in His hands. We have the very same faithful God. Do we have the very same faith in Him?

“Goodbye Holland” can be borrowed from many libraries, and US Amazon Prime members can view it for free here. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com.


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