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Theology

Criticizing like a Christian

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do” – Dale Carnegie ***** In his bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie begins with the story of “Two Gun” Crowley, a famous killer from the 1930s. When authorities tracked him down: …150 policemen and detectives laid siege to his top-floor hideaway. They chopped holes in the roof; they tried to smoke out Crowley, the “cop killer,” with tear gas. Then they mounted their machine guns on surrounding buildings, and for more than an hour one of New York’s fine residential areas reverberated with the crack of pistol fire and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns. Shortly before, Crowley had been parked along a country road, kissing his girlfriend, when a policeman had walked up and asked to see his license. Crowley responded by immediately shooting the officer several times, grabbing the officer’s gun, and shooting the now prone man with his own gun. He then fled to his hideaway where he was soon discovered. Though completely surrounded Crowley shot back incessantly, but also found time to write a letter, addressed “To whom it may concern.” In this letter Crowley described himself as a man with “a weary heart, but a kind one – one who would do nobody any harm.” When he was finally caught, convicted and sentenced to the electric chair he continued to think highly of himself. Instead of admitting this was the consequence of his sins he said: “This is what I get for defending myself.” The moral of this little story? Even when our guilt is clear, we will find ways to justify our actions and convince ourselves that someone else must be to blame. Or as Carnegie puts it “ninety-nine times out of a hundred, people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong may be.” A solution? Carnegie has it exactly right. It is human nature to try to elude criticism, and when we can’t manage that, we will at least try to spread the blame around. After all, we know we’re good, so if we did something bad it must be someone else’s fault. “…but you made me lose me temper!” “They had it coming.” “You wouldn’t believe what she said first…” We are all prone to presenting “the devil made me do it” excuses and justifications as if they were valid reasons for our behavior. Carnegie concludes that because we all hate criticism, and pay so little attention to it, “Criticism is futile.” He suggests that, as a general rule, we “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain” and instead focus on the positive and the praiseworthy. God’s thoughts on criticizing Most of us could benefit from taking a large dose of Carnegie’s advice. But does it work as an absolute rule? Should we never criticize? While Jesus spoke against quick, thoughtless, and hypocritical criticism (Matt. 7:1-5), He also called on listeners to “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15), which is a decidedly critical message. It demands that people stop and turn from the evil they are doing! In fact, God says a dividing line between the righteous and the fool is in how they take criticism. Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. - Prov. 12:1 A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. – Prov. 13:1 A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. – Prov. 15:5 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. - Prov. 17:10 Clearly, if taking criticism is a mark of wisdom, then there is a need also to give it – for Christians it is not a matter of whether we should ever criticize, but instead when and how we should go about doing it. When we look to the Bible for guidance, we find at least four questions to consider. 1. Is criticism needed...or grace? To those all aware of their sins and already sorry for them, further fault-finding isn't needed (though some who say they are sorry for their sin are simply sorry they were caught). If a person is already broken, then we can make them aware of our Saviour – we can skip the criticism and get right to grace! It is only those who don't know the bad news – who as Carnegie puts "don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong may be” – that we need to first bring to Moses, the law, and the evidence of their sinfulness, before we bring them to Jesus. 2. Are we doing it in love? There are so many wrong reasons to criticize – because we are angry or frustrated, because we want to feel superior, because we want to defend ourselves and don’t want to listen to someone’s criticism of us. That’s why when we are going to criticize it is important to question our motivations. Do we want to build this person up, or tear them down? Are we doing this out of annoyance, or out of love? A good rule of thumb might be that, if we really want to criticize, we probably aren't doing it with the right motivations. But the reverse is also true. If we see a friend, our spouse, a brother or sister, or our children, heading off down the wrong path and we don't want to speak up, that's also a good time to question our motivations – are we being apathetic and cowardly, and, consequently, unloving in not going after a straying sheep? Now, in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 we read that love is patient and keeps no record of wrongs. And 1 Peter 4:8 communicates a similar thought – love overlooks a multitude of sins. If we are to lovingly criticize one another this means we will only speak up about something substantial – something that matters – and won’t keep a running tally of petty grievances. Criticizing lovingly also means doing so inclusively – a matter of coming alongside rather than lecturing from high atop our pedestal. As Paul Tripp puts it, we need to make it clear we are “people in need of change helping people in need of change.” How might this look in practice? Street preacher Ray Comfort, when confronted by a homosexual, will talk first about the sins they hold in common. He will ask whether the man has ever stolen anything, ever lied, ever hated someone in his heart. By starting with the sins they hold in common, rather than the sin they do not, Comfort makes it clear he has no delusions of grandeur. He knows he is in need of this same promise of forgiveness he’s preaching. 3. Are we criticizing with care? We should criticize with care. In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus condemns how quick we are to judge others by standards that we don’t measure up to ourselves. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. This rules out casual critiques. We too easily evaluate the faults of those all around us, and know just what they should do to fix their hair, their wardrobe, their children or marriage. But this sort of flippant evaluation isn’t done out of love. We aren’t looking to help our neighbor; we point out their flaws so we can feel superior to them. It also rules out reactive criticism. Jesus wants us to consider our own problems and sins – the “plank in our own eye.” So when these problems are pointed out to us, it is may be human nature to respond in kind with a snap assessment of our critic, but that isn’t the godly response. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Prov 12:18 4. Have we tried it privately? Whenever possible, we should offer criticism privately. In Matthew 18:15 the first step in correcting a sinning brother involves a private meeting “just between the two of you.” This is the approach Aquila and Priscilla used when they wanted to explain the “way of God more adequately” to Apollos, who “knew only the baptism of John.” They invited him back to the privacy of their home to talk and teach. None of us like to be criticized but we especially don’t like to be criticized publicly. In the spirit of doing unto others as we would like them to do unto us we should offer our criticism privately. This is just as true for our children. We clearly have to criticize and correct them – that is a parent’s God-given role. But we can try to do this in private as much as possible. Spankings can be administered in a room far from guests or other children. Talks, too, can be done behind a closed door, away from the ears of their siblings. Matthew 18 also makes it clear that not all criticism can be done privately, but when it is possible it is best. Conclusion We should criticize carefully, lovingly and privately, but we most certainly should criticize. God has put us together in a community so that we can “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16). Sometimes there can be a temptation to stay quiet, even when we have some godly wisdom to offer a brother having problems. We can even fool ourselves into thinking we are simply “minding our own business” (and that our silence has nothing at all to do with cowardice). But minding our own business isn’t exactly a Christian virtue - we are our brother’s keeper and we must be concerned with his welfare. So if we love him, and he is in need of correction, silence is simply not an option. “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death…” – James 5:19-20 A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue. **** Postscript: How should we receive criticism? As Carnegie notes, it is human nature to bristle at criticism and ignore it, but human nature is sinful, so the way we do react might not be the way we should react. God tells us that it is simply stupid to hate correction (Prov 12:1). We know we are far from perfect, and clearly in need of improvement, so we should “listen to advice and accept instruction” (Prov. 19:20). So how do we overcome our defensiveness? How can we learn to welcome criticism? We need to ask God to make us want to be wise, rather than foolish. We need to pray for a growing awareness of our own sins, and our need for correction. It is only when we understand how needy we are that we will embrace the help that is offered. That doesn't mean listening to every critic – many are fools. But it does mean we need to recognize that criticism of the godly sort is a precious, if not always pleasant, commodity....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care

by David Powlison 2021 / 76 pages Some have difficulty applying adjectives like “kind” and “compassionate” to biblical counseling. But when I think of the late David Powlison, those words spring straight to mind. Though I never met him personally, I’ve been blessed by many of his books, articles, and talks. In all of them I hear the voice of someone kind and compassionate, someone you can readily recognize as a disciple of our Lord Jesus. This little book, Powlison’s last, is no different. He loved God and he cared about people. As the title indicates, it’s written for pastors. It’s about the pastor’s calling to take care of souls. However, Powlison wrote it hoping that others would listen in as well. This is because, as he writes, “All Christians are meant to become wiser counselors.” Being a pastor, I know how easy it is to either neglect or deflect the work of counseling. But Powlison makes the case that pastors can’t forget their sheep and they shouldn’t be too quick to pass off their sheep to “professionals,” especially those who aren’t Christians. He points out how “Counselling is not essentially a technical enterprise calling for technical expertise. It is a relational and pastoral enterprise engaging in care and cure of the soul.” This is true for every type of counselor, Christian or not. But unbelieving mental health professionals are handicapped: …they serve in pastorates with no God and no church. They aim to restore straying, suffering, willful, dying human beings. But they consider Christ unnecessary to their pastoral work. As a matter of principle, they will not lead strugglers to the Savior of strays. You know better. Powlison proceeds to explain how pastors should redefine counseling. Perhaps it would be better to say how pastors can play a role in restoring counseling to the church, because I think that’s what Powlison was aiming at. The second chapter explores the uniqueness of pastoral counseling. According to Powlison, pastors: have a unique responsibility to counsel have unique opportunities to counsel do counseling in a unique manner counsel with a unique message counsel in a unique community context Indeed, pastors are able to counsel unlike anyone else. Realizing that should motivate us to take it seriously and pursue it with excellence. I can heartily recommend this little gem to my colleagues in pastoral ministry. As mentioned above, others can benefit from it too. In that regard, if I would have just one small criticism, it’s about the fact that Powlison doesn’t address elders. Elders are also called to pastoral counseling and the church only benefits when elders take that calling seriously. So whether you’re an ordained full-time pastor or an elder with a pastoral responsibility, do take a couple of hours to chew on the meat offered in this book. We can all learn not only from Powlison’s kindness and compassion, but also his experience and wisdom. Dr. Bredenhof blogs at Yinkahdinay.wordpress.com...

News

Saturday Selections – July 17, 2021

A monarch's journey (3 min) This butterfly accomplishes its fantastic journey in not simply a matter of months, but a matter of generations – they fly to a refuge that only their great-great-grandparents have seen. When Martyn Lloyd-Jones confronted a pastor who loved controversy and denunciation Sometimes bluntness and harsh words are needed – sometimes the sheep have to be warned in no uncertain terms about a dangerous idea, and the person pushing it (Ez. 33:6). But in this age of "hot takes" and online bashing, Lloyd-Jones demonstrates what God is teaching in Proverbs 15:1. Alcohol use and the Christian Chris Gordon makes the biblical case. Difference between conservative and liberal Christians "The root of our disagreement is this: sees the Bible as quite clear on the second greatest commandment but open to interpretation about the first." How God grabbed hold of this liberal lesbian professor (15-min read) Pride month is done, but in Canada, Pride Season persists. So how can we help Christians and others who are struggling with same-sex temptations? One way is to point them to testimonies like Rosaria Butterfield's here (the author of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert) which show "that the solution to all sin is Christ's atoning blood." What is a woman? (5 min) When Will Witt asks university students to define "What is a woman?" they can't do it. Why not? We know. In divorcing the word "woman" from its biological underpinnings, the world has had to tie it to personal feelings instead. But that doesn't make any sense: what does it mean to feel like a woman, if no one can even define what a woman is? Witt is wonderful here, but Christians need to go further still. It can be fun to beat up on the world's nonsense, but exposing lies isn't enough. We need to share God's Truth, that He has made us male and female (Gen. 1:27). ...

Pro-life - Abortion

Can a politician be personally, but not politically, pro-life?

Sometimes we're limited to just two options. Two thousand years ago Jesus told us, "Whoever is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30a). But even when the options are one way or the other, it seems our fallen nature to want to go another way.  This past week my daughter was told that for dessert she could either have apple sauce or not have it. She chose ice cream. There was no ice cream in the house, and she knew it. Yet she still chose the non-existent Door #3. Illogical? Definitely. But she has a built-in excuse for reasoning like a child. But what's our excuse? Canadian Christians want a third way In Canadian politics Christian politicians – and their Christian supporters – have proposed that when it comes to abortion, there is a third position possible, somewhere in the middle of pro-life and pro-choice. This came up again during Canada's 2015 federal election. A political activist phoned NDP candidate and Christian pastor K.M. Shanthikumar, and secretly recorded their conversation. The activist pretended to be pro-life, and a recording of their conversation (conducted in the Tamil language) was handed over to the Toronto Star, which published a translated excerpt: Caller: So, for abortion, you are against? Shanthikumar: Yes, I am against that. Caller: Gay marriage, abortion? Shanthikumar: All that. What is not in the Bible, what the Bible is against, I am against. After the phone call was made public  NDP spokesman Brad Lavigne noted that Shanthikumar had previously signed a declaration in which he said he accepts the party position on abortion and marriage. Shanthikumar also offered reassurances that despite the phone call, he would support the current party policies: " is my personal life. My personal life is different from party line, because when I stand by the party I have to stand by the party….All I said was whatever the party I will stand by that." What middle ground is possible? It’s hard not to sympathize with the pastor, who was clearly set up. However, his "personally pro-life" but politically pro-choice position makes no sense. Either the unborn are clumps of tissue, or they are precious human beings. So what middle ground could possibly exist between the pro-life and pro-choice positions? Maybe this NDP candidate was only pretending to support his party's pro-abortion stance. Maybe he was saying whatever he needed to say to get elected, and if he won then he'd actually stand up for the unborn. That's our best-case scenario: that he is a liar. Liar or monster The worst-case scenario? He’s a monster. The only reason to be pro-life is because you know the unborn are human beings. If he is privately pro-life, but as a politician he is going to be pro-choice, then this is a fellow who will, for political gain, support the murder of those he knows to be precious human beings – he is promising to vote in favor of what he would know to be the killing of 100,000 children a year! The world pretends we can believe one thing and do another – that’s what it is increasingly demanding of Christians. But God says our deeds reveal what we really believe (James 2:18, 2:26). Thus there is no way that someone can be privately pro-life and publicly anything else – what we know in our hearts we must profess with our mouths. As the PG-rated (for bloodless violence) video below shows, even the world gets that "personally pro-life" is a morally bankrupt position. ...

Internet, Media bias

3 simple reasons we believe misinformation

We use the internet as a therapeutic, and do so at the cost of truth ***** Last week I came across a great article in the MIT Technology Review called, “Why Generation Z Falls for Online Misinformation.” The article highlights a handful of reasons why the youngest, most savvy purveyors of internet culture become victims of misinformation themselves. The author writes: As young people participate in more political discussions online, we can expect those who have successfully cultivated this identity-based credibility to become de facto community leaders, attracting like-minded people and steering the conversation. While that has the potential to empower marginalized groups, it also exacerbates the threat of misinformation. People united by identity will find themselves vulnerable to misleading narratives that target precisely what brings them together. What makes the article such a good read is the sort of paradox it plumbs. The young people who make up Gen Z are supposed to be smarter about this kind of stuff than their Boomer parents or grandparents, right? How are these internet curators and trend-setters getting duped themselves? In many of the same ways that we all can get tricked by news or other information we see online. Here are three simple ways we can all fall prey to misinformation: 1) In our whirlwind world, we inherently trust people like us. This is highlighted in the MIT article I cite above. With faster, more pervasive communication and information transfer today than ever before in history, sifting through all of the data, news, commentary, and all the rest of the content we come into contact with on any given day can feel truly, and terrifyingly, overwhelming. It’s like we constantly exist within a hurricane of information, hot takes, and content somewhere in between. We aren’t meant to drink in all of the content we consume. As Neil Postman wrote in 1985, “How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television…causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken?” When we become overwhelmed by the content glut to which we are helplessly addicted our discernment is fractured and we begin to rely on less-than-reliable rationales for trusting people on the internet. Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death, “The credibility of the teller is the ultimate test of truth of a proposition.” He was bemoaning this sad reality, not endorsing it, and it has perhaps never been more true (like so much of what Postman wrote in Amusing). As Jennifer Neda John wrote for MIT Technology Review: As young people participate in more political discussions online, we can expect those who have successfully cultivated this identity-based credibility to become de facto community leaders, attracting like-minded people and steering the conversation. While that has the potential to empower marginalized groups, it also exacerbates the threat of misinformation. People united by identity will find themselves vulnerable to misleading narratives that target precisely what brings them together. When we have bound ourselves to constant content consumption we create a situation in which we are easily overwhelmed with information and opinions—this sense of overwhelm is scary and real and it reduces our standards of discernment and leaves us vulnerable to being led astray by people who look like us, live like us, or believe like us. 2) We consume content too quickly to fact-check sources. This idea is pretty straightforward, but it is perhaps the most common and endemic to social media. As Ms. John writes in that same MIT article: election rumor appeared among dozens of other posts in teenagers’ TikTok feeds, leaving them with little time to think critically about each claim. Any efforts to challenge the rumor were relegated to the comments. The whole idea of most social media platforms, especially quick-hit ones like TikTok or Instagram Stories, is to consume lots of short content for as long as possible. YouTube’s strategy tends to be built around keeping you on the platform to watch longer-form, minutes-long content. TikTok and other platforms deliver you content that is largely less than a minute long as quick bites to be consumed in large quantities. Let’s explore a hypothetical scenario. My wife and I have just finished dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and are scrolling our phones while watching Netflix like any other self-respecting 30-year-old couple. I come across a TikTok that, in 45 seconds, explains why the moon landing may have been faked. I am intrigued so I tap over to the user’s profile and watch other videos he or she have created around other conspiracy theories—one on how LBJ actually had JFK killed, one on aliens, one on people disappearing near caves around the U.S. I’ve just trained the TikTok algorithm that conspiratorial content is of interest to me, and now I’m likely to get more. I flip back over to my For You Page. I see a funny video of a dog chasing a pet hamster around a living room obstacle course. I favorite a mac-and-cheese casserole recipe to try making next week. Then I see a video suggesting the American education system is designed to undermine rural children’s education to encourage them to stay on the farm and not go to college. Interesting. I swipe up again to see a highlight from last night’s Cubs game. I swipe again and hear a creepy voice explaining the secret family of Adolf Hitler, asking rhetorical questions designed to make one wonder about if Hitler’s family still has some sort of power today. Only three minutes have passed since I began scrolling. The seemingly random smattering of content that I consume in fewer than 200 seconds has left me no real margin to investigate the weird ideas that wiggled their way into my feed unless I decide to do a deep dive into Wikipedia or Google and investigate those claims. “Nah,” I think, “I’m scrolling to be entertained, not educated,” and I’ll always kinda wonder if Hitler’s family is secretly running some multinational dark government. Not really, but this is a general idea of this concept: many of the most popular social media apps in the world are designed for mass consumption of micro content in a short period of time, and this inhibits our ability to discern what is true or real. 3) Our relationship with the internet is meant to be therapeutic at the cost of being realistic. Though it often fails us in this regard, many of us come to the internet, and social media specifically, to feel good. We come to the internet to laugh at humorous content, cry at touching content, or otherwise be entertained and made to feel good. It should be noted that the most popular internet platforms in the world—Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Google, Tiktok, etc.—know that our primary motivation to engage with the internet is to be made to feel good, even if maybe we don’t recognize it or wouldn’t admit it. Because these platforms know that we log on to the internet to feel good or otherwise have our needs fulfilled, they have designed their experiences to reinforce these feelings and make us feel good. When they make us feel good, we spend more time on their platforms. Because our primary value when using the internet is to feel good, any value that clashes with this value will lose, and the clash will affect how we use the internet moving forward. If we use the internet to feel good, but our daily interactions with people on Facebook make us feel bad, then we will likely stop using Facebook. If we use the internet to feel good, but we can never find a show we want to watch on Hulu, we may unsubscribe from Hulu. It follows, then, that if we use the internet to feel good, and the news we consume about the world makes us feel bad, we will either: a) stop consuming news altogether, or b) consume “news” or other facts that make us feel good whether or not they are real. We use the internet as a therapeutic at the cost of truth. Because of our therapeutic abuse of the internet, that which makes us feel good will always take precedence over that which is true. Christians are as guilty of finding their joy and their comfort in the internet as anyone else. To think we as a community of faith are somehow “above” this particular kind of brokenness is foolish. False until proven true Foundational to preventing ourselves from being tricked into believing and sharing that which is not true is not letting our engagement with the internet have the central role in our lives that it so often does. We should consume (and create) less internet content. We should not see the internet as a means of feeling better about our lives. Let me share what has helped me as I have spent the last six months auditing my relationship with the internet. As I have worked to live a more offline life, the most effective tool for me has been setting time limits for my favorite apps and limiting the times of day I can engage with these apps. When I restrict the duration and times of day I engage with content on the internet, I spend a lot less time looking at my screens and a lot more time looking at the world around me. This has helped me realize that the digital world is secondary to the physical world. Likewise, and this may sound a bit negative, but I just have sort of come to assume anything I read on the internet needs to be confirmed by multiple, diverse outlets before I consider it “true.” I think if we just go into our relationship with the internet with the understanding that much of what we see or hear or read is actually “false until proven true” then we may go a long way toward not being duped into believing untruths. This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s “terms of service” Jul. 12, 2021 blog/newsletter and is reprinted with permission.  “Terms of service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective and comes in both a free and paid subscription, either of which you can sign up for at www.termsofservice.social....

Pro-life - Abortion, Science - General

The wonder of the womb

If you haven’t seen any of the YouTube videos of Dr. Kristin Collier talking about the unborn, you've missed out. This Christian physician and University of Michigan Medical School faculty member has been speaking at universities around the USA, sharing scientific evidence about the interconnection between mothers and babies in the womb. Let me share a few of the highlights. The placenta: a cooperative project Many of Dr. Collier’s presentations have focused on the amazing miracle of the placenta. Often referred to as the “afterbirth,” it is actually the vital organ inside of which a baby grows. Dr. Collier states, “In a mother’s womb following conception, God is building between mother and child an anatomic masterpiece, a relational organ. The placenta is therefore considered a fetomaternal organ because it is made by both the baby and mother (and Providence). The placenta is the only purposely transient organ in humans and is the only single organ that is created by two people in cooperation. Through the placenta, mother and prenatal child interface. In one organ we see the function of what is usually performed by multiple organs and systems. The placenta provides the function normally assumed by one’s lungs and kidneys and additionally has metabolic, thermo-regulatory, endocrine and immune function.” In other words, when the baby is merely 6-7 weeks old inside the mother, he or she is contributing by assisting the mother in building the placenta. This is an important proof that even at that very early gestational age, this is not just a blob of tissue, but a co-worker in the process of life. Microchimerism: an interconnection Dr. Collier has also shared how analysis of DNA, taken during prenatal screening tests, shows that there is another sort of profound interconnectedness between the prenatal child and the mother. “We know that genetic material from the prenatal child crosses through the placenta and can be found in the mother’s circulation. The interaction at the level of genetic material between mother and prenatal child is illustrated in what is called ‘microchimerism.’” Microchimerism is the presence of a small population of genetically distinct and separately derived cells within an individual. Dr. Collier goes on to say: “The growing baby sends some of her cells across the placenta into her mother in a way that we are only beginning to understand. These cells migrate to various sites of maternal tissue and integrate into them. They then assume the function of the surrounding tissue and begin to function as such. Microchimeric cells have been found in various maternal tissues and organs, such as the breast, bone marrow, skin, liver and brain. “Early and late effects of these cells have been hypothesized. Some of these cells appear to target sites of injury and may help mother heal after delivery by integrating into a Cesarean section wound and helping to produce collagen. Fetal cells may be involved in the process of lactation by signaling the mother’s body to make milk. Others have been thought to help protect a mother against breast cancer later in life. This process likely involves negotiation and cooperation between mom and baby at the cellular level. Researchers are in the early stages of attempting to understand the full function of these cells, which may have important implications for the immune status of women.” To summarize, cells of their children remain within women throughout their lives, helping the mother, and also perhaps explaining the connection that mothers feel with their children - and their lost children. “Human beings carry remnants of other humans in their bodies. These cells become integrated into maternal tissue and are active and working in ways that we are just beginning to understand. Think about mothers who have lost both prenatal and postnatal children, and how they have longed for their children still to be with them in some way. Now we see that in fact, they are.” Babies: a superb design by our Creator God Psalm 139 rejoices in how God forms children within the womb. Learning how these babies participate in building their own placenta reinforces the truth that these are little people growing in there. And discovering the wonderful ways in which mothers and babies are, and stay connected gives us cause to rejoice in the superb designs of our Creator God. And this is why Dr. Kristin Collier is determined to share this knowledge throughout the world. You can learn more in the doctor's wonderful 45-minute presentation below. ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

David Wiesner: weird and wonderful

Super creative? Ultra creative? Mega creative? Every good picture book author is imaginative, but somehow David Wiesner (1956- ) manages to be all the more so. His living clouds, flying frogs, and artistic lizards always provide a surprise – a reader starting one of Wiesner's stories will never be able to predict how it is going to end. That's a joy for parents to experience right along with their kids: a children's story that isn't predictable! And since several of Wiesner's works are wordless, they can also be great books for reluctant readers to tackle alongside mom or dad. Wordless doesn't mean it's an easy "read" but together parent and child can put their detective skills to work to figure out all that's going on! What follows are my family's recommendations – our favorites – and then a few that we've read but which for this reason or that, I'm not going to recommend like the rest. Finally, there are three that really aren't worth bothering with. RECOMMENDED Free Fall 1988 / 32 pages A little boy falls asleep and we get to come along in his dream. As dreams often are, this is wordless throughout, one page streaming into the next as the boy goes from meeting a dragon to growing giant-sized, to flying home on a leaf. It makes sense only in the ways that dreams do. But the smart-eyed reader will be able to spot on the last page, when the boy wakes up, all the objects in the room that inspired the different parts of his dream. This is one to “read” slowly and enjoy every picture. Hurricane 1990 / 32 pages Two brothers are worried about a coming hurricane. But when the lights go out, and the family is still together, the boys realize it's not so bad after all. It even gets quite good the next day, when they discover a huge fallen tree in their neighbor’s yard. In the days that follow the huge trunk becomes their spaceship, and the branches a jungle, and the both of them together a pirate-hunting sailboat. Tuesday 1991 / 32 pages The only words we see tell us the time, and that it is a Tuesday. For reasons that are left entirely mysterious, at around 8 pm, a swarm of frogs suddenly starts flying (or is it their lily-pads that are doing the levitating?). They flock into town, chase some birds for fun, watch a little telly, and then, just as they are heading back, dawn breaks, and the sun's rays seem to sap their flying powers. That leaves the whole lot of them hopping back to their pond. This is silly nonsense and kids are sure to love it. Sector 7 1999 / 48 pages A boy on a field trip to the Empire State Building meets a rambunctious cloud (he discovers that clouds are people!) who takes him back to “Sector 7” high up in the sky where the clouds get their orders about what shape of cloud they should be. But the clouds seem a bit bored with these shapes and appear to ask the boy to draw them up some alternatives. And what fun to see clouds mimicking the sea creatures he draws! Eventually, the rambunctious cloud returns the boy to the Empire State Building, but his visit to Sector 7 might have some lasting impact, as the clouds quite like being fish-shaped. This is another of Wiesner’s wordless books and another one that parent and child will have pouring over to see all that the pictures have to say. The Three Pigs 2001 / 40 pages When our middle daughter discovered this one she just had to share it with her younger sister right there and then. This is a creative spin on the old tale as the Big Bad Wolf blows the pigs right out of the story and into some others (including Wiesner's own The Loathsome Dragon). As they travel from storybook to storybook the pigs decide there is no place like home, but also decide to bring along a guest from another story – a dragon! – to give this pesky wolf quite the surprise. Art & Max 2010 / 40 pages This might be my favorite picture book. It involves just two characters, which makes this one easy to read out loud to the kids, and there’s so much energy on each page that performing it becomes so easy to do. Art knows how to paint, and Max desperately wants to learn. (Both are lizards, but aside from the fun way they look, that doesn't really matter.) But who should Max paint? When Aurthur suggests himself, Max literally starts to throw paint on Art. And that’s when it gets wacky! As Max tries to clean the paint off Art, he starts to clean all the color off him. Art is see-through; he’s just lines! Then, when that line starts to unravel, Art becomes just a scribble. Fortunately, his friend Max is on it, and proves, as he turns that scribble into a work of Art, that he has some mad skills too. I Got It! 2018 / 32 pages Once again David Wiesner lets the pictures do (almost) all the talking, When a long flyball is hit into the outfield, a boy declares, “I’ve got it!” which are the only words in the story. But does he really have it? One dropped ball is followed by another, and it’s almost like there are obstacles (getting bigger and bigger) just reaching out to trip him up. His repeated drops have his teammates moving in closer to catch it for him, since he can’t. But then, in one last stretching leap, our boy in red jumps past the obstacles and beats his teammates to the ball for a wonderful game-winning catch. This is a very fun story, but I could see some kids needing a little help to understand what’s going on. But hey, reading together is fantastic! TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT The Loathsome Dragon 1987 / 32 pages An evil queen/stepmother casts a spell which turns a princess into a loathsome dragon. Along comes a brave prince who has to kiss the dragon three times to break the spell. The only twist in this tale is that the brave prince is her brother, and not a husband-to-be, but that’s not enough to make this seem fresh. I should add that while I was unimpressed, my girls liked this a lot more than I did. June 29, 1999 1992 / 32 pages A young girl, Holly, sends vegetable seedlings into the ionosphere for her science project just to see what might happen. Soon after giant vegetables – house-sized and bigger! – start floating down from the sky. But wait! Some of these vegetables are not the sorts that she sent up. So where did those come from? At book’s end we discover the giant vegetables came from a giant alien chef accidentally losing his ingredients while flying above Earth. Very fun to see the giant vegetables all over the landscape but I think it would have been better without the aliens tacked on at the end. Flotsam 2006 / 40 pages When a boy discovers an old-style underwater camera washed up on the beach, he brings the film in to be developed. There he discovers pictures, seemingly taken by underwater creatures themselves, and the world that they live in when we aren’t looking is certainly something to behold: little mermaids and mermen, robotic fish, giant turtles carrying shell cities on their backs, and even what looks like aliens taking rides on the guppies. Done without any text at all, each picture is another discovery. The very last snapshot is of a girl holding up a picture. And in that picture is a boy holding a picture of a girl holding a picture of a boy. A look through a magnifying picture shows this goes deeper still, and further back in time. The boy’s microscope reveals more still layers to the photo. This is inventive and fun, with the only cautions being that the young target audience may have to be informed that though the photos look quite realistic, the aliens and mermen are fantasy, not fact. DON'T BOTHER Mr. Wuffles Tiny tiny aliens have landed, but unfortunately for them, their ship attracts the attention of Mr. Wuffles, who thinks it’s one of his cat toys. To repair their ship the little aliens recruit help from ants and bugs – their treasure trove of lost marbles, pencils, loose change, and paperclips turn out to be just what the aliens need to fix things up. There's some vague religious-type imagery written by the bugs on the house walls that, along with the aliens, makes this one I'd rather just skip. Fish Girl Wiesner’s only graphic novel is the story of a mermaid girl kept captive in an aquarium by the owner who she believes is the god Neptune. It’s odd all the way around, and that she is swimming around topless for most of its 192 pages (though always with strategically placed hair, or fishes) makes this another good one to skip.  Robobaby Robots get their babies in a box, with some assembly required. This story has its quirky charm, but when Mom and Dad, Uncle Manny, and even the Robobaby tech service can’t assemble Junior properly, but the child amongst them knows just what to do, this become just one more adults-are-dumb-and-kids-know-everything story that we can really do without (Prov. 20:29, 22:15). CAUTIONS David Wiesner is an incredibly imaginative picture book author, which makes him very fun to read, but it's that same active imagination that seems to lead him into a bit of over-the-top weirdness now and again. I couldn't figure out what Wiesner's worldview/philosophy is, and it'd be a bit much to conclude he must not be Christian just because he features aliens on occasion, though aliens (at least the intelligent sort) would seem to be incompatible with Christianity (but demons masquerading as aliens would not be). However, there's nothing in his books that would give us reason to conclude he must be Christian. In lieu of evidence one way or the other, that's good reason for parents to approach his future output with some caution. CONCLUSION If you have a creative kid, Wiesner's best could be just the spark they need to think bigger and bolder. And if you have a not-particularly-creative kid, Wiesner might be an inspiration for them too, showing them how there are all sorts of possibilities to explore and fresh ways of looking at things. Finally, if you have a reluctant reader, Wiesner's wordless books – Freefall, Tuesday, Sector 7, and I Got it! – might be an encouragement for them to page through, especially if mom or dad comes alongside....

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men

by Mark Horne 148 pages / 2020 If you are not governed by God's Word, which calls you, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to govern yourself, then you will not be more free. Instead, you will be governed by your own urges, and will also lose the ability to govern God's creation, as we were originally called to do (Gen. 1:28). In Solomon Says, Mark Horne shows how Proverbs reveals to young men just how to work out that creation mandate. Here are some of the headings of the chapters and sections Horne writes to show the superiority of wisdom demonstrated in Proverbs over many of the methods our society thinks will get us ahead: Handguns Can't Shoot Down Poverty Immorality Impoverishes You Solomon On Cyberporn Control Chaos, Don't Inflame It – about the power of the tongue Leaving Toxic Talk Culture – a great warning about our social media feeds Wisdom Is Better Than Folly Even When It's Risky Let Go and Let God? – on the need to train in godliness Total Ownership – about the need for making a genuine plan for change Horne's book shows just how practical and up-to-date the wisdom of Proverbs is. There is little explicit mention of Christ, but for young men seeking to live out their commitment to Christ, there is great guidance on "building a better man."...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The Last Disciple

by Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff 2004 / 428 pages It’s the year 65 AD, and Gallus Sergius Vitas is one of the last principled men in Rome. He’s also a confidant of Emperor Nero which means his daily life is conducted on a knife’s edge: indulging the emperor’s perverse demands might keep Vitas safe but would compromise the man that he is; yet to openly oppose the emperor would lead to his immediate introduction to the Coliseum’s lions. Our story beings with Vitas attempting this balancing act once again. Nero has dressed as a beast, his outfit comprised of lion and bear skins, complete with collar and a chain held by a servant. His night’s entertainment is to terrorize a group of prisoners while playing the part of a beast. Enjoying their fear, the emperor quickly works himself into a killing frenzy. Vitas sees this all from the shadows and can’t let it happen, knowing, though, that to oppose the emperor is to die. So Vistas yells at the chain-holding servant instead: “If the emperor knows you are involved in illegal torture, he will have you destroyed!” It is, as Brouwer writes: “an all-or-nothing bluff, pretending that he did not know Nero was inside the costume. Trusting that Nero would be too ashamed to admit it. Now. Or later.” Vitas’ bluff works, but not just because of his daring. An earthquake sends Nero scurrying away, convinced that the shaking ground is a sign of divine judgment. It’s a great opening, highlighting the depth’s of the emperor’s perversity, the heights of Vitas’ courage, and the certain presence of God even in these pagans’ lives. In less talented hands, the earthquake’s unlikely timing could have come off as cheesy, since in real life God more often uses “ordinary means” (like doctors’ talents or wise friends’ advice) than miracles to accomplish His ends. But miracles do occur, and Brouwer makes it believable. It’s a good thing too, as this is but the first miracle in a story that’s all about how God used miraculous means – the prophetic words in the book of Revelation – to warn his Church to flee the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. What Brouwer and his writing partner, theologian Hank Hanegraaff, have done here is write an alternative to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ popular Left Behind series. Where Left Behind places the beast of Revelation 13 in our near future, Brouwer and Hanegraaff place him in the first century, in the near future of those who first received John’s letter. And they identify the beast as Nero and the bloody empire he led. This “partial preterist” (partial past) interpretation of Revelation holds that the book was written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the city’s fall is a partial fulfillment of much of the prophecy in Revelation. This, then, is fiction meant to teach as well and entertain, and it does both brilliantly. Brouwer has crafted a story that takes us all around the Mediterranean, with Jews, Romans, and even troubled Christians wrestling with the question of “Who is Jesus?” There’s also political plotting, assassination attempts, sieges, gladiators, and just a touch of romance. The slowest bits are when theologian Hanegraaff has characters take a page or two to teach Vitas and others what a particular passage in Revelation means. If you’re reading it only for the story, these sections might drag, but they are well spaced out. And if you’re interested in learning about the partial preterist interpretation of Revelation, these will be your favorite passages. Cautions One caution: Nero’s depravity, though described with restraint, still means this is not a book for younger teens. If The Last Disciple series has you eager to read more of Sigmund Brouwer’s work, be aware that he is a proponent of theistic evolution, and also an Arminian. That doesn’t come up in this series (or his best book, Innocent Heroes, a treat for kids, teens, and parents alike) but it does come up in some others. Finally, readers should be aware that partial preterism probably isn’t the majority view in Canadian Reformed churches (though I’m not sure what the majority view might be, as Revelation seems to be only rarely discussed). Some do hold it though, and it's also held by Reformed pastors outside our circles such as RC Sproul, Douglas Wilson, and Jay Adams. Conclusion The Last Disciple is a great book, kicking off a great series. The cast of characters is large, so if you’re like me, make sure you get the whole trilogy – The Last Disciple, The Last Sacrifice and The Last Temple – right away, because if you wait too long between books, you may start forgetting who is who. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction – Sigmund Brouwer has got skills. And if you’d love to have partial preterism explained, well, this is the most entertaining way you could ever learn about it!...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Why Pro-life? Caring for the unborn and their mothers

by Randy Alcorn 172 pages / 2012 Randy Alcorn has written a much longer pro-life book called Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments, but while I would recommend it highly as a pro-life reference work, at 455 pages, it's a bit much to take in in a short period. Why Pro-Life?, on the other hand, is an excellent concise call to love both mother and child in a crisis pregnancy. Randy Alcorn's book was originally published in 2004 (available as a free PDF here), but it was updated in 2012. Both editions include sections on the following: The Basics The Child The Woman Other Important Issues Spiritual Perspectives and Opportunities. The 2012 edition updates every chapter and adds chapters and appendices on: Do Birth Control Pills Cause Abortion? (which RP has also covered here) Abortion in the Bible and Church History Biblical Passages Relevant to Life Issues Talking Points for Communicating the Pro-Life Message. Both Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments and Why Pro-Life? are typically insightful looks at an important issue from Randy Alcorn, but the latter will be invaluable for both those skeptical of the pro-life position and those who are new to the pro-life movement. If you want a clearer understanding of how to be pro-life for both mother and child, or want to expose someone else to the pro-life perspective, you can get the 2004 version of Why Pro-Life? for free here or buy the 2012 edition on Amazon....

News

Saturday Selections - July 10, 2021

Is Joe Biden Catholic? Joe Biden thinks he can be for the murder of 800,000 unborn children a year and still be a good Roman Catholic. While we'd love him to turn to Christ and away from Rome, we can thank God for how He is using the Roman Catholic Church's pro-life position to highlight how monstrous Biden's abortion stance is. Reclaiming the peppered moth from evolution (10-minute read) This icon of evolution isn't an example of evolution at all. Should Christians identify with their homosexual or alcoholic temptations? The Presbyterian Church of America is debating to what extent Christians should identify with their same-sex attraction. While the act is recognizes as sinful, some are touting the inclination as being defining. The space between courting and hooking up Tim Challies explains how both hooking up and courting can put a lot of weight on a first date. The real Lord of the Flies (15-minute read) For English teachers out there, here's a real-life Lord of the Flies account, but when these 6 boys were stranded on an island for more than a year, they didn't descend into the savagery described in William Golding's classic. Was Golding simply wrong about human nature? That might be the impression the article leaves. But as John Stonestreet notes, it downplays the religious convictions of the boys. Their Judeo-Christian (in this case Catholic) upbringing gave them insights into our fallen nature, and the need to turn to God. What about medical marijuana? (3 min) Douglas Wilson, author of Devoured by Cannabis, addressing medical marijuana usage. Lest there be any confusion, he is not talking about using CBD oil, as his case against marijuana usage (made in his book, and other videos) is that it is an intoxicant, which CBD oil is not. ...

Theology

Envy dressed up as equality

A few weeks ago two of my daughters were fighting over a stuffed animal, both insisting it was theirs. I wanted to stop the fight but this struck me as a teachable moment...and I knew I had just the right story to share. “Do you remember when two women came to King Solomon and both said a baby was theirs? King Solomon was going to use a sword to cut the baby in half so that each woman could have half.” Then came the mike drop moment: “Would that be a good idea to do with your stuffie?” The story didn’t impact my girls like I’d hoped: both agreed that splitting the stuffie lengthwise was the way to go. Hmmm… I was left wondering what Solomon would have done if both women had said, “Sure, go ahead.” The best I could come up with was to have the toy bear come stay with the “king” for a while – instead of half a stuffie for both, it was no stuffie for either of them. Kids have a hard time seeing it A few days later I came across another illustration, and because of the less than satisfactory conclusion to my earlier conversation with the girls, I wanted to share this with them too. In the June 6 “Nearer to God Devotional” Pastor Mark Stewart shared an old Jewish folktale, in which an angel visits a businessman known for being envious. The angel wants to encourage the shopkeeper to give up his envy so he tells the man that he can have one wish but with one condition: whatever he wishes for, his neighbor will get twice as much of it. The spiteful man considers the offer for a few moments, and then makes his request: “Please make me blind in one eye.” Both my girls were shocked, and then somewhat amused. What a clever, but ever so wicked, man! He would be blind in one eye, but his neighbor would be blind in both. This story reminded me of another, so I shared an old Cold War joke – something Ronald Reagan might have said. One day a genie visited a Russian peasant and told him he could have one wish. The peasant was quite excited and told the genie about how his neighbor had gotten a goat. He shared how the goat provided the neighbor’s whole family with milk, and goat’s hair for clothing, and was also a wonderful pet for that family’s children. “So you want a goat too?” asked the genie. “No,” said the peasant, “I want you to kill my neighbor’s goat.” In the Bible, the words covetousness and envy seem to be used interchangeably. But if a distinction were to be made, we might describe envy as taking covetousness one step further. The merely covetous man wants what his neighbor has – he wants to be rich too. But the envious man isn’t as concerned with his own state as that of his neighbor’s. He won’t be satisfied until his rich neighbor is poor. Adult miss it too I shared these stories with my daughters because there were obvious connections to be made. There are going to be times when one child gets something – whether it’s piano lessons, a new toy, an opportunity to visit a friend’s house, etc. – that the other siblings don’t get. And many a time those other children will have a hard time being happy for their sibling’s opportunity. They’d be happier if only their sister’s “goat” was killed. Among adults, this destructive envy is harder to spot but that’s only because we’re better at hiding our sins – we’ll even present them as virtues. One example: As I finished sharing the second story my wife noted, “This sounds like the Canadian healthcare system.” In the great white North we aren’t always pleased with our healthcare; wait times can be not simply burdensome, but even deadly. However, one thing Canadians take pride in is how it is the same healthcare for everyone. Politicians and voters stand united against queue-jumping and against a two-tiered healthcare system. Consider though, what we are doing when we try to prevent someone who uses their own money from buying better care than is available to the rest of us. Aren’t we wishing his “goat” was dead? Trying to improve healthcare is a noble desire. But trying to prevent others from seeking better healthcare for themselves is envy disguised as principle. This same “envy as virtue” is behind complaints about income inequality. We live in a time and a place where we are richer than we have ever been – every house has conveniences that even a hundred years ago were luxuries for only the richest of the rich...if they existed at all (running hot and cold water, central heating, phones, computers, TVs, dishwashers, washing machines, vacuums, etc.). So how can the Devil get us to overlook the many ways we have been materially blessed? By getting us looking over the back fence at the new toys in our neighbor's yard. The 10th commandment (Ex. 20:17) forbids just that, but to obscure that clear commandment the Devil presents this sin as something noble. “This isn’t coveting; this is about equality,” he tells us. “This isn’t coveting; it is about compassion for the poor!” Poverty is a problem. When some don’t have enough to eat, or a place to sleep, that is a real concern, and an evil to be fought. But income inequality is simply envy – anger at how much more someone else has than us. Conclusion Covetousness and envy are sins of ingratitude, of not recognizing how much we’ve been given. Would income inequality be an issue if “poor” protesting college students understood they are richer than 85% of the world? Would my daughters fight over one stuffed animal if I had them first go count their dozens of other stuffies? More to the point, would we envy even Bill Gates if we understood what we’ve been given in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? As Pastor Stewart writes: “Secure in the love of Jesus Christ and our identity as the Father’s children, I have no need to envy my brother or sister. I am a recipient of favor and kindness and grace that I could never earn or pay for. There is no higher or better privilege to reach for…. Content in what the Father has chosen to give to me, I am now freed up to want the best for you....

Family, Movie Reviews

The Fighting Prince of Donegal

Drama / Family 1966 / 110 minutes Rating: 7/10 Halfway through The Fighting Prince, I figured out why I was enjoying this so much, and why it was also so familiar: this is Robin Hood, but with Irish accents! Irish prince Hugh O'Donnell takes the Robin role as leader of a rebellious and yet righteous band, alpha males every one of them, but willing to unite under this one man. Like Robin, Hugh's dispute isn't so much with the English crown, as with those who have usurped the crown's power. As the newly installed Prince of Donegal, Hugh offers a treaty to the English Queen, but the local English representative, Captain Leeds – in a Prince John/Sheriff of Nottingham role – won't even pass it along. Instead, he imprisons Hugh. And when Hugh escapes (he's a clever one... just like a certain famous bowman) Leeds occupies the O'Donnell castle and holds Hugh's mother hostage. Holding a man's mom hostage? How low can you go? Of course, that only sets the scene for the hero to make his triumphant return. Cautions If historical accuracy matters to you, then this is not a film for you. As near as I can figure the only resemblance this has to actual events is that they got some key names right. But this is as accurate an account of Irish history as Robin Hood is of England history. This is very tame, despite the many sword fights, with more people punched out than stabbed. Still, stabbings do occur at least a couple of times, and we also see a dozen or so soldiers get hit by arrows, though all of this is entirely bloodless. However, for small children, it might be too much. Conclusion I had never heard of this film before watching it and didn't know what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. I'd have probably given it an 8, except that it starts a little slow. But so long as you give it 10 minutes this is a film that everyone in the family, ten and up, will really enjoy. You can check out a scene from The Fighting Prince below. ...

History, News

Residential schools and the devastation of State-perpetrated family breakup

For the past several months, Canada has been convulsed by the heartbreaking rediscovery of hundreds—and likely thousands—of child graves outside residential schools where Indigenous children were placed (incarcerated is probably a better word) by the Canadian government to “kill the Indian in the child.” The history of residential schools is one of the blackest in Canadian history, and anyone who has read even portions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report (I did research on forced abortions in residential schools several years ago) must conclude that this was a systematic crime committed against entire peoples. As Terry Glavin wrote in the National Post: "Imprisoned in chronically underfunded institutions that were incubation chambers for epidemic diseases, the children died in droves. Enfeebled by homesickness, brutal and sadistic punishments and wholly inadequate nutrition, they died from tuberculosis, pneumonia, the Spanish influenza and measles, among any number of proximate causes. At the Old Sun boarding school in Alberta, there were years when children were dying at 10 times the rate of children in the settler population… "The TRC report chronicles barbaric punishments, duly recorded by federal bureaucrats and officials with the churches that ran the schools. Students shackled to one another, placed in handcuffs and leg irons, beaten with sticks and chains, sent to solitary confinement cells for days on end — and schools that knowingly hired convicted “child molesters.” Only a few dozen individuals have ever been prosecuted and convicted for the abuse those children endured." In much of the debate over the nuances of these re-emerging stories, I think an opportunity for appropriate empathy is sometimes lost. Yes, it is true that not all of the children were abused. Yes, it is true that healthcare standards during that time meant that diseases were far more deadly. Yes, some students remain ambivalent about their experiences to this day. But none of this changes the central fact of the matter: Children were forcibly removed by the state from their families for the express purpose of destroying their family bonds and eradicating their language and culture. If they'd come for our kids... I hail from the Dutch diaspora in Canada, and like many immigrant groups in our multicultural patchwork, our communities have remained largely culturally homogenous. Imagine if the Canadian government had decided, at some point, that Dutch-Canadian (or Sikh or Ukrainian or Jewish) culture needed to be destroyed for the good of the children in those communities, who needed to be better assimilated. Then, imagine if the government forcibly removed children as young as three years old from the parental home – state-sanctioned kidnapping. At school, they were deprived of their grandparents, parents, siblings, language, and culture—and told that their homes were bad for them. At the end of the experience, if the children survived disease, abuse, bullying, and loneliness, he or she would have been remade in the image of the state – and community bonds would have been severed and many relationships irrevocably destroyed. The children who died of disease were often buried on school grounds. That means many children were taken by the government – and their families simply never saw them again. Imagine, for just a moment, if that was your family. If you were removed from your family. If your children were removed from you. How might you feel about Canada if her government had, for generations, attempted to destroy everything precious to you? It is a question worth reflecting on. Over the past decade, as religious liberty has been steadily eroded by Western governments, many Christians have wondered, fearfully, whether the authorities will eventually interfere with how they raise their children. Christian parents have been presented as a threat to their own children because of their “hateful” Christian values. When considering the residential schools, Christians should realize that what happened to Indigenous people in Canada is their own worst nightmare. This happened to real children and real families within living memory. Those families have not yet recovered. That devastation cannot be undone – it can only be survived. The intergenerational damage from these state-inflicted wounds ripples forward in time – and social conservatives, of all people, should be able to understand the fallout from family breakup. Except in this case, the families were forcibly broken up, against their will. As a father and member of large families, I cannot fathom the helplessness, despair, and rage that those who saw their family members stolen from them must have felt. Imagine losing your three-year-old son or daughter to the government, with no recourse for getting your child back. Imagine never seeing that child again. Hatred is absolutely never the answer. But I can certainly understand it. Why minimize this crime? If it had been my child stolen from me, who then died from disease years later and was never returned, I can imagine how I would feel if the response from people was: “Well, lots of people died from disease.” Or: “Many of the educators tried their best.” Or: “It wasn’t feasible to send the bodies of the stolen children home.” I can imagine how I would feel if I heard that in response to raw pain and grief at state-perpetrated injustice. I would feel as if people weren’t listening; didn’t care; and were simply, once again, making excuses. There are times when injustice must be faced in the raw, and the intricacies of healthcare in the early part of the last century can be discussed some other time. Over the past several weeks, residential school survivors have come forward anew to detail their experiences. Many of them struggled with substance abuse as a result of what they endured; many of the issues with alcohol and drugs on some Indigenous reserves today stem from the state-perpetrated breakup of their families. It is easy for those looking at reserves from the outside in to criticize without realizing the context for the state of many families, which would likely still be whole if the Canadian government had not intentionally destroyed them. This is not to say that people bear no responsibilities for their actions. It is to say that we should consider how we would think if the government had perpetrated this on our own communities. Christians know how important families are For several generations, social conservative and Christian scholars have been warning that family breakup is at the root of many of our social ills. Largescale family breakup results in crime, risky behavior, substance abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and other traumas and anti-social behavior. Fatherlessness is one of the greatest disadvantages a boy can face. In the case of our society at large, family breakup was largely facilitated by the Sexual Revolution (and in many communities, wealth has cushioned the blow and masked the damage). In Indigenous communities, family breakup was inflicted by the state, and the consequences they have suffered as a result have been devastating. Social conservatives should be able to intuitively understand this. I’ve said many times that I believe the real “privilege” in our society is not primarily racial, as progressives claim – but the blessing of growing up in a two-parent home where a mother and father love their children. This is a tremendous social advantage, and it was denied to generations of Indigenous children by the government, who felt they would be better off without the love and influence of their parents and grandparents. In her recent book Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics, Mary Eberstadt explored how family breakup inhibits the passing down of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. Again, this is a key part of the puzzle that social conservatives should instinctively recognize. During university, I toured an abandoned residential school in British Columbia with several other students. Our guide was a survivor who told us about the children who had died there and the abuse they had suffered. I remember the cold, damp chill of a dark tunnel in the basement as he told us how he and others had been locked there in the blackness for using their own language. His voice was heavy with pain, and it struck me again that these things are not history – they are still memory. There are thousand of Indigenous Canadians still living with the effects of these government policies, and their anger is well-warranted. We should listen to them and remember once again the horrors that unfold when the government wields power over families for the so-called good of the children. Jonathon Van Maren is an author and pro-life activist who blogs at TheBridgehead.ca from where this is reprinted with permission. Jonathon was the guest on a recent edition of the Real Talk podcast. Photo is "All Saints Indian Residential School, Cree students at their desks with their teacher in a classroom, Lac La Ronge, March 1945" and is cropped from the original in the Library and Archives Canada collection....

Apologetics 101

Tactics in defending your faith

In 2018, Stand to Reason's Tim Barnett teamed up with Reformed Perspective, traveling to churches across Canada to speak on "Tactics in Defending our Faith." This video and the rough transcript below, are from his March 18 presentation in the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in Northern BC.  **** Alright, let's talk about tactics. I want you to imagine that you’re a student and you're hanging out with your friends in the hallway outside of the classroom. One of your friends in the group – maybe they're not a close friend – says, “I've never understood how anyone could believe in a good God. Look at all the evil in the world look at the shooting that took place a couple weeks ago. Some good God, right?” Or imagine you're at work and it's lunch hour and you're just hanging out with your co-workers trying to be social. You strike up a conversation and one of your co-workers says, “I can't believe anyone would believe a Bible that's so full of contradictions. Who would be dumb enough to believe that stuff?” Or maybe you're with your family at Easter and your atheist brother-in-law, or maybe it's a sister, is sitting on the couch across from you. And they say something like: “Billy Graham was a good guy except for the fact that he was an intolerant homophobic bigot.” Think about how you would respond in that situation. There's a whole lot of Christians, if we're honest with ourselves, who would say absolutely nothing. You might make a face, or you make an awkward head nod, or something. But you don't say anything. Most of us just want to keep our mouths closed, because we want to be nice. And we're probably thinking: “Oh, I couldn't change their mind anyway. In the next five minutes how am I going to have an impact? Are they going to come to faith in Christ in the next couple of minutes? I can't get them there.” That's a typical “religious” response: “If I can't get them to accept Christ in the next three minutes, then what's the point?” Now I want to say something that may surprise. I don't have it as my primary goal in any one of those short conversations to actually convert that person on the spot. Now, I want you to hear me out: of course, my goal is that they would come to Christ. But in that conversation I don't put that weight on my shoulders. Because if I do – if every conversation has to lead to a Gospel presentation – it can get a little awkward. Just imagine, you're talking with your friend, your unsaved friend, about the hockey game and you say something like: “Did you see the save that goalie made? What a shot, and then he made that awesome save. Oh, and that reminds me of how Jesus saves all of us..." You see how awkward that is to move from the hockey game to the Gospel? A little bit forced, right? A little bit contrived going from the weather to salvation. Sometimes it’s a little bit awkward to get there. Gosptacles There's also issues that get in our way. One of them is the culture is religiously ignorant. That's not a put-down – I'm trying to be accurate here. In our culture, when we start talking about the Gospel, it's like we're speaking Greek to them. This is truly a post-Christian culture that we're trying to witness to. They don't understand a lot of what we're talking about when we use words like sin and repentance, and they need to be defined. In addition, there are these things that I want to call “gosptacles” – obstacles to the gospel. Now don't look it up; it's not a real word, but it's a helpful way to remind you that apologetics what is fundamental to the gospel. Why? Because when you start sharing the gospel with this culture you've better believe that gosptacles are going to come up, and you're going to have to respond to them. For example, you go to your friend and you start talking about how Jesus died for their sins and all of a sudden they're talking about the Big Bang. And you're, like, “I'm talking about Jesus here; what are you talking about?” But the Big Bang is a gosptacle for them. You go to any university campus and you try and talk about the Gospel and I guarantee you one of the top five responses will be: “I can't believe you can believe in a loving God who would send anyone to hell.” Hell is a gosptacle for our culture. Even the Bible has become a gosptacle. I don't know if you're familiar with guys like Bart Ehrman. He's responsible for more Christians walking away from their faith than any other atheists alive today – not Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion. Bart Ehrman is a New Testament textual critic who says you can't trust your Bible. He says those words that you're reading in the pew are nothing like what the original author recorded. And a whole lot of students are buying into it. So the Bible becomes a gosptacle. You want to talk about the Bible? How can you believe that book that is so full of contradictions? Or all of a sudden evolution comes up you're thinking “I'm talking about Jesus Christ.” It’s a gosptacle. Francis Schaeffer said, in our cultures, before you can do evangelism you need to do pre-evangelism. There's people who are looking for us to tear down those strongholds before they will give you an ear to. So, yes, there is religious ignorance – that’s something out there. But there’s also something in here that we need to get over, and it's personal discomfort. There's a whole lot of people, even in this room, that if you had five minutes to give someone the Gospel, a complete stranger, well that just makes you a little bit uncomfortable. There’s a whole lot of people in this room who, when they hear someone say, “Oh those Christians are intolerant” or “They’re homophobic” you just want to walk the other way. You don't want to in on that conversation. We have to get over this idea of personal discomfort. There are obstacles out there, but there also something in here – personal discomfort – that we have to get over. This issue of personal discomfort reminds me of this video that was put up by the Billy Graham crusade. It doesn't have to be hard – that's the take-home message. And it’s not hard – we’re going to work through this. Ambassadors model’s three skills So I don't consider myself in any given conversation to be the evangelist. I think there are brilliant evangelist out there – Billy Graham was one of my heroes. I'll tell you what we all are called to be, and that is Christian ambassadors. We are ambassadors for Christ. Second Corinthians 5:20 says this: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.” So what does an ambassador look like? It's a good question – you're called to be an ambassador, so what does it look like? At Stand to Reason we’ve come up with this ambassador model. We think an ambassador for Christ has three essential skills. KNOWLEDGE The first is knowledge. Do you want to be a good ambassador for Christ? You’ve got to know some stuff. I think that makes sense. You don't have to know everything. You don't have to be a Ph.D.; you don't even have to have a master's degree. You’ve just got to know a little bit. You’ve got to get some facts right. WISDOM The second, you also need some wisdom. This is your method and this is what we're talking about right now – to communicate that knowledge in a persuasive and effective way, and that might involve using illustrations and analogies, and asking good questions. There's a whole lot of ways to be winsome, and have wisdom. This is going to be our game plan. CHARACTER Here's the last thing – you can have all the knowledge in the world, and be winsome, but if you don't have character, then just keep your mouth closed. There's a whole lot of apologists out there who’ve filled their minds with all kinds of stuff, but they're jerks, and they actually do a whole lot more damage than good. So character matters. If you want to talk about love with someone, you better show love. If you want to talk about respect, show respect. I like how Martin Luther King Jr. put it – he said this talking in the context of segregation and racism, and he's trying to change people's minds. Here's what he said: “Whom you would change, you must first love” and here's the catch: they must know that you love them. Oftentimes we get in these heated arguments – we'll call them discussions– where you disagree with me, and I disagree with you, and all of a sudden your ears feel like they're on fire. Right? We've all been there! Then, let's take a step back and ask, does that person know you love them? And maybe we react “Oh, of course, they know I love them!” No, but do they really know? That's important. Key texts Now, most people have the impression that we're all Christian ambassadors, but that there's this subset of apologist – it's like you have the police, and then there’s the SWAT team and they handle like the really difficult situations.  So all you guys are ambassadors but the apologists, they're the guys who maybe get paid to do this – Tim, you can do that but I'm good, thanks. No, it's not like that! Ambassadorsareapologists; that's just the way it is – I hate to break it to you. Let me prove it to you. If we go to First Peter 3:15 – a go-to verse on this issue: “…always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” It says this:  “Always be prepared to give an answer…” An answer? What's that? Well if you look at the Greek it's the word apologia which is actually the word that we get “apologetics” from. So always be prepared to give an answer – some translations say “defense” – to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And then here's the character part – it's almost like Peter was anticipating that when people give answers they may not be nice about it and so he says “but do this with gentleness and respect.” How about this verse; I actually like this even better: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:4-5) Destroying strongholds – we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ – that's what an apologist does. Or how about this one in Jude 3: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” How about one more? “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Matt 22:36-37). Now think about this. I get how we love God with all our heart and soul– that's just like during a worship song, or during moments of meditation, or prayer. But what about loving God with our mind? What does that look like? Well I think it looks like a couple of different things. I don't think we check our minds out when we're worshiping, but I think it also looks like study, understanding God's word, understanding arguments from the culture and how to respond to them. That's all loving God with our minds. Think about that parents, grandparents – how are we training our kids and our grandchildren to love God with their minds? What are we doing intentionally to do that? All right one more verse. I just I found this one recently and I love it Colossians 4:5-6 says: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders making the best use of your time”  That's be smart: “walk in wisdom making the best use of your time” Then it says “let your speech always be gracious seasoned with salt.” You know how salt makes things taste better? So let your speech be like that – this is be kind. And then finally, “…so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” – this is the tactical part, which is what we're gonna talk about. So be smart, be kind, and be tactical. Putting a stone in their shoe What does it look like? Let's get practical. All these verses, they’re great, and we thank God for them. But what does it look like for me when I'm sitting across at Easter with my atheist brother-in-law? When I'm at the lunch table and the person raises a challenge, what does it look like? I’ll tell you what it looks like: it's a stone in someone’s shoe. Have you ever had a stone in your shoe before, where you're walking along, and it's really annoying, and you can't seem to stop thinking about it until you take it out. You notice it don't you? Have you ever had a stone in your sandal before, like a flip-flop, and it seems to defy physics – you're, like, kicking it out and it stays in. You ever had that happen? That's crazy– it's got something to do with quantum physics or string theory or something like that. Click on the cover for our review. We're gonna put a stone in someone's shoe – okay, not physically, this is all kind of theoretical –  and we're going to get people thinking about what we just said, walking away, kind of annoyed, but in a good way, until they deal with the thing that we just put in their minds. Alright so, what I want to do is give you a game plan. No matter how little you think you know, or how shy you think you are, or how scared you might be, if you follow the rules of the game plan you are going to be all right, and you're going to be effective in being an ambassador for Christ. We're going to go from the content – what you know – to the conversationwith the game plan. The whole game plan is in this book, Tactics. Here's the thing: you shouldn't be allowed to graduate high school without reading Tactics. Seriously! This is like Critical Thinking 101. I'm going to take some of this from the book and present that to you. If you're interested in more of it you’ve got to read the book. So here's the thing: I used to think that when someone raised a challenge, that it was my job to answer it –be the Bible Answer Man. Maybe this is you too. So someone raised the challenge, “Christians are intolerant” or “Christians are irrational” or “All religions lead to God” or “The Bible is not true.” Of course, I thought, “Oh, you say God does not exist? Well, yes He does!” and then I go into my arguments for God's existence. But notice what happened there – they made the claim “God does not exist” or “Christians are irrational” or whatever, and now I'm doing all the work. No! If they make the claim they bear the burden of proof to defend the claim; it's not my job to start defending something that I didn't even assert. But this is what happens – Christians, we think “Oh, you said something so now I better go into Bible Answer Man mode.” I think that's the wrong approach. And I think that's why the Culture has been getting away saying a whole lot of ridiculous things, and they go unchecked. For far too long we've allowed people to make claims, statements, challenges, and fold their arms and then just say “I'm waiting Christian, answer – God doesn't exist. Now go ahead and refute me.” That's not our job. Our job is not to refute random statements like that. Columbo Tactic #1 – What do you mean by that? I want to give you the game plan. The game plan is what I'm going to call the “Columbo Approach” or the “Columbo Tactic.” Do you guys know who Lieutenant Columbo is? Raise your hand nice and high so I can see. Okay, good it's all the older people. No, there were some young people; you're watching the reruns. Let me tell you about Lieutenant Columbo. Okay, Lieutenant Columbo is a bumbling, seemingly inept, TV detective who has remarkable success in catching crooks. The inspector arrives on the scene of the crime and he's in complete disarray. I mean his hair is a mess; his trench coat looks like he slept in it; he’s got a cigar wedged between his fingers; he's got a notepad but he's got no pen or pencil and he's got to bum one off somebody. I mean, this guy to all appearances looks harmless and stupid, but he's not because Lieutenant Columbo has a game plan. So Lieutenant Columbo, he maybe poked around at the scene of the crime, and then he'd scratch his head and do his trademark move: he turned to maybe the suspect – the killer or the robber, whoever – and he'd say “There's something about this thing that bothers me. Then he turned to the suspect and say, “You seem like a very intelligent person. Maybe you could clear this up from me. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” And then he'd ask a few questions and he'd seem satisfied. And he’d maybe start walking away and then turn on his heel and remember something and say, “Just one more ting.” And then he’d one more “ting” them to death, with question after question after question. He’d say, “I know I know it's annoying but this is a habit” and this is a habit I think that Christians need to get into. We need to start asking questions, instead of making so many statements. There's going to come a time where we're going to have to make statements, obviously. But there's so many instances where a question would have been better than an assertion or a statement. This tactic, the key to it, is to go on the offensive but in an inoffensive way, Colombo-style, by selecting carefully crafted questions for the conversation. There's a book called In but not of by Hugh Hewitt. I'm not actually recommending the book because it wasn't actually that great but there was one chapter in it that was fascinating, and it was on questions. In fact, he says in any conversation you should ask a half a dozen questions. So you meet someone, just start asking questions. Well, why ask questions? Here's a list of reasons why we should start asking more questions. Questions help you understand a person's point of view. Oftentimes I'll have people come up to me after I give a talk and say “Tim, can you recommend a good book on Buddhism?” And I'll say, “Why do you want a book on Buddhism?” “Well, I have this friend and they're a Buddhist. I'd really like to be able to witness to them. So do you know a good book?” I'm thinking, “Wait, you want to learn about Buddhism. Your friend is a Buddhist. Why don't you ask them?” Doesn’t that make sense? Instead of reading a book that may or might not be on their version of Buddhism anyways, why not just sit down at Tim Hortons and learn about Buddhism from your friend? Seems smart enough, right? Questions take the pressure off you. When you're asking questions, you're not defending anything. You ever think about that? You're asking them; they're doing all the work. By the way, it's not a lot of work because, turns out, people like it when you ask them questions. You should try it sometime; it works! Questions keep you from distorting the person's view – you understand where they're coming from by getting by getting them to clarify their view Questions are friendly and they build relationships. This is so true. When I met my wife in university it turned out that our birthdays are one day apart – she's born on April 28th and I'm born on the 29th. She's two years younger than I am, but I got invited to her birthday party and I didn't really know anybody. She had this one guy friend and we sat down and we started chatting. We were at this bowling alley and I spent the whole night asking him questions, asking him questions, because I was reading this material. We all went home and I found out that he called my wife and said “That Tim guy is one of the most interesting people I've ever met.” I don't even think he knew my name! Okay, maybe that's the one thing he knew. De didn't know anything about me; I didn't talk about me. I spent the whole night asking about him. Let me tell you something, interested is interesting. It just is. And it turns out questions show you're interested. We're not faking it – I wasn't faking it; I wanted to know about him. It just so happens that I just kept asking the questions and he just kept answering. Questions give you an education. In many cases you don't need to go to university for this stuff. Just learn it from people who know something you don't. Questions don't require a defense, You put it all together, and questions get you in the game. Someone says something and you're just caught off guard, you're flat-footed, you don't know what to say. Questions get you in the game, okay? You don't have to hit home runs; you don’t have to get on base! If we had Christians that would step into the batter's box once in a while and just start swinging, I'm telling you this Culture would look a whole lot different. I also want to make a really important point and I think Blaise Pascal, the famous Christian mathematician and philosopher, hit it right on the head. Here what he says: “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the minds of others.” Think about that. If you want to convince someone to be pro-life, if  you want to convince someone that marriage is a certain way, you want to convince someone about God's existence, then don't just say “Believe God exists.” Or “Here’s this, this, and this.” No, no – if you want someone to change their mind about something people are better persuaded by the reasons which they discover. Well, how can you help them discover reasons? You can do that by asking really good questions. I like how Francis Schaeffer puts it – this is so counterintuitive! He says, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth." That is so counterintuitive, because I'd imagine I'm not the only one here who, if I had 60 minutes with an unbeliever, I’d preach at them for fifty five minutes and then at the end say, “Do you have any questions?” Right? That's just what we do. But here's the problem: So many times in our culture we will end up preaching sermons that nobody wants to hear, and answering questions that nobody was actually asking. That happens all the time. But let's say you don't like Francis Schaeffer and Blaise Pascal (who were both brilliant). You've heard of Jesus Christ and like to follow his example. Well, Jesus knew this better than anybody. Questions were Jesus’ tool of choice; we heard that in Matthew 21 – we didn’t even plan that; that was great. They were his tool of choice for friend and foe alike in the Gospels. This may surprise you: Jesus answered 183 questions. Wow! However – and this should astonish us – Jesus asked 307! Jesus – the smartest person who ever walked the face of the earth – asked more questions than he answered. Was that because he didn't know a whole bunch of stuff? Not even close! The reason he was asking these questions was to get people to, like Blaise Pascal said, rethink things within their own hearts and minds. He used questions to get them to think about their own worldview. This was important for people to evaluate and reevaluate their own beliefs. Alright, let's get to the game plan: the first Columbo question. It's going to be: “What do you mean by that?” Everyone say, “What do you mean by that?” I'll tell you what I mean by that! “What do you mean by that?” is your go-to question because this is the kind of question that gives you more information so that you can move into the conversation. I'm just going to step into the conversation. How am I going to do that? “What do you mean by that?” Someone is going to make a challenge and I'm just completely caught off guard but I do remember this question “What do you mean by that?” Now you get more specific, as we'll see in a second here, but this question allows you to clarify what the person is actually saying. Sometimes they don't even know what they're saying, as we're going to find out. So, “what do you mean by that?” CHALLENGE #1 – Evolution disproves God Let's do a little exercise here. First challenge: let's say you're with someone, your friend who's maybe not a believer, and they say “Evolution has proven that God isn’t necessary.” Now hold that knee down, okay, because I know your knee-jerk reaction is to do a roundhouse kick or something, right? It's to start going into your creation mode, but you didn't make a claim; they did! Evolution has proven that God is unnecessary? You're going to ask “What do you mean by that?” In fact, I would ask if I were you, “What do you mean by evolution?” because I can, off the top of my head right now, name six different definitions for evolution. I can tell you something right now, whether you are the most staunch young earth creationist in the room, you believe in evolution in some sense. That is, if we're just talking about change over time, then of course we all believe in evolution. But if we're talking about molecules-to-man then I'm sure – well I don't know how many people here – but most of you I'm almost positive would say, “No I don't believe in that.” So there you go, those two definitions shows it depends “What do you mean by evolution?” And by the way, in this discussion people do kind of the bait-and-switch. It's like, “Of course evolution is true; it happens all the time.” Well now, it just depends “What are you talking about with evolution here?” and“What do you mean by evolution here?” Good question to ask. CHALLENGE #2 – Christians are intolerant How about this one?“Christians are intolerant.” You're going to ask “What do you mean by that; what do you mean by intolerant?” because let me tell you something, the word tolerance has actually changed in our culture. Tolerance used to mean that we disagree but I'm going to respect your right to disagree – I'm going to respect you as a person. In fact, think about it: if you accept the view then you just accept it; you wouldn't tolerate it. The fact that you tolerate it means you disagree. But today tolerance means “all views are equal and if you think thatthey're not all equal you're intolerant” So the definition has changed! I would want to ask “What do you mean by intolerant?” and they say “Well, you think you're right and everyone else is wrong; you're intolerant.” I'd say, “Well are you saying that I'm wrong then? Do you think you're right and I'm wrong?” You know what I’m saying? It's self-refuting actually, if you think about it. So you want to ask some questions. “What do you mean by intolerant?” – that's going to get you in the game. CHALLENGE #3 – All religions are the same “All religions are basically the same.” What do you mean by “All religions are basically the same” what do you mean by basically the same? I was out on vacation a couple years ago with my in-laws. We're at the table and my sister-in-law had taken a philosophy class in university and she was trained in the idea of religious pluralism that all religions are basically the same, and she said that at the table. Again I had to fight my knee-jerk reaction, and I said: “What do you mean by basically the same?” Let me tell you something: don't be surprised when you ask a question like that and they have no idea. “Well they just are.” “No, you just said they're all basically the same and I'm wondering okay what part about them is basically the same.” But to her credit she said, “Well, the Golden Rule – they all have the Golden Rule. Well, that's actually not true – they all don't have “do unto others.” They don't all have it…but even if it was true, that doesn’t make them all basically the same. That is a superficial similarity when there are fundamental differences. The Golden Rule is a superficial moral similarity, when there are fundamental differences: when it comes to God, when it comes to things like, for Christians, the resurrection, who Jesus was, what is the problem of sin, what is the problem of humanity, what about eternal destiny, because hell and heaven and reincarnation, annihilation and non-existence are not all the same. CHALLENGE #4 – Irrational to believe in God How about this? “It's irrational to believe in the God of the Bible.” You're gonna ask? “What do you mean by irrational?” You're getting the hang of this. I know some of you are like, “I can't do this anymore.” Listen, you need to practice doing this because Easter's coming Okay, what do you mean by “the God of the Bible?” I do not want to talk to my atheist friend until I define what they mean by God. Seriously, who is the God you don't believe in? What do you mean by God, because it turns out, usually, the God they don't believe in is the same God I don't believe in. The God they don't believe in is like some finite Zeus-like creature who, you know, maybe has a temper tantrum here and there. It’s finite so they can't really do much, and there are created, that kind of thing. That's not the God of the Bible, so the God they don't believe in – I'm joining them – I don't believe in that God either! That's an idol; I don't believe in those. CHALLENGE #5 – My body; my choice How about this one? “My body; my choice” is a very common pro-choice slogan. You see it on bumper stickers, t-shirts you name it. You're going to ask, “What do you mean by choice?” If we're going to talk about being pro-choice/pro-life I want to know what you mean by choice. What are the choices we're talking about, because some choices I'm absolutely pro-choice about. I'm pro-choice about which school women go to, and who they marry, and what they want to wear, and what doctor they have, and all that, so I'm pro-choice about all that stuff. But some choices are immoral, like killing innocent defenseless human beings. They just are. And they recognize that some things we should be anti-choice about. Should we be pro-choice about drinking and driving? No, we shouldn't be. In fact, they have laws against drinking and driving? Why? To protect people. Yeah, so most people are anti-choice about that. What about “my body”? “What do you mean by your body?” Well, it turns out it's a body inside your body. That's just science. Different DNA. How many eyes does that woman have? She didn’t just get two more – those are in a different body. In fact, that body inside her body could have a different gender! So it's definitely not the woman's body; there's another body in play. CHALLENGE #6 – The Bible condones slavery How about this: “The Bible condones slavery”? Lots of challenge go against the Bible. Someone says “the Bible condones slavery” and you may not know how to respond, but you could ask “What do you mean by slavery?” and “What do you mean by condones? Oh you’ve got to show me that – in what passage does it say ‘thou shalt own slaves?’” Because not everything the Bible describes is it prescribing. The Bible describes lots of stuff that it's not saying “go out and do.” It's just giving a description of history. What do you mean by slavery? What do you mean by condones? Columbo Tactic #2: How did you come to that conclusion? All right, don't be surprised that if you use the first Columbo tactic (which is very powerful) “what do you mean by that?” and you get a blank stare and complete silence. Seriously. And this is not your chance to jump all over them and say “Ha! Gotcha – you're so stupid!” or something like that. No, remember the character part? This is your chance to show grace and love. So you're going to be patient, and you may say “You know, maybe you need to think more about that; we could talk about it again some other time,” or something like that. By the way fellas, married men, if your wife calls you an idiot don't respond by asking her “What do you mean by that?” Just saying. I may know that from experience. How about this one? Second Columbo question. We’re only going to give you two Colombo’s: “What do you mean by that?” and the second one is, “How did you come to that conclusion? The first question gives you more information but eventually you've got to stop asking “What do you mean by that?” It's like your kids going on, “Why, why, why?” Okay, stop it! What do you mean by that, what do you mean by that, what do you mean by that? Okay, now I’ve got enough information. You can ask it, you can ask it until you get the information. But now you’ve got to find out – here I know what you mean, but why are you saying that? Why do you believe that? How did you come to that conclusion? This is a very generous question because it assumes people have come to a conclusion. And usually, from my own experience when I talk to people, they didn't conclude anything. They're just emoting and asserting, and they read it on a bumper sticker somewhere, or they heard someone on TV say it, and yeah that sounds good, and “When they accepted that award at the Oscars they said the same thing so it must be true.” This kind of thing. Here's the general rule: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden of proof to defend the claim. That goes for you too Christian. You say Jesus rose from the dead; I hope that you can defend that claim. But if they're making claims, like God doesn't exist, then we got to make sure we hold their feet to the fire a little bit and say “Okay, you just made a claim; now you need to defend it” so they bear the responsibility to give a defense for that claim. Christians are not the only ones who give defenses for things – everyone is an apologist for their view. And it turns out we just haven't done a good job making our atheist friends, or whoever, could be another Christian who just holds a conflicting view of yours. and you want to challenge it. Now let me give you an illustration of how this works. I was at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) when I was going through Teachers College. I went and got my degree in physics and then I went to Teachers College to get my Bachelor of Education so I could become a teacher. One of the things that we did was we went on all kinds of field trips to the zoo, and they showed us kind of behind-the-scenes, what's going on there, so that we would bring our students when we became teachers. So we're getting a tour and we're walking through the ROM and I'm with my friends. You’ve got to understand when I was in Teachers College I needed Stand To Reason and these other ministries because it was like me against everyone. I went to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with all these other future science teachers and they all held views contrary to my own. Every day I would spend more time going home and looking on apologetics websites than doing my homework – somehow I still passed – and I would come back and it would be like me, and I'm not joking against 15, 20 people. It was always gracious. In fact, some of these guys went on to get jobs, became department heads, and people who vehemently disagreed with me, are trying to offer me jobs. “Tim my physics guy is retiring; you’ve got to come work in my department.” That's when you know you've got that good relationship, that they know you love them. So I'm standing next to this thing, that's a Brachiosaurus – it's the largest sauropod dinosaur in Canada, actual skeleton, actual fossil – and we have myself, my atheist friend, and he's bit shorter so he looked up at me like this, and he said “There's no way Noah's fitting that on the ark.” To which I had to fight my knee-jerk reaction, right, to do that roundhouse kick again. Again, I didn't make a claim; I don't need to defend anything here. So what I do is I ask a few questions, kind of a how-did-you-come-to-that-conclusion although they were much more specific. I said, “Okay, you don't think Noah could get that down on the ark, then clearly you must know how big the boat was.” He said, “No, I have no idea; nobody knows how big the boat was.” I said “Actually I think it's recorded in Genesis” so that was news to him. You’ve just got to make the conversion from cubits to meters. And then I asked, “Okay, you don't know how big the boat was; then you must know how many animals were on the boat because obviously, you know if it wasn't that many maybe….” And he's like “How could anyone know how many animals were on the boat?” I think, Wait, you don't know how many animals were on the ark, and you don’t know how big it was but you're certain there's no way Noah’s get that on the ark. Anyways, this right here is a baby Brachiosaurus and so long as you get a pink one and a blue one you'll be ok. You see the approach. You're going to want to be the Bible Answer Man. That’s how you've been trained, for whatever reason. That's just how we react as human beings, even when what you need to do is start asking questions. The Gauntlet This person had thrown down the gauntlet. A gauntlet is a medieval glove but in our culture today what they do is they throw down the gauntlet and then they celebrate like they just won. I'm not gonna show you my celebration dance; I almost did but I pulled back here. They throw it down and they celebrate. No, no, that's not how this works. In medieval times you throw down the gauntlet, someone picks it up, and then the duel happens. So we have to change our approach. We have to point this stuff out: you made a claim, now defend it. Now the second Columbo question is actually, again, very, very generous because it assumes that a person actually came to a conclusion. Again, don't be surprised if you say, “How did you come to that conclusion?” and they're thinking “What are you talking about? What do you mean, what reasons do I have for believing that?” and they don't have any good reasons. In that case, you're gonna have to be gracious again. So in summary, we've just looked at two Columbo questions. The first one tells you what the person believes, and the second one tells you why they believe it – what they believe, why they believe it – and that's exactly what Christians should know. We’ve got to know what we believe and why we believe it. As well, notice that these questions keep you out of the hot seat and, in a certain sense, you're in the driver's seat. When you're asking questions you're kind of steering the conversation where you would like it to go and that's a good place to be. When you are out of your depth Now let me make a couple of final remarks. It turns out that you could end up asking the wrong person the right questions, but you find out this person is really smart, like they are way smarter than me. You’re thinking, oh I'm gonna try Columbo on my next airplane ride but it turns out the guy next to you is like a quantum physicist. And you're like, Why did I open my big fat mouth? That kind of situation. Well, what happens when you're outgunned like that and you feel like you're in over your depth? I'll tell you what you do. You stick to the game plan. Here's what you do – and this works online too by the way – let's say you're messaging with someone and you're in a conversation you can't end. That's the problem with Facebook conversations; they never end because it’s just comment, comment, comment. How do I get out of this? It's a black hole! So here's what you do. You say. “You obviously are very smart; you've done a lot of reading on this. Maybe you’ve got a Ph.D. in philosophy and you're an atheist and you debate people for a living. Okay, great. Tell me what you believe and I'm going to write it down. Or I'm going to memorize. Okay, this is what you believe? And why is it you believe that?” Those are the two questions. And here's the magic words – you ready for the magic words? – “Now let me think about it.” You see how that works? “Let me think about it,” because that's exactly what they want you to do, and that's exactly what you're going to do. You're going to think about what they've just told you, when the pressure is off, because I'm telling you, maybe you're like me, but my neurons don't fire as well when I'm in the heat, in the middle of a conversation. Tensions are a running high. Sometimes actually I think they shut right down. So you want to take that information, and now I'm sitting in front of my computer I'm going to Stand To Reasons website STR.org and hey, “Maybe Tim has an article about that” and then you can find out more information. Or you're going to go to ReformedPerspective.ca and you're going to say “Hey they just wrote about that last week and look it there's – all the information I need.” That's why we exist: trying to get that information so that you can do something with it. Strengthen your own faith and then go and have an impact on the Culture. Flashlight, not a hammer Here’s this – I’ve got just two more slides, so hang on here. Questions are not meant to be used as a hammer to beat people up. I'm telling you, you start doing this (and you need to start doing this) and you're going to see that you can hurt people. You just can; you may not even mean to but you can, because you're going to find out people are not as smart as they think they are. They just haven't thought things through. They don't even know how to think critically; they just don't. I used to teach high school – I taught in the Christian school system and I taught in the public school system. Let me tell you something: a lot of the kids that are out there just cannot think critically because they were never taught to think critically. They're taught to memorize a whole bunch of information but never how to think. Questions are not a hammer to beat people up. I'll tell you what they are: it's how Jesus used them. They're a flashlight to guide people towards the truth. They're a flashlight to point people towards the truth. Sweat now Last thing: the Marines have a slogan in the States and it's translated from Latin into English and here's what it is: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle Why am I telling you this? Because something like sixty to seventy-five percent of young people in our congregations go off to university, many to secular universities and they end up walking away from the church. Why do they do that? The number one reason, the most popular response is intellectual doubt and skepticism. They do not know how to interact with the aggressive professor or the friend or whoever. So what I'm telling you is the more you sweat in training nowt hen when you get into those conversations you're not going to bleed out on the battlefield. And we have a whole lot of students that are bleeding it on the battlefield. And even at the workplace or wherever. I want to encourage you that we need to practice what I'm preaching here. That may mean tomorrow morning at breakfast, start asking these questions. That may mean before we go to bed, or on the drive home, “Oh so do you guys want to stop at Wendy's?” “What do you mean by that?” you know this kind of thing. Just do it. Because now it's second nature for me. I just kept doing this and kept doing it, and now my wife asks me “Do you want chicken for dinner?” and this is what happens: she gets kind of angry “Don't use that stuff on me.” But when it becomes second nature, then when the pressure is on three weeks from now, a month from now, six months from now, and you find oh my, now I'm face to face with that opponent, that person who disagrees with me, you're going to want this to come to mind. And it won't come to mind, it just won't, if you haven't been practicing it....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, Church history

Radiant: Fifty remarkable women in Church history

by Richard M. Hannula 330 pages / 2015 I found this book very interesting and met a lot of fascinating women. Professor Eta Linnemann who taught historical-critical theology for 30 years but in 1978 became convinced that she was wrong and she threw out all the books and articles she had written and asked those who had bought her material to do the same. Bilquis Sheikh (1912-1997), a very wealthy woman in Pakistan in a prominent caste who was unhappy with what she read in the Koran. She compared it to the Bible and became a Christian. Her daughter asked her why she was doing this. Bilquis answered: “My dear, there is nothing that I can do but be obedient.” She was baptized but had to flee the USA to save herself from being murdered. Queen Berta (550-606) who prayed for her husband, King Ethelbert to be converted. She was a shining example of a Christian wife and eventually he did become a Christian.  The Pope sent him along with Augustine and 40 monks for mission work to the Kingdom of the Franks where they were given a run down little church which was the beginning of Canterbury Cathedral. Monica, the mother of Augustine, is also mentioned. It was told her by the Bishop that “it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish.” There are many more short profiles including Martin Luther’s wife, and Francis Schaeffer’s wife. The author and publisher come from a Reformed background, so most of the women Richard Hannula profiles are people we’d agree with on most theological matters. But as you might expect in a book that covers 50 different women, there are also a few who got notable matters wrong. For example, Hannula tells us of Amanda Smith, a former slave, who travelled the world singing and sharing her testimony about Jesus Christ. She was told that the Holy Spirit could perfect here on Earth so that she could live her life from then on without sin. She prayed for this perfection and believed she had received it. So this should not be read as some sort of theological treatise. It is, however, a fascinating look at, as my minster Rev. Kampen once put it, how the Lord spreads his Gospel message using imperfect people, in imperfect ways, with their problematic interpretations of the Bible. What came to mind in reading this book was how St. Boniface brought the Bible to those stubborn and wild Frisians – I remembered my mother once telling me that Boniface not only brought the Gospel but also relics. His was a flawed presentation, but it was still the Word of God, and we must not underestimate how God will use it. My thoughts are not with some of the irritations as mentioned above but with the amazing women in "God's army" who had such a love for the Word of God and were so convicted to follow His example. These are wonderful stories. I would most certainly recommend it, but add the caution that readers do need to have some level of discernment....

News

Saturday Selections – July 3, 2021

Insects flying in slow motion (6 min) Kids will enjoy this cool video of 11 different bugs taking off, some elegantly, others not so much: it's great fun to see God's creativity on display! A small caution: elsewhere on his YouTube channel the videographer credits this astonishing creativity to evolution rather than God. How to preach against Critical Race Theory (10-minute read) "In this essay, I’d like to encourage pastors to oppose the errors of CRT, but I’ll suggest what might seem like an unusual approach: pastors should consider preaching against CRT without mentioning CRT at all..." How do you move a whole denomination to reaffirm biblical creation? Be inspired by how God used a grandmother to bring her denomination back to a 6-day understanding of creation. God loves LGBT people more than we do "...many professing Christians are tempted to disagree with what the Bible says about homosexuality and LGBTQ issues.....This is because many professing Christians believe they love LGBTQ people more than God does." "You still have to bake the cake, bigot!" Jack Phillips first got in trouble for not baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The day he won a Supreme Court decision on that fight, a transgender guy (male, pretending to be female) called him requesting a cake to celebrate his "sex-change." As before, Phillips didn't want to help someone celebrate their own destruction (in this case, the amputation of their genitals) and so he declined. And back to the courts Phillips was forced to go. Now he's written a book, which Jonathon Van Maren reviews here. When inclusivity becomes incoherence The LGBT movement is making "an ever-growing jumble of contradictory claims about sex, gender, and psychology, all of which lacks any uniting principle other than an opposition to what came before." Conservatives in 5 years... "O’Sullivan’s First Law" states: "All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.” Coined by journalist John O'Sullivan in 1989, it described the leftward tilt that we see happen among politicians, parties, and organizations of all sorts whenever they refuse to loudly and clearly establish their conservative bonafides. That same thought is captured in the video below – directed at US Republicans, it is far more broadly applicable. However, while the video is spot on, and O'Sullivan's First Law has proven itself time and again, neither goes deep enough. It is not simply a matter of being right-wing that stops liberal drift – to be rooted a group or an individual needs a firmer foundation than "conservatism." So, let me add an expansion to O'Sullivan, riffing off of Matt. 12:30. Perhaps we can call it O'Dykstra's First Law: "Those who are not unabashedly Christian, will over time – along with the organizations they make up – become unabashedly anti-Christian." God is our only firm foundation, but when we are ashamed in the public square to acknowledge Him as such, then whatever we stand on instead – whether that’s common sense, traditional values, natural law, capitalism, or conservatism – will offer only a sandy footing. It will hold only for a time, before we, unmoored, slide down the slippery slope. Let's remember it doesn't have to be that way. We serve a great God, who is sovereign and mighty and has already won. So why then would we ever be ashamed or afraid to profess His Name? ...

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Runner from Ravenshead

Children's film 81 minutes / 2010 Rating: 7/10 Both the charm and the kitsch of this film come from the producers' decision to fill all the roles with children. They aren't playing children, mind you. Nope, these pipsqueaks are playing full-size adventurers and the result is both bizarre and delightful! We jump right into the action, with our hero Henry taking on a whole tribe of savages. He engineers a one-man rescue of a tot tied to a pole but, just as he's about to give the savages another licking, we discover it's all Henry's daydream. In real life Henry is no adventurer; he's just a janitor cleaning the floors at the City of Refuge Guide Service. Here's where the film takes a leap from daydream to allegory. The Guide Service sends out guides to help escapees from the terrible Ravenshead Prison find their way to the City of Refuge. The guides also help escapees get away from the wardens who are trying to track them down and return them to prison. As near as I can figure, the Guide Service represents Christians who point people to Jesus (our refuge). Ravenshead Prison is sin, and the wardens represent temptation that wants to pull us back to sin. Parents may have to pause the movie on occasion to explain things to the young target audience, but if they don't really understand the allegory, it doesn't matter. This is also just a chase film, complete with derring-do, rocket cars, explosions, hijinks, and fight scenes. And all of it done on a pint-sized scale. Now, our hero Henry desperately wants to be a guide but his boss isn't sure about him. It's only because guides are in short supply that Henry finally gets his chance to head out and help an escaped prisoner by the name of Sam. Sam is as headstrong as Henry is inexperienced, and this odd couple pairing ensures there's lots of drama and loads of action as they try desperately to stay one step ahead of the wardens. Caution The only caution concerns escapee Sam. When she's first brought to Ravenshead her tears are flowing, and I suspect this little actress might be too believable for some young viewers. Parents will have to remind their soft-hearted kidlets that this is just a movie and not real. Conclusion I had low expectations; I mean, with an all-kid cast, how could I not? But the cute factor is enormous, and enough to keep parents smiling throughout. For its pre-school and elementary-aged target audience, to see kids their age fighting bad guys, doing stunts, and escaping on a zip-line in a rocket-powered crate is going to be fantastic fun. What's more, you can watch it for free! It's free with commercials on YouTube, while North American readers can view it without commercials on RedeemTV, though you will need to sign up for an account. If you like this one, you'll also enjoy a sequel of sorts, done with kids actors too and by the same production company, called The Defense of New Haven. To get a sneak peak, check out the trailer below. ...

Theology

On the benefits and limits of creeds and confessions

Most RP readers belong to creedal churches. We hold to creeds and confessions because they have helped the Church preserve the truth of God’s Word though the generations. So what are these confessions? In his article “The Necessity of Creeds and Confessions," Garry Vanderveen defined confessions as a: “common/shared interpretation of Scripture, which is the highest and only infallible rule for faith and life.” Orthodox Reformed churches generally still adhere to the ecumenical creeds (Nicene, Athanasian, and Apostles’) and some set of Reformed creeds (e.g., Westminster Standards, Three Forms of Unity, Augsburg Confession, etc.). In this article I want to explore both the benefit of creeds, and their limits. Symbols that came with risks In the early church, to hold to a creed or confession was often done at risk of one’s social and/or physical safety. In his A History of Christianity (Vol. 1), Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette explained that creeds and confessions are known as “symbols” because the term symbol here, “comes from a word which in one of its usages meant a watchword, or a password in a military camp. As applied to a creed, it was a sign or test of membership in the Church. Assent to the creed or symbol was required to those who were being baptized” People made this confession with a conviction to join the Lord’s army, as it were. They were convinced that Jesus Christ was the true Son of God, that He made full payment for their sins, and that they were assured of the resurrection of the dead. Each believer was prepared to “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow ” (Luke 9: 23). Philip Schaff, in his Creeds of Christendom (Vol. 1), explains that the earliest creeds were often committed to memory and not written down. “From fear of profanation and misconstruction by unbelievers… the celebration of the sacraments and the baptismal creed, as a part of the baptismal act, were kept secret among the communicant members until the Church triumphed in the Roman Empire.” The earliest creeds are found in Scripture itself. When Christ asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:15-16). The importance of making a confession was quickly tied to one’s baptism and membership in the early church, and it included a confession of the Triune God before being baptized into the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The authority of creeds The creeds have an ecclesiastical authority but not in the same way that the Roman Catholic Church, and others, would suggest. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the creeds, traditions, and the papacy share a co-ordinate (equal) authority with Scripture, and that, then, is a denial of Scripture alone. Of course, with the Roman Catholic view of continuing authoritative revelation, we can anticipate, and we learn from experience, that the result is an ever-changing view of what God’s Word teaches. Councils, encyclicals, and formal Church documents become as authoritative as Scripture, and because these come later, they can be seen as progressive revelation. Protestant churches need to be careful that we do not fall into the same trap; we need to be very cautious that we do not elevate the ecumenical or Reformed creeds to such a status that we start arguing that any topic they don’t address must therefore be left to the freedom of the individual believer. Many of the creeds were written to articulate what Scripture teaches in response to a perversion of the Scriptures, a heresy. They were written in a historical context, addressing particular matters that were pertinent. They could not have foreseen issues such as abortion, euthanasia, gender confusion, etc. as topics that would need to be addressed. To grant freedom on these issues simply because the creeds don’t speak to them would be to ignore what Scripture does say. Then we would be elevating the confessions to the same level, or even higher than Scripture. And if we do that, then we risk causing the pendulum to swing the other way, leading to an abandoning of creeds and confessions and a turn towards rationalism and unfaithfulness. At the same time, the confessions do have an ecclesiastical authority as they regulate the public teaching of the church. They also allow members to express their commitment to the truth of the Scriptures as articulated by the church. The Apostles’ Creed appears to be the first formally crafted creed, and seems to have developed in response to Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Monasticism. The Nicene Creed, more prevalent in the East, seems to be an expansion of the Apostles’ Creed, with a somewhat stronger emphasis on the Trinity, and in particular, the nature of Christ. So, also, Reformed creeds were written to elucidate the biblical teachings on salvation by grace alone, the sovereignty of God, the sufficiency and completeness of Scripture, etc. They were written to echo the truth of Scriptures on core doctrines of the faith after those doctrines were perverted or misunderstood by the Roman Church and others. Just as early church members used the Apostles’ Creed to make their public profession of faith in order to receive access to the sacraments, so also today, we do something similar. It is quite reasonable to think that members of Reformed churches would express their agreement with Reformed confessions as a way to experience access to the sacraments for themselves and their children within Reformed churches. Are the truths expressed in the later creeds less true, or less important? Are they not expressing crucial truths? Or perhaps we have come to a point in the 21st Century that such truths are of secondary importance – to our detriment, I fear. To be clear, the Scriptures have a self-authenticating authority while the confessions have a provisional authority – they are authoritative in so far as they agree with or accurately summarize the Scriptures. This bears repeating. As Schaff puts it: “The Bible is of God: the confession is man’s answer to God’s Word”  No creed but Christ? I recall numerous discussions I had as a young adult with my peers, about the role of the confessions. Many wanted to adopt a “no creed but Christ” attitude. For them, this means that we do not need to express anything other than Christ – only Christ. This sounds pious and echoes the sounds of “Christ alone.” But what does only Christ, or “…but Christ” really mean? Does Scripture allow us to accept the Marcionites and Gnostics in the church of Christ? Or better yet, does Christ accept them as members of His bride? Today’s Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses also speak piously of Christ. In fact, the Mormons sing so many evangelical hymns about Christ, it is a wonder that they will not rightly comprehend what they sing. But the truth is, the Apostles’ Creed is – but Christ; the Nicene Creed is – but Christ; the Heidelberg Catechism is – but Christ. What I mean, of course, is that these creeds seek to be nothing more than an articulation of but Christ – they are only what Christ’s Word teaches us. All of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is equally the Word of God. As long as creeds and confessions echo the truth of God’s Word, they remain but Christ. Grey Areas To be fair, the aforementioned points raise some real challenges. In particular, how do we view or interact with those who cannot articulate agreement with Reformed confessions, but bear fruit as confessing Christians? They could agree with the Apostles’ Creed or all the ecumenical creeds, but not the Reformed ones. Can they not also be members of local Reformed congregations? Do they have to answer “I do” to this question: Do you believe the Word of God, summarized in the confessions, and taught here in this Christian church, to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation? These are questions I’ll explore in future articles as I seek to read through the forms for making a public profession of faith in use among faithful Reformed churches. As a start, however, there are things that churches cannot know, or things that we cannot decide – this is God’s hidden will. God decides who is and will be a member of the New Jerusalem, and every individual there will be there only because of Christ’s redeeming work. What the church can and must do, however, is ensure that the thrice holy God is honoured and His Word obeyed, and preached. If the Church no longer believes that the confessions articulate fundamental truths of God’s Word, necessary for salvation – if they are more than but Christ –  then one wonders why they should maintain any kind of ecclesiastical authority. Is there no room for grace, further education, disagreement? On a practical level, I find this very difficult. I believe, for example, fundamentally, that children should be baptized as members of Christ’s covenant congregation. I also believe that I have true brothers and sisters who would agree that children of believers belong to God, but who would disagree that baptism is a sign and seal of that reality, and so refuse to baptize their children. Is there a way to express and experience this unity despite the significant difference? Can I be honest and say, “I don’t know”? Perhaps we need to begin by identifying a difference between a personal conviction and a church’s position. That is, while I enjoy fellowship and relationship with such brothers and sisters, the fullness of our unity cannot be expressed until there is repentance and/or until Christ returns, in whom all of our sins are completely forgiven. If we were to put the problem the other way, a Reformed Baptist congregation would not agree to baptize my children if that church believed, fundamentally, that doing so would be sin or at least meaningless. Would I be permitted to be a full-fledged member if I refused to be rebaptized? Probably not. Creeds and confessions express a church’s understanding of the truth of God’s Word. They are not meant to serve as a catalogue of ideas from which we can pick and choose. The church adopts these statements of faith because they delineate our expression of the faith from those who express this faith differently. So, while we are on earth, we must strive to maintain the truth, and unity in that truth. Where there is not unity in understanding of the truth, there might need to be a limit to the experience of the spiritual unity we trust often exists. God is gracious, and while it is not good that brothers and sisters are separated because of sin, it is the way things are. Perhaps, even before Christ returns, we’ll all agree on why we baptize (or not) children of believers, but not likely. So, we wait patiently and pray fervently for Christ’s return when we will all experience the fullness of joy in belonging to Christ and to each other, in perfection. Until then… let us be careful that we do not compromise on the truth of God’s Word...

Current Issue, Magazine

May/June 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Douglas Wilson's new book on Cannabis is something for parents to read with their teens / Infant vs. Believers-only baptism: what's the main difference? / 4 free Christian films / Betsie ten Boom, the watchmaker's daughter / A reason to read biographies / Comfort facing death / Kevin DeYoung's latest is a Complementarianism 101 manual / Stephen J. Meyer takes on the materialists / Carl Trueman tackles today's sexual madness / Jan Brett: Picture book's peak / On the benefits and limits of creeds and confessions / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (5.3 mb) ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Return of the God Hypothesis

Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe by Stephen C. Meyer 568 pages / 2021 Stephen Meyer’s impetus to write Return of the God Hypothesis came from a debate at the University of Toronto’s Wycliffe College in March 2016. Our family actually watched this event. The topic concerned whether we can see evidence of God’s handiwork in nature, and three very different viewpoints were represented: professing Christian Stephen Meyer, atheist Lawrence Krauss, and theistic evolutionist Denis Lamoureux. From the start it was an organizer’s worst nightmare in that Lawrence Krauss led off using a good proportion of his time not to debate, but to make light of Stephen Meyer, remarking that if he had known that his opponent was to be someone with the poor credentials of Meyer, he (Krauss) would never have come. Worse still, Stephen Meyer rose to speak, but the bright lights brought on a migraine headache such that he could scarcely see or speak. While he had come intending to take on Krause’s “universe from nothing” views, his condition did not permit this to be the time nor the place. But this missed opportunity motivated Meyer to create another – after much additional research, this book became the time and the place! But it isn’t just Lawrence Krauss that Meyer addresses here. He tackles the claims of both Krauss, America’s most prominent scientific atheist, and those of Stephen Hawking who was, until his death in 2018, the world’s best-known scientist and atheist. These men both claimed to have demonstrated that the universe spontaneously appeared from nothing. In a posthumously published book, Hawking declared: “No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.” In response, Stephen Meyer confides: “Reading Hawking’s final words saddened me not only for Hawking, but also for the many millions of people who have long labored under the impression that the testimony of nature renders belief in God untenable.” Meyer shares that as a teen, he himself was saddened by the futility of such a life, one without God. So he’s written a book that would have benefited his teenage self – Return of the God Hypothesis is a refutation of Hawking’s atheistic message. Thus, Meyer replies to Hawking: “ book has better news: ….Not only does theism solve a lot of philosophical problems, but empirical evidence from the natural world points powerfully to the reality of a great mind behind the universe. Our beautiful, expanding, and finely tuned universe and the exquisite, integrated, and informational complexity of living organisms bear witness to the reality of a transcendent intelligence – a personal God.” Order gives evidence of an “Orderer” Stephen Meyer begins his book by pointing out that it was the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation that first fostered the development of science in the Christian West. These early philosophers realized that nature was the product of a rational God. Stephen Meyer, therefore, declares that, indeed: “the monotheistic worldview of the ancient Hebrews suggested a reason to expect a single coherent order in nature and thus a single, universally applicable set of laws governing the natural world.” Obviously, scientists did not retain those initial views. Enlightenment ideals led to skepticism about God and emphasis on the value of human reason alone, which also promoted materialism – this is the idea that matter and energy should be understood as the sole foundations of reality. Soon scientists were declaring that only materialistic explanations of nature were legitimately scientific. Therefore, “By the beginning of the twentieth century, science – despite its theistic beginnings – seemed to have no need of the God hypothesis.” Key scientific discoveries With this background, Stephen Meyer now begins to consider biology, chemistry and especially physics. Everything didn’t come from nothing The particular interest of most theoretical physicists is to explain where everything came from. We soon discover that there are no physical explanations of origins which do not need a causal intelligence (a creator). We have all heard about the big bang, but not so many people realize that extrapolation of the mathematics back from the present, continues on to zero, the “singularity.” In Meyer’s words: “…Hawking, Ellis and Penrose’s singularity proofs … implied that a materialistic universe of infinite density began to exist some finite time ago starting from nothing – or at least from nothing spatial, temporal, material or physical.” The cause, then, of a beginning would have to come from something outside of nature – something (or rather, Someone) supernatural! As young earth creationists, we have our own (eye-witness) account of the universe’s origins, but we can appreciate how God has so arranged things, that even the Bible-rejecting materialist can’t escape the implication that the universe had a supernatural origin. Of course, atheists certainly do not want to contemplate this idea. An incredibly finely tuned universe In the 1980s, there was more bad news for the atheists. When physicists studied the physical forces and natural laws governing all nature, they discovered a “curious thing.” Forces like gravity, or electromagnetism exhibit extremely precise values and constants which cannot be otherwise if life is to exist. Thus, Stephen Meyer points out that: “…the number Penrose calculated – 1 in 1010123 – provides a quantitative measure of the unimaginably precise fine tuning to the initial conditions of the universe….The mathematical expression 1010123 represents what mathematicians call a hyper-exponential number – 10 raised to the 10th power (or 10 billion) raised again to the 123rd power. To put that number in perspective, it might help to note that physicists have estimated that the whole universe contains ‘only’ 1080 elementary particles (a huge number – 1 followed by 80 zeros). But that number nevertheless represents a minuscule fraction of 1010123. In fact, if we tried to write out this number with a 1 followed by all the zeros that would be needed…there would be more zeros… than there are elementary particles in the entire universe…. I’m not aware of a word in English that does justice to the kind of precision we are discussing.” Even more bad news for the atheists is that “the specific values of the constants represent features of the laws themselves, not aspects of nature that the laws could conceivably explain.” A causal agent is required, neither “nature” nor “nothing” will do. Atheist answers aren’t coming Enter to the scene the quantum cosmologists like Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking who most emphatically did not want to admit any need for God to explain origin of the universe. Quantum cosmology attempts to “explain the origin of our universe as the outcome of a set of possibilities described by the mathematics of quantum mechanics.” Quantum cosmologists such as John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt developed an equation that synthesizes mathematical concepts from quantum mechanics and general relativity. Solving their equation, “allows physicists to construct a wave function for the universe. That wave function describes different possible universes with different possible gravitational fields, that is different curvatures of space and different mass-energy configurations (or matter fields).” The problem for scientists doing these calculations is that the range of possibilities is so huge, and the characteristics of our fine-tuned universe are so precise that they have to choose what values to include in the equations. But explaining why nature would choose such arbitrary values has proved difficult for those people “that attempt to explain how the universe emerged from nothing.” And there are other problems for quantum cosmologists. “If the medium of math is the mind, does this mean that mind should predate universe?” Indeed “we have no experience of mathematical equations creating reality.” Thus Stephen Meyer insists that quantum cosmology “attributes causal powers to abstract mathematics and depends upon intelligent inputs of information from theoretical physicists as they model the origin of the universe.” The highlight of this discussion and the book itself is that: “quantum cosmology implies the need for an intelligent agent to breathe, if not ‘fire into the equations’ then certainly specificity and information. Thus, it implies something akin to the biblical idea that ‘in the beginning was the Word.’ And that’s not nothing – by anybody’s definition.”  Even materialist assumptions lead to Supernatural implications No matter what the theories are that scientists may propose to explain our observations of nature, none can avoid implications about intelligent cause and control. Stephen Meyer also discusses other exotic theories such as various approaches to a multiverse. None of these concepts is at all convincing either. The take home message is that “reflecting on this evidence can enable us to discover – or rediscover – the reality of God. And that discovery is good news indeed.” The author discusses a lot of technical concepts over many disciplines, but he works hard to make the concepts reasonably understandable. While the author supports long ages, his message resonates with young earth advocates as well. For the interested adult, this book is well worth the effort and an inspiring read. You can watch a one-hour dialogue about Stephen Meyer's book. on Dr. Margaret Helder is the President of the Creation Science Association of Alberta which has just published an intriguing new book called “Wonderful and Bizarre Life forms in Creation” which you can learn more about and order by clicking here....

News

Saturday Selections – June 26, 2021

Motorcyclist who identified as a bicyclist sets cycling record (5 min) If the world insists feelings – and not the Father – defines reality, then insanity, and even hilarity, ensues. The burning of the wooden shoes Looking back at how the Christian Reformed Church slid down the slippery slope to liberalism, Chris Gordon issues a warning to other Reformed churches who are focusing on being more culturally relevant. Pro-gay theology invents a new sin This is a short but insightful analysis of textbook Scripture twisting – how clear teaching is muddied and then turned completely around. Confronting misunderstandings about money Jim Newheiser tackles a few common questions including: Is money the root of all evil? Is ministry good and making money bad? Were the early Christians communists or socialists? Is it doubting God to plan for our financial future? How not to debate ideas in the public square Kevin DeYoung offers up 8 ways to discuss things online in the worst way possible. 10 ideas to give your marriage a fresh start There are some good ideas here for couples, whether things are going well right now, or not so. The most effective technology on the planet to block pornography (5 min) That's quite the claim, and Justin Taylor shares the details in that article at the link above, while "Matt" explains it in the video below. ...

Assorted

Comfort facing death

Do you ever think about your own death? Poets may come up with flowery words and philosophers may make scholarly statements that ring hollow when there is no connection with the Word of God. But in Psalm 139 God gives us the comfort we need when facing the end of our lives. It brings into sharp focus that no matter where we are, the LORD, our covenant God, is there. He knows everything about us, even our thoughts! That can frighten someone who tries to escape from God, but for those who put their trust in Him, it gives us confidence and strength. God has been working on us In verse 13, David highlights God’s personal involvement in our lives from conception onwards. He poetically describes the creative activity of the LORD, “you formed my inward parts.” The Hebrew word used for “formed” here points to ownership. Our God has been personally involved in shaping our bodies and has laid his personal stamp on our very being. David continues the thought in a parallel fashion, “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” He is honouring the LORD, who lays the basis for the development of each body part, weaving the network of bones and tissues. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14). In verse 15, David speaks of having been “woven.” The word he uses occurs eight times in the book of Exodus. There it refers to the work of someone who weaves coloured cloth or who embroiders a cloth with coloured threads. That requires talent and skill. As scientific advances continue, we can learn more and more about the complexity of the human body and stand in awe of God’s creative work! God has plans for us David marvels further in the next verse, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.” This indicates divine activity, not the seeing of an uninterested spectator. He broadens the picture dramatically by stating “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God’s knowledge of our lives includes foreknowledge. His care for us predates our lives and forms part of a plan that extends beyond our temporary existence on earth. Knowing that our lives here on earth are limited by God should not make us afraid. He, who has put so much thought and effort into forming us in the wombs of our mothers, promises to be with us throughout our lives and beyond that. God is with us Centuries after David wrote Psalm 139, God was at work in the womb of the virgin Mary. He shaped a body for his only begotten Son. The coming of the Son of God into the world was truly a “wonder,” a miracle beyond comprehension. Jesus Christ is Immanuel, “God with us.” Nothing throughout his life, including his crucifixion and death, happened by chance. He was “delivered up… crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” but all of this took place “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Ac 2:23). God’s plan was for his Son to become the Saviour of sinners and to lead people like you and me into fellowship with God forever. The question we face when contemplating David’s words is whether or not we are prepared to echo them. Do we take comfort from knowing that our Creator is the LORD, our faithful covenant God? Are we entrusting ourselves and our eternal future into the hands of him who put so much thought and effort into forming us in the wombs of our mothers? Psalm 139 ends with a petition. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Ps 139: 23-24). Are you prepared to make this prayer your own? Guided by the Word and Spirit of God, you may then be confident that his way is the way of life forever with him (Ps 139:24)! Dr. Pol is a retired minister of the Carman West Canadian Reformed Church in Manitoba....

Economics

The impact of saying, “I’m so busy”

How many times have you asked someone “How are you doing?” and they respond with “Busy!”? In that response, they did not actually answer your caring inquiry and they unknowingly sabotaged their credibility as a leader.  Further, in their hurriedness, they potentially hijacked an opportunity to bless.  As Christ-following leaders, here’s why I suggest we do well to remove this response from our repertoire… and learn better ways.  Let me explain. We’re all busy. That comes with the position of being any sort of leader. However, even as deliberate leaders are often busy, they are not hurried.  Jesus himself was very busy, but not hurried.  I would suggest that responding with, “I’m so busy” does three things: Reveals our leadership Drains our credibility Limits the God-story 1. It reveals our leadership Newsflash: We are not a “hero” by being busier than others. Being busy is not a badge of honor. Our culture has hoisted the notion of "busyness" onto such a pedestal that many have simply learned to respond this way merely as a status symbol. In the past, I would work ridiculous hours – and be sure to let others know (subtly of course to maintain my “martyr syndrome”).  I burned the candle at both ends with noble church and community work.  I would even brag about my lack of sleep that week, or not attending my family’s vacation because “I have so much to do.”  Worse yet, I thought less of others who didn’t.  I viewed them as lazy or irresponsible.  I was unaware and delusional, arrogant, and prideful.  I wore my hurriedness as a badge of honor. Not only was it destructively sad, but it was also poor thinking.  More yet, it was weak theology, because I didn’t have my identity in Jesus.  My sense of worth came from what I did and accomplished… and what it took to get there.  I would even show up to public functions late and rushed, hoping guests would think, “Man, that guy sure works hard. Look at all his obligations and responsibilities. He’s so industrious… such a servant-heart.” Does that mean all who respond with “I’m so busy” are like I was?  Of course not…  but an addict can easily spot another addict. It doesn’t have to be this way.  Hang around effective leaders for a while and you’ll notice an inner calm and resolve, despite being in the press. A Christ-following leader rests in the unresolved.  They offer a vulnerable, gracious, or inquisitive response… despite being busy. 2. It drains my credibility Rather than being a badge of honor, responding with “I’m so busy” can actually convey: I’m not helping others grow: Show me someone who keeps telling everyone they're busy, and you often see a leader who needs to grow in investing in others.  Effective leaders know how to build, enable, and inspire people to accomplish something bigger and better than they could do on their own.  They look for smarter ways. I'm disorganized: In a lot of cases, a frantic pace is simply a lack of organization and healthy habits. I don't have clarity of what matters most: Without clarity of purpose, and focusing on what’s most important, it's easy to get lured into the frenzy of putting out fires because “I’m so” It might look like hard work, but in many cases, it's just squandered energy. I can’t say no: Enough said. 3. It limits the God-story Starting conversations about how busy you are is a great way to miss an opportunity to witness and bless others.  Why?  Unknowingly, you put up a wall with someone who cared enough to genuinely see how you’re doing.  We’ve also stunted the opportunity to share deeper reflections about where God is at work in your life.   We’ve limited others to see His beauty in the middle of trial or challenge. Ultimately, by saying, “Oh, I’m so busy”, others don’t get to be blessed by the work God is doing in this challenging season of life you’re in. Deliberate application  So, what might be a better way to respond when someone asks, “Hey, how are you doing?” Be thoughtfully deliberate.  Because being real opens meaningful conversation.  Maybe something like, “I’m doing well. Life’s a bit challenging right now, but it is well with my soul. Pressed but not crushed. You know, God is really showing me… Be vulnerable and curious. Because vulnerability builds trust and invites in a God-story.  “I’m actually in a season of struggle right now. Doing well, but feel stretched too thin. How do you manage to juggle all your roles these days? …Could we pray together?” Be a hope dispenser.  Because everyone needs encouragement in their busyness.   “Yes, well I’m really enjoying where God has me right now. What that looks like is…” This one of a ten-part series, “Moving from Hurried to Purposeful” that Darren Bosch has written for DeliberateU, a Christian business leaders mentorship group. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - June 2021

Proverbs for social media Solomon was born 3,000 years before tweets and status updates became a thing, yet his wisdom applies all the same. “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” – Proverbs 10:19 "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." – Proverbs 18:2 “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” – Proverbs 20:3 “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” – Proverbs 26:17 If animals are people, why not flowers too? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) want us to stop using "anti-animal language" and they have some alternatives to propose. Instead of "bringing home the bacon" they want us to say "bringing home the bagels." And instead of "take the bull by the horns" they offer "take the flower by the thorns." What's funny about this – besides everything – is how easy it is to imagine this actually being taken seriously. Of course, such a change would be followed by – in ten, or maybe just five years' time – another group complaining about how PETA's substitutions are insensitive to the gluten-intolerant, and, even worse, to flowers.  On Friends, and our other TV viewing habits In his recent article, “The dark enduring legacy of Friends,” Jonathon Van Maren reflected on Christians' viewing habits. “...when religious people consumed the same entertainment as everybody else, it created a sort of moral schizophrenia—laughing along about everything from porn binges to promiscuity one day while attending church to hear a pastor explain how such things were so wicked God Himself had to be crucified to save people from these sins the next. Most mainstream TV shows offered people the opportunity to entertain themselves by laughing at sin, although few realized it or saw it that way.” Two on a woman’s calling “Sometimes marriage and motherhood are celebrated at the expense of all other things God calls women to do. Some say a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and a mother. But a woman’s highest calling is really to follow Jesus. Some are called to do that as wives. Some are called to follow Him as a wife and mother, and some are called to follow Him as single people. The Bible gives us an elevated view of both modes. We Christians have tended to downplay or denigrate singleness in order to elevate marriage. But the negative contrast to marriage isn’t singleness. It’s having multiple partners in non-monogamous sexual relationships. An important piece of the puzzle, therefore, is actually those women who are called to follow Jesus as singles.” – Rebecca McLaughlin "One of the biggest lies that women believe is that working for an employer is liberating, while working for one’s own family is a burden." – Angela Mitchell @raisingapologists (Instagram) Evil in unvarnished english  "Abortion is the world's resounding answer to the question: 'If you had to murder in order to have an unfettered sex life, would you do it?'" - unknown The moment when the Holy Spirit opened a Roman Catholic priest’s eyes In a recent blog post, Dr. Wes Bredenhof told a story about Franco Maggiotto (1937-2006), “one of the most memorable men I’ve ever met.” At one point in his life, he’d been a Roman Catholic priest in Italy.  The papal hierarchy saw potential in Franco and he became involved with the Vatican.  One day, Father Franco was saying mass at a basilica.  In the process, he happened to read to the congregation from Hebrews 10:11-12: “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” When Franco read this, the Holy Spirit suddenly opened his eyes to the reality of the gospel.  He told the congregation, “I’m fired!  You should go home now.  It’s all done.  I’m fired.  Jesus has done it all!” Two ways God has spoken to us outside the Bible “…God has spoken to us through the majesty and beauty of the world that He has made. But there is another way, still apart from the Bible, in which God has spoken to His creatures. He has not only in the wonders of the world outside of us but also through His voice within. He has planted His laws in our hearts. He speaks to all men through the voice of conscience. He speaks through the majestic words which all but the most degraded men utter, the words: "I ought." He speaks through the majesty of the moral law. A law implies a lawgiver. Conscience testifies of God.” – J Gresham Machen, Is the Bible Inspired? Some are shorter, older, smarter – in what way are we equal? No two of us are alike in any measurable way: neither by height, breadth, income, intellect, speed, or strength. So what’s all this about us being equal? Well, as John Stonestreet notes, there is only one basis for equality: that we are all made in the very Image of God (Gen. 9:6, etc.). “The image of God is essential to understanding the notions of human equality, human dignity, and human value. We all know that the Declaration of Independence says that ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Yet, if you look around a room full of people, the most evident thing is not that we're equal. Instead, we're actually quite different. If there's anything about our humanity that grounds equality and dignity and value, it can't be any quality that we share on the outside, because there is no quality that we all share on the outside. Some of us are older. Some of us are taller. Some of us have higher IQ's. And so on. Even atheist thinkers have recognized that the only source in history that has grounded equality, dignity, and value and given us an understanding of a shared humanity is the image of God.”...

News

Saturday Selections - June 19, 2021

Happy Father's Day Rapper Shai Linne pointing his father to our Father. Yes, you can prove God's existence... ....but proof doesn't always persuade. Fatherhood as a vocation in Richard Scarry's The Bunny Book "'What do you want to be when you grow up?' It’s a question we are routinely asked as youngsters, with the more cliché responses ranging from 'fireman' to 'astronaut' to 'explorer.' Yet, as I’ve argued previously, we needn’t limit such contemplations to work outside of the home.... family needn’t be viewed as a 'capstone' to personal achievement, but should instead be seen as a 'cornerstone'" Kids' shows are pushing Pride Month Jonathon Van Maren wants Christians to opt out of a mainstream culture that is explicitly anti-God. But it's harder to opt out when you don't know what to opt into instead. So to help, we've got 243 viewing suggestions here. Canadian gov't to regulate (indirectly) what citizens post online "In its original form, Bill C-10 would not have regulated the speech of ordinary Canadians at all. The bill excluded “programs that are uploaded to… a social media service by a user of the service,” meaning that the CRTC would not have had the power to supervise the content of individual users. However, in April, the heritage committee removed this exception from the bill...." Should singles adopt? Children need a mother and a father, which is why it is selfish for single men and women to, via surrogates or IVF, create a child who will have just one parent. But one parent is infinitely better than none, so for singles considering adoption, rescuing a child is an entirely different thing. A miracle on the frontlines (5 min) While miracles aren't the norm, God will do what God will do. And in frontline ministries, where maybe the need is the greatest, God sometimes makes Himself very evident. ...

Assorted

A matter of seeing: decay and delights to consider

Some years back we rented a little island cottage north of Kingston, Ontario, sight unseen, for the first week of July.  The fact that in a world filled with animosity and chaos – spiritually as well as financially – we could freely do such a thing as rent a cottage was truly amazing.  We read of beheadings, homicides, protests, countless refugee camps; of the persecuted, impoverished and dying; of massive and mind-boggling national debts; and we were free and able to go to a cottage.  It is something to digest - something over which to chew. It was a Friday afternoon when we traveled along the 401 towards our destination. We stopped at a small motel across from the Brighton Christian Reformed Church where, forty-two years ago, our second daughter had been baptized by my oldest brother. My brother is now with the Lord; the church, however, and its denomination, have deteriorated incredibly. We walked around the church building with a pang and thought, “How the mighty have fallen,” but Paul's voice reproved us as we drove away across the black parking lot, “... let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Four score and some years… Saturday morning we drove on towards Elgin, bought some fruit and then, became a trifle lost.  We asked directions from a man who was an apparent four score and some years – a man who was motoring along on the edge of his driveway in a wheelchair.  He was a friendly sort, all gummy smiles and anxious to help.  After he had pointed us in the right direction, he began to back up his wheelchair... towards the nearby ditch. My husband, Anco, spoke loudly through the open window, "Stop! Stop, sir!  There's a ditch behind you!" His voice grew louder as the thin, old figure smilingly continued to move backwards. "Stop! Stop!" It was too late. The wheelchair and its occupant slid down a small embankment.  The octogenarian fell backwards off his seat and tumbled onto the grass.  We were both out of the car in an instant, as was another motorist passing by. Thin glasses had been knocked off.  We reached him as he, on all fours, was reaching for them. A little dazed, the man still smiled as we carefully helped him up. "You really have to watch those culverts," he said and grinned, while blood dribbled down his nose from small cut next to his left eye. "Are you all right?" I held onto his arm, and he nodded brightly. "I'm fine, really I am." My husband and the other motorist retrieved the mechanized wheelchair, rolling it back onto the driveway.  I held a kleenex on his cut and like a child that has fallen off his bicycle for the first time, he climbed back on the wheelchair full of courage. "I hit the reverse instead of the forward," he said, "I should have known better." Anco checked the cut, but it was small and he seemed fine.  So we drove off as he waved to us. Good news and bad We launched our boat at the appointed dock at Sand Lake.  The owner, who was to meet us and guide us to the cottage, was late. She arrived in a small aluminum boat, exclaiming as she jumped out, "You must be Anco and Christine.  Sorry about the wait." We nodded and she went on. "There's good news and bad news.  I'll give you the bad news first." We nodded again. "There was a fire in your cottage last night and the fire department had to come.  The good news is that the cottage did not burn down and my daughter and myself have been cleaning all day." We sympathized greatly, raised our eyebrows at one another when she wasn't looking, and followed her, boat-wise, out to the cottage.  A little three-room construction on a beautiful hilly, three-acre island met our eyes.  Fir trees, mossy rocks, a female loon nesting on a little outcropping by the dock, all met our expectations of a northern getaway.  Disembarking and loading ourselves down with food and luggage, we climbed up a small path towards the front door.  As we entered the smell of smoke pricked our nostrils.  The upstairs bedroom ceiling was somewhat blackened but, on the whole, with the windows flung wide open, things seemed to be under control. "The last people," Joan, our landlady, volunteered, "foolishly lit a candle before drifting off to sleep and the lampshade under which the candle was standing caught fire.  The wife burned one of her hands trying to put the fire out.  She had to go to emergency.  They left a day early." We nodded once more and felt compelled to say that, generally speaking, we were not in the habit of burning candles. Joan next related that a John 3:16 framed Bible text had been standing on the night table but, amazingly enough, it had not caught fire.  This was something which had confounded the pyromaniac couple causing them to exclaim, "Your God did not burn!"  Joan, who was a Christian, smiled as she told us this, commenting that perhaps this would give them something to think about. Wonders to behold We spent the week fishing, playing Boggle, reading Spurgeon sermons and marveling at God's creation. There was a scarlet tanager moment in which we noted a small splotch of red in a rock pool - a crimson fifth-day creature stretching its wings as it bathed.  God must have smiled when he pronounced this bird good. We often heard the raucous cry of the great blue heron as he skimmed by and saw, nearby, the dark belly and the white tail of the bald eagle majestically soar overhead.  Again and again, the muskrat, apparently undaunted by our presence, swam up to and past our boat towards rock crevices on the shore.  Daily the female loon, whom we dubbed Constance for her faithfulness in brooding her eggs, eyed us as we paddled by on our way out.  A cerulean warbler sang a duet with a pine warbler.  Water lilies lined inlets and little bays.  During the day, the high heavens above declared how great God's love was towards us; and as we contentedly fished in the evening, the red-balled setting sun in the west sang of the immeasurable distance God had removed our sins from us.  The osprey as well as the kingfisher dove, the big and small mouthed bass bit, and we tanned under God's goodness. Something better coming Yet we were unable to forget that we are pilgrims and continue to be pilgrims en route to a much, much better place than Sand Lake or any other northern getaway.  For even as we enjoyed and glorified God's goodness, Genesis 3 lurked in the background. We noted that creation has many thorns and thistles. There was poison ivy to avoid.  Fly-catchers hunted dragonflies and other insects. Bald eagles and osprey ate fish. Owls hunted mice... and so the list went on.  And in the background, the newspaper headlines we had left behind, whispered of terrorist organizations, human turkey vultures, seemingly devouring God's people as if eating bread.  Neither could we hide from the rampant materialism, egoism and self-centeredness breeding around and in ourselves.  It skulked in our hearts and minds; it hid in the weeds as we trolled the shores of earthly life for a piece of the action. On our way home, we stopped to say hello to the man who had fallen off his wheelchair.  Full of good cheer, he was glad to see us.  He told us that when he had fallen off his wheelchair, one of the things that had initially concerned him the most was that he might have lost his eye.  It seemed that his left eye was made of glass.  He was greatly relieved that it had remained in place in spite of the fall.  We told him that we had prayed for his well-being and he smiled broadly. We drove off thinking about the man's eye, and about eyes in general. After the fall, the continued though spoiled beauty in nature is God's gift; and the promise of a totally renewed nature – both for the earth and for ourselves – through our Lord Jesus Christ, is grace.  And Paul's words of hope followed us as we drove home on the highway, "For, as it is written, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Cor. 2:9). This first appeared in the November 2015 issue. Christine Farenhorst is the author of many books, including "Hidden: Stories of War and Peace," "Katharina, Katharina: the story of Katharina Schutz Zell," and "The Sweet Taste of Providence."...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction, Teen fiction

The Bark of the Bog Owl

by Jonathan Rogers 2014 / 248 pages Our hero, Aidan Errolson, is a medium-sized twelve-year-old with dreams that are far bigger. When we join his story he's just putting the finishing touches on a letter: My Dearest King – You will be glad to learn that I am still available for any quest, adventure, or dangerous mission for which you might need a champion or knight-errant. I specialize in dragon-slaying but would be happy to fight pirates or invading barbarians if circumstances require. I would even be willing to rescue a fair maiden imprisoned by evil relatives. That would not be my first choice, since I am not of marrying age. Still, in peaceful and prosperous times like these, an adventurer takes whatever work he can find... For Aidan, it's all that peace and prosperity that's the problem. While his father was a great warrior, and his grandparents carved out a settlement on Cornwald's wild eastern frontier, Aiden's only excitement comes from the imagined foes he fights in defense of the flock he's been tasked to tend. However, things quickly take a turn. First, Aidan hears the bark of the Bog Owl, a creature that has never been seen. Then the Bog Owl turns out to be one of the feechiefolk, who are no less the stuff of campfire stories, akin to impish elves, or fierce boogeyman, and like them both, entirely made-up. But this feechie boy is anything but... and he wants to wrestle. Second, Bayard the Truthspeaker makes an unannounced stop at the Errolson farm to see, so he says, the "Wilderking of Corenwald." And Bayard declares that it is none other than little brother Aidan. That's quite the surprise, and quite awkward too, because Corenwald already has a king, and the Errolson family are his most loyal supporters. Now, if you're a bit quicker than me, this last bit might be ringing some bells, reminding you of Samuel's visit to the house of Jesse (1 Sam. 16). This is where my middlest caught on, but I needed several more chapters. I finally figured it out when Aidan fights a giant. With a sling. And five stones. In my defense, this is only very loosely based on David – Aidan has to deal not only with a giant, but cannons too, and there's no feechie folk in the original either. That it is inspired by, but does not pretend to be, the story of David is part of what makes this so intriguing. While there'll be no confusing the two tales, Rogers' account will have you reflecting on what a tough position David was in, the king not yet crowned, loyal to, and yet chosen to replace, the failed king. Requirements I usually list any possible cautions for the book being reviewed, but there are none for Bark so I'll list one requirement instead: this absolutely needs to be read aloud. The feechie folk dialogue, as it is paced and misspelled, will have you speaking with the most delightful accent, without even trying. Jonathan Rogers makes it easy for a dad to sound good. Conclusion I really can't praise this one enough. I started reading it on my own, and had to stop midway and start again with my girls because this was simply too good not to share. The Bark of the Bog Owl has been compared to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, not so much for story similarities, but because both are clearly Christian and utterly fantastic fantasy. Bark of the Bog Owl is a book that, if you do read it to your children, you can be sure that one day your grandkids will hear their own parents reading it to them too. The two sequels – The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking – complete the story. This is really one epic tale split into three parts, so be sure to buy the set. You can preview the first 2 chapters here. And for a second opinion, read Hannah Abrahmason's take at Reformed Reader....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Theology

Two on worship...and the prevention of worship wars

With the restrictions on church attendance easing, many people are saying: “Can't wait for Sunday." Did you know that there is also a book with that name by Michael Walters? The back cover has a large heading which says: "A Silver Bullet for the Worship Wars." After reading Dr. Wes Bredenhof's book on worship, Aiming to Please, I dove into this one book with its intriguing title. There is some overlap between it and Aiming to Please, in chapters on liturgy, music, and sacraments. However, there are also new topics in Walter's Can't wait for Sunday. For example, Walters comments on the acoustics of the sanctuary. While many (of our) church buildings are optimized for the speaking voice, Walters points out that the sanctuary has multiple functions, including a space for singing and music. Therefore, the room should be acoustically designed for both speaking and singing. Bredenhof and Walters both look at pulpits, which Walters sees as being replaced by a “lectern” in modern churches. He comments: "The presence of a pulpit communicates that it is the Word of God, not the communicator, that is most significant in preaching." He continues, noting that modern communicators often prefer to have no barrier between themselves and their audience. Yet, pastors would do well to let their congregations know why they use "the sacred desk." While Bredenhof comes from a singing tradition with a select number of songs that the congregation knows well, Walters comes from a different practice where the songs are in abundance. The result: "Hymn singing can be a stretch for many worshipers these days." Having many songs for the congregation to sing means there may be too many to be familiar with them. His advice is: "It is better to know ten or twelve hymns well than thirty perfunctorily.” Perhaps something to keep in mind while the Canadian Reformed churches are considering adding more songs. Worship often changes, and Worship Wars start because of a lack of knowledge and understanding. It is essential to know why we do what we do. Both of these books would be an aid to any who want to learn. Frank Ezinga blogs at FrankEzinga.com....

News

Erin O'Toole votes against the unborn at his first opportunity

On June 2, Canada’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject restrictions on the murder of unborn baby girls. More specifically, they voted, 248 to 82 against backbench MP Cathay Wagantall’s Private Member’s Bill C-233, which would have made it illegal to abort a baby simply because she is female. The good news? For the first time in more than a decade, Parliament had to debate a bill that would restrict abortion. That got people talking about the unborn, and got their plight some needed public attention. The bill also gave us a public accounting of just how wicked some of our politicians are. This was about as minimally pro-life – as small a step forward – as any pro-life bill could be in that it didn’t necessarily prevent any abortions, but simply ruled out one justification for them: sex-selection. And by protecting unborn girls it also offered as much political cover as any pro-life bill ever could – this was a feminist pro-life bill. Yet 248 still voted against it. These MPs have shown that there is a real depth and commitment to their wickedness. Among those with babies’ blood on their hands are the leaders of the three major parties, including Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole. That he voted against the bill should come as no surprise to anyone since he’s always pledged to support the murder of the unborn as a right. But Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor noted something that was curious: “31 of the 81 Conservatives who supported C-233 also supported the nomination of either Erin O’Toole in 2020, when he ran as a pro-choice (pro-abortion) leadership contestant or Peter Mackay, who was even farther left. When I look at the list of MPs who endorsed O’Toole or Mackay over pro-life MP Derek Sloan, it makes me wonder how they expected that the election of a leader who was actively promoting an anti-life position could ever lead to a good result in the House of Commons. As it is, any likelihood of the weakened and conflicted Conservative Party achieving victory in the next election has vanished. Compromise in the leadership contest in 2020 has guaranteed compromise on moral issues in 2021.”...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Devoured by Cannabis

Weed, liberty, and legalization by Douglas Wilson 2020 / 99 pages Why shouldn’t Christians smoke marijuana? The go-to answer to that question used to be: because it is illegal. But with its legalization in Canada and many US states, that argument is increasingly irrelevant. But are there any other reasons not to inhale? In this slim volume, Douglas Wilson says yes, arguing that it is a sin, and despite what’s happening in jurisdictions all over, it is the sort of sin that should also be a crime. Intoxication is out So why is it a sin? Wilson points to God’s prohibition against intoxication. While alcohol can also cause intoxication, he notes the Bible also spells out five legitimate uses including: sacramental medicinal aesthetic quenching thirst a celebratory, gladdening the heart, function. It is this last one that is sometimes pointed to as a legitimate usage for marijuana, but in answer to that argument, Wilson notes that God’s condemnation of drunkenness and His call for self-control puts constraints on what sort of celebrations we should have. “True celebration is discipline, accompanied by hard work, training, and fruition of joy” while the use of marijuana “is a celebratory slide downward…” His point is that alcohol goes well with a been-cooking-all-day-holiday-feast, with one wine pairing “well with the beef, and another chosen because it complements the pasta.” Meanwhile, “marijuana goes well with Oreos and mustard.” The one can be a part of a God-glorifying family gathering, the other simply a lead-in to letting loose. Thus “the only possible lawful use for marijuana is the medicinal, the use to which everyone puts marijuana is the one that is denied to alcohol,” i.e. intoxication. Should it be a crime? Wilson also makes the argument that marijuana usage is not simply a sin, but a crime, and notes that's a departure from the more hands-off stance he once leaned toward. Why the change? While acknowledging not all sins should be crimes – we wouldn’t want the government trying to police the 10th commandment – Wilson notes that in a finger-in-every-pot State such that we have, whatever isn’t criminalized is all too often then encouraged and tax-subsidized. And it isn’t hard to see how that would happen with marijuana usage. Our welfare state will have the government picking up the pieces, doling out tax dollars. That might be money for medical treatments dealing with increased cases of psychosis. Or it might be increased unemployment and welfare payouts that will be needed for the addicted. Another cost will come to employers. The way legalization has proceeded, it is as if it's been some sort of neutral act, granting the pot-user a freedom at no cost to anyone else. If that were so, Wilson notes, then: “…the liberty to smoke pot and the liberty to fire a pothead should be the same liberty. Otherwise, we are granting liberty to the privilege and no liberty at all to the responsibility.… the way the push for legal pot is happening now, the pressure is on us to increase the liberty of the irresponsible while simultaneously decreasing the liberty of the responsible ones.” Government will be stuck with the cost, as will employers, who will not be allowed to fire someone for using what will now be a perfectly legal substance. Wilson is not arguing so much that marijuana must always and in all circumstances be criminalized, but more that if presented with a choice of the State either criminalizing usage or encouraging it, then we should choose the former. But are those really the only realistic options? Can't the State take a neutral stance, neither against, but also not for? Well, the latest bit of evidence on that front is Washington State's "Joint for Jabs” where the government is using the promise of a free joint to promote Covid vaccination. And California has announced a $100 million bailout for their struggling marijuana shops. It really does seem that if they aren't against it, then they will be pushing it. So what then is to be done? Wilson is writing for the US, where some states have legalized it and others have not, and there he's hoping it might still be possible, if not to maintain an outright “red,” to at least run with a “yellow” rather than a “green.” Where it is completely legal, like Canada, the hope would be that at least the Church can recognize what should be – that it is a sin, even if it isn’t a crime. Unconfused on that point, God’s people can minimize our own addictions. And to help others, we can make a push for restrictions, particularly for teenage and young adult usage. Sinners need their Savior The book concludes with a Gospel appeal, in which Wilson reminds us that it is only when our country turns back to God that we will be able to turn away from such addictions. But he is quick to point out that while our addictions should have our country desperate for God, we don’t turn to Christ simply to right ourselves or our country. “If we treat Christ as the means to an end (freedom from drugs, say), then we are not coming to Him as Christ. He is a Savior, not a self-help specialist. We come to the Giver for who He is and not for the gifts that He might give. At the same time, He is the Giver of gifts (Eph. 4:8).” Our culture doesn’t just need to be freed from addiction – a sober pagan is still going to hell. What the Church can direct people to is not simply freedom from drugs, but freedom in Christ. In Him, we are free to enjoy our God and Maker, and we are free to live to His glory. That will also be a freedom from addiction, but that is the fruit that comes from turning to God. What Wilson is reminding us of here is the need to point others to the Tree of Life, and not simply its fruit. Conclusion The value of Wilson's book is, first and foremost, the section on whether marijuana usage should be a sin. The clarity on offer here could be a great help for our teens and young adults when (not if) they are pressured into trying it. For parents who think that won't happen, just remember back to the parties you either attended or heard about where all the attendees were church-goers, but where underage drinking was prevalent nonetheless. So let's not be naive about whether our children are going to be offered marijuana at their own parties today. Dad, mom, Wilson's book is a quick, insightful discussion that would make for a great read for you to tackle along with your teen – it's a tool here for you to use....

News

Saturday Selections – June 12, 2021

Ben Shapiro on Genesis 1 (6 minutes) The conservative pundit knows Hebrew but, as Todd Friel notes, he doesn't know how to understand the creation account. Remembering the worst mass murder in history It wasn't Hitler, and it wasn't Stalin – it was even worse than what they did. But like Stalin, it was a government, in the name of equality and advancement, and to pursue socialistic ends, killing its own citizens. Is the Bible color-blind? "Suppose you did not know humans came in different skin colors. Could you figure out that fact just from reading your Bible?" Tim Challies wants to know, are you all in? "If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about today’s most pressing cultural issues: homosexuality, gay marriage, transgenderism, abortion, climate change. If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about today’s most pressing theological issues: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the nature of same-sex attraction, the authority and sufficiency of scripture. If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong in how I relate to money, how I honor my body, how I use my time. I’m wrong over and over, again and again, through and through. I’m poor, pathetic, pitiable, and blind." Before you answer, consider the opposite possibility... This is a secular take on the benefit that comes with having multiple counselors (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). Of course, multiple counselors can only take you so far – we don't want to simply take an average of culture's many opinions when it comes to whether the unborn are valuable. To get to the truth there you need to begin with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7). Another politician acting on principle... When a bill to decriminalize abortion was introduced in Malta, the country's president declared he would "never sign a bill that involves the authorization of murder,” and would have “no problem” resigning instead. Aren't Alcohol and Tobacco deadlier than Weed? (2 min) The author of Devoured by Cannabis: Weed, Liberty, and Legalization weighs in on how this question misses the point. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

Turning it to our good - an excerpt from "Man of the First Hour"

A great reason to read biographies is because they are an antidote to short-term thinking. When you’re caught up in the moment it’s easy to fixate on how hard-pressed you are, or how weak, or how hurt. When we’re thinking about only the now, we’re liable to question where God is, and forget how faithful God has shown Himself in the past. Biographies take us out of the immediate by showing us how God has operated in a person’s life over that lifetime. So yes, they faced challenges and difficulties, but an overview of their whole life will often allow us to see exactly how God caused “all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). RP’s newest release, Man of the First Hour by George Van Popta, is a biography about his father Jules Van Popta, the very first pastor of the Canadian Reformed Churches. If you’ve ever despaired about how things today are getting worse and worse, it’ll be such an encouragement to see that some of the challenges this pioneer had to face have definitely improved since then. In fact, one of the challenges his generation had to face has been transformed into a blessing that benefits us greatly today. As George van Popta writes in this excerpt from the book: “One of the questions that confronted my father right from the beginning was whether a member of the church could join a trade union (ch. 7). This issue had arisen in the New Westminster church and the consistory had decided that membership in a trade union was incompatible with church membership. Brother Efraim Baartman, an office-bearer in New Westminster, and my father published articles about unions and union membership in the first yearbook (1952) of the churches. Both articles demonstrate the incompatibility of such dual and conflicting memberships. My father’s very thorough piece is added as an appendix to this book (appendix 3). He carefully analyzed a number of union constitutions and showed how a member was required to pledge to obey future decisions the union would make. A Christian, said my father, owes that allegiance to Christ, and to Christ alone. “My father’s position on union membership left a stamp on the Canadian Reformed Churches. In Canadian Reformed culture there has been an aversion to joining and binding oneself to a union. The pages of the Year-End issue of Clarion, a magazine widely read in the Canadian Reformed Churches, are replete with advertisements and well-wishes from many businesses owned by members of the churches. Some companies trace their origins to the stalwart efforts of the early immigrants. These independent businesses have been an incalculable blessing to the churches, providing employment for thousands of people who, in turn, are well able to support the ministry of the gospel, the Christian schools, old age homes, summer evangelism, political associations, diaconal relief efforts, and more.” There were other reasons not to join a union: their adversarial underpinnings, an offshoot of Marxist thinking that sees the worker as having to fight ownership; union members striking while also preventing replacement workers from filling in (they acted as if the job was theirs, rather than belonging to the business owner who created it, and in this way they stole the job); and union dues being used to fund ungodly political efforts. While these issues haven’t gone away, we can see that many of them have gotten better. For example, the Christian Labor Association of Canada is a union that specifically renounces the Marxist adversarial approach. More encouraging still is seeing how God used the difficulties then to build His Church now. Entrepreneurs started businesses so that they and their brothers and sisters could find non-union work, and some of those businesses today fund much of the good our Church community is involved in. This can be an encouragement for us today. Our corporate culture’s embrace of “Pride Month” in June is another indicator of how hard it’s becoming for a Christian to get a job in a big company. Will they hire someone who won’t pretend that Fred – who now goes by Fredina – is a woman? What will they think of someone who doesn’t want a rainbow flag on his desk? Certain jobs may be out of bounds once again for the faithful Christian. That is a challenge. In the short-term that can be downright depressing. But God has promised that He will turn this to our good. And in reading great biographies like Man of the First Hour, we can be encouraged to see how He has done so many times before. Order ”Man of the First Hour” at Press.ReformedPerspective.ca. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

A Bear Named Winnie

Drama 90 min / 2004 Rating: 7/10 This is the (mostly) true story of Winnie, the bear that inspired A.A. Milne's much loved Winnie the Pooh books. While she lived most of her life in the London Zoo, many don't realize that Winnie was a Canadian bear. So it was very fun to learn how he got from the wilds of Canada to inside the pages of everyone's favorite children's story. I think copyright concerns probably kept producers from using the words "Winnie-the-Pooh" but as the film begins, the connection is made, with an adult Winnie being watched by a man and boy who are unnamed, but unmistakable as Milne and his son Christopher Robin. "Father," Christopher Robin asks, "why do they call her Winnie? It's a funny hame for a bear. I wonder how she got it" "Yes, I wonder," his father replies. "I bet it's quite a story." It is indeed! From there we are taken away, back in time, and across the ocean, to meet a group of veterinarians enlisted in the Canadian army and riding the rails across the country on their way to the front lines of the First World War. Aside from the bear, the star of this piece is Harry Colebourn, and we're introduced to him just as he wins a sizeable pot of money from his fellow soldiers. But he's not rich for long, as at the next stop, in White River, Ontario, he sees a cub chained up. Colebourn uses his money to buy the bear and rescue it. But now that he has it, what is he going to do with it? When he takes the bear back to the train, his regiment adopts it as their mascot and it's named Winnipeg – Winnie for short – after Colebourn's hometown. From then on we get to see both Winnie's story and the story of this veterinarian regiment. Caution The only caution concerns what one reviewer called the film's confusion about its target audience. It's about the most beloved bear of all time, so wouldn't this be a perfect one for the kidlets? The pacing is gentle, with the tension being mostly of a kiddish sort involving Winnie getting into things she shouldn't, and owner Colebourn, and his friends, trying to chase her down before they all get into more trouble. But if this is for children, then why the repeated scenes with the mentally unbalanced, and at one point drunk, general in command? And if it is for kids, then what were producers thinking when they had the young vet Macray, distraught by the battlefield deaths of his friends and animals, grabbing a gun and running off to his death? The violence is muted - we don't see any blood and gore, even in the midst of fallen men and animals and we never see or hear Macray get shot. The violence is of the sort you might find in a Hallmark film (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this is on the Hallmark Channel). But you don't kill off charming characters in a children's film. So parents need to understand that, despite some appearances to the contrary, this is not one for kids. Or at least not kids who are of the age that they are being read Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Conclusion Who would enjoy this? This would be a nice one for mom and dad on a night when they want something quite calm. It is a unique chapter in Canadian history, presenting not just a bear's story, but also showing some of the First World War from a Canadian perspective. There's humor, hijinks, and also a little educational content along the way so all in all, it ranks as quite a good TV movie. ...

People we should know

Is Jordan Peterson the champion we've been looking for?

This was first published in the Mar/Apr 2018 issue. ***** Christians, it’s time to think a bit more deeply about the Jordan Peterson moment.1 Unless you’ve been asleep and on a different planet for the past several weeks, you’ve probably seen a video clip of the increasingly popular social commentator Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. Most recently, Peterson was rocketed to the precarious and perhaps not-what-one-bargained-for, but nevertheless real, spotlight of internet stardom by brilliantly handling an aggressive feminist interviewer with raw logic, facts, and truth. She was literally speechless. Scores of memes followed. Dr. North wrote up the exchange under the heading, “Bambi vs. Godzilla,” which it surely was. Peterson is popular for a real reason, too. He’s speaking the hard truth about personal responsibility, and right into the teeth of the beast of leftist safe spaces, spin machines, blizzards of snowflakes, and the like. That stand on that issue alone, when executed well (and it is), is enough to win you a nice fan base. But Peterson adds yet another dimension. He’s leveling liberal academics from within their own fortress—the sacred groves of academia. Even better, he’s doing it from within one of the more rabidly liberal of disciplines. He’s a psychologist. Conservatives everywhere are lining up to hear him. He puts his class lectures online and also posts several more casual and intimate Q&A style videos. His audience is overwhelmingly made up of young men, most of whom are hearing a positive, challenging, and inspiring message for young men for the first time. The war on boys ends here, and millions of viewers and students are lining up for something that sounds manlier than what they get anywhere else—certainly any of their other liberal arts classes. Each video he posts gets tens or hundreds of thousands of views, and he, smartly, is receiving donations to a reported tune of something like $60k per month. If his liberal colleagues didn’t hate him enough for repeat-blasting feminism and the LGBT political agenda like an intellectual jackhammer, they could hate him for just being such a greedy capitalist alone. Meanwhile, conservatives have found a new hero. He’s brilliant, fairly well-read, and even better, he spends a ton of time explaining Bible stories from Genesis and the like in profound, engaging ways. Conservatives are cheering a new champion, young men are in love with the father they never had, and Christians are mesmerized by what seems like a new prophet of international proportions. At least one conservative Reformed conference ushered Dr. Peterson past any number of theologians to the front of the keynote speaker line. The more I listen to Dr. Peterson, the more I like him and think maybe some genuine progress could be made with him from a biblical Christian perspective. He often exegetes material that most pastors don’t get, and applies it in helpful ways that I sense most pastors would be afraid, even if they recognized the application. And that kind of gets us to the “but” in this article, and it’s a “but” that every Christians needs to consider next to everything Jordan Peterson says and does, because it’s a very big “but.” In a nutshell, it is this: For all of his toppling of great idols of humanism in our day, Dr. Peterson’s thought, from their presuppositions right through many of his conclusions, is as thoroughly humanist, autonomous, and thus ultimately dangerous, as anything any leftist ever said. Christians need to be aware of the depths of this problem in Peterson’s thought, and the implications it has for their discernment of his teachings. Our happy blindness Conservatives and Christians in general, however, don’t see it, due, I think, to a very regular historical occurrence. They have never really developed and taught their own thoroughly biblical psychology and social theory. They have a few snippets of beliefs from the Bible, and a few beliefs from Bible stories, and enough of an idea of Christ to have a lot of well-developed theories about individual salvation — at least, in the sense of answering “how do I get to heaven”? But social theory? Social dynamics? Personality, vocation, self-improvement, discipline, meaning, power versus authority, law, justice? We’re not only virtually empty here, but when even a few of us have tried, they are usually pilloried by the rest for daring to say the Bible speaks to such issues that are outside of individual ticket sales to heaven. No wonder there’s a market for strong words about personal responsibility to young men today. As I said, this has often been true in history. Christians have consistently failed to develop a distinctly biblical social theory. So, they wander like sheep with no shepherd; and when the next major social, moral, or intellectual crisis hits, they have usually found themselves sidling up to the strong, unifying voice of some secular moralist who is saying some of what the church should have been saying all along. More often than not, too, the Christian intellectuals cannot line up fast enough to parrot the new hero and present mildly-baptized versions of his thought. Only, in the process, they end up carrying water for paganism, and bringing it right into the baptismal fonts of their sanctuaries. Christianity, and especially Christian social theory, suffers for a generation until the next crisis hits. To prevent this problem, it would of course behoove us just to go ahead a develop a biblical social theory from the bottom up (there’s a good start on it already, by the way). It would also help to quit fawning over every bright and engaging pagan that momentarily captures our hearts in the meantime. Even if we were to take a “chew the meat and spit the bones” approach (not out of the picture), it would certainly be incumbent upon us to learn, to know, and to know what the bones are—to understand the paganism of the particular unbelievers we invite to dinner, and to make sure the other guests are aware just how deep that rabbit hole goes. Now, Jordan B. Peterson is the latest of such pagan heroes. Even if we were to decide he has a good benefit to offer to those with a biblical Christian worldview, when analyzed from that perspective, we need at least to talk about the presuppositions from which he is working, and what that means for us, and some of the things they, so to speak, don’t tell you in the brochure. The depths of depth psychology Jordan B. Peterson is sometimes called a Christian, and some have said he calls himself a Christian. But from any orthodox or historical definition of that term, nothing could be further from the truth — his interesting grasps of Bible stories notwithstanding. Peterson is a clinical psychologist by trade and by academic profession, but in terms of worldview, he is a full-blown, unapologetic, enthusiastic Jungian humanist, with a twist of Nietzsche in there, too. This means, first, you need to know a little bit about Carl G. Jung. Jung early on was a parallel figure to Sigmund Freud, but eventually developed certain ideas into something more complex and fantastical than Freud, by wedding forms of ancient pagan, mystic, occult, and other esoteric philosophies into his theories of the primitive drives and instincts, sexual and otherwise, of the human libido which make up the core of our unconscious being. Jung was a strong disciple also of Friedrich Nietzsche, and many Nietzschean themes such as the Übermensch (“super-man”), death of God, and the transvaluation of all values find new expression in Jung’s theories. To this Jung further added völkish religion, Aryanism, UFOs, alchemy, and virtually all forms of occultism (emphasis on all). There was a tremendous push and enthusiasm in Germany at the time for all such things, and one popular understanding of it all was that Germans, in order to become truly all they were destined to be (whether naturally, through evolution, or mystically through some kind of cosmic evolution), needed to push beyond all the impediments Christianity had forced upon German civilization and engage the true roots of ancient German folk religion, which predated Christianity and had within it all the secrets, mysteries, and savage power in a sort of mystical, cultural DNA that would make Germans be all Germans were ever intended to be—fulfilled, transcendent, powerful. And if you sniff a bit of Hitler and Nazism in that, that’s because it’s all the stuff they were made of. But there is even more to it. This also came on the heels of two generations of developed higher criticism of the Bible (much of it led by German scholars) — the kind that far surpassed merely denying inspiration, and said the Bible must be treated like any other book, then proceeded to deconstruct it into fine slices with razors of all kinds of criticism, historical, literary, philological, textual, linguistic, etc. The result was a near-total denuding of the faith of the German people, and many more besides. In this milieu grew up the likes of Nietzsche (not to mention Marx), but also a whole new denigration of traditional Christianity, and on top of that, a whole new appreciation for all things pre-Christian and not-Christian. Into the void flooded, among other things, a great interest in the ancient mystery religions — especially those which were supposed to have the deepest, purest of Persian/Aryan roots, for these were the ancient roots of the Germans. By the time Jung arrives, there is a developed body of scholarly literature on all of this. One of the mystery religions which most captivated Jung, for various reasons, was the Roman cult, allegedly of Persian origin, of Mithraism. This was a blood-sacrifice cult centered on a Sun god named Mithras and featuring also a lion-headed god. These things were not fringe or side interests to Jung. They were the core of his very being and of the psychology, philosophy, and methods he developed. It was around 1913 that Jung, through dabbling in spiritualism and psychic trances (which he called “active imagination”), achieved his own personal version of Nietzsche’s Übermensch. He had a vision in which he met Elijah and “Salome” in a “Druidic sacred place.” Salome approached Jung and began to worship him. When he asked her why, she said, “You are Christ.” A snake approached him and coiled around him. Soon, he could feel that his face had transformed into that of a lion. Jung explained to an audience in 1925 that through this experience, he had been mystically initiated into the Mithraic mysteries, and had undergone “deification”—personally transformed into the very lion headed God, named “Aion” by Jung, featured in the ancient cult. Jung believed he had been deified, identified with Aion the Persian/Aryan sun God, and immortal. The one thing on which all of this was built, and with which all the major players were consistent, was the need to find something to replace the razed religious foundations and superstructure of traditional Christianity. Jung himself embodied this critique. He agreed with that vast critics of Christianity at the time and saw Christianity as a great historical distraction to the true development of the human race. If history had only gone differently, we would have not had this sad affair, but been more thoroughly enlightened by Mithraism and the mysteries instead of impeded by Christianity. Instead, he said, “In the past two thousand years Christianity has done its work and has erected barriers of repression, which protect us from the sight of our own ‘sinfulness.’ The elementary emotions of the libido have come to be unknown to us, for they are carried on in the unconscious; therefore, the belief which combats them has become hollow and empty.” A couple paragraphs from one popular Jung scholar will tie this all together, explaining Jung’s worldview and teachings: Within each native European there was a living pre-Christian layer of the unconscious psyche that produced religious images from the Hellenistic pagan mystery cults or even the more archaic nature religions of the ancient Aryans. The phylogenetic unconscious does not produce purely Christian symbols but instead offers pagan images, such as that of the sun as god. If the sediment of two thousand years of Judeo-Christian culture could be disturbed (as in psychotic mental diseases with a psychological component, such as dementia praecox), then this Semitic “mask” might be removed, and the biologically true images of the original “god within” could be revealed: a natural god, perhaps of the sun or stars like Mithras, or matriarchal goddesses of the moon or blood, or phallic or chthonic gods from within Mother Earth. . . . To Jung, the mystery cults of antiquity kept alive the ancient natural religion of human prehistory and were a corrective antidote to the poison of religions—like Judaism and Christianity—that had been forged by civilization. . . . Jung regarded Christianity as a Jewish religion that was cruelly imposed on the pagan peoples of Europe. . . . Semitic cultures, cut off from the primordial source of life, did not have mysteries in which a direct experience of the gods could be attained through initiation rituals. They were, therefore, cut off from the renewal and rebirth that such mysteries offered the Aryans. . . . Jung often referred to the ancient mysteries as the “secret” or “hidden” or “underground” religions and their social organizations as the secret or hidden churches that kept alive the divine spark from the dawn of creation. This leads us to an obvious conclusion. When Jung became one with Aion in his visionary initiation experience, in his imagination he was not only becoming a full participant in the mysteries of Mithras; he was experiencing a direct initiation into the most ancient of the mysteries of his Aryan ancestors. . . . Here’s the part that is the most crucial summary for our purposes: His new science of psychoanalysis became the twentieth century vehicle of those mysteries. Most important, as his initiation experience also entailed assuming the stance of the crucified Jesus as he metamorphosed into Aion, Jung thereby became the figure that fueled the fantasies of thousands of Volkish Germans and European and American anti-Semites at the turn of the century: the Aryan Christ. Much more could be added to this, and in fact is in the books from which these paragraphs came, The Jung Cult and The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung (see esp. pp. 121–147), both by award-winning author and clinical psychologist Richard Noll.2 I want to be clear here: while there are obviously strains of antisemitism in all of this, and Jung did briefly give a favorable glimpse to Nazism, the point here is not to play the anti-Semite card and try to discredit Jung in that way. The point here is to show the radical break with all things Christian, the reinterpretation of even Jesus himself in terms of mystical, occult mysteries, and the projection of such occult practices into a thoroughly scientific-sounding method of “psychoanalysis” as a way of, among other things, transforming the collective imagination of the West from Christianity to a new paganism (same as the old). All of this was Jung’s answer to Nietzsche’s “death of God” proclamation. Nietzsche was not just dancing on the grave, he was alerting the world to a need for something to fill the void left behind, because “God” had been performing some pretty important services in regard to meaning and morality and all, so those who killed him had to pick up the slack. Nietzsche’s answer to this, in a nutshell, was that we had to become powerful autonomous actors who from now own determined our own values for ourselves. Or as Peterson has put it in his lectures, men must become creatures who can autonomously create their own values. But this looked like trouble. So what Jung added to that answer was to examine people’s fantasies to determine their drives and motives, and supply some kind of collective unity that could tie these many autonomous actors to something common. He added the dimension of mythology across history as a guide to interpretation and meaning. These last few explanations are notes directly from Peterson’s own lectures. In short, Jung mainstreamed the most famous doctrines of the atheist Friedrich Nietzsche, and also mainstreamed virtually every kind of ancient paganism and occultism right into the heart of twentieth century secular humanism, and it makes a huge core of what makes modern humanism what it is. This is what Christians should consider when they listen to Jordan Peterson, because this is precisely, and quite squarely I would add, where he is coming from when he says what he says, even when it seems to comport with Christianity. Peterson’s Jungian worldview Some will be quick to object that I am merely poisoning the well. All of this, I admit, could indeed be seen as one big genetic fallacy, or series thereof. We could understand Peterson’s association with Jungian psychology as little more than incidental, like a kind of professional vestige, long since watered down and papered over with many layers of more modern, scientific clinical theories. Except, Peterson says things like this: “Jung, I would say, was the most serious thing for the twentieth century.” And he says such things with passionate verve. And he lectures with enthusiasm on how great Jung was and he weaves Jung’s theories and ideas into his own. He speaks openly of Jung (and Nietzsche, too), his admiration for him, and quite often will drop phrases and ideas from Jung’s methodology that show Peterson follows the same path: for example, the interpretation of people’s “archetypal dreams” and “the mythological underpinning of them” in his psychological practice. Consider teachings like this: For Jung, not only are the substructures of your thought biological, and so therefore based in your body, but your body was also cultural and historical.... You’re an evolved creature, so 3.5 billion years worth of weirdness that you can draw on, or that can move you where it wants to move you.... But also, you’re being shaped by cultural dynamics all the time.... Part of what every single person is constantly broadcasting to every other person is how to behave.... Then he discusses the archetypal “savior figure” as the distillation of a thousand people’s ideals, and says if someone comes along who is close to one of these figures, you have a religion. So, the story of Horus and Isis kept Egypt civilized for millennia. Then that story “sort of transmuted into Judaism and then turned into Christianity, so it’s not like the ideas disappeared.” Peterson says You’re just as possessed by those ideas as any ancient Egyptian, you’re just more fragmented, because what your conscious mind assumes and what your unconscious mind assumes are different things, and you’re always at war with yourself; that’s why you’re attracted to ideologies. These ideologies he calls “idols” and destructive to your soul (I wondered if he would include the ideologies of Jung and Nietzsche in that. Don’t know.). He concluded the section by mentioning what is so terrifying about Jung: “there’s no escaping the realization of the nature of the forces that are behind the puppets that we are.” Scoffing at people who said Jung started a cult, Peterson says he is “so much more terrifying than a cult!” No, Jung was “trying to bring the primordial imagination back into the world and to make people conscious of it.” And there’s more. If there’s any single thing Peterson’s become known for, it’s his emphasis on taking personal responsibility. Here, it would seem, there’s at least some overlap with the discipline, responsibility, and sanctification found in Christian teaching. But not really, this is Jungian too. Peterson himself teaches, “The thing that is instantiated in Jungian psychotherapy, the Jungian model, is, it requires personal responsibility above all else.” It’s not Christian. It’s Jung’s answer to Nietzsche’s superman. It’s humanism, human autonomy, self-help, or in Peterson’s personal brand, “self-authoring.” Peterson comes across as conservative, mainly because he takes such an uncompromising stance against “cultural Marxism” and “postmodernism” (which he says is just Marxism under a new name), but his own roots in Nietzsche and Jung not only conflict with that stance in theory (who, after all, is a greater granddaddy of postmodernism than Nietzsche?), but some of his own ethical wranglings show those roots in practice as well. One lesser known, but certainly not surprising, aspect of Jung is his sexual immorality. He counseled some of his clients to have affairs, and himself had women in addition to his wife. Peterson is certainly more prudish personally (his assessment), yet himself from his worldview has a hard time addressing homosexual marriage. Yes, he would oppose such a law if it were only cultural Marxists using it to destroy western civilization, but he’s also supportive of it because “it’s a means whereby gay people can be more thoroughly integrated into standard society, and that’s probably a good thing.” Likewise, on abortion. He has no problems calling it morally wrong, though on pragmatic and anecdotal grounds. But the question of its legality is a whole different thing. Some morally wrong things should still be legal. This discussion, he said, is nested inside a larger discussion, and in discussing it, Peterson reveals how he once counseled a 27-year old female virgin to address her personal timidity by going out and having some sexual “adventures.” After all, “You can’t just say to people in the modern world, ‘No sex until you’re married.’” Even in his “self-authoring” theme, Peterson is Jungian-Nietzschean to the point of being postmodern himself. In speaking of self-improvement in metaphorical terms, he says this: then if you create an ultimate judge, which is what the archetypal imagination of humankind has done, say, with the figure of Christ—because if Christ is nothing else he is at least the archetypal perfect man and therefore the judge—you have a judge that says get rid of everything about yourself that isn’t perfect. The thing that’s interesting about this, I think, is you can do it more or less on your own terms. You have to have some collaboration from external people; but you don’t have to pick an external ideal. You can pick an ideal that fulfills the role of ideal for you; you can say, OK, if things could be set up for me the way I need them to be, and if I could be who I needed to be, what would that look like? You can figure that out for yourself, and then instantly you have a judge. Maybe he would explain these points, or the context, a little more satisfactorily given the chance, but as it is, this is nothing less than the very moral relativism one would expect from his inspirations (yet which he himself decries). Jung with a stiff upper lip Somehow, however, this Jungian depth psychologist has adopted a conservative-ish streak along the way. But even these are humanistic. The following excerpts of Peterson quoted in David Brooks’s recent article are very interesting: All of life is perched, Peterson continues, on the point between order and chaos. Chaos is the realm without norms and rules. Chaos, he writes, is “the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the side of the road. It’s the mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as a potential predator and tears you to pieces. Chaos, the eternal feminine, is also the crushing force of sexual selection. Women are choosy maters. … Most men do not meet female human standards.” Life is suffering, Peterson reiterates. Don’t be fooled by the naïve optimism of progressive ideology. Life is about remorseless struggle and pain. Your instinct is to whine, to play victim, to seek vengeance. Peterson tells young men never to do that. Rise above the culture of victimization you see all around you. Stop whining. Don’t blame others or seek revenge. “The individual must conduct his or her life in a manner that requires the rejection of immediate gratification, or natural and perverse desires alike.” When I hear “struggle” and “suffering,” I hear the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. When I hear the advice to rise above these and face them like a man, I hear classic stoicism (which churchmen of the era loved). The two are far more similar, by the way, than most histories of philosophies catch. These ideas connect historically also in Nietzsche, but also in classic British conservatism. In the face of calamity and chaos, keep a stiff upper lip. Don’t bend, don’t’ change. Edmund Burke could have written those paragraphs. Above all, a Burkean Conservative would say, don’t touch the ancient institutions. Don’t mess with the fundamental foundations of society that have served us well for so many years. Don’t change anything. If you do, you don’t know what the consequences will be. This is exactly Peterson’s message, too. Don’t be fooled by naïve optimism. Accept traditions, etc., even if you have to embrace the pain. Sure enough, what we are getting in the conservative and Christian flocking to Peterson is the same thing we saw with the classic conservativism centering on Edmund Burke. Never mind that he was every bit as much a humanist and natural law proponent on social theory as Robespierre himself. It was the Right Wing of the Enlightenment, and Christians loved it, mainly because it said some things Christians weren’t getting in a fully biblical form from their pulpits—weren’t getting at all, really. Christians don’t realize that the Enlightenment had two wings, one right and one left. When we think humanism, we only think left wing humanism, but the right wing was every bit as humanist. One could go on to say, in fact, that the right wing of the enlightenment is even more dangerous than the left, because it teaches humanistic principles on humanistic foundations, but often with common conclusions Christians like to hear, and often in language that sounds amenable to Christianity. Here are the Isaac Newtons, Adam Smiths, Edmund Burkes — all guys Christians tend to love. It is often through these relationships and their influence that humanism enters the church to the detriment of all. Analysis from a Biblical Worldview The point with Peterson should not be to have to do something so obvious as to go through Peterson’s lectures on biblical narratives critiquing every point from the perspective of orthodox theology. Rather, it is to look deeper at the presuppositions that underlie his interpretations and methods, and what, while it may sound profound (and in a way, is), is little more than the same type of humanistic repurposing of the texts to which we would strenuously reject and decry if we heard a liberal doing it. But since this guys seems to be on our side, we give him a more passive treatment. Cornelius Van Til provided a very helpful multi-point review of the psychology of religion which not only nicely critiques humanistic attempts (which would subsume Jung), but also establishes biblical presuppositions from which to do so.3 A biblical worldview of souls (“psychology” is the study of the soul) must begin with the Creator-creation distinction. Man is not God, and man cannot become a god. Second, the fall of man is the source of all our brokennesses. All of them. We will not be saved by creating a distillation of archetypes from the collective imagination of fallen man, or any projection from that which is already broken. Nothing derived from us either horizontally with other men, or vertically up from ourselves, can save us. The cure of souls must come from without, not within fallen humanity. Psychology, therefore, that proceeds on any other ground, certainly including Jung’s program, is a rival plan of salvation to that of the Bible and Christian tradition. These basic ideas have severe implications. First, as we have seen with Jung and Peterson above, the rival views are hardly neutral. This is because there is no neutrality. Our views of psychology and “Self-help” are either in covenant with God, or covenant breaking with Him. Second, humanistic psychologies assume that man is his own autonomous being — autonomous from God, that is, because they will call him everything but subject to the God of the Bible, even going so far as to call him subject to the impersonal forces of the universe, or a collective consciousness of humanity. He is autonomous from God, nonetheless. But man is totally dependent upon his creator. For the Bible, man is created in the image of God. For the Jungians, God is created in the images of glorified men. Third, since man is dependent upon the Creator for his being, and totally subject to Him, this means man is also dependent upon Him morally. The whole concept of establishing our own values, then, whether per Nietzsche, Jung, or Peterson, is unbiblical and humanistic. For the humanist, man must be saved on his own terms, setting his own values. For the Bible, man must return to the ethics God created for him. When we follow the humanistic models, like Jung’s, but any of them, really, we can trace several steps of the destruction of the foundations of civilization. First, the intellect is dethroned in favor of irrational, forces — thus the emphasis on paganism, spiritualism, and all things occult. Second, man is eventually reduced to little more than a holistic corpus and product of such forces. Third, comes a focus on the psyche developed in childhood. The child becomes the most meaningful part of the psyche, and thus of the person. The adult is soon interpreted in terms of the child. Fourth, emphasis is placed upon the unconscious and subconscious forces. Fifth, emphasis is placed upon abnormal psychology. Since there is no fall in humanism, the abnormal and normal are both natural, and thus both normal in a way. Thus, for example, homosexuality is just as valid as hetero. In ethics, this means homosexual marriage must be given some space as valid in the mix. Sixth, the emphasis next becomes primitive and primordial man. Jung obviously exemplifies this in reaching back to our earliest pagan roots for archetypal patterns and foundations. Seventh, we go from primordial man to animals. The key to the human psyche will then lie somewhere deep in our evolutionary history. Not the men, not the abnormal man, not the child, not the subconscious, but the chimpanzee and the rat, will explain our woes and its cures. And if you can recall Jung standing there, snake-wrapped, with his own face replaced by that of a lion, perhaps you can see that this is no joke. In virtually every one of these areas, we can easily refute Freud and the humanistic traditions, whether Jungian, behaviorist, or whatever. But such refutations also just as earnestly critique the humanistic foundations from which Peterson works, as well as many of the points he would emphasize from them. We don’t need another lion-headed Aryan would-be Christ, or any other humanist stretch of the imagination. What we do need is to return to the God-man that our Creator sent to rescue us in our fallen condition. Here we can find true representation, manhood and womanhood, ethics, meaning, and a future outlook. And in that outlook, we’ll be much better equipped to discern the problems that appear in even the good-speaking humanists. Conclusion When you boil it all down, the weightiest contributions coming from Peterson are actually quite limited and easily procurable from sources with less intellectual baggage and less-deceptive packages to truth-and-practice-hungry Christians. His weightiest contribution on social theory is a repeated historical lesson that communism lay behind the slaughter of millions of people, and we don’t want to return to that. Ok, fine. But we’ve got plenty of help on that message already. We just need pressure on the teachers to teach it more. We need simply an effort to get the word out better on that. His weightiest contribution on personal life is the emphasis on personal responsibility and self-discipline. Don’t buy into the lure of victimhood and entitlement. Ok, fine, too. But that’s the message of the mind of Christ in the New Testament (Phil. 2), in which version it is far more meaningful and profound. It’s the most fundamental lesson of sanctification in the Bible. It’s where Christians should begin and never depart. So why don’t we begin with the Bible and not depart from it? It contains, Peter says, “all things pertaining to life and godliness.” No detour through Mithraism or the Übermensch is needed here. So, why do we allow ourselves to become enamored with the pseudo-profundities of Jung and depth psychology, and with their fundamental deceit that the answer lies inside of ourselves, in humanity, in a collective unconscious, in humanity’s evolutionary being? What improvement is this over any other humanism? Why, I ask you Christian, would we want to trade one humanism for another? I am speaking of intellectual presuppositions and foundations. Why does it matter if we try to build Christian-sounding ideas on top of Right Wing Humanism or Left Wing Humanism? Ultimately, beneath both, are the same ideas: we are evolved beings, the universe is impersonal, we are products of our environment, our instincts, drive, and urges rule us, etc., etc. The only good that exists in Peterson’s talks is when he departs from these basic presuppositions and happens to echo biblical ones, and that should tell us all we need to do next: go to the source of the good ideas Peterson has. That source is Scripture. Peterson denies the inspiration of it, the historicity of it, the God who is behind all of it, and the Christ who is the Son of that God and Savior of us in our condition. Yet Peterson is commanding huge audiences of largely young men. While we obviously need a clear warning in the church that his foundations and teachings lack quite a bit, the nature of his appeal speaks volumes about what is missing in our own house. But for all of this problem, the main lesson Christian leaders need to take from this is to see where all the young men are flocking to gain wisdom and insight into practical living and every area of life while Christian leaders are missing the boat in virtually every way a boat can be missed: intellectually, spiritually, apologetically, culturally, as well as in terms of business, opportunity, community, dominion, etc. Endnotes 1 The phrase “Jordan Peterson moment” was coined as the headline of a recent New York Times article by David Brooks. 2 Peterson, like much of the pro-Jung academic guild, has not been appreciative of Noll, and in a lecture called him a “crooked guy,” although when confronted later apologized. 3 The following points are taken from Rushdoony’s summary of Van Til in “Psychology,” in Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001), 41-51. This article was first published on AmericanVision.org under the title “Is Jordan Peterson our new Aryan Christ?” and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. Joel McDurmon is the author of "God vs. Socialism" and "The Problem of Slavery in Christian America" and many other books. Top photo is cropped version of TEDxUofT Team picture (photo credit: Strategic Communications/University of Toronto) and used under a Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

6 quotes from "The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self"

Carl Trueman's newest book has been celebrated as one of "the most important book of our moment" by Ben Shapiro, while Reformed blogger Tim Challies said of it, “I don’t think there will be a better-researched or more fascinating book in all of 2020." What follows are a half dozen quotes from The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, to give you an idea of what's inside. And you can check out Dr. Bredenhof’s review here. ***** THE QUESTION ANSWERED IN THIS BOOK “Why does the sentence, ‘I am a woman trapped in a man’s body’ make sense not simply to those who have sat in poststructuralist and queer-theory seminars but to my neighbors, to people I pass on the street, to coworkers who have no particular political ax to grin… How did such a strange idea become the common orthodox currency of our culture?” SHUT UP, YOU TRANSPHOBE! "The sexual revolution does not simply represent a… modest expansion of the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable sexual behavior; rather, it involves the abolition of such codes in their entirety. More than that, it has come, in certain areas, such as that of homosexuality, to require the positive repudiation of traditional sexual mores to the point where belief in, or maintenance of, such traditional views has come to be seen as ridiculous and even a sign of serious mental or moral deficiency. The most obvious evidence of this change is the way language has been transformed to serve the purpose of rendering illegitimate any dissent from the current political consensus on sexuality. Criticism of homosexuality is now homophobia, that of transgenderism is transphobia. The use of the term phobia is deliberate and effectively places such criticism of the new sexual culture into the realm of the irrational and points towards an underlying bigotry on the point of those who hold such views." SEXUALITY AS GOD “Freud has, in fact, provided the West with a compelling myth – not in the sense of a narrative that everybody knows is false but in the sense of a basic idea by which we can understand the world around us – regardless of whether it is ‘true’ in the commonsense way of understanding the word.  That myth is the idea that sex, in terms of sexual desire and sexual fulfilment, is the real key to human existence, to what it means to be human.” SEXUALITY AS WHO YOU REALLY ARE “…the underlying argument of this book is that the sexual revolution, and its various manifestations in modern society, cannot be treated in isolation, but must rather be interpreted as the specific and perhaps most obvious social manifestation of a much deeper and wider revolution in the understanding of what it means to be a self. While sex may be presented today as little more than a recreational activity, sexuality is presented as that which lies at the very heart of what it means to be an authentic person.” SHUTTING DOWN FREE SPEECH “While earlier generations might have seen damage to body or property as the most serious categories of crime, a highly psychologized era will accord increasing importance to words as means of oppression. And this represents a serious challenge to one of the foundations of liberal democracy: freedom of speech. Once harm and oppression are regarded as being primarily psychological categories, freedom of speech then becomes part of the problem, not the solution, because words become potential weapons.” DON’T WHINE; WORK “Every age has had its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.” For more on "The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self" listen in as Albert Mohler interviews the author below. ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Jan Brett: picture books' peak

What sets Jan Brett (1949- ) apart as a picture book illustrator is how much she packs into every page. There’s always lots going on right there in the middle of her double-page pictures, and then there's even more to see toward the edges – Brett’s trademark is to use the side and bottom borders to give hints to the attentive child of what might be coming next. So, for example, in The Mitten, the small picture on the right-hand border of every two-page spread gives us our first glimpse of the next animal to try to squeeze into the already crowded mitten. What sets Brett apart as an author is the creative twists she brings to otherwise familiar fairytales. Goldilocks, the Gingerbread Man, Cinderella, and the Big Bad Wolf are all taken to new settings, with the most unusual reimagining being Cinderella as told with chickens. RECOMMENDED All of her books are 32 pages, and all are aimed at the pre-school to Grade 2 age group (though older children will certainly enjoy revisiting them for years to come). But which Brett should you begin with? And which would make ideal gifts for the kids or grandkids, or purchases for the school library? With more than 40 books so far, there’s certainly lots to enjoy. What follows are my recommendations grouped by theme. TWO SETS OF MITTENS I couldn’t track down which is Brett’s most popular book, but in that she’s written three sequels to it, I’d think Brett’s favorite has to be The Mitten. The Mitten: a Ukrainian folktale (1989) After his grandmother knits him some snow-white mittens, Nicki loses one in the forest. But one boy’s loss is a mole’s gain, who finds it just the perfect size to crawl into and stay cozy and warm. A passing rabbit has the same thought, and, despite there really being no room, joins the mole, only to have a hedgehog, owl, and more squeeze in. The charming story has a fun twist at the end when Nicki recovers his lost mitten. The Hat (1997) Hedgie gets a woolen sock stuck to her head, and the other animals use the rest of the drying laundry to fashion their own hats. The Umbrella (2002) This retelling of The Mitten takes place in the jungle and begins with a little frog trying to find refuge in a little boy’s lost umbrella. But it isn’t too long before he has a lot of very close neighbors. Cozy (2020) An Alaskan Muskox named Cozy becomes a refuge for cold animals seeking shelter. It starts with some lemmings, then a snowshoe rabbit, and so on. The attentive young reader will notice that this is another retelling of The Mitten but with its own creative twists. HEDGIE’S BOOKS Hedgie the hedgehog makes frequent appearances in Brett’s books, showing up in at least twenty of them. Most often it’s somewhere in the background (he’s carved into a bedpost in Goldilocks and the Three Bears) but in The Hat above, and in the books below, he has a bigger role. Trouble with Trolls (1994) A little girl, Treva, has to contend with some troublesome trolls who really want her pet dog for their own. Though she outsmarts them in the end, children might feel a little sorry for the trolls, who just wanted a pet. But the observant child will notice that, though they don’t deserve it, by story’s end, the trolls do end up with a wonderful pet. Guess who it is!  Hedgie’s Surprise (2002) Hedgie helps a hen stop a thieving Tomten (a Danish gremlin) from taking her eggs so that she can have a family. The borders are done as needlepoint for added charm. The Snowy Nap (2018) Hedgie puts off hibernation long enough to see the farm in wintertime. FAIRYTALES WELL (RE)TOLD There is a reason the same fairytales we heard as kids are still being told – they are classics for a reason. But Brett’s taken on the challenge of improving on them, and in these four her success is obvious. The first three here are all versions of Goldilocks and there’s something to love about each one. Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1987) What sets this faithful retelling apart is the detailed, gorgeous pictures - there is so much to see! And the author also explains (which few other versions do) how the Papa and Mama bears could tell Goldilocks had been on their chairs and beds.  The Three Snow Bears (2007) An Inuit girl, Aloo-ki, ends up at the igloo house of a family of polar bears. She’s less destructive than in the original, and the bears are more forgiving. The arctic landscape brings added charm. The Mermaid (2017) This time Goldilocks is a mermaid visiting the home of the three octopuses. The ending is a little happier than it usually is – the little one gets a gift from “Goldilocks.” Beauty and the Beast (1989) To save her father, a girl agrees to live with a beast and his animal servants. That’s always made this my least favorite fairytale – what sort of loving father would let his daughter sacrifice herself for him? But while Brett’s version still includes this troublesome opening, the artwork makes it special. An observant child will notice the paintings shown on the castle hallway walls reveal what the animal servants used to look like back when they were human. Town Mouse · Country Mouse (1994) When a pair of country mice switch places with two city mice, they both learn that there’s no place like home. An added element to this version: a city cat and a country owl both intent on getting dinner.  Gingerbread baby (1997) While the title character is full of sass, this is a kinder, gentler twist on the classic Gingerbread Man tale. The 3 little Dassies (2010) Brett has taken The Three Little Pigs to Africa, swapping in dassies (gopher-like creatures) as the architects, and an eagle as the windbag. It’s a little scarier than its source material because the eagle actually catches the first two dassies, But never fear – in the picture borders we can watch as they are rescued by a friendly lizard even as the eagle makes his unsuccessful attempt at Dassie #3. THE REST OF THE BEST Among this potpourri are original stories from Jan Brett, as well as folktales from other countries. Annie and the Wild animals (1985) When a little girl’s pet cat goes missing, she tries to find a new pet from among the wild animals in the forest. What she discovers is that none of them are a good fit. Fortunately, her cat comes back...and she brings some surprises with her.  Fritz and the beautiful horses (1987) A scruffy pony wishes that someone would ride him but all anyone does is laugh at how he looks. But when the town’s bridge breaks, the sure-footed Fritz is able to do something the beautiful horses won’t – he can bring the town’s children through the river back to their parents. Hurray for Fritz! Berlioz the Bear (1991) A bear and his band of musicians are stuck on their way to the gala – their donkey won’t budge. Can the rooster, cat, goat, or ox get him to move? No, but children will enjoy seeing how something much smaller can change the stubborn beast’s mind! Daisy comes home (2002) Set in China, this is the tale of a quiet meek chicken who gets picked on by other chickens. But on an unexpected journey, she has to fight a monkey, a dog, and more, and her courage helps her stand up to the chicken bullies when she gets back home. Honey.. honey... Lion! (2005) The honeyguide bird and honey badger normally work together, with the little bird showing the badger where to find honey, and the badger breaking things open so they can both feast. But one day, when honey badger decides not to share, honeyguide knows exactly how to teach him a lesson. The Turnip (2015) Based on an old Russian folktale, the badger family can’t pull their giant turnip out of the ground, no matter how much help they get. But when a rooster tries it on his own, and, unnoticed to all, he gets some help from below - bears pushing the turnip up out of their den – the turnip finally comes out. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT Armadillo Rodeo A near-sighted armadillo befriends a pair of red cowboy boots and follows wherever their owner takes them. It’s fine, but just not as interesting as Brett’s best. Hedgie Blasts Off Hedgie goes to space to unplug a planet that shoots sparkles, much to the alien tourists’ delight. There’s nothing all that wrong with it (aside maybe from the aliens, because aliens don’t actually exist… but, of course, talking animals don’t either). However, its simpler format (no border pictures) and science fiction elements make it different and just not as enjoyable as Brett’s usual fare. Gingerbread Friends In this sequel to Gingerbread Baby, the baby goes on a journey in search of friends only to find out that other baked goods can’t talk or dance. But when he returns home to find that his friend has baked him a whole bunch of gingerbread friends. Kids will probably appreciate this sequel, but parents will find it less creative than the first. Mossy A unique turtle – she has a mossy garden growing on her back – is put on display in a museum. But Mossy pines to be back with the new friend (and budding romantic partner?) Scooty. To help the lonely turtle, the museum director releases her back into the wild. This is a gorgeous book, but its message about creature care is in line with environmentalism’s general “hands off” approach which stands in opposition to the “hands on” role God has assigned us as stewards. While this will go over kids’ heads I’m noting it because Brett is pointedly preaching here – there is a message to this book – and she’s directing that point to young impressionable readers. While I’d have no problem reading this with my children, it is one I would want to read with them. I’d tell them that, yes, it is important to address Mossy’s loneliness, but returning her to Nature wasn’t the only option – Scooty could also have been brought indoors. Cinders, a chicken Cinderella This is both a bizarre but enjoyable take on Cinderella, with chickens playing the principal parts. The only downside to this book is from a school library perspective: it has a double-page foldout in the middle, that’ll quickly get crumpled up. The Tale of the Tiger Slippers Tiger tries to throw out his old raggedy shoes that served him well as he worked his way to wealth, but no matter what he tries, they end up coming back. The story doesn’t have the usual Jan Brett spark, and because the tigers are dressed as people their clothing doesn’t allow Brett’s art to capture the real beauty of these animals. DON’T BOTHER Of the twelve books listed below, 8 have Christmas in the title, one is about Easter, and the other about Noah’s Ark. The problem here is not so much with anything in the individual titles but in what’s missing from all of them: God. His complete absence is so conspicuous it’s even noticeable to unbelievers – Publisher’s Weekly, in their review of On Noah’s Ark, noted how Brett: "omits the biblical framework…. There's no mention of God or his relationship to Noah, nor any reason given for the Flood.” If you read one of her Christmas books God’s absence won’t be as conspicuous since many a Christmas story skips over the real reason for the season, so that she does too doesn’t seem so glaring. But when an author writes eight books about Christmas and Christ never comes up, we have to wonder, what’s going on? In The Twelve Days of Christmas, Brett follows the song with “A Brief History” of the Twelve Days. She writes that: “The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days linking Christmas on December 25 and the Epiphany on January 6, when the three Magi offered the first Christmas presents – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Gifts to Who? The Magi get a nod, but Jesus is still ignored? Individually, Brett’s Christmas books are simply fluffy fun, but collectively they are a studious avoidance of any mention of the God who became Man. So, why bother with them? Christmas Trolls – Young girl teaches trolls that Christmas is about generosity. The Easter Egg – An Easter Rabbit becomes the focus of the season. On Noah’s ark - The boat itself is far smaller than the Bible describes and, contrary to Scripture, it says the mountaintops were not covered. The Wild Christmas Reindeer – Elf learns that reindeer respond better to kindness than bullying. Gingerbread Christmas - The Gingerbread baby and his band celebrate Christmas… with no mention of Christ. The night before Christmas - The classic poem, with Jan Brett’s art. The Twelve Days of Christmas - Brett notes that though the song is “named for this religious holiday” it “is actually quite pagan in tone.” The Animal’s Santa – A rabbit discovers that Santa is “truly, truly true.” Sigh. Home for Christmas - A young troll eventually learns there is no place like home. The Christmas in the title has no relevance in the story. Who’s that knocking on Christmas Eve? – A boy and his giant ice bear scare trolls away from a Christmas feast. Two others also worth giving a miss: Comet’s nine lives - On an island where dogs are people, but cats are just cats, we follow along as a cat (rather gently) dies eight times. The first dog – A cave boy turns a helpful wolf into his pet and names him “dog.” There’s a touch of evolution here in her presumption that this occurred 12,000-55,000 years ago. CONCLUSION If your kids are into picture books, then they’ll love Jan Brett – it’s as simple as that. Her detailed full-page illustrations are genius, wonderfully capturing the beauty of the many different animals she’s featured. There’s no one better. You can watch below as Jan Brett reads her book "The Mitten." ...

News

Saturday Selections – June 5, 2021

When parenting gets overwhelming (3 min) In this episode of her "Pep Talks for Moms" series, author Rachel Jankovic shares what she calls "The 20-Minute Rule" for those times when nothing is going right, and it's just all too much. 4 ways the oceans show us a young earth There's too little salt, and too little nickel in our oceans for them to be millions of years old. Helping homosexuals in "Pride Month" The San Francisco Giants will be wearing rainbow-accented uniforms this month because they are "proud to stand with the LGBTQ+ community." The children's show Blue's Clues is also joining in "Pride Month" – they recruited a drag queen to teach preschool children about pride parades, and the "a's, bi's, and pans...nonbinary...trans..." and "kings and queens" who march in them. When everyone is affirming, "standing with," and celebrating homosexuals and transexuals, God's people can seem like bigots when we speak about God's standards. So how, in this prideful month, can we best offer some clarity and show God's love to any sexually rebellious friends and family? Alan Shlemon has some tips on how not to do it here. while in the title link, Amy K. Hall shares a message she wrote to someone trying to figure out if a "Christ-centered, monogamous homosexual relationship is just as godly as a heterosexual one." China's One-Child policy is now allowing up to three The Family Research Council, a Christian think tank, hopes that: "Both the American government and Chinese government should learn this lesson and implement policies that truly support, rather than undermine, families." But is that so? Do we want the government that so overreached its role it was dictating family size,  to now take on the role of supporting the family? The opposite of over-intrusive isn't to intrude in a different direction; it's to stop minding other's business. It isn't governmental support that families need, but rather an end to governmental tampering. The correct order to read the Chronicles of Narnia! Cap Stewart on why it matters... Not ashamed – a politician who openly professes the Lord "...few politicians say much today that is courageous, or even all that original. When every dissenting view, colourful remark, or provocative thought brings with it the threat of cancellation, you have to console yourself with the fiction that saying the same thing as everyone around you is a courageous feat. So when I say that Kate Forbes has done something courageous, I say it because she has done something no one around her is doing.... To pledge yourself so openly to Christ makes you sound like a bit of a freak..." Killing comedy (5 min) Seth Dillon, CEO of The Babylon Bee, explains how their critic's attempts to treat their satire as "fake news" have threatened their social media platform. ...

Assorted

The devil's foothold

Three demons perched on the edge of a big-city skyscraper. They often met at this particular pinnacle at the close of a day swapping stories and sharing experiences that they'd had during the last twenty-four hours. The sun was setting. It was twilight. "I deceived a mother," one of them named Givin began. He had a sharp voice. It sliced through the faint cacophony of the traffic in the streets below, although the noise of vehicles had diminished somewhat during the Covid-19 pandemic. "I deceived a mother," Givin repeated, 'into thinking she ought to pick up her child whenever he cried." Waiting for approbation, he eyed his compatriots expectantly as a soaring jet flew overhead. "How did you deceive her?" the middle demon asked, mildly curious, "Did you put the fear of Covid into her mind, making her believe that crying might evolve into the pestiforous virus?" He guffawed at his own joke. Smugly glancing sideways and grinning, Givin swung his thin legs against the cement ridge of the tall building. "No, I didn't need to use that ruse," he responded, "and she wasn't that difficult to persuade really. The woman was quite ready to be deceived. I passed doubt and fear through her rather self-absorbed mind, highlighting the exhausted state she would be in if she did not get the child to quiet down. I called attention to the fact that she needed to get up at six the next morning to drop the child off at her mother-in-law's house before she went off to work." A car honked in the distance far below the superstructure. "Following this," Given went on, "I deluded her into thinking that if she did not give in to the crying, she would probably have a Children's Aid official call – someone who would question her ability as mother or care-giver." The two other demons chortled. "Admirable tactics," praised the third demon, whose name was Prevaricator, "and ones I have on occasion used myself." There was a restful pause and then Givin dug his elbow into Tar Heap. "So what did you do today, Tar Heap?" Tar Heap had a smooth voice, a voice that ran without interruption, an even, regular voice. "Well, I walked through a super-market." Givin and Prevaricator said “ah” in such a way as to indicate that they knew exactly what he meant. Tar Heap continued with a rather detached but even flow of words, lazily stretching his arm up to the sky. "It was crowded today with regular Saturday shoppers. You know, the harried parents who hadn't seen much of their children; those who were too busy to do groceries during the week because of work. Consequently, there were lots of little kids walking about or sitting in shopping carts demanding this and that and everything without being reprimanded." A pigeon cooed nearby, settling in a corner of the roof. Tar Heap took a stone out of his pocket and flung it at the creature, but he missed. The bird flew off. He continued. "There was one child, about five years old I think, although it's sometimes difficult to tell now because of the masks they are made to wear, who threw a wonderful tantrum. He stamped his feet, waved his arms about, and hollered loud enough to make the cashiers raise their eyebrows. The father and mother of the little stripling were tremendously embarrassed, so the little devil, if you'll pardon the expression, got his way. He wanted some special name-brand cereal. You know the kind, where the sugar content is sky-high, the kind which will probably send the nipper over the top again as soon as he eats it for breakfast. Other children were watching him and I could see little wheels turning in their heads." "Well," Givin responded, "that's what we want, isn't it?" "Yes," Tar Heap agreed, even as he pitched another stone at a bird, "and although on the one hand a scene like that makes me want to explode with satisfaction, on the other hand it irritates me that parents are making our job so easy these days. I don't feel challenged any longer. Victory comes too easily." "Quite true, and well-put." The gravel-voiced Prevaricator stuck in his oar: "Yes, quite, quite true. Even Christian folks are just not clamping down on rules that once seemed to be standard. They don't punish consistently. I've seen fathers condemn something one day and not blink an eye the next. And spanking," he rasped on, "spanking is rarely applied to backsides any more. Naturally I rub my hands in glee over that, but I can see where Tar Heap's coming from." "As a result of years of our lobbying," Tar Heap added, as he lay back contemplating the evening clouds, "the law says that the use of any implement other than a bare hand is illegal, and hitting a child in anger or in retaliation for something a child does is not considered reasonable and is against the law." Givin and Prevaricator nodded in agreement. "Christian parents," Tar Heap went on, "are being influenced by that kind of talk. They're afraid of being charged by social welfare people." "If you'll permit me," Givin said, glancing sideways at Tar Heap of whom he was in awe, "I'm not sure if I totally agree with that." Tar Heap remained silent and, thus encouraged, Givin went on. "I'm sure that laziness, that vice of vices, has something to do with it as well. Mix laziness together with what people call 'reasoning' and the result is something that tastes like Dr. Spock." "Ah, Dr. Spock," Prevaricator rubbed his sooty chin in sweet reflection, "the man was the salt of the earth." Inspired, Givin now stood up, balancing precariously on the edge of the high-rise. In a falsetto voice he emulated a mother talking to her child. "Come on, son, you knew better than to cheat on your test. You don't have to get high marks, but I would just like you to try your best. If you will just promise me that it won't happen again, I won't even mention it to your father." Tar Heap and Prevaricator clapped their feet with enthusiasm at this example. Givin took a bow and sat down again but went on talking. "Most parents think a little 'reasoning' with a child, and I'm talking toddler as well as teenager, will result in correct choices." Tar Heap dropped a pebble down multiple floors, boisterously yowling as he did so, "Sure, and if stones could fly, right?" "Remember the fruit?!" Prevaricator added. After the rowdy laughter had died down, Prevaricator cracked his knuckles thoughtfully. "Beating around the bush, shilly-shallying," he said, "is my specialty, as you know. But lately I rarely have to resort to wiles to pervert the truth." He cracked his knuckles again. "The truth is," he went on, "and I use that word lightly, the truth is, many families don't read the Bible any more, let alone trust what it says." "Life is a bore," Tar Heap yawned, "and I'd give anything for a good day's work in which I knew I'd personally brought several people a few steps closer to damnation." "People are degenerating wonderfully well without our help, and that's a fact," Givin concurred, "although today I did nudge a man, a church-goer mind you, towards not loving his neighbor by using the Covid fear factor." His fellow wretches contemplated him quizzically. "His next-door neighbor had lost the key to her house. She walked over to his place to ask if she could use the phone to call for help. After she rang the bell, he only opened the door a crack, asking her to step back as she spoke." Givin paused for a moment and then continued. "As he stood in the doorway, contemplating whether or not he should help his neighbor, I let him hear a cough in the shadows of his mind; I let him begin to feel feverish; and I let him detect the onset of a headache. The woman was wearing a mask, but after listening to her problem, the fellow gave in to his fears. He shut the door in her face, refusing to let her use his phone." "To quote old Solomon," Prevaricator declared, "there is nothing new under the sun, is there? Personally, I really get a kick out of the fact that so many people are hypocritical. You know, they say one thing and do something else. Love your neighbor with your mouth, but when it comes down to action, well...." He stopped short. "I know what you mean," Givin accorded, "I really like it when I watch families sing hymns and psalms in unison. And then later in the car, or in the rec room, or wherever, they turn on the radio or a CD at full blast to music that would have made old Martin Luther blush." "He didn't blush that easily," Tar Heap contributed, chuckling as he spoke. "Well, you know what I mean," Givin replied. "And I love it," Prevaricator added, "when parents tell their kids to keep the rules just for the rules' sake. I mean a son or daughter says, 'Why do I have to go to church?' And the father replies, 'Because I say so,' or he says, and I love this answer, 'Because there's a service,' and then the father sleeps through the service. Those situations make my job so much easier. It's so much simpler to entice progeny with parents like that away from all those horrid virtues. You guys know the virtues I'm referring to here – virtues like love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, gentleness ..." He stopped suddenly, his rough voice breaking. "Sorry, guys, I always have a hard time saying..." His voice broke again and Givin and Tar Heap shuddered simultaneously. Tar Heap let out a long sigh and eyed Prevaricator with something akin to idolatry. "I understand," he soothed, "but look on the bright side. There's not many left, not many at all." "Not many what, you dummy?!" Prevaricator retorted, unhappy that he had been caught in a moment of emotion. "Not many competent parents," Tar Heap added, embarrassed that he had expressed himself inadequately. He looked away from Prevaricator to Givin, with whom he felt he was on equal footing, and went on. "I mean, most fathers and mothers, like the couple I watched today at the supermarket, lack the desire to take their kids to the woodshed. What I mean is," he went on rather philosophically, "is that they'd rather suffer flea bites than scratch for fleas." "And all families," Givin grinned at Tar Heap, "are totally infested with fleas. And having fleas is not sin but a disease. Isn't that the way it's perceived?" "The way what is perceived?" Prevaricator snorted. "Fleas," Tar Heap and Givin answered in concert, slapping one another's bony shoulders. "You're both crazy, and you're not making any sense!" Prevaricator's voice was dangerously prickly. Tar Heap and Givin eyed one another a trifle nervously. Prevaricator was, after all, more powerful and an echelon up on them. Givin changed the subject. "Most people don't really believe in us anymore and yet here we are, sitting on top of the city." "Yes, here we are," Tar Heap agreed, "and that lock-down is making our work so much easier. Churches are closed and it's hard for people to empathize, encourage and all that stuff." "That is why this should be a good year," Givin went on, standing up as he spoke, shading his eyes from the glints of the setting sun. No one spoke for a minute and Givin felt it was time to end the conclave. He stood up. "Well, toadies, time's a-wasting. I'm off." "Where are you going?" Tar Heap asked. "To a nearby bar. I understand some youth group is sneaking out to have a get-together spiced with beer. You doing anything special tonight, Tar Heap?" Givin was poised on the edge of the skyscraper as he quizzed, ready to leave. "I'm helping a youngster get addicted to some internet game," Tar Heap answered, "not that exciting, but well worth the trouble." They both glanced down at Prevaricator who was still seated. He responded to their unasked question. "I'm attending a board meeting where a teacher is on trial for suspending a student from class because he used bad language and because the student's computer was found to be riddled with porn. Most of the board is leery about backing the teacher because the student is the son of one of the school's wealthier patrons." "Ah!"  Both Givin and Tar Heap feigned speechless admiration. He was after all, bigger and louder than they were. "Meet you here tomorrow, guys?" "You bet!" And the sun set on the city....

Assorted

Quotes on the single life

Singles are not second "…the nuclear family should not be the center of church life. Rather, the family of God is the center…. It is the church (not married people) that provides a home where all of us find the stability and rootedness that we need." – Peter and Ginger Wallace, “The Church and Singles” in New Horizons, Jan. 2016 "…in the covenant community of God there are no singles. God calls us family: brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in Christ. We are each to be wonderfully connected to the other as part of a church community, where each person is needed and attached to others in her own family as well as to the broader church family." – Nancy Wilson, Why isn’t a pretty girl like you married? …and other useful comments "The Bible is clear that singleness is not a second-rate status in the church (1 Corinthians 7:8), and it provides several compelling portraits of singles (Paul, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Lydia, and possibly John the Baptist and even Timothy.)" – Carolyn McCulley "…the Bible refers to Ruth as a virtuous woman (Ruth 3:11) with the same Hebrew phrase used in Proverbs 31. Two uses of the same Hebrew phrase give us data points so that we can better understand the term. We can examine the narrative around these data points and use it to draw conclusions. I totally changed how I thought about Proverbs 31 after seeing the data (for you left-brainers) and story (for you right-brainers) of the virtuous woman of Ruth. Once you see that Ruth was known as a virtuous woman when she was a barren widow from a foreign land, we understand that our ability to be a virtuous woman doesn't depend on a husband and children…" – Wendy Alsup, “A Post Mortem on A Year of Biblical Womanhood” posted to TheologyForWomen.org on Jan. 26, 2016 On seeking a spouse "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves "If you want God to provide you with a husband, you have to consider whether you are the kind of woman that the kind of man you want to marry would want to marry. Shall I go over that again? What kind of woman is that kind of man looking for? Are you that kind of woman?" – Nancy Wilson, Why isn’t a pretty girl like you married? …and other useful comments "One of the dangers with male/female friendships is that more often than not, one of the two wants something more from the relationship. In the end, usually either a heart is broken or, at the very least, the person with the crush is wasting time not looking elsewhere. If you are holding on to a long-term friendship in hopes that one day it will magically turn to love, you are lying to yourself. The chances that your friend will wake up one day and see you in a totally different and romantic light are miniscule. Save yourself the heartache. Keep friendship with the same sex and save the opposite sex for love." – Hayley & Michael DiMarco, Marriable Men, are you taking the servant-leader role (Ephesians 5:25) in the relationship right from the beginning? In any guy-girl dynamic, someone has to be the first to say "I like you" and with that comes the very real risk of being the only one to say it. When that happens, it stings. Are you willing to stick your neck out for this woman? Are you willing to risk looking the fool, so she doesn’t have to? Or are you waiting for her to take the lead and ask you out? – Jon Dykstra, “Marriable Men” in Reformed Perspective, Dec. 2012 One means… "Marriage is a means, not an end. It is one of the means God uses to glorify His name among us, but it is not His only means." – Nancy Wilson, Why isn’t a pretty girl like you married? …and other useful comments Jesus never had sex "The most fully human person who has ever lived, or ever will live, is Jesus Christ, and He never once had sexual intercourse. This can be powerfully liberating to single people who may think at times, “This is one thing I will never have, sexual relations, and in not having it I will not be all I was meant to be.” To this thought Jesus, the virgin, says, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). We will always have mountains of truly human Christ-likeness yet to climb, but sexual intercourse is not one of them. For He never knew it. And He is infinitely whole." – John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Foreword xix. Singleness has its own challenges "I was almost thirty-four when I got married, so I know something of the loneliness of adult single life. And even after marriage I struggled with discontentment at our son’s soccer or basketball games because I was at least ten years older than the other parents around me…. I do want you to know that if you struggle with discontentment, I’m right there with you. Whatever situation tempts us to be discontent, and however severe it may be, we need to recognize that discontentment is sin. That statement may surprise many readers. We are so used to responding to difficult circumstances with anxiety, frustration, or discontentment that we consider them normal reactions to the varying vicissitudes of life….When we fail to recognize these responses to our circumstances as sin, we are responding no differently from unbelievers who never factor God into their situations." – Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins "There is nothing in the world wrong with wanting to be married. It is only wrong to be miserable about it. And wanting to be married does not equal discontent. Many women are feeling false guilt about this." – Nancy Wilson, Why isn’t a pretty girl like you married? …and other useful comments "The apostle Paul, who himself was single, provides encouragement for the unmarried by noting that he himself had to learn the secret of contentment (Phil. 4:11). Paul was not born content, nor was his discontentment eradicated at conversion…. How then did Paul learn this contentment? Like his Lord, he learned contentment through the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8). The apostle admits to the Corinthians that while under Satanic attack, he prayed three times for deliverance. Yet the Lord denied his requests and told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8–9). Singleness may be one of those afflictions tailored to you, but his grace is perfected in your weakness. The single Christian who suffers weakness through unrealized marital aspirations and the disappointments of unanswered prayer may yet find grace at work through the unhappiness." – A. Boyd Miller IV, “Contentment in Singleness” in the January 2016 issue of New Horizons "Avoid trading marital distractions for other distractions. Paul may have been right about our freedom from spousal concerns, but in an iPhone, iPad, iPod, whatever iWant world, single people never have trouble finding their share of diversions. In fact, if you’re like me, you crave diversion and tend to default there, whether it’s SportsCenter, Downton Abbey, working out, fancy eating, endless blogging and blog reading, surveying social media, or conquering the latest game. We might call it resting, but too often it looks, smells, and sounds a lot like we’re wasting our singleness." – Marshall Segal, "Single, Satisfied and Sent" "A discontented woman is also very vulnerable when it comes to receiving attention from men that she knows full well are wrong for her. She rationalizes….she will be more likely to consider someone who will maker her far unhappier than she is now." – Nancy Wilson, Why isn’t a pretty girl like you married? …and other useful comments "To quote another , 'The main difference (between singles and married folk) is a heightened risk of loneliness, and heightened temptation to self-absorption, leading to selfishness.' The cure for both of these is hospitality and incorporation: being invited to participate in everyday life, and being expected to contribute to everyday life – in the church and in particular families in the church.” – Peter and Ginger Wallace, “The Church and Singles” in the January 2016 issue of New Horizons Singleness has its own opportunities "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband." – 1 Cor. 7:32-34 "I was single when I was senior pastor of a church on the west coast of Canada, and there were all kinds of advantages to that. There were some disadvantages too. But there were some wonderful advantages in terms of the hours I put in, evening visitation, calls when I could get people at home. So there are advantages to being single in the ministry, and singleness should not be despised." – D.A. Carson "Look for ways to serve in the church....What are some ways that you can serve because you are single?" – Peter and Ginger Wallace, “The Church and Singles” in the January 2016 issue of New Horizons "Say “yes” to the spontaneous. It’s just a fact, marriage murders spontaneity — not entirely, but massively. If you haven’t learned this yet, I doubt any of your spontaneous friends are married. One of your greatest spiritual gifts as a single person is your “yes.” Yes to a random phone conversation. Yes to coffee. Yes to help with the move. Yes to stepping in when someone’s sick. Yes to a late-night movie or the special event downtown. You have the unbelievable freedom to say “yes” when married people can’t even ask the question. When the spouse doesn’t exist, you can’t hurt them with your selfless, impulsive decisions. Be willing to say “yes!” and bless others, even when you don’t always feel like it." – Marshall Segal, "Single, Satisfied and Sent"...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Carl Trueman on today’s sexual madness

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman 2020 / 425 pages Carl Trueman has lost his sense of humor. I’ve read several of his books and they all had clever moments of wit. However, there’s nothing to laugh about in Trueman’s latest. There’s a definite risk in it being otherwise. Our day doesn’t tolerate any joking around when it comes to the sexual revolution, particularly from those who might be critical of it. Even when we come with gravitas, the revolutionaries will not be pleased. While progressives “Christian” or secular won’t bear any critiques of their revolution, Bible-believing Christians need such critiques more than ever. If we’re going to withstand the forces arrayed against us, we need deep-digging analysis. And Trueman delivers. For those unfamiliar with him, Carl Trueman is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He was previously a professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. He’s an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the author of numerous books and articles. By training Trueman is a historian and this book is primarily a work of history. It explains how things came to be as they are. Trueman writes: My aim is to explain how and why a certain notion of the self has come to dominate the culture of the West, why this self finds its most obvious manifestation in the transformation of sexual mores, and what the wider implications of this transformation are and may well be in the future. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is not, therefore, so much of a theological analysis of intellectual and cultural trends past and present. There is some such analysis, but The Rise and Triumph… is primarily historical -- albeit written from a Christian historian’s perspective. It essentially traces the historical development leading up to the sexual revolution of our present day. 4 parts In Part 1, “Architecture of the Revolution,” Trueman lays out some helpful conceptual categories and tools for understanding the history to be examined. In Part 2, “Foundations of the Revolution,” he explores how philosophers (Rousseau, Nietzche, and Marx), scientists (Darwin) and poets (Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake) played key roles in the development of the psychologized self. Part 3, “Sexualization of the Revolution,” features psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whom Trueman asserts, “is actually the key figure in the narrative of this book.” More than anyone else, Freud is responsible for sexualizing psychology. As Trueman notes, “…before Freud, sex was an activity, for procreation or for recreation; after Freud, sex is definitive of who we are, as individuals, as societies, and as a species.” Marxist scholars Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse took the next step and politicized sex. Accordingly, “Sex is no longer a private activity because sexuality is a constitutive element of public, social identity.” In Part 4, “Triumphs of the Revolution,” Trueman demonstrates how the sexual revolution has carried the day in terms of: pornography how feelings govern ethics (the therapeutic mindset) and transgenderism The last of these is the most interesting, as Trueman describes how transgender individuals were not initially welcomed by the gay and especially the lesbian community. Even gays and lesbians weren’t always on the same side. So, how did the T come to stand with the L and the G? Trueman answers: “…it is a political coalition forged on the basis of a common enemy – a socially and politically enforced heterosexual normativity.” Two highlights There are many good insights in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, but let me isolate two that especially grabbed my attention. For many years, I understood the sexual revolution as something that more or less developed out of the “hippie”/anti-war movement of the 1960s with the catalyst being America’s involvement in Vietnam. I thought of it as an anti-authoritarian and at times anarchic, at other times Marxist, social phenomenon. However, Trueman’s work shows that to understand the present day, we have to reach back at least two centuries. The other insight has to do with the way sexuality has become key to selfhood and identity. Trueman notes that, in today’s world, not recognizing someone’s identity leads to feelings of inferiority. This is akin to a personal attack. He goes on: This observation is important in enabling us to understand why, for example, in a society where sexuality is foundational to personal identity, mere tolerance of homosexuality is bound to become unacceptable. The issue is not one of simply decriminalizing behaviour; that would certainly mean that homosexual acts were tolerated by society, but the acts are only a part of the overall problem. The real issue is one of recognition, of recognizing the legitimacy of who the person thinks he actually is. That requires more than mere tolerance; it requires equality before the law and recognition by the law and society. And that means that those who refuse to grant such recognition will be the ones who find themselves on the wrong side of both the law and emerging social attitudes. The person who objects to homosexual practice is, in contemporary society, actually objecting to homosexual identity. And the refusal by any individual to recognize an identity that society at large recognizes as legitimate is a moral offense, not simply a matter of indifference. The question of identity in the modern world is a question of dignity. For this reason, the various court cases in America concerning the provision of cakes and flowers for gay weddings are not ultimately about the flowers or the cakes. They are about the recognition of gay identity and, according to members of the LGBTQ+ community, the recognition that they need in order to feel that they are equal members of society. Trueman nails it. The sexual revolution doesn’t want our indifference or our toleration. It wants our affirmation, recognition, and celebration. Anything short of that is considered phobic – defined as a form of irrational bigotry. Conclusion The book ends with a “Concluding Unscientific Prologue.” The last word there is Trueman’s hint he may have more to say on this subject. He does already here propose some constructive ways in which the church could be engaging with the world, besotted as it is with the sexual revolution. One of his points here did however raise my eyebrow: “Protestants need to recover both natural law and a high view of the physical body” (p.405). I have no problem with the latter. But “natural law” here would seem to demand a little more explanation than Trueman provides. He frames it in the context of teaching the church should provide to its members regarding moral principles. So, it would seem, he’s proposing the recovery of an understanding of the moral order God has revealed in nature. But since that moral order is more clearly revealed in the Word of God, and we’re talking about the church, why not focus our attention on Scripture? All Christian leaders need to read this book, whether they’re involved with leadership in education, business, government, or the church. The sexual revolution threatens Christian hearts and minds which are sometimes naïve to the consequences of accepting some or all of its key premises. Christian leaders need to be conversant with the history and philosophy behind the revolution, so they can speak the truth in love from God’s Word. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self meets that need. I believe it will be recognized as one of the landmark Christian books of our time....

Animated, Lists, Movie Reviews

Batman as a cucumber? The best of Veggietales...

The VeggieTales phenomenon began back in 1993 with the release of their first video, Where’s God When I’m Scared? which, like all that would follow, starred Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. While it was childish fare, there was a nod to parents in how this duo was patterned after the classic comedic pairings of Laurel & Hardy and Abbot & Costello. Bob was the easily exasperated straight man to Larry’s energetic innocent goof. Together they'd introduce each video by reading questions from children. The questions range from asking how to handle peer pressure, to wondering if it’s important to share toys with little brothers. They'd be answered with stories acted out by a host of other Veggies, including Junior Asparagus, Jean-Claude the French Pea, Pa Grape and Laura Carrot. Afterward Bob and Larry return to discuss what kids have learned, and then look up a relevant Bible verse on the computer Qwerty. That first video was followed by 47 more, and two television series, two feature films, innumerable books, a handful of CDs, and, of course, plush toys. And today, nearly 30 years later, the series is still going strong. But while VeggieTales at their very best, are downright brilliant, there is a danger in being silly while teaching Scriptural lessons – sometimes the goofiness extends to how they handle Scripture. So the quality of the videos runs the gamut from brilliant to bad, with the best being spoofs of cultural icons (Batman, Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes...) and the worst being their careless Bible story retellings. With the near 50 videos out there, I haven't watched them all, so here's just a selection of the best, followed by a few examples of how their biblical stories fall short. The best Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space 30 minutes / 1997 Rating: 8/10 This is our first glimpse of Larry the Cucumber’s alter ego, Larry-Boy, a super-hero with suction cup ears. This Batman spoof is complete with his own Larry-mobile, Larry-cave, and butler named Alfred. In this first adventure, a tiny alien named Fibrilious Minimus (“You can call me Fib for short”) encourages Junior Asparagus to lie to get out of trouble. But one lie quickly leads to another and before he knows it Junior finds that his little friend Fib is now 20 stories tall. Can Larry-Boy stop the Fib from outer space? Actually, no. Bumblyburg’s resident superhero is completely confounded by the giant Fib. In the end only Junior can stop the Fib, by finally confessing to all his lies. In his further adventures, Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed (1999), Larry-Boy and the Bad Apple (2006), and VeggieTales: The League of Incredible Vegatables (2012) our spandex-clad cucumber consistently shows himself to be a rather ineffective super-hero. It's only with the help of his friends, that good does eventually prevail. In addition to the previous four videos, Larry-Boy also has his own 4-episode, 2-d animation series called Larryboy: the Cartoon Adventures. It's an old-school "flat" animation look, as opposed to VeggieTales' typical computer-animated, 3-d look, but it's every bit as fun. Because this is a Batman spoof, there are villains to fight, and consequently more action, and more tension than normal. So in our house, these weren't really appreciated by the pre-school crew, but that changed as they got a bit older. Madame Blueberry 37 minutes / 1998 Rating: 8/10 Madame Blueberry is a story about a very blue berry who thinks she needs more stuff to be happy. She already has quite a lot, but some of her friends have more than she does and that makes her very blue. Fortunately for Madame Blueberry a new Stuff-Mart has just been built next door and the store’s salesmen are quite eager to help her shop. Their sales pitch is far from subtle, “Happiness waits at the Stuff-Mart – all you need is more…stuff!” but it convinces Madame Blueberry. On the way to the store though, she notices a poor family celebrating their little girl’s birthday. They have hardly anything and yet they’re happy and thankful to God. But how could that be? When Madame Blueberry encounters a little boy happy to own a single red ball she finally realizes being greedy never makes you happy, but that “a thankful heart is a happy heart!" I can't find a trailer for this one, but here's a clip... Lord of the Beans 51 minutes / 2005 Rating: 8/10 This is for parents who've seen Lord of the Rings, and for kids who are too young to see it. On his 122nd birthday, Billboy Baggypants decides to leave everything behind, including his magic bean, which can give its owner anything they want. Billboy is leaving because, despite the bean's power, he is still unsatisfied. So off he goes, bequeathing the bean to his nephew Toto, who goes on a quest to find out how he should use it. Toto is accompanied by Ear-a-corn the ranger, Randalph the Wizard, Leg-o-lamb the elf, and Grumpy the dwarf who will protect him from the fearful "sporks." If you haven't seen the Lord of the Rings, or you have, and nothing in preceding paragraph strikes you as amusing, then this isn't for you. But it is a spot-on spoof, with the lesson this time being that we should find out how to use the gifts God gives us. Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler 52 minutes / 2006 Rating: 7/10 There are two stories in thi sone, the first a spoof on Don Quixote and the second, longer one a fun take on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes (Larry) relies heavily on the insights of his friend, Dr. Watson (Bob), but doesn't share any of the credit for the crimes they solve. So when one of the United Kingdom's greatest treasures is stolen – the Golden Ruler – Dr. Watson decides to let Holmes solve this one on his own...and that doesn't go so well for him. The Golden Ruler is a play off the Golden Rule, with Dr. Watson simply wanting Holmes to treat him as Holmes would want to be treated himself. It's another brilliant spoof that mom and dad will enjoy too. MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle 45 minutes / 2013 Rating: 8/10 What if Rome was right next to Scotland? And what if the leaders of these two nations were former friends caught up in an epic pranking battle with one another? That's the premise, with Larry playing the son of the Barber-barian leader Chug Norious (think Chuck Norris) who just doesn't fit in. While everyone else likes pranking, he likes inventing. The lesson here is to appreciate other's gifts, even when they are so very different from your own. The "biblical" bunch Some years back Reformed commentator Gary Demar wrote a booklet called Meaty Tales: Should Talking Vegetables Be Used to Teach the Bible? His answer was an emphatic no, with his criticism focused specifically on the VeggieTale biblical adaptations. He argued these accounts were "trivializing and truncating the Bible’s message." “Talking vegetables teaching a lesson about lying by using a giant fib from outer space? That’s cute. And a dancing cucumber serenading little tikes with songs about his hairbrush and his water buffalo? How charming. But making the story of King David and Bathsheba into King George and the Ducky . . . is everyone else ok with that?” The Bible stories began with an adaptation of Daniel in the Lions' Den in their very first video, Where’s God When I’m Scared? And as Demar puts it, we could see from the start that "The VeggieTellers are way too liberal in the use of their literary license." Sometimes that "liberality" is hard to understand: the Veggie version has Daniel (played by Larry Cucumber) interpreting Darius' dream when the Bible tells us it was Nebuchadnezzar. Why this change? Other times the alteration might be understandable, though no less problematic. The Veggie version has jealous wisemen (played by green onions)  plot Daniel's doom via a song and dance number – they trick Darius into signing a decree that forbids bowing to anyone other than the king. Daniel breaks this new law by praying to God, and is thrown into the lions’ den. Afterwards, when he emerges unscathed, the wise men run away. In reality, these wise men were thrown into the den, and “before they reached the floor of the den the lions overpowered them and crushed their bones” (Dan 6:24). Not only are the wise men punished in this horrible fashion, even their wives and children were consumed by the lions. In a cartoon intended for kids it might seem sensible to make this G-rated substitution for what would otherwise be an R-rated event. But that the real events would be unsuitable for a children's cartoon isn't a reason to recast reality in a "nicer" light – it's a reason not to make a cartoon about that reality. This isn't the only time VeggieTales has felt free to insert a “nicer” endings to a biblical tale. In Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen Haman plots against the Jews but instead of trying to kill them he attempts to banish them to the "Island of Perpetual Tickling." Are nicer endings really such a problem? Well, just consider how many Christians would be shocked to read an Old Testament passage in which God demands the slaughter of women and children. In a quest to embrace the God of love many Christians prefer to forget that He also demands justice and in fact can be wrathful as well. By inserting these “nicer” ending VeggieTales actually hide the true character of God from children. And since children are likely to view these videos repeatedly, and read the corresponding Bible passages infrequently, that is real damage being done. Even when the Veggie version is fairly faithful – as happens in Dave and the Giant Pickle – it's still going to be comical – here we have a cute David, played by Junior Asparagus. How often is cute and comical going to be a good match for the tone of the biblical text? King George and the Ducky is, as Demar noted, based on King David’s sordid fling with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11&12). To pull off the G-rated version, the object of the King's covetous lust, Bathsheba, is replaced with a rubber ducky. Yup, you read that right, a rubber ducky. The king already has several hundred rubber duckies, but he wants Thomas’s rubber ducky so he sends Thomas off to the “Great Pie War.” Demar comments: "Putting aside the issue of whether it’s appropriate to turn Bible characters into vegetables, the VeggieTales rendition of the inspired Bible stories are inaccurate and hopelessly trivial. If my Bible memory serves me, Uzziah was killed when David sent him to the front lines of the war, and Bathsheba lost her baby that was conceived through her adulterous affair with David. To tell the stories in any other way is unbiblical. Children can understand the basics of unfaithfulness and murder without resorting to the use of bathtub toys." Perhaps the worst of the Veggie versions is Josh and the Big Wall, a "lesson in obedience." If you read Joshua 4-6 you’ll see this is one of the few stretches where Israel obeyed God without question. However, the Veggie version pretends the Israelites are questioning God at every opportunity. The VeggieTellers could have chosen almost any other point in Israel’s history to highlight Israel's rebellion, but instead the exception, when Israel is on its best behavior. And since there is no rebellion at this point, the writers simply make it up. They also contradict Scripture when Bob the Tomato comments that, “God never said it was going to be easy – no, the people of Jericho hit them with everything they had.” Actually, God did say it was going to be easy. All they had to do was walk around the city for seven successive days and God would knock the walls down for them – there was no need for a siege; God had given the city into their hands. In this whole story the scriptwriters don't just play fast and loose with Scripture; they shamelessly turn it on its head. Based on the producers' mishandling of other biblical tales, and the impossibility of cracking wise while still giving God's Word its reverent due, I'd suggest giving their other bible stories a miss too. They include: Noah's Ark Jonah: A VeggieTale Movie Abe and the Amazing Promise – about Abraham and Sarah The Ballad of Little Joe – about Joseph and his multi-colored coat Babysitter in Denile – about baby Moses left in the Nile Moe and the Big Exit – about Moses and the Exodus Gideon – Tuba Warrior Overall cautions I'll mention one overall caution for the series: no one takes God's name in vain, but the Veggies do, with some regularity, say "Gee." This is not Jesus' name, but it is close enough that, like "Geez" we don't want our children saying it. And because it is close, I just wonder why Christian writers can't steer clear. Conclusion While the writers too often jump straight from reverence to irreverence, they've also crafted a collection of videos that are wonderfully and unabashedly brilliant. It's when they steer clear of Bible stories, and make use of material that doesn't demand the same reverence, that their comic genius is genius indeed....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Larry Bendeco Johannes Von Sloop

by Larry V. and Mark Kummer 2014 / 32 pages In some respects, this is Tikki Tikki Tembo in a modern setting with the two brothers being Dutch instead of Chinese. One is named Bob, and the other Larry Bendeco Johannes Von Sloop. The brothers are both bakers, but Bob specializes in plain and delicious, while Larry Bendeco Johannes Von Sloop is more concerned with fancy appearances - his cakes look great, even if they don't taste that way. As in the original, a long name eventually proves hazardous, but there's more to this story. When his long name causes the destruction of his bakery, Larry Bendeco Johannes Von Sloop is blessed with a brother who is more than happy to help him out. While this is an imitation of the original, the author has given it a creative twist that makes it the equal of its inspiration. It's read-out-loud fun and will be a sure hit with the kids....

News

Government is spending over half of what Canadian families earn

Each year the Fraser Institute, an economic think tank, calculates Canada’s “Tax Freedom Day.” If the average Canadian family’s earnings were to go just towards paying the taxes they owe to all three levels of government, this is the day they’d have paid it all off. In 2021, that was May 24. This is accounting for not just your income taxes but all the taxes levied. So, also included are payroll taxes, health taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, profit taxes, “sin” taxes, fuel taxes, and the many other fees and levies the government collects. Of course, not all government revenues come from taxes – we’re also running a sizeable deficit, funded by borrowing.  That’s why the Fraser Institute has also calculated a “Balanced Budget Tax Freedom Day.” This date is calculated by considering how much we’d each have to pay if the government funded all their current expenses without borrowing. Then we’d have to work all way to July 7 to pay off government expenses, and only then would we start earning for our own family. What that means is that the government is spending just over half of what Canadian families earn but they are lowering what we have to pay now by running up a debt that someone will have to pay off later. This isn’t just saddling our children with our expenses: our growing debt is already impacting us now. The Fraser Institute estimates that the interest payments we have to make, when we combine the debt from every level of government, amounted to approximately $67 billion this last year. That’s somewhere in the range of what Canada’s K-12 schooling costs. Because provincial debts vary greatly, the average “combined interest cost per person” varied greatly by province, with the low end being $1,059/person in BC, and the high being $2,604/person in Newfoundland. That’s a cost that comes each year again. This is why God talks about debt being like slavery (Prov. 22:7). The money we owe limits what we can do going forward. We could view this past year’s deficit spending as, perhaps, understandable because of the unprecedented year it was. In our own households, if we were faced with a big enough emergency, we might raid our kid’s piggy banks and borrow from them. But before we excuse the federal government for overspending in 2020, consider how much they plan to continue overspending. Our pre-pandemic federal debt was $721 billion, and the government’s own expectations have that doubling by 2026. The problem here is not a revenue shortfall, but the sheer size of our government. In 1 Samuel 8:10-22 the prophet Samuel warns of the danger of a king because he might demand ten percent – he might in arrogance demand as much as God was! Well, this past year the average Canadian family had to pay a combined, all levels of government, tax bill of 39% of their earnings. And if we eliminated government borrowing and had to pay as we go, that same average family would have to contribute 51% of their income! We should take warning from Lord Acton here, not simply that “power tends to corrupt” but, with government grown to such enormous size, that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” ...

News

Saturday Selections - May 29, 2021

How to stop being addicted to your phone (4 min) This is a fun one to share and discuss with your kids, but that might not go so well if you aren't either, in control of your own phone usage, or willing to fight your own addiction. Since this is a secular take, you're going to have to bring the Christian perspective: it'll take not only willpower to beat this addiction, but repentance and submission. Repentance doesn't just involve turning away from our idol, but more importantly turning to God. So it isn't just, stop frittering away your hours with your phone; it's, start using those hours in ways that please and honor God. 3 biblical examples that disprove the Prosperity Gospel "Though a much more in-depth rebuttal is possible, these three examples from scripture provide sufficient grounds to reject the prosperity gospel..." Stand fast on the pronouns This is a Roman Catholic take, but one that accurately outlines just how far we can go in response to demands in our workplaces to call male collegues women, and vice versa. Christians are already being called haters, or transphobic, for holding to God's created order. No matter the insults, there is a line that we must not cross because to do would be to further confuse – and therefore harm – those who are already so confused. Why Noah's Ark makes no sense in an Old Earth scenario Christians who hold that the Earth is millions of years olds will refer to the Flood as being only a regional event. But if the Flood was local, then why an ark at all? Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: a review "I grew up with the blessing of books everywhere.  For most of my youth I inhabited 'the dungeon' -- a basement bedroom with no windows, but a full wall of bookshelves.  No, my father wasn’t an academic; he was a police officer.  He’d completed high school, but didn’t go to university.  Nevertheless, his many books filled my room.  Even though we always had a TV in the house growing up, I was almost always reading a book.  Reading wasn’t only natural, it was delightful.  When I was a teenager, I spent hours and hours every week at the local library, about a 30-minute walk from our home. "I wonder what would have happened to me if I’d grown up today rather than in the 1980s.  We had TV, but we didn’t have mobile phones.  We had cable and a VCR, but we didn’t have Netflix.  We had a Commodore 64 computer (with some pretty neat games), but we didn’t have the Internet.  So many less distractions back then!  It’s a wonder that any kids today still read.  Reading is on the rocks – and all ages are affected." – Dr. Wes Bredenhof The man who created Settlers of Catan (4 min) This is a charming account of how Klaus Teuber came to invent this very popular game. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews, Remembrance Day

Prayer and comfort in Sachsenhausen

This is the story of my paternal grandfather's last year on earth. He was a man of unwavering faith despite suffering arrest, incarceration, indignity, illness, and death. He was active in the Dutch resistance movement against Nazism and encouraged fellow prisoners in the various jails and camps in which he was held. Here is the story of his resistance, arrest, incarceration, and death in the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen. This story is a reworking of a chapter (pp. 192-200) out of the book Velsen Bezet en Bevrijd (The Occupation and Liberation of Velsen) by Guus Hartendorf (used here with his permission) and published by Velserbroek, 2000, translated by the late Rienk Koat of Langley, B.C. in 2000. Editor's note: a version of this also appears as Chapter 3 in Man of the First Hour, the biography the author wrote about his father, Jules Van Popta, the first minister of the Canadian Reformed Churches. You can find out how to order it from RP Press here. ***** In 1912 Taeke van Popta, at the age of 30, became the principal of a Christian school in IJmuiden, a port city in the Dutch province of North Holland. He soon became engaged in all manner of other activities, such as youth groups, catechism, and consistory, and was the initiator of a Christian Society for Mariners. In the classroom and at the youth clubs he gave many young people in IJmuiden a sense of self-awareness and responsibility to the Lord and the neighbor. In the providence of God this laid the groundwork for subsequent resistance work against the Germans in World War II in which he, friends, and former students would be involved. ARRESTED By the time the Second World War broke out, my grandfather, Taeke, was retired, yet he remained active in the field of education. He did a great amount of work for the Society of Christian Teachers in the Netherlands and Overseas, the Protestant Christian Teachers’ Society, and he was on the Executive for the Reformed School Society. On January 9, 1942, the Nazis enacted a law in the Netherlands that prohibited the employment of Jewish personnel in all schools. Taeke had strong objections to this decree and did not hesitate to communicate this in letters to various school boards. This would be his undoing. He was arrested for the first time in the early hours of January 18, 1944. Several days later he was released and he soon after wrote about his experience: A few weeks ago Jan Fidder, formerly secretary of the Anti Revolutionary Party was apprehended in IJmuiden. About a week later Mr. Geert Visser, who works at the employment office, and I were taken from our homes. At twelve midnight the doorbell rang, with police in front and at the back of the house. The house was searched and I was then taken away by the Germans. In the police van I found Geert Visser. On the following Thursday Fidder as well as both Geert Visser, and a brother of his who had also been arrested, were released and allowed to go home. I was released on Friday. The problem was the issue of counterfeit permits to restricted areas along the coast. Jan Fidder was suspected to be involved in this business, and then it was thought that a small group was involved, which resulted in trying to find its members among the good acquaintances of Jan Fidder. Fortunately, I had nothing to do with this. But initially one didn't know what the meaning of all this was, and so I had expected that I would be a prisoner for quite awhile. After the hearing I thought that I would be in prison for at least half a year. So we felt we had received quite a break. During the search in the house, the deportment of the policemen was civil. At the farewell the children saw to it that I could take along a Bible and Psalter. Next morning I started to sing in my cell, and both Jan Fidder and Geert Visser, who were in an adjacent cell, were singing along. We sang quite a few psalms and hymns, and after the meals we took turns reading from the Bible and praying. Because of the little window in the door we could understand each other quite clearly. Others, too, started to sing along to the extent of their knowledge of psalms and Christian hymns. When Jan Fidder and Geert Visser were no longer there, the other prisoners asked me to continue reading and praying. They were prisoners who didn’t know a single psalm or hymn. I made an attempt, and it was only during “Ere zij God” that a few could join in. But our reading and praying were much appreciated, and were listened to silently and reverently. And so it was that we three had some blessed days there. Yet we were very glad that this affair so quickly took a turn for the better, and that we could go home again. Meanwhile I was enriched with some knowledge about life. The fact that faith had been a support for many prisoners became clear from other conversations and published writings. Geert Visser's brother Jur, arrested on March 1, 1945, wrote: You ask why there were so many Reformed people active in the resistance movement? This came about because of the outstanding education they had received in catechism classes and youth societies. Church, also as a body working in society, ranked first. The school was an extension of the family. You could rely on that community. They were, mostly, dutiful Dutchmen. “Old” Van Popta, as he was respectfully nicknamed, had trained us in the youth society. Likewise by means of his articles in the church bulletins he instructed us to resist the National Socialist Party . Taeke's daughter-in-law, Ida, wrote: My father-in-law was deeply involved in everything related to Christian education, but in doing so he could be rather careless. Correspondence with several school boards about the Nazi decree to lay off Jewish personnel were never properly disposed of. This was also the reason that we, my husband Wiepke and I, but also the other children, more or less forbade Father to engage in other resistance work as well. By virtue of his work he had established a huge number of acquaintances, and he well known since one half of IJmuiden had attended his school. He was, so to speak, part of the Reformed circuit. A few months later the Germans raided Taeke's house again. The police report of May 5, 1944, reads: By order of the captain, chief of the police force, arrest was made of Taeke van Popta, born January 7, 1882, principal of a Christian school. Incarcerated in cell J, Tuesday, May 9, 1944, at 14:30. The arrested Van Popta was transported to the Security Police in Amsterdam, under escort of H. A. de Jager. Apparently, the Nazis had uncovered certain written publications at a different location in the Netherlands. The documents were advisory letters and recommendations to various Christian school boards. When he was interrogated, Taeke assumed total responsibility for all the letters because otherwise the inevitable result would have been the rooting out of the entire resistance movement of the Protestant Christian Schools, and many more arrests would certainly follow. ARRESTED AGAIN We learned some of the details of this, his second arrest from a tribute written by a Mr. Dirk Bothof, a fellow prisoner at that time. Early 1944, during a house raid, some incriminating papers were found in colleague Van Popta’s handwriting. These papers contained what was considered to be illegal advice in the field of education. After having been interrogated several times, and then returned to his cell, he was confronted with the name of a person who might well have been the author of some of the incriminating material. As matters stood, however, Van Popta received the courage to protect all areas of Christian education from additional hazard by accepting the full responsibility for all the incriminating documents. It was my painful duty to witness this confrontation personally. I was the last one (before the cell door was definitively closed behind him) to give him a handshake and look him straight in the eye. And when I, deeply moved, wished him God’s strength and nearness, his eyes lit up and he was at that moment completely reconciled with his dire circumstances and he apologized for the troubles he had caused the Society and me personally. High-spirited and unbroken he entered his solitary confinement. His work will remain a blessed memory in the domain of Christian education. The letters that Taeke sent to his wife, Regina, permit us to follow the further developments after his arrest. He describes the situation he found himself in through rose-colored glasses, but since all letters were censored, this attitude comes as no surprise. On May 9 he was transported from IJmuiden to Amsterdam, where, as he reported, was interrogated in a “civil manner.” On May 19 he was transported again, to camp Vught, a Nazi prison and transit camp. On June 4 he wrote the following to his family: Dear Regina and all of you, Don’t expect me to return soon. Another destination is quite possible. Life is good. Food is good and sufficient, plenty of bread. Then there are the parcels as well. Would like to get some sugar, syrup, toothpaste and brush, my pocketknife, suspenders, and a woollen vest. Have done all kinds of work. Exercising, cleaning barracks and camp grounds, compressing rags, peeling potatoes, sorting potatoes and bagging them. Have a chance of landing a good job, thanks to some intervention. I’m able to cope well, am in good spirits and think that Regina will be too. Keep courage as you did in January. Hygiene, sleeping accommodation, and medical supervision are excellent, but there is uncertainty, lack of freedom, home life, personal work, almost no Sunday observance to speak of, yet continue to pray, read the Bible, and experience the communion of saints, also in this place. Jan Bruinsma was here, too, but is now in Venlo. Don’t change Aaf’s plans. Somehow we’ll manage to muddle through all this. We are safe in God’s keeping, Who ordains everything. This should bring forth the fruits of trial. I am longing to get a sign of life from you. Your loving T. In his second letter (of June 18) Taeke emphatically requests them not to send him food parcels each week, since the food rations of his family are smaller than what he gets in camp. He makes it sound as though everything is just fine there. But he would appreciate it if the writers would utilize the full allowable length of a letter, i.e. four full pages, his wife three pages and the children the remainder. About his stay in Amsterdam he wrote: It was rather congenial in Amsterdam. First with 2 Roman Catholics, later with 4 prisoners of which 3 Reformed. Nothing was struck out in your letter. Will let you know if this should happen. Best regards, your loving T. In his third letter, of July 2, Taeke thankfully acknowledged having received some tasty items and comments on the successes his children achieved in school. He asks for some toiletries and a pair of socks. He lets them know that he has gained twelve pounds. The mood is dampened in the middle of July, for he wrote on July 25 that he was no longer permitted to receive mail or parcels in retaliation for the escape of a number of prisoners from his barrack. After “Crazy Tuesday” – the landing of British Airborne troops near Arnhem in the eastern part of the Netherlands – camp Vught was evacuated. The prisoners were transported to an unknown destination in Germany. A parcel sent to Taeke did not reach him, and some of it was returned to the family. Prisoners who had been released were unable to give any information about Taeke to the Van Popta family. Rusting barbed wire at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany NEWS FROM SACHSENHAUSEN For several months the family lived in uncertainty, until the arrival of a letter in November of 1944 from a Mr. Pierre Hartendorf who had been a fellow prisoner of Taeke. Mr. Hartendorf had been arrested in July of 1944 because he had been hiding Jews. He met Taeke at the Vught prisoner camp. After “Crazy Tuesday” he and many fellow inmates were transported to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp, near Berlin. There Mr. Hartendorf met Taeke. After his release Hartendorf received hundreds of letters from all over the country, from people seeking information about their relatives who had also been prisoners in Vught or Sachsenhausen. Hartendorf was as helpful as he could be and wrote letters to families of prisoners known to him. He wrote the Van Popta family as well. Here follows a passage from his letter dated November 7, 1944: Dear Mrs. Van Popta, Quite unexpectedly, on Thursday morning Nov. 2, I was released from Concentration Camp “Sachsenhausen” and sent home. I frequently socialized with your husband and, although I was unable to say farewell to anyone during my last day there, I would like to tell you that spiritually and mentally he is doing well. I think that I would be acting in accordance with his wishes by forwarding to you his best regards. Yours truly, Pierre Hartendorf. Soon after he paid a visit to Mrs. Van Popta to speak with her and the children about the hardships the prisoners had to endure, for, felt he, one could not do this well by letter. Another fellow prisoner, Mr. A. Wittebol from Maastricht, wrote the family after the liberation of the Netherlands: The first time I saw your father was in Vught, but that was for only a few weeks. Thereafter we met again in Sachsenhausen, where life was difficult. But your Father was still in good health there and always full of life. This was most noticeable when he talked to us. The routine was that the available ministers would come together in the morning to decide on the Scripture text for the day, which would then be relayed by the pastors with a few devotional words to those who were interested. Your Father did this too, and although he was not a pastor he did this with so much fervor that quite soon every morning he was surrounded by a sizable crowd. This was not permitted, and he was, as I recall, warned twice by the guards, since the crowd had become so large that it couldn’t help but attract their attention. By virtue of his talks he encouraged and supported many in their difficulties. Since I left Sachsenhausen on November 17, I am unable to write about later events there. THE LAST LETTER It is in January of 1945, shortly before his death, that Taeke wrote his last letter to his family. So as to avoid any difficulties with the censors he wrote it in German. The envelope stated: “Geöffnet Oberkommando der Wehrmacht” . Taeke wrote the letter while facing death and in it said farewell to his loved ones: My dearest Regina and all of you, Trying to reach you by this letter; should it arrive, please write me. Still in good health and cheerful. The one who trusts will never be dismayed. Work is not heavy; sufficient clothing. But less food. Until now God has helped me. Pray that I may be permitted to return my love to you. You’ll be suffering hunger and cold. Hope and pray that you’ll get through it all. Winter has started, but it’s not too cold. Still sleeping well. Prayer and consolation: Ps 25 - “Forgive my transgressions for thy goodness sake.” Ps 73 - “Though in grievous suffering my heart and flesh may fail.” As in Romans, in all these we are more than conquerors. Longing for you and news. That is a strengthening bond. Greetings to family, friends, and dear grandchildren. I can see Jaapje before me. Am always praying for you. Our prayers join one another. May God protect you. I am in His school. All earthly things pass away. Life and love are everlasting. Greetings to all. Your loving T. On January 21, 1945, Taeke passed away in the concentration camp from dysentery. The family only learned about his death on June 3, 1945, after a fellow prisoner contacted Regina. Three years later she received word from an official at the municipal registry office that her late husband’s death had been officially recorded on December 5, 1947. The written notice ends with these words: For the sake of finalization, you are advised that application for transcripts of these records may be made at this office, to be accompanied by cogent reasons stating the objectives for their issuance, and by remitting any administrative charges incurred thereby. A more chilly and business-like tone is hardly conceivable. Any attempts by family to locate Taeke's grave remain unsuccessful. AN ACCOUNTING There is a short sequel to the Taeke van Popta episode. Tjeerd van der Weide, mayor of the municipality of Velsen, had been personally involved in the arrest of Taeke. After the war he was apprehended for his involvement and tried by the Special Court Assembly in Amsterdam, September 23, 1946. According to a news report on the session, Van der Weide had delivered Van Popta over to the Nazi Security Police. The newspaper account included this admission from Van der Weide: “Yes, I started the ball rolling, but I didn’t realize the consequences it would have.” During Van der Weide’s trial, Prosecutor Nicco Sikkel read a letter in which the former mayor had written that things had become boring in IJmuiden: “We, too, should start with raids.” He then went on to express the opinion that for each “pro” (German sympathizers) that were killed ten “anti” (anti-German) must die.” Mr. Sikkel went on to say that the name of Mayor Van der Weide was mentioned with fear and trembling in IJmuiden and throughout Velsen. The summons lists a large number of criminal offences. tThe prosecution demanded the death sentence. Finally, Van der Weide was called to the stand and a newspaper reported him as saying: For years I was convinced that I would eventually be shot. In what manner I did not know, but now it does not come unexpectedly. I would very much like to say, however, that I am terribly sorry that people have suffered because of me. I don’t consider the death penalty the worst thing that could happen to me; I think it is much more grievous that I have betrayed my country. Therefore I beg for clemency. There was to be no clemency. On June 6, 1947, Van der Weide was executed as one of the few collaborating Dutch mayors. Rev. George van Popta is the Minister Emeritus for the Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church, and he blogs at VanPopta.ca. This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue....

Animated, Movie Reviews

Adventures in Odyssey: The Knight Travellers

Animated / Children's 27 min / 1991 Rating: 7/10 Back in 1987, Focus on the Family started a radio drama series for Christian families called "Adventures in Odyssey," and it is still running today, more than 900 episodes later. It also spawned 17 animated episodes, the first of which is The Knight Travellers. It's clear from the start of the episode that viewers are expected to have some familiarity with the radio original, as main characters John Avery Whittaker ("Whit" for short) and his assistant, Eugene Meltsner, aren't really introduced. For those that don't know, Whit is a lovable grandfatherly figure and an inventor. In this episode, some bad guys have stolen his "Imagination Station" invention which Whit designed to allow people to travel back in time, at least in their imaginations, to find out what life was like back then. However, the bad guys have turned it into a "Manipulation Station" so they can use it to control people's minds and get rich. As regularly happens, Whit gets some pint-sized help, this time from 10-year-old Dylan Taylor and his dog Sherman (who aren't from the radio dramas). Cautions If you are familiar with the radio show, then it won't surprise you that these videos can have some tension to them. In this episode, Dylan has to contend with a crocodile, a giant boa constrictor, and a smooth-talking, and iron-mace-swinging, evil knight. In the next episode, Dylan and the new neighbor girl have an ongoing argument that continues on through the episode and ends in a hospital trip. In Episode 3, Dylan's disobedience leads to a runaway mower destroying some prize flower gardens. Everything turns out alright in the end, and, of course, lessons are learned. But the sibling arguments, the menacing villains, and the narrow escapes, will be too much for some sensitive viewers. This series is meant to teach lessons, and there are a couple morals to the initial story. The first – that true treasures are not found in toy catalogs or toy stores but come from God – is true enough. But the second moral is problematic. Whit tells the main bad guy that: "Our hope lies in something you can never control or conquer. Our _______" If you would have filled in that blank with "Our God" then you understand why Whit's answer – "Our faith" – is misdirected. Without God to preserve us, our faith would be conquerable. It is Jesus who is unconquerable. That's a point worth raising with your kids. Also problematic, is the third episode, where Dylan is initially irresponsible, so the lesson here is responsibility. What goes unaddressed is how Dylan, in an attempt to make up for past mistakes, risks and almost loses his life to save some bird eggs. This is presented as brave, but in treating his life as of no more importance than that of a bird's, Dylan is actually being irresponsible. These instances underscore how, even though this is a Christian show, there is a real need for parental guidance and discussion – they can't be treated as "hit play, and walk away." Conclusion I've watched the first half dozen episodes, and the animation and writing is comparable to Hanna-Barbera productions like The Flintstones or The Jetsons. While this is too childish for teens, parents who remember Adventures in Odyssey from their youth will enjoy this for the nostalgia, and their younger kids - those who can handle some tension - will too. There were two "seasons" to the animation series, and while it doesn't seem too important to watch them in order, The Knight Travellers does introduce us to Dylan so it is probably the best place to start. In total there's about seven hours worth of viewing. Original Series (1991-1998) 1 – The Knight Travellers 2 – A Flight to the Finish 3 – A Fine Feathered Frenzy 4 – Shadow of a Doubt 5 – Star Quest 6 – Once Upon an Avalanche 7 – Electric Christmas 8 – Go West, Young Man 9 – Someone to Watch Over Me 10 – In Harm's Way 11 – A Twist in Time 12 – A Stranger Among Us 13 – Baby Daze Series 2 (2000-2003) 1 – The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner 2 – Escape from the Forbidden Matrix 3 – The Caves of Qumran 4 – Race to Freedom You can see The Knight Travellers trailer below. You can find the show on DVD or as a download at Apple TV and Christianbooks.com. And it is also streaming on Amazon.com. ...

Daily devotional

May 24 – Blessed be the God of Israel!

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Scripture readings: Daniel 3:26-30; Psalm 107:1-9 Writing about the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they stood before Nebuchadnezzar, Calvin wrote, “We must bear defamatory statements about us, for the time patiently, until the LORD shall shine upon us as the asserter of our innocence.” We don’t always know if we will be vindicated when we are confronted for the truth we proclaim concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the exclusive call to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The three men did not know if they would emerge from the fires or if they would succumb to their injuries. Nonetheless, they knew that the LORD would assert their innocence. In this instance, the LORD displayed their righteousness in a dramatic fashion and Nebuchadnezzar was astounded by the scene before his eyes. Despite the ferocity of his furnace, they weren’t harmed in any way! When Nebuchadnezzar addressed the gathered crowd, he came close to confessing the name of God, but the tragedy in this scene is that his proclamation was still an external acknowledgment and not an internal surrender to the LORD, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Under his banner, a proclamation went out that proclaimed the greatness of Yahweh, but it did not result in personal faith. Which brings us to this sobering reminder: it is not enough to know true things about God. We must trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding or our strength or our own pride. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the LORD’s name to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for assurance that His power is so great that we need not be anxious about anything! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Gutsy Girls Book Two: Sisters, Corrie & Betsie ten Boom

by Amy L. Sullivan 2016 / 36 pages This is the true story of two Dutch sisters who knew that God could be trusted with their lives and that assurance gave them and their whole family the courage to hide Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Our introduction to the sisters starts with the older Betsie ushering the daydreaming little Corrie out the door so she can go to school. Then we leap ahead to their adult life, with Betsie taking care of the household and Corrie helping her father in the family's watch shop. Then the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. As you might expect from a picture book, it is a G-rated account. That's accomplished via cartoonish pictures, and by covering what the Nazis had planned for the Jews in only limited detail like this: "German soldiers planned evil things against people who were Jewish. In order to easily identify them and set those who were Jewish apart from other Dutch people, German soldiers forced Jewish people to wear the Star of David on their coats and ration cards around their necks. Before long German soldiers took many Jewish people away from their homes." But even so, the reader learns that the Nazis hated the Jews, and the ten Booms knew God wanted them to act. We are shown how they smuggled in bricks to create a false wall in their home that Jews and others could hide behind, should the Germans come looking. In one interesting note, the author shares that the width of that space – at just 23 inches (by 8 feet long) – was not even as wide as this book, when opened up! The ten Booms helped 800 people before they were caught. While readers are, again, spared from the worst details, we do follow the ten Boom sisters to a concentration camp, where Betsie dies. That isn't where the story ends, of course: in the final pages we see Corrie freed and, through God's grace, able to forgive the very Germans who so mistreated her and her sister. Caution There are no cautions for this book but it is the second of a series of 5, and the subject of Book 4 is Jennifer Wiseman, an astronomer who has had a big role in promoting theistic evolution. So the ten Boom book is well worth getting, but not so the series. Conclusion This is a very good first exposure to the ten Boom sisters for students in Kindergarten and First Grade. My hope, though, is that it wouldn't be the last exposure they get – for teens and adults there really is no more encouraging biography than Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place....

News

Saturday Selections - May 22, 2021

When the Pilgrims first landed, how many jobs were there? And how much work? (3 min) The answer is to these two questions are, there were no jobs, but lots of work. There were no employers to hire them, but the Pilgrims could see there was a lot they could productively set their hands to. Christian college president Ben Merkle explains that students who look to university only as a way of getting a job are missing the bigger picture - they should be looking for what work needs to be done. Two opposing types of "justice" (10-minute read) Thomas Sowell contrasts the traditional ideas of justice – where the ideal is to treat everyone equally – with "cosmic" or "social" justice, which is more concerned with equality of situations or outcomes. Sowell takes a Jordan Peterson-type role here, defending the biblical standard of justice, not really as a Christian (maybe he is one, but that's not how he is arguing here), but more as an appreciative outsider. 4 defining moments for young marriages "How newlyweds respond to these moments determines whether they stumble along separately or move forward together." Does democracy need Christianity? (5-minute read) "Democracy is not an ideology. It is a process through which a community gives expression to a vision. If our community is dazed and confused, then democracy will create chaos. "By all means Christians should engage in the democratic process but perhaps their first responsibility and their first desire should be to speak their faith loudly and clearly, live by and help many others to live by the truths and values which their faith embodies." On online privacy, Google, and you being their product You'd expect this article to be biased, as it is from a Google competitor (Duck Duck Go), but there's useful information here on why and how you would want to protect your online privacy. Free film: Does it matter what we believe about Genesis? (20 minutes) In this short film we get to see a man live out his life, from childhood all the way to his deathbed, but in three different ways: first we see him as an atheist who thinks the whole Bible is lies, second as a Christian who thinks only some of the Bible is true, and third as a Christian who understands that all of what God tells in the Bible is true and valuable. While the point here is that there is a strong connection between our beliefs – whether we follow God's truth or the world's lies – and the outcome of our lives, this isn't about earning God's blessings – this isn't the prosperity gospel. It is, instead, about taking seriously what God tells us in the Bible, and having His expressed Word be the guide for our lives.  ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Is Genesis History?

Documentary 100 min / 2017 RATING: 8/10 We live and breathe and move in an atmosphere that is full of assumptions. We assume that what we see is how things have always been. And our friends and colleagues at work assume that scientists have disproved the Bible. And even if we know better, we hear so often that the earth is the product of millions and billions of years of slow erosion and evolution, those assumptions can impact us too – we can begin to wonder, "Is it crazy to believe that this planet is only 6,000 years old, that God made all of this in just six days?" Is Genesis History? is a film that can help to quell those voices of doubt, the voices that ask, "Did God really say?"  Like thoughtful Christian apologetics, this movie can give us confidence that it is logical and entirely defensible for a modern person to fully believe that God's Word describes historical events and real people. Narrator Del Tackett opens the documentary showing a series of beautiful rock formations and deep canyons, and wonders aloud how many years these magnificent sites took to develop. We might assume thousands or even millions. But no – he reveals that the landscape around him was formed in just a few months, after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980! This is a powerful illustration of just how our observations are colored by our preconceptions. Throughout the film, Tackett speaks with various PhD-holding scientists about their areas of expertise, and often in the midst of beautiful scenery. These passionate and articulate scholars contrast two major competing views of history: the conventional view that all we see around us developed over billions of years, and the Biblical view that points to a young earth in which God acted directly and with incredible power to create and form the world. Many of these experts point to the great Flood that covered the whole earth as an explanation for the geological formations we can observe in the Grand Canyon for example, and for the way that fossils appear intact and often in groups and herds. The massive power of the waters below, bursting forth, and the windows of heaven opening, caused enormous changes to the earth, killing most life. The flood was universal and catastrophic and awesome in its destructive power, and its effects can be seen all over the world still today – if you have eyes to see it! The format of Is Genesis History? consisting of questions and answers filmed in interesting locations, with helpful illustrations, makes it easy to understand and engaging. It probably won't keep the attention of younger children, but middle school students on up to senior citizens will enjoy and benefit from this film. I can see this movie being beneficial for our young people's societies, and the producers have made available free study and discussion material at their website www.IsGenesisHistory.com. This is a great film that encourages us to view the Bible as accurate history, and is a timely reminder that God's Word is true yesterday, today and tomorrow. And right now you can watch it for free on YouTube below: Further discussion Other reviews Tim Challies Douglas Wilson WORLD magazine Paul Nelson controversy One of the interviewees in the film, Paul Nelson, while a 6-day creationist, is also a major figure in the Intelligent Design movement. He didn't like how he came out in the film, and explains why here. Del Tackett, film narrator and producer, responds here. Todd Wood, another interviewee, also has some thoughts here. Biologos and response Biologos is a group that seeks to promote an evolutionary worldview in Christian circles. They didn't like the film, and posted a critique here. Creation Ministries responded here. This review first appeared in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue....

Parenting

One way to talk to your kids about God

In Matthew 16, Jesus presents his disciples with a two-part question. It is a masterful question and one that parents can use with great benefit. Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” When the disciples finish giving their answers, Jesus makes the question personal. He asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter quickly proclaims that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This question revealed the content of Peter’s heart. You can use this two-part question effectively to help you understand your children’s thoughts. For example: “Hey kids, what do you friends say is causing all of the damaging weather the country has been having?” “What do you think has been causing this weather?” Or: “What do your teammates say about major league stars using performance enhancing drugs?” “What do you think about PED’s?” There are many, many possible situations that this two-part question can help you better understand your children. For this to be effective, your concern and questions must genuine.  They should flow out of normal conversations. This is a tool to help you gather data. If you want to use this more than once, then don’t immediately correct an answer that you think is wrong. You are asking for their opinion, don’t penalize children for doing what you asked. Rather, use the answers you receive to help plan positive ways address your children’s thoughts and correct them if needed. It is always a good idea to follow Christ’s example in interacting with people. Jay Younts is the author of "Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children" and he blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article first appeared. It is reprinted with permission....

Apologetics 101, Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson

Documentary 88 minutes / 2009 Rating: 9/10 The genesis of the film started back in May of 2007 when leading atheist Christopher Hitchens and Reformed pastor Douglas Wilson were asked by Christianity Today to dialogue on the question “Is Christianity good for the world?” Their wrote six exchanges which were printed in the magazine and then, in 2008, compiled into a book. When the two men headed out to do an east-coast book tour, filmmaker Darren Doane tagged along. He captured their exchanges and interactions, both onstage in formal debates settings, and as they conversed over a pint of beer in the local pub. The end result is the most entertaining and enthralling debate you will ever see on film. But its appeal is not the reason this is a must-see film. You should see Collision because: It prepares our children for what they’ll encounter at university. The attacks that Hitchens levels against God and Christianity are mimicked on secular campuses so Wilson’s able defense of the Faith will be instructive and will be an encouragement to our young people when they face these same attacks from their professors and fellow students. It demonstrates the approach we need to take to answering the theistic evolutionists. How are we to understand Genesis 1-11, and what role should Science take in guiding our interpretation of these chapters? To properly answer it we need to rediscover a mislaid aspect of our Reformed heritage – presuppositional apologetics. Throughout Collision Wilson brilliantly demonstrates (though doesn’t entirely explain) this distinctly Reformed way of defending the Faith. So what is apologetics? And how does presuppositional apologetics compare to the other, evidential, approach? Despite how it sounds, apologetics isn't about apologizing – it is about defending and arguing for God's Truth. Evidential apologists figure if we present the evidence – enough of it, and the right sort – people will follow the facts and come to realize that there is indeed a God. The problem with this approach is that facts are always interpreted. Present someone with information about the stunning intricacy of the human eye and they’ll fall back on their worldview – their presuppositions – to tell them how to understand this information. So a Christian will look at the eye and acknowledge it as evidence of a brilliant Designer. Meanwhile, an atheist will understand it as evidence of millions of years of evolution since something this amazing couldn’t have just sprung up overnight! Confronted with the same evidence, they come to opposing conclusions. Why? Because sin taints even our intellect – even our reasoning – so evidence can be twisted to support conclusions that run right up against God's Truth. Presuppositional apologetics delves into the assumptions – those presuppositions – that underlie every worldview. When, in Collision, Hitchens accuses God of being a tyrant for ordering the death of the Amalekites (Deut 25:19), Wilson asks Hitchens to provide, from his atheistic worldview, a grounds for being upset. If we are just “matter in motion,” as the atheist worldview contends, what reason is there for Hitchens to care what happens to Amalekites? Hitchens makes repeated moral claims, and Wilson repeatedly shows his atheistic worldview gives him no basis for claiming that anything is wrong or anything is right. Hitchens has debated a throng of other Christians but it’s only Wilson, and his presuppositional approach, that has given him pause. Does that mean presuppositional apologetics is the way to go if you want to win the argument? By the film's end, Christopher Hitchens wasn't won over. And while Wilson was impressive, many of the atheists who watched Collision said that Hitchens won the debate. In that sense, this pressupositional approach didn't "work." But, of course, it is always the Holy Spirit, and not the apologist, who transforms a person's heart. What makes presuppositional apologetics the way to go is that it begins with the right basis, acknowledging, as Romans 1:18-32 makes clear, that this is not a battle over evidence – on some level everyone knows God exists, everyone has God's moral law written on their hearts, and everyone is aware to some degree of how we don't measure up. When we understand that God has already declared Himself, then we can stop wasting our time with the red herring of having to prove His existence, and we can get to the real apologetics work of clarifying and presenting His truth. Then apologetics is an opportunity to glorify God by contrasing the unshakeable biblical worldview with the unbeliever's foundationless one. We can learn from Wilson and use this same approach to properly answer the theistic evolutionists in Christian circles. Like Wilson, we need to cut to the very core of the debate and address their presuppositions – we need to ask how evolution can fit with Christianity when it requires a mythical Adam and Eve, millions of years of mutations and mistakes, and Death before the Fall? This is a film some will love, and others might find too loud (the producer has shot music videos in the past, and that influence is felt here in the driving, beat-y soundtrack) but the meat of what’s discussed, and the example that is set, will be valuable for all ages and all interests. Would that everyone would watch this one... and now you can, on Facebook, for free!...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock

by Iain H. Murray 240 pages / 2011 Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 John MacArthur has been a help and a hero to me. The help has come from his insights on important issues like creation and evolution, psychology, Pentecostalism, gender roles, and the need for fruit in a Christian’s life. I really appreciated books like Charismatic Chaos (on Charismatics) and The Battle for the Beginning (on Creation vs. Evolution) which were educational and accessible. But the biggest reason I became a MacArthur fan was due to his regular appearances on the Larry King Live show. This was an interview show on CNN and when the host wanted to talk about religious issues there would be MacArthur, alongside of Deepak Chopra, a full-on new age guru, and some forgettable weak-kneed Roman Catholic priest. The setting wasn’t exactly hostile – while Larry King is agnostic, he’s quite polite – but sitting there, in the midst of three fellows who not only had no idea what the truth was, but at points even denied there was a truth to be found, it was certainly a challenging position. MacArthur, as the sole voice for God’s Truth, had to not only present that truth, but in a winsome way that would give God his due. And he nailed it! It was just so encouraging to see him clean up, coming off as the only sane one on the panel. I think he even got me clapping, after a particularly good answer. So, a help and a hero. And to top it off he’s Reformed. But he’s also Baptist and a Dispensationalist. He's wrong about these major matters. That’s why, when I found out Iain Murray had written a biography on him, I knew I’d have to check it out. On the matters where we differ with MacArthur, Murray does too, so his biography highlights the great good God is doing through this man, and takes gentle note of areas where both Murray and we too would differ. Topics covered What Murray offers us here is a more topical than chronological look (though it is that too) at MacArthur’s life. So, for example, a chapter is spent on his wife, both on her influence, and a major car accident that nearly killed her. Another chapter is spent on the spiritual state of Russians after the Berlin Wall fell when MacArthur was invited to preach and teach there. We also learn about the role MacArthur had in fighting the “easy-believism” that was found in many evangelical churches. Pastors were teaching that not only is salvation not due to our works, after we are saved we still don’t have to do good works! MacArthur’s book The Gospel according to Jesus was a response to this error. Of course, Murray does also give un a look at the man himself. One little factoid that I found of interest was that one condition he set on accepting the call to Grace Community Church, the church he has served these last 40+ years, is that they allow him 30 hours a week for Bible study. He said that if he was going to teach the Word he needed time to be in the Word. I’m sure he works more than 30 hours a week, but even if he was at his task 10 hours a day six days a week, this still amounts to half of all his time. How much time, I wonder, do we give our ministers to simply study God’s Word? Murray clearly admires his subject, but that doesn’t stop him from, when needed, rebutting him. For example, Murray takes up the issue of Dispensationalism in a chapter titled “Objections and Corrections.” There is no better example of loving criticism to be found than in this chapter in how Murray corrects MacArthur! Conclusion While I loved this book – I liked it so much I took the luxury of reading through it slowly – it is not the sort of biography that everyone will enjoy. The battles MacArthur has fought have been of a spiritual nature, which doesn’t make for quite the same gripping nature as, say, a biography about a shot-down World War II pilot who had to contend with actual bullets and bombs. But spiritual battles should be of interest too – after all, we’re all in one. And for anyone who has read or heard MacArthur and wanted to know more about the man this will be a wonderful treat. Here is a man who sought the Lord first and foremost. A version of this review first appeared in the June 2015 issue. ...

News

Saturday Selections – May 15, 2021

I forgot my phone (2 min) Seven years old, and still worth sharing: how our phones get in the way. Looking at the RC Sproul biography Wes Bredenhof with his kudos (and a little critique) for the new biography. Making suicide easier makes suicide more "popular" Some people who wouldn't otherwise commit suicide, will when it becomes easier to do. $10 million prize exposes what evolution can't do A $10 million prize is being offered to anyone who can show how an unguided, undesigned process (i.e. chemical evolution) could create an information system. The prize will never be claimed because: "information, like what is stored and communicated in DNA, has only one known source – an intelligent agent. To produce a system like DNA through unguided processes would not only be to do something that’s never been done; it would be to do something never before observed in the history of science." How Facebook lets advertisers be two-faced Exxon has been caught tailoring Facebook ads to people's political sensibilities, saying one thing to Left-leaning folk, and offering a different, almost opposite position, to those on the Right. The lesson? Getting it straight from the horse's mouth is a different sort of thing in a social media age where your collected information lets companies know, before they reach out to you, what you would like them to say. Should Christians always obey the law? Some solid help offered here, even if it might not offer complete clarity... ...

Parenting

Parents: do you have the courage to be gentle?

A gentle response to an angry or defiant act seems weak and out of place. The Holy Spirit has a different perspective: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1 The Hebrew word for gentle here means the quality of being tender, soft, delicate in substance. This is not exactly the first response that comes to mind when someone you know or your teenager opposes you. There are two natural responses when this happens. Both are equally wrong and destructive. The first is to fight fire with fire, to let others know you won’t stand for their behavior. The second is to be hurt and withdraw either in fear or humiliation. But the Holy Spirit says to offer a gentle answer. The goal here is to soothe and comfort that listener (see Ephesians 4:29). An angry response only serves to inflict pain and encourage even more upset. This is what is meant by a harsh word stirring up anger. Once again we see that God’s ways are not our ways. When your teenager approaches you in anger, the Holy Spirit urges you to respond with the power of gentleness. It is his fruit, his way. It takes great courage to put aside the defensive response of anger or hurt and instead extend the love of Christ to one who, at that moment, is unlovely. “It’s not right! I never get to do what I want. You think you know everything!” “No, I don’t know everything. I do know that I have managed provoke your anger. That is not what I want. You know I can’t agree to what you want, but maybe I can understand what I have done to anger you. Will you help me do that?” “What is this? Some new way to get me to do what you want? No way, I’m not falling for it.” “The offer is genuine. I should have realized earlier how much doing this meant to you. Help me work through this with you. Let’s talk about how we can make things different.” “Easy for you to say, you still get to control me and I don’t get anything! Things never change.” “I don’t want to control you. Let’s work together to avoid what is happening now. I should have come to you sooner instead of telling you no at the last minute. Please forgive me for all of the times that I have been angry with you in the past and for raising my voice at you. I was wrong.” “Are you really serious?” “I am.” “Let me think about it.” “No problem. I am here to talk whenever you want to.” Was the immediate issue solved? No. Is the teenager still angry? Yes. But her anger was not increased. There is still work to do. But, in faith and with courage, a new path of reconciliation and restoration is now open because a gentle, soft answer turns away wrath. Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He contributes to ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – May 2021

Walter Williams on his income inequality with Michael Jordan Does the tenth commandment still apply if our neighbor is Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Michael Jordan? Then why are concerns about income equality (rather than poverty) now treated as downright virtuous, and a matter of justice? In the quote below Walter Williams doesn’t argue coveting is still a sin, but he does make the case that concerns about income inequality are arrogant, belittling the freely-made decisions made by millions who happily gave money to Gates, Bezos, and Jordan for what they were offering in exchange. “Why is it that Michael Jordan earns $33 million a year and I don’t even earn one-half of one percent of that? …my problem is with my fellow man, who’d plunk down $200 to see Jordan play and wouldn’t pay a dollar to see me play.… The bottom line explanation of Michael Jordan’s income relative to mine lies in his capacity to please his fellow man. The person who takes exception to Jordan’s salary or sees him…as making ‘little contribution to society’ is really disagreeing with decisions made by millions upon millions of independent decision-makers who decided to fork over their money to see Jordan play.” Is it okay for me to do “x” on Sunday? “When Christians ask: ‘Is it ok for me do X on Sundays?’ the first response should normally not be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but ‘Why would you be doing it?’ The most common answer to that question is probably ‘Because I don’t have time for it in the rest of the week.’ This highlights the importance of understanding the whole of the fourth commandment. The problem here is not how we spend Sunday; it is how we are using Monday to Saturday. We are living the week the wrong way around, as if there had been no resurrection! Use Sunday as a day of rest, worship, fellowship first and we will almost inevitably begin to discipline our use of time in the other six days of the week. Grasp this and the Sabbath principle becomes one of the simplest and most helpful of all God’s gifts. The burden-free day at the beginning of the week both regulates the days that follow and refreshes us for them. “(p.266) – Sinclair Ferguson, in Devoted to God (h/t to Wes Bredenhof) We have to keep telling our kids... The folks at MamaBearApologetics.com recently put their own spin on the popular “7 things every child needs to hear” meme that’s made it’s way around the Internet” I love you I’m proud of you I’m sorry I forgive you I’m listening Communism has failed everywhere it has been tried You’ve got what it takes Life crafted by chance? They can’t do it on purpose “Assemble the dream team you want and build a cell…. You assemble the teams of biologists, chemists, origin of life researchers, YouTubers, however many people you want on that team. And you give them all the RNA, DNA, and proteins that they want, the enzymes that they want, and you give them the lipids that they want, and say ‘Go ahead make a cell.’ Because somehow on an early Earth this happened under a rock in a little pool somewhere. Why can't you do it in your laboratory? They can't. ….But we're supposed to believe that somewhere in some hydrothermal vent or underpool all of this came together? Come on!” – Biologist James Tour, in his lecture "The Origin of Life has not been explained" Apply the Golden Rule to lockdowns? Back when shutting down the economy was still unprecedented, doing it was quite something. But now that we've lived through more than a year of such lockdowns, off and on, there's good reason to worry that this will no longer be viewed as "nuclear option" and that it will be invoked ever more readily. So how can we again make it a measure of last resort? The Golden Rule, (Luke 19:18) to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," should serve as inspiration for legislation we can push for, that would only allow politicians to shut down the economy (or any portions thereof) for as long as they themselves are willing to go without a paycheck. On one-issue candidates “Never voting for a pro-abortion candidate makes you a one-issue voter, as never marrying a serial killer makes you a one-issue fiancé.” – John Piper We can’t count on any biblical literacy It used to be that even unbelievers knew a little bit about the Bible but that has changed! A friend, known in her workplace to be a Christian, had a co-worker ask her about a text her church had put up on their front lawn sign. The coworker just didn't get it: “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but that message your church put up, well, it just kind of seems racist. Why did you guys post that?” What was the message? The church had posted Psalm 51:7b: “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” The phrase, “whiter than snow” caught the co-worker’s attention. In a world where the phrase “it was a matter of black and white” is being banned from some government departments due to its perceived racial insensitivity, it's important to understand how even the Bible’s least offensive parts can be misconstrued and seen as offensive. My friend was able to clarify things with her coworker. But what about all those who read this and didn't have a friend to explain it? Is that a reason not to post such verses? Or is it a reason to go out into the community to be there for those who have questions and need answers?  Calvinism, Arminianism, and splitting the difference “Some try to split the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism. They say something like, 'I want to be 75% Calvinist and 25% Arminian. If they mean that literally, then they are 100% Arminian since giving any determinative place to human will is Arminian. Usually they mean that they want to stress the grace of God and human responsibility. If that is what they mean, then they can be 100% Calvinist for Calvinism does teach both that God's grace is entirely the cause of salvation and that man is responsible before God to hear and heed the call to repentance and faith.” – W. Robert Godfrey God’s sense of humor In Roland Bainton's The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century he shares the amusing story of how William Tyndale found someone to fund his translation work. A curious tale is related of how he contrived to turn the devices of his foes to advantage. The Archbishop of Canterbury was buying up his translations for burning and commissioned a certain Packington to scour the continent for more. The man went straight to Tyndale himself and informed him that he had discovered a merchant who would clean out his stock. "Who is this merchant?” said Tyndale. "The bishop of London,” said Packington. "Oh, that is because he will burn them,” said Tyndale. "Yea, marry,” quoth Packington. "I am the gladder,” said Tyndale, “for these two benefits will come of it: I shall get money from him for these books and bring myself out of debt, and the whole world shall cry out on the burning of God’s Word, and the overplus of the money shall make me more studious to correct the said New Testament, and so newly to imprint the same once again; and I trust the second will much better like you that ever did the first.” And the account concludes: “And so forward went the bargain: the bishop had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money." (h/t to Joel McDurmon)...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Torchlighters: the Eric Liddell Story

Animated / Family 2007 / 31 minutes Rating: 6/10 Eric Liddell is best known for the stand he took to not compete in the 1924 Olympic 100-meter race. He was among the United Kingdom's best chances at a medal, but he didn't want to run because doing so would require him to run in a heat on Sunday. Despite enormous pressure to compromise for the sake of his country, he still refused, pointing to the 4th Commandment's call to "remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy." His country was important to him, but it came a distant second to his God. Eventually, a different sort of compromise was struck, which had Liddell run in the 200 and 400-meter races instead, winning a bronze and a gold. His firm convictions, and his outstanding athletic performances, were the subject of the 1981 film (and Oscar winner for Best Picture) Chariots of Fire. However, Hollywood indulged in a bit of artistic license. They made it seem as if Liddell only found out about the Sunday heat on the boat ride to the Paris Olympics, but the truth, as shown much more accurately in this animated video, is that Liddell knew months before. While both film and video cover Eric-the-athlete, this video covers his later years too, as Eric-the-missionary. Liddell was born in China, to Scottish missionary parents, and while educated in Scotland, actually spent most of his life in China. He returned there after the Olympics, serving as a missionary from 1925, until 1943, which is when the Japanese invaded. He could have fled, and he did send his family away, but Liddell stayed to continue telling the Chinese about God. That cost him, as he ended up in a Japanese internment camp, but even there he remained a faithful witness until his death in 1945, likely due to a brain tumor. Cautions This would have gotten at least a 7/10 if not for the choice the creators made to have Chinese characters speak broken and stilted English – their inarticulate language skills make them look a little dumb. Liddell was raised in China, which means his Mandarin was likely excellent, and for important conversations, they likely would have all used the language they all knew well, and his Chinese friends could have been shown speaking clearly and articulately in their native language. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they were all trying to learn English, and so that's the language they all spoke all the time, some better, and many worse. But I doubt it, and that's why I knocked a star off what is otherwise a solid account of a faithful and fascinating man. Also, as noted earlier, Liddell does die in a Japanese camp, and while that is not depicted, if you have some sensitive younger souls, you might want to give them a heads up early on, so that ending doesn't come as a shock. Conclusion This is more educational than entertaining, but I think families could enjoy watching this together – that it is a true story does make it compelling. To say it another way, this might not be the sort of video your kids will ask mom and dad to put on, but if you start it going, and the whole family is watching together, I don't think there will be many complaints. So sit back and be inspired by a man who knew that God was worthy of all honor, and most certainly came before fame and before his own safety. You can watch The Eric Liddell Story for free below, though with quite a lot of commercial interruptions. For an ad-free presentation, you can sign up, also for free, at RedeemTV.com. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Broken Beauty – Reflections of a Soul Refined by Cancer

by Helena Bolhuis 252 pages / 2020 It’s kind of exciting when someone you are personally acquainted with publishes a book. It’s a bit of a thrill to hold the book in your hands, read their name on the cover, breathe in the new book smell, and anticipate sitting down with a cup of tea to crack it open and begin to read. I certainly felt this way when I purchased Broken Beauty – Reflections of a Soul Refined by Cancer, written by Helena Bolhuis. I don’t know Helena well, but having sat under her teaching on a couple of occasions – there experiencing her warmth, wisdom, and openness and seeing in her a sincere love for the Lord – I was definitely looking forward to reading her book. Attending her book launch at the local Free Reformed bookstore only heightened my eagerness, for that morning we got a glimpse into the beautiful and emotional journey this book would take us on. Yet – dare I admit this? – I also felt a little bit of wariness, maybe even skepticism about the book, and at first I could not put my finger on why I felt this way. But on reflection, I realized what was making me uneasy: how could a book detailing someone’s personal experience not be a bit self-glorifying? How could the author, in human weakness, write about themselves without it being… all about them? Would God be given His proper place in this story? And now, having read the book, I can answer that last question with a resounding “Yes!” Broken Beauty is, indeed, not a book about the author, but about the faithful God and loving Father who carried and led her through her cancer journey. From the dedication on the very first page – “for You, Father, for Your glory” – to the thanks at the end of the book, and everywhere in between, God is given the glory. Again and again, Helena points us to the Lord who supplied her every need in a time of sickness. The reader is left with a renewed sense of awe for the Great Physician, the God who refines us and draws us to himself through times of trial and weakness. The Father who carries us on eagle’s wings is the loving Author of this author’s story. The book is organized in three main sections: the journey the provisions and the destination “The Journey” tells Helena’s cancer story as it unfolded in her life, describing doctor’s visits, waiting for and receiving test results, and the various treatments she had to undergo. And throughout this section of facts and details, Helena weaves the story of her inner struggle – emotional and spiritual – as she faced the very real possibility of her own death. In the second section, “The Provisions,” Helena speaks about how God provided for her in so many ways along her cancer journey, and she draws a parallel here to how God provided for the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness. He provided for her relationally through the people in her life, and mentally through prayer, meditation, music, and books. God also supplied what she needed emotionally, physically, and spiritually in tangible ways. It was beautiful to read how every need was met by the loving hand of our Father. “The Destination” describes the emotional and spiritual process of adjusting to life post-cancer, navigating life outside the close “cocoon” of God’s shelter and love that Helena experienced during her illness and recovery, and then having to move forward. The cancer journey was at an end, but regular daily life continues on towards the final destination – eternal glory! Written with warmth, raw honesty, and so much hope, Broken Beauty gives the reader a close glimpse into a heart-rending yet beautiful time of suffering and sickness. Saturated with references to God’s Word and the comfort that Helena received from it, this book will be a real encouragement to anyone going through a period of trial or illness. It would also be useful to read when walking alongside a friend or relative experiencing a tough time, for throughout the book there is helpful advice and practical wisdom on how to be there for someone who is suffering. In this world broken by sin, we will all encounter suffering during our lives, whether our own or that of someone we love, and Helena’s book shines a bright light on how God turns our suffering into something beautiful, to His glory. I highly recommend it! “Now I understood that life is all about God’s glory in my story and my delight in Him through that story. Now I understood that through His glory, my joy is made complete.” (p.239) Broken Beauty is available at Amazon, including as an audiobook read by the author. A version of this review will also appear in Una Sancta....

News

Saturday Selections – May 8, 2021

Moms rock! (6 min) An ode, of sorts, to moms everywhere. <span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span> My 3-year-old son is now a girl (4 min) This is some jaw-dropping, hind-quarters-kicking, satire. While these folks are politically conservative (libertarian?) they don't seem Christian. That means, as brilliant as this is in pointing out the craziness, they can't get to the root of it: that in rejecting God, the world is rejecting not just male and female, not just parental authority, but reality itself. This skit isn't on the creator's public YouTube page, presumably because they'd get in trouble for it. But you can view it at the link above on Facebook, and here on their unlisted YouTube page. Free John Piper booklet: Don't waste your cancer A frequent RP contributor, Dr. Wes Bredenhof, recommends this 18-page, free e-book, as being "helpful for anyone dealing with cancer or any other serious life-threatening (or even chronic) illness." How secure is your password?  The linked-to graphic makes the disturbing claim that if you have an 8 character password, even if it is different cases and a mix of numbers, symbols, and letters, it can still be hacked in 8 hours. More disturbing: the graphic is from September 2020, and presumably hackers are only getting faster... Finnish politician facing jail for defending the biblical view of homosexuality Jonathon Van Maren interviews Päivi Räsänen about the charges laid against her. Multiverse myth frees atheists from real science If you have to admit the odds are incomprehensibly stacked against our universe being as finely tuned for life as it is, it isn't an evolutionary save to, on the basis of no evidence, propose there must be countless other universes out there - a multiverse of them - so as to even out those incomprehensible odds. Mark Penninga on the start of ARPA Canada (18 min) The Pro-life Podcast Guys interview ARPA Canada's executive director, Mark Penninga. ...

Assorted, Economics, Science - Environmental Stewardship

Manure into mattresses – we can "create" resources

Economist Julian Simon's key insight is that man's creativity – his brainpower – is a resource that creates other resources. So while some view a rising population as a threat to limited resources ("We're going to run out of oil!") Simon viewed a growing population as a growing resource base. Our brains, when properly applied, could in a reflection of God's own creativity, turn nothing (or next to it) into quite something. For example, when copper – a key element in our phone lines – started getting very expensive, this motivated some smart chaps to develop a much cheaper alternative: sand! That's what our telephone lines are today: Sand (silicon) + Human Creativity = Fiber optic cables Making sand into something is amazing enough, but a much more impressive example of "resource creation" is the way some farmers have turned poop into bedding (or if you prefer alliteration, manure into mattresses). It is quite a story! Rising prices prompts creative thinking Down where I live, in the Northern Washington/Southern BC area, some dairy farmers used to use sawdust as a cheap bedding material for their cows. The cows could sleep in it, poop on it, and the farmer could then come along, clean it out, and put a new layer down. Sawdust clumped together, making it easy to scoop away, but perhaps its most attractive quality was its cheapness. Sawdust used to be viewed as a waste product from the lumber industry – they couldn't give it away and would even bury it. But then creative farmers created a market for this castoff. Or to put it in more mathematical terms: Sawdust + Human Creativity = Cow bedding Some time later, other creative folks started to see more ways that sawdust could be used, including as fuel. Because it originated as a lumber waste product it was cheaper than many other fuel options. So some greenhouses owners figured out a way to use it to heat their buildings, and started to outbid the farmers. This result was this waste product – nothing more than garbage before human brainpower got involved – had so increased in value that farmers could no longer afford it. They needed to find a cheaper option for their bedding! And then it happened. Some ingenious dairy farmer, probably sitting out on his tractor staring out across his manure lagoon, started thinking about the possibilities in all this poop. The result was a separation system that used the undigested fibers found in cow manure. This is fed into a rotating drying drum, where high heat kills the germs, and the output is fibrous bedding material for the farmer's cows. Poop + Human Creativity = Cow bedding Manure has been turned into mattresses! Conclusion Julian Simon was an atheist, so he didn't understand why we have this capacity – why we have a mysterious, awesome ability to use our brains to create something out of nothing. But Simon did recognize Man was more than his mouth; he understood that Man wasn't best understood as a consumer of scarce resources, but that instead Man has an ability (and Christians would add, a calling) to be a producer of plenty. So, in this limited way, Simon has a more accurate understanding of Man than any of his critics. So where does our creative capacity come from? It is a reflection of God's creative Genius. We can't create ex nihilo – out of nothing – like God does, but when we take what was once useless, and put it to productive use, we show ourselves to be His image-bearers....

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Sparky Chronicles: The Map

Family / Children's 28 min / 2003 Rating: 7/10 When their beloved Sparky is dognapped by the infamous international criminal known only as "The Clip," three college-age friends – Ethan, Jeffrey, and Christina – vow to find their pooch, no matter how long it takes. We join up with the search three years in – that's 21 doggy years! – and despite a Volkswagon van full of advanced tracking technology they still seem no closer to finding their four-legged buddy. Sparky Chronicles is a Christian spy spoof, with sting operations, tranquilizer darts, explosions, and one chase scene after another. These aren't high-speed chases, mind you – and at one point the villain gets away by walking at a brisk trot – but that's the point. The pounding music, the quick cuts between the determined pursuers and their frantic prey, and then the shots of the speedometer needle slowly edging past 35: as spoofs go, they're pretty much nailing it. So what makes this tweenish tale a Christian one? Well, during their long fruitless search the three friends come to realize it would be really helpful if they had some sort of guide to help them know which way to go. And when they happen upon a map that The Clip has left behind, Christina makes mention of how the Bible is the same sort of thing for life: a guide that tells us what's right and true. That's the lesson being taught, but unlike what happens in many a Christian production, this is an almost subtle presentation. Sure, they explicitly spell it out, but they don't beat kids over the head with it. I'd recommend this for tweens, but younger kids might enjoy it too. And while this isn't going to be mom and dad's favorite, it'll be more interesting for them than some other children's fare. The only real downside is that while things are set up for a sequel, there isn't one. You can watch it for free below, with some commercial interruptions. ...

People we should know

Betsie, the watchmaker's daughter

“But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:44. ***** Extraordinary stories of extraordinary men and women make up the fabric of history books: men and women who by some incident in their lives have been able to capture the attention and imagination of those living today. They usually comprise those of outstanding intellect; those who have invented things; those who have led armies to victory; those of noble birth who have ruled well; or those who have explored unknown territories. We rarely delve into the lives, however, of the little folk, of those who merely accomplish the sometimes boring, day-by-day tasks that God has assigned to His people. Yet the days written in God’s book of those little people - the widow who dropped a seemingly worthless mite into the temple treasury, the man who provided a donkey for the Master’s use, and those who shared bread and fish in times of hunger – are endless. There is the story of Betsie – Betsie the watchmaker’s daughter – Betsie, an ordinary, little woman - who used her time well. Father’s arms - 1889 A 1950s picture of the ten Boom watch shop. She often sat on the single stone step leading down from the doorway of her father’s shop on the corner of Barteljorisstraat, watching the children of the neighborhood run by. The ragtag and bobtail of the city’s youngsters sprinted by her as they kicked a ball, skipped noisily with skipping ropes and ran helter-skelter in all directions playing hide-and-go-seek. Soft auburn hair framed her face and she smiled into the shouts as if she were participating in the games. Her feet in the high, laced-up shoes, tingled. They longed to gallop and rush about in wild abandonment as well. “Betsie, meisje (little girl).” A strong hand touched the small, hunched up back. “What are you doing sitting here on these cold steps? You’ll get sick again.” Betsie turned her head and looked up, smiling at the bearded man framed in the open door of his shop. Then she slowly stood up and father Ten Boom picked up the four-year-old, carrying her into his workshop. “So,” he whispered softly into her ear, “you are studying the other children running and playing and inside you there are some tears because God did not make Betsie strong and able-bodied and fit.” Betsie’s arms tightened around her father’s neck. His beard scratched her cheek and she nuzzled into it. “Yes,” she whispered back. All around them in the 1889 watchmaker’s workshop clocks ticked and chimed and spoke of time. Father Ten Boom sat down on his chair by the workbench and settled the child onto his lap. He rocked her back and forth. “God has a reason for making each one of us the way we are, Betsie. Perhaps you are often tired and ill in your body so that your spirit might grow strong.” The child sighed and thought of the wind on her cheeks and how she would love to run into it, stretching her arms wide to receive its blowing head-on. “You are very special, Betsie. God loves you very much and maybe you can show others His love also.” He kissed the top of her hair. “Now then, let’s go upstairs and see if mother has some tea and if your brother Willem is home from school yet.” He stood up and the child, light in his arms, was strangely solemn as she looked towards the street door – a door she passed with her father as they made their way up the stairs. ***** The years passed and the watchmaker was blessed with two more children, two more daughters, who were named Nollie and Corrie. There were also the three aunts, sisters of Mama ten Boom, who lived in their brother-in-law’s home until they died. The watchmaker’s house, though overflowing, was filled with happiness as he taught his children and his neighbors how to live faithfully before the face of God. 2 Peter 1:5-8 teaches a very important precept which is that certain qualities will produce a well-rounded, productive Christian life. The passage reads: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not everyone in the world is born with amazing talents, with awe-inspiring gifts. Although there are some who can sing as if they were Caruso, and others have the ability to draw in the manner of Michelangelo, and still others play the violin like Itzak Perlman, the truth is that most people are run-of-the mill, ordinary people; people who appear average and unremarkable. And yet it is good to remember that all mankind is made in the image of God and that all Christians have access to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Betsie ten Boom was spoon-fed on 2 Peter 1’s promise and as a child, and later as a young woman she strove for godly qualities; as she labored, she increased in faith and in compassion. She developed a deep love for other people who experienced pain or trouble. The years passed, and God blessed the frail child in ways that may not have been obvious to others. Times changed in the ten Boom household after World War I. The children grew older. Nollie and Willem married. The aunts and mother ten Boom died. Betsie’s health, although fairly stable, was never quite up to scratch and she made a conscious decision not to marry but to stay home and take care of her aging father and her younger sister, Corrie. Initially, she helped her father in the watch shop downstairs, but Corrie took her place and Betsie was happy to take charge of the household side of things. There were scores of foster children who passed through the ten Boom household, all receiving Christian nurture, love and care. Together with Corrie, Betsie, a single mother in Israel, was effective and productive in God’s eyes. The radio address - May 1940 The year 1940, a year, which would celebrate Betsie’s fifty-fifth birthday, also hosted the onset of World War II for the Netherlands. Although the Dutch had hoped to remain neutral in the looming conflict which was already raging in Europe, this was not to be. The Third Reich, after invading and occupying Poland, Norway and Denmark, also invaded her little western neighbor. The evening prior to this invasion, on May 9, 1940, father Ten Boom, Betsie and Corrie stayed up to listen to their radio. After their usual prayers and Bible reading, they were getting sleepy. It was past their usual bedtime, but the Prime Minister of Holland, his Excellency Dirk Jan de Geer, was slated to speak and most of the people in Holland were eager to hear what he had to say. Flowers were blooming in the parks and in the ten Boom windowsills. Conflicting rumors flew around. Betsie heard them from the people next door; she heard them in the shops when she bought food; and she heard them on the steps of the St. Bavo church after she worshipped each Sunday. Holland would be drawn into the war, many said while others were convinced that the German Nazis, who had pledged goodwill to the people of the Netherlands, would not invade. But France and Britain were already in the war and shouldn’t those countries be supported? The radio crackled and both Betsie and Corrie sat up straight in their chairs. It was 9:30. They strained their ears towards the wireless. Prime Minister de Geer's voice was mild. There is nothing to worry about, he assured his radio audience. War will not happen. Had he not just spoken with influential government officials? Father Ten Boom, Betsie, and Corrie looked at one another skeptically. The Prime Minister’s words seemed to be full of air, unrealistic, carrying no weight. Father ten Boom turned off the radio. Then the family rose quietly from their high-backed, wooden chairs, kissed one another goodnight and trudged up the stairs to bed. Sleep was difficult to come by even though the blankets were tucked in tightly. There were too many thoughts running around in Betsie’s mind. She sighed, tossed and turned. The city of Amsterdam lay seventeen kilometers to the east. Betsie noted through her window that the sky was aglow with a strange color. It was an unearthly glow, and the house on Barteljorisstraat seemed to be shaking from time to time. Corrie, who was huddling next to Betsie, whispered: “I had a dream.” “What did you dream, Corrie?” “I dreamt that I saw a big wagon in the middle of Haarlem. Four huge, black horses pulled the wagon. I was in the wagon, Betsie… and you were too… and father was in it as well… and some of our friends.” She hesitated and Betsie waited for her to continue. “The horses began to pull the wagon and we couldn’t get off but we didn’t want to go where they were taking us.” Corrie stopped again and then leaned heavily into the curve of her sister’s back. The house shook again. “Oh, Betsie! I’m so afraid! Do you think the dream was some kind of vision?” Betsie answered softly, turning and putting her arm around her sister. “I don’t know. But if God has shown us the bad times that are coming, it’s enough to know that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things – to tell us that He is in control.” Amsterdam was bombed on May 11, 1940. ***** The ten Booms became acutely aware, as the next few months passed, that life was being made extremely difficult for the Jews living in Holland. First posters, then signs, shot up reading “No Jews Allowed.” After this yellow stars became mandatory as part of the dress code for the children of Abraham. Finally, groups were seen being herded onto trucks and taken away. Father ten Boom said, “Those poor people,” but it was the soldiers perpetrating this ungodly work to whom he was referring. Betsie understood her father with her deepest spirit. Were not the Jewish people the apple of God’s eye? And were not those who hurt them to be pitied? A secret room was constructed in Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall. It had a ventilation system and could hold six people. A buzzer was installed which could be heard throughout the house to warn refugees to retreat to the secret room as quickly as possible if a raid was imminent. Almost overnight the ten Boom home became part of the resistance movement - a sanctuary where Jews could turn up and hide from their oppressors, from those who sought to kill them. Eight hundred Jews were eventually helped as father ten Boom and his two daughters risked their lives in feeding and sheltering the persecuted. “Fear God and honor the queen” – February 1944 For four years things went well until a German raid on the ten Boom residence in February of 1944 seemingly brought Jewish aid to a grinding halt. The raid happened on a day when Corrie was not feeling well. Feeling miserable and running a high temperature, she was roughly pulled out of her bed by Nazi soldiers. Permitted to put on clothes over top of her pajamas, she was taken downstairs. Her father and Betsie were sitting on chairs pulled back against the living room wall. “Where are the Jews?” The Nazis barked out the question and when no answer was forthcoming, Corrie was struck twice, so hard that she almost fainted. “Lord Jesus,” she whispered, “Protect me.” “If you say that name again, I’ll kill you.” Betsie was led from the room and returned later with swollen lips and a bruised cheek. “Oh, Betsie,” Corrie moaned, “They hurt you.” “Yes,” Betsie answered thickly, “and I feel so sorry for them.” The German officer in command turned, yelling: “Prisoners will remain silent!” He then turned to father ten Boom. “You, old man, I see that you believe in the Bible. What does it say in your Bible about obeying the government?” “Fear God,” father ten Boom answered in a clear voice, “and honor the queen.” The German officer stared at him suspiciously. “The Bible doesn’t say that!” “No,” father ten Boom admitted, “It says ‘Fear God and honor the king,’ but in our case that is the queen.” ***** In this 1950s picture, a man points to the entrance to the secret room. The secret room was not found during the raid although it was not for lack of trying by the Nazis. They ransacked the house from top to bottom. The ten Booms, however, were not allowed to go free. Along with thirty-five other people they were herded to the police station where they were put in a room together. There were mats on the floor where they were told to sleep. Father ten Boom read to the entire room from the Bible: the Bible which was stored within his memory. “Thou art my hiding place and my shield…” The old man’s voice was firm and the others who had been arrested drank assurance from it. “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” They all slept soundly that night. ***** The next morning, after another period of questioning, they were all packed onto a bus. “The dream,” Corrie spoke under her breath to her sister, “It’s the dream, Betsie.” After a lengthy drive of more than an hour, they were ordered off the bus and lined up against a yellow wall. The men were separated from the women at this point. As the sisters were being led away, Corrie turned her head to look back. “God be with you, father!” Father ten Boom turned his face away from the wall also and answered, calling back clearly, “And with you, my daughters!” These were the last words Betsie and Corrie heard their father speak on earth. Becoming ill in the Scheveningen prison to which they had been taken, he died in a hospital corridor only ten days after the arrest. Vught camp - June The next months in prison were difficult. For the first time in their lives, Betsie and Corrie were separated. Providentially, four months later, as women were being loaded onto a transport train to a different internment camp at Vught they were reunited. Vught was a political concentration camp. With barbed wire fencing surrounding it, the place appeared both dismal and terrifying. The women guards were cruel and made the inmates stand for hours on end. It was a somber, desperate and dirty place and it never had enough food for the people housed within its enclosure. Roll call each morning was five o’clock sharp and if only one prisoner was late, all the other prisoners were punished. ***** “Betsie,” wailed Corrie, one early morning, “How long do you think we shall be here?” “Perhaps a long, long time, Corrie,” Betsie answered slowly and thoughtfully, “Perhaps many years. But what better way could we spend our lives?” “What are you talking about, Betsie?” Corrie was frustrated at the answer. “These women here with us, Corrie, look at them. If people can be taught to hate, then they can be taught to love as well. And we must find a way to teach them.” ***** Betsie’s work assignment was sewing uniforms, whereas Corrie’s job was labor in a factory. They had been able to smuggle a Bible inside the camp and took turns carrying it about in a small cloth bag hanging from their neck. In the evening, prayer meetings were held and many women crowded around the bunks to hear the comforting words of the Bible. Ravensbruck – Sept In September of 1944, the sisters were transported once again. This time it was to Ravensbruck. Fifty miles north of Berlin, it was the largest concentration camp for women in the German Reich and housed political prisoners, gypsies, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others deemed dangerous by the Nazis. If conditions had been bad in Vught, conditions in Ravensbruck were far more brutal. The straw that covered the bunks in the eighteen barracks that made up the main camp was filthy. Women prisoners slept in three-tiered wooden bunks, and each barracks had but one washroom and toilet. Food rations were meager and sanitary conditions abominable. Many women were subjected to unethical medical experiments as SS doctors put chemical substances on wounds to ascertain what the results would be. These doctors also tested women on various methods of setting and transplanting bones and they cruelly amputated limbs to facilitate these tests. Countless prisoners died as a result of these horrific experiments. It was in such an environment that the ten Boom sisters arrived in the last winter of the war. ***** “We should cut our hair, Corrie.” Betsie’s advice was down-to-earth and practical. Everywhere around them women were cutting each other’s hair. Long hair was difficult to keep clean. “Oh, Betsie!!” Corrie sobbed as she snipped several inches off Betsie’s thick dark hair. Later, they buried their hair in the sand around their barracks. The three-tiered bunks were appallingly grimy. Rotting straw had been placed on top of broken wood and the women were so crowded that they were forced to lay three in a single bunk – making it very taxing to get any rest at all. “How can we live in such a place, Betsie?” “Show us how, Lord,” Betsie prayed in reply and then she opened her eyes and said, “Corrie, what did we read this morning?” “We read from Thessalonians.” “And what did our text say”? Reluctantly, Corrie answered her sister: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances.” “That’s it. That’s God’s answer.” “What is His answer, Betsie?” “To give thanks … to give thanks in everything.” The sour smell of human sweat and dirt drifted around them. Lice moved the straw in the bunks. “In everything, Betsie? Must we give thanks in everything?” Corrie’s voice was small and resigned. “Yes, in everything. Listen, Corrie. We’re together. That’s a blessing, isn’t it? And then, well we have a Bible. Think of it!! A Bible!! And then, last of all, we’re really crowded and that means we’ll be able to tell more women about Jesus.” Corrie nodded, subdued. “So then,” Betsie closed her eyes again, “thank You, Lord, for the lice…” “Oh, Betsie,” wailed Corrie, “not the lice!” “It says ‘in everything,’ Corrie.” ***** Barracks 28, where Betsie and Corrie were housed, was an extensive melting-pot of nationalities. The women housed there came from a diverse number of countries – Germany, France, Poland, Holland, to name a few. Because the quarters were so cramped, there was much quarreling. In the dark of the night Betsie took Corrie’s hand. “Lord Jesus,” she prayed out loud, “send your peace into this room. There has been too little praying here. The very walls know it. But where You enter, Lord, the spirit of strife cannot exist.” Gradually things quieted down and the angry mutterings stopped. ***** Ravensbruck held no sewing detail for Betsie, nor a factory job for Corrie. Both sisters had to work outside, leveling rough ground. Lifting shovels full of heavy dirt was almost too much for Betsie. She staggered if the load was too massive and at one point a guard struck her. Corrie, seeing her sister hurt, lost her temper and wanted to fly at the guard with her shovel, but Betsie restrained her. A red stain became visible on Betsie’s shirt. “Oh, Betsie!” Corrie was overcome with sadness, but Betsie covered the bloodstain with her hand. “Don’t look at it, Corrie. Only look at Jesus.” ***** There were worship services. These services were not conducted in a chapel or in a church of any kind but were held at the back of the barracks under a dangling, pitiful little light bulb. These services were conducted, not just on Sunday night, but every night. More and more women attended these services. First they sang softly, the Polish women singing a Polish hymn or the French women singing a French hymn. Then either Betsie or Corrie would open the Bible, translating the words into German as they read. And one of the women would translate their words into Polish and another would translate into Russian and another into French. In this way, all the women would hear the Word of God in their own language. Sometimes Betsie and Corrie wondered why no one interrupted these services. Later they discovered that the lice – the thanked-for lice – kept the guards away from Barrack 28. ***** Betsie was not growing stronger. The frail child, who had sat on the front step of her father’s workshop watching other children play, had run with the best of them. But she was now visibly wasting away. There was a small vitamin bottle that Corrie had carefully saved. Whenever Betsie was especially weak, Corrie would insist that her sister take a vitamin drop. But there were other women who were also ill. Corrie tried to save the drops for those who needed it most. But there were so many ill women. First there were fifteen, then twenty, and then still more. Yet every time she tilted the small bottle, another drop petered out. “There was a woman in the Bible,” smiled Betsie, “whose oil jar was never empty.” One day one of the other women prisoners managed to obtain some more vitamins, several large bottles of vitamins. The prisoners felt rich but they decided together that before they use their new cache of nutrients, the small bottle should be finished off. But when Corrie tried, at this point in time, to shake another drop out of the faithful jar, nothing happened. No matter how hard she shook the bottle, nothing materialized. It was finally empty. ***** “Corrie!! Corrie!! Wake up!” “What is it, Betsie? It’s in the middle of the night. We need our sleep.” “I have to tell you something important, Corrie.” “Can’t you tell me tomorrow?” “No, it’s really important. It’s about what God wants us to do after this war and I’m afraid that I will forget it if I don’t tell you now.” “All right, Betsie, go ahead. I’m awake now.” Through the darkness of the barracks, Betsie’s hands found Corrie’s hands and squeezed them. “We must rent one of these camps after the war, Corrie. And we must clean it and make it comfortable so that the German people who will have no home left can begin a new life. And in Holland, Corrie, in Holland we must find a house where we will be able to take care of all those who will survive these concentration camps.” “Where would we live, Betsie, in Holland or in Germany?” “We would live in neither place, Corrie. For you will travel all over the world and tell everyone what we have learned here: that Jesus is very real and that He is stronger than any power of darkness.” Released - December The days passed. Betsie grew more tired each day and was barely able to fill her quota of work. One morning a fit of coughing seized her and when it was over a blood stain darkened the straw on which she lay. “Are you sure we’ll be together after the war, Betsie? You said that we would…” Corrie could not finish and helplessly watched as her sister coughed again and again. But afterward Betsie did answer. “Always, Corrie … you and I.” The morning dawned when Betsie could move neither arms nor legs. She was carried away on a stretcher to another building where the very sick were kept. Corrie managed to find out that Betsie had been put on a cot next to a window. She stood by that window, smiling at her sister until the camp police shouted at her and told her to move along. At noon Corrie tried again. Betsie looked tremendously thin and frail in the cot. Her lips were blue. But those blue lips smiled at Corrie and formed words. “So much work to do.” It was not until the next morning that Corrie was able to visit the window once more. But a nurse blocked her view. Corrie pressed her face against the pane. She tried to peer past the white form. Another nurse entered. When they both moved to the side, Corrie finally saw Betsie. That is, she saw what had been Betsie. There was only a body now – a thin, yellow skeleton whose soul had flown straight into the arms of a waiting and loving God. Corrie sobbed as the two nurses wrapped her sister’s body in a sheet, lifted her off the cot and carried her away. There was a room where the dead were kept. Bodies were piled on top of one another along the wall. Betsie’s body was put there alongside all the others who had died that night. But her face was no longer lined with sorrow, hunger and pain. She looked peaceful. She appeared to be sleeping. She seemed to be leaning on her father’s lap, as she was wont to do when she was a little girl. And so she was. Betsie ten Boom had reached her Shield and Hiding Place. Two days after Betsie’s death, Corrie’s name was called out during morning roll call and she was commanded to stand to the side before reporting to the administration barracks. When she came to the administration barracks, a clerk stamped papers on which was written “Certificate of Discharge.” Although it was later discovered that this was a human clerical error, it truly was God’s providence. After a brief hospital stint because of her swollen legs, Corrie was released from Ravensbruck at the end of December 1944. Reunited - 1985 After the war Betsie’s sister, Corrie, was able to open a camp in Germany for the many homeless people there. God also permitted her to begin a home in Holland for war victims. Later she traveled all over the world, carrying the message of Jesus until her death in 1985. “Are you sure we’ll be together, Betsie?” Corrie’s question echoes down the corridors of time. And always Betsie’s answer rings out firmly, rings out firmly to encourage all followers of Christ. “Always, Corrie … you and I.” And so they are, even as all Christians will be, together before God’s throne. The “Voor Joden Verboden” picture is adapted and used with permission under a CC BY-SA 3.0 NL license, from the original at the Museum Rotterdam....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

R.C. Sproul: A Life

by Stephen J. Nichols 2021 / 400 pages Stephen J. Nichols has produced the first biography of Sproul since his death in December of 2017. The author, teacher, and pastor truly appears here as a man after God’s own heart: a man in pursuit of his Maker’s holiness – eager to understand it, to mirror and communicate it as faithfully as he might. Following his conversion very early in his college years, Sproul’s zeal drive him and his wife, Vesta, to hunt after vital educational and ministry opportunities, both formal and informal. As a result, they relocated almost annually during the first decade of marriage. Very soon Sproul’s winning personality, warmth, seriousness, and authenticity as a “battlefield theologian” make him a magnet for those determined to grow in – and publicly defend – the faith. We see the launching of the Ligonier Study Center in 1971 in rural Western Pennsylvania, the writing of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and Sproul’s costly stand against reductive ecumenicism. Nichols gives ample space, as well, to the substance and impact of Sproul’s many books and the Renewing Your Mind radio program. Finally come the stories of his Florida pastorate, the building of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, and the founding of Reformation Bible College (RBC). Nichols succeeded Sproul as president of RBC in 2014, and his writing is aided by close acquaintance with Sproul and his family, colleagues, and friends. One can hardly imagine major detractions to Sproul's legacy and certainly will find no ammunition for that here – though glancing notice is made to R.C. Junior's sudden resignation from the board of Ligonier and RBC in 2016. The Sproul we meet in these pages is the gentle lion so many of us felt we knew, at least distantly and casually, through the books and radio program. Nichols has chosen to write an everyman biography, an accessible book with a tone popular rather than scholarly. And here we rediscover several Sproul family anecdotes which many have encountered previously in his teaching. Sometimes the stories are expanded, sometimes the reader can anticipate and supply added detail. Yes, we meet again an old friend, and a true one. Without a doubt, Sproul loved the church, and he immersed himself in the vocation of shepherd. Nichols's book is both deeply encouraging and even convicting as we view the whole-life portrait of this dedicated, faithful teacher unfolded before us. The church in the 21st century, as much as any time before, greatly needs the stories of such brothers and fellow saints....

News

Saturday Selections - May 1, 2021

Metamorphosis (5 min) Something new from Tim Nijenhuis based on Col. 3:1-17... Mosquitos are wonderfully and fearfully made? We might not like how they bite, but they do reflect the brilliance of their Designer! Pixar to introduce first transgender character Your kid's favorite superheroes, movies, TV programs, and book characters are being used to push an agenda on them. Baptism: a personal journey (10-minute read)  Pastor David Robertson, on his journey from a believer's baptism-holding Brethern and then Baptist, to an infant baptism-holding Presbyterian. In California, hundreds of men are transferring to women's prisons This is a sad opportunity for Christians to contrast God's Truth – that He made us male and female – with where the world takes us when we reject His Truth. Tennis trick shots by Mansour Bahrami (8 min) You don't have to be a tennis fan to enjoy this! ...

Christian education

Reformed teachers are different... right?

Bobby Knight had a rather unique teaching philosophy: he’d do whatever it took to get through to his young charges, up to and including yelling at them, swearing at them and even kicking the occasional pupil or two. And for the most part, the infamous NCAA basketball coach got away with it. The tirades and physical abuse that would get other coaches and teachers fired were an accepted part of his routine. It would be going a bit far to say no one minded his bombastic approach, but he got away with it because it was expected from him. Everyone entering his program knew what was coming – his teaching philosophy was obvious to anyone who’d met him. Reformed teachers have a teaching philosophy too. It is assuredly a deeper and more civil one...but is it as transparent? Do we as a parents know the teaching philosophy and overall worldview of our children's teachers? Why care? If you’re sending your kids to a private Christian school then you already recognize the way a teacher thinks and what they believe is important. You’re spending thousands of dollars a year to send your children to a Christian school, and it’s not just because they have morning devotions and lunchtime prayers. The daily Bible class is an important element, but if that was all there was to it we could save a lot of money by just sending our kids to a Saturday morning Bible study. So why do we spend the money? Because our children spend half the time they’re awake in the care of teachers. They’re supposed to listen to these same teachers and even jot notes down to help them remember what the teachers have said. The other half of their waking day might be spent with their parents, but children certainly won’t be taking notes, and they often won’t remember what you say from one minute to the next (especially if you ask them to clean up their rooms). Obviously teachers have an enormous influence over the intellectual and spiritual development of our children. Through the twelve years they have our children under their charge they may even have more influence in these areas than parents. In a secular setting that influence is going to be used to teach students one sort of lesson. Children will be taught that when it comes to every one of their school subjects, God isn't all that relevant; He doesn't even need to be mentioned! And if God isn't relevant in Math and Chemistry and Physics and English and History and Biology, then how can a child help but wonder if God is relevant in Work and Dating and Sports and Politics....and Life? That why we have Christian schools; devotions and Bible classes are important, but teachers exert a powerful influence on our kids in every class they teach. They are an example to the kids all day long about how God is relevant to all the big and little things they do. So we spend the money because we know our Reformed teachers' beliefs impact everything they say and do. We may not know exactly how they make a Math class Christian but we know they must, because that’s why we’re paying all that money. Why pay for a Reformed Chemistry teacher if he says and does everything exactly the same as his secular counterpart? Assumptions are not enough But do we really know the worldview of our children's teachers? Or are we simply making assumptions? Because sometimes assumptions can be wrong. In Edmonton, Alberta, parents found that out when a local Christian high school considered joining the public system. Parents were paying thousands of dollars a year to send their children to the Edmonton Christian High School, but would only have to spend hundreds if it became public. That was a powerful enticement, but before they approved the merger parents wanted to know what else would change if the school went public. They were assured nothing significant would happen; the same teachers would teach the same children in the same way they always had. Except the children’s teachers would now have to join a secular union. Many of the parents thought this would be a problem, but the teachers didn’t. They overwhelmingly approved a move to join the Alberta Teacher’s Association, although they did promise everyone they would try to make the union more Christian by working from within it. That surprised a lot of parents. They had assumed the teachers shared their own opposition to secular unions. Both the teachers and parents were Christian, and in many cases they were Reformed but they still held to very different worldviews. And most parents didn’t even know that. Maybe you don’t think a teacher’s stand on unions is significant, but really, that’s not the point. The point is that these parents did think it was important, and assumed the teachers agreed with them. This aspect of the teacher’s worldview, the same worldview parents are paying extra for, wasn’t what the parents thought it was. Find out Do you know the worldview of your children's teachers? Parents shouldn’t have to make assumptions. A Reformed teacher’s philosophy is their greatest selling feature, and it should be in plain view for all to see. If it isn’t, parents will quite rightly start questioning the importance of Reformed education. Parents have to know what they’re paying extra for or they won’t be motivated to pay. What makes our schools valuable is the teachers in them. And what makes those teachers different, distinct, and superior, is their worldview, and the wisdom they've acquired. So are we giving this the attention it is due? When we realize it is the teachers and their worldview that make the school, then we're going to set the very highest standards for hiring. We can't – as happened in the Edmonton Christian High School – end up with teachers who don't share the same worldview as the parents. For us, in our churches, the divide probably won't happen over union membership, but what about creation and evolution? Do your children's teachers believe the same as you do about how we are to understand the opening chapters of the Bible? Do you think it is important they do? There's a diversity of views in our church circles on some pretty fundamental issues like these, so parents should not assume that teachers believe as they do. We need to ask. After we put the needed care and attention into hiring wise teachers, then it is just as important to showcase their wisdom. That's how we can get the next generation excited about Christian education. We can promote our schools by explaining how our Chemistry class is better because it is taught by a Reformed instructor. We'll share why it is so very important that the teacher instructing our son or daughter in English is a good and godly man or woman. When we have wise teachers, we'll be able to point to our Math class and make it plain to parents how a biblical worldview is coming out even in the midst of numbers, formulas and quadratic equations. We started our schools to help pass along our Reformed worldview to our children. If our schools are going to continue it will be not only because we've made the right hires, but because all the parents have been shown why our teachers' worldview is worth more than gold, and is, in fact, quite the bargain at only thousands a year. A Portuguese translation of this article can be found here....

Theology

HERETIC? Let’s not throw bombastic terms around glibly

I was once labeled a heretic. In fact, I’m sure it’s happened more than once. And no, it wasn’t Roman Catholics or Muslims saying this – although they would/should certainly classify me as such. This was other Reformed believers. The occasion was a blog post where I shared Richard Sibbes’ answer to the question of whether saints in heaven are aware of our trials and miseries (he said they aren’t). Some didn’t agree with that and I was therefore labeled a “heretic.” There are at least two related issues involved here. First, there’s a popular notion amongst some Reformed believers that every theological error is a heresy. This notion equates error with heresy, as if they are complete synonyms. Second, there’s another notion (found with some) that treats all theological errors as if they were of the same weight. Every theological error then becomes a matter of heaven or hell. In such thinking, to administer the Lord’s Supper differently is virtually in the same category as denying the Trinity. It might not ever be said that crassly, but when you look at what’s said and done, it often seems to come down to that. Heresies put salvation in jeopardy To really understand what’s involved here we need to turn to church history. Today’s misuse of the terms “heresy” and “heretic” are often caused by a lack of understanding of how these terms have been used historically. In the centuries after the apostles, debates raged about certain doctrinal points. In these debates, certain teachings were ultimately considered to be heretical. By “heretical,” the Church understood that holding to such doctrines put one’s salvation in jeopardy. In fact, there were certain teachings where, if one held them consistently and unrepentantly to death, one would not be saved. The word “heresy” was reserved for these teachings that struck at the heart of the Christian faith, attacking fundamental doctrines. One of the most obvious examples is the doctrine of the Trinity. Denying the doctrine of the Trinity (in various ways) is regarded as heretical. The Athanasian Creed lays out the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and then says in article 28, “So he who desires to be saved should think thus of the Trinity.” If in any way you deny that God is three persons in one being, you’re a heretic. Another example has to do with Christ and his two natures. Says the Athanasian Creed: “It is necessary, however, to eternal salvation that he should also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the right faith is that we should confess and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is equally both God and man.” If you deny that Christ is both true God and true man, you’re a heretic. When we say that, it should be clear that we’re making a statement about the seriousness of this error, namely that this is an error for which someone can be damned. A heresy is a deadly error. The biblical basis of making such strong statements is found in places like 1 John 2:22-23: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” Another classic example of a heresy is Pelagianism. Pelagius and his followers denied original sin and taught a synergistic view of salvation: since humans are not dead in sin, they can cooperate with God in salvation. The Council of Carthage in 417-418 condemned Pelagianism as a heresy and declared that those who held to it were anathema – “anathema” means “eternally condemned and outside of salvation.” The Council could confidently assert that because of what Scripture itself says in passages like Galatians 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let me him be accursed.” In Greek, Paul used the word anathema. The Church has always regarded Pelagianism as another gospel, and therefore an accursed heresy. Reformed confessions use heresy with restraint Our Reformed confessions are rather careful in what they label as heresy. Canons of Dort 3/4 article 10 reaffirms that Pelagianism is a heresy. Belgic Confession article 9 mentions several “false Christians and heretics”: Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, and Arius. These were in deadly error with regard to the Trinity. Certain Anabaptists are also described as holding to heresy in Belgic Confession article 18. Though they’re not mentioned by name, the Confession is referring to Menno Simons and Melchior Hoffmann. They taught that Christ doesn’t have a real human nature from Mary but that, in his incarnation, he took his human nature from heaven. This is a heresy because it runs into serious trouble with the two natures of Christ, and specifically whether his human nature is a true human nature. 2 serious errors that aren’t heresy Let me now mention two prevalent errors that aren’t heresies. Theistic evolution isn’t a heresy. It’s a serious error which may lead to heresy, but as such, it’s not a heresy. I’ve never referred to it as such and I’ve cautioned others against describing it as such. Women in ecclesiastical office is a serious error conflicting with Scripture. It emerges from a way of interpreting the Scriptures which could lead to far more serious doctrinal trouble. However, you shouldn’t say it’s a heresy. That wouldn’t fit with the way this term has been understood and used in church history and in our confessions. Too loaded a term for smaller disputes Not every theological error is a heresy. Certainly, someone’s disagreement with you on a particular doctrinal point doesn’t allow you to loosely throw the term “heretic” around. The words “heresy, heretic, heretical” should be reserved for only the most serious doctrinal errors, the ones where the Church clearly confesses from the Scriptures that these views are salvation-jeopardizing. By that, we also recognize that not all errors are of the same seriousness. We definitely want to strive for doctrinal precision and accuracy, but we also have to realize that not all points of doctrine carry the same weight and therefore we can, even in confessional Reformed churches, have some room for disagreement. If that’s true with regard to doctrine, it’s even truer with respect to practice. True Christians eager to follow what the Bible teaches reach different conclusions on such things as vaccinations or the lockdowns of the last year. When you see a fellow believer with different convictions about living as a Christian, be careful before you bombastically toss around that label, “Heretic!” It’s a loaded term never to be used glibly....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

A Return to Grace: Luther's life and legacy

Docudrama 2017 / 106 minutes Rating: 8/10 What makes this a must-see is its unique mix of drama and documentary. Other great Luther documentaries exist, but the most engaging of "talking heads" can't really grab the attention of a broad audience. I have seen even children enjoy one of the many dramatized accounts of his life, but drama can't go into the same depth as a documentary – an actor can show us Luther's despair or his joy, but they can't depict the greatness of God's grace, so, in this genre, it goes largely unexplored. A Return to Grace is a docudrama – half documentary and half drama, making good use of the strengths of each. There are learned theologians to give us the background and explain the Scriptural debates that occurred, and there are also elaborately set and well-acted scenes from Luther's life. I would guess it is a near 50/50 split. Pádraic Delaney's Luther is very believable (and maybe second only to Niall MacGinnis' 1953 portrayal), speaking volumes with not just his tongue, but his grimaces, smiles, and silences. I've probably watched at least a half dozen Luther films, and I've never seen the chronology of Luther's life depicted as clearly. There are also explanations offered here that are left as mysteries elsewhere. Have you ever wondered why the Pope didn't just crush this monk early on when he was still seemingly insignificant? The answer shared here is that the Pope didn't want to make an enemy of Luther's prince, Frederick III, because the prince was one of the seven electors who would choose the next Holy Roman Emperor. The Pope had no direct say in that selection, and if he hoped to have any sort of influence at all, he would need to be on the good side of the electors. God so set the scene that the Pope had to act cautiously and with restraint and couldn't just burn Luther at the stake. While I was familiar with only one of the theologians interviewed (United Reformed professor Carl Trueman), they all had some great Luther gems to share. James Korthals, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary contributed this one about Luther's view on vocation: "The  farmer out in the field pitching dung is doing a greater work for God than the monk in the monastery praying for his own salvation." This was, at the time, a revolutionary idea of vocation. Even today, many seem to think that minister and missionary are the true God-glorifying jobs, and all else is second best. In saying all jobs could be done to God's glory, Luther presented all fruitful work as being worthy of respect. This is one of the ideas highlighted in the film's alternate title: Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World. The story here is first and foremost about Luther rediscovering the gracious nature of God, but it is also about Luther's influence as it impacted people far beyond the church door, and about the ripples that continue to be felt even today, and even in the secular world. Cautions I have no real cautions for the film. I was a little concerned when a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, made a few brief appearances. But he doesn't say much of anything, and even concedes that Luther's rebellion was understandable against that old corrupted Roman Catholic Church. He might be implying that today's Roman Catholic Church is different, but he isn't given the time to make that case. Conclusion Return to Grace's drama/documentary combination draws viewers in without sacrificing depth. I'll add that this still isn't one for preteens, but for adults, and teens who are on their way, this will be a fascinating presentation of the man, and what he learned about our great God. So don't save it for Reformation Day – it's free to see now (though with some commercials). ...

Book Reviews, Children’s non-fiction

God’s Big Book of Animals

Edited by Shirley Rash 248 pages / 2019 Did you know that baby elephants drink three gallons of milk each day? Or that “woodcock” means “roosters of the forest” And did you know female great white sharks are actually larger than the males? God's Big Book of Animals is GIGANTIC - it's bigger than any other book I've read. It is filled with amazing information about intricate animals – like the great white shark! – all created by God. Each of the 60 animals are given 4, bright, beautiful pages full of descriptions, fun facts and pictures. Plus each animal has their own 14 x 10 inch full-page photo. More examples: “Turtles do not have teeth. They have strong, jagged jaws that help them take bites.” “Komodo dragons are also called monitor lizards.” “Elephants have long trunks, longer then any living animal. Their trunks are heavy, and can weigh over 300 pounds! They move their trunks from side to side, and when they want to rest, they lay it on their tusks. God gave elephants the ability to lift pieces of straw and push heavy pieces of wood.” “A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope of butterflies, a swarm of butterflies, or a rabble of butterflies.” “Baby octopuses can hatch in different colors. They can be orange, red, yellow, or different shades of blue.” I think kids 7 and up would love this! But even kids younger would like the many pictures inside....

News

Saturday Selections – April 24, 2021

Man describes criminal in 2021 (2 min) "In this first episode of Better Cops, a man who has just been robbed tries to describe his assailant to a police sketch artist. But these cops are better than normal cops - they require no exclusionary language of any kind be used." IntelligentDesign.com is your one-stop spot for ID A new website has all sorts of great, short, very clever videos touting the brilliant design evident throughout creation. And it has other materials grouped into Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced categories. This is the place to go to get introduced to the idea that evidence of an intelligently designed world is all around us. But there is a problem with the Intelligent Design movement: it never names who that Designer is; they never give God His due. Imagine a woman who praised "Man" but never had a thing to say about her husband – ID is weird like that. And because they aren't loyal to the God of the Bible, it leaves them vulnerable to some aspects of evolution, including an openness to long ages. So, it is a fascinating site, but discernment is a must. Will we work on the New Earth? We have good reason to think so. Why one small town hid Jews when so many wouldn't Earlier this year a Holocaust survivor left millions to the French town that hid him. But what was behind this town's World War II “conspiracy of goodness”? Live not by lies - orthodox and not In his review, Dr. Wes Bredenhof has some kudos and and also cautions to share about Rod' Dreher's latest book. On free trade, tariffs, and bananas (2 min) While the tune is catchy, and the bit is humourous, the topic is an important one. When tariffs are imposed to protect markets for homegrown producers they do so at the expense of homegrown consumers who will have to pay more. Because some of those consumers are also producers, tariffs make their input costs higher, which forces them to raise prices, and that, in turn, makes them less competitive. So tariffs protect some producers at a cost to other producers. Finally, some tariffs are imposed on the exports of poorer countries, protecting first-world industries at a cost to third-world industries. This video only offers the brief, practical case against tariffs, but additional points for Christians to consider would include: The proper role for government – Should they be actively picking one side over another, producers against consumers (Lev. 19:15, Prov. 28:21)? Implications here of the command to "do unto others" (Matt. 7:12) – Would you want the government to enact a tariff that would increase your business's costs? If not, should you push for a tariff that will protect your business by increasing others' costs? Our attitude towards the poor – Should we protect our industries at the expense of the third-world (Deut 24:17)? ...

Assorted

When promises hold up as well as pie-crusts...

"Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken," wrote the British satirist Jonathan Swift. Swift’s bit of cynicism seems to be aimed squarely at politicians. After all, some politicians make promises only to just as quickly break them – what they say and do are two different things. For example just before Canada’s 2006 federal elections David Emerson, a former Liberal industry ministry, promised voters that he would fight the Conservatives, calling them "angry" and "heartless." But as soon as Emerson was elected he joined the Conservatives and was given a senior government post by the new Prime Minister, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. Another infamous example is Conservative Belinda Stronach who ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party before defecting to the Liberal Party and immediately became a member of the Liberal government’s cabinet. Hence, the generally low opinion of politicians. But how important is a promise? What does it really involve? And is promise-breaking only a bad thing to do in politics Importance of promises The keeping of a promise is a form of truthfulness in which an individual makes his actions conform to his words. A promise is an assurance one gives that he will do, give, or refrain from something to the advantage of another. It offers security for those who receive our promise that they can now count on our action. It creates an obligation: it is a declaration we will perform a certain act in the future. Fidelity to one's word is an absolute essential – without it we simply can’t get along with one another and live together in community. Therefore, the deliberate violation of a solemn promise is gravely sinful. If making promises is such a serious matter, why are they so readily broken? Typical excuses are offered by way of rationalization for breaking promises. Thus a failed marriage is labeled "a mistake," as if the promises made when they exchanged their vows were really a miscalculation and not a covenant with another person. Of course, there are occasions when a promise cannot be kept. Exceptions may be made when, for example, fulfillment would involve sin or an unlawful act. But the more flexible approach must, however, take account of the consequences of undermining general confidence in the act of making promises. After all is said and done, failure to keep a promise reveals either deception in its making or inconstancy, both are contrary to the character of God and the spirit of Christ. Ignoring the invisible The readiness to go back on one's words shows the moral illness of our times. Why do we see in our Western culture such increase in pornography, homosexual rights, and abortion-on-demand? Why the high divorce rate, the weakening of family bonds, the deterioration of citizenship and civic virtue? Why have so many Canadians lost their trust in governmental institutions? Some may say, “What else is new? Were there no unsavory politicians in the past?" Of course, there were. History has always been marred by opportunists and traitors. But Western culture used to understand the matter differently. Modern readers of the medieval poet Dante, for instance, are often perplexed by Dante’s view that betrayal and treachery are lower (and thus worse) among the circles of Hell than crimes of violence. The difference between Dante's age and ours is theological. Our modern age has lost sight of God. Lutheran theologian and preacher Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986) pointed out, "As soon as the world loses the Father of the world, as it is deprived of God, it must necessarily be stripped of the invisible. And among invisibles, naturally, are norms such as justice and also the ethical laws of value that determine good and evil." And not mincing words Marcus Honeysett in his book Meltdown: Making Sense of a Culture in Crisis said; "Our culture is in a state of meltdown because we have disposed of truth in order to live without God." We’ve let it happen We can blame society for the godless ways of our country, but really it is our fault. While Biblical Christianity is concerned with the whole of life – with public matters and with those that go on in private, with social, economic, and political matters, with all matters! – Christians leave our faith behind when we walk out our front doors. We think it normal that our faith is privatized, something we do on Sundays but no other day of the week, and certainly not at work or in public. Privatization of the Christian faith is now part of the story of Canadian religion. Our faith has become limited to a Sunday gospel. Vincent Massey, the first Canadian Governor-General, in his address to the Montreal Council on Christian Social Order in November 1953, ably described the situation as he saw it then: "In our modern world, we have suffered an un-Christian division of life into two spheres one of which is secular and public, and another which being religious, is looked upon as private." In 1971 Dr. Robert N. Thompson, evangelical parliamentarian and educator, argued then already that Christians "are by and large living on the reservations of Canada." He stated that: "Our churches have become reserves where we retreated from the life-and-death battles that must be fought against the forces of evil six days of the week. We have allowed those who would make man the measure of all things to have free rein to work out their sinful designs largely unchallenged and uncriticized in all the public place where important issues are being determined. We are limited to a Sunday gospel, for all intents and purposes." The Gospel is a promise Over against privatization of the Christian faith and secularism, which have been sapping our Canadian society for such a long time, stands Biblical Christianity. It alone provides a reliable alternative to individualist-self-created values so many use for their ethical guidance. The God of the Bible, and God alone, certifies an objective moral order. He alone provides a source of moral authority, an absolute standards for ethical behavior, and the incentive and power for character, promise-making and keeping. The idea of a promise is at the core of the Christian faith. The covenant of God with Israel may be viewed as a type of a promise. God makes promises and keeps them. And these promises were not for His own benefit. The bridge between God and mankind is built not from our side but from God's side, and this is a matter of grace. God's promises as interpreted by the New Testament were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:6). And those who have received Christ in faith become heirs to these promises (Eph. 3:6). We will witness the complete fulfillment of all God's promises when our Lord returns in glory. Martin Luther & C. S. Lewis If we take the Bible seriously, our model for promise-making and keeping is the Triune God Himself. And for the strength to be faithful to our promise we must depend on God's grace. For our society to survive, it must rediscover objective-eternal values. It must give serious attention to the acts of the will – promises, resolutions, covenants, laws, all of which are meant to express binding principles that rise above the considerations and politics of the moment. Two examples leap to mind of men who were unswerving in their commitment to eternal standards. In 1521 Martin Luther had to appear before Emperor Charles the Fifth at the Diet of Worms because of "his teaching and books." He did not go back on his word. Instead, he was able to say: "I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience, I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen." Martin Luther's courageous declaration was not primarily a sign of an upright, decent character, but rather a sign of a foundation upon which that character was built. Ultimately he knew he had to give an account of his actions to his God, who He knew through Jesus Christ. Another man of integrity was C.S. Lewis, who receives much attention today due to the Narnia phenomenon. He made a promise to his friend "Paddy" Moore, who was killed in the First Word War, that he would care for his mother Janie. When he made that commitment to "Paddy" he knew to some extent the enormity of Janie's demanding nature, and of her senseless wranglings, lies, and follies. But he did not go back on his word. He told his brother Warren that he had made a choice, did not regret it, and would stick by it. Only after her death did Lewis begin to realize "quite how bad it was." He stuck to his promise because he knew the God Who made and kept promises. Conclusion Promises should not be treated like "piecrusts" which can be broken at every whim and wish. Instead, we need enduring commitments to those we love and civic friendship toward our fellow citizens. We need not only hold our elected politicians accountable in keeping their promises, but also one another. Ultimately, it is still up to us as Christians to show what it means to be a promise keeper in today's society. Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years. This first appeared in the April 2006 issue under the title "Are Promises Like Pie-Crusts?"...

Magazine, Past Issue

Mar/Apr 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Why you should keep reading to your kids / Love your emotions by making them obey Jesus / Books for all ages on the origins debate / A husband reads "Lies Women Believe" / The $15 minimum wage: good intentions are not enough /Why we don't evangelize and why we must / A better brand of Christian fiction / The wacky wombat / Report of a meeting which was never held / The necessity of creeds and confessions / You believe you are the center of the universe...and social media isn't helping / All-time classic family films / Why didn't Samson get sick? / Is God a gentleman? / and more… Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (18.3 mb) ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Replacing Darwin Made Simple

by Nathaniel T. Jeanson 85 pages / 2019 How's this for an intriguing thesis for a creationist book: Darwin got it right. So what exactly is the "it" Darwin got right? Author Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson argues that in On the Origin of Species Darwin's scientific argument/approach did successfully poke holes in creationism...but the 1859 version, which held that all the species were created exactly as they are, remaining unchanged. This "fixity of the species" isn't found in the Bible. God tells us He created "kinds" (Gen. 1:11, 21, 24, etc.) but why would we assume that has to mean species? We never see horses becoming deer, but we do see them becoming a whole host of different sorts of horses. So, might the "kinds" God created encompass larger groupings? We know, for example, that horses can breed with zebras. Might they belong together in the same "kind"? As Jeanson explains, this is how Noah could fit the animals on the ark: he didn't have to take horses, zebras, and donkeys, but instead took a representative pair of horse kind, from which these threes species eventually descended. And the same for dogs, and cats, and more. The author not only gives Darwin credit for highlighting the problems with a "fixity of species," he wants today's scientists to question like Darwin. Jeanson argues that if they used this same scientific critical approach it would back today's creationism and tear down today's evolution. Then scientists would find creationism has explanations for some of the same observations evolution is said to explain. And they would also find that evolution has problems that creationism does not when it comes to sexual procreation, rapid speciation, mitochondrial "clocks," and more. Made Simple is actually a simplified version of Jeanson's 2017 Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species, which clocks in at 335 pages. The larger version is written for the skeptic, something you can give to a curious friend, and it is larger because skeptics have lots of questions – it is a thorough overview of the creation vs. evolution debate. And that's also why it is the much more technical of the two. Both do require effort, but Made Simpler is probably accessible to anyone who had some high school science and is interested enough to put in the effort – the author describes it as the "Cliff Notes" version. Parts of the larger original are probably at a university level, but don't let that dissuade you if the topic is of interest – you don't need to (and I didn't) understand every last little bit to find it fascinating. So pick up a copy of Replacing Darwin Made Simple to get a good overview of a compelling argument: Darwin rebutted 1859 creationism, but would also do damage to modern-day evolution. And if you want to dig deeper (or have a skeptical friend) then pick up Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species. You can also listen to Dr. Jeanson give a presentation on the same subject matter in the 1-hour lecture below. ...

News

Saturday Selections – April 17, 2021

In Canada, abortion is legal for all 9 months (1 min) This is a fantastic one to copy and paste to your own social media page... Pasteur was right: life from non-life is impossible! (10-minute read) "Louis Pasteur famously stated the Law of Biogenesis: life begets life. No experiment has ever refuted it. Evolutionists must believe it was violated in the past when life spontaneously originated somehow, somewhere." This is a longer read but a great overview of evolutionary explanations for how life began. For those that just don't have the time, here's the five-word summary: they don't really have any. How the Bible defines anxiety "Jesus knows that no one wants to be anxious, and that most often it feels as if it is happening to us more than we are actively choosing to be anxious. The Word of God first helps us by defining anxiety so that we will understand precisely what we are up against..." Big Tech deciding what the scientific consensus is YouTube recently censored the Florida governor's roundtable COVID discussion because his experts said children don't have to wear masks. "Ironically, the World Health Organisation (WHO) itself advises that children under five should not be required to wear masks and that those between ages six and 11 need only wear masks in areas of 'widespread transmission'." There are no egalitarians when the dog attacks A little boy stepped in front of the dog when it was set to attack his sister. Why? Because he figured, “If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.” Thomas Sowell...a Marxist until the facts turned him around (5 min) Thomas Sowell's great strength is that he understands Man is a limited creature, and that our intentions, however noble, can't simply eliminate those limitations. In short, he understands that neither Man, nor government, is God. His weakness? He rarely if ever acknowledges God. So for Christians who have embraced socialism, thinking it compassionate, Sowell can offer only a practical, not biblical, corrective: he won't tell us, "That's not what God intended" but will instead note, "That doesn't work." (If you want to know more about the man, you can see a documentary about him at the link above.) ...

Theology

Infant baptism vs. believers-only baptism: What’s the main difference?

The fundamental difference between the two positions is revealed in how one answers this question: Is baptism primarily God’s action or is it a human response? The Bible tells us that we are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). Consequently, it is God who makes us alive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4). Even our faith, which is our response to God’s great work of salvation, is of divine origin. Faith itself is gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Infant baptism testifies to the grace of God in salvation: God is the one who initiates, acts and saves. Believers-only baptism testifies to our response of faith to God’s saving work in ourselves. On this view, baptism is a sign and seal of my public profession of faith in Christ Jesus. An overlooked argument There are plenty of helpful resources on infant baptism, and most of them rightly link baptism to circumcision. In Genesis 17, God promises to be “God to you and to your offspring forever (Gen. 17:7). There is great comfort in knowing that God binds himself by covenant to infants even before they can respond to him by faith. Truly, we love him because he first loved us. Often overlooked, however, in the discussion on infant baptism are Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Although these verses do not provide a comprehensive understanding of infant baptism, they provide another important line of thought. Put simply: Paul assumes that New Testament baptism is the fulfillment of Mosaic baptism. Paul writes: "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness." (1 Cor. 10:1–5) Four observations There are many golden truths that need to be mined from these few verses but consider the following four simple observations, which help us understand the meaning of infant baptism. 1. The Church is the new Israel First, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul applies lessons from Israel’s history to the church. Paul can do this only because he sees the church as the fulfillment of Israel: the church is the new Israel (Gal. 6:16). More specifically, Paul sees Mosaic baptism as having relevance for the Christian church. This explains why Paul can tell the Corinthians that this event – Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea – is an example for them (1 Cor. 10:6). The Old Testament is not a random collection of stories in which God interacts with a people that have no connection to us. No! For Paul, the Old Testament is part of our story. The story of Israel is the history of the church. These are our parents - these are our “fathers” (1 Cor. 10:1) – and since God does not change, he continues to relate to us in the same way he related to Israel: by means of the covenant. 2. In this case all means all Second, Paul notes that all of Israel was baptized, ate the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink. In this case, “all” means “all.” The elderly, the infants and everyone in between were baptized. Whatever else we can say about this passage, it is clear that infants were baptized when they crossed the Red Sea, as they escaped from Egypt. And if infants were baptized, numbered among God’s people, and partook of Christ in the Old Testament, it only makes sense that they would enjoy the same privileges and blessings today. 3. The Red Sea was the work of God Third, Israel’s baptism was pre-eminently the work of God. It was God who led our fathers by pillar of cloud. It was God who opened wide the Red Sea and provided the dry ground. It is true that the adults had to respond to God’s work by faith – they had to walk on the dry ground. And it is also true that the infants who could not walk, but were carried by their parents, were beneficiaries of this baptism. They were delivered from Egypt along with their parents. 4. Baptism is not a guarantee Fourth, baptism does not guarantee salvation. Paul says that God was not pleased with most of Israel, and they were overthrown in the wilderness. Who were these people? They were the adults who rebelled against God and the leadership of Moses. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they died off and their baptized children were old enough to enter the Promised Land. God was indeed the God to these children despite the apostasy of their parents, and their baptism reminded them of God’s faithfulness toward them. Conclusion There is much more than can be said about this passage. However, these brief observations are sufficient to lead us to the following modest conclusion: The Apostle Paul retells the story of Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea because he believed that they participated in an event that corresponds to the sacrament of Christian baptism.1 Endnote 1 Meredith G. Kline, By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 67. Rev. Garry Vanderveen blogs at Show, Don’t Tell where a version of this first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – April 2021

Richer than you knew Today's complaints about "income inequality" mask the fact that, in the West, anyone who can afford a smartphone is richer than the richest oil baron or railroad tycoon of one hundred years ago. Just consider all the features our phones have on them that people of that time could never have dreamed of. We have in our back pocket: instant access to newspapers, stock reports, and a library larger than any building could hold all the music we own, and the ability to hear tons more our very own personal GPS - try explaining that one to a 1920s tycoon our own video recorder all of our photos carried along with us at all times our own TV, radio, camera, calculator, alarm clock, and calendar That doesn't even get into what all our apps can do. And just to underscore just how rich we are, let's mention a big one that, admittedly, isn't phone-related, but is appreciated by all: indoor plumbing – once a luxury item, now, thankfully standard issue! If some today want to focus on how much more Jeff Bezo, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk have compared to the rest of us, we should instead remember how richly God has blessed us! Is God a gentleman? – an Arminian standard If you’ve ever discussed God’s sovereignty and Man’s free will with an Arminian friend, you may have heard them say: “God is a gentleman, so He would never force Himself on us.” How should we answer this claim? First, it’s good to note that your friend may think this a positive portrayal of God – after all, when has being called a gentleman ever been an insult? But there is a problem: if the debate is framed this way, then the Calvinist understanding of God is truly horrific because if God were not to act the part of a gentleman, if He was to “force Himself on us,” then what is God being likened to? However, unintended, this treats the Calvinist position on God’s sovereignty as God the rapist. How, then, can we answer this charge? By going to Scripture. Do we find God as a gentleman there? No – He reveals Himself as a parent – God is our Father. As a parent myself, I know that sometimes my love is expressed by forcing my will on a child: they will go to bed, eat their vegetables, do their homework, and more, whether they want to or not. My dad tells a story about when he was a kid out biking in the Netherlands with his own father. They were on the top of a hill with a major road below and my dad pointed his bike down the hill and started pedaling when, suddenly, his chain fell off. On this kind of bike that was the only brake so now he was flying faster and faster towards a major highway with no way to stop – he was heading towards certain death. My grandfather yelled at him to tip his bike to wipe out because as much as that would hurt it was better than getting killed. But he was just a kid and not thinking logically, so he wouldn’t do it. My grandfather raced after him, caught up to him just in time, and then pitched both of their bikes over just short of the highway. It hurt a lot but saved his life. My grandfather forced his will on his child...because he loved him. God is not a gentleman; He is our Father and He will turn His children back towards Him.  Just checking… There’s a custom, still in use in many weddings, for the bride to come down the aisle with her face covered by a veil. The groom will then, right before the vows, lift the veil over her head. One interesting theory (impossible to prove) for the origins and timing of this veil flip is that it may be a response to Jacob’s marriage to Leah where the groom didn’t realize who he was marrying until it was too late (Gen. 29:22-25). Thus the veil flip – in the thousands of years since, no man has wanted to make that same mistake! Why didn’t Samson get sick? Most guys hold to the 5-second rule: should I drop food on the ground but pick it up before 5 seconds pass, it is safe to eat. The rule has some wrinkles: for something truly delicious there are provisions for an extension of even 3 or 4 seconds more. Some criticize this rule, pointing to studies that say bacteria can latch onto fallen food in an instant. But while such studies have done little to dissuade dads from brushing the grass off a fallen hotdog or hamburger patty,  we know there are limits. Even the manliest man isn’t going to pick something up off of the slaughterhouse floor. So what was Samson thinking when he ate honey out of a rotting lion carcass? This wasn’t after just 5 seconds either, so why didn’t he get sick? The answer lies in the amazing properties of honey. Pots of it have been found in Egyptian tombs, thousands of years old and still unspoiled. How many other foods can do that? What gives it not only this long life but the sort of anti-bacterial properties that allowed Samson to eat it out of a carcass? There are a few things, including a lack of water, and a degree of acidity (with a pH of 3 to 4.5), but the secret ingredient is…bee spit! Their stomach acid breaks down the nectar they ingest, creating a by-product of hydrogen peroxide. That isn’t something we’d normally want to ingest, but it is tiny and just enough to help prevent spoilage. It is also just enough to give honey medicinal properties that benefit us too, like being a low-cost, readily available treatment for burns – it reduces scarring and even offers some pain relief. While we prefer to get our honey from non-carcass sources, this is why Samson could chow down, and share it with his parents, without any digestive consequences. Because even honey is fearfully and wonderfully made! Ready for bigger things While Covid has closed schools, that hasn’t squelched some kids’ creativity. On January 25 @ChrisArnoldInc tweeted: “My wife is a teacher and apparently one kid has been changing his name to 'Reconnecting' during the Zoom lessons so that he doesn't get asked any questions. Been doing it for weeks. The lad doesn't need to worry about his education, he's already a bona fide genius.”  Good intentions don’t make the minimum wage good President Biden’s administration seems intent on more than doubling the US federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. The intent of this minimum wage hike (and minimum wage laws generally) is to help the country’s poorest, by giving an instant boost to their income. But what the late Walter Williams (1936-2020) wanted to know was, what will happen to the worker who doesn’t already have the skills to produce at least $15 an hour worth of value to their employer? “A lot of people will say, ‘The minimum wage is an anti-poverty device.’ That is utter nonsense. For kids who grew up in broken homes, who’ve gone to rotten schools ... if they’re going to learn anything that will make them a more valuable worker in the future, they’re not going to learn it in their neighborhoods, they’re not going to learn it in their schools. So they have to learn it on the job. And what the minimum wage law does, it nixes that learning.” The wit and wisdom of C.H. Spurgeon “…idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.” “…they are always talking about their rights; I wish they would give an eye to their own wrongs…” “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” “Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow; sing of what is yet to be. Is this world dreary? Then think of the next.” “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” A Christian case for Free Speech The Christians case for freedom of speech is based on knowing: Truth is real Man is fallen That there is a Truth to be found gives Christians a reason to permit even very offensive speech, to allow truth and lies to battle it out under the bright lights. We wouldn’t want an atheist banned from questioning God’s existence because to do so is going to make it impossible for him to get answers. But Christian support for free speech is not absolute. We should censor some sorts of “speech” – pornography, slander, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – because of the great harm these lies cause.  But the fallen nature of Man is why we would only restrain speech in the most extreme circumstances, as Douglas Wilson explains: “The foundational reason for insisting on free speech has to do with the Christian doctrine of the nature of man. Every restriction that is placed on men is a restriction that must be enforced by men. And the men who enforce are almost always a greater hazard to our liberties than the man in the street who wants to pop off about something. The men who enforce any restrictions on free speech have the same problem of sin that the general populace does, and in their case this sinfulness is combined with political power. This means that if you grant the authorities the power to punish the one who would yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, which they need to have, they will be tempted to use that power to punish citizens who are critical of them…. I do not want to defend free speech because each of us is so wise that we all must be given our chance to contribute our wisdom. No. Rather, I maintain that we are a fallen race, and cannot be trusted to police certain things. To the extent that the authorities have any power to regulate speech, that power must be carefully balanced and held in check…” Tyranny of the busybody “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock...

Parenting

21 things I learned living with teenagers

We're almost running out of teenagers in our family. Our eldest of six is well past the mid-twenty mark, and our youngest is less than a year away from getting his driver's license. And then time will really speed by. By the time our last hits twenty, Peter and I will have been parents of teens for twenty-six years. Well, not surprisingly you do learn a thing or two in such an extended period of time. Here are some important life lessons we've learned as parents of teens.  On curfews and cars A mother's imagination is a terrible thing. If your kids are a half-hour late, you imagine them in all sorts of trouble. This feeling becomes almost a certainty if you happen to hear police and ambulance sirens in the distance. Fathers can sleep through anything. "What's the point of staying awake? If something's happened, we'll find out soon enough." You can fold a lot of laundry while you're waiting for your sons to come home. And then when everything is stacked and put away, you can start on the ironing. Getting all this work accomplished will prevent you from blowing your stack when they walk in the door an hour and half late....maybe. You should never throw apples in anger. You might hit someone...or you might not. Late, late one night, having completed all the waiting-for-son-to-come-home-chores, a mother—whom I happen to know rather well—decided she might as well pick the apples off the ground in the back yard, since making applesauce was on the agenda the next day. By the light of the moon, she trudged to the back of the yard and began gathering the fruit. Shortly thereafter, her tardy son drove in. He slowed carefully to a stop on the noisy gravel, opened his door, slid out, silently closed the door and tiptoed toward the back door, humming softly under his breath. An apple whizzed past his head. Splat! It hit the shed door. So did the next one. Wisely, the son said nothing and calmly though hurriedly continued in and went to bed. So did mother. If you and your husband come home late one night, and you start to fret and fume because your son isn't home yet, don't drive around town looking for him and don’t start phoning his friends to find out where he is. Check his bed first. He may have come home early and be sleeping peacefully. Life is less stressful if your son's girlfriend has to be home by 11:00 p.m. When you're driving with a son who has his learner's license, it does not help to push your right foot through the floorboards on your side of the vehicle. The car will not slow down. If the phone rings at midnight it might be your son informing you that he's had an accident with your recently purchased car that you reluctantly let him use. Remember to first ask him whether anyone's been hurt and if he's all right, before you ask if there's any damage to your car. At some point, you will learn to love the sound of your son's car's stereo. I have discovered this to be true when I hear it half a block away, fifteen minutes before curfew. On food Your teens and their friends will instinctively find and consume all the food items you were saving for your Sunday evening visitors. You will begin to hide these special food items in the master bedroom, something you told your own Mom you'd never, ever do. If you want to prevent your teens from eating the special dip you made for tomorrow night's party, stick it in a wrinkled brown lunch bag at the back of the fridge. No one is interested in old lunches. Homebaked cookies last a long time if you put them in the freezer in an ice-cream bucket marked "Soup Stock." They'll last even longer if you mark the pail, "Liver." If your son or daughter phones a half-hour before Sunday supper and asks, "Can I bring my friends along?" say, "Yes, of course." Just add four cups of hot water and a package of chicken noodle soup to the pot and defrost another dozen buns. If they show up without having phoned, the same instructions apply. On housework, homework and bedtime You can tell a teen has cleaned her bedroom by the number of her clothing items you find in the laundry hamper. If they're still folded, you can probably get away with just putting them back into her bedroom. Sometimes all you need to do is fluff up those only-worn-once-for-one-hour-jeans in the dryer with a sheet of Fleecy or Bounce for ten minutes, then fold them and put them away. Teens don't like being told what to do. They prefer to make up their own mind about things. So ask them, "What would you rather do today? Dust and vacuum or clean the bathrooms?" Teens are just as hard to get to bed at night, as they are to get up in the morning. The ideal life for them would start at noon and go till midnight or two. The trouble is, no schools can find teachers who want to be up that late. The most reticent teen becomes the world's greatest talker, one hour after Dad and Mom had planned to be sleeping. Teens who cannot stick to homework for more than thirty minutes without needing three snacks, can play video games for three hours without even a bathroom break. Interest in school projects increases greatly the night before they're due. There is never any glue in the house at 11:00 p.m. the night before a project is due. Someone has also stolen all the scissors. And worst of all, the printer is out of ink. But the most comforting thing I've learned…. You can never pray too much for your teens. So, just when you think you've got it all together, the next one becomes a teen, and the roller-coaster ride starts up once more. But remember, take time to listen with your heart, not just your ears. Keep smiling and give lots of hugs. Before you know it, your grandchildren will be teenagers and you can stand on the sidelines smiling encouragingly, remembering with a sigh what it was like. This article first appeared in the June 1999 issue of Reformed Perspective....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Foresight: How the chemistry of life reveals planning and purpose

by Marcos Eberlin 2019 / 147 pages Back in 1996 "Irreducible complexity" was Michael Behe's contribution to the origins debate: he argued that some biological structures couldn't possibly have evolved because there is no way they could have come about by evolution's stepwise-process – the complexity of micro-machines like a bacteria's flagellum motor was irreducible. Now Marcos Eberlin is making a similar point, but bringing a new piece of rhetorical ammunition to the fight with Foresight in which he argues the deeper we delve into the biological world the more we discover "artful solutions to major engineering challenges." These solutions, he explains, look to "require something that matter alone lacks.... – foresight." With this term "foresight," Eberlin is arguing some biological abilities couldn't have come about as a response, but had to be the result of anticipation. So, for example, cells, right from the beginning, had to anticipate the problems that would come with using oxygen: The oxygen (O2) molecule is essential to life, but only a life form that can efficiently wrap and transport the devil O2 exactly to a place where it can be used as an energy source would benefit from its angel side. Otherwise, O2 becomes life’s greatest enemy. Rupture the membrane of a living cell, exposing it to the air, and you will see the great damage O2 and a myriad of other chemical invaders can do to a perforated cell. Death would be swift and sure. From an engineering standpoint, then, it was essential that a way is found to protect the cell, life’s most basic unit. The solution was clever: The cell was surrounded by a strong chemical shield, from the very beginning. It is often said that a solution always brings with it two additional problems, and a cellular membrane shield is no exception. A simple shield could indeed protect the cell interior from deadly invaders, but such a barrier would also prevent cell nutrients from reaching the inside of the cell, and it would trap cellular waste within. Small neutral molecules could pass through the membrane, but not larger and normally electrically charged biomolecules. A simple shield would be a recipe for swift, sure death. For early cells to survive and reproduce, something more sophisticated was needed. Selective channels through these early cell membranes had to be in place right from the start. Cells today come with just such doorways... .....a gradual step-by-step evolutionary process over many generations seems to have no chance of building such wonders since there apparently can’t be many generations of a cell, or even one generation until these channels are up and running. No channels, no cellular life. So then, the key question is: How could the first cells acquire proper membranes and co-evolve the protein channels needed to overcome the permeability problem? Even some committed evolutionists have confessed the great difficulty here. As Sheref Mansy and his colleagues put it in the journal Nature, “The strong barrier function of membranes has made it difficult to understand the origin of cellular life.” So Eberlin concludes: "There would be no hope for a cell to become viable if it had to tinker around with mutations over thousands of generations in search of a functional membrane. It's anticipate or die." This is but his first example – Eberlin is arguing that wherever we look at life, "the evidence of foresight is abundant." That's true in the fine-tuning of the universe, where gravity had to be just so, Earth had to be just the right distance from the Sun, and had to have enough water, and water needed to have certain specific properties. Oh, and the planet needed to have just the right amount of lightning too. That foresight is also evident in the structure of our DNA - which has to be stable – and RNA - which has to be malleable. He goes on and on, diving into these examples, and showing how brilliantly problems have been anticipated and solved. But by who? Well, Eberlin doesn't really get into that until the final chapter, and it is in the book's very last line that he gives credit where it is due: "Great are the works of the Lord." I loved this whole book, but will confess to only understanding about two-thirds of it clearly. But even when it got more technical, the gist I did catch was still utterly fascinating. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest and at least some high school science....

News

Saturday Selections - April 10, 2021

Education as Warfare (1 min) While this is from a Reformed homeschooling curriculum company,  the overall message applies to Christian schools of any sort. Help for doubting Christians "Sooner or later every thoughtful Christian will feel the unsettling, soul-gripping claw of doubt.... In Mark 9, God helps His people process doubt by describing three kinds of unbelief." How would your child draw Noah's Ark? Even Christian kids have mistaken ideas of the size and dimensions of Noah's Ark and it matters. This article comes with two free coloring sheets at the end that you can print off for your kids. Humanists know something many Christians don't: that school teaches worldviews "Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism What can the theistic Sunday-school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?" – Charles Francis Potter, founder of the First Humanist Society of New York (1929). Letter from a mourning mother: “When the trans movement discards my daughter, I’ll be here for her.” In the transgender debate, the Christian defense often comes off as being about our rights to use whatever pronouns we want. But the reason we want to be able to speak God's truth freely – that He determines gender and not Man – is because of our heart for the confused and rebellious people who desperately need to hear that Truth. An article like this shows that love and concern for these confused folk. Greg Bahnsen on evolution and the development of the eye (3 min) Apologist Greg Bahnsen talks about the foolishness of believing in evolution. ...

Articles, Book Reviews

A better brand of Christian historical fiction

As a history buff, historical fiction has long been one of my favorite genres. Unfortunately, I rarely read fiction anymore, as much of modern historical fiction is so rife with sexually explicit scenes and blasphemous language that it should be avoided by the discerning reader. I’ve tossed several in the garbage over the past few years despite incredible writing and riveting plotlines for these very reasons. Another key issue with much historical fiction is the inability of modern authors to actually infiltrate the mindset of those they are attempting to bring to life. Too often, the sentiments of historical characters end up resembling those of the late 20th century or the 21st. Especially when it comes to the treatment of religious belief, authors frequently prefer to portray faith as feigned and religious practice as cynical. One of the best authors of historical fiction writing today, Conn Iggulden, fell into this trap in Dunstan: One Man. Seven Kings. England’s Bloody Throne, a fictional rendering of the great Archbishop of Canterbury. While Iggulden’s Wars of Roses series is excellent, he portrays Dunstan as a Machiavellian figure, taking pains to explain away anything spiritual or miraculous. The result is deeply unsatisfying. The Christian fiction industry, however, is plagued by its own problems. Many authors appear to have a single good idea, write one or two good books, and then settle down to replicate variations of the same story over and over again. The cottage industry of Amish romance is a good example; Christian romance, in general, is a tired genre in which the reader faithfully plods the worn and weary path to the inevitable conclusion (often some variation of: non-Christian falls in love with Christian; they agonize over this and part ways; the miracle occurs and they live happily ever after.) You get what you pay for, and it isn’t literature. This also applies to the hundreds of cookie-cutter historical novels that are often laughably short on research and simply place the same plot in a different time period. In short: Just because it’s “Christian” doesn’t mean it’s any good. Badly-researched historical novels are painful pablum and generally, in my view, a waste of time. But there are some magnificent examples of historical fiction by Christian authors that easily rival some of the best works by non-Christian writers. This list could be much longer, but I’ll highlight just a few. Paul Maier Paul Maier is a historian and writer born in 1930, and formerly served as the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, where he still retains the title of professor emeritus in the Department of History. He’s written many books, but his two “historical documentary” novels, Pontius Pilate (1968) and The Flames of Rome (1981) are outstanding. Drawing from all available historical sources, Maier renders the ancient world in vivid color. Pontius Pilate follows the career of the Roman Empire’s most famous provincial official while detailing the politics in painstaking detail. The Flames of Rome follows the family of Flavius Sabinus, the mayor of Rome under Nero, covering the Great Fire of Rome and the religious clashes that defined Christianity’s early beginnings. I’ve read both several times and learned more with each reading. Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion Trilogy Also set in the first century is the Francine Rivers’ magnificent Mark of the Lion series, which begins with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and follows the life of a Jewish slave girl, a young Roman aristocrat, and a Germanic barbarian captured in battle and trained as a gladiator. The decadence of Rome is detailed with both bluntness and prudence: promiscuity, abortion, materialism, and the ugly spectacles of public blood sports are all present, and the world Rivers’ renders bears eerie similarities to our own. I should note here that the distinctly evangelical Arminianism throughout the series is unfortunate, but the trilogy is still a brilliant achievement. Brock and Bodie Thoene’s historical fiction The Thoenes are a ferociously productive writing team (more than 65 books), and not everything they’ve produced is of the same quality. But the five-book series The Zion Chronicles, detailing the lead up to the State of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, is one of the best historical works on this period ever written (easily matching Leon Uris’s Exodus but without the objectionable material). Their prelude series, The Zion Covenant, which covers the run-up to the Second World War up to the Blitz, is also rich with historical detail, well-rounded characters, and riveting plotlines. Along with the Shiloh Legacy series, which covers some of the same characters during the Great Depression, these books alone place the Thoenes in the top tier of historical fiction writers. Bodie was a journalist before she was an author, and it shows. Some of their other works – the AD Chronicles, for example – do not possess the same level of detail, historical research, or character development. To be honest, the shift in quality from the Zion and Shiloh books to some of the others (including the short-lived and apparently discontinued series the Zion Diaries) is somewhat jarring. These books are still quite good – I’ve read them all – but I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed after having the standard set so high by their first historical works, which I’ve re-read multiple times. (As a side note, some readers may be interested in an interview I did some years ago with Brock Thoene, a historian, on how legal abortion paved the way to eugenics in Hitler’s Germany.) Davis Bunn’s Priceless Collection Davis Bunn’s Priceless trilogy follows a young American business executive who leaves the rat race to join an antique shop in London. Mentored by an older relative, Jeffery Sinclair pursues exquisite treasures behind the Iron Curtain during the lead up to the collapse of Communism, and the totalitarianism and suffering he witnesses are derived from scores of interviews the author conducted with eyewitnesses. Bunn only wrote three books in this series – Florian’s Gate, The Amber Room, and The Winter Palace – and I wish he’d written more. He captures life in the Warsaw Pact; the antique trade; and the suffocating soullessness of both Western materialism and Communism in a fashion reminiscent of Solzhenitsyn’s Warning to the West. The detail, however, doesn’t suffocate his characters, and even the somewhat stereotypical romantic subplot flows seamlessly. Michael Phillips’ Secret of the Rose Trilogy In this masterful set, Michael Phillips traces a family through wartime Nazi Germany into East Germany under Communism. They’re thick novels – Phillips is a fan of the historical fiction master James Michener – but riveting nonetheless. Many novels set during this period use historical events as mere backdrop (generally for romance), but Phillips takes his time setting the scene and the result is well worth your time. Jonathon Van Maren blogs on life and cultural issues at TheBridgehead.ca where this first appeared. It is reprinted with permission....

Family, Movie Reviews

Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates

Family 90 min / 1962 Rating: 8/10 When Hans’ father is hurt repairing a dike, young Hans drops out of school to take care of his family. But the Netherlands in the 1860’s were a hard place to find work and try as he might Hans can’t find enough work to pay for both his family’s food and the medicine his father needs. He is fast though, and when he hears that the prize for the annual 26-mile skating race is 300 guilders, both he and his sister Gretel enter in the hopes of winning the money his family and father so desperately need. Like the book that it is based on, this is a non-Dutch look at the Netherlands, and that comes out most noticeably in the accents, which are Scandinavian rather than Dutch. (The book’s American author Mary Mapes Dodge did her research, but mistakenly gave her characters German-sounding names rather than Dutch). But overall, this is a great family film, showing how we should love our neighbors in need. It’s also a wonderful sports movie without the typical sports movie ending. But be sure you get the 1962 film, as there is also a shorter, black and white, 1958 version that it is often confused with....

Assorted

Love your emotions by making them obey Jesus

Emotional control is a wonderful thing, but it is also much misunderstood. Whenever I say something like the quote included here above, women rush to assume that I am saying emotions (in and of themselves) are a bad thing. Or that a godly life is a life where you stoically don’t feel or express anything. Neither of these things are accurate – and there really is another way to live with your emotions that is not indulgence or suppression. Imagine a person with dogs in their house who are entirely untrained and untended – tearing up the couches, relieving themselves in the house, biting people who come to the door, and fighting with each other. Compare that to a dog owner whose dogs are well behaved, getting exercised well, fed well, trained well, and like to sleep by the fire on their monogrammed dog beds. Which owner actually appreciates and enjoys dogs? Which can truly be said to love dogs? Which owner understands the value and gifts of dogs? Clearly the second! The first is a style of ownership which we would not be wrong to call abusive. It is unkind and actually hateful. The second is characterized by love. To refuse to discipline your emotions is not loving them, but rather hating them. It is to have a worse emotional life. When we require obedience of emotions, we are actually appreciating and loving them. There are times when your emotions want to do what is right – that’s like when we take our dog on a walk and she joyfully runs off in the fields looking for pheasants, doing exactly what she was made to do. It is a delight. But there are also times when our emotions want to do what they may not – like when our dog wants to go kill one of the neighbor’s chickens. To love her is to restrain her. To appreciate her is to not allow her to do whatever she wants. Sometimes she has really terrible wants – just like us! Self-control is a good thing – it is a fruit of the Spirit! If you have been living a life where your emotions are tearing apart the couches and destroying your peace and all those around you, you need to ask the Lord to intervene and help you learn to control them. He will. Rachel Jankovic is the author of “Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches,” “Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood,” and “You Who? Why you matter and how to deal with it” which we’ve reviewed here....

Articles, Book Reviews, Parenting

Why you should keep reading to your kids

Parents read to their pre-school kids on a pretty regular basis – it’s a great way to snuggle up for some one-on-one time with mom or dad. But once school starts, and especially after Grade One, those times reading together begin to peter out. It might be because your little one isn’t asking you as often, or maybe it’s because you’ve stopped suggesting it. After all, why would you keep on reading together when Junior is ready and rarin’ to read on his own? Well, before you close the book on that part of your life, here are a few reasons why you’ll want to keep on reading with your kids for as long as you can. 1. It’ll keep them interested in reading A First Grader is going to be excited to read about how “Ike and Mike both got a bike.” But it won’t be long before they start noticing there’s something missing here. Ike and Mike are fine fellows, but there’s no real tension, no suspense, no conflict to overcome in their story. So if all your child gets to hear are Cat in the Hat and books like that – only the stories that he’s able to read on his own – it’ll be no wonder if he gets bored with books. There’s no payoff: the reading takes lots of effort, and the reward is a downright boring story. But if mom is still snuggling up with them on the couch to tackle In Grandma’s Attic, or dad is sharing his favorite Piet Prins book at night, then your young reader can still grow in his love for great stories, even as he might be a few years from tackling these bigger books on his own. We parents can whet their appetite for the future, by feeding our kids great books now. One reason to keep reading to your children even after Grade One is to show them what there is to look forward to. 2. It’s a way to shape their tastes Just as many kids prefer candy to vegetables, their literary tastes would gravitate to empty calories like Captain Underpants and Magic Kittens if it were only up to them. You can impact what they read by going on library runs with (or without) them, or by developing a decent home library. But even when you’re picking out the selections, you’re likely to find them heading straight to whichever of those books are the most candy-like. So another way you can help them develop a taste for more substantial, meatier fare is by reading it to them yourself. We’ve been doing a bedtime story for almost ten years now, and while we’ve read lots of their requests – I don’t know how many times I’ve tackled Elephant & Piggy, Fancy Nancy, and the Little Critter series – we’ve also fed them the Chronicles of Narnia, Winnie the Pooh, and The Big Goose and the Little White Duck, none of which they would have picked up on their own. I’ve done most of the bedtime reading, but my wife will read when I have meetings, or have to catch up on some work in the evenings. That has allowed both of us to share our own favorites. So my wife likes Little House on the Prairie and I like great Christian fantasy like Jonathan Rogers’ The Wilderking Trilogy, and between the two of us, we now have girls who like both. 3. It’s a time to connect Reading together is about more than just words on paper; it’s a time to connect, maybe cuddle side by side on the couch, and just spend time together. That’s one reason why many a kid will keep asking, “Can you read this mom?” even after they can tackle a book on their own. I sometimes find life is just too busy, with many evenings filled with work. But because we’ve made a commitment to always end our day with story time, that means that, at the very least, I have this time to talk with my girls. We end the days with prayers, and then a story. With the story comes questions (not too many, but there’s always time for a good one), and that’s when I get the best measure of how my girls are doing. My wife is with them more than I am, so she can get the measure of things other ways too. But for me, this nightly ritual is a time for me to not only read, but hear, and help. 4. It’s a way to learn from other’s lives Our kids can learn from us, and whereas we’d like them to learn from our example, we can also pass along the hard-won lessons we’ve learned from our own mistakes. But their lessons don’t need to stop with just us – they can learn from fictional lives too. They will need some parental guidance to get the benefit, otherwise our elementary-age kids could miss the point of a story entirely, or even learn the wrong lesson. That’s because some of them are reading too fast to really chew on anything, but when dad is reading and they are forced to slow down to his speed, they really start hearing the story. Other kids might miss the lesson because they didn’t understand parts. It’s only when mom is reading, and they have her there to ask their questions, that they can figure out what’s going on. We can also help them understand by asking our own questions. Something as simple as The Three Little Pigs can be fodder for a great discussion if parents ask their kids to pause and consider: “What do you think this story is trying to tell us?” We can even “riff” off of what’s on the page, asking questions that might not even have clear answers in the story like: “Do you think it was just luck that Pig 3 got the strongest building material? Or was he looking for something like that?” When parents read, that makes it possible to go beyond picture books and on to bigger books and their deeper lessons. One example is Sigmund Brouwer’s Innocent Heroes, about the many animals that helped the Allied soldiers in World War I. Each chapter “stars” a different animal, but the deeper story is about the Canadian soldiers that cared for them. When the group's one native soldier returns home to his reserve we learn that Canadian natives at this time weren’t allowed to leave the reserve without getting approval from the local Indian agent. So my girls were angry that this returning soldier was getting treated as a second-class citizen, even after fighting for his country. That was a great opportunity for me to talk not simply about racism, but also about governmental paternalism, and ways to (and ways not to) stick up for your friends. I don’t know when I would have discussed these topics with my girls if not for us all reading this rich book together. Of course, not every book has to lead to a long discussion (especially if you’re reading to them for bedtime and actually need them to go to sleep). Kids will benefit from and be inspired by the determination and Christian faith of a Robinson Crusoe. In Grandma’s Attic offers all sorts of lessons, but the biggest is simply that some older people, like grandmas, are wise, so it’s smart to listen to them. The lessons learned don’t have to be complicated to be good. Sometimes I vary how deep we’re going to go by how tuckered I might be feeling. If I were reading Anne DeVries’ fantastic Journey Through the Night series about the Dutch Resistance in World War II, I might limit my commentary to highlighting that this was ordinary people doing these extraordinary things. I’d want my girls to understand that their courageous example is the type of courage God calls all his people to, in the face of evil. But on another night, maybe when I’m sufficiently caffeinated and if one of my girls wants to know, I might talk about how the Dutch Resistance is an example of what godly civil disobedience looks like. It doesn’t matter whether any particular discussions are big or long or on important topics; if you keep reading to your kids, then over the years you’ll have lots of these discussions and with that volume will come opportunities to address the important topics you might not get to any other way. 5. It’s a way to foster discernment There’s a moral to every story, and a lot of the time what’s being pitched at our kids is something we wouldn’t want them to swallow whole. So another reason to keep reading with your kids is to help them learn to discern what messages and morals they are encountering. Sometimes the moral is simply silly: I was reading an abridged version of King Arthur to my girls and after the teenage Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone, the chapter concludes that, just like Arthur, if we want something strongly enough, then we’ll be able to get what we want. This is the moral of our age: that believing makes it so. But in addition to being nonsense, this moral also ran in direct opposition to the events of the chapter, in which dozens of dukes, earls, and other nobles had tugged at the sword with all of their might – they had all strongly wanted to be king. Yet despite their passion and desire none of them had been able to pull it loose. The girls didn’t spot the contradiction at first, but they sure appreciated the irony afterward: believing does not make it so. Other times even the tamest, most G-rated of stories can still teach a moral that runs right up against what parents are trying to teach. A couple of weeks ago my wife was reading a book about talking kittens – kittens! – with our youngest, and one of the cats asked the little girl in the story to promise to keep a secret from her mom. That was quite the request, but the kitten had a very good reason: if anyone found out that she was a talking kitten she would be in danger! So, on the one hand, our daughters have all been told that if anyone ever wants them to keep a secret from their parents then they should go straight to us and tell us the secret, since only bad guys would make such a request. But on the other hand, this kitten was clearly not a bad guy. So our soft-hearted little girl decided that in this case it would be good to keep the secret from the mother. That was not what we were hoping she would say. But because my wife was reading along, this became an opportunity to reiterate what we’d want her to do, and explain it more clearly. What would have been the wrong lesson learned if our daughter had been reading this alone, turned into another teaching opportunity because mother and daughter were reading it together. I’m currently reading a series with my oldest daughter that is also as G-rated as you could ever expect a secular series to be: the tiniest bit of flirtation, and minimal violence. But to deal with guilt, the creatures in this story would methodically suppress and deny it, lest it drive them crazy. This is a book for teens, and my oldest isn’t yet, so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t spot that this response to guilt was problematic. And because I was reading right along with her, it just became another opportunity for a good discussion. It’ll be when she can spot these elements herself and bring them to my attention that I’ll know I can start backing off and not being so protective. But until then, it's just more fodder for a good discussion. To spur on some of those discussions the most common question I ask is, “Who or what is the ‘god’ in this story?” What is the story presenting as the ultimate good, or the ideal we should pursue? It’s quite the question for kids to answer, and it’s very interesting to see how perceptive they can sometimes be. 6. It’s fun for the whole family Reading together is just fun. Whether it’s at bedtime, or on a road trip, the family that reads together ends up having great books as a common experience, and a shared vocabulary. Now, I’ll admit that on nights when I’m just barely chugging along, the idea of reading a bedtime story doesn’t always excite me. But even that can have its amusements: I’ve discovered that I can actually read out loud, in my sleep (is that my superpower?). My daughters say that sometimes I’m barely understandable, but I do keep reading. The unfortunate thing is, when I resume the next day, I’m a chapter behind everyone else. When I’m awake, it’s something I absolutely love. Your kids, especially if you start reading to them early, are going to be a very good audience. They’ll be up for your bad pirate accent, and your even worse grandmotherly voice. And you can try it all with them, even if you’d never do so in public. Reading together is also fun because a good book, read with the whole family, is a shared experience and it becomes part of a shared vocabulary. So if we’d recently been reading Winnie the Pooh, and a child is down but not sick, we might talk about how they are feeling like “Eeyore” right now. Or if we’d recently read Pollyanna we might try to apply her “glad game” (finding the silver lining to every ill). The logistics That’s the why for reading to your kids as long as you can, but what about the logistics? What’s the best way to actually do it? It’s all about finding good books, and finding a good time. In our family, bedtime is best, but I know some people use that time to read the Bible with their children (in our house we read the Bible at mealtimes). Other families will create a regular time, maybe every day, or once a week, with everyone sitting around the living room, and parents and children taking turns doing the reading. Another opportunity is any time your family is out driving. Whether you’re heading out on a 20-minute drive to Costco or a 16-hour trip to grandma and grandpa's, those are perfect times to read or listen to an audiobook. One family takes the time after Sunday services to read through some wonderful classics with their grown kids. Regularity is more important than the specific time. For us, reading at bedtime is a bit of a motivator: the sooner to bed, the sooner the story starts. One problem with bedtime stories is that it isn’t the best time to read anything remotely scary. One option is to save those bits for the trip to Costco. Another workaround is to either read the scary bit in as unexciting a voice as you can, or for you to quickly read ahead and then give an abbreviated summary of that section before continuing on to the next chapter. Logistics can be even more challenging if you’re reading to more than one child. All three of my girls are in the same room, so that makes it simple. But bigger groups can still get it done. One father, whose girls are in one room and boys in another, alternates the room he’s going to read in. When he reads in the girls’ room, the boys bring their pillows and a blanket to curl up and listen on the floor. And vice versa when he reads in the boys’ room. However you work out the logistics, it’ll be worth the juggling. The final ingredient is good books. You can find all sorts of recommendations online, and our family’s favorites can be found here. I’ll wrap up here with Albert Mohler, from the March 4 edition of The Briefing: We need to read to our children…. There is something that is expressed in tangible love when parents read to their children. Choose well, read well, read carefully to your children, but yes, read to your children. You're shaping hearts and minds, and furthermore, expressing love to your children in a way you might not think of as a hug. And one of the axioms of our time that wouldn't make sense to most previous generations, but certainly makes sense with urgency now: put down the smartphone, turn off the television, get disconnected from anything that requires a power cord, other than a reading light. Put a child in your lap and read that child a good book....

Assorted

Woven Together

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:15-16) ***** It was a rather warm, early afternoon, if I recall properly, a long-ago day in April of 1978. Our oldest daughter was in grade one, our second daughter was attending kindergarten and the two younger ones were napping soundly. I was cleaning up after lunch and rather contemplating a nap myself when the telephone rang. Picking it up, the voice of an old acquaintance came through. "Christine? This is Anna Piller." "Yes, how are you Anna? Good to hear your voice. I haven't heard from you for quite a while." "I'm fine." There was a silence and I heard the clock ticking through it. "How are your girls?" I recalled that Anna had four daughters. She had taught at the local Christian school for a while, but had left to move south to the London area. "They are fine." There was another silence. Then Anna continued, continued rather hesitantly. "Actually, they're not fine. That is to say, Rachel is...." I tried to help her: "Is something wrong with Rachel, Anna?" "She's pregnant, Christine. And here's the thing. I wonder if she can stay with you for a while? If you would take her into your home." Rachel was the second of Anna's daughters. Anna was a divorcee. Her husband had committed adultery, had not repented and had left her and the girls a number of years prior to her teaching at our school. "Is the father of the baby," I began softly, but was interrupted. "There's not going to be any wedding, Christine." "Oh," I answered, and then went on, "and you want Rachel to stay with us?" "You have such a nice family," Anna rushed on, "and I would feel so good to know that she is with you." When someone tells you that you have a nice family, pride oozes through your veins. You instantly feel good about yourself and when Anna complimented our household, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to help. "How far along is she?" "She's only two months and she feels sick as a dog every morning." I was expecting our fifth and not sick in the least. But I felt instant empathy for Rachel. No husband to help her, she was probably worried about what the community would say and she was so very young. I ventured to guess she was only seventeen or so. Compassion filled me. "I'd have to speak with my husband, Anna, but I think that we could make room for Rachel." "There's something else, Christine. Rachel is going to abort the baby before coming to your house." I was knocked for a loop and honestly did not know what to say for the next minute or so. "Oh, Anna." "Yes, I know." There was a long drawn-out sigh and the clock on the wall kept ticking. "You know this is not right. Why would she...." "I've spoken with her, Christine. I've tried to persuade her to keep the baby but she won't listen to me. There are counselors.... and they say.... I just think that after the abortion she's going to feel pretty low and that she won't feel good about being here and being with you might just raise her spirits and be a good influence on her. Again Anna's sentence stopped midair. Unconsciously I had put my hand on my belly, as if to shut out the influence of the secular world from my unborn, and very much wanted, fifth child. I took a deep breath. "I'll drive down to where you live, Anna, and speak with Rachel myself. I'd like to try and change her mind. You see we are also expecting another baby and maybe I could....” In the end, after discussing it at length, my husband and I decided that Rachel would be welcomed into our home with open arms if she chose to keep the baby, if she chose to stay pregnant. We would help her, encourage her, pay for what she needed and love her. But if she chose to abort prior to coming to our home, she would have to make other arrangements. I drove to the London/Woodstock area shortly after that and had two long conversations - one with Anna and another with Rachel. Rachel almost agreed to come home with me, but in the end she changed her mind and opted for abortion. Anna, the grandmother of the little unborn, was sorry about the situation but it was obvious that she would have found it most convenient to board out her daughter. I drove home sorrowful and have never found out what happened. Both my husband and I were convinced that God would provide for Rachel through ourselves if she chose life. Perhaps, in the end, she did and we were never apprised of the fact. We pray that she did. ***** Mark Jones, pastor of the Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, Canada, has recently (2019) written a book entitled If I Could Speak - Letters from the Womb. In it are fifteen chapters. Each chapter is a letter written from the womb by a tiny fetus named Zoe. Zoe begins each of her letters with a statement – statements such as "I can hear your voice," and "You and daddy put me here," or "I'd rather be adopted than aborted." The letters are obviously beyond the capacity of a little fetus. The reader is asked to overlook that and to indulge pastor Jones who in this touching and straightforward manner is arguing for life. He's making the case that abortion stops a human being from being able to laugh; from being able to give love; from being able to graduate from school; from caring for parents; and so on. He is, in effect, making the case that abortion is murder. (There is one troubling aspect in chapter 11 of this little tome in which pastor Jones begins by having the fetus say "I wish I were a baby eagle." Going on to laud the parental virtues of the eagle family, he suggests that scientists would be aghast if eagles, or other animals, would poison their offspring. He says: "We would even say a mutation has happened in the so-called 'evolutionary' process. I mean, as far as evolution is concerned, one of the main goals of animals is to leave offspring (DNA) behind in order that the stronger may survive. So to kill one's offspring is a fundamental reversal of the evolutionary process. A bit of a suspect paragraph that. Does pastor Jones believe in evolution? Just be forewarned. Evolution denies God's existence and in doing so negates the intrinsic value of human beings.) In these days when new laws are being enacted and abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy, (funded in part by the Canada Health Act), it is good to make this a matter of much prayer. Canada is the only nation with absolutely no specific legal restrictions on abortion. Human life is sacred because we, all of us, have been made in the "image of God." God alone has authority over life because He alone is its Author. Christine Farenhorst is the author of many short story collections including “Hidden: Stories of War and Peace” which you can find on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca....

News

Saturday Selections - April 3, 2021

Bach, in the forest, on a really, really long xylophone (3 min) The phone this advertizes is long gone, but its commercial is standing the test of time. More on Rod Dreher's "Live not by lies" "Solzhenitsyn...told the Russian people that totalitarianism is built on lies and the people’s fear. The way to defeat it is to not live by lies." In other words, if you are scared to stand up for the truth, at the very least commit to not speaking the lie. Protecting minors from pornography This free 33-page e-book from the computer monitor company Covenant Eyes is aimed at Church youth group leaders, but there is lots here for parents, pastors, and elders to benefit from. Many college grads believe life has been created in the lab "...more than 41 percent of respondents thought that origin of life researchers had created 'complex life forms from scratch,' such as frogs, using simple chemicals and conditions that “approximate Earth’s early atmosphere.” .... To put it kindly, the respondents’ great expectations about the accomplishments of origin of life researchers are wrong. Wildly so. Origin of life researchers have not created a frog or a bacterium.... they haven’t created a functional membrane, or a ribosome, or flagella or cilia, or any of dozens of additional parts and molecular machines required for even the simplest living bacterium..." How Canada's government is supposed to work, and how it does (15-minute read) A very helpful overview of the state of things, by REAL Women of Canada. When good intentions harm children It's a no-brainer that we should ban child labor, right? But what if doing so leaves some children in an even worse situation? How did people live to be 900 years old before the flood? (10 minutes) Lifespans that passed 900 years have critics dismissing the reliability of early biblical genealogies. But as Dr. John Sanford has noted, the long ages then, and shorter ages now, can be attributed to genetic degeneration - accumulated mutations that have caused us to be far less fit than our ancestors once were. This one is very interesting! ...

Internet

You believe you are the center of the universe

David Foster Wallace was an American thinker and writer, best known for his novel Infinite Jest. He passed away in 2008, which is a loss to all of us because we could desperately benefit from his thinking right now. In 2005, just a few years before his death, he gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College that has become known as the “This Is Water” speech. It was turned into a very short book which you can buy here if you’re so inclined (I bought a used copy for, like, $3). Much of Wallace’s speech is focused on how the liberal arts are designed to teach us how to think differently and maybe get a bit outside of ourselves so that we may have a bit more critical awareness of ourselves, to realize, “a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.” He goes into one such example here (bolding mine, italics his): Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default setting, hardwired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. You get the idea. First, the comment about our self-centeredness being our “default setting” struck me as soon as I read it because when I talk to the students in our youth ministry about original sin, I use the “default setting” language and they get it. But isn’t this posture true of all of us, not just Wallace? It’s really just natural to see yourself as the center of the universe, even apart from the sinfulness of it, because you see the entire experience of life from your perspective. As close as you are to your spouse or your children or your church family, it is impossible for you to literally experience life as they do. No amount of time or investment of social energy can lead us to truly live life in through the eyes of others. How easy is it, then, for everyone in our lives to become characters in a movie all about us? Our spouse is the love interest of the main character. Our boss is the curmudgeonly-but-lovable villain who means well but is too old-fashioned for his own good. Our kids are the comic relief and the way we learn about our own selfishness. Everyone else is just extras on our movie set. Wallace is right: our default setting is to see the entire world in relation to ourselves. We never think about the fact that we are actually a supporting actor in someone else’s movie. The connection to social media and the broader age of the social internet ought to be clear, right? Social media perpetuates the idea that we are the main character in our own story. It allows us to take our personal movie to market and share it with the world. It’s no fun being the star of your own movie if no one else can experience it. But now, with the innovation of social media, we can take our performance on the road and show everyone that we are the stars of our own lives. The Christian implications of this phenomenon are many. Perhaps we are best off seeing ourselves as supporting actors or even extras in God’s story at which Jesus Christ is the star. God is the star of the human experience. If you’ve ever wondered about or maybe been skeptical about social media perpetuating self-centeredness, this should ease your skepticism and confirm your wonderings. The idea that social media is a neutral tool equally possible to be used for good or bad is genuinely foolish. I used to believe this, so I’m not being critical of anyone in particular here. I am a convert from this wrong-headed idea. As you tap and swipe and scroll, consider how your favorite social media platforms may be training you to see yourself as the center of your universe, and perhaps as the center of others’ universes. How does this change how you view other people? Perhaps it makes you see them as less important and their needs as unfortunate consequences of not being the main character of the story. The pings and red dots and notifications and hearts and thumbs-ups on all of our manicured content feigning authenticity reinforces the reality that “there is no experience that you were not at the absolute center of.” This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s “terms of service” Feb. 26, 2021 blog/newsletter and is reprinted with permission.  “Terms of service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective and comes in both a free and paid subscription, either of which you can sign up for at www.termsofservice.social....

Family, Movie Reviews

Jack and the Beanstalk

Children's 1952 / 83 minutes Rating: 7/10 Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star in their own version of this classic tale. The story begins with the desperate-for-work pair signing up for a night's work as last-minute babysitters. We get to the fairy-tale part when Costello asks the boy they are sitting to read him a story. Then, when we shift from the real world to the fairy tale, the film switches over from a sepia-toned black and white to full color, like happens in The Wizard of Oz. And also like Oz, the people populating this fairyland look awfully familiar. While the story continues on in the usual way, there are some wrinkles, including Jack (Costello) getting a buddy to come along for the adventure – Abbott is the village butcher who wants to retrieve his stolen cow. A princess and prince are two more addition, both of them kidnapped by the giant and held for ransom. This is the romantic angle, the two of them starting as strangers, unable to see each other in their adjoining cells, but falling in love as they talk and sing to one another through the bars. When we meet the villain of the piece, parents might be surprised to see that he's only 7 or 8 feet tall – big, sure, but are we calling that a giant? But that only shows this is intended for children, more than families. Sure, mom and dad can come along for the ride, and they'll like lots of bits of it too, but this is meant for the undiscerning younger viewer who isn't going to find fault with a short giant, a singing harp whose lips don't move, or duels done with bending rubber swords. They'll laugh the first, second, and third time that Jack trips or gets bonked on the head, even as mom and dad will get their main enjoyment vicariously, watching their kids. I should mention one joke that parents will have to explain. At one point Costello inadvertently mixes some gunpowder into the chicken feed, and while I won't give away what happens, kids who have never seen a powder horn will have to be clued into what just happened if they are going to get the joke. Cautions A minor caution would be that the boy they are babysitting is uppity...but mom and dad can point that out. The main caution is with the physical humor. The fights with the giant are all played to comic effect, and I think today's kids will get that. The only scene I found off-putting was in the black and white conclusion, where Abbott slaps Costello for sleeping on the job. Costello seems to feel no ill effects, but I mention it only because it happened in the "real" world and isn't the kind of thing you'd see in today's children's films – this is the slap in slapstick, and it just struck me as mean, not funny. Conclusion This is a good film for the kids, but in need of some parental guidance because of the slapstick. For the parents it is a little slow, and a little too silly, but still enjoyable over all. The film's copyright has expired which has allow all sorts of publishers to put out their own tweaked versions. That means you kind find copies that are entirely black and white, and the different versions vary in length from 78 to 83 minutes. So be sure you find a good one. You can watch Jack and the Beanstalk in low resolution for free down below, but better quality versions are widely available on all sorts of streaming service. ...

Parenting

Parenting: many different approaches - only one set of guiding principles

Empty threats – that's what they are called – and some are more ridiculous than others. I once overheard an employee at Target, a young mother, telling her co-worker: "He keeps hitting Steven all the time. So the next time he punches Steven in the face, I'm gonna say, Robert, next time you punch Steven in the face, I'm going to punch YOU in the face. ...Of course, you can't really punch a 4-year-old in the face, so I never would." That's extreme, but then there are also the more common variety that we're likely to hear at church, or at school, or coming out of our own mouths: "If you don’t get into the car right now, I’m going to leave without you." "You'd better stop crying. This restaurant doesn't allow any crying, so if you cry they're going to kick us out of here." "If you don't stop fighting back there I am turning this car around and we are not going anywhere." Empty threats can seem effective, at least in the short-term. But is "effective" the measure by which we evaluate our parenting approach? We all need parenting help There are strong differences of opinion regarding the discipline of children, and not all techniques work for all kids, even in the same family. We do have to consider the different ages and personalities of different children, so what works with one child may not be a good approach for another. But we also know that all approaches are not equal. That's because some techniques and methods align with what God has revealed in his Word, and some run at right angles to what God has said. So we need to seek out the scriptural principals of discipline, and we need to hear what God says about love and kindness, and then make this foundational for all of our interactions with these small brothers and sisters in Christ. And, in addition to these scriptural principles, we can also seek out tried and tested methods from older, godly parents. God puts us in a community so we can learn from one another (Prov. 15:22). Finally, there are excellent Christian books on the topic of parenting. We need to read such books because of our own sinfulness, which we too often overlook when we are frustrated with our disobedient children. It is way too easy to justify our own behavior, and prayerfully reading through these books will help us analyze where and when we are a part of the cause. For instance, if we scream in anger because our children have gotten angry with one another for the tenth time in the day, we teach them that screaming in anger is the proper response to a frustrating situation, even though that is not our intention.If we force them to endure a shopping trip without regard for their hunger, thirst, fatigue, and need for movement, we are more to blame for their meltdown than they are. We must plan wisely for delays and not expect them to have more patience than we do. If we fail to educate them as to what they will soon encounter and the specific behavior that is expected (because they do not know good behavior by instinct) then we are not helping them to behave properly. Most children love their parents and feel grateful whether they say it out loud or not. They need our love and acceptance and they struggle with the constant tension between wanting to please us and, like all of us, wanting to follow their own sinful nature. They are sinners and they will behave badly. Sometimes we forget to apply our Bible beliefs to the situation and realize that “There is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:12). Or, as it says in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 2, “ have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor.” In communion One of the very best of the books available is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp. Tripp explains that there is a “circle of God’s favor.” When a child is, from love and gratitude to God, being obedient, he or she is in this circle. When a child strays outside of this "circle of favor" the parents’ job is to pull the child back inside. If he lies, we must teach him not to lie. If he throws a selfish tantrum or punches his brother in the face, we must teach him that this is not acceptable behavior. We may not abuse him, but we must find an effective way to influence him to end that behavior. When discipline is needed, Tripp says we should start with a statement giving the reason for the punishment, then give the punishment, and then remind them why they were punished (preferably when everyone is calm). Then comes repentance. Their “Sorry, dad” may or may not be sincere, but the pattern will be established. Last of all, there must be forgiveness and restoration, just as our Lord gives to us. This usually includes a hug and a statement, but most importantly: the freedom from having the sin mentioned again (Psalm 103:12: "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us"). Here we must squelch our own anger rather than sin by constantly bringing up their wrongs, or humiliating them by relating the deeds to other people, especially within their hearing. We ruin our child’s good name when we tell about his sins, and if we tell the child he is a “brat” or a bad boy, even jokingly, we reinforce to him that we do not have higher expectations. As far as specific punishment methods go, some use a careful spanking (a slap on the hand or thigh for a toddler – their bottom has too many layers to feel the sting! – or a few spanks on the bottom for someone already potty-trained). Others use a time-out location, which, to be effective, requires a timer and constant monitoring by the parent, especially when it is first being established. But to be effective it must be a true punishment to the child. For example, if they think time-outs are no big deal, then something that is a big deal to them must be substituted. Anticipation Parents should, with experience, be able to steer their children clear of situations that might otherwise lead to the need for discipline. For example, inexperienced parents tend to overestimate the amount of noise stimulation that a young child can handle, even for “fun” times like DisneyWorld or an overcrowded family get-together. As we learn how much our children can handle, we can, when we see them being overwhelmed, remove them from these situations. (Ephesians 6:4 is relevant here; these are both examples of parents heeding the instruction for "fathers not provoke your children to anger...") Another example: we can take a suggestion from Dr. Raymond Moore of Home Grown Kids who always used this rule of thumb for birthday parties – the number of guests at the party should not exceed the child’s age. Adults tend to think more is better, but a young child will do better to have a couple of play dates than one big bash. Only truth Empty threats should never, ever be made. They are ineffective when smart children realize their parents are not serious. These threats may even cause a rebellious child to disobey just to see whether we really meant what we said. They can also be counter-productive to the fellowship goals of your family. Would you really cancel Christmas or attendance at a friend’s birthday party because of a child’s disobedient behavior? That would punish people outside of your family as well. Should you frighten your children, as some have, with abandonment at an orphanage, leading them to experience fear and lack of assurance of your love and acceptance, and therefore desperate to please you? Children take our words very literally. Our goal is to teach them about sin and repentance and forgiveness by modeling it, not to beat them physically or emotionally into subjection to us. An awesome and brief task It is important to plan our system of discipline ahead of time so that mom and dad will both know what they are going to do when their kids behave badly. You need a plan, and a backup plan and perhaps even a third plan for the stubborn. Don't let disobedience surprise you. Don't let it make you angry as though it were a direct attack on you. God has called us to teach our children to do what is right, and that task exceeds any housework or leisure goals that we might have had for the day. Pray for patience, because your effective plan may need a hundred applications! I overheard a conversation at 11 pm in a restaurant parking lot between a father and his sobbing three-year-old. He yelled at her to “Stop crying and behave” inside the restaurant. It was tempting to intervene and point out that he was being selfish – caring more for his social goals than he did for the welfare of his little girl, who pretty obviously needed to be home in bed. “Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Though it feels like we will always be raising and disciplining them, it is less than a third of our lifetime that we have this privilege. Something to keep in mind. This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Echoes of Ararat: a collection of over 300 Flood legends from North and South America

by Nick Liguori 2021 / 300 pages Why are there Flood myths all over the world? Christians can explain it by pointing back to Noah: these myths are so widespread because they find their origin in a real event, common to all mankind – every last tribe and nation can trace their origin back to the small family that lived through this cataclysmic worldwide deluge. But how can skeptics explain it? If it was just one or two stories, maybe they could attribute it to coincidence. But confronted with these 300-some accounts – and that's just from North and South America – the case for coincidence just isn't plausible. What Nick Liguori has done here is collect the oldest known written accounts of these indigenous tales, dating back a hundred to two hundred years or even more. While they were originally a part of native oral tradition, these accounts were written down after they were told to European explorers, missionaries, and settlers. So, for example, this is from the Caddo tribe, told to a group of explorers who were mapping the Arkansas/Texas Red River in 1806: They say that long since, a civil war broke out among them, which so displeased Enicco, the Supreme Being, that he caused a great flood, which destroyed all but one family; consisting of four persons, the father, mother, and children. This family was saved by flying to a knoll at the upper end of the prairie, which was the only spot uncovered by the water. In this knoll was a cave where the male and female of all the kinds of animals were preserved. After the flood has continued one moon, they set a bird, called the O-Wah, at liberty, which returned in a short time with a straw. The family then set out on a raft in search of the place from whence this straw was brought, and pursuing a west course for two leagues they came to land. Some of the elements from the Genesis account include: God is displeased with the world, a great flood, one family saved, a bird sent out and coming back with something, two of each kind of animals saved, and a boat of sorts. Other stories have only a glimmering of the original remaining. Moravian missionaries arrived on Greenland in 1733 and the following is an account David Cranzz (1723-1777) included in his History of Greenland: Almost all heathen nations know something of Noah's Flood, and the first missionaries found also some pretty plain traditions among the Greenlanders; namely that the world once overset, and all mankind, except one, were drowned; but some were turned into fiery spirits. The only man that escaped alive, afterward smote the ground with his stick, and out sprung a woman, and these two re-peopled the world. As a proof that the deluge once overflowed the whole earth, they say that many shells, and relics of fishes have been found far within the land where man could never have lived, yea that bones of whales have been found upon a high mountain. In story after story, we see echoes, not just of the Flood account, but also of the events of the Tower of Babel. This is a fascinating book! So, again, how do the skeptics explain it? The best secular explanation is that these myths and legends are of a recent origin, only coming to be after natives first heard the story of the Flood from missionaries spreading the Bible. But that supposes that native oral tradition could change that fast, and that easily. And why would they adapt their traditions to incorporate part of the Bible account while ignoring the rest of it? Doubters will doubt, but they really have to work at it to dismiss all the stories collected here. While the bulk of the book is stories, one of the appendices contrast and compares these American myths with both the biblical Flood account and the one found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This epic is probably the second most famous flood account of all, and skeptics will say that the Bible's version was inspired by it. But as Liguori shows, that idea is preposterous (you can also learn why that's so here). If you enjoy Echoes of Ararat, you'll also appreciate Charles Martin's Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event which is a much shorter (just 150 pages) overview of Flood legends, this time from around the whole world. Echoes of Ararat is far more weighty, but consequently is a book you're more likely to just dip into. Meanwhile, Flood Legends is something you'll read all the way through. Both would be fantastic resources for your church or school libraries, and also good gifts for Christian school history teachers. And if you want to learn a bit more about Noah's Ark, and Flood myths, be sure to check out the 10-minute video below. ...

News

Christian college to replace plaque that calls murderers “savage”

Wheaton College, a US evangelical liberal arts college, has taken down a plaque “dedicated to the glory of God” and “in loving memory of” two martyred alumni, because it used the adjective “savage” to describe their murderers. The plaque was erected in 1957, exactly one year after five missionaries, including the two Wheaton alumni, were killed by the tribe they were trying to reach with the Gospel. But now the plaque is down, with plans to have it reworded and replaced. Wheaton’s president Philip Ryken explained in an email: "Recently, students, faculty, and staff have expressed concern about language on the plaque that is now recognized as offensive. Specifically, the word 'savage' is regarded as pejorative and has been used historically to dehumanize and mistreat indigenous peoples around the world. Any descriptions on our campus of people or people groups should reflect the full dignity of human beings made in the image of God…" But is this a problem of word choice? Did the Class of ’49, who erected the plaque 64 years ago, use a word that they shouldn’t have? Here is the problem passage, in context, (with “savage” highlighted in bold – emphasis mine): Because of the Great Commission Ed and Jim, together with Nathanael Saint, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming, went to the mission field, willing for “Anything – anywhere regardless of cost.” They chose the jungles of Ecuador – inhabited by the Auca Indians. For generations all strangers were killed by these savage Indians. After many days of patient preparation and devout prayer the missionaries made the first friendly contact known to history with the Aucas. On January 8, 1956 the five missionaries were brutally slain – martyrs for the love of God. The story of Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nathanael Saint, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming might be best known today for what happened afterward. Two years after their murders, Rachel Saint, sister of Nathanael, and Elisabeth Elliot wife of Jim, went to live with this same tribe, to evangelize to them.  What they did was remarkable, because they were not going to a peace-loving tribe. And the miracle God worked in many tribesmen’s hearts was all the more remarkable precisely because of how savage they had been before – six of the very men who murdered the missionaries later turned to the Lord. So is it wrong to call murderers “savage”? To answer that question we must first establish by what standard are we going to assess what is “offensive” and “pejorative.” Christians should, of course, turn to the Bible for our standard. In the world, many today think feelings – and their feelings in particular – are the measure of all things. Before we roll our eyes and be done with this nonsense, let’s remember there is a biblical command that takes feelings into consideration. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would want done unto you” (Matt. 7:12). And since we wouldn’t want to be called savage, we shouldn’t call others savage, right? As the college president noted, this word has also been used to dehumanize indigenous peoples in the past. So, case closed? Well, no. This “Golden Rule” applies to our own actions: what we should or should not do. Thus if you find “savage” a “pejorative” and needlessly “offensive” word, then you really shouldn’t use it on any plaque you might be planning to erect. But how do we assess the actions of another? By what standard should we judge the word choices of a previous generation? In Matthew 7, just a few verses earlier, Jesus shows us the way here too: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (7:1-2). So the question we should ask is, how would we want a generation, 64 years from now, to evaluate the words we say today? If there is no offense expressed and no offense intended when we first say them – if there was no sin at the start – would we want them to read in a sin six decades hence? Would we want our bronzed words taken down because they offended the current day's sensibilities? There is, of course, an argument to be made here since, as the Wheaton president noted, some peoples in the past have been written off as "savages," as if that was an irredeemable part of who they were. But that overlooks the completely opposite point this plaque is making: what is being celebrated here was an attempt to bring the message of redemption to the Aucas Indians. The five men who went, and the class that celebrated their efforts, did so because they knew the Word of God was for every tribe and nation, and because they knew that the Aucas were made in the Image of God too. There is no attack on anyone's dignity or any dehumanization being done here. While the word "savage" is a very good adjective for murderers, it is, of course, okay if today's Christians don't want to use it. What's worrisome is when they want to scrub it. If God's people become so sensitive about offense that could be taken, even when no actual offense is committed, that they feel the need to edit bronze, it's hard to imagine how they'd ever have the courage and frankness to speak to the world about such sins – such sensitive issues – as homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion. This plaque was erected to remember how these five missionaries were willing to risk everything to bring God’s good news to a savage people desperately in need of it. Instead of finding fault where none exists, we should be looking to these missionaries' example, asking, "What are we willing to risk to present His Word to our own savage culture?"...

News

Saturday Selections - March 27, 2021

Greg Bahnsen on presuppositional apologetics and circular reasoning (4 minutes) Lots to chew on in this short 4-minute video. While it isn't for everyone, if you've heard the accusation that presuppositional apologetics is "begging the question" or circular reasoning, then you need to give this a listen. Why does it take so long to explain infant baptism? R. Scott Clark has a 15-episode series explaining infant baptism. But "why does it take so long to explain and defend infant baptism? If it is true, should we not be able to explain and defend it more briefly?" Well, if short is what you are after, Clark also has a 52-word explanation. But, what he explains/argues here is that our understanding of baptism is based on the way we understand the Bible in general... which is why it can be a big topic! What is Critical Race Theory? The folks at Breakpoint Ministries give their best go at a short answer in the linked article above, while James Lindsay digs deeper in a 1-hour presentation here. Why do algae "know" how to deal with rough seas? Single-cell algae have a plan for how to deal with rough seas that might otherwise destroy them. How does this plan get triggered...and where did this plan come from?  This is a bit of a technical read, but it is very short, and well worth the effort. Americans wildly misinformed about Covid dangers A majority of Americans surveyed overestimated the chances of Covid landing the average person in hospital by anywhere from 4 to 10 times the true danger. The study's authors concluded: "The U.S. public is also deeply misinformed about the severity of the virus for the average infected person.” Is it okay to do "x" on Sunday? A great succinct answer, from Sinclair Ferguson... What is your only comfort in life and death? (3 min) The Heidelberg Catechism's first question remains a thought-provoking (and an evangelism-helping?) one even today. ...

News

War on gender leaves BC father in jail

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She had a mommy and a daddy who unfortunately divorced. She lived with her mom, but her dad had contact with her and still loved her. In high school, the girl had emotional difficulties, as many teens do. She was taught BC’s radical sex education, SOGI 123. She was not happy with her life; she wanted change. At age 14, she decided that she wanted to change her gender. People at her school tried to help her, but not by counseling her to be at peace with her existence and gender. Instead, they “helped” her to begin the process of change, including puberty-blockers. When her dad found out, he was alarmed. He wanted the process to be stopped, believing that his daughter was not old enough to make such a life-altering decision. He tried his best and did everything he legally could to truly help his daughter, whom he loved dearly. Unfortunately, this is a true story and it does not have a “happily ever after” ending. Neither is it over. But the father, when he ran out of legal options, decided that he would have to break court orders and speak out about this situation to raise public awareness. Now, he has gone to jail. Normally, an account like this would give more exact details, background, and links to articles and other sources for the points we are trying to make. For the details around this case, we have to be very careful because both Reformed Perspective and my organization, the Christian Heritage Party, being Canadian, are not allowed to publish the father’s name or the name of the doctor who is doing the body-altering surgery on the daughter. The daughter, who now considers herself male, is a minor, so we would not want to publish her name, even if we knew it, but the publication ban on the father’s name is more questionable. You can easily find articles about this (including the father’s and doctor’s names) online using your favorite search engine by entering search terms such as “dad of trans teen breaks court order.” (The publications that use the actual names of the father and doctor are not Canadian-based, and thus not constrained by the court order.) This is an extremely sad account of where our society is at, both morally and legally. On the moral side, our culture has accepted the lie that advising someone not to attempt to change their gender is immoral and unloving; this could be codified in law if Bill C-6 passes. On the legal side, we now have judges and laws that don’t allow a father to truly help his teen in her emotionally difficult teen years. Instead, the easily-influenced and changeable wishes of an immature and inexperienced teen are taken to be better than the wisdom of his/her parent(s). The father, who has gone to jail in BC for his actions, is mourning – less for his own fate than for that of his daughter. She might (and probably will, as others have) come to regret her decision and find out far too late what damage she, with the “help” of “doctors,” has done to her body and future. Many, possibly most, Canadians would be horrified by the depths to which our courts and medical profession have fallen. Due to the publication ban, most Canadians will never know the details of this case. Even without any publication bans, it’s likely Canada’s mainstream news outlets would probably have just buried this story. They are, for the most part, friendly towards the anti-morality of those who are waging a war on gender and trying to “normalize” transgenderism. Time Magazine recently featured a celebrity actress on their cover who had herself surgically altered so as to present and think of herself as male. Earlier, Bruce Jenner had himself altered to appear to be female. These people are given several moments of glowing fame. But afterward, they are left with their decision. Their war on their gender is a war on themselves, and they – and many impressionable youths – are damaged and hurt by this battle against reality. Reality is not always easy. It is not always fair. The burdens that many have to bear are unspeakably difficult. We cannot deny that the struggles young people are facing today – especially in this age of sexual perversion – are more complex and insidious than many previous generations have faced. But that reality should drive us to care for and support them in the difficulties. Children and teens are not helped when their delusions are accepted as reality and acted upon. Believing that you can fly by flapping your arms does not make it possible, no matter what height you jump from. “Helping” someone who thinks he/she can fly to jump from a higher height is not truly helping him/her at all. “Helping” people who think they would be happier as the opposite gender to try to change their gender is not really helping them at all. All the hormones a person may take do not change his/her DNA, and more importantly, they cannot give true satisfaction or meaning to life. A father in BC has gone to jail because he really wants to help his daughter. The war against gender is getting more real. When will it end, and how many lives will it ruin? Even one is a tragedy. Far more will follow if people of goodwill and common-sense don’t speak up and stand for truth. So please take a stand for God-given truth and against the war on gender by speaking up and getting involved. Peter Vogel is the Deputy Leader of the Christian Heritage Party. A version of this article first appeared as a “CHP Communique” on March 23rd which you can find at CHP.ca....

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Drama/Action 101 min / 1938 Rating: 8/10 Aside from a little medieval Roman Catholicism in the character of Friar Tuck (for instance, asking a woman to swear by "Our Lady" that what she is saying is true), you'll never find a better version of the Robin Hood legend. Why? Four reasons. The first is respect for authority. The movie makes it clear that the villain, Prince John, is conspiring against the regent placed in charge by the absent King Richard, his brother, so that Robin Hood's apparent rebellion actually upholds the true authority of the rightful king. The second reason is Robin Hood's courage in standing against tyranny. Robin Hood and his band demonstrate bravado in taking on Prince John's minions with a quip and a quiver, and with grim determination, thwarting those who would assassinate King Richard. Then there is what particularly impresses Maid Marian about Robin Hood: the manly compassion and protection he offers to those oppressed by Prince John, which is the third appealing feature of this film. Finally, in his treatment of Maid Marian and other female characters, Robin Hood exemplifies respect for women. All in all, an engaging portrait, for boys and boys at heart, of hearty, healthy masculinity. ...

Assorted

Why we don’t evangelize and why we must

If there is a time to be silent, there is also a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7). If the gospel is the Good News entrusted to us, we heap upon ourselves guilt if we neglect to pass it on. In his book Our Guilty Silence, Dr. John Stott lists four major causes for our silence. He said, “Either: we have no compelling incentive even to try to speak, or we do not know what to say, or we are not convinced that it is our job, or we do not believe we shall do any good, because we have forgotten the source of power.” And we can add a few causes of our own. Some have identified evangelism as an outgrowth of American activism – they think of it as just a bag of clever tricks and techniques to gain church members. Other are caught up in the tension between evangelism and preserving the purity of the church. They struggle with the question: What comes first, preserving the truth of the gospel and restoring the church through a Reformation or evangelism and missions? But the Bible does not allow us to emphasize the purity of doctrine at the expense of evangelism. Of course, we must stress purity of doctrine and contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). But a church which keeps her doors closed out of fear that the world may enter is not faithful to the Gospel. A church which does not evangelize can be compared to a crew of a lifeboat anxious to save the souls of her own members. She certainly does not resemble a rescue brigade out to reach our fellow men, who are perishing without the Savior. When we live the Gospel, the tension between maintaining purity of doctrine and outreach into the community and world will not exist. We will spend our time and energy on both. So in this article I will point to six reasons why we must be active in congregational outreach. 1 - The Glory of God First, we must evangelize because we are zealous for the glory of God. As Reformed Christians we must always have the glory of God as our motive for action. That’s why Reformed Christians have been instrumental in establishing Christian schools, a Christian labor movement, a Christian businessmen’s organization, and we are involved in Christian politics and in a host of other Christian activities. And rightly so. These very activities attracted me to the Reformed faith. But we must not only strive to win all things for Christ, but also all people for Christ. The ultimate goal of all things is the glorification of God. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). Our Savior Himself regarded the salvation of man as a means to bring glory to God. In His high priestly prayer He prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4). Therefore, through evangelism we bring glory to God’s name. 2 - Obedience to God Second, we evangelize because our Lord commanded it. Evangelism is not an option, but a sacred duty and a high calling. We evangelize because we are commanded to as part of the all-inclusive task of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Our Lord’s assignment is to proclaim the Gospel, bring new converts into the church, lead them to the sacrament of baptism and disciple them. Evangelism, then, is the work of the church in obedience to her Lord to make known the Gospel to those who are estranged from it or who have never heard it before and to call them to repentance, faith and conversion. 3 - Love for God Thirdly, love for God should motivate us to do evangelism. R.B. Kuiper called it, “The motive for evangelism, embracing and excelling all other worthy motives.” If the love for God does not compel us, what will? Yet in much current literature on evangelism this love motive is rarely mentioned. The emphasis is more on the felt needs of the non-Christians and on outreach techniques rather than on the force that should drive us to proclaim the Gospel - the love for God. “God is love” (1 John 4: 8,16). He has shown His love to us by sending His only Son into the world for our salvation (John 3:16). When we know why we are Christians and what we are saved from, we want others to share the same privilege. We cannot even begin to love people, if we have no love for God. John says, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The greatest command is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). As God has freely loved us, so we love Him. R.B. Kuiper comments: “Love for God and His Christ guarantees on the part of the believer loving, hence genuine and devoted, in distinction from external and legalistic, obedience to the divine command to evangelize the nations. And this love for God will keep us going even in the face of disappointment, lack of immediate results and discouragements.” I too, am convinced that we must focus on God’s love. We love God for His own sake. And when we love Him we will be affected by His love. The love for God will enable and encourage us to witness boldly for Christ. 4 - Love for our fellow man Fourthly, we evangelize because we love our fellowman. Yes, we must love God for His own sake, yet love for God must find its expression in our love for our neighbor. Jesus said that the first and greatest command is to love God. And He added, “the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). And I know no greater expression of love for God and our neighbor than to bring the Gospel to him and in this way bring glory to God. If we believe that our non-Christian neighbor is eternally lost unless he hears the gospel and responds to it, how can we remain silent? There is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. Hell has not frozen over. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This is as true today as it was back in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Jesus spoke of eternal punishment for the wicked, but for the righteous, eternal life (Matt. 25:46). Those who are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Shouldn’t we ask, when we are honest with ourselves, “Don’t we suffer from the sin of omission?” God does not want anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He finds the salvation of one sinner so important that the angels in heaven rejoice every time a sinner repents of his sin and trusts Jesus as His Savior and Lord (Luke 15:10). But how can sinners put their trust in Him if they have never heard of Him? How can they hear unless someone preaches the Gospel to them? God will save many of the lost in the world, but He will do it only through men and women willing to go into the world with the Gospel (Rom.10). How can we, who subscribe to the truth that all who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved and all others are bound for hell, neglect to persuade them to turn from the road of destruction upon which they are walking? If we still believe in the reality of hell, evangelism will be indeed seen as a sacred duty. And we will say then with the apostle Paul, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20). The late Rev. J. Overduin, a well-known Dutch author, pastor and evangelist, told the story of an atheist who had come to Christ and had become filled with love for Him. The converted atheist said that one thing he could not understand was that he had been living in a neighborhood where church people lived, but not a single one had ever told him the Gospel. I wonder how often this story can be repeated in our own neighborhoods. 5 - Love for the Church                                Fifthly, we evangelize because we love the church and long for her expansion in the world. By and large, today’s church gets bad press. But the church is still the bride and the body of Christ (Eph. 5:22ff; 1 Cor. 12). In His great commission, our Lord commanded His church not only to make disciples of all nations, but also to baptize them (Matt. 28:19). Evangelism, therefore, is not completed until the convert has joined the church. Professor Lindeboom aptly said: “Evangelism is not only a sign of health of the church, it also keeps her healthy. It is for every church a question of life and death. Through evangelism the church is concerned about her own well being.” 6 - Advance of the Kingdom of God Sixthly, we evangelize to advance the Kingdom of God. The Gospel which Jesus preached is described as “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). Our Lord also said that He will not return until the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached in all the world for a witness to all nations (Matt. 24:14). Our Lord taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is heaven.” Lord’s Day 48 confesses that this petition means: “Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong, and add to it. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your Kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.” The Gospel of the Kingdom focuses on the whole person: the hungry, the naked, the afflicted, the mourning, the despairing, the exploited. Our world must be confronted with the claims of Christ. All who receive Him should honor Him as Lord. He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:14). The aim of evangelism, therefore, is to bring the world to the recognition of Christ’s Kingship. As a hymn writer put it: “Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.” Conclusion Since evangelism is imperative, I focused on the motives for reaching the lost for Christ. When we are rightly motivated, evangelism will be spontaneous. No packaged programs, no gimmicks, no marketing techniques will succeed in making permanent waves for evangelism. Only when the church is excited about the Gospel and Biblically motivated, will we see spontaneous evangelism. And this Biblical approach requires patience, understanding and empathy. As we reach the lost for Christ in obedience to the Great Commission, driven by our love for God and for our fellow man, we should remember what our primary calling is - not that we should be necessarily successful but faithful. In conclusion, consider the apostle Paul’s word of encouragement to the church in Corinth, which was troubled, yet engaged in evangelism: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). A version of this article first appeared in the February 2001 issue under the title “Our guilty silence.” Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years and many of his articles have been collected at ReformedReflections.ca....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Marriage

A husband reads "Lies Women Believe"

Have you ever read a book specifically written for the opposite gender? I’ve just finished Lies Women Believe: and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and boy, what a read! As an elder in our local church, I have the opportunity to speak with sisters in Christ about various challenges, and I appreciate their willingness to share. I try to be careful with my words in all visits, and I pray for wisdom when pastoring to the specific needs of these beloved sisters. One of the books that I have encouraged some to read is DeMoss’s. While I’d previously perused it, I was making this recommendation based on my wife’s, and other’s, high praise. But as I started to recommend it, I became convinced that I really ought to read it myself. I’m glad I did. Before I continue, I’m going to express a word of caution. If you think you are such a “good husband” with an “unappreciative wife,” this book is not for you. If your marriage is going through a rough patch, this might be a very good book for a wife, but not for the husband. DeMoss is honest in her assessment, and strives to be thoroughly biblical, but in the context of a challenging marriage, a bitter husband could use this book to point out the flaws and lies that his wife is perpetuating, even subconsciously. And he could then use this as ammunition against her, and this would be grossly inappropriate. But if you are a husband who loves his wife, an elder who loves his sisters in Christ, or a dad who loves his growing and maturing daughter, then this is a good book for you to read to better understand how you can help, and not hinder, your sisters in seeing through these lies, and learn how you can stop feeding these lies yourself. Lots of lies Throughout the book, DeMoss addresses forty lies that women believe, and she addresses them under eight different areas. These include lies women believe about: God themselves sin priorities marriage children emotions circumstances This list isn’t exclusive to women, of course, but DeMoss’s target audience is clearly women. She starts each chapter with ideas that Eve might have struggled with, and includes engaging real anecdotes from some women’s experiences, and discusses the lies specifically as women might grapple with them. What made it so interesting to me, as a dad, husband, elder, and Christian man, is that it made me reflect on how I might perpetuate the lies to the women in my own life – how men might feed the lie, as it were. While I strongly recommend the book in its entirety, in this article, we’ll limit the focus to the lies women believe about marriage, and we’ll explore how men might believe similar lies, or even feed the lie. 1. He’ll complete me The first lie is, “I have to have a husband to be happy.” As men, we might believe that “I have to have a wife to be happy.” Of course, our happiness or blessedness has to be rooted in Christ. He taught that the blessed ones were the poor in spirit, peacemakers, those who mourn, etc. (cf. Matt. 5:1-12). James teaches us that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (1:17). If we are married, that is a good gift for us, and if we are not married, what the Lord has given is also good for us – we are blessed because it comes from the Lord. This does not mean that it is easy to accept God’s plans over our own. Neither is it wrong to desire marriage in the Lord. But our happiness and contentment needs to be rooted in Christ and the blessings of belonging to him. In this respect, I think of my daughter and other single sisters in the Lord. I wonder how we might perpetuate the lie to these women and young girls that marriage is needed for happiness. Do we repeatedly ask single women why they are single? We ought not. Do we repeatedly tell them of some single men who are really nice? If we thought two people would be a good match, we could carefully and prayerfully introduce them to each other and then wait to see what the Lord has in store. But it is important that we do not try to play matchmaker flippantly. Do we ever ask them what they would like, or how they feel about their current state of singleness? Perhaps they enjoy the freedom to serve the Lord and their neighbour in various capacities and places. Do we invite them to be a living member of our family so that they can experience the blessedness of being an integral part of a family? Belonging to the church family is not something single people, or anyone, should only experience on Sundays. Do we really believe and accept what we read in Proverbs 16:9, that we may make our plans, but that the Lord determines our steps? Our married state is not by chance but is under God’s fatherly providence and love. Whether we are in a hard marriage, great marriage, single, or dating, today is from the Lord, and He has determined our steps. Instead of trying to “solve a problem” we should work hard at not perpetuating the lie that one has to be married to be happy. 2. I will change him A second lie about marriage that we might believe is that “it is my responsibility to change my mate.” In her commentary on this lie, DeMoss writes, “I sometimes wonder how many husbands God would change if their wives were willing to let God take over the process” (p. 140). Interesting point, and such a crucial discussion to have before marriage. I wonder if we spend enough time with young dating couples, having serious conversations with them. Are moms and dads, elders, or other couples challenging the couple’s compatibility, especially when there is evidence that the couple is not a good fit? Or do we simply “mind our own business”? Are ministers the only ones who are having somewhat serious conversations with a couple, and only after they are engaged? This is a lie that needs to be addressed before a couple gets married, to be sure. But what about when a couple is married? What happens when the initial euphoria of marriage has passed? Or what happens when our spouse doesn’t live up to our expectations? Can we just tell our spouse to change, tell them their faults, how to be better, and why we’re in the right? DeMoss suggests that “a godly life and prayer are a wife’s two greatest means of influencing her husband’s life” (cf. James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:1-4; p. 162). That can, of course, be said of husbands, too. Do we regularly pray for our spouse? Do we thank the Lord for our spouse? Do we see our spouse as an image-bearer and fellow believer? Do we wonder if our marriage expectations are biblical, and if they are, do we have patience with our spouse’s weaknesses and recognize our own? This second lie about marriage can be tied into the first one. If we keep repeating that we have to be married to be happy, then we might manipulate someone into getting married to an unsuitable spouse. That could lead to more grief and pain than we might ever anticipate. Have you ever told a young woman who doubted if she ought to get married to a particular man, that marriage would make things better? Have you told a man that if he didn’t marry a particular woman, that he could well end up single his entire life? We need to be careful that we do not perpetuate the lie. 3. He’s supposed to serve me A third lie is that “my husband is supposed to serve me,” and in this case it might be more likely that a husband believes the lie that “my wife is supposed to serve me.” A husband ought to be chivalrous towards his wife and daughters, and to teach his sons to be likewise. However, DeMoss points to Scripture in explaining how the woman is created to be a help-meet to her husband. But she makes the lynch-pin point for both spouses when she writes, “The Truth is that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving Him or others. There is no higher calling than to be servant.” Indeed, that is what being Christ-like or being imitators of Christ looks like. Both spouses need to model Christ-like service as the normative act of love within the family, both the immediate and church families. 4. Submission is miserable Connected with this is the fourth lie that “if I submit to my husband, I’ll be miserable.” This is a lie that is repeatedly echoed throughout the secular world in which we live. It reminds us of the desire for autonomy or self-rule. The world around us views marriage as a contract between two independent individuals who agree to cohabitate, share some responsibilities, but remain independent. And if things do not work out, then we can mutually agree to terminate the contract. Of course, this independence is a lie right from the start. No one is truly independent or autonomous. We all serve God, or Satan and many other idols of the heart. It is possible that Christians have bought into the lie that submission implies inferiority, silence, or cowardice. We all need to submit to the Lordship of Christ as we seek to serve him in the various roles given to us. This once again reminds me, as a husband and father, how I might perpetuate the lie. Do I make my wife miserable by being over-bearing, proud, and inflexible? Do I honor her, and do I love her as Christ loves his bride? Am I miserable when I don’t get my way? Do I say one thing with my words and something else with my actions? My daughter is quite young, but if she starts dating, I’ll be looking out for her and wondering if her boyfriend is treating her in a godly way. It reminds me, too, to train my sons to honor their wives, should they get married. I am setting an example in my home in how I love and honor my wife – the question is if it is a godly example. 5. I should take the reins The fifth lie is “if my husband is passive, I’ve got to take the initiative or nothing will get done.” Immediately, as a husband, I reflect on if I am being too passive or becoming too dependent on my wife’s initiative and becoming lazy. A wife is not meant to take on the role of her husband because he is unfaithful in fulfilling his tasks, but we can understand why that might happen. Now, it is possible that when a husband does make an effort to do something helpful, that his wife tells him it isn’t good enough, isn’t done rightly, or it would be better if he just left it to her to do. DeMoss writes: “I can’t help but wonder to what extent we women have demotivated and emasculated the men around us by our quickness to take the reins rather than waiting on the Lord to move men to action. We can so easily strip men of the motivation to rise to the challenge and provide the necessary leadership. To make matters worse, when they do take the action, the women they look to for encouragement and affirmation correct them or tell them how they could have done it better.” Once again, as a husband and father, do I model a sense of laziness in my family? Do I show proper initiative? Am I balanced, patient, kind, loving, and self-controlled? Do I come home, expect the beer or coffee to be served, expect supper to be ready, house to be cleaned, bills to be paid, children to be quiet, etc., all because I spent eight hours out of the home? Am I obedient to the Lord in how I lead my family, or have I given up because of a few hurtful comments in the past? Do I argue for peace instead of for what is right? My children need an honorable dad, a father figure and role model, not a deadbeat dad. My wife needs a leader who loves her rightly and serves as a head in our marriage and family – there’s no room for being passive or lazy. 6. Divorce is good The last lie about marriage that I think both men and women might struggle with is that “sometimes divorce is a better option than staying in a bad marriage.” To be clear, DeMoss doesn’t delve into the permissible reasons given in Scripture for divorce. Her focus is more on other things that make marriage more challenging – bad situations, but not the sort which have been understood to be grounds for divorce for Christians. I can’t help but wonder if this is becoming a harder situation today. The church has always echoed Scriptures teaching that “God hates divorce.” When Christ was asked by the Pharisees if it were lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause, he replied: Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them make and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate… Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…” (Matt. 19:1-9) This article doesn’t have room to go through the challenges of divorce and remarriage. Nevertheless, as an elder in the church, I find myself struggling with giving sound counsel and wisdom in various circumstances. Strength comes from speaking the Word of God to married couples as they struggle through some challenges. But finding the wisdom to rightly apply God’s Word in every nuanced circumstance is hard and requires humility and love. I probably get it wrong a lot of the time because I would be relying too much on man’s wisdom. Divorce is never a commandment, and in rare cases it is permitted. This is an important starting point in Christian marriage. We can’t just “give it a shot” and see what sticks. We can’t treat marriage as a contract between two people, but we must treat it as a vow that both spouses make, and to the Lord in the first place. It is not that I promised my wife that I would love, cherish, and care for her, as much as that I made those promises to the Lord. He is the Lord of my marriage, and if I strive to be faithful to him, I must be faithful to my wife. Conclusion My hope in writing this article was two-fold. First, I hope I demonstrated how DeMoss grapples with some real and challenging issues that women (and men) struggle with. Secondly, I hope that I was able to show how this book has much to commend it to both women and men. While most men would probably skip over a book with this title, we do so to our detriment. As we love our wives, daughters, sisters-in-Christ, and even as we love our sons, we can make good use of this book as it draws us to Scripture’s teaching on how we ought to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. Now that I’ve finished “Lies Women Believe,” I am looking forward to reading “Lies Men Believe: and the Truth that Sets Them Free” by Robert Wolgemuth (2018) who married Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 2015. Perhaps I’ll be able to recommend that book as strongly as I recommend DeMoss’ book....

News

Does Canada’s Bill C-7 ignore a dark lesson from history?

Lebensunwertes leben is German for “life unworthy of life.” As a justification for killing, this idea led to the Holocaust. Alarmingly, there is growing acceptance in Canada of lebensunwertes leben. Think of Canada’s Bill C-7 and its expansion of “medical assistance in dying” (a euphemism for physician-assisted suicide, i.e. killing done by doctors). Instead of first helping vulnerable people by providing much-needed medical and social supports – such as top-notch palliative and hospice care for all – the Canadian federal government is pushing Bill C-7, which promotes death. Of course, medical assistance in dying is advertised as a “choice.” But a choice isn’t much of a choice if there are few or no good alternatives. In fact, top-notch palliative and hospice care is not available for most Canadians. Moreover, via this “choice,” C-7 promotes ableism. Ableism is the view that able-bodied people are superior – more worthy of life. C-7 presumes that living with a disability or with a chronic or terminal illness amounts to a life that is less worthy, so assistance in death should be available. And, if Canada’s government has its way, C-7 will offer death to persons suffering solely from mental illnesses. In other words, Bill C-7 encourages death – a “final solution” – for people who are … inferior. Have Canadians become dullards? Have Canadians not learned a dark lesson from 20th-century history? Consider the following observations from Dr. Leo Alexander, a medical advisor at the Nuremberg Trials, trials in which representative Nazis were convicted of crimes against humanity (this passage is from New England Journal of Medicine, July 4, 1949): “Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.” (Yes, pause and notice that phrase: “life not worthy to be lived.” Reminder:  In German, it’s lebensunwertes leben – and it led to the Holocaust.) Alexander continues: “This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in the category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans.” Dr. Alexander adds: “But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitatable sick.” Let. That. Sink. In. I don't believe that there is a Nazi Party on Canada's horizon. But there might be something as dark, or darker. What former Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) called the “culture of death” is becoming normal in Canada. Indeed, Bill C-7 “solves” medical and psychological problems by doling out death—and a majority of Canada’s Members of Parliament (mostly Liberal and Bloc Quebecois) approve. Canadians should resist. How? An important first step would be to remind politicians that medical and psychological problems require medical and psychological solutions, not killing. Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik’s parents survived the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. He is the author of “Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion” which is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca....