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News

Saturday Selections – October 16, 2021

When your children don't respect you Here's some advice you might not expect: if your 7-year-old doesn't respect you, you need to repent. Euthanasia fallout in Canada When you no longer recognize God as the giver and owner of our lives, then all other limits will soon fall by the way. Euthanasia, supposedly done to offer compassion to the terminally ill in untreatable pain, was instead done to: 4,120, killed because they had cancer, but didn't talk with an oncologist (cancer specialist) 1,373, killed because they were lonely 1,253, with no terminal condition 322, who needed disability support services, but did not receive them, and were killed instead 126, who couldn't get palliative care, but were provided euthanasia 59, who were not consulted about being killed God's pronouns matter There's a movement in Christian circles to start using "they" to address God. But as John Stonestreet writes, calling God by the pronouns He has chosen to use is important. "Call your spouse by the wrong name, and see if it matters. Describe your wife as you want her to be, not the way she is… what will she say?" Jordan Peterson on what's wrong with a "universal basic income" (10-minute read) An idea is being proposed on both the political right and left, is for a minimum income for everyone, even including those who decide not to work. Jordan Peterson objects, and his objection has a solid footing because he starts here on a biblical basis: that Man does not live on bread alone. Christian and Darwinist?  Francis Collins’s The Language of God convinced many that a consistent Christian could also be a committed Darwinist. 15 years later, one of the book's central arguments has fallen to pieces. “Unvaccinated kid is much safer than a vaccinated grandma” As the push is on to vaccinate children, this New York Times article has some interesting numbers. Along the same vein, this Project Veritas piece (the folks who used their undercover research to expose Planned Parenthood) could have been titled "The Covid-recovered are likely safer than the vaccinated." If there was a TV sitcom for dogs... (3 min) It's funny because it's true. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Pro-life - Abortion

Horton hears a Who!

by Dr. Seuss 1954 / 72 pages  This fun children’s book has a surprisingly clear message – it’s seemingly pro-life! In typical Seuss style, the rhythm of the narrative captures its audience. However, what seems to capture readers even more, is Dr. Seuss’ repetition of the phrase “a person’s a person no matter how small.” In this story Horton the elephant finds a small creature, called a Who, on a speck of dust. Horton soon becomes aware of many Whos living on this speck of dust; they in fact have an entire town of Who-ville. Horton bravely defends and protects the vulnerable tiny people from others who mock Horton and try to destroy his speck of dust because they do not believe that there are any Whos living there. Horton’s fierce determination and perseverance are both heartwarming and admirable. begged, “Please don’t harm all my little folks, who Have as much right to live as us bigger folks do!” The Whos finally make themselves heard and Horton’s doubters accept the Whos as persons. They even join Horton in protecting them. While children may enjoy this story on its most basic level, adults can easily pick up on its underlying theme. It’s been discussed that some of Seuss’ work has been overanalyzed – ideas have been concluded that Seuss had not intended. Yet some of Seuss’ work has had real underlying messages. For example, his story Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now? was written with the intention of replacing the above name with Richard M. Nixon (when he then stepped down as president of the USA). Seuss does not seem to readily confirm Horton’s pro-life theme, but its clarity seems to generate fairly conclusive evidence of his pro-life stance. Several pro-life organizations currently use Seuss’ book to advocate the right to life for all persons. Dr. Seuss writes an exciting story with a poignant theme. Room on your bookshelf can be made for this story, no matter your age! Use it to spark some controversial conversation! Because, remember, a person’s a person no matter how small! This review first appeared in the July/August 2005 issue....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Raised on Porn: The New Sex Ed

Documentary 37 minutes / 2021 Rating: 8/10 This is not pleasant to watch, and for parents, it might be downright scary. But the story it tells is one we all need to know. As Jean Kilbourne says in the film, "The Internet has made porn not only accessible, it's really made it inescapable." What that's meant for today's teens and preteens is that they're turning to online pornography for their "sex ed." The terrifying part of this is that it isn't just what you teach your children and when you allow them access to the Internet and smartphones, but also what kind of access their friends have, and what kind of videos those friends have been watching. Another expert, Gail Dines, explains, violent porn is now the norm. "If you want more soft or less violent porn you're going to have to spend a good 10 to 15 minutes looking for it. And don't tell me that the average 12, 13-year-old boy is going to start looking for that for 10, 15 minutes. He's going to go to that which is the most accessible ." Former FBI agent Jim Clemente spells it out in more detail: "...kids who were sexualized early actually act out on that because they don't have the inhibitions or the knowledge of what the sexual acts are, or what they mean. ...The more time they spend reinforcing that arousal pattern, especially if they are looking at violent porn, ...that's the worst possible thing they could look at, because what it will do is trip wires in their brain that make them feel really good about this stuff, and it will overwhelm reason in their brain. And they could go down this road where they find they don't have the willpower to stop themselves from doing it, and it could surprise them how quickly that could happen." Raised on Porn includes interviews with men who were first caught up in porn as children, when they weren't seeking it out, and didn't understand where porn would take them. One went to jail, another nearly destroyed his marriage, going from porn to tracking down a prostitute. We also hear from leading psychologists and neurologists telling us what porn does to the brain. We hear from addiction therapists who have seen the demand for their services skyrocket. As reviewer Justin Sarachik put it, "This film shatters cultural myths about the 'harmless' nature of pornography." Cautions We don't normally recommend films that take God's name in vain, but make an exception here (it happens at least once) in large part because this isn't simply light entertainment, but an important educational tool for parents. While there is no nudity in the film, there are a few brief video clips of clothed men and women, which have been taken from violent porn videos. One clip shows a man grabbing a woman by her throat, another shows several men carrying a woman away. We're shown these to give us an understanding of the violent nature of today's porn, so even though nothing explicit is shown we know what's coming next, and that is disturbing. We're also shown, as evidence of this same violent trend, partial titles of these videos. They flash by very quickly, but this too is not for children's eyes, and may not be helpful for some adults to see either (1 Cor. 10:12). A different sort of caution: while I wouldn't be surprised if the producers are Christian, what they present here is a secular argument, entirely free of any mention of God and His views on sexuality. The argument it is making is against what the culture is doing, but nowhere are we told what we should be for. In accompanying promotional materials there is a push for age verification on all pornographic sites, which Christians can certainly agree to – that might protect some children. But what of the adults being damaged by porn? What's missing here is a presentation of God's intention for sex. Christians may be able to fill it in, as the facts that the neurologists shares about excitment and neural pathways aligns perfectly with Solomon's advice to "rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Prov. 5:15-20). As we focus on our spouse, God has so made us that we can have those neural pathways align to our best beloved. Because God is left out, what's also missing is hope. Yes, the film features addicts who have now left porn behind, but we're not told exactly how that happened. We can presume it involved some of the therapists featured. But what can parents do to help their children steer clear? What's evident from the stories is that many of these men were missing an active parental presence. Christians know that parents have been charged with guiding and teaching our children, so, to start, it's vital that your child knows they can always go to you if they get in trouble. Parents can further educate themselves about dangers on the web at ProtectYoungMinds.org. Another helpful resource is the Christian organization CovenantEyes.com which has monitoring software for a fee, but some incredible resource for free, including a great blog and, maybe most helpful of all, free fantastic e-books you really need to check out. A specifically Reformed, though not free, resource can be found at SetFreeCourse.com. The film's producers offer their own list of resources here. Conclusion With the prevalence of smartphones, it would be crazy for us to think our children will never see any of this violent pornography. The danger this poses to our boys is how it can enslave them and how the Devil can use that addiction to undermine their service to God in the future too. Girls aren't immune to porn addiction, and also face the danger of what this pornography can make the young men in their lives expect of them. It shouldn't be so in the Church, but sin happens here too. So who should watch this? Parents, and after they watch it on their own, they can consider what age is too young, and whether they should watch it again with their older teens. We need to talk about this with our children, one way or another. Watch it for free below. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Odd Squad: The movie

Children's / Family 65 minutes / 2016 Rating: 7/10 Odd Squad is an organization founded to correct the strange, the weird, and most especially the odd, wherever they might occur around the world. The organization itself is odd in that it is run entirely by children and even babies. There's an educational aspect, with basic math and logic used to solve most problems. There's also a James Bond vibe, with agents, cartoonish villains, gadgets galore, the science types who invent them, and there's a leader known only by her letter, "Miss O." But, of course, this being a children's show there isn't any of Bond's violence and sex. Odd Squad, the TV show, has been in production for 8 years, which has resulted in child actors aging out of their roles. So since 2014, there have been three "seasons," each with its own set of agents. Odd Squad: The Movie involves the first and second sets teaming up for the first time (which was very exciting for our girls). So who do they have to battle? Well, it turns out, nobody. A new rival adult-based agency, the Weird Team, is dealing with all things weird and odd so quickly that Odd Squad doesn't have any cases to solve. So the film begins with Odd Squad disbanding. How's that for an unexpected twist! However, Weird Team may not be quite as effective as they first seemed. Their fixes are coming unfixed... or maybe they were never really fixed in the first place! Whatever the case may be, it's clear the world still needs Odd Squad. Cautions There aren't any notable cautions for the film, so the only quibbles would be about the TV show that spawned it. In the 20 or so episodes we've watched so far (out of more than 100) one dealt with the number 13 and bad luck. The story was actually about addition – they were finding all sorts of ways that basketball players' uniforms could add up to 13 –and the bad luck was of a goofy sort, but we still hit the pause button so we could discuss the idea of luck with our kids. In a couple of other episodes, there was mention made about the organization being around for millions of years, which presumes the evolutionary time scale. But, so far, that's really it. Conclusion The film is goofy and creative, and especially fun because it had the two teams working together. While the target audience is in the 6-10 age range, it'll be a great one for a family movie night. To get a feel for Odd Squad, here's an excerpt from the movie, with two agents dancing their way through a field of deadly lasers to some good old ragtime music (or you can watch this full episode from the show). ...

Assorted

What does God's "favorite" Bible verse tell us?

We all have our own favorite books, chapters, and verses in the Bible. I love the last 5 chapters of Job, where God answers Job and his friends. In a confusing world, I find this such a comforting passage - I may not understand why things are happening, but God does, He is in control, and I can trust to leave things with Him. My grandfather loved Ps. 23 for similar reasons – reading through it was a source of comfort for him. Other passages are favorites for different reasons. When it comes to the verse we most often share with the world, it must be John 3:16, written up large on poster board and displayed at football, baseball and soccer stadiums around the globe. In 2009 this was the most read verse on BibleGateway.com. The world's favorite verse has to be Matthew 7:1a: "Do not judge." They don't want it in context - half a verse is more than enough Bible for them. God's favorite verses? But what is God's favorite Bible verse? A few years back two Reformed authors have shared their thoughts. Dr. Joel McDurmon noted that, according to the number of times it is quoted in the New Testament, the clear second-place finisher is the latter part of Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." McDrumon writes: "This shows up in seven different places in the NT the vast majority of other verses quoted appear a couple times, or only once." Of course, it may not be quite right to think of this as God's favorite – it might be better to think of this as a passage He knows we really need to hear over and over again. So if that's second, what's first? Reformed Baptist pastor Jeff Durbin suggests it must be Psalm 110:1: "The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'” This passage is cited or referenced nearly two dozen times in the New Testament, or three times as often as Leviticus 19:18. An instructive contrast What we read here is a proclamation of Jesus' sovereignty - the focus is on His reign. But when you google "favorite verses" the passages that often come up have a different focus. Spots 2 through 4 on the BibleGateway.com 2009 most-read-verses list had these familiar passages: Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Like my grandfather's favorite and my own, these passages are a source of comfort to many (though the Jeremiah and Philippians passages are often misapplied). While they do speak of God, the focus isn't so much on Him as what He can do for us - the focus is largely on us. Our loving Father knows what we need, and so provides us with text after text that assure us of his goodness and power and love. It's no wonder these are among our favorites – they are a gift from Him. But the difference between our favorites and God's "favorite" is instructive. God wants us to understand that Jesus has triumphed. He wants us to realize that Jesus has won every battle, beaten every enemy, and rules over all. This is so important for us to understand, that God tells it to us again and again and again. Are we listening? And do we believe it? As the Westminster Shorter Catechism explains, our purpose here on earth is to glorify God, but we are so often scared and too timid to even mention His name. How can we glorify Someone we don't dare name? God wants to embolden us, telling us that Jesus already reigns. When we are intimidated by our professors, boss, coworkers, classmates, or political caucus, we can be assured that Jesus is king. He is Lord of our university classroom. He rules the business world and our job site too. And while government might seem to be spirally ever downward we can rest secure in the knowledge that God appoints both Prime Ministers and opposition leaders. His domain extends to everywhere and everything. "The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'” Whether we're looking for comfort or courage, can it get any better than that?...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Metamorphosis: the beauty and design of butterflies

Documentary 2011 / 64 minutes Rating: 8/10 Did you ever stop to reflect that beauty is not essential to the survival of creatures, that it is an optional extra? But who chose to confer beauty on so many creatures (and on nature in general) and why? In Eccl. 3:11 we read: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Indeed He has! And there are few groups of organisms that demonstrate this as well as butterflies do. Illustra Media (producer of such excellent videos as Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet) has produced another winner. The visual effects and the discussion are certain to captivate a wide range of viewers. From the caterpillars which really are walking eating machines, to the amazing details of what happens in the chrysalis, this movie is certain to provide new insights even to nature lovers. We get to see astonishing details of the adult insects’ design and learn about the complexities of Monarch butterflies’ migration patterns. Spectacular photography, computer animation and magnetic resonance imaging complement beautiful scenes shot in Ecuador’s rain forests, in Mexico’s transvolcanic mountains, and in the north-central US and southern Ontario. The discussion features several biologists with wrap-up by Dr. Paul Nelson who focuses on how strikingly these creatures bear witness to their designer. For a good feel for this documentary, watch the (amazing!) 4-minute excerpt below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Expelled: No Intelligence allowed

Documentary 95 min /  2008 Rating: 8/10 Comedian Ben Stein (who once also wrote speeches for Richard Nixon) is our guide in this film that dares to question Darwin. Stein travels the world doing interviews with scientists who have lost their position merely because in their writings they have allowed for the possibility of there being an “Intelligent Designer” involved in the creation of the universe. That does not mean that these scientists necessarily believe what the Bible says about creation – far from it. Many believe in evolution, but see problems with it. And for bringing up those doubts they are being denied tenure and even fired. So what can we expect by looking at this documentary? Let us first say that Reformed people believe the Bible to be God’s Word. So we don’t need to hear Stein’s defense of “Intelligent Design.” We already know what’s true – we have the first six chapters of Genesis to let us know that God created the world in six days. And it is important that as parents and teachers we keep this knowledge before our children. But as our children get older and start studying at higher institutions they are confronted with Darwinian theory. I am sure that sometimes it must be difficult to hold on to faith when confronted by a world that keeps reminding us that our point of view is “just a belief" and that the rest of the world – those who do not believe in the Bible – believes in what Darwin taught. There is a danger that some of our children might even compartmentalize their faith, thinking the Bible is good for Sunday, but is not to be believed when it comes time to do science on Monday and the rest of the week. Nothing is further from the truth. So this film can be an encouragement to struggling Christians by showing them that not all people believe the Darwinian theory and that even in the secular world there is room for other ideas. How best can we use it? I have thought long and hard about this. I think it is important that parents see this one with their children – children shouldn’t see it alone. Parents can rent or buy the documentary (the DVD has an accompanying leader’s guide) and go through it with their older children to show what is being taught and how. If used together with the guide we can arm our children to see how the Bible and the created world reveal God’s glory. So I recommend this documentary provided it is used in the right way. "Expelled" can be bought and streamed most anywhere. Watch the trailer below and watch narrator Ben Stein's engaging 3-part interview with R.C. Sproul about the film here, here, and here. ...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson

by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey 290 pages / 2017 This is two biographies in one, about the little know relationship between the “Prince of Preachers” Charles Haddon Spurgeon and a former slave, Thomas Johnson. The men couldn’t have grown up in more different circumstances. Spurgeon was in the United Kingdom, and establishing his reputation as “the Prince of Preacher” while Thomas Johnson was still a slave in the America. Johnson first heard Spurgeon’s name mentioned when the preacher’s sermons and books were being burnt by slavery-defenders in the South. They didn’t like the strong and clearly biblical way that Spurgeon had been denouncing slavery.  When emancipation came and Johnson was freed he also became a preacher. And with his heart inclined to the mission field in Africa, he eventually ends up at Spurgeon’s bible college where the two meet and become friends. Perhaps one reason they became friends was because Spurgeon struggled throughout this life with depression, and his young friend Johnson knew something of that too, borne out of his despair as a slave. As true Christians brothers, they are a help and a companion to one each other. While these two men are both real, I should note this is a fictionalized account. That means that while the broad details are all true, and much of the dialogue is taken from the men’s works, this work should only be enjoyed for the general impression, not the specific details, it provides of their friendship. I’ll give one example of how this mix of fact and fiction does, on the one hand, stay very true to reality, but on the other hand, can give a bit of an inaccurate impression. When we read of how Spurgeon proposes to his wife-to-be, he comes off as quite the Prince Charming with all the right words, the perfect thoughtful present, and just the right timing. However, the authors have compacted the evening’s events from events that took place over more than the one occasion. The facts are true, but this compaction of the timeline, to keep the story flowing, makes Spurgeon seem to be quite the suave fellow – super suave even. Steal Away Home is a wonderfully readable book, and attractively put together too. You aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover but it’s wonderful when a good cover can give a reluctant reader just the encouragement they need to get started. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in Church history, or in knowing more about the American South during slavery and after, or anyone who enjoys historical fiction or biographies. Jon Dykstra and his siblings blog on books at www.ReallyGoodReads.com....

News

Saturday Selections – October 9, 2021

Who cares about the national debt? This is an American presentation, but the point syncs up with the Canadian situation too. Secular prof discovers that God knows best (15-min read) God's restrictions regarding premarital and extramarital sex are sometimes presented as being restrictions on pleasure. God is seen as a killjoy. But what one secular professor discovered is that sexual restraint benefits a society. In other words, God's rules should be understood as guides for our good – they show His love for us. The C-vid survey that should have rocked the world As headlines tend to be these days, this one is a bit over the top. But it is important to understand the political group in charge of the US right now is the side that overestimates the dangers. The dangerous science behind "gender transitioning" Christians reading their Bibles already know that "gender transitioning" isn't going to have a good end. While some studies argue it does help these folk psychologically, it is not surprising to us that as John Stonestreet notes, the best studies say something else entirely. 12 tips for parenting the smartphone generation Tony Reinke, author of 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, has 12 tips for parents, including: Delay social media as long as possible Delay smartphones as long as possible Ben Shapiro on climate change (3 min) The commentator explains that climate change "fixes" intended to avert potential harm in the future would do real harm to the poor today. ...

Theology

Did Adam have enough time to name all the animals?

Some people argue that the activities assigned to Adam on the sixth day, described in Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:19-20, were too many for him to have been completed in a single 24-hour day. The activity of naming all the animals, in particular, would have needed much more time. And if he couldn't have done it in 24 hours, then this would contradict the literal interpretation of the six days of creation, forcing us to opt for a non-literal interpretation of these days. Let us examine this argument more closely to see if it is valid. Adam finished the task In Genesis 2:19-20 we read: "Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him." According to this text, Adam actually finishes naming the animals that God has shown him – he completes all this activity even before the creation of Eve. We can see, then, that this wasn't a task Adam was supposed to accomplish over the course of the rest of his life, or which he could have shared with his future wife, or which he could have passed on to future generations (as it was the case for the mandate to rule over the earth and over the animals). Adam indeed named all the animals that God has shown him before the end of the sixth day. God presented the animals to Adam So we can see that Adam had some tight time constraints. But we also read, concerning the animals that Adam had to name, that God "brought them to the man." This detail is not trivial. Adam did not need to go everywhere looking for these animals. The Lord brought them to him. We can well imagine that this would make greatly increase the speed at which Adam could name the animals, greatly reducing the duration of the naming process. The species of animals named were limited We should remember that Adam wasn't called to name every animal. The animals named were "all livestock," "every bird of the heavens," and "every beast of the field." The latter category may correspond to terrestrial mammals. The text doesn’t say anything about Adam naming the fish of the sea, other marine organisms, insects, arachnids, reptiles or dinosaurs (distinguished from terrestrial animals in Genesis 1:24), which excludes a large number of species. For example, the arthropods – excluded from this list – are by far the phylum that counts the greatest number of species of the animal kingdom (80% of known species, more than one and a half million living species: trilobites, crustaceans, arachnids, insects, etc.). For this first exhibition of animal kind, God left aside the strangest "creeping and crawling" creatures and presented to Adam only the most useful (livestock) and beautiful (birds, mammals) specimens of His collection. Thus Adam named only a small fraction of all the animals created by God, which greatly reduced his work. The sort of naming Adam was doing On the sixth day, Adam was not doing taxonomy, in the sense that he did not need to describe the living organisms or to classify them in a specific system. All that God proposed to him was to name them. It was not necessary for Adam to give names that would be used as a basis for a rigorous classification. Furthermore, it seems that God did not give any specific orders to Adam about this activity. The text simply says that God "brought them to the man to see what he would call them." Adam did not have to give specific names to each animal neither was he requested to follow a rigorous method. It is therefore possible that God presented to ​​Adam successive groups of birds gathered according to what we call genus, family, or even order. Genesis says that Adam named all livestock, all the birds of heaven, and all the beasts of the field. However, this can be achieved in various ways. Today the class called "birds" lists almost 10,000 known species, distributed in 29 orders, including more than 200 families and 2,200 genera. As for the class called "mammals" (including marine mammals), it includes more than 5,400 species, distributed in 29 orders, 153 families, and 1,229 genera. God may have presented to Adam a first group of birds that included every type of pheasants, partridges, cocks, quails, that Adam could have generally named chickens. Then God could have presented another group of birds including mergansers, scoters, mallards, teals, etc., that Adam could have all named ducks. It was legitimate for God to do so for practical reasons of simplicity and efficiency. Although less detailed than if he had named all the specimens to the species, this way of naming fully complies with the nature of the activity of naming according to the Bible. There was no problem, therefore, to do all this work in less than half a day. There were fewer species We must also understand the phenomenon of speciation, which took place during the period of time between the creation of the first "kinds" of animals and today. Speciation is a rapid increase in the number of species due to the loss of genetic information in the genera originally created by God. This is a phenomenon that goes in the opposite direction to the transformism taught by the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. Evolution in the technical sense (and not the blurred meaning of "change"), involves a slow but significant increase in genetic information in order to achieve the tremendous transformation involved in the production of a man from the first tiny living cell (a phenomenon never observed by any modern scientist, admitted by Richard Dawkins). Speciation, in contrast, is a scientific phenomenon frequently observed, that some Christians mistakenly call "micro-evolution" (a very unhappy and confusing designation, since speciation has nothing to do with evolution, which goes in the opposite direction). For example, the initial "canine" genus created by God on the sixth day could have contained in its genetic material all the genes capable of producing all the many breeds of dogs and wolves that we know today. In order to subsequently see the appearance of the many breeds of modern dogs, with the observable traits of each race (phenotype), the process of speciation had to happen. To have dogs with short legs only, it was necessary to remove from the line all individuals with long legs, thereby eliminating the genetic information "long legs" from this line. This loss of genetic information occurring in only a few generations has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of subspecies. In many cases, speciation is so marked that it is impossible for different lines coming from the same original "kind" to reproduce together. It is quite possible that in the beginning God created a couple of big cats, producing thereafter all extant species of cats (lions, leopards, tigers, etc.) through the rapid process of speciation. The same applies to other kinds of mammals and birds. In short, the species included in the "livestock," the "birds of heavens" and the "field animals" that God presented to ​​Adam were probably far fewer than today. Obviously, God gave Adam less work than he gave to modern taxonomists. Adam was smarter than us Theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists often make the mistake of projecting the conditions of life as we know them today on the special and unique period during which God performed His creative works. Thus they think that Adam had similar capabilities to ours. But what do we know exactly about Adam’s intellectual capacity to claim that he was unable to perform the task of naming the animals in only one day? It is extremely difficult for us to imagine a man who could have had much greater intellectual abilities than us. But the brain of Adam was undoubtedly greatly superior to those of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein together, because man had not yet suffered the destructive effects of sin greatly affecting our present intellectual capacity. We must let Adam have the freedom to have been much smarter than us and to have been fully capable of naming in a single day all the animals that God has shown him, without even becoming tired. Why would God made ​​Adam languish? Note that the activity of naming the animals is surrounded by the "problem" of Adam’s solitude. First, God noticed this loneliness and expressed His intention to create a companion for him. "The Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (2:18). Then God came to present the animals to Adam, to see what he would call them, which Adam did (2:19-20). Finally, Adam himself expressed his newly discovered emptiness, as a clear conclusion of his naming of the animals. "But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him" (2:20). From this text it seems clear that one of the main purposes for which God presented to ​​Adam the animals was to awaken him to the reality of his solitude. As he watched all these animals that were passing before him, Adam must have realized that they were all male and female, while he had no "female" with him. In sum, the development of a taxonomic system was not the sole purpose of the presentation of these animals (otherwise God would have asked Adam to also name all the fish of the seas and all the other small terrestrial creatures). This exercise was also intended to make Adam sigh and to prepare him to be grateful for the wonderful gift that God had already planned to give him. So why would it have been necessary for God to impose upon Adam an activity requiring a long period of time? This would have suggested either the stupidity of Adam – who would have needed a lot of time before realizing he had no companion of the opposite sex with him – or the perverse pleasure of God in making Adam languish before finally giving him the companion after which he sighed. Adam was not stupid and did not need a long time before realizing his loneliness. As to his Creator, He had no malicious intent and even longed to give him this much-needed companion. God, therefore, had no reason to prolong the activity of naming the animals before finally giving him the gift of a wife and of marriage. This activity was accomplished in less than one day In conclusion, the argument claiming that Adam had to do too many tasks in one day – supposedly causing a problem to the literal interpretation of the days of creation – seems to be an ad hoc argument, created from scratch to annoy and disrupt those who believe in literal days. There is no reason to doubt or to question that all the activities of the sixth day – listening to God’s mandate to keep the garden, being ordered not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, naming the animals and finally rejoicing with his wife – have occurred within a day of normal length, the literal sixth day of creation. All this to the glory of God alone and to the greatest good of man… and woman! End notes For a complete catalogue of the birds of the whole world, one may consult with profit and wonder the fabulous website The World Bird Database, administered by the Quebec ornithologist Denis Lepage For a complete catalogue of the mammals of the whole world, see the wonderful website Mammal Species of the World See the list of pure and impure animals in Leviticus 11, named according to broader categories than the species, nevertheless sufficient for the Israelites to be able to clearly distinguish them. We know the example of the mule, a hybrid of a horse and a donkey, but unable to reproduce. It is astonishing to see some scientists today who can produce what they call "zorses" (hybrid zebra/horse), "zenkeys" (hybrid zebra/donkey), "ligers" (hybrid lion/tiger), "wholphins" (hybrid whale/dolphin). An eloquent testimony to the speciation that happened not so long ago! I suggest that you consult the famous website creation.com and that you look for the word "speciation." You will find many articles about this subject. We may say something similar about the number of species that embarked into Noah’s ark. Rev. Paulin Bédard is an ERQ minister, and pastor of the Reformed Church of Saint-Georges, Quebec. He is the author of In Six Days God Created, which analyzes and rebuts the Framework Hypothesis, and tackles other figurative interpretations of the days of creation. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – October 2021

Evolving "facts" When a student visited his old university during a 20-year reunion he discovered that his old Evolutionary Science professor was still working there. He decided to track down the professor and found him in his old classroom grading exam papers. The former student was surprised to see that the questions on the test were the exact same ones he'd answered two decades before. So he asked his professor, "With the tests always the same year to year, aren't you worried that your new students will be able to cheat off tests from your previous classes?" The professor smiled as he answered: "The test questions might stay the same, but the answers are always changing." Wearing your convictions A friend used to visit with the “reproductive rights” group on campus every time they set up a display. He went there to talk to them, and I followed along to grab a copy of all of their pamphlets, which I’d later shred. I knew what I was doing was petty and pathetic, but it still struck me as more useful than what my friend was doing. What good would talking ever do with these people? Except… he reached one of them. It took repeat visits, and I don't know that he changed her mind. But what she said made it clear she did finally hear him: “You really think it’s a baby, don’t you? I always thought you guys just wanted to control women's bodies.” Many on the other side of the abortion debate don’t know anyone pro-life. Or if they do, they don’t know that they do, because the slaughter of the unborn isn't a topic most pro-lifers are eager to raise. But for the unborn’s sake, we must. For the sake of the unborn, we have to start putting our pro-life convictions out there – that our value comes not from our size, abilities, or age, but being made in the Image of God (Gen 1:27, Gen. 9:6) – so that anyone who is open to the truth will know who to talk to. And one way to brand yourself clearly and loudly is by wearing a pro-life shirt. There are lots to pick from online, but some options include: USA LiveAction.org Abort73.com ParacleteTees.com ProlifeShirts.com Canada MarchForLife.ca Sequel to The Screwtape Letters Over the years radio commentator and columnist Paul Harvey (1918-2009) shared a few different versions of a curious column that, like C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters before it, seemed to provide insight from the Enemy’s side. This excerpt is from a 1996 version of his “If I were the Devil” column: “…I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’ To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which are in Washington …’” The Christian rooster? You’ve seen them on barns, but did you know rooster weather vanes have a history on churches? The Farmers’ Alamanac says it started with a couple of popes. Gregory I (c 540-604) declared that the rooster – already an emblem for Peter who denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed – should be the emblem for Christianity. Then, a few hundred years after, Nicholas I (c 800-867) was said to have ordered churches to display a rooster on their buildings. One problem with this account is that the rooster is said by some to be a specifically Protestant symbol. For example, in 2011 a reporter for the Star News asked the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC why they had a rooster topping their steeple. Dr. Ernest T. Thompson explained that in Europe roosters had been used to distinguish Protestant churches from Catholic ones, which were topped with crosses. “Our rooster reminds us then of our Protestant heritage. It points to the dawning of a new day, and to the joy of the resurrection. The rooster also points to Peter’s threefold denial of Christ ‘before the cock crows,’ and so is a reminder to us not to deny our Lord.” Here we have the rooster being associated with not just Peter, but the new day’s herald is also said to symbolize the new beginning that we have in Christ’s victory. So if you see a rooster on a church, that’s what it might represent. But if you really want to know, you best ask someone from that church. R.C. Sproul on why public schools have to go Why do we have our own costly Christian schools when a free education can be had at public schools? It’s because, as Dr. Sproul explains, of what the public system is teaching children about God. “There is no such thing as a neutral education. Every education, every curriculum, has a viewpoint. That viewpoint either considers God in it or does not. To teach children about life and the world in which they live without reference to God is to make a statement about God. It screams a statement. The message is either that there is no God or that God is irrelevant. Either way, the message is the same.” But if public schools are being used to teach that God is irrelevant – if they are doing the work of the Adversary – why aren't we trying to defund and dismantle them? Is it because we aren’t as concerned as we ought to be about other people’s kids? Or is it because we don't know what to offer as an alternative? Sure, we have our own Christian schools but what’s everyone else going to do? What if they can’t afford their own private schools? One short-term fix is homeschooling, an often inexpensive alternative readily available with loads of online help. Another fix is a voucher system where the government still hands out education dollars, but to parents instead of schools. Then parents can decide what schools they want to support. Of course, so long as the government is paying for things, they'll try to control it. That's why the ultimate goal has to be to get them out of education entirely and return responsibility to parents. That's no small task – it might take generations to take back a role the government had dominated for decades. Not a small task, but as R.C. Sproul makes clear, it is a necessary one. The Amish on smartphones and social media In a recent column, "What we can learn from the Amish," Jonathon Van Maren shares this anecdote: "...an Amish historian was once giving a lecture to a room full of academics on how the Amish live. To illustrate the Amish mindset, he asked his audience how many of them felt they watched too much TV and thought their lives would be better off without it. Nearly every hand in the room went up. Having admitted this, the historian went on, how many of you will go home and get rid of your TV? And every hand in the room went down. That, the historian explained, is where the Amish differ from the rest of society: they have decided to reject those things that will interrupt or inhibit the sort of lives they wish to live, while most of us remain voluntary slaves to things we know we would be better off without. Van Maren then applies that to our technological age, to smartphones and social media, and how often we will complain about them, but how few of us are willing to forsake them or even put any sort of limits on them. The challenge the Amish present us is to consider, "Does this help or hinder the sort of life I should live? And if it does not, why am I allowing it to influence and shape my life for the worse?" Evolution is a non-starter People can make more people. Dogs and cats can make more dogs and cats. The regularity of it might be why we're not struck by the sheer wonder of this self-replication. That we’re under awed is one reason too many are overly impressed with evolution, which makes the absurd claim that this self-replication arose on its own, with no intent or intelligence behind it. As an exasperated Granville Sewell notes, over at EvolutionNews.org: "...with all our advanced technology we are still not close to designing any type of self-replicating machine. That is still pure science fiction. So how could we imagine that such a machine could have arisen by pure chance?"...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Documentary 2020 / 112 minutes Rating: 8/10 This is a great, free, introduction to Postmillennialism, a particular view about how God will bring about the end of the world. In talking about "Postmil," the documentary also compares and contrasts it with other popular "eschatological" or "end times" views, including Amillennialism and Premillennialism. There are big differences between these three, but they all get their names from the Millennium, a thousand-year period mentioned repeatedly in Revelation 20, starting with the chapter's opening verses: "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while." In brief what the three camps believe is: Premillennialists: Christ will return before (or "pre") this thousand year period. There are two main divisions in this group, between Historic premillennialists (which would include John Piper) and Dispensationalists which include Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series. Amillennialists: The Millennium is symbolic, not literal (the "a" in Amillennial means "not") so it isn't a specifically one thousand year period. It is understood to be happening right now, with Satan bound after Christ's First Coming, and it will end with Christ's Second Coming. Postmillennialists: Christ will return after the thousand years have passed, when the whole world has been Christianized. Of these three, the most popular is Premillennialism, though not in our Reformed circles which is split between the other two, with the larger group being the Amills. I don't have a poll to back this, but I think it'd be safe to say the largest group of Christians don't really hold to any end times view, with most of us skipping over the Book of Revelation altogether. That's what makes this documentary essential viewing. God has a lot to say about his plans for this Earth and how He will bring about His triumphant return, so even if some confusion exists, we should be eager to listen. On Earth as it is in Heaven has at least three major themes. 1. It's a historic understanding In making the argument for Postmil, the documentary spends most of its against time addressing Dispensationalism, a subset of Premillennialism. In one clip from Larry King's CNN show, we see Dispensationalist Tim LaHaye argue that his view is the literal view. Many readers are likely young earth creationists who would also describe themselves as holding to a literal view of the Bible. Does that mean we should be Dispensationalists too? Well, what LaHaye means by literal isn't what we mean by literal. Kenneth Gentry explains that reading the Bible literally shouldn't mean interpreting the Bible's 66 books all the same way – it would be a mistake to read poetry, parables, allegory, hyperbole, and other genres the Bible uses, all in a literalistic fashion. We'll treat the opening chapters of Genesis as literal history, but when Wisdom is referred to as a woman in Proverbs 8, we understand her to be a symbol. One problem with Dispensationalism is that it frequently treats what is meant to be symbolic as being literal. Another problem is that while there is a historic type of Premillennialism, the more popular Dispensationalism has a very recent origin, going back just a couple hundred years. In contrast, we're told of Postmil's historic roots, and how it was popular among the Puritans. Other notable Reformed theologians like Jonathan Edwards, and more recently, R.C. Sproul, were also postmillennial. 2. It's an optimistic outlook The film delves into a lot of texts, including the one its title comes from in the Lord's Prayer. Matt. 6:10 reads: Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven. One way to summarize the film is as an exploration of how this petition is to be understood. Jesus instructed us to pray this, but why then are we often pessimistic about God's kingdom, and His will, being accomplished here on Earth? Yes, we know His kingdom will reign eventually – at Christ's final coming Heaven and Earth will both follow God's will perfectly. But is that all that this petition is about? Or is it a request that we're making to God about now too, and the future, and at Christ's return? To put it another way, do we believe we are living in a post-Christian age or a pre-Christian age? Most believers seem to think things are getting worse and worse. However, as texts are explored, the film provides a biblical basis for an optimistic understanding of how God's Gospel will triumph here on Earth. Rather than living among the last vestiges of a formerly Christian culture, God's good news will be preached and will spread, disciples will be made, and the world will turn to God in repentance. 3. It's God as King, not the Church On Earth also offers an important clarification about the Postmil expectations for this coming Kingdom of God. It is not going to be the Church ruling the State. It will instead be the Church teaching and discipling Christians, and those Christians then seeking to serve God and obey His will in every aspect of their lives... including the civic realm. So after a country turns to God they would forbid abortion because God says "You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13). But this wouldn't be the Church ruling the State, but rather God's rule over the State finally being recognized. Caution While the film tries to be fair, it is making a case for one particular view. So if this is your first exposure to end-times discussions, you should note the advice Prov. 18:17 presents, and seek out further information. One great resource, as mentioned in the film, is Steve Gregg's Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary, in which commentary for four different end-times views are listed for each verse of Revelation. Another helpful introductory book is Darrell L. Bock's Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, where he's enlisted defenders of Pre, Post, and Amillennialism to debate and discuss their differing views. If you'd prefer audio/video to a book, then you'll like "An Evening of Eschatology" that John Piper hosted about a decade back. His two-hour round-table talk featured three different end-times views: Jim Hamilton for Historic Premillennialism (the view that Piper also shares), Sam Storms for Amillennialism, and Douglas Wilson for Postmillennialism. Conclusion Will you be convinced? Well, in my own case this is the start of an exploration and not the end, so I certainly appreciate the many texts cited. This is a documentary to watch with your Bible in hand, and your remote's pause button at the ready. My own interest in eschatology is related to the fruit I've seen that follows the different views. As the film shows, the pessimistic Dispensational view lends itself to only short-term thinking. If the world could end at any moment, then why spend time building Christian institutions and infrastructure for the future? Or as was said, who polishes the brass on a sinking ship? I remember a story about a Bible college president explaining why they had built their campus with wood, rather than stone – they didn't want to give the pagans stone buildings. His presumption was that his institution would eventually be lost to the world. The Amill view most prevalent in my own Reformed churches is generally pessimistic but hasn't abandoned Kingdom-building projects. That might be most evident in the Christian schools we've built everywhere we have a congregation. They might not be stone, but there's a lot of sturdy cinder block being used! However, if we think the world is going to get worse, then why are we "polishing the brass"? Maybe the answer is our assurance of Christ's ultimate victory. It might also be in keeping with a thought, attributed to Martin Luther (probably incorrectly), that if the Lord was returning tomorrow, it would still be worth planting an apple tree today because it could still be done to God's glory. If we're keeping God's glory first in our minds then there is a sense in which our end-time views don't matter nearly as much. Whether pessimistic Amill or optimistic Postmill, if either are focussed on glorifying God they may well engage with culture, build businesses, and start up schools in ways that are nearly indistinguishable from each other. And yet, the fruit of Postmil's optimistic outlook can be seen in the lives of a David Livingstone, who explored Africa with the thought of preparing the way for the missionaries that would follow him years later. His work was for a future he expected to happen – God's Word spread and gratefully received throughout Africa – but which he knew he wouldn't live to see. His goal was to be a small part of a long-term strategy for successful Kingdom building. Where our end-time views might also be relevant is in our weakness. Humanly speaking, if a fight comes to us, and we're convinced we're bound to lose, doesn't it make sense to delay the fight for as long as we can, to put off defeat for as long as possible? That's where pessimism can take us, to a shameful "peace in our time" approach that hands off our battles to our children. That's the temptation we'll need to watch out for any time government or other cultural forces come after our churches, our schools, or our families. Instead of defeatism, we'll need to fix our eyes on God and realize that we can glorify Him by fighting for what is right, whether we win or lose. Of course, the Postmil believer has his own sinful tendency to watch out for. Believing that Christians can actually win some or most of these battles, he might be liable to start unnecessary fights. The most important point then is to never lose sight of God's glory: that is the reason we were created, and it is our privilege to proclaim His Gospel. Whatever we think of the end times, all Christians should be ultimately optimistic, knowing that Christ has already paid for our sins, already conquered death, and presently sits triumphant at the right hand of God the Father....

News

Saturday Selections - October 2, 2021

Going after Facebook (7 min) The way Facebook uses "fact-checkers" makes them bad arbitrators of the truth. (You can find RP on MeWe here and Twitter here, while the editor is on Gab here.) When a lesbian at Yale came to Christ While the Devil uses his resources to confuse, God can use even a stolen book to bring clarity, as He did with this young woman. Translation manipulation Some history worth remembering: 20 years ago plans were in place to make the world's most popular English Bible translation more gender-neutral. Even after being shamed into reversing course, the publisher tried again just two years later. Prediction: Scientists won't be able to improve on our design (15-min read) William A. Dembski's certainty that we have been designed, and not evolved, led him to predict 20 years ago that so-called "Junk DNA" would turn out to be functional. His position opposed that of evolutionists who assumed these sections were the useless leftover remnants of our species' previous evolutionary incarnations. Over the next ten years, Dembski's design inference was proven to be the right one, as these sections did prove to have functions. Now Dembski has a new prediction, also based on us being designed rather than evolved. A new discovery – CRISPR gene editing – allows us to edit mankind's genes. This raises the possibility of correcting some people's defective genes – errors that are obviously errors and lead to certain genetic diseases. But evolutionists see this as an opportunity to improve on where, in their minds, chance and time have brought us. Could gene-editing be used to make the human species smarter, faster, stronger, etc.? Dembski predicts, no, because no matter how smart scientists might be, they aren't anywhere near as smart as our Designer. And while this CRISPR process might have some use in addressing the breakage in that design, as caused by the Fall, Man is not going to be able to improve on God's design. Help in the midst of the pornography plague “The question is not if my kids will see pornography, but what will I do when it happens.” How Covid taught the public to distrust authorities Rex Murphy lays it out. Are you after easy A's? (2 min) Our young people can't all go to this college, but we can encourage all those that do head off to university to approach their education with this sort of rigor. ...

News

China takes a pro-life turn

This comes under the category of: “Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in His deeds...” (Ps. 66:5). A country notorious for forced sterilizations and abortions and government-mandated infanticide has just announced they are now putting restrictions on abortion. For 36 years China enforced a One Child Policy by tearing unborn babies out of their mothers’ wombs. But then the Chinese government began to realize their policy would leave a single child supporting 2 parents and 4 grandparents, without help from siblings, uncles, aunts, or cousins, because none of them would ever have existed. China’s policy left an aging populace supported by a shrinking workforce. That may be why the policy wasn’t universally enforced across the country. But from 1979 when it was first implemented, to 2015 when it was changed, the birthrate per woman dropped from 2.7 to 1.7. A replacement birthrate – one that keeps the population at the same size - is 2.1, with the two children there to take the place of their two parents (the .1 is there to account for childhood deaths.) But since the One Child Policy was expanded to a Two Child Policy in 2015, China’s birthrate, after inching up slightly right afterward, has been declining for the last four years to 1.3. Thus the Chinese government’s newly announced restrictions on abortion. There’s nothing repentant about this pro-life turn – this is the same utilitarian ethic that motivated their One Child Policy. They wanted to slow their population then, so they killed babies; they want a growing population now, so they are saving babies. It’s all about effective management of their population and their economy. But in this one area, their policies have switched from defiance to God’s revealed will – children being a blessing, not a curse (Ps. 127:3) – to being much more in accord with it (Gen. 9:6). It may be too late for them to halt their demographic decline, but there will still be fruit from this pro-life turn. The God who spoke all into being defines reality, and there is a benefit in aligning with His reality, rather than trying to run headlong against it. We can be rightfully ashamed (and fearful) that this leaves Canada along with Vietnam and North Korea as the only countries with unfettered abortion. But we can also celebrate that in China, and Texas, and other places around the world, there are governments aligning themselves with reality by beginning to protect unborn children like the blessings they are....

Documentary, Watch for free

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

Documentary 2003 / 67 minutes Rating 8/10 This documentary is a couple of decades old now, and it's more important than ever. When it was released, it had cutting-edge computer graphics unveiling the inner workings of the cell, and it told the story of the origin of life research current to that time. Today, it also serves as a history of the early days of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, highlighting key figures in it like Phillip E. Johnson, Stephen C. Meyer, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Dean Kenyon. Kenyon had previously written a textbook in support of evolution, and Behe had also begun his career as an evolutionist before reassessing after he read Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. As he describes it, reading this book made him feel like he'd been cheated; he'd had years of scientific education, was on faculty at Lehigh University, and he'd never once heard of the many problems with evolutionary theory! We get to come along as Behe and Kenyon explain how their eyes were opened. We also get presented key ID arguments like Irreducible Complexity, which proposes that some biological machines need all their pieces to work, and could never have been formed by evolution's step-by-step process. This is an issue being as hotly debated today as it was back then. Other highlights include a look at the bacterial flagellum, which is effectively an outboard motor on a bacteria, propelling it as much as 100,000 rotations a minute. This is a marvel of engineering, evidencing the brilliant Designer behind it. And we're shown how biological machines are needed to assemble biological machines, which make the question of how they could have first formed one that evolution seems incapable of answering. It's a chicken and egg problem: which came first, the Machine A, needed to assemble Machine B? Or was it Machine C, which was needed to assemble Machine A? Cautions The ID Movement looks at the origins debate from a philosophical and scientific, but not religious perspective. They argue that evidence outside the Bible makes it clear there is a Designer. On this point, the apostle Paul, writing in Romans 1:20, agrees. But the weakness with ID is that it doesn't give the glory that is His due specifically to the God of the Bible. ID has a "big tent" approach which includes other religions, and both those who believe in a young Earth and those who believe it is more than 4 billion years old. However, this documentary doesn't touch on old ages. Conclusion While the computer graphics aren't as cutting edge, they are still amazing. We get a closeup look at the operation of micro machines  we never knew about, but which are in our own cells! This is a must-see for high school science classes, and it could make for fascinating family viewing too with teens and parents. Speaking of the classroom, Illustra Media has packaged this exact same material, in a slightly different order, in Where Does the Evidence Lead? (2003). There it comes in 6 distinct chapters, all around ten minutes long, making them easy to present one or two at a time in high school or university classrooms. Illustra Media has made that repackaged version available for free online, and you can watch it below. Part 1 - Life: the Big Question (10 min) We being with Darwin, his trip to the Gallipolis Islands, and how he developed his theory of Natural Selection. Part 2 - What Darwin didn't know (8 min) We're introduced to Michael Behe, who explains why he used to be an evolutionist: no one had ever previously presented him with any problems with evolutionary theory. But the more he learned about the cell, and how complex the simplest block of life is, the clearer it became that chance processes couldn't explain it. One example: the bacterial flagellum motor, which has been called "the most efficient machine in the universe." Part 3 - Molecules and mousetraps (12 min) In Part 3 we're introduced to the concept of "Irreducible Complexity" which proposes that in biological systems there are some machines that could never have come about by a step-by-step process – they would have to come together all at once. That is a powerful challenge to evolutionary theory, which precisely proposes everything can come about by small incremental steps. Michael Behe illustrates this point using a mousetrap as an example. In answer, evolutionists have proposed their own theory of "co-option"... which has its own problems. Part 4 – How did life begin? (11 min) How did life begin in the first place? Darwin had very little to say on the subject. In recent years scientists have experimented with trying to get some form of "chemical evolution" started by mixing various chemicals together. But it isn't simply the chemicals that make life happen, but how the chemicals are arranged. Like letters in a sentence, we don't need just the right sort, but we also need them in the right order. The math here – the odds against even a single amino acid forming by chance – is fascinating! Part 5 – Language of life (13 min) Dean Kenyon wrote a best-selling textbook on the evolutionary origins of life. But then one of his students challenged him to explain how the first proteins could have been formed. Kenyon had originally proposed they would self-assemble, but what we were learning was that proteins are formed by other micro-machines, using instructions - there was no self-assembling. So Kenyon started to ask, what was the source of the instructions? In this part, we also get to look into the cell to see how that information is put to use. Part 6 – The Design Inference (14 min) Design has been ruled out at the start – not by the evidence, but by mainstream Science's anti-Supernatural bias – as a legitimate answer to origins question. But Man is fully capable of spotting and recognizing design. It is a legitimate field of scientific inquiry. ...

Christian education, News

US homeschooling grows by a million

In 1973, there were as few as 13,000 children being homeschooled across the United States. From those small beginnings, the movement has grown over the last 50 years, until there were an estimated 2.6 million homeschoolers as of March of 2020. This stay-at-home educational option got even more popular after public schools closed due to COVID lockdowns. But that growing popularity wasn't just due to public school closures. Otherwise, there would have been only a temporary boost in homeschooling, for only as long as the lockdowns lasted. But now, with public schools largely back in session, the number of homeschooling students has risen by a million, to 3.7 million (with some estimates putting it as high as 5 million). Saw how their children were being catechized This homeschooling surge may have been motivated by what parents saw when they were able to watch their children's online Zoom classes. Parents could see for themselves how their children were being catechized about race, sexuality, environmentalism, equality, privilege, and, most recently, gender fluidity. Public school attacks on God have, in the past, been somewhat subtle, in that they opposed God largely by ignoring Him. The public school curriculum taught by omission that the Lord of All wasn't important at all to anything and everything students were learning. The system's ungodliness has been more overt in recent years, with maybe the most noticeable being how confused boys are now embraced as girls, allowed on girls' sports teams, given access to female washrooms, and addressed with feminine pronouns. And vice versa for confused girls. While God made us male and female (Gen. 1:27), that's not what little Timmy is being taught by his government-approved curriculum. And long-distance, in-home Zoom learning allowed parents to see this curriculum close up. Parents taking charge While COVID hasn't had many silver linings, parents taking back their God-given educational role (Deut. 6:6-7, Prov. 1:8-9, 22:6, Eph 6:1-4) from the State is a big one. There are also at least 5.7 million children being educated in private schools. So, in round figures, that is almost 10 million students out of the public system, compared with approximately 50 million being educated in public schools. There's more progress to be made, as not all these homeschooled students are being educated to know and love the Lord – even atheists are jumping on the homeschooling bandwagon. But with minimal State support for homeschooling, it means that for these students at least, our tax dollars aren't being used to catechize them against God's Truth. A ready alternative to the public system Those of us who support Christian schooling of various sorts, haven't always felt very invested in debates about the public system. We're aware of the dangers, but we haven't known what to do about them. Should we call for the shutdown of the public system? But if so, what alternative can we offer? Our own Christian schools are confessional, allowing in only families that hold to the same creeds and confessions we do. Thus they aren't an option we can present to the general public. So if we're going to oppose a godless public system using our tax dollars to teach the children of our friends and neighbors that God is irrelevant, what can we offer as an alternative? We could push for a voucher system, where the government's educational dollars is directed by parents, rather than given to schools. Parents could then send their "voucher" to the school of their choice, and by that means, create more responsive, and, in some instances, more godly, schools. Of course, so long as the government controls the purse strings, they might also try to dictate the curriculum. Another problem is that this is a long-term goal – we aren't going to get a voucher system overnight. This highlights a strength of the homeschooling movement: it is an educational alternative that parents can turn to right now... as many more hundreds of thousands did just this last year. Celebrating what we once opposed Historically, our Reformed churches haven't celebrated homeschooling. The perception has been that any church families that chose to homeschool were diverting their support away from the local Christian school, which was usually in need of every dime it could get. Thus homeschooling was seen as competition that undercut the financial security of our Christian schools. But where two legitimate educational options exist – both fulfilling parents' baptismal vows to raise our children in the doctrine of the Lord – how can we say which is undercutting the other? It would make as much sense to say that Christian schools undercut homeschool cooperatives, which might otherwise be larger and more effective but for the energy and money devoted to our Christian schools. Of course, no one is making that argument, because we all know there is no Scriptural command requiring us to homeschool. Thus no fault can be found with those who choose not to (even if their involvement in homeschooling might have been a great help to other parents doing so). The same is true the other way around: no fault should be leveled at those who choose not to use our Christian schools but instead fulfill their baptismal vows by homeschooling instead. Instead of antipathy towards homeschooling, we should thank God for the possibility it presents to our neighbors that our own Christian schools cannot. By growing more than 40% in a single year, homeschooling has shown itself to be an at-the-ready, instantly-expandable alternative to the increasingly ungodly public system....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Chasing Shadows

432 pages / 2021 by Lynn Austin Chasing Shadows takes place in WWII Holland and is a novel about choices and consequences. Miriam, a Jewish girl and musician, and her professor father, flee Germany to the safety of Holland. Lena, a farmer’s wife, struggles with her faith when her husband Pieter and daughter Ans work for the underground and when her son is forced into a work camp. She learns that the enemy of faith is not doubt, but fear. Interestingly, the book dwells at some length on the time leading up to the Nazi invasion of Holland and how the Dutch were convinced that, because they declared themselves to be a neutral nation, they would be safe. After the invasion, life went on as normal for the most part, until Hitler started persecuting the Jews. Initially, Ans is not very serious about her faith and falls in love with an unbelieving police officer who starts to work for the Nazis and ends up joining the NSB – the Dutch Nazis. In contrast, Ans becomes involved with the Resistance movement, helping to find places for the Jews to hide who became known as the “Shadow People.” Ans' faith grows as she works in the Resistance movement and this brings conflict between her and her collaborating husband. So many of the Dutch people who helped the Jews were Christians. Their faith was often sorely tested and questions such as, “Are we allowed to lie?” are discussed. Ans' Opa is a minister. When the Nazis come to the village on a Sunday morning to execute someone in retaliation for the destruction of a train nearby, they walk into the church, interrupt the preaching, and demand someone volunteer to die.  Opa steps off the pulpit, takes off his stole and hands it to Lena his daughter and walks out with the Nazis – a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This is one of the better Christian novels that I've read and would be an excellent choice for any church or school library. You can watch Lynn Austin talk about Chasing Shadows below and you can read the first chapter here. ...

News

Saturday Selections – Sept 25, 2021

Man has no idea how life could come from non-life (4 min) This is Dr. James Tour pitching his course on how abiogenesis – life coming from non-life by natural (evolutionary) means – is clearly, obviously, and completely impossible. This is only a "trailer" of sorts, and Tours says of the longer video: "Look, some people are going to love this video. Other people are going to say this is the perfect cure for insomnia. I understand that. I just want you to feel my pain when people suggest we understand how to do this." 10 reasons not to give your kids a smartphone This from 2018, but every bit as relevant today. It's important parents not be naieve: even in Christians schools girls are sending "adult" selfies to male classmates asking for them. Should creationists "brook" a loss of a trout? Biblical stewards will look at this differently than survival-of-the-fittest evolutionists. How Big Data's covid-monitoring could be used to control people post-pandemic Monitoring tools governments are putting in place to control Covid can be put to other purposes. Every moment is a gift: the radical hope of rejecting assisted suicide After this father and husband was told he had just 4 months to live, he spent the next 3 years telling people that "every moment is a gift." What's said here is true and beautiful but what missing is the answer to the question: gift from Who? Our lives are precious, not simply because ending them might rob us of potential joys that could still be coming. They are precious not simply because our suicide might lead others to do the same. The foremost reason our lives are precious is because every moment is indeed a gift from our gracious God and we need to recognize the Author, and still Owner, of our lives, is the one to decide just how much life He will gift to us. Fewer rules in parenting? (7 min) Douglas Wilson with a helpful approach to parenting: have fewer rules. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

End of the Spear

Drama 2005 / 108 minutes Rating: 7/10 This review first appeared in the January 2006 issue How does a Christian group succeed in presenting a major motion picture in secular theaters? How do they present a true story about the Truth setting an entire native tribe free…and do it without the director and producer of the film taking too much dramatic license? I must admit to being a bit disappointed when I viewed The End of the Spear during it’s opening weekend - it wasn’t quite the Christian story I had been hoping for. But then I spoke with a friend of mine from Wycliffe Bible Translators who had met Steve Saint, the author of the book from which the film was made, and I became much more sympathetic to the challenge he faced. This movie is based on the true story of five missionaries who went to Ecuador back in the 1950’s to the Waodani tribe (known to most as the Aucas), a fierce homicidal “Stone Age” tribe. Many people are acquainted with this account via the famous book Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of the missionary Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot is also well known as the author of the quote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” The missionaries reached out to the tribe but all five men were speared to death. Later on some of their wives and a sister went back and lived with the tribe, teaching them about Christ, and many were converted, giving up their violent ways. A church still exists there today, with Steve Saint, the son of the slain missionary Nate Saint, living among them. One movie becomes two The original goal was to make just one movie – The End of the Spear. But Steve Saint wasn’t willing to give in to the moviemakers’ desire to take dramatic license and change the actual events of the real story. In the end a compromise was made – first they made a true-to-life documentary. Afterwards, Steve consented to their taking some dramatic license in another film as long as it was still close enough to reality. The documentary, entitled Beyond the Gates of Splendor, was released to DVD in October 2005. It gives the entire story of the missionaries, from their days in Wheaton College until current times. The family members of the five missionaries are interviewed, along with several members of the Waodani tribe. Their faith in Christ and eagerness for their mission will no doubt be an inspiration to all who view this film. As for The End of the Spear, the story is told from the point of view of the natives, with less emphasis on the missionaries themselves. It focuses on what they thought and learned. It isn’t intended to be a “tract,” but rather, as one local commentator put it, it’s supposed to tell a true religious story “without beating people over the head with it.” An obscured message The major disappointment is that the name of Jesus Christ is never mentioned. We learn that the missionaries wanted to teach the people to give up spearing one another, and they would not kill the Waodani because those people were not ready for Heaven. God is referred to by His Waodani name, and the fact that He had a Son who “was speared but did not spear back” is mentioned. A converted Waodani woman shares with her tribe the fact that God left “carvings” for them to follow – in other words, information directly from Him on how He wanted them to live. But when the tribesman asks to see the carvings, no Bible is quoted from or shown. There is also a scene when the missionaries are afraid, yet they do not even pray! We learn that those who listened to the missionaries became peaceful, and near the end we do see that the “Gospel” has been translated into Waodani. But is all of this enough to accurately explain the transforming power of Christ that took place? There are enough pieces to the message/puzzle there for someone to take it and elaborate on it later. I couldn’t help but think of urban gang violence and revenge when the Waodani were spearing each other repeatedly at the beginning of the film. The clue is there: the same message that helped this tribe could help others. In fact, according to the movie's promotional materials, it was this hope for spreading the Gospel message that convinced the Waodani to put aside their embarrassment regarding their history and give permission for it to be told. But what could we really learn about the change of heart that took place in these people? Basically, we discovered that when the tribe learned about God’s Son not retaliating their lives were changed. I was left thinking that based only on what was in the film it would be possible for secular viewers to think of (the un-named) Christ as a Gandhi or any other non-divine “good teacher,” and remain happy and un-offended. At the end of the credits the filmmakers could have added, “no non-Christian positions were harmed in the making of this film.” To those of us who believe in the Truth, it is sad that the entire story of God’s redeeming love could not have been spelled out more clearly. We can hope that there is enough interest from the film to lead people to watch the documentary afterwards. Some final considerations A few other factors regarding the film should be mentioned. The scenery in both films is absolutely breathtaking, and especially so on the big screen where I saw it. Another factor to consider is the native dress. Missionaries have to deal with that, and while the Beyond the Gates of Splendor documentary showed the more authentic dress (read: almost naked), The End of the Spear film actually covered the people more than was authentic. If there is any time when one might say that nudity is acceptable, this would be it. Still, I found it rather disturbing, watching the thonged naked behinds of men running through the jungle for two hours. It’s something to consider before taking the whole family to see the film. There is no greater arrogance in our society today than for someone to state that he has the Truth. So, even in a movie telling the story of the Truth transforming the lives of many, Christ’s name and most tenets of the missionaries’ faith were carefully avoided. It reminded me of some brands of diet ice cream – where the basic substance is there but I find myself searching for the missing flavor. It was better than nothing, but it left me disappointed. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone that believes….” Romans 1:16a ...

Assorted

Gezellig: cozy, restful

When I think of my mom, an image that often comes to me is one of her sitting in her rocking chair, holding her cup of coffee, either reading her Bible or cuddling a child. It is not just an image, it is a feeling, one of safety and of rest. Those who know my mom know she is one of the hardest workers in Christ’s field, always serving her family and his church, filling her home with baked goods for anyone who stops by, and frozen meals so that unexpected visitors are always expected. Yet, a hard-working pattern of life at my parents' home is also a life of rest. How? My parents are both children of Dutch immigrants who fled Holland in the years following WWII. These grandparents of mine helped start faithful Reformed churches and worked incredibly hard to survive in a new land. They brought their Dutch traditions with them, some that continue to be practiced among their grandchildren, and some which have likely faded away with time. One simple, but beautiful tradition that may start fading in our modern world is that of a gezellig coffee break. Gezellig means something cozy, restful, a comfortable conviviality that fills you up with joy. The Swedish word is fika and in Danish, hygge means something similar. Having a hygge life has become more popular in North America in the past few years, books have been written on it, numerous blog posts talk about it. Hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness, a sense of comfort and togetherness, it is warm socks and a crackling fire. In the modern world, people are in desperate need of an excuse to slow down, a practice to help them savor the moment. When I started to notice these words pop up on my social media feed I was immediately transported to my Dutch upbringing of coffee and cake after church, coffee time each afternoon when dad came home, and morning coffee time. Unfortunately, my usual practice is to make coffee for myself in the morning and then carry it around with me wherever I go for the next two hours. I know this is not unique, in fact, it has become a marketable practice as special coffee cups to transport and keep your coffee warm are now a regular commodity. Last summer I got the privilege of spending three months on my parents' farm. Each day my parents were up early working, but at 10:00 am we always stopped for a coffee and snack break. 15 minutes of rest, then back at work till lunch, then work until 3:00 pm for another short rest with a drink and snack. A much-loved tradition in the hearts of all us siblings, and in our many friends over the years, was an added nightly ritual around 9:00 pm of gathering together for a drink and snacks to spend time talking about our day and enjoying one another. My husband and I remarked to each other many times throughout last summer that we did not understand how we could end a day feeling more productive than usual, but also more rested. I believe the answer is in these natural patterns of life my parents had, with these simple breaks to gather and be still. For me, this practice of hard work and regular coffee breaks has become a daily reminder of the life of a Christian. Living on this side of heaven we still must work hard to fight against sin, the world, and the devil. We are not yet fully in the Promised Land. Yet, already in Christ we also have all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (Eph.2:6-7). We work and simultaneously rest, resting in the joy that it has all been accomplished, in Christ who has declared, “you are mine!” The coffee break does not have to include others, the routines of these moments of sitting and resting are also a habit of the heart to rest in the day that the Lord has made. A day of hard work becomes marked by the joy also of looking forward to these quiet times of savoring the moment, leaning into Christ, and having fellowship in your home. My children love to have “tea-time” with mom, a momentary break each day to sit and see the little blessings we have, the birds that fly by our yard, the taste of the tea, a little snuggle, and a plan for what the rest of the day will look like. Of course, when your children are young not each day will be gezellig, for each magical morning you may have one terrible one, and two mediocre ones, but it's the life-long pattern that matters, and it's the building of relationship blocks that will have your children coming over for coffee time way into their adulthood. Do not underestimate how beneficial it may be for your marriage to have a daily practice of sitting for 15 minutes and enjoying the day together. My parents did that faithfully, and it's another one of those images that brings me delight in the wisdom they taught by example. Work hard and rest. Sit on your own. Fellowship with your family. Invite friends and strangers over. Let the watching world see your deep joy rooted in a simple life filled with the beautiful blessings of rest and a gaze towards the One who gives it. One last note: a gezellig coffee break has no room for cell phones....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Trans Mission: What's the Rush to Reassign Gender?

Documentary 2021 / 52 minutes Rating: 7/10 Trans mission is a new, free documentary making the case against the "transitioning" of children – the chemical and surgical alterations of children done in an attempt to make them seem more like the sex they are not. It makes that case with two key points: it highlights the irreversible damage that is done to children (and adults) when they are put on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones it challenges the supposed mental health benefits of "gender transitioning" The strength of the film is that even as it argues against "gender affirmation therapies" for children, it presents the arguments on the other side, allowing them to make their case in their own words. So, for example, we are assured that puberty blockers are reversible; they are just a pause button to use while a family figures out what they want to do. This is the assurance being given to many confused parents, who are also told frightening statistics about elevated risks of suicide for the "gender non-conforming." Or, as it has been put to some parents, "Do you want a live son, or a dead daughter?" After the case for is made, we get to hear what many of these parents never did: that there is no pause button to hit, and that puberty blockers come with risks, have not been well studied for these uses, and "there is no long term evidence showing 'gender affirmation therapy' reduces suicide." Cautions The many different examples given of problems with "transitioning" are evidences Christians can readily use, stacking them on the biblical foundation that God, and not Man, decides sex. The weakness with this documentary is that it has no such biblical foundation. They don't object to "transitioning" itself, but to children doing so, because they are not mature enough to know all the implications of starting on puberty blockers. That is a good point. Before children are old enough to drive, they are deciding to forgo having children, and to permanently alter their voice and body frame. As the documentary shares, there are many who regret what was done to them, and who are "detransitioning" now because the feelings they had changed over time... but now the damage they've done to their bodies can't be undone. But what's the counter to some people regretting the choice they made as a child? Wouldn't it be others who have the equal and opposite regret? There are those who regret not having "transitioned" earlier. Once a man goes through puberty, his voice gets lower, and his frame gets bulkier, and for men who wish they were women, they may well have regrets that they didn't start on puberty blockers earlier, so as to maintain their prepubescent body, and better maintain the delusion that they are women. If this were simply one sort of regret vs. another, how would we decided whose regrets should prevail? How do you answer that question if you're unwilling to take a stand on this issue as a Christian? Conclusion This is a must-see for Christians. The evidence the filmmakers present, shaky on its own, is useful, and usable once it is stacked atop the Rock-solid biblical foundation. We can show how departing from God's direction on sex can leading to devastating and lifelong difficulties. We can highlight how, once they are medicalized, these people will need to keep getting these hormones for life, as their own bodies will never produce the other sex's hormones.  We can explain that "These female people are never going to have a penis that works like a male penis, and these male people are never going to have a vagina that works like a female vagina." The film offers a ray of hope at the end, one doctor speaking of a chat he had with the chair emeritus of the Hopkins Psychiatric Division: "...he and I have had a chance to sit together and talk at length several times. And he said, I will tell you what is going to happen to change the tide. There's going to be major lawsuits by families or individuals who have been through this, gone down that pathway and come back at the other side. And they are going to take down not only the physicians, but the drug companies and the hospitals, healthcare systems, and the insurance companies that allowed this to happen, and that's when this will all end." This is an attempt, again, to seek a solution apart from God, and it's worth reiterating, again, that this is a false hope. It's the sort of hope that might even discourage mutilation of the young while validating it for adults. Christians can use the evidences presented in this film, but we must not adopt its secular approach to argumentation. The world needs to know that God made us male and female, and that rejecting that Truth will never lead to peace. Clarifying question Is this film arguing against all "reassignment"? On what basis does the film argue against these surgical or chemical treatments? Could an individual who didn't get any puberty blockers as child argue that they didn't fully comprehend (and thus did not give an informed consent) for what not getting such interventions would do to them? If so, then does the film's main argument stand well on its own? Or does it need a firmer foundation? What is the real reason such treatments are wrong? (Hint Gen. 1:27). Christians seem afraid to offer explicitly Christian arguments, but if we aren't going to do it, then who is going to offer the Truth? ...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Dancing Under the Red Star

by Karl Tobien 368 pages / 2006 This is American Margaret Werner's perspective on the USSR's forced labor camps – the Gulag – that she was sentenced to for a ten-year term. While the subject matter is heavy, this is not a difficult read; it is encouraging to see how Margaret and her mother both trusted that God would see them through. Contents So how did an American woman end up in a Soviet prison camp? Margaret Werner's father Carl worked as a supervisor at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. In the beginning of the 1930s, Ford built a modern manufacturing plant in Gorky in the Soviet Union and recruited 450 specialized employees to move to Gorky to operate it. Carl was one of them, an idealistic person who believed that he could make a difference in the Soviet Union by helping to build affordable cars. Carl, along with his reluctant wife Elizabeth, and their 11-year-old daughter Margaret left the United States in 1932. The family was shocked at the poverty they saw on their arrival in Moscow, but their first years in Gorky were bearable, and the family settled into the American Village there quite well. But in 1938 Carl Werner was arrested for a trumped up treason charges and sent to one of the labor camps. His wife and daughter never learned where. Elisabeth and Margaret struggled greatly through the war years and survive only to have Margaret arrested in 1945, also for treason and espionage.  She was sentenced to ten years of hard labor and sent to the brutal lumber camp, Burepolom. In spite of the inhumane conditions, she still had hope.  Her mother, left behind in Gorky, was a praying woman who believed that despite their wretched life, God had a plan for them. As the years went by in the labor camps, Margaret also started to see God’s hand in her life. A number of times she was saved from certain death in a mysterious way. Her English skills landed her a job in the office, which allowed her to escape the brutality of the labor brigades. She later said, “These new arrangements were like heaven to me, and silently I thanked God for his grace and the secret divine opening of little doors.” Margaret was often moved from camp to camp, eventually be shuffled off to a camp called Inta, in the extreme north of the Soviet Union.  She writes about the cold: …the temperature had dropped at least forty degrees, from the teeth-chattering-but-somehow-bearable cold to now, the unbearable, loss-of-all-sensation cold, covering ourselves with everything we owned or could find, trying to become as small as possible, then huddling together as tightly as we could.  But our train kept moving, going still further north, into more cold. At Inta, Margaret’s job was to sew clothing for the men who work in the mines nearby. Many artists were also in this camp, as well as a few ballerinas, some musicians, a seamstress and others. Many of this group had been famous, and even traveled the world. They formed the Cultural Brigade and put on ballets that were enjoyed by the Camp directors and the inmates – this is what the "dancing" in the title refers to. One of the saddest parts of the story, and one that might make this too much for young readers is what happened when one of the young dancers in the Cultural Brigade became pregnant. The girl chose to abort her baby by drinking a potion concocted by one of the other girls. Margaret and a few other girls were very upset and tried to convince the girl not to do it. But she went ahead anyways, giving birth to a live child of 5 months, which was quickly smothered by the other girl who helped her. This is recounted in a short, somewhat clinical manner but the results were such that the young mother became lifeless as if a part of her had died along with her baby.  Margret explains that, "Even at that time, before I had a developed consciousness of the divine sanctity of that baby's life... I had a strong sense that it wasn’t what God wanted.” When her ten years were up, Margaret was released. She married Gunther Tobien, also a political prisoner and also recently released. Margaret was already 35 years old when their son, Karl, was born. Unfortunately Margaret and Gunter’s marriage was never strong and after they received permission to leave Russia for Gunter’s home in Germany, and later escaped the Iron Curtain before the Wall was built, Gunter left his wife and child. In 1961, nearly thirty years after they left, Margaret and her mother Elizabeth, along with Margaret's son Karl, arrived back in the United States. Conclusion Even though this book is about political insanity, inhumanity in the labor camps, her struggle to survive in civilian life, Margaret and Elizabeth never lose hope and continue to trust that God. Reading this book a reader will become aware that God can work in different ways. Margaret did not have a Bible in the prison camp, but God makes himself known to her. This book is not difficult to read.  The reader agrees with one of Margaret’s observations: could not turn to religion for hope; atheism was the Soviet religion.  Hopelessness was deeply and permanently etched into their faces.…A country without God is a terrible place.  A horribly cold, harsh spirit hovered over the country, like a cloud that would not lift.  It thickened the air and filled your nostrils everywhere you went.  You could feel it crawl into your skin, into your pores.… One becomes thankful that we live in a country where we are allowed to worship in peace and freedom.  We must be thankful that we have a judiciary that will hear our side of the story and treat us fairly.   We need to pray for our country because this freedom that we take for granted can very quickly be taken away....

News

Saturday Selections – Sept 18, 2021

Worst pro-choice argument he's ever seen Tim Barnett takes on a popular but bizarre pro-abortion argument involving tapeworms. Evolutionists show, once again, how imaginative they are  Latest evolutionary find is a fossil from Egypt of a “four-legged whale.” The only problem? They don't have any fossil remains of its legs....or pelvis. Culture War 101 in just 10 minutes "...human lives will be ruled by one of two fundamental forces: either truth or power. ...our first parents exchanged the external rule of God and the objective truth of his world 'out there' for the internal rule of their own desires 'in here'” Getting good habits started – the two-minute rule "The idea here is to make habits as easy as possible to start, with the hope that once we’ve started doing the right thing, it will be easier to continue doing it. Examples of creating a two-minute rule are: “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.” “Write a book” becomes “Write one paragraph.” Secular appreciation for the sabbath A home decorating magazine "probably isn’t the first place you look to find insight into God’s design and His intent for Creation." But here it is, a secular appreciation of the Third Commandment... Citizens & Saints' Made Alive (4 min) An oldie and a goodie. ...

Theology

Should we baptize infants? Resources that make the case

On the evening of Sept. 27, 2018, two Reformed pastors debated "Should we baptize infants as well as adults?" Pastor Jared Hiebert, of the Covenant Reformed Church of Stienbach holds to Adult baptism / believer's baptism / credobaptism. This is the belief that while someone need not necessarily be an adult ("adult baptism" is a bit of a misnomer) before being baptized, they do need to be old enough to be able to understand, and confess, their dependency on and devotion to our Lord. Pastor James Zekveld of the Canadian Reformed Church in Niverville holds to Infant baptism / paedobaptism. This is the belief that God's covenant promises are available to the children of believers, and thus these promises can be given not only to adults, but to infants – baptism is for babies too. A 100-minute edited recording of their debate can be viewed below. Reformed Perspective holds to a paedobaptism position, and in preparation for the debate we shared a list of some of the very best resources available in defense of infant baptism. Audio Baptism debate with R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur (2 hours) Two Reformed stalwarts go head to head in this debate, with each given an hour to lay out their best case. R.C. Sproul argues for paedobaptism, and John MacArthur makes the case for credobaptism. Article-length treatments Infant baptism vs. believers-only baptism: What’s the main difference? by Garry Vanderveen A brief defense of infant baptism by Kevin DeYoung Why I changed my mind on infant baptism, by Liam Goligher Paedobaptism by Guy M. Richard Not your average paedobaptist by Jared Oliphint Baptism – a personal journey by David Robertson Why can it take so long to explain Infant Baptism? by R. Scott Clark Shortest argument In Jay Adams’ book Greg Dawson and the Psychology Class, the author poses an intriguing argument for infant baptism. One of the characters in the book, Brian, is trying to convince his girlfriend that infant baptism is biblical, and shares with her this scenario: “It’s the day before Pentecost. Andrew, a pious Jewish father, has just had his child circumcised. He is happy because he now knows that little Simeon is a part of the covenant community – the visible church. The next day, he hears Peter preach and believes the Gospel. Now, according to Baptist thought, his child is no longer in the visible church. In for one day and out the next.” Books worth buying Jesus loves the little children: why we baptize children by Daniel R. Hyde 96 pages / 2006 At under 100 pages, this book by United Reformed pastor Daniel Hyde can be read in just a few evenings, and it provides a solid foundational understanding. Children of the promise: the biblical case for infant baptism by Robert R. Booth 190 pages / 1995 This will take some time to work through, but with short narrative bits to start each chapter, it is incredibly readable. And with recommendations from Greg Bahnsen, Vern Poythress, and Douglas Wilson, it seems everyone likes this book. Baptism: three views edited by David F. Wright 200 pages / 2009 Able defenders of three views – paedobaptism, credobaptism, and the dual view (that both are legitimate) – make their case, and then get to interact with the other two as they critique the offered argument. To a thousand generations by Douglas Wilson 123 pages / 1996 A former baptist, and pastor of a church that has both credo and paedo believers, makes the case for infant baptism. What is Baptism? by RC Sproul 69 pages / 2019 The main features of this title are its insightful and engaging author, its brevity, and its price – you can download the e-book version for free at the link above. Video Paedobaptism vs Credobaptism (6 minutes) This, from the producer of the documentary Calvinist, gives a very brief and balanced presentation of the two sides. The intent here is to help define the two sides of the debate, rather than to defend one side or the other. Did the early Church baptize infants (2 min) W. Robert Godfrey explains how much we can know about the practice of baptism in the first 300 years of church history. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Balto

Family /Animated 1995 / 78 minutes Rating: 7/10 In 1925, the city of Nome, Alaska was hit by an outbreak of diphtheria, a coughing sickness that is deadly to children. While that might not seem the best topic for a kid's animated movie, they went and did it anyway, and made something special! You see, the diphtheria was treatable, but the doctor was out of serum to treat it and the closest train could only bring a new batch to within 700 miles. No problem, that's what bush planes are for. But then a severe storm front grounded the bush planes. That left only dogsled teams to bridge the gap. They had to make a more than 1,000-mile round trip, through the most severe of weather, which made getting lost an easy and deadly thing to do. Many sled teams, and more than 100 dogs, were involved, but the very last team, the one that brought the medicine right to the hospital door, was led by a dog named Balto. And this is his story. Or, rather, this is sort of his story. The facts were exciting enough but Hollywood still felt they had to make tweaks. So in the animated version, Balto is now half-wolf, which makes him an outsider among the town's other dogs. He also has a goose and two polar bears as friends. And he and his villainous rival Steele are both interested in the same girl, a sable-colored dog named Jenna. In reality, Balta was a Siberian husky that didn't hang around with geese or polar bears. And no details are available about his love interests. Oh, and he couldn't actually talk. But aside from historical quibbles – no one should learn their history from Disney films anyway – this is a great film. Parents will appreciate how Balto shows himself to be brave and giving, willing to risk his life for a town that has never shown him love. In a peril-filled film, we get comic relief from  Balto's friends: two polar bears afraid of water, and a goose with a Russian accent. They're also incredibly loyal, willing to stand alongside Balto no matter what he's facing, whether bullies or an enraged black bear! Cautions The big caution for this film is its level of tension. There's really no letting up  – Balto goes from having to face a bully twice his size to having to face a bear ten times his size. Then nature throws its worst at him, including giant icicles dropping down at him from a cave ceiling. One online reviewer said it was a bit much for their three-year-old daughter, but she could just close her eyes at the scary parts. I'm wondering: What kind of three-year-old could manage to not be freaked out by this? If her eyes were closed for the scary parts, did she miss three-quarters of the film? This is pretty much non-stop peril! For example, Balto and his friends fight that enormous black bear. While all the other animals in the story can talk, this is simply a beast, raging at them. When Balto fights him on a frozen lake, it looks like Balto is going to drown to death, as he disappears below the ice and it closes up over him. Adults know it will turn out all right, but little kids don't, so this is going to be super tense for them. There's also the very different sort of tension brought about by the diphtheria outbreak. In one scene, Balto and his friend Jenna peer through the hospital windows at all the sick coughing little ones. Sensitive children could certainly get worried about what will happen to all these kids. So no, this isn't for three-year-olds, and I think some ten-year-olds would have a hard time of it. But it does all have a happy ending, so kids who understand that's the direction it's heading will find this exciting, rather than scary. The only other caution would concern an odd moment where Balto, after falling off a cliff, sees a white wolf come out of the mist. I think the point of this is that Balto has to embrace the very part of himself that others are mocking - his wolf half – as it's only that toughness that will get him through. But is it a vision, or a real wolf? No words are spoken, and the scene is very short. So...odd. Conclusion For kids who can handle the tension, this will be a super-exciting movie with lots of actions but also lots of laughs. But this is not an all-ages film, as it is certain to be too tense for many kids. ...

Economics

The hidden tax of inflation

Prices are on the rise in many countries around the world. Price increases are measured by a statistic called inflation, which expresses the percent prices have increased on average over some period of time. Canada saw its highest rate of inflation in over a decade in July when the annual pace of inflation hit 3.7%. Compared to the U.S., though, Canada is in a relatively good spot. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation by comparing a fixed group of goods over time, rose to 5.4% for the month of July. This ties with June’s numbers for being the largest rate of price increase since 2008. An alternative measure of inflation, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, reached its highest rate in 30 years. Economists have mixed feelings about how long inflation will last, but one thing is clear. Prices are on the rise, and you’ve likely noticed your money isn’t stretching as far as it used to. So why is this happening now? Well, Nobel-price-winning economist Milton Friedman famously commented, “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” In other words, if you want to see why prices are rising, follow the money. Money-printing mania When a central bank prints more currency and puts it into circulation, those who get first access to the money are in for an unexpected payday. So, what will they do with this new money? Well, some of it will be saved, but some will be spent. Suddenly the newly printed money in your pocket might let you buy something you’ve had your eyes on for a while. The store then generates more revenue which can go to investors or paying new workers. So, spending increases, and this might not sound so bad so far. But this is when the problems began. As that new money goes into the pockets of new workers or investors, they spend some of it too. But, as demand increases while this new money circulates, prices begin to rise. There are more dollars in the economy, but the same amount of stuff. So, the value of dollars decreases relative to the value of goods and services. Money loses some of its value, and prices rise to reflect the money’s lower value. When the central bank prints money, it creates this process whereby money loses its value. This is exactly what’s happening around the world. In Canada, a common measure of the quantity of money in circulation shows an increase from $1.8 trillion at the beginning of 2020 to $2.2 trillion today. That’s approximately a 22% increase in the quantity of Canadian dollars in circulation in less than two years! As you might expect from the higher rate of inflation, the increase in the supply of US dollars has been even more alarming. The supply of US dollars has increased by 32% in the same period. Nearly one-fourth of all U.S. dollars in circulation today were printed since January 2020. This money printing, unprecedented in recent history, was in a large part to prop up economies being damaged by COVID-19 lockdowns. However, we’re beginning to feel the effects of this temporary solution, and Christians should recognize the consequences of money-printing. Inflation hurts savers… especially among the poor The problem isn’t simply that, after a period of having more money, consumers now have to face higher prices. Remember, the first person to receive new dollars is able to benefit from spending them. However, as the money circulates more, prices begin to rise. This means not everyone gets the benefit from this newly printed money. And this new money comes at a cost. As prices rise, the money in people’s savings account loses value too. In this way, inflation acts as a tax on savings. By taking future purchasing power from the thrifty, government can print money and give it to private banks to lend to businesses today. Inflation hurts savers. There are a few work-arounds to this problem. There are financial tools which help savers to shield the value of their money from the degradation to inflation, but, unfortunately, these tools and methods are costly to learn about and utilize. As such, we should expect inflation to be especially deleterious to poor and middle-class savers who don’t have time to focus on protecting their wealth since their weeks are consumed by making enough wealth to survive until the next paycheck. The problems don’t end there. While some have the luxury of a job where pay can be re-negotiated easily, this is not true for everyone. Many jobs involve contracts wherein workers agree to a specified wage rate for a definite period. In this case, not only is the savings account of these workers losing value due to inflation, but the weekly paycheck they receive will also be hurt. If you receive the same paycheck every two weeks, but the paycheck can buy you fewer goods and services due to price increases, you’re worse off. Economists call this a decline in the real wage. Why would the government inflate? So what is the benefit to government lowering the purchasing power of citizens? Well, there are a couple of benefits to government. First, a government can lower its debt burden. Governments often finance spending by selling government bonds. These bonds are promises to pay back the purchaser with interest. When inflation strikes, prices and nominal wages rise. As a result, the amount of tax revenue the government collects increases. This makes it easier to pay back debt which remains stagnant as prices and incomes rise. Second, remember that the “new” money maintains high value before it circulates widely. As a result, government can appease special interest groups in the financial industry by putting the newly printed money into banks first. The new money in banks provides access for large corporations to take the high-powered money out as loans for new projects. Be wary of the inflation tax Christians should be especially wary of the tax imposed via inflation for two major reasons. First, inflation disproportionately impacts the poor. When prices on everyday goods like groceries, energy, and transportation rise, this disproportionately hurts the poor. While 5% more expensive food is a relatively small increase for a millionaire, food can easily make up a huge percentage of monthly pay. Someone living paycheck-to-paycheck can’t afford a rise in prices. Further, the wealthy often receive income through financial assets like stocks. Stock prices also tend to increase during times of inflation, so the income of the rich stays relatively stable. The poor, often locked into prior wage agreements, don’t see their incomes rise immediately with inflation. Second, inflationary policies encourage behavior the Bible explicitly calls foolish. Proverbs 21:20 (ESV) tells us, “precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” This verse is descriptive. A fool consumes all of his wealth, whereas a wise man saves it in his dwelling. However, remember that inflation destroys the value of savings. If someone was keeping $1,000 in savings, and a grocery store trip costs $200 before inflation, and $250 after inflation, the saver goes from being able to afford five trips to being able to afford four. If instead, the consumer had used the $1,000 to buy a new flatscreen TV, inflation would not have had any effect. This example illustrates an important point. Because inflation taxes savers, it discourages frugality and encourages consumerism. Why save for tomorrow if money-printing is going to make savings worthless? Unfortunately, monetary policy is hardly, if ever, discussed on political debate stages let alone Christian churches. However, if we believe our role as Christians in democracy involves looking out for the poor among us, we should watch out for policies which seem tailor-made to harm their interests. Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He has previously written for both the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics. References https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2SL https://ycharts.com/indicators/canada_m2_money_supply...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Tikki Tikki Tembo

retold by Arlene Mosel 1968 / 48 pages My full first name is Jonathan, but long ago I learned there were benefits to using a shorter form. In basketball, for example, if a teammate was streaking up the sidelines and yelled for a pass, by the time he got out all three syllables of Jon--a--than he wasn't open anymore. But "Jon!" would get my attention, and him the ball, much quicker. Tikki Tikki Tembo is about this same lesson but in a very different setting. We are told that long ago Chinese families would honor their firstborn sons with long names, and give their other sons very short names. Our story takes place in a small mountain village where a mother had two sons. The second was simply called Chang while the first was named Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo. If these two played sports we can be sure who'd be making all the great passes and who wouldn't even make the team (try fitting that name on a jersey!). Of course, they didn't have basketball in ancient China, so their names come into play a different way. This is a charming book so I don't want to give away the ending. Let it suffice to say that as in basketball, so too in aquatic events it is better, and less hazardous, to have a shorter name. The story is wonderful, the illustrations fun, but more than anything else this is such a joy to read out loud: Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo is not only a long name, but a lyrical one, and each time it gets repeated in the story it gets funnier. This is a classic for a reason!...

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster 1961 / 255 pages What kind of book is suitable for study in the Fifth Grade, and in First-Year university English too? It's got to be some kind of weird and wacky wonder to pull that off! The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic, old enough to have been around when I was a kid. It's also famous, so I may have seen it displayed prominently in the kids' section at the local library, but back then I would have been put off by the title – I wasn't into ghost books. I've seen it many times since, but only got past the title when I noticed it among the offerings at the Westminster Theological Seminary bookstore. They're not really about fiction (or ghost stories) so I had to give this a closer look. It turned out the title tollbooth was a phantom only in the sense that it mysteriously appears in the boy Milo's bedroom. For those that might not have run across them – there don't seem to be many of them anymore – a tollbooth is a small building, usually large enough to fit just one person, where people pay to make use of a bridge or road. The author says of Milo "Nothing really interested him – least of all the things that should have” but even his curiosity is piqued to want to test this out. He drives up in his electric toy car, deposits some coins, and suddenly finds himself outside his room, driving rapidly down a road. Among the first people he meets is a watchdog that can talk. And, more importantly, he can tick – Tock is part dog and part pocketwatch! The dog demands to know what Milo is up to. "Just killing time," replied Milo apologetically. "You see–" "KILLING TIME!" roared the dog – so furiously that his alarm went off. "It's bad enough wasting time, without killing it." And he shuddered at the thought. Milo soon learns he is in the Kingdom of Wisdom, a land divided after the old King died. His two sons have set up two cities – Dictionopolis and Digitopolis – with one devoted to words, and the other to numbers. The only thing the two sons could agree on was to banish their two sisters, the princesses Rhyme and Reason, and as you might expect, where neither Rhyme nor Reason can be found, craziness abounds. I was almost a quarter of the way in before I started to get a feel for what sort of book this was. There's some Alice in Wonderland here, with Milo meeting odd sorts speaking confusing but clever things, in a country beyond normal maps. There might be a bit of Pilgrim's Progress too, with Milo learning his lessons by first treading down some wrong paths, and then meeting personifications of troubles he has to contend with. It's not a Christian book, but it is trying to teach a moral – Milo is here to learn that he has lots to learn, and that life is only boring to those too lazy to start exploring. Cautions While there aren't any ghosts, parental eyebrows will be raised when the demons make their appearance. But they aren't that sort of demon. They live in the Land of Ignorance, and have names like Gross Exaggeration, and Horrible Hopping Hindsight. Overbearing Know-it-all is: "a dismal demon who was mostly mouth...ready at a moment's notice to offer misinformation on any subject. And while he tumbled heavily, it was never he who was hurt, but rather, the unfortunate person on whom he fell." The only caution needed is to remind children that demons do exist, and the real ones aren't so funny. Conclusion While this is studied in Grade 5, and my youngest in Grade 2 is quite enjoying it, this is not a book I'd recommend for younger readers to tackle on their own. It is 60 years old, and some language – like "tollbooth" – is unusual today, in need of explanation to pre-teens. And there are puns galore, many of which only a kid who enjoys playing with language will spot on their own. But that shouldn't be a problem, because this is a book that mom or dad could enjoy too, as they read it aloud to all their young charges. So, two enthusiastic thumbs up for any and all who are twelve and up....

News

Saturday Selections – Sept 11, 2021

Focusing on income equality is envious and unjust God wants us to help the poor (Deut 15:7-11), but He also told us not to covet what the rich have (Ex. 20:17). That, then, is the problem with those that focus on income inequality: they may want to help the poor, but theirs is an envious approach. And it shouldn't surprise us that it doesn't work, as the video below shows. What does the Bible say about mandatory vaccines? (10-min read) P. Andrew Sandlin argues that while the Bible doesn't speak directly to mandatory vaccines, it does offer principles which apply. Incrementalism and the Texas abortion law There are some spats going on between the two pro-life camps – incrementalists and abolitionists – over Texas's new pro-life law. Douglas Wilson highlights the strengths and shortcomings of both groups with this must-read for all pro-lifers! Late economist warns about being overly confident in "Science" We've heard a lot about "believing the Science" and "following the Science." But to act as if there is only the Science, and no alternate expert opposing opinions is to treat some scientists (and not others) as having God-like expertise, beyond mistakes and above questioning. Then there is the problem that Science, even were it to be definitive, only gives us insights into what is, and not what ought to be done. The cost of lockdowns may exceed the benefit... It's all arguable, but that those costs land largely on the poor is more clear. How one mother saved her child from going transgender It was about controlling the child's education and who got to be her teachers. Jumping bugs....in slow motion (7 min) Anything that can fly is amazing, and that so many different-looking bugs can fly is even more amazing. Some bugs even have gears – God is an artist and an engineer! ...

Theology

Heaven-bound: What will it be like?

We've all been told there's no such thing as a stupid question. And we all know that just isn't so. That may be why in our desire to avoid the embarrassment of asking that big dumb one, many seemingly silly, but actually good, even important, questions go unasked. And I think that's particularly true when it comes to the topic of heaven. So, for example, many of us may remember back in our younger years, wondering if heaven was going to be boring. The idea of strumming on a harp and singing all day, every day, isn’t appealing to most children (nor to many musically inept adults). But while this question bothers many kids, few will ask it out loud – even at a young age they’ve discovered asking these sorts of questions can be embarrassing. Adults also have “heaven questions” that go unasked. What is heaven going to be like? When we get there will we remember our time here on earth? And will we recognize each other in heaven? When these questions are raised they rarely get treated with much respect. Instead of garnering thoughtful responses, questions about heaven are usually answered with another question: Does it really matter? After all, we’re going to get to heaven soon enough and then we’ll find out exactly what it’s like, so what’s the use in thinking about it now? What’s the point? Comfort and correction Well, when we turn to Scripture we find out there are at least two reasons to learn more about heaven. First, many of the heavenly descriptions are a means of comfort to us. Those who weep now will laugh in heaven . Mourning, crying and pain will end and God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes . Yes, here on earth we may have to suffer, stumble, and endure but we can do so knowing that God has prepared a heavenly reward for us . And God does more than comfort us with His descriptions of heaven – He also uses them to correct our misdirected desires. You see, Satan loves to use our desires, even our desires for God and heaven. If he can twist them, just a bit, he can use them to point us in exactly the wrong direction. For example, a friend recently told me about his desire for a “great teacher.” He had learned from some of the smartest men alive, and yet, ultimately, they had all disappointed him. They might provide great insight in one area, and yet be blind in another. This friend wanted to be able to sit at the feet of a great teacher, and just learn. He was very surprised when I told him that what he was really looking for was Jesus. He had wasted all this time trying to satisfy a desire that couldn’t be met here on earth; it was one that could only be fulfilled in heaven. In his book In Light of Eternity Randy Alcorn gives another example of this misdirected desire. A couple in his congregation wanted to give more to the church but also had a strong desire for a “perfect home” in the country. Was that desire wrong? “Not at all,” Alcorn noted. “In fact the dream of a perfect home is from God. It’s just that such a dream cannot and will not be fulfilled in this life.” That perfect home does exist though, but we have to look to heaven for it, where Jesus has prepared just such a place for us . All of us have misdirected desires. We might be looking for that special someone who will finally complete us, or the friend who will totally understand us, or that career that will fulfill us. All of us are busy storing up treasures here on earth, investing our time and energy into things that will rust away or be broken, the sorts of things that will be destroyed by fire when Christ returns. If we focused more on heaven, talked more about it, and thought more about it, perhaps then we would start trying to store up treasures there instead of here. So will heaven be boring? That’s why it’s worthwhile thinking about heaven. Now what will it actually be like? Let’s try and answer a few of those questions.  When we get to heaven will we remember our time here on earth? It would seem we will have to remember our time on earth, as we are going to be called to give an account for our every earthly word and deed . Works done in faithfulness will follow us into heaven, where we will be rewarded for them . so it seem clear we will remember these acts as well. Revelation 6:9-11 gives a glimpse into heaven where the martyrs there remember what happened to them on earth – they call out to God to avenge their blood. And the fact that the crucifixion scars remain in Christ’s eternal resurrected body seems to be conclusive proof that we will remember earth. These scars will forever bear witness to what He did for us; they will be a constant reminder of just how undeserving we were, and how gracious and merciful God is. Since we are gong to remember our time on earth that means what we do here is a foundation for our eternal life. This is only the beginning, but it is a beginning we will build on later in heaven . Will we recognize each other in heaven? Some think that since in heaven we will “no longer marry nor be given in marriage”  we will no longer recognize our marriage partners or any of our other past relationships made on earth. But that reads far too much into a single text. Many other passages in the Bible would suggest that we will recognize each other. For example, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus , the rich man recognizes both Lazarus and Abraham in heaven. When Moses and Elijah come down from heaven for Jesus’ Transfiguration  they were still recognizable as Moses and Elijah. And according to Luke 16:9 the friends we make through our generosity here on earth will remember us in heaven and welcome us into their eternal dwellings. So friendships, interrupted for a time by death, can continue on in heaven. Will heaven be boring? One of Satan’s biggest lies is his portrayal of heaven as a tedious place of idleness and enforced endless singing. We are not going to be idle in heaven – we’re going to reign with Christ, and be assigned responsibilities based on what we did on earth – and when we sing it will be because we can’t contain the praise within us (and even the musically inept will now be able to carry a tune). Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride beamed happiness? Where the joy just spilled out of her? Her joy is but a pale reflection of the greater Joy we will experience in heaven. Everything good and amazing here on earth, from the Niagara Falls to the Grand Canyon to the intricacy and wonder of a single living cell, reflect only a tiny part of the glory of their Creator. And in heaven we will finally be able to see Him face to face . Face to face! Heaven will be the very opposite of boring! Though every reader will find some points of disagreement, Randy Alcorn's book "Heaven" is a great, biblically-rooted look at what God has planned for us after this life. It is an encouragement and challenge to Christians - highly recommended! https://youtu.be/zOL8jkWy8MY...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, History, Teen non-fiction

Listen! Six Men You Should Know

by Christine Farenhorst 161 pages / 2021 The six men we get introduced to here are given 25-30 pages each which is enough space to get a very good feel for them. It's also short enough that it avoids completely the indulgence evident in many a bigger biography of telling us what the subject ate for lunch on the third Tuesday of October, one hundreds years ago. The half dozen that author Christine Farenhorst introduces us to are: Martin Luther King Jr. Albert Schweitzer Rembrandt Dutch Samuel Morse Sigmund Freud Norman Rockwell I enjoyed the eclectic nature of the selections – these six holding little in common outside their fame and influence, but all are worth knowing better. I was more curious about some of them than others, particularly the very first, the American icon, Martin Luther King Jr. But after learning a little about his thoughts, and the political and cultural battles of his time, I skipped ahead to the profile of Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud who spent most of this life in Europe, and died when King was just 10. I'd read biographies on both men previously, but Christine's solidly biblical perspective brought new light to both subjects. For the four others, I knew little more than their names – or their artwork, in the cases of Norman Rockwell and Rembrandt – and I enjoyed this opportunity to delve into their backgrounds, their age, and place. I enjoyed learning about Samuel Morse in particular, as he is the only one of these six who was clearly a Christian. Christine shows that some of the others, like Freud, clearly were not, while Rembrandt, had, at best, an odd relationship with his Maker. Overall, this is a very quick enjoyable read – I think I finished it in a day. It was sad reading about many of these men's outright rejection of God, so I might recommend reading the profiles out of order so that you can conclude with Samuel Morse, and end on a happy note! Children who enjoy history, and reading, would likely enjoy this as young as 12. The short, 30-page profiles, would also make this a great title for adults who want to know their history, but are put off by the tomes that some historians publish. Christine Farenhorst is a regular columnist for Reformed Perspective, so if you want to get a feel for her writing, that is as easily done as clicking here. You can order "Listen! Six men you should know" at many online retailers....

Drama, Movie Reviews

Freedom

Drama 2014 / 94 minutes Rating: 7/10 Like many a film "inspired by true events," this isn't good history but it is pretty decent cinema. Freedom is really two stories in one, the first loosely based on the life of John Newton. He's the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace" and while the film gets the broad details of his life right – he was the captain of a slave trade ship, he did have an encounter with God on his ship, and he did turn his back on the slave trade – the timeline of those events has been greatly compacted. In real life, his rejection of the slave trade was a gradual shift over years and even decades, while in the film it seems more a matter of weeks. The second story takes place 100 years later, and is a fictional account of a family of slaves fleeing Virginia via the Underground Railroad. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as the father, Samuel. He has his wife, son, and mother with him, and while his mother trusts in God's faithfulness for everything, Samuel has no interest in God. How, he asks, can any slave think God cares about them? It's unusual for a Christian film to ask difficult questions. While Samuel does come to God before film's end, both he, and we, are left with the realization that God might not give us all the answers we are after, or at least, not on this side of Heaven. What connects these two stories is a Bible that John Newton is supposed to have given Samuel's great grandfather when he was just a boy years ago. Samuel's mother still has it, and we take the leap back in time when she tells the story of how Newton came to give a Bible to a slave. Newton's "Amazing Grace" is the musical centerpiece to the story, but there are lots of other songs too. It isn't a musical, though – in musicals people just randomly start to sing instead of talk. Here most of the songs have a natural fit: characters sing because they are comforting someone, or as part of a performance, or they sing to pass the time. But whatever the reason they are singing, the music is very good! Cautions Freedom received an R rating for the violence that's done to the slaves. While many of the blows happen just offscreen, communicated more by sound than by visuals, it can be brutal. That makes this best suited for older teens and parents. While God's name is used throughout the film it is used appropriately, to either talk about Him, or to Him. There is one use of "damn." Conclusion One secular critic called this "an overly sentimental cinematic history lesson best suited for church and school groups" and while he meant it as a criticism, I'd just say he's nailed the target audience. The slave trade was brutal, and while this is too, it is only so in parts because the filmmakers didn't want to present an unvarnished look – they weren't trying to make a Schindler's List that'd leave everyone mute and depressed afterward. By presenting only some of the horror, they allow families to view and discuss it together with their older teens. Freedom could serve as an instructive introduction to this chapter of history... at least for teens and adults. ...

Parenting

A Tale of Two Fathers

"…even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved." (Eph. 1:4-6) *** Our Father in heaven is the perfect example of what a father ought to be like. He is, therefore, the model that should be followed in families. Children who have godly fathers – that is fathers who obey the Lord in faithfully following His commands and displaying humility, love and mercy – have a wonderful guideline for how to behave in their own lives. Children who do not have godly fathers, will have a difficult time finding their way in life. *** There was a rather unique story in an English newspaper recently about a little girl who had lost her father, a man by the name of Tony, when she was just four months old. The article gave no information as to how her father had died – whether the man had been ill, had been a casualty of war, or had suffered an accident. The readers were simply told that since the age of 4 months the little girl had been raised by her mother. Such things do happen and, by the grace of God, they can work out fine. The eight-year-old girl was from Braunstone, Leicester in the UK. In June, when Father's Day rolled around this last summer, the child felt uneasy and somewhat left out. All her friends were making cards and presents for their dads, but she had no one for whom to make a gift. So she thought to write a letter to her dead father, something she had done before on special occasions. Her mother said it was fine for her to do so again. When the little girl had finished her letter, which was filled with "I love you, Dad!" and "I miss you, Dad!" she asked her mom where her father now lived and what address she should put on the envelope into which she had neatly folded the letter. Her mother replied: "Put down Heaven, Cloud 9." There are two reactions that the initial part of this anecdote brings to mind and heart. One is anger and the other is compassion. Obviously, there had been no interaction between the girl and the mother about where dead people might be. For the mother to tell her child that she could connect with her earthly, dead father by mailing a letter to an imaginary, fuzzy, warm-feeling type of place was fundamentally misleading; and for the mother to leave out the comfort of a very real Heavenly Father Who desires a relationship through prayer was to put her child on a path of hopelessness. The letter was duly mailed and when a postman named Simon opened the red pillar mailbox on his route he happened to notice it. He saw that the envelope did not carry postage and that it was addressed to "Dad in Heaven, Cloud 9." Having recently lost his own father, he asked his manager if he could try to locate the family to discover who sent the letter. Having obtained permission, he took a picture of the envelope and posted it on Facebook. Thousands of people responded. The mother and child were subsequently tracked down and the Facebook responses were sent on to them. The mother was astonished at all the responses that had come in. "I haven't stopped crying since," she said, "I never thought for a second that anyone would find the letter or do anything with it." Simon the postman later met the little girl and gifted her a father-daughter figurine as a remembrance. Her mother placed the Facebook comments in a box for the little girl as a memento. Perhaps some of the people who responded to the Facebook photo sent messages of a heavenly Father. We are not privy to that information. *** My own father, Louis Praamsma, was also very young, (he was six years old), when his father, Riemer Praamsma, passed away. Riemer Praamsma, who was a Christian school principal, died of pneumonia. Before he died, however, he left instructions for his children as to how to deal with his death, and his wife made sure that all the children would receive these instructions. My father, Louis Praamsma, decades later, still remembered what had happened, and he wrote it down before he himself died, so that I and my five siblings would also be guided even as he had been guided. These were his words. "When my father suddenly fell ill in 1916, I and my six siblings were all parceled out amongst relatives for ten long weeks. At the onset of these weeks, however, I was sent for to stand at his bedside. My father had himself taught me to read, and the family Bible was placed in my small hands. I have now forgotten so many things, but I have never forgotten that my father asked me, at this time, to find Psalm 25. When I had found it, he said, 'Read, Louis. Read the first few verses of this psalm.' And I read:                  ‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul, O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.'  “I have especially remembered the next few verses - verses 4 and 5 of this psalm:  'Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long.'" The picture of my father as a little boy standing in front of his father's deathbed is solidly imprinted in my mind. All of six years old, he was undoubtedly not totally aware of the gravity of the situation. His miniature hands could barely hold the large Bible and his immature voice read in a thin, childish treble. When he was done with the passage, he saw his father nod with satisfaction and that made him feel good. My father always recalled that moment. It was the last time that he saw his father alive. He told me more about his father's death. He related that a huge crowd of schoolchildren followed their principal's funeral carriage on its way to the cemetery. Every child and adult wore black and the carriage itself was also shrouded in black. And at the grave-side hundreds of voices sang: Lo, as for man, his days are like a shadow, Like tender grass and flowers of the meadow, Whose morning beauty fadeth with the day; For when the wind but lightly passeth o'er it 'Tis gone anon and nothing can restore it; 'Tis found no more, it vanisheth for aye. After the funeral, the Praamsma house was filled to overflowing with people, all bringing their condolences to the bereft widow and the brood of seven children. My father, Louis Praamsma, walking between the crowd of legs, hardly realized that his beloved friend and companion was gone and would never come back. He later penned for his own children to read: "I had such little conception of death that I did not fully understand that I would never see my father again. Caught up in the crowd of mourners who surrounded my mother, I suddenly walked up to a grown man, reached for his hands, and tried to 'climb up.' It was something my father had always done with me. Taking both my hands, he would allow me to 'climb up' and then, with a flourish, would swing me through the air before depositing me on the ground once more. But even though for a moment I thought that the stranger was my father, I quickly comprehended that he was not. "When I later questioned my mother as to why my father was not coming back, as to why he had died, she gave me an answer that I shall also never forget. ‘It is,’ she told me, ‘because God has better use for father in heaven than He has for him here on earth.’ "That answer gave me peace." Evangelism, making disciples of all nations, surely begins at home. Perhaps that little girl in England will also have someone who will speak to her at some time about a heavenly Father with whom she can have a relationship. Perhaps someone will point her to all the notes and letters that this Father has written to His children. *** It is incumbent upon all of us to endeavor to make disciples of our children, of little neighbor girls and boys, and of all the people God places on our way each day. Jesus has said so: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 Christine Farenhorst has a new book out, “Listen! Six men you should know,” with biographies on an intriguing selection of famous figures: Norman Rockwell, Sigmund Freud, Samuel Morse, Rembrandt, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King Jr. You can find it via online retailers including Dortstore.com....

Science - Creation/Evolution

Squirrel wonders (and the failure of evolution to explain them)

One of the most abundant wild mammals living in moderate latitudes is the common squirrel. Squirrels thrive in almost every habitat, from tropical rainforest to semiarid desert. They avoid only the cold polar regions and the driest deserts. Squirrels are also one of the very few mammals that thrive in cosmopolitan areas. Some wild squirrels have even become pets of a sort, or at least comfortable around people, if the human is patient and not aggressive towards the animal.1 As two of the leading squirrel authorities observed, “one can only marvel at how well adapted squirrels are to exploiting a forested environment” and, one could add, an urban environment as well.2 Their diversity is enormous and the squirrel family includes, not only tree and ground squirrels, but also flying squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, groundhogs and prairie dogs, all which deserve a separate paper. Many of the 273 squirrel species live in North America where they have very few enemies. This paper covers only tree squirrels, which nest and live in trees and have bushy tails to help them balance while running up and down trees. Ground squirrels live on the ground, have shorter, less bushy tails, and their fur is usually brown-gray with gray and white dots. Extremely well-designed Squirrels are very well designed for their terrestrial and arboreal life. Growing up in Michigan, I remember tree squirrels moving on the ground by a “hopping run” travel mode to scurry up a tree. Their sharp claws enable them to run down the tree about as fast as they can run up it. Their trademark is their slender bodies with very long, very bushy tails. The term “squirrel” derives from the bushy tail, which is one of their more-defining traits. Their large eyes give them excellent vision, allowing them to jump from one limb to another limb of the same tree, or even to other trees. They are one of the few mammals, aside from primates, that have color vision.2 Their excellent sense of touch uses the vibrissae (whisker-like hairs) on their strong flexible limbs as well as their heads. This system allows then to navigate telephone wires with ease, even while running on a wire almost as rapidly as they run on the ground. A talented tail Their tail is central to maintain balance on telephone wires high up the ground as well as in trees. Its function is similar to how a tightrope walker uses a pole to balance. They can also use their long tail, which is 40 percent of their body length, to protect their face and body from dogs, raptors, and other predators. The blood vessels in the tail serve as an efficient thermoregulation system, opening blood circulation to the tail to cool the squirrel, and closing it to retain heat. Raising their tail over their body affords them the ability to enjoy the cool shade it provides. It also serves as a warm blanket that greatly helps to keep them warm during cold winter nights. Lastly, their tail is critical in communicating to other squirrels and potential predators.3 Their diet Squirrels are herbivorous, subsisting on seeds and nuts, but some will eat insects and even very small vertebrates.2 They have large incisor teeth designed to crack open their diet of walnut, acorn, hickory and other nuts. Their constant gnawing helps them to keep their teeth razor sharp. Both tree and ground squirrels live in the same area year-round, including the cold winters. A motivation to write this paper is to understand how squirrels survive the ferocious winters where I live. Ground squirrels live on, or in the ground, and not in trees, and hibernate during the winter. Their heart rate and breathing rate slows down greatly and their body temperature falls below zero in preparation for hibernation. In contrast, gray tree squirrels rely on sheltered nests made from twigs and leaves, or dens in trees like woodpeckers, to sleep. In the winter they sleep in their nest or den and rely on fat reserves, and stored food to survive the long, cold winters.3 Also, in preparing for winter, they maximize their food consumption and body mass. They venture out during the morning and evening only if their food supply is low. They prepare for the winter by storing acorns and other nuts, berries, and tree bark in shallow holes near the trees where their nest is located. Squirrels use spatial memory to locate stored food, and often bury their food near landmarks to aid them in remembering where they stored it.4 Evidence for squirrel evolution Evolutionists believe that squirrels evolved about 36 million years ago from some hypothetical “more primitive rodent.”5 Previously, the earliest squirrel fossil evidence was found in western North America Darwin-dated to about 36 million years ago. A nearly complete skeleton was discovered in 1975 which “is surprisingly like that of a modern tree squirrel.”5 The skeleton of the find, determined to be a D. jeffersoni breed squirrel, was “…discovered in early Oligocene deposits of Wyoming, represents what may be the oldest fossil squirrel known… Except for minor differences in joint construction, the skeleton is strikingly similar to that of Sciurusniger, the living fox squirrel. It differs from extant ground squirrels in the more gracile proportions of its long bones and asymmetry of foot construction. This early member of the squirrel family was clearly an arboreal squirrel, with morphology, and presumably habits, very similar to those of extant Sciurinae.”6 The bones that were examined were judged to be “identical” to modern squirrels.6 The newest discovery after 1975 was a squirrel-like creature from China Darwin-dated over 200 million years old. The fossils were discovered by private collectors and amateur paleontologists in the fertile fossil province of Liaoning.7 The phylogeny of the fossils found “remains unsolved and has generated contentious views on the origin and earliest evolution of mammals.”8 As two of the leading experts of squirrels observed: “biologists consider tree squirrels to be living fossils because they remain virtually indistinguishable from European and North American specimens that lived more than 5 million years ago.”2 Squirrels are only one of hundreds of examples of living fossils.9 Many examples of variations within the genesis kind exist, such as documented by Michael Steele and John Koprowski,2 but I have been unable to locate any evidence for the evolution of squirrels from a non-squirrel. In short, the origins concern is not of variations within the genesis kind, but the evolution of the first squirrel from a non-squirrel. From what is known, the first squirrel was very close to identical to modern squirrels. And if a local squirrel is making off with seed from your bird feeder, just reflect that they are all wonderful creations! This is reprinted with permission from Creation Dialogue Volum 48, #2 and is by Jerry Bergman, the author of "Wonderful & Bizarre Life Forms in Creation." For more on the wonder of squirrels, check out Mark Rober's 20-minute video below. Though this is a secular presentation, it highlights God's genius in crafting these incredibly clever creatures. Parents, cautions for the video include a couple uses of "fricken" and a reference to a squirrel stuffie dressed up in a bikini as a "homewrecker."  Endnotes 1 Rose, Nancy. 2014. The Secret Life of Squirrels. New York, NY: Little Brown. 2 Steele, Michael A., and John L. Koprowski. 2001. North American Tree Squirrels. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 3 Cheevers, Carrie. 2020. How do squirrels prepare for winter? Spectrum News, November 11. https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/weather/2020/11/11/how-do-squirrels-prepare-for-winter- 4 Jacobs, Lucia, and Emily Liman, 1991. Grey squirrels remember the locations of buried nuts. Animal Behaviour. 41 (1): 103-110, January. 5 Thorington, Richard W., and Katie E. Ferrell. 2006. Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 6 Emry, Robert, and Richard W. Thorington, Jr. 1982. Descriptive and comparative osteology of the oldest fossil squirrel. Protosciurus (Rodentia: Sciuridae). Washington, D.C. SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION PRESS, Number 47. 7 Choi, Charles Q. 2014. Ancient squirrel-like creatures push back mammal evolution. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/47774-ancient-squirrels-push-back-mammal-evolution.html 8 Shundong, Bi, et al., 2014. Three new Jurassic euharamiyidan species reinforce early divergence of mammals. Nature. 514 (7524): 579-584, September 10; doi: 10.1038/nature13718. Epub. 9 Eldredge, ‎Niles, and S.M. Stanley. 2012. Living Fossils. New York NY: Springer-Verlag. Other references Pope, Joyce. 1992. Living Fossils (Curious Creatures): Animals Unchanged by Time. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn Library. Emry, Robert, and Richard W. Thorington, Jr. 1984. The Tree Squirrel Sciurerus carolinensis  as a living Fossil. In: Eldridge, Niles, and S.M. Stanley. Living Fossils. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Ella's big chance: a fairy tale retold

by Shirley Hughes 48 pages / 2003 This unique spin on the story of Cinderella is so good it improves on the original. Some of that is due to Shirley Hughes' artwork, charming as always. Then there is the setting: this is a "Jazz-Age Cinderella" pushing the story forward to the 1920s. Ella and her father run an elegant dress shop, making the finest of clothes. The evil stepmother, in this case, has some business acumen, turning the small shop into an even bigger success. But the greater the demand, the more work there is to do for poor Ella. The story follows along the familiar course of other Cinderella versions, but with pictures all the more stunning, and a twist at the end in which (SPOILER ALERT!) the love-at-first-sight duke finds his Ella but doesn't get the girl! This is really what sets this version both apart and above all others – none of the nonsense about knowing someone for an evening and then getting married when next you meet again. Nope, Ella ends up with the store's delivery boy, who has always been there for her and wanted to be so evermore. While Hughes' artwork is wonderful, the prose is superb as well. It flows so very naturally that, as I read this out loud to my girls, I felt as if I was one of those professional readers. I sounded good! But that is all to Hughes' credit, and not my own - there is a wonderful flow to each page of text. I will add one caution: there is one use made of the term "good heavens," which some view as a substitute oath and too much like a real blasphemy for their liking. Though I don't agree, I do sympathize and wanted to alert readers to its use. I would give this two very enthusiastic thumbs-up, and recommend it highly to anyone who has three- to ten-year-olds. While this is probably far more a girl than a boy book, I really liked it. I think other dads will enjoy reading it too. And if you're looking for another inventive spin on Cinderella, be sure to check out Jan Brett's Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella....

News

Saturday Selections – September 4, 2021

Why does it seem like the smartest people in the room aren't Christian? (5 min) Michael Krugor, author of Surviving Religion 101, with some encouragement for Christian college students who discover their unbelieving professors are actually very smart. So why don't they believe in God? Click on the link above to read our review of Krugor's book. Refuting the flat earth It surprises some creationists to discover that many flat-earth folk also believe in a 6-day creation. The reason they do is because of the one insight both groups hold in common: that the wrong worldview can blind mainstream science. Where they differ is in how to understand the Bible: Christian flat-earthers base their belief on misunderstandings of what certain passages say. This article, from creation scientists Dr. Robert Carter and Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, shows how they get their scriptural exegesis (and their science) wrong. The article that Forbes pulled about school masking After initially publishing this teacher's article about the stress of wearing masks in school, Forbes pulled it. But on the Internet pulled doesn't mean gone. That it was pulled is symptomatic of the one-sided presentation on many issues we're getting from mainstream media (have you seen their coverage of the Texas heartbeat bill?) and it is shared here in the spirit of Prov. 18:17. The World is catechizing us whether we know it or not "...worldliness is whatever makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. Here’s the reality facing every Christian in the West: the money, power, and prestige of the mainstream media, big time sports, big business, big tech, and almost all the institutions of education and entertainment are invested in making sin look normal." Imposing vaccine mandates on churches is wrong ARPA Canada on why... Learning from the life of Dr. Klaas Schilder (45-minute read) A Reformed Baptist from Wales offers an outsider's perspective on Klaas Schilder, his life, and how God used him to impact many in the Netherlands and beyond. This is a long read (in 4 parts) which requires some passing familiarity with Dutch Church history. One interesting bit to whet the appetite: when Schilder was arrested by the Nazis: There were Dutch Christian papers that said that Schilder deserved this for going too far in his opposition to the Nazis and “desire for a British victory.” One professor at the Free University said, “Schilder could have avoided it. Daniel didn’t pull the tails of the lions when he sat in their den.” "Personally pro-life" means nothing This one comes with a PG warning: the cartoon violence here is bloodless, but of the sort that would disturb children (and some adults). Why share it? It makes an important point that the way many talk about the unborn, we treat their murders as very different than the killing of other human beings. No one would, for example, say they are "personally" against killing grandmothers. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

Documentary 96 min; 2005 Rating: 7/10 In 1956 a team of five missionaries were killed by the Waodani tribesmen they were trying to befriend. The murders caught the attention of the world, but what happened next wasn't widely reported. Beyond the Gates of Splendor tells the story of what happened when one of the missionaries' widows and a sister came to live with the very people who had killed their loved ones. They did so at the risk of their own lives. At the time of the missionaries' contact with them, the Waodani were a murderous people, not only to newcomers but with each other too. The documentary drives home that point with one native recounting his family tree by pointing out where each member of his family had been speared to death – his uncle over there, his dad a few years later by that bigger tree, another uncle further away in the bushes. “Waodani children grew up understanding they would spear and live, or be speared and die.” No one died of old age. But as brutal and vengeful as the Waodani were, the bloodshed stopped when the women's example was used by the Holy Spirit – some of the tribe turned to God. Caution Readers should bear in mind that, due to the native style of dress, there are frequent, though very brief moments of National Geographic type nudity, including topless Waodani women, and a lot of naked backsides. There are also some descriptive conversations about violent deaths, and some imagines shared of the missionaries' dead bodies. Conclusion While an animated video, The Jim Elliot Story, and a dramatized feature film, End of the Spear, have also been made about the missionaries, this documentary was needed to fill in the rest of the story – how the tribe lives today – and to bring more to the fore the spiritual transformation God worked, changing these rebellious murderers into repentant children. While some Christian films can be preachy, Beyond the Gates trusts that the facts of the matter will speak for themselves. That makes this a very good presentation of an astonishing story. Be sure to check out the trailer below. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Jackie Robinson Story

Drama 1950 / 77 minutes Rating 7/10 This is the true story of the first black man to play Major League Baseball, made all the more interesting by the fact that Jackie Robinson plays himself and does a solid job of it. The story starts with Robinson as a boy getting his first glove. Time passes quickly and we soon seem him showing his athletics skills in multiple sports at the college level. But athletic skills, and even a college degree, didn't get his brother a good job, so Jackie isn't feeling optimistic about his future. He eventually lands a job with a traveling African-American team, but for low pay and with long days of travel keeping him away from his girlfriend. However, it's on that traveling team that he catches the eye of a Brooklyn Dodgers scout, who invites him to try out. Team president and part-owner Branch Rickey has both practical and principled reasons to want to integrate blacks onto his team: he had seen discrimination impact someone close to him and so wants to fight it, and he also knows that whatever team is first to integrate will have their pick of the best black players. Rickey wants Robinson to understand what sort of abuse he'd be signing up for. And most importantly, the two of them need to be in agreement that no matter what insults are directed at Robinson, or cheap shots delivered on the field, he can't hit back. Robinson's play, and not his fists, need to do that talking. When Robinson agrees, he's sent first to the Dodgers' min0r-league affiliate, the Montreal Royals. After leading the league in hitting, he eventually gets the call to the Dodgers, and on April 15, 1947, he made his debut for them, blowing open the doors for many others to follow. Cautions A modern-day reviewer criticized the film for presenting a muted version of the real events: we aren't shown the worst of the insults and threats that Robinson had to deal with, and consequently, we don't get a full appreciation of the courage he had to have to endure that gauntlet. That's a valid observation, but it misunderstands this film's target audience. While it isn't suitable for the very young, this is meant to be family viewing. Robinson is humble enough here but he is also trying to set an example that will impact the next generation. To reach that generation, he couldn't make a gritty R-rated film. The end result is an account of a courageous man, and his backers, fighting both deep-seated bigotry and the more surface-level ignorant sort of racism, and his story has been made suitable for ages 10 and up. Conclusion Robinson made this film in the off-season, just three years after breaking into the major leagues. While he continued to get death threats throughout his career, this still marks an encouraging shift in the populace's thinking. Just three years after many folks were jeering at him to get out, many more were now flocking to theaters to learn how he made it in. So, even as this is "muted" there's lots to love about it, including Robinson's mother directing him to God, as he wrestles with decisions he has to make. Because The Jackie Robinson Story is in the public domain, you can watch it in black and white for free below. But you can find it in higher resolution, and also in a colorized version, available on many streaming platforms that would make for much better viewing for a family movie night. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

A Family Secret

by Eric Heuvel 2009 / 64 pages It’s Queen’s Day in the Netherlands, and the celebrations include nationwide rummage sales. So young Jeroen heads to his grandmother’s house to see if she might have anything she’s willing to give him to sell. And like grandmothers everywhere, she is quite obliging to her young grandson and sends him upstairs to the attic to let him see what he can find. In his searching Jeroen discovers his grandmother’s old scrapbook… and while paging through it uncovers a secret she has kept to herself for more than 60 years. His grandmother then tells him the story of how World War II divided her family. She was best friends with a Jewish girl named Esther, and along with her mother and one brother didn’t want anything to do with the Germans. But while this brother fought in the resistance - the Dutch Underground - her father chose to work with the Nazis, and her oldest brother decided to go fight for Germany on the Russian front. This is an amazing graphic novel, drawn in the style of Tintin, and published by the Ann Frank House and the Resistance Museum of Friesland. It’s gripping enough for adults, but for children, this is an absolutely amazing way to teach them about World War II, the Dutch Resistance, and the Holocaust. I'd particularly recommend this as a book for grandparents to give their grandchildren. Every year we set aside a day to remember the sacrifice of those that fought for our freedom. Giving this book to a grandson, and talking with them afterward about the war - about why some fought the Nazis, why some did nothing at all, and why some even joined them - is one very good way to ensure we never forget. There is a sequel of sorts called The Search in which we learn more about Esther. It is also very good, but if you are only going to buy one, should get A Family Secret.   I'd recommend it for 11 and up. ...

News

O’Toole: doctors shouldn’t be forced to murder aging adults themselves, but need to make sure the murders get done

On Aug 6, the leader of Canada's Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole, unveiled an election platform that promised conscience protection for medical professionals. The relevant section read: “We will protect the conscience rights of healthcare professionals. The challenges of dealing with COVID-19 have reminded us of the vital importance of health care professionals - the last thing Canada can afford to do is drive any of these professionals out of their profession….” The same day he doubled down on conscience protection by coming out against mandatory vaccinations for federal employees. If you're unfamiliar with the term, "conscience protection" or guaranteeing people "freedom of conscience," this is allowing those who think differently than we do, to act in a way consistent with their own beliefs. So, for examples, we allow pacifists to be exempt from fighting in the army (though they may be required to serve in the mess hall). In Alberta, Hutterites are allowed to have driver’s licenses without pictures, because they object to being photographed. We don’t share these beliefs, but we still make room for them because we're treating them as we would like to be treated (Matt. 7:12) were the positions reversed and it was our own convictions that didn't match with what the majority believed. Just four days after taking a stand for conscience protection, O’Toole backed down. He now insisted that if doctors didn’t provide euthanasia they should be required to refer for it, directing the “patient” to another doctor who is willing. His new position makes no sense when we consider what those who oppose euthanasia know it to be. We don't just find it distasteful. This is the willful killing of another human being, which God forbids in the Sixth Commandment. This is murder. And for Christians who recognize just how wicked euthanasia and abortion are, O'Toole isn't doing us any favors. Under Canada’s criminal code, arranging for someone to be murdered is an indictable offense, punishable by as much as a life sentence. That's as it should be – arranging a murder is a monstrous evil. Yet this is the bone O’Toole is throwing to his social conservative backers: we don’t need to do the killing ourselves; but he will do what he can to force us to be accessories before the fact....

Gender roles

When Steve wants to be called Sue

It had seemed a regular Monday morning before co-worker Steve arrived. Now his outfit had everyone buzzing: instead of his standard slacks/dress shirt combo, he'd paired black pumps with a floral print dress. In the morning staff meeting, the supervisor informed everyone that Steve was now "Sue" and we should start calling him her. It's a scene playing out in offices across the West, and for Christians in these companies, it can seem like our choice is between compromising on God's Truth (Gen. 1:27) by going along with the transgender lie, or compromising on our winsomeness (Col. 4:5-6) by confronting the lie. So what's a Christian to do? I think a middle road of sorts can be charted, one that doesn't compromise on God's Truth, but which also shows a willingness to try to get along in as far as we are able. It involves using a person's chosen new name, while avoiding any use of pronouns for them. So, in the case of Steve/Sue, even as it is odd to call him by a girlish name, we all know names that have gone from being boys' names to girls' names and vice versa. It doesn't need to be our place to designate a name too girlish for a boy to have it. We can show our willingness to get along by agreeing to call our coworker by his new name of Sue. But if that were all we were to do, that approach might lead to confusion about where God stands on the issue of gender. If we, as Christians, call transgender folk by names that align with their adopted, but not actual, gender, then we would be sowing the seeds of confusion if that was all we were to do. The reason we can go along with using "Sue" is because we're doing so as part of a package treatment: we'll explain that we will also be trying to avoid any mention of Sue's pronouns. It is one thing to call a man by what would be an odd first name for a man, but it is something else to call a him her. Though it might not be perceived as such, we would explain that this is us doing our best to get along. Sue would see any use of male pronouns for him as offensive. We would understand it to be a denial of God's revealed truth about gender to use female pronouns for him. Therefore to minimize offense, and yet not lie, we will agree to speak of "Sue" and "Sue's presentation" and how "Sue did a good job." It'll be "Sue this" and "Sue that" but never she or her. It would be good to make this clear at the start, rather than have it be discovered by coworkers wondering why we seem to be using Sue's name to excess. Getting ahead of it makes sure that our Christian witness is clear. Will that satisfy our employers? Perhaps. But whether it does or does not, it shows our willingness to do what we can. In extending ourselves as far as we can go, we speak the Truth as winsomely as it is in our power to so speak it. This approach may or may not please Man, but it does glorify God. 1. Words have power A strange form of encouragement for this approach can be found in the words of those we oppose. In a recent position statement proposing "chestfeeding" as a possible alternative to "breastfeeding," the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) began by stating, "We affirm that language has power." They want to adopt "chestfeeding" to be sensitive to new mothers who don't identify as being women and who, therefore, might not like to be reminded of their breasts, as those are exclusively female body parts. Language has power, so the ABM's fix for a woman who doesn't want to be a woman is to stop reminding her that she is a woman. Now, as people of the Book, and followers of the Word made Flesh, we agree that "language has power." Where we differ with the ABM is on how that power should be used. God used words to speak the universe into being – His words define reality. Our words can either communicate or obscure that reality. So that's how the battle lines are drawn: between God's people, using language to clarify what God has done and who God is, and the Devil's forces using language to confuse and conceal. As Douglas Wilson has noted, all our cultural battles are really battles over the dictionary. What we need to understand then is that using female pronouns for Sue is harnessing the power of language to confuse. Sue is deceiving himself, but in today's culture, he's going to get a lot of help from those around him to perpetuate his lie – everyone else at the office is going to echo and commend his lie. In the face of that attack, not only on God's Truth but on Sue, we have a calling to use language's power for good and not evil, for clarity and not confusion. 2. Misgendering is hateful For years already, Twitter has banned "misgendering" transgender people under their "hateful conduct policy." It was for misgendering that they suspended conservative commentators Allie Beth Stuckey and Erick Erickson for pointing out that New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, competing on the women's side, was, in fact, a man. What is misgendering? The online Cambridge Dictionary defines it (as of Aug 24, 2021) as: misgender: to use the wrong pronouns or other gender-specific words when referring to or speaking to someone, especially a transgender person. That's a definition we can get behind, and under this definition, we could also agree with Twitter that misgendering is hateful conduct. Deliberately perpetuating a lie about someone is not loving. Where we'd differ with both Twitter and Cambridge is on what pronouns are the "wrong" ones. Some on the Left have gone as far as to call misgendering violence. We can agree on that point too. Real physical harm is done when confused individuals are so encouraged in their delusions that they seek out surgeons to cut off or mangle what were previously healthy body parts. We're talking breasts and testicles being cut off, and penises being turned inside out. Others will seek drug treatments to prevent puberty, which will also render them infertile. Calling someone by the wrong pronouns can contribute to this real physical harm. Of course, the misgendering I'm talking about is the very opposite of what the world means by the term. But they are right that using the wrong pronouns can indeed be harmful and therefore hateful. When we're talking about the harm these surgeries can cause, the counterpoint sometimes offered is that transgender folk may commit suicide if they aren't embraced as the other sex. While Christians should have sympathy for just how lost these people are, we also need to be firm that encouraging them in their rebellion against God's Truth is never going to be the loving response. Yes, God loves sinners, but He also tells us to turn away from our sin. So we should not affirm the transsexual, or homosexual, adulterer, alcoholic, glutton, sluggard, idolater, etc., in their sin. Gratitude for the troubles/opportunities that are coming Many of us are too quiet about God, so even as stressful as Steve's new wardrobe is going to make our lives, we should also recognize it for the peculiar blessing that it is. Do we find it hard to go out and evangelize? Well, God is bringing an evangelism opportunity right to our cubicle door! He is so arranging things in offices across the West, that His people will be given a clear choice of either publicly defending His Truth or denying Him entirely. That's not a gift many of us are asking for, but it is quite the blessing to be presented with such a clear choice. Preparing for what comes next So let's go to the next step. What if we call our coworker "Sue" but not "her" and that turns out not to be enough for our boss? What if our stand gets us fired? That's an eventuality Christians should be getting prepared for, individually and as church communities. Many of our readers have parents and grandparents who refused on principle to join unions. Unions back then were demanding loyalty oaths that Christians would have difficulty making, and most had a decidedly Marxist (adversarial) approach to working with management that conflicted with the 5th Commandment. There were other reasons our grandparents opposed unions, some specific to that time and others that are just as relevant today, but for our discussion what's important is what our grandparents did next. Since they couldn't work union jobs, they began creating their own jobs by starting their own businesses. When they were successful, these entrepreneurs ended up also creating employment opportunities for other brothers and sisters looking for non-union work. That entrepreneurial spirit, a generation ago, has been greatly blessed by God such that we still see the fruit today. Our schools, churches, and missionary efforts have all been aided by these businesses, whether through the owners' contributions, or the employees'. It's time for Christians to once again embrace that entrepreneurial spirit. It begins with recognizing the need, that there is a time coming very soon that any Christian not willing to lie about gender, and not willing to perpetuate this lie against transgender individuals, is going to be fired for their stand. That's both a shame and an opportunity. If God's people are stuck in companies that hate God and promote homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, feminism, and more, how freeing it will be, and how much louder we will be, when we're cut loose from these companies! So when that day comes and we see our own coworker Steve come sashaying in, with his black pumps and floral print, let's remember how faithful God has been to us in the past and ready ourselves to take whatever opportunities He presents to uphold His Truth and glorify His Name. Let’s thank Him for backing us into a corner, and making the way forward so very clear. And let’s ask God to so bless our entrepreneurial efforts that future generations will still be harvesting the fruit. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" – Isaiah 5:20...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – August 2021

Now, that’s a Nicaean pun! A self-described “heretic,” famous for formerly being the lead singer of a popular Christian band, got some attention this summer for this tweet: Jesus was Christ. Buddha was Christ. Muhammad was Christ. Christ is a word for the Universe seeing itself. You are Christ. We are the body of Christ. The best response in this case might seem to be no response at all, as this fellow already knows what the Bible actually says and doesn’t really need more publicity (which is why I’m not sharing his name). But for those getting confused by the singer, the best response might have been the clever rejoinder by Andrew Snyder: “If you can’t say something Nicaean, then don’t say it at all.” Can we have a witness? "It is not your primary calling to change your culture.... Instead, you must constantly remember that the Lord has called you to be his witness before the lost and condemned world in which you now live." – John MacArthur (from his daily devotional Moments of Truth, with empahisis added) Pluck out the internet? “Most of the publications I write for are online…. I would still get rid of the Internet tomorrow if I had the chance, just to get rid of porn because of how poisonous it is. People are saying ‘Well the Internet has brought so much good.’ I wouldn’t take the tradeoff. 53% of American divorces court cases cite pronography as one of the key reasons for that divorce. 80% of young people view porn by the time they are between the ages 9 and 11. It’s tearing at the social fabric of families, of couples, relationships, churches. None of that is worth are ability to get a hold of each other faster, and to email each other quicker and to sell junk online. …. None of it is worth the cost that we pay for having it turn into the largest distributor of sexual violence in human history.” – Jonathon Van Maren on the Real Talk podcast Why marriages last On the occasion of his 23rd anniversay, Greg Koukl asked his daughters why they thought he and his wife had stayed together this long. One daughter quickly answered, “because you looooooove each other.” Koukl’s response: “That’s not it.”  That, he noted, was the Hollywood answer, but as couples who have been married for any length of time know that there are times where you might not feel all that loving towards your spouse and yet God calls on you to still love your spouse. How is that possible if you’re just not feeling it? Part of it is that love isn’t simply a feeling, but also an action, and even when you don’t feel it, you can still act it. Koukl shared this story: “I heard a priest once, at a wedding, say something very profound on this line. He said:  ‘You have come together this day, for this wedding, to get married because you love one another. From this day forward, that order is reversed. That is, you love one another, because you are married. ‘“ Bring the condemnation with concern This is an abbreviated version of a joke recently passed along by Douglas Wilson. At the risk of ruining the joke, I’m going to frontload an application. The moral of this joke is something we need to have in our hearts when we talk to people caught up in sins that disgust us. Do they hear concern, or only condemnation? When a little Methodist chapel up in the boondocks lost their pastor of many years, the congregation wanted another of the same stock. Their old pastor was old school, from beginning to end. He was a fiery fundamentalist, and he believed the Bible, all of it, and the people loved him. So they wrote their bishop down in the city, and requested he send them a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, and not one of those new-fangled kinds. This threw the bishop for a total loss, because he wasn’t sure he had one of those, but he made a few delicate inquiries. Much to his astonishment, he found one, and shipped him up there. And to his dismay, about three weeks later, they sent their new man packing. The following week, they sent the bishop another letter, asking for a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher. The bishop wasn’t sure he was going to be able to help them, but he made further inquiries, and found another one. He sent him up, but he only lasted two weeks. When the same scenario played out the third time, the bishop had almost given up hope. When he found a third preacher who seemed to fit that description, he commissioned him and sent him off, but without much hope. To his great surprise, this third man conducted a long and fruitful ministry at this little chapel, preaching hellfire and brimstone up there for two or three decades. This mystified the bishop, and he couldn’t make any sense. But one day he was at an ecclesiastical conference of some sort or other, and he spied an old-timer from that church who happened to be attending. His curiosity getting the better of him, he walked up to the old-timer and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” The old-timer said sure, and the bishop said, “I sent you people three hellfire and brimstone preachers, and you rejected the first two out of hand, and kept the third one for years. Do you mind explaining that for me?” At this, the old-timer grinned, and said, “It is pretty simple, bishop. The third one sounded like he didn’t want us to go.” How to live in an atomic Covid age Corrie Ten Boom and C.S. Lewis died long ago, but have some thoughts to share on living in our current Covid age. The Lewis quote is from his essay, “On living in an atomic age” while the quote from Ten Boom isn’t properly sourced. It is widely dispersed online but as Abraham Lincoln once warned in another quote widely dispersed online: “Don’t believe everything your read on the Internet.” But whether it was Ten Boom or not, there’s wisdom to be had for today. “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” “In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.” – C. S. Lewis “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom What’s really in your job description? Christians, in an effort to impact their culture, will choose to mute their Christian witness. We enter the public square promoting God’s morality on abortion and sexuality, but without ever mentioning it to be such. When we do that we’ve misunderstood the purpose for which God created us. “…in your public involvement, don’t conceal the roots of your convictions about what is right and wrong. Don’t try to get a better hearing through downplaying your dependence on Christ and his Word and the gospel. “This is where many Christians, it seems to me, lose their saltiness and their light. Advocating for behaviors that are Christian is not the light of the world. Advocating for restraining behaviors is not the light of the world. There is nothing gospel in it. The light of the world is Christ and all that God is for us in him, all his gospel, and all his promises. If Christians become practical atheists in public, but simply advocate for behaviors that correspond to Christian ethics, they may see a little more political acceptance and affirmation in the short run, but they will lose the larger battle for the eternal good. “Do we really want to invest in a society whose outward behaviors are moral while everybody goes to hell?” – John Piper interviewed on DesiringGod.org April 26, 2016 on the question “Should Christians partner with non-Christians on social issues?”...

News

Saturday Selections – August 28, 2021

God won't give you more than you can handle? (6 min) Tim Barnett explains why the assertion that "God won't give you more than you can handle" isn't biblical, and so, instead of being a comfort, it's a cruel catchphrase. Adult siblings – another reason big families are a blessing "In our recent national conversation about falling fertility rates and who will care for our aging population, the loss of adult siblings is rarely mentioned. But the idea of being with someone as an adult who has known you for your entire existence is both daunting and comforting. " What's wrong with our Church praise music?  "It might be shocking to the reader to hear that much of what is so called praise today in worship is not received by the Lord. God certainly turns his ear away from not just vain repetitions, but also empty hearts due to empty theology. It should be self-evident that our feelings have to arise to something higher than animal instincts to truly praise the Lord." Ten things I learned from the pandemic Here's #4: "Governments that claim their rule is based on pronouncements will always prefer the quantitative to the qualitative. Bureaucrats and politicians find it easier to aim for goals like 'reduce the number of cases/hospitalizations/deaths (to zero!)' rather than qualitative goals such as 'educate our children in humane ways' or 'allow dying parents to see their children in person' or 'prevent the atrophy of human relationships' or 'promote freedom of religion.'" Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Big Woke Woods Jonathon Van Maren shares the highs and lows of a recent documentary about the Little House on the Prairie author. You were once this tiny (3 min) This is an astonishing glimpse into the unseen happenings in the womb, following God's creative work from the moment of conception to the full-term wriggling baby ready to be introduced to the world. Be sure to share this one widely (you can also find it on Facebook here). ...

Current Issue, Magazine

July/Aug 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: When Steve wants to be called Sue / Conservative media fail their shibboleth / On mandatory vaccines / Does marriage impact IQ? / The impact of saying "I'm so busy" / 3 books to help our productivity / History made accessible / What does a Reformed entrepreneur look like? / You can't beat something with nothing / 3 simple reasons we believe misinformation / The wonder of the womb / On the Regulative Principle of Worship and elements vs. circumstances / Residential schools and the devastation of State-perpetuated family breakup / The devil's foothold / Solid answers to tough questions / How and why the Apostles' Creed came to be / Making God our priority in prayer / Films for mom, dad, and the older kids / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (4.4 mb) RP July-Aug 2021-small...

Parenting

Christian fathers are coaches

Have you ever felt frustrated in dealing with your children? Have you found yourself complaining to your spouse that your child “just doesn’t listen well”? Why is it that children misbehave, and what is it that we can do about that? The first few verses of Ephesians 6 offer some guidance. Paul begins by addressing children’s side of the issue in Ephesians 6:1: “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Then, in verse 4, he focuses on the fathers. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Patience and more patience The apostle wants fathers to be actively involved in the lives of their children. How? In a positive way. So he begins, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Children can sometimes become angry with their parents without having a good reason for this. But sometimes parents can be unreasonable with their children. That’s what Paul is referring to. How old is your child? Are you keeping that in mind? If you don’t there may be a backlash. Children have a lot to learn. Don’t assume that it’s enough to teach them something just once or twice. Some things will stick in their memory very easily. Other things will need to be repeated again and again. Are you patient when you do this? Pay attention to how you express yourself in your interaction with your children. Are you loud and overbearing or gentle and considerate in your dealings with your children? Fathers in particular need to be careful in their dealings with their children. Little ones are like soft wax, very impressionable. Harsh words can leave deep scars that may last for a lifetime.  Keep your real goal in mind Do you sometimes get very worked up about small details in the lives of your children? Paul warns against making a big deal about something trivial. Stay focused on your main goal. What is it? He explains, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” What does the word “discipline” bring to your mind? Punishment? Although that may be part of an interaction between a parent and a child, that’s only part of the picture here. The term Paul uses is broader than that. It includes such concepts as upbringing, training, instruction. It’s goal-oriented, as becomes clear in what Paul says further. What’s your ultimate purpose in raising your children? To be “nice” to everyone… and especially to you? To please you? To just stay out of your way when you are in a bad mood? It’s not enough to provide for their basic physical needs. Are you focusing on their spiritual development? What do they know about God as their heavenly Father? What do they know about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, their Saviour? Do they know what joy it gives to live as his Spirit-filled and Spirit-led followers, people who know and love him for who he is and what he has done for us? In it for the long-run Think in this connection of the idea of “training” your child. A “trainer” or coach really has to focus on the person being trained. This is a long-term commitment. You need to be aware of a child’s motivation as well as abilities. Talents have to be developed and bad habits need to be eliminated. The apostle Paul gives well-rounded advice to fathers. He not only speaks about “training” children. He also speaks of the “instruction of the Lord.” The Greek word translated as “instruction” can be unfolded in a positive and negative sense. Children need to know what the Lord regards as “right” in our life for the Lord. They also need admonitions or warnings as to what is “wrong.” You can find many examples of this in the book of Proverbs. So remember to focus on both, so that your children will learn to discern what loving the Lord looks like and what he hates. So, fathers, how are your children coming along? Are you coaching them properly? You have a beautiful and challenging task! Approach it prayerfully with an open Bible. Teach your children to know the Lord and to serve him with love in the light of his Word! That will help them to deal with the many questions and the many difficulties and challenges of life. Dr. Pol is a retired minister of the Carman West Canadian Reformed Church in Manitoba....

Media bias, News

"Conservative" media fails the test

In the lead-up to the Olympics, one New Zealand athlete got more attention than his athletic ability warranted. What drew the media spotlight to him was that he was participating in a woman's event. Gavin Hubbard had changed his name to Laurel, and the International Olympic Committee was willing to buy into his delusion and pretend he had become a woman. Hubbard had reportedly gotten into the sport as a young man in the hopes it would masculinize him, and something could be said about whether weightlifting is an inherently masculine sport. The world would now laugh at the notion, but for 100 years at the Olympic level, it was exclusively male, only changing at the 2000 Syndey Olympics. Should Christians laugh at the idea of a sport being for one gender and not the other? While there is a fuzzy line between what exactly is masculine and what is feminine, God has assigned men and women different roles, made us differently, and wants women to be women and men to be men (Deut. 22:5). That Hubbard could look quite like the female competitors was not because he looked feminine at all, but rather that their bulked-up bodies looked quite masculine. But the real story here was the media coverage of Hubbard. Predictably, mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and ESPN referred to him as her. This was a shibboleth of sorts – a one-word test to uncover whether the media source you were reading had bowed down to the woke mob in defiance of science, common sense, and most importantly what the Bible has revealed, that God decides gender and no one else (Gen. 1:27). If an outlet called Hubbard her, then they'd outed themselves as being part of the problem. While the mainstream press all bowed, how did "conservative" media outlets fare? Fox News carried stories about how unfair it was for Hubbard to compete in the women's division, and yet still used female pronouns for Hubbard. It might have been too much to hope that the National Post would stand strong, and, in fact, they did not. But it will surprise some to learn that Canada's "renegade" news outlet, Rebel News, followed the same pattern, making the case against Hubbard's participation, and yet still referring to him as her. At least some of National Review's coverage passed the test. WORLD magazine's few articles on him seemed to studiously avoid any use of pronouns for Hubbard, using his name instead. One of the only news outlets to actually use male pronouns for Hubbard was LifeSiteNews.com. While these outlets passed the test, that's not an endorsement of all they write – this is just one mark in their favor. What's more definitive is what it reveals about the outlets that failed the test. If they can't even be relied upon to state a simple biological fact everyone knows to be true, they've shown themselves incapable of standing up to the mob and not worthy of our trust....

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

In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2 

by Cornelis Van Dam 2021 / 371 pages Dr. C. Van Dam begins his latest book by explicitly laying out his presuppositions.  He’s upfront about his non-negotiable assumptions and biases.  As I review his book, it’s appropriate that I share mine too.  I share his presuppositions about Scripture as the trustworthy Word of God, but I also bring a personal bias to the table.  Back in the day, Van Dam was my Old Testament professor at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary.  I had an affectionate nickname for him in view of his ability to put the smack-down on unbelieving or shoddy scholarship:  “Wham-Bam-Van-Dam.”  This was always said with the greatest admiration for Dr. Van Dam.  As a seminary professor, he was nothing if not thorough and careful. Far more than a commentary This new book exhibits that same kind of comprehensive and precise approach to the two opening chapters of Scripture.  Van Dam leaves no stone unturned.  In the Beginning is an exhaustive treatment not only of the meaning of these two chapters, but also the various challenges that have been raised in Old Testament scholarship regarding them.  What you’re looking at here is not just a commentary on Genesis 1-2, but far more. Over the last decade or so John Walton has become well-known for his views on the early chapters of Genesis.  Walton argues that we often misunderstand Genesis 1-2 because we don’t take into account the ancient Near Eastern context of these chapters.  Once we do that, says Walton, then we can see that Genesis 1-2 was never meant to be taken literally as history.  The history can then be filled in with what science teaches us, including what science says about human origins.  In chapter 2 of In the Beginning, Van Dam discusses Walton’s views at length and explains how and where they fail to do justice to the character of Scripture as the Word of God.  In my view this is the most important chapter of the book. A sampling To whet your appetite further, let me share a selection of questions that Dr. Van Dam answers elsewhere in the book: Can new scientific data be regarded as general revelation given by God? What is the relationship of Scripture to science?  Is Scripture a scientific textbook? Can geology give us a history of creation? Was Herman Dooyeweerd faithful to Scripture in his view of origins? How are we to evaluate Meredith Kline’s Framework Hypothesis? Did the ancient Israelites believe that heaven was a solid vault above us? Why is there no mention of evening and morning with the seventh day in Genesis 1? What does Scripture mean when it says that God created through his Son? Can the breath of life in Genesis 2:7 be equated with the Holy Spirit? Was there animal death before the fall into sin? Why did God create everything with an appearance of age?  Was he being deceptive in so doing? Those are just a few of the questions answered.  There are far more.  What I appreciate about Van Dam’s answers is that he bases them on what Scripture says.  He doesn’t want to go beyond Scripture and so he’ll sometimes say, “Scripture doesn’t say more than this – this is as far as we can go.” A point of disagreement If I would venture some respectful disagreement, it would be in the final chapter where the author briefly discusses whether there’s a need for new confessional formulations to address the challenges of evolution.  In 2014-15, I was involved with an effort to add some clarification to article 14 of the Belgic Confession in the Canadian Reformed Church.  That effort was ultimately unsuccessful.  I don’t regret having made the effort, nor do I think it unnecessary to this day. Van Dam argues that Scripture is clear and our “confessions faithfully reflect that testimony.” However, that fails to account for those who have argued that the Three Forms of Unity provide the latitude needed to hold to forms of theistic macro-evolution.  Their arguments have persuaded some.  This wiggle-room ought to be addressed, especially if there is openness to theistic macro-evolution in your churches. Van Dam also posits that: “A difficulty with preparing a new formulation asserting the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2 is the temptation to go beyond what Scripture says, in other words, to provide specifics about that which Scripture gives no additional detail.” The proposal to add clarification to BC 14 was to state what Scripture states:  that Adam was created from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21-22).  As a consequence:  “They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans.  There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid.”  If one thinks that this infringes upon the freedom of exegesis, then one is willing to grant the latitude for theistic evolutionary accounts of human (and other) origins. Conclusion That criticism notwithstanding, In the Beginning was a delight to read – personally it brought me back to many of the OT lectures I enjoyed from Dr. Van Dam in my seminary years.  While enjoyable, it could be tough-going at times for some.  It’s not highly technical, but in places Van Dam does go academic.  It’s not a book you’d necessarily be giving out as gifts to those doing profession of faith.  It would, however, be a great gift for someone doing post-secondary studies, whether in the sciences or in the humanities.  And it’s definitely a recommended read for those who’ve completed such studies. Take a look at the Table of Contents and Introduction here. Dr. Bredenhof first posted this review to CreationWithoutCompromise.com, a blog “promoting the biblical understanding of origins” and it is reprinted here with his permission....

Church history, Theology

Why and how the Nicene Creed came to be

The word “orthodoxy” comes from the Greek orthos which means right, true, or straight, and doxa which is praise, or opinion. Therefore, orthodoxy is having the right opinion on a specific topic, usually religious. In the early church, orthodoxy had to be discovered and established by means of study, debate, and decisions. While the early church was quite unanimous in the use of baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there was some significant disagreement about the nature of the interrelationship between, and nature of, each person of the Trinity. For example, Sabellianism taught that there was not three distinct persons in the Trinity, but that God simply manifested himself differently for different purposes: God was Father at Creation, Son at Redemption, and Spirit in Sanctification. Attending to Arius The impetus for articulating the Nicene Creed, however, was not in response to Sabellianism, although it certainly addresses this belief, but in response to Arianism. Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being, created from nothing, and inferior to God. As Bruce Shelley puts it in his, Church History in Plain Language: “He was a lesser being or half-God, not the eternal and changeless Creator. He was a created Being – the first created Being and the greatest, but nevertheless himself created.” Arius was an elder in Alexandria, and the bishop of that city was Alexander, whom Arius falsely accused of Sabellianism. However, Arius and his followers were eventually deposed and excommunicated by a Council held in Alexandria, and including 100 bishops from Egypt and Libya. But his deposition did not keep Arius from hosting religious assemblies and sharing his views. Even some well-positioned bishops empathized or agreed with his position. As time progressed, “Alexander vs. Arius” became a dividing point between bishops, between provinces, and started to cause increased division in the church. The emperor at this time was Constantine. He noticed that the debate on the nature of Christ was dividing the Church and might even be a threat to the empire. In a startling shift from the severe persecution by Diocletian the previous emperor, Constantine invited bishops and elders from all across the empire, at his expense, to come to Nicea, in order to reach a consensus on this important issue. There were between 1500-2000 attendants at this council. In his History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff explains that the members of the council were divided into three camps. The smallest camp was made up of members who believed in the deity of Christ from eternity (i.e., Alexander, Athanasius, etc.). The second group was made up of those who agreed that Christ was created and of a lesser substance then the Father (i.e., Arius, etc.). The third group, the vast majority, leaned towards the orthodox position, but were undiscerning and did not seem to care for doctrinal debates or scholastic discussions. They could have been prepared to accept a compromised position. Arius’ camp proposed the first summary of their position; their creed was quickly dismissed and the debate must have been convincing. Sixteen of the eighteen original proponents of the Arian creed abandoned the cause. No room for compromise Eusebius, a church historian at that time, presented an alternative creed, originally approved by Emperor Constantine. It was similar to the completed Nicene Creed, but missing the claim that Christ was of the same substance as the Father. It acknowledged, in general terms, the divine nature of Christ, but was not explicit in articulating the co-equality and co-eternality of Christ with the Father. The Arian camp was prepared to adopt the creed as presented by Eusebius which caused the camp of Alexander and Athanasius to be quite suspicious. They wanted a creed that Arians would reject entirely. There was no room for compromise. They continued to insist on the inclusion of the phrase “of one substance” which Arians rejected as Sabellianism – that the Trinity is three modes of the one God, not three persons. However, as the debate continued, Constantine noticed that Eusebius’ creed would not pass, and so he gave his consent to insert and include “of one substance” in the creed. The version of the Nicene Creed, adopted by the Council and signed by most of the members at the Council read thus:  “We believe in on God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only begotten; that is of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from then he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. “And in the Holy Ghost. “But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’ – they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.” (Philip Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom, Vol. 1) This is the first instance in the Christian Church that office-bearers signed such a document. It expresses agreement with, and also submission to, the content of this creed. Eusebius, the one who had presented the creed without “of one substance” was prepared to sign this creed without the last paragraph, the condemnation of Arius teaching, and for this he was deposed and banished until he later conceded to sign the creed in its entirety. In the end, only two bishops, together with Arius, refused to sign and were banished. This is also the first time that there was a civil consequence applied because of church issues. The separation of church and state was eroding quickly. Round 2 We might think the story ends here and the debate on the nature of Christ and his relationship to the Father is finished. We’d be sorely mistaken. Some of those who had signed this did so because of the Emperor’s approval of it. As such, it didn’t take long for some of them came to the defence of Arius. Eusebius the historian (who presented the compromised creed) starting to throw all of his influence against those who supported the phrase “of one substance.” Even Constantine was convinced at some point of the idea that Christ was created “of a like substance” to the Father (not the same), but eventually came back from that. However, Arius was no longer banished and he was expecting to take up his place as elder as he had previously, but by this time Athanasius was the bishop and refused to reappoint him to the office. However, two Arian councils were held that condemned Athanasius, and even the Emperor banished the bishop for being a disturber of the peace. Arius was formally acquitted by a council in Jerusalem (A.D. 335) and was to be received as a full member by the church at Constantinople. Schaff goes on to explain, “But on the evening before the intended procession from the imperial palace to the church of the Apostles, he suddenly died (A.D. 336), at the age of over eighty years, of an attack like cholera, while attending to a call of nature. This death was regarded by many as a divine judgment; by others, it was attributed to poisoning by enemies; by others, to the excessive joy of Arius in his triumph.” Athanasius had to wait until the death of Constantine (337) to be recalled from his banishment (338) by Constantine II. A few months later, he convened a Council in Alexandria to reaffirm the Nicene Creed, but his victory was short lived. The changing emperors, the constant divide between the Eastern and Western portions of the empire with regards to church doctrine, and the opposing Councils hosted by various bishops did nothing to bring peace or unity. At one point, Constantius, a son of Constantine, held three successive synods that supported a moderate Arianism (i.e., “of like substance”) and forced the decrees of these councils on the entire Church, East and West, and then deposed and banished bishops. At then, as Schaff highlights, he even brought in the troops: “ drove Athanasius from the cathedral of Alexandria during divine service with five thousand armed soldiers and supplied his place with an uneducated and avaricious Arian.” For a number of decades, through various emperors, the fight for orthodoxy seemed grim. At some point, even in the city of Constantinople, there was only one congregation, pastored by Gregory Nanzianen, that remained faithful to the Nicene Creed. Many bishops had been banished, recalled, banished again, etc., depending on the emperor’s perspective. During a short period of a revival of paganism, under the rule of Julian that Apostate, both parties were invited to exist side by side as he wanted the Church to keep fighting among itself in order to destroy itself. Finally, in 381, Theodosius the Great, who was educated in the Nicene faith, called the second ecumenical council at Constantinople in May. Only bishops from the East came to this Council, it seems, as the Roman (Latin) church was quite agreed with the orthodox position. This Council did not create a new creed, but they rearticulated the Nicene Creed, as we have it today, for the most part. Schaff explains that, by July, the emperor “enacted a law that all churches should be given up to bishops who believed in the equal divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost… the public worship of heretics was forbidden.” Conclusion Orthodoxy had to be discovered and defended. Today, almost anyone who identifies as a Christian confesses the truth of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed (Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are significant exemptions). I sometimes wonder if we truly appreciate the battles that were fought in order to maintain truth and to keep a right understanding of scripture. This, of course, is the most significant outcome of the battle for and around the Nicene Creed. However, two other major points that were mentioned briefly should be reconsidered for a moment. First, the importance of adding one’s signature to the Creed at the first Council: office-bearers today also sign a form of subscription when they enter upon their respective offices. We do this, in part, to protect orthodoxy, and the orthodoxy of our churches, as it were. We express agreement with the Ecumenical and Reformed Creeds, and should we have any concerns with any part of them, we agree not to address them in public, and to submit to the decisions of our local consistory or classis. Doing otherwise would lead to being suspended from the office. This sounds similar to what happened at the Council of Nicea. The second important point is the role of the government in these affairs. Once Constantine championed Christianity, the emperors that followed thereafter had a significant role on the formation, deformation, and reformation of the Church. Under Constantine’s rule, the Church enjoyed an unprecedented sense of prestige, protection, and power but with the change of an emperor, things quickly changed. However, the truth of God’s Word does not change with changing circumstances. That’s important to keep in mind, as today again, the Church’s circumstances have changed dramatically from even fifty years ago. In the West the Church is no longer held in any sort of regard, but is considered a fringe organization, especially when it persists in defending orthodoxy. Many churches have reacted to the changing of society by changing what they consider to be orthodox. May faithful churches today continue to strive in remaining faithful to the entirety of God’s Word, to his honor, and all the more so when persecution, tribulations, and trials come our way. Culture does not define or set the parameters of the truth of God’s Word, but God’s truth should define what is acceptable and good to cultivate. Dr. Chris deBoer is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective Foundation....

History, News

Residential schools: what worldview is to blame?

We’ve seen at least ten Canadian churches burnt down and others damaged by fire since unmarked graves at two former residential schools became front page news in June. Many children who attended these schools did not live to return to their families, and it’s not a leap to think the arsonists are blaming the churches for their deaths. That’s the direction Prime Minister Trudeau took too, when he called on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for their involvement. There is blame to be directed at individuals and organizations. However, to learn the right lesson here we need to look beyond just the people, and find out what worldview was the root cause. We can point to people who professed to be Christian as perpetrators, and the State was overseeing it all. So was the problem that people were acting like Christians, or that they were acting like agents of a secular State? Was this tragedy caused by too much Christianity or too little? To answer, let’s compare and contrast the worldviews that were involved: Christianity, and the secular worldview that has long been prevalent in government. Secularism is godless and consequently holds that the State is the highest authority, since it is the mightiest (if there is no God, then why wouldn’t might makes right?). The only limits on its power are self-imposed. The State gives rights and therefore can also take them away. Thus parents have only as much authority as the State grants them, and the State can take away that authority whenever it wishes. Under this worldview education is a State responsibility, if it so decides. Christianity acknowledges that God is the highest authority, and that He’s allotted limited authority to not only the State, but also to parents. God is the source of our rights via His commandments so, for example, his prohibitions against stealing and murder give us rights to property and life. While the State does often violate those rights, it can never take them away. God has given parents the primary role in the education of their children (Deut. 4:9, 6:7, 11: 19, Josh. 24:15, Prov. 1:8, 3:1, 15:5, Eph. 6:6, Heb. 12:7-8, etc.). When the Canadian government took these children away from their parents, it was acting as godless governments have always done, and in a manner consistent with secular conviction: without restraint, and as if might makes right. However, when professed Christian individuals and groups aided in these abductions they were acting in opposition to the Truth they professed, against principles God spells out in His Word. We need to understand then that the horrors perpetuated at these residential schools were not caused by Christianity, but by its lack. Today our government continues using schooling to indoctrinate children against the values of their parents. In the State's public system the abduction is no longer physical, but still mental and spiritual, with children taught the government’s secular perspective on God, the unborn, sexuality, rights, gender, and more. As our country continues to look at what happened in these residential schools, God’s people need to help their friends and neighbors unpack why it went so horribly wrong. It was wrong, but not according to the secular worldview – that the State disregarded parents is completely in keeping with our current Prime Minister's secular worldview. The only reason these abductions were wrong is because God is in fact King. They were wrong because He has granted parents the responsibility to care for and educate their children, and the State had no authority to take our children away. The lesson Canada needs to learn is to reject godless governance, and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Photo by Blake Elliot/Shutterstock.com....

News

Texas declares that cutting off children’s body parts is child abuse

In August, Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked his Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to review whether transgender surgeries on children could be classified as abuse. In arguing that they should be, Governor Abbott wrote, “Subjecting a child to genital mutilation through reassignment surgery creates a ‘genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child.’” It took some courage for him to ask for the review. But it might have ended there if DFPS commissioner Jaime Masters hadn’t run with it and agreed that yes, it was abuse. Both men were pursuing an opportunity to defend these children, and by backing each other up, by adding courage to courage, the two men made common sense common again. And we can all make it the more so by spreading news of their sensible stand. But even as we can celebrate their stand against the emasculation of boys, we can still ask when the self-emasculation of Christian politicians will end. Even these two, among our bravest political leaders, were unwilling to defend God’s truth here as God’s truth, that transgender surgeries are abuse because gender is determined by God and no other (Gen. 1:27)....

News

Saturday Selections – August 21, 2021

A pro-life opportunity (2 min) The folks who brought us The Magical Birth Canal, No Uterus, No Say, and Modern Child Sacrifice is looking for funds to create a 6-part pro-life series. If you want to know more, or help fund the effort, click on the link above. 8 things more dangerous for our kids than COVID We teach our children not to treat small things as big. Covid is a thing. But for children it is a much smaller thing than it is for adults. Plastics help green the planet Governments that have designated marriage as being between whom or even what ever, gender as being malleable, population as a problem, abortion as a right, and euthanasia as healthcare, may soon be designating plastic as a toxin. Might their designation be wrong once again? After all, plastics have their benefits... "...refined petroleum products... have gradually reduced the demand for wild fauna such as whales (whale oil, baleen, perfume base), birds (feathers), elephants, polar bears, alligators and other wild animals (ivory, fur, skin), trees and other plants (lumber, firewood, charcoal, rubber, pulp, dyes, green manure), agricultural products (fats and fibres from livestock and crops, leather, dyes and pesticides from plants), work animals and the large quantities of food they consume (horses, mules, oxen) and human labour in various forms (lumbering, agricultural work)." British celebrity comes out as non-binary and... Korean The world has no words. In the video at the bottom of this article, the talk show host buys into this fellow – Oli London – as having transitioned into non-binary, repeatedly calling him "them." But then the panel of guests tries to explain why transgender is fine, but transracial is not. And they can't do it – or rather, what they say, that this fellow can't really know what it is like to be Korean, applies all the more so for men not ever being able to know what it is like to be women (and vice versa). But while the world has no words, we do: God made us male and female (Gen. 5:2). And to pretend that anyone other than God defines reality, is to descend into this sort of nonsense. What happens when doctors can't tell the truth? (15-minute read) As the subtitle reads: "Whole areas of research are off-limits. Top physicians treat patients based on their race. An ideological 'purge' is underway in American medicine." Is the answer to past discrimination to be "race-conscious" the other way, discriminating now in favor of blacks and other minority groups? God condemns partiality (Lev. 19:15, Acts 10:24), and calls on us to treat others, not as they've treated us in the past – it isn't "do unto others as they've done unto you" – but as we ourselves would like to be treated (Matt. 7:12). So adding discrimination on top of discrimination is just adding one wrong to another. And it is not simplistic to say two wrongs don't make a right. If killing is understood as a "cure" If when you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail, what happens when you decide killing people is medicine? It's inevitable that you'll apply this "treatment" to more and more illnesses: euthanasia will be seen as the solution to everything from old age, to pain, to mental illnesses, teen anxiety, and loneliness. However, when you view life as a gift from God, then healthcare will be understood as a means of preserving and protecting that gift, and then doctors and nurses will be challenged to apply their creativity and care to easing pain, and enhancing living. When Jordan Peterson broke down talking about Jesus (8 min) John McCray, from the Whaddo You Meme?? podcast, reflects on Jordan Peterson's passionate (and yet, as of now, still unrepentant) response to Jesus Christ. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood

by Nathan Hale 128 pages, 2014 A few decades ago a cartoonist decided to tell the story of the Jewish Holocaust in World War II via an animal metaphor. He made the Jews mice, and the Germans cats, the good folk dogs and the collaborators were pigs. It was a dark story, of course, but the use of the animals made it slightly less gritty, and thus more bearable. In Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, author Nathan Hale has done something similar for World War I. Each nation is assigned an animal: the Germans are eagles, the English are bulldogs, the Belgians are lions, the Ottomans are otters, the Russians bears and the Americans get stuck being bunnies, because eagle has already been taken. Hale does a good job of laying out the facts, and detailing the slaughter that amounted in the millions, but also lightening things up with doses of humor whenever he can. I knew the basic facts of World War I already, but learned a lot from this overview. Of course a comic, particularly one presented in metaphor form, shouldn't be regarded as an authoritative source, but it does provide a useful overview. Now if I want to find out more, I've now learned enough to know what I might want to read more about. This book is one of in a series of "Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales" referencing both the author Nathan Hale, and the more famous American spy Nathan Hale who lived 250 years ago, and who appears in this series as the narrator. A couple cautions to share: this is a historic account that details the death of millions, so even though it is in animal/comic form parts of it would be too much for the very young. I'm not talking about gore - there isn't any - but rather the story itself. Also a language advisory: a couple of "good heavens"s pop up, a "holy moley" and in one instances a character says, "ye gods" (page 73). I'd recommend this for children 12 and up, though some kids might be able to handle it as young as 10....

Assorted

Neither poverty nor riches? Making God our priority in prayer

People prefer to be rich rather than poor. It’s therefore striking that the Bible gives us a record of this prayer in Prov. 30:8: …give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me. Agur, the person expressing this, isn’t asking for much: just an allotment of bread, a fixed portion. He leaves it up to the LORD God to establish that portion. A humble petition This Old Testament prayer is echoed in the petition that Jesus taught his disciples: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Does this idea, especially seen against its more explicit setting in the Old Testament, make you feel uncomfortable? Do you find it difficult or easy to pray like this? Or don’t you pray about your daily needs at all? What’s the further biblical context of this request? Although the LORD may give us earthly riches, he teaches us to focus not on them, but on his Kingdom. God is our Father, the King of his people. He lovingly directs our lives and calls us to respond to him by relying on him to provide for us while serving him gladly (Ps 100:2). Pray confidently to our all-powerful and merciful Father for daily food! By praying in this way, you oppose the spirit of the world. You reject the idea that people are self-sufficient. People often think they can take care of themselves. They cherish the illusion that they are in full control of events. But God gives sunshine and rain. Without his blessings, crops will fail and ultimately all endeavours will amount to nothing that has eternal value. It’s a human inclination to want an abundance of good things. However, understanding our calling to live for God leads to a reorientation of our lives. Through Jesus Christ, God gives the means we need to live for him. We learn to pray for what we need to live for him in a fruitful way. A bold petition This is also the thrust of the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chr 4:9-10, a petition of a man whose name is linked to the pain of his mother at childbirth. Although Scripture describes such pain as one of the consequences of sin, this doesn’t exclude the possibility of blessings. Jabez prayed to “the God of Israel,” asking for the blessing of enlarged borders, meaning more territory. Was this a greedy petition? No, it was in harmony with the LORD’s promise of land for his people to provide for their needs. Jabez asked for more territory within the context of fellowship with the LORD, praying “that your hand might be with me.” He also prayed, “keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain.” This is at root not unlike the petition “deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13) in the Lord’s Prayer. So, we pray for and look for opportunities to serve our God fruitfully with what he provides. The important thing is to leave it up to him how he will honour such petitions as we seek to use the gifts he gives us to glorify him.  A liberating petition The LORD determines the potential and the limits of our abilities. Knowing and acknowledging this can be a liberating experience. Don't take on too many responsibilities, trying to do more than you can actually oversee. Whatever you do, keep in mind what your motives are. Are you doing this to serve God, or just to get even further ahead financially? There is more to life than economic gains. Do you have a family? You have more than just financial responsibilities toward them. We live in a world that is affected by man’s fall into sin. That means there are spiritual challenges which we will have to face. Lay your motives and goals before the LORD God in prayer. That makes a big difference. It will lead to peace. The condition is, however, to trust in God and ask him for our daily bread. As long as he has a task for us in this life, he will provide us with what we need.  Dr. Pol is a retired minister of the Carman West Canadian Reformed Church in Manitoba....

Apologetics 101, Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College

by Michael J. Kruger 2021 / 262 pages. From time to time I search online for “ex-Can RC.” I’m curious as to why people would leave the Canadian Reformed Churches. What makes people walk away from the church and sometimes the faith in which they were raised? What can I learn from that as a pastor? Several individuals mention how they were told not to study philosophical or scientific questions, not to think too deeply about things, nor to read widely for themselves outside of the “approved CanRC authors.” Church leaders allegedly told them to check their brains at the door. Well, we all know what some people do when they’re told not to do something. They started reading and studying for themselves and soon discovered that they’d been brainwashed and hoodwinked by their church leaders. The exit came into view. If we presume these stories are even a little accurate, what might lead pastors or elders to give those kinds of warnings to their flock? Perhaps it’s fear. Maybe they’re afraid that the arguments of unbelievers will persuade their members. Connected with that, possibly it is the worry that we don’t readily have solid counter-arguments so “You just have to believe.” Truth has nothing to be afraid of That kind of approach is counter-productive. We should actually encourage our members to think more deeply, to read more widely, to engage with the big questions posed by unbelieving philosophy and science. Why? Because we ought to have confidence that the truth of God is more powerful than every lie. However, at the same time, we need to equip our people with tools to be able to see how, where, and why this is so. That’s where Michael Kruger’s Surviving Religion 101 will be an invaluable resource. The author is not only a New Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, but also a father to three children. While he’s written this for them, the book is particularly addressed to his oldest daughter Emma as she began studies at the University of North Carolina. It takes the form of 15 letters to her. Reformed answers to big questions Through these letters, Kruger addresses questions that Christian university students are likely to face in and out of the classroom. Some of those questions: My professors are really smart – isn’t it more likely that they’re right and I’m wrong? (chapter 2) I have gay friends who are kind, wonderful, and happy – are we sure that homosexuality is really wrong? (chapter 5) There is so much suffering in the world – how could a good God allow such evil? (chapter 7) My professor keeps pointing out contradictions in the gospels – can I still trust them? (chapter 11) Some parts of the Bible seem morally troubling – how can a book be from God if it advocates oppression or genocide? (chapter 14) Sometimes it feels like my faith is slipping away – how do I handle doubts about what I believe? (chapter 15) In answering all these questions, Kruger takes a Reformed approach. He presents the truth of what God’s Word says and then he also explains how the alternative position is untenable. A peak at what’s inside In chapter 3, Kruger deals with the question of whether it’s legitimate to claim that Christianity is the only right religion. One of the connected counter-claims is that all religions are actually the same. Here’s part of how Kruger answers that: “…there are features about Christianity that make it genuinely distinct from the rest of the world’s religions. And the fundamental difference is this: Christianity is not just another religion about being a good person. Needless to say, this flies in the face of what most people think about religion. Just consider the very popular television show The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell. As strange as it sounds, the show is a comedy about heaven (the good place) and hell (the bad place). On the show, the good place is where good people go, regardless of their religious beliefs. Whether you’re Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, you go to the good place as long as your good deeds outweigh your bad. “In contrast, Christianity says something stunning. Something counterintuitive. Something unique. It says that bad people go to the good place. Just let that sink in for a moment. Heaven is not for good people but for sinful people forgiven by grace…” As you’ll note, Kruger isn’t writing here for scholars. He’s done his homework and he’s got the endnotes to prove it, but the book is written at a popular level. Conclusion So, even though it’s written for Christian college/university students, Surviving Religion 101 ought to be read far beyond that audience. Many Christian young people, university-bound or not, will find it accessible. In fact, starting this year, I’m going to make this the book our young people traditionally get when they make public profession of faith. And if it’s going to be manageable for them, it should also be for many adults too. Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We can have that confidence in our Christian faith because the truth of it is established on God and therefore it’s objectively true. We have nothing to fear from the arguments of unbelievers. Books like Kruger’s Surviving Religion 101 help us see how Christianity isn’t only spiritually comforting, but also well-grounded and eminently reasonable. So, read widely. Read non-Christian authors. Read philosophy and science. But know that the tough questions they raise have been adequately answered by Christian scholars like Michael Kruger. The author offers a video series on the same topics as the book, which you can access by signing up with your name and email address as this link. You can see the first introductory episode of the series below. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Pride and Prejudice (2003)

Romance/Comedy 104 min / 2003 Rating: 8/10 When a book is adapted for the screen, readers want it to be as close to the book as possible. So let's begin this review with a heads up: that did not happen here. The central plot remains the same – these are women "in need of a husband" – but the setting has been updated to the modern-day USA, with five girlfriends all sharing a house just off-campus. Other departures include how the first love interest, Charles Bingley, came by his wealth: selling classical music CDs for dogs, and marketing them via late-night TV infomercials. And he drives a motor scooter. Oh, and Mr. Collins' proposal now has him make the compelling argument: "Elizabeth, we've been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth." So if you aren't up for a light, silly treatment of your favorite book, this is not for you. That said, I do think it is for most everyone else. And if you've ever wished that someone today could make something like Pride and Prejudice, well, this is something like it indeed. This version also adds an element glaringly absent from the book and every film version: car chases! Caution There aren't many cautions to offer because, as it turns out, this was made by Mormons. There's no sex happening onscreen or off (though the villain of the piece, Wickham, jokes at one point about being “relatively disease-free”). The only problematic element is a self-help dating guide called the “Pink Bible.” We had to explain to our kids that it was a “bible” only in the sense that it was purporting to be the final word on that subject – dating – as the Mechanics Bible would say it is for car repair. We also had to explain to our girls that this boy-crazy guide and the "religious" way that the youngest two girls, Kitty and Lydia, followed it, was meant to be a comic warning and not an example. Conclusion This is not a faithful retelling of Pride and Prejudice. and yet it is a very good one, keeping remarkably close to the spirit of the book. That makes it the perfect date night movie for mom and dad, and a pretty good one for the whole family. The pacing is quick, the romance is sweet, and the humor is sprinkled liberally throughout. Of the 50 or so people I’ve watched it with, or loaned it to, somewhere near 90% have given it a thumbs up. There are so many Pride and Prejudice films that if you want to find this one you should search for the title along with the year, or the title along with the word “Mormon." That’ll help you track it down. I share the trailer below with some misgivings – the film is a lot better than this makes it seem. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

You will be offensive (and need to speak the truth anyway)

An excerpt from Rachel Jankovic's "You Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal with It" **** Imagine you have always believed that it was up to you to craft yourself. You have bought into inspirational quotes such as this gem from Nathan W. Morris: "Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all." You believe absolutely that you are creating a story in which you are the hero and that it is your responsibility to make this story what you want it to be. You must make yourself what you need to be because that is the only way to live fully! So you select things that you want to be in this masterpiece. You might add an interest in houseplants. You might edit out a toxic aunt. You might add spin class, or you might edit out additional responsibilities and clutter. You are crafting the story the way you want it to be. Say that what you are trying to self-actualize is an interesting, vibrant, well-loved fun person. In addition, say that in this self-created world you are also (either coincidentally or centrally) a lesbian, or gay, or trans, or whatever other status you may have decided to incorporate. You see the story this way, and you think it is wonderful and intriguing and fun, and it is all according to your plan for who you think you are. You intentionally wrote these things into your story, or you discovered them to be part of your identity, so you have decided to feature them. Given all this imaginary set up, do you see why it would feel like hate if Christians do not "affirm" your story? It would feel truly spiteful because it would seem like someone had come into your story to criticize it unfairly. If you penned in all these things with a note in the margin ("and everyone loved her and was jealous of her life"), then even a quiet disagreement with your choices from others would make you (the author) into a liar. Imagine that you are confidently writing your story assuming the genre is romantic comedy. Imagine a Christian coming in to tell you (the tone of voice is really irrelevant here) that actually this is a tragedy and the main character is about to die. But how? How could someone else dare to make you a liar in your own story? How could the author become a liar about herself? You do get to write your own story, don’t you? Isn’t this what everyone has always told you? How dare anyone come along and flat-out deny your truth? How dare they say, "No, you aren’t a boy, and you never will be." How dare they tell you that you may not do whatever you want to do or be whatever you want to be? How dare they come and tell you that you are not the author and that this story is wholly other than what you think you have been writing? As a trans person recently said to someone who refused to use their special pronouns, "Are you denying my existence?" This is not a collision of preferences or manners. This is a collision of answers to the most basic questions of life… "Who are we? Who decides? What does it mean, and why does it matter anyway?" If the Christian idea about identity is right, then all the self-constructed people in the world have been building their little selves out in the thin air off the cliff edge like so many Wile E. Coyotes. The bottom isn’t about to fall out from under them because it has never been there at all. There is no safety, there is no refuge, there is no security. It is understandable that all they can see in our Christian claims is hate. But from our Christian perspective, speaking the truth is very far away from hate. The more any of us tries to cobble together the pieces of things around us – racial identity, sexual identity, hobby identity, political identity, pet owner identity – the smaller we become. In other words, the more we try to build up an identity apart from God and apart from His Word, the less truly us we become. It doesn’t matter how long or thoughtful or detailed the story you are writing is. If it is written by a character in the story rather than the Author of the story, it can only ever be tiny; it will always be minuscule by comparison. You cannot, as a character, out-write the Author of you. This is excerpted here with permission from the publisher, Canon Press. You can find "You Who?" at online retailers everywhere and find our review here....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Revolt: a novel in Wycliffe's England

by Douglas Bond 269 pages /  2016 I was never a fan of Church history in school, but I've come to realize that this was really the textbook's fault. It was a series of dry and weary titles, with lots of dates and facts, but no story to them. So I owe a debt of thanks to Douglas Bond for reviving my interest in what is really a most important topic, and he has done so by telling great stories. Sometimes, as he has in this novel, that story-telling involves weaving in fiction among the facts, so I can just imagine someone saying, "But then you're not really learning Church history, are you? Not if lots of it is made up!" Ah yes, but I know more Church history than I once did, and it was painless! And what's more, Bond's fictionalized biographies – he's tackled Calvin, Knox, C.S. Lewis, and now Wycliffe – left me wanting to know more about these men. So after read a Bond book I've followed it up with reading non-fiction books about, or by, all of them. My old Church history textbook never inspired me to do that! In The Revolt, Bond takes on an early Reformer, John Wycliffe, who lived and died more than 100 years before Martin Luther nailed up his 95 theses. Like Luther, Wycliffe was a man very much on his own – he had followers, but not really colleagues. He was the trailblazer who decided that, contrary to what the Pope and Church has pronounced, the common people needed to hear the Bible in their own tongue. One thing he had going for himself is that he lived in a time when there was two popes at the same time, which made it easier to question the need for submission to the pope. Wycliffe doesn't actually show up until page 62, so this is more a book about the England of his time than about him. The story begins with a young scholar on the battlefields of France, where the English army is surround by a much larger French force. The scholar has been assigned the task of recording the events, so while everyone else has a bow, or a battle axe, or something with some sort of sharp steel end, he is armed only with his quill. It's a great beginning, and from then on we follow along with this scholar who serves as the story's narrator. Through him we meet peasants, other scholars, and finally Wycliffe himself. The Revolt is a novel most any adult would find an easy and enjoyable read. I'm not sure, though, that this would be a good book for a teenager who is only a casual reader. It is a very good story, but it's not the non-stop "thrill ride" that so many Young Adult books try to be these days. To put it another way, this is far from a heavy read, but it's also not a light read either. However, for anyone with any interest in Church history, this is an ideal way to learn more. I sure hope Douglas Bond keeps on coming up with these great fictionalized "biographies"! ...

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Nero

by Jacob Abbott 2009, 202 pages How do you make history come alive for teens? Sometimes it means turning to an author long dead. Jacob Abbott died 125 years ago, but a quick read through this volume explains why his books endure. The original 1853 edition of Nero is available for free in many places online, and is well worth downloading to your Kindle. But it does benefit from the updating that publisher Canon Press has done to their version. Some longer 70-word sentences have been broken up and editor Lucy Zoe Jones has also replaced a few obscure words like "declivities," "salubrity," and "preternatural." Little else was required. Now, Nero's life might not seem like appropriate material for a biography aimed at teens – this Roman emperor indulged in every sort of immorality. However Abbott is both a tactful and talented writer. He doesn't delve into the salacious details, so younger readers will only encounter a broad overview of Nero's wickedness. But Abbott does tuck in a bit more information in between the lines, there to be read and understood by older, less naive readers. It's an impressive feat. Like many good teen books, adults will enjoy this as well - it is a engaging introduction to a key figure in both Church and Western history. For Canadian readers, this edition is available at Christianbook.com. In the US you can find it at CanonPress.com. where you can find more of these great updated Jacob Abbot biographies like: Cyrus Xerxes Alexander the Great Hannibal Julius Caesar Cleopatra Alfred the Great William the Conqueror Elizabeth I ...

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

In the hall of the Dragon King

by Stephen Lawhead 1982 / 370 pages This is an old-fashioned fantasy tale, with a loosely Christian underpinning. Quentin is a young man who has had a quest thrust upon him. He was going to spend his life behind the walls of a temple, so this turn of events isn’t unwelcome. But he has to figure out how he can see the queen. And someone needs to rescue the king. Oh, and there’s a dark wizard that needs to be dealt with. Is this really a job for a young former priest-to-be who doesn’t know one end of a sword from the other? The young Quentin, looking for help, meets a hermit of sorts, who serves not the gods, but the one God. That’s an ongoing theme throughout, as author Stephen Lawhead is trying to point readers to the true God. Cautions However, Lawhead sometimes gets it wrong. Quentin is told that God leads by “hunches and nudges” and “very rarely by direct command.” But our God does give us clear direct commands, in His Word, though some who profess to be Christians reject His Word in favor of hunches. Also, when a soldier is dying and asks how to go to heaven, the hermit tells him to just believe, but doesn’t mention anything about repentance. Conclusion While those are notable flaws, and worth bringing up with younger readers, they amount to only a few paragraphs in a rollicking adventure. There is a true and proper villain who had delved deep into the dark arts – he's a necromancer even! – which sharpens the contrast with the hermit, who has turned away from magic to serve his Lord. One feature I really appreciated is that, while this is the first book of a trilogy, it is a full and complete story – this is not the sort of trilogy that is actually one story split over three books. But readers can look forward to Quentin's further adventures in The Warlords of Nin and The Sword and the Flame. Like any great children's book, this will be a great read for adults too – I'd recommend it for 12 and up....

News

Saturday Selections – Aug 14, 2021

Save the planet by not having kids. What would you say? God says that children are a blessing and when we start with that premise, then we'll stop looking at more children as simply more mouths to feed. Then we'll recognize that we come with hands that can produce, and brains that can solve problems. We reflect our Maker's creativity in that we can even create resources out of refuse. Are people really like crumpled paper?  We should teach our kids not to insult others, but we shouldn't teach them that words will scar them for life. There is such a thing as apologizing, and being forgiven...and, as this article relates, that can even lead to stronger relationships than before. The "noble lies" of COVID-19 In James 5:12. God tells us that we should let our yes be yes and our no be no. What happens when we won't do so can be seen in Americans' response to their country's top health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has owned up to telling "noble lies." The problem with lies, no matter how well-meaning, is that if you are willing to tell them, people don't have a reason to trust you when it matters. Where did this limit of 1.5°C of warming come from? (5 min/1 hr read) The UNs’ IPCC 2018 Special Report on 1.5°C Warming "expressly stated that it did not complete a cost-benefit analysis of limiting warming to 1.5°C” and only "argued that 2°C warming would have bigger impacts than 1.5°C, but it did not say that the policies to hit the lower target would be worth the cost.” The biblical take: sensible people count the cost (Luke 14:28-32). The link leads to a short 5-minute article, and also a longer 1-hour report. 100 years ago Hitler became leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party The Nazis are sometimes portrayed as having been Christian and capitalist, but they were not nearly. Jordan Peterson with a problem for atheism (6 min) Peterson points out – with the help of Fyodor Dostoevsky – that without God, it isn't reasonable to be moral. Peterson isn't speaking as a Christian here, but even as a quasi agnostic/theist he recognizes you can't have good without God. ...

Economics

What does a Reformed entrepreneur look like?

What is it about Reformed Christians that has so many wired to be entrepreneurs? Think about all the landscape professionals and nursery operators in Ontario, the construction companies and dairy farms in BC, and the myriad cabinet shops in southwestern Australia! Very different businesses, but every company began with the dream of an individual or team that saw a need in the marketplace for their expertise: “We can do this better than others, and we can provide for our families and employees by sharing our expertise with the public, and charging the right prices for what we do.” That concept might sound mundane to some, but it’s incredibly invigorating and challenging to an entrepreneur! But what should we as Reformed Christians look like as entrepreneurs and employers? And how can we use God’s Word to guide us as leaders in the workplace? How can we be effective witnesses for the Lord, and conscientious stewards of what He provides for us? Be willing to take on responsibility Along with the excitement of starting something new, the Christian entrepreneur will also face many hurdles and pressures. When you work for someone else, you are rarely confronted with the realities of making sure there are enough funds in the bank to make payroll, or worrying that your biggest account won’t pay their bill on time so that you can send out checks to your vendors and partners. Especially early in a company’s life, the owners have many decisions to make and can feel like they are the only one worried about whether or not their enterprise will survive. These pressures multiply when the owners hire their first employee: we have to recruit the right people with the right skills so the company can grow; we need to file reams of paperwork with multiple government agencies; we need to choose and purchase benefit packages we might never have thought about. Despite the additional pressures, entrepreneurs who have a team can be many times more effective than when they are on their own. Be ambitious Throughout the Scriptures, the Lord commands His people to be hard-working, diligent, and industrious, not so that they would become rich, but because He wants us to use for His glory the gifts He has given us. In Matthew 24, the Lord Jesus praises the work of the two servants who managed well the funds their master entrusted to them. The master is furious with the servant who just buried his treasure in the ground: “You wicked and slothful servant!” And he commands that this “worthless” man be cast into the outer darkness. We do not know specifically what the two righteous servants did with the money they received (the first “traded with them,” and the second “made two talents more,”) but we do know that they were commended for their diligence. “Well done, good and faithful servant!” While some in today’s culture may look askance at profit-making, the Bible never condemns this basic tenet of capitalism that makes a free market function. Use your growing influence to aid and not exploit As they worked hard, and aimed for a return on their investments, God’s people were also to deal righteously with their servants and laborers. In Deuteronomy 24:15, the Lord through Moses instructs landowners: “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers, or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin…” The Lord is angered when profits are made by those who mistreat or cheat their employees. In James 5, those who have “hoarded wealth” are warned that “the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you… The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” Pay others as you would like to be paid In a recent issue of Reformed Perspective, Peter Jacobsen wrote about the negative effects of minimum wage policies – unintended consequences such as higher unemployment among the young and less skilled, and even intentionally evil consequences such as economic punishment of recent immigrants willing to work for lower wages than native-born employees. Jacobsen cited the writings of economist Thomas Sowell, a black American economist who delights in using real data to debunk “woke,” generally accepted theories about socialism, communism, racism, and more. Christian business leaders need wisdom to discern what is best for their employees, for the health of their company, and for their customers. Since we are commanded to be righteous and generous in how we treat our fellow workers, hopefully a hike in a mandated minimum wage does not have a significant impact on our businesses, since we are likely being far more generous with most of our workforce. Create opportunities for others to be fruitful Not only must we never withhold the wages earned by employees, we are also not to be so focused on profit that we leave no opportunities for others to profit from our enterprise. After instructing about paying wages on the same day as earned, Moses commands that farmers should leave enough crops in their fields for others to glean: “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands” (Deut. 24:19). King David’s great-grandmother benefited from this generosity to the poor! Are there ways that we in our modern workplaces can put in place similar policies that would help our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters? In my hometown, a local company owns and maintains a scenic, rural retreat and training center that it makes available for no cost to Christian organizations. This same company has hired a part-time chaplain to be available for their employees as they need a listening ear, and invites other local employers to avail themselves of this minister’s services. Another company nearby hires mentally disabled employees for janitorial work. Might the floors be cleaner and the windows sparkle more if a contract service were used? Possibly. But what a joy to be able to provide work and routine for those who otherwise might not have such opportunities. Seize the charitable opportunities that come with business success The principle of tithing and charitable giving also has a place in this discussion. Christians are expected to be generous with what the Lord has given. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul reminds his readers “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” And in 1 Corinthians 16, Paul writes “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” (NIV). The phrase “in keeping with your income” (or “as he may prosper” in the ESV) is telling: business owners often enjoy seasons of prosperity beyond what a typical wage earner may experience, and should be known for their generosity to causes that benefit their church community, and their neighbors’ well being.  May the Lord continue to bless the businesses in our church communities, and give wisdom to those entrusted to run them for his glory. Marty VanDriel is the CEO of a manufacturing company in Ferndale, Washington. Comments, feedback, and also suggestions for future topics dealing with business, employment, and finance are more than welcome at mvandriel@trivan.com....

Church history, Theology

How and why the Apostles’ Creed came to be

The Apostles’ Creed, as we possess it today, was not the first formally adopted or crafted creed. That honor belongs to the Nicene Creed. However, versions or parts of the Apostles’ Creed, serving as a baptismal confession, can be traced back to Irenaeus of Lyons (180), Tertullian of Carthage (200), Cyprian of Carthage (250), and Rufinus of Aquilega (390) among others. The creed of Marcellus of Aneyra from 340 reads: I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; Who was born of the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; Was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried; The third day he rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven; and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost; The Holy Church; The forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body. Despite the various articulations of the rule or standard of faith, there was a lot of unity on the core tenets of Christianity. Eventually, these various forms were merged into the Apostles’ Creed. However, it took longer still for it to be universally adopted. In his History of the Christian Church (Vol. 1), Philip Schaff suggests that: “if we regard, then, the present text of the Apostles’ Creed as a complete whole, we can hardly trace it beyond the sixth, and certainly not beyond the close of the fifth century, and its triumph over all the other forms in the Latin Church was not completed till the eighth century, or about the time when the bishops of Rome strenuously endeavored to conform the liturgies of the Western church to the Roman order.” The Apostles’ Creed has as its foundation Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and the baptismal instruction in Matthew 28:19: “… baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” While the Apostles’ Creed is sometimes divided into “twelve articles of the Christian faith” it would be fair to suggest that there are three main divisions: God the Father and our creation God the Son and our redemption God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8). A hedge against 3 heresies The Apostles’ Creed was articulated, not only as a baptismal confession, but also as a defense of orthodox Christianity. In the early church, Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Montanism were threats to the unity and purity of the church. Gnosticism In his book, A History of Christianity (2 Volumes), historian Ken Latourette explains that: “ regarded pure spirit as good, but thought of that spirit as having become imprisoned in corrupt matter. Salvation was the freeing of spirit from matter.” They also had a view of God that is quite convoluted. Latourette notes that, in general, Gnostics “held that there exists a first Principle, the all-Father, unknowable, who is love and who alone can generate other beings” and since love demands companionship, the all-Father brought forth other beings into existence who collaborated to create this world. “The present world was ascribed to a subordinate being, the Demiurge, who was identified with the God of the Old Testament.” Marcionism Marcion, influenced by, but distinct from Gnostics, believed that the God of the Old Testament and of the Jews was an evil God. As Latourette his views this way: “’Good men,’ he held, were those who yielded obedience to the law of the Demiurge, but they, too, were the creation of that evil God.” He believed that there was a second God, one of love who, seeing the suffering of men in this evil world, sought to rescue them. His love was one of true grace because he owed these creatures nothing because they were not his, but belonged to the evil God. This God of Love revealed himself as Christ and could not have been born of flesh, born as a creature of the Demiurge, but only seemed to have a body; he only appeared as a man. Montanism Montanism was quite distinct from Gnosticism and Marcionism. While Gnosticism spoke about secret knowledge, Montanism suggested a new era of revelation. Montanus, sometime between 156 A.D. and 172 A.D., encouraged greater separation of the church from the culture of the age. While this could have been solid instruction, it was accompanied by his belief that he and his two prophetesses were speaking in tongues and prophesying in the name of the Spirit, focusing on the early and imminent return of Christ. Bruce Shelley, in his book, Church History in Plain Language, notes: “Montanus’ doctrine of the new age of the Spirit suggested that the Old Testament was past, and that the Christian period centering in Jesus has ended. The prophet claimed the right to push Christ and the apostolic message into the background. The fresh music of the Spirit could override important notes of the Christian gospel; Christ was no longer central. In the name of the Spirit, Montanus denied that God’s decisive and normative revelation had occurred in Jesus Christ.” After error, clarity These three early heresies helped the church to shape the growing articulation of orthodoxy. It also drove the church to work on discovering which bible books should be canonical. For example, the Montanists wanted nothing to do with the Old Testament, had very little good to say about New Testament books written for Jews (e.g., Matthew, Hebrews), and really focused on Paul’s more substantial letters. Montanus’ canon would have been significantly smaller than what we have presently, to be sure. When the church formulated and adopted the Apostles’ Creed, they confessed, contrary to the Gnostics and the Marcionites that God, the Father almighty, is the same God who created all things, both physical and spiritual. They also confessed that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. In this, they again made it clear that there is nothing inherently evil in material things. They also make it clear that there is no division between God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – they are not working at odds with each other. While the unity and diversity of the one God in Three Persons is implied in this creed, it is not explicitly expressed. Schaff explains that the creed was: “explained to catechumens at the last stage of their preparation, professed by them at their baptism, often repeated, with the Lord’s Prayer, for private devotion, and afterwards introduced into public service.” As a means to make a profession of faith before baptism, Schaff also explains that some early versions of the creed were interrogative, that is, the three main sections were formed as questions. For example, “do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?” The response: “I believe” or in Latin, “Credo.” The Creed today The Apostles’ Creed remains an integral part of many Reformed catechisms as well. Working through the Apostles Creed today remains valuable for growing in knowledge and understanding of God’s holy Word. The confession that God is the Father Almighty speaks to His sovereign power, providence, and covenantal love. The creed’s commentary on Christ speaks to His nature as God and man, His victory over death and the grave, His ascension, His return, and His coming judgment. The creed speaks about the work of the Holy Spirit as He is at work in the Church, the Bride of Christ: those who live as a communion of saints whose sins are forgiven, who will be raised on the last day, and are promised eternal life! The Church has been richly blessed by the formulation and the preservation of the Apostles Creed. Perhaps it makes sense to recite it daily during family devotions, or when you get up in the morning. Keeping this creed in our hearts and at the forefront of our minds may assist in equipping us for remembering that every day serves as an opportunity for serving the Lord! In the episode below of his Focal Point podcast, Dr. deBoer discusses some points about the most controversial phrase of the creed, ”He descended into hell.”  ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

by Eric A. Kimmel 32 pages / 1988 Things begin with Anansi (uh·naan·see) the spider making quite the discovery: a strange moss-covered rock that somehow knocks you out if you say "Isn't this a strange moss-covered rock!" It takes Anansi a couple of goes – along with a couple of hours of unconscious time, lying on his back – to figure this out, but once he does, he knows just how he's going to use this magical rock. He starts bringing his friends to come see it, and encourages them to comment on it. Once they do, and are lying on their back taking an unintended one-hour nap, Anansi goes to their house and takes their food. He begins with Lion, then Elephant, Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, and goes on and on.  The careful reader will notice that there is another animal watching all these goings-on. Somewhere behind the bushes, on most every page, is the little Bush Deer. He decides to make things right by pulling a trick on the trickster. When Anansi invites him to go look at the rock, Bush Deer goes but he doesn't comment on the rock. He even pretends he can't see it. In frustration, Anansi ends up spouting the troublesome phrase himself...and down he goes! That allows the Bush Deer a whole hour to clear out Anansi's house and return his ill-gotten gains Cautions There are no cautions for this book, but parents should be aware that Anansi the trickster is a folktale from Africa, who, in some versions, isn't simply a spider but is a god in the form of a spider. So the only caution would be not to presume, if you are buying another author's Anansi stories, that they will simply be morality tales with animals standing in for people, as is happening here. Conclusion This is a fun animals-as-people folktale that rewards the observant child (even the pre-reader) who spots the bush deer long before he makes his first "official" appearance. On the first go, a child might need some encouragement from mom or dad to look closely, but once they spot the deer once, they'll love finding him the next times. That's what makes this a book kids will look through repeatedly....

News

Saturday Selections – Aug 7, 2021

The Genius of Flight (11 min) A close look at birds reveals the Genius behind the design of their feathers, heart, muscles, navigation system, and more. Why so many are so skeptical now This isn't an anti-vaccine post and I note that because some might otherwise conclude it is. It is being shared to help those who are frustrated or in any other way exasperated at fellow pew-sitters who are "vaccine hesitant." If you don't understand why anyone could possibly be so, this will help, and not because it offers any medical insights into the vaccines. This is, instead, about how media and governmental leaders have undermined their own credibility. Draw your own conclusions about the vaccine but patience please with those who differ: their skepticism is not unreasonable. Should the Church "stay in its lane" and stay out of politics? "...every law... based on consequential assumptions about human value, the nature and purpose of sex, what and how children should be raised, the scope of the state, and a million other things. The question is never whether politics will operate from worldview assumptions, but which worldview it will operate from." White House working directly with Facebook to limit the spread of "misinformation" Social media companies are taking it "upon themselves to be the arbitrators of truth" and the problem isn't just that they get it wrong and that they are working with the government to restrict speech, which has been caught lying repeatedly. The real problem is that we the consumers aren't outraged – we still continue to turn to these companies as our main sources for news and information. One alternative? You can find Reformed Perspective on MeWe here. Want to fund a Christian nature series? The folks behind the two Riot and Dance nature documentaries are looking to make a nature TV series now. Find out more – and watch the first half-hour episode about swimming with sharks, for free – at the link above. How can we see distant starlight? (15-min read) If the universe is only roughly 6,000 years young, and it takes millions of years for light to get to us from many stars, then how can we see them? You can read an explanation at the link above (a free chapter from The Creation Answers Book) or if you'd rather watch Dr. Jonathan Sarfati and Dr. Robert Carter discuss it, then check out this 25-minute video. Does the Bible "whisper" about sexual sin? (5 min) What better way to minimize the sinfulness of a sin than to say the Church should remain quiet – or only whisper – about it. This is worth listening to because this tactic is confusing even conservative Christians. ...

Humor, Theology

What is humor?

What is humor? It seems a simple question, with a very obvious answer: humor is whatever makes us laugh or smile. But then what of all the cruel pranks and the sacrilegious gags that make so many laugh? Even the crudest of comedians can get big laughs. The fact is, we laugh at a lot of things that just aren’t funny. So we aren’t interested in simply what makes us laugh. Instead we’re going to explore genuine humor, the sort of humor that gets laughs but can be shared without shame – we’re going to explore Christian humor. DEFINITION OF HUMOR Humor is a term used in English since the early eighteenth century to denote a type of writing or speech whose purpose it is to evoke some kind of laughter. So laughter is a key element. But we want to go deeper – we want to go beyond the knock knock joke. Instead of being something merely light or superficial, the best humor depends upon profundity. "A humorous rejoinder, " said Kierkegaard, "must always contain something profound." For example here’s a joke about a person getting their just deserts (as described in Galatians 6:7-8):  While doing his daily rounds a prison chaplain stopped in on a prisoner who had been assigned the task of making pillowcases for the entire 5,000 inmate prison. “Good morning,” said the chaplain, “Sewing, eh?’ “No, Chaplain, “ replied the prisoner with a grim smile. “Reaping.” Elton Trueblood observed that humor takes intelligence: "It is not possible to have genuine humor or true wit without an extremely sound mind, which is always a mind capable to high seriousness and a sense of the tragic." THE NEED FOR HUMOR Sometimes humor is dismissed as being trivial but genuine humor is an important and effective tool in many settings. Properly used, it can allow us to see our lives in more realistic proportions, restrain an explosion of anger, and deliver us from pessimism and despair, and do so much more. For example, it can be a wonderful educational tool and a means to restoring order in a classroom with a smile. It can even be a way to ensure better parent/teacher relations as a wise Grade 1 teacher was said to have done by sending the following note home on the first day of school: "If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I'll promise not to believe everything he says happens at home.” Humor is a necessity within the church as well. When we lose our sense of proportion and humor, controversies in the church become battlefields. We look for "heretics" in each corner and even tend to look under our bed before we dare to go to sleep. We can be so busy with controversies we can no longer hear the footsteps of our approaching Lord, whose coming is at hand. And how sad it is to see people spend time and energy to paint their position in bright colors and put others in worse light than warranted. We may not build bomb-free shelters where criticism cannot enter. Humor should not be overlooked in evangelism either. It is easy to visit people who are with you, but it is hard when they are filled with bitterness against the Lord and His church. With tact and humor we can make contact with people who are filled with criticism against church members, and especially ministers. Real humor blossoms only where God's Word has taken root. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones," says Solomon (Prov. 17:23). So a Christian remembers that he is always in the presence of God, and his speech is the gift of the Creator. As Augustine put it: "Speech is not simply our possession; it is God's gift to us. To recognize and acknowledge this gift in truthful words is to offer grateful praise to the One from whom it comes." LAUGH AT YOURSELF All of us ought to be ready to laugh at ourselves because all of us are a little funny in our foibles, conceits and pretensions. What is funny about us is precisely that we take ourselves too seriously. The ability to laugh at oneself shows we understand some of our imperfections. A Christian who understands he is living his life under the judging eye of God does not boast about his moral achievements. He understands that is pride and folly. One of the qualifications of a missionary is a sense of humor - while learning a new language and new customs it is easy to make embarrassing blunders. When we were serving in the Philippines, I made my share, and a good laugh at myself helped me survive. But there is another side to laughing at oneself. If we keep laughing when we have done something wrong, if we cannot recognize the real evil of sin, laughter turns into folly. If we continue to laugh after having recognized the depth of evil we have committed, our laughter becomes the instrument of irresponsibility. DISTORTED HUMOR It is easy indeed for humor to be distorted. A.D. Dennison, a Christian cardiologist, says in his 1970s bestseller Shock it to me Doctor that he recalls one man who sped up to a drugstore and asked the druggist if he had anything for hiccups. The druggist, without a word, hit the man between the eyes and knocked him to the floor. The man slowly got up and graciously asked again, "Sir, do you have anything for hiccups?" The druggist replied, "You don't have them any more do you?" The man responded, "No, I never did, but my wife out in the car does." This may be a clever joke, but it’s is devoid of compassion and respect for others. Is this Christian humor? A type of humor often used during war is called "gallows humor." Soldiers are known on occasion to engage in hysterical laughter when nerves are tense before the battle. They speak flippantly of the possible dire fate which might befall this or that man of their company. "Sergeant," a soldier is reported to have said before a battle, "don't let this little fellow go into battle before me. He isn't big enough to stop the bullet meant for me." The "joke" was received with uproarious laughter by the assembled comrades. But when the "little fellow" died in battle the next day, everyone felt ashamed of the joke. At any rate, it was quite inadequate to deal with the depth and breadth of the problem of death. But as the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr points out: "If we persist in laughter when dealing with the final problems of human existence, when we turn life into a comedy, we also reduce it to meaningless. That is why laughter, when pressed to solve the ultimate issue, turns into a vehicle of bitterness rather than joy." HUMOR IN THE BIBLE If we are going to investigate true humor, then we must not overlook the Bible. The Bible deals with very serious subjects – heaven, hell, sin and salvation - but that should not cause us to overlook its literary beauty, and the humor in the Bible. There are critics who regard the Bible as deficient in the sense of humor and they can point to the fact there is little laughter in the Bible. But the Bible is filled with humor. Humor in the Bible appears especially when idolatry is mocked. One powerful example occurs when Isaiah pokes fun at a man who carves an idol from wood. In chapter 44:15-17 he describes in some detail the absurd process: "It is a man's fuel for burning, some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares a meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.’ From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, 'Save me; you are my god.'" GOD LAUGHS  The only instance in which laughter is attributed to God occurs in Psalm 2:4, which says, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” This is not a happy image – God is pictured laughing at man and having him in derision because of the vanity of his imagination and pretensions. God mocks kings who plan to divide the world amongst each other, while God says to the Messiah, " I will make the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession" (vs. 8). But the humor in the Bible is not limited to that of derisive laughter. Throughout Scripture God reveals a real sense of humor. When the human race wanted to build a city with a tower that reaches the heavens so that they could make a name for themselves, "the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building (Gen. 11:5). God acts as if the tower of Babel is so small that He can't see it from heaven – He had to come down to see it. And when Israel is threatened by the Philistines, God uses a most unlikely means to save His people so that the Messiah could come in the fullness of time. What does He do? God writes history with a small stone from a brook. Young David with a small stone smites Goliath and Israel was rescued. JESUS AND LAUGHTER The Heidelberg Catechism confesses that the eternal Son of God took to himself, “a truly human nature so that he might become David's true descendant, in all things like us his brothers except for sin” (Q&A 35). So when we speak about Jesus and humor, we are not disrespectful, We accept His incarnation as real. He was seen as the carpenter's son. Christ's characteristic humor depends, for the most part, upon a combination of ideas rather than upon a combination of words. But it is very important to understand that the purpose of Christ's humor is to clarify and increase understanding rather than to hurt. When Jesus teaches His disciples about being light bearers in this dark world, he uses sly humor about where to put light. The message is about the necessity of witness, but the failure to be a witness is rendered laughable when Jesus asks, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushes, or under a bed, and not on a stand?" (Mark 4:21). Since the lamp mentioned has an open flame, and since the bed is a mattress, it is easy to see that in this situation the light would be suffocated or the mattress would be burned. The appeal here is to the patently absurd. The sensitive laugh; they get the point. When Christ said not to cast pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6), He was again employing the patently absurd to make His point. Christ tells us that we are not to waste precious words or time or effort on those who chronically resist the Gospel. We must remember, of course, that the joke about casting what is precious before the pigs was even more preposterous for a Jewish audience than it is for us. The rejection of pork was deep-seated in their consciousness. Christ's major weapon against the Pharisaic attack was laughter, and He used it fully. The point at which they were most vulnerable was their manifest self-righteousness. There is no one more ridiculous than the sinner who claims to be perfect. Jesus asked the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of casting demons in the name of Beelzebub, "If I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out?" (Matt. 12:27). Jesus pokes fun at the critics, since everyone who listens will realize that the subtle question has no possible answer. Christ's question really means, "By what demonic agency do you perform your miracles?" It is easy to see that the humorous question is a far more effective rejoinder than a serious argument about demons. The severest critics of Christ could not stand ridicule, for seriousness was their central strength. CONCLUSION What then is the secret of true humor? The answer is found in the Gospel. It is to know that you are a forgiven a sinner, to have no illusions about the self, and no inclination to appear morally better than you are, either in the sight of man or of God. Our release from bondage of sin gives joy. This joy expresses itself in an exuberance of which laughter is not the only one, but certainly one, expression. Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years....

News, Pro-life - Abortion

On mandatory vaccines and “My body, my choice”

Don’t we live in strange times? Thousands of people are calling on governments all over the world to mandate vaccines for everyone twelve years old and older. These same people are often the loudest proponents of the principle: "My body, my choice!" How does that make sense? If the argument for allowing women to end the life of their unborn child is based on the false principle that their bodily autonomy trumps all, how can they also argue for the government to mandate the insertion of all kinds of chemicals into one’s body? Shouldn’t it be: my body, my choice? Absolute autonomy – the rule of one’s self – is also the rationale against conversion therapy, and it is the rationale for stripping parental rights in all kinds of areas, but this is probably most damaging when parents want to resist their child’s wishes for sex alignment therapies and surgeries. Because we must let everyone do with their bodies as they wish, without limit, and without any opposing opinions offered. Does it not strike you as extremely ironic, and terribly inconsistent, that the warriors for abortion, conversion therapy bans, and for stripping parental rights – all in the name of autonomy – are the same warriors arguing for mandatory vaccination? (Might this be an irony we can point out, to the benefit of the unborn?) Of course, Christians do not claim, “My body, my choice”, nor do we claim that we are autonomous selves. Rather, we understand that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit; that we belong body and soul to our faithful Saviour. We also know that we have been given stewardship of those bodies, to care for them as best as we know how. That means that while some of us may get vaccinated to God’s glory, others will refuse to do so to God’s glory. Some will argue: "Because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, I will not get vaccinated" while others: "Because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, I will get vaccinated." That’s okay. We do not all have to agree. But Christians should be agreed, it seems to me, to be against mandatory vaccinations. We need to have the freedom to act according to our own conscience when it comes to weighing the consequences of receiving, or not receiving, the vaccination; we need freedom to make the best decision in how we serve the Lord with our body. Chris deBoer is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective Foundation. ...

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews

Time Changer

Drama / Sci-fi / Family 99 min / 2002 Rating: 7/10 In the year 1890, seminary professor Russell Carlisle proposes teaching morality to the masses but without making mention of God. He reasons to his fellow professors that even if people don’t become Christians it would be a good thing if they were at least taught that stealing was wrong. If that sounds familiar, that's the point. Director Rich Christiano, in his boldest and best film, is taking on the Christian trend of publicly defend God's Truth – about the unborn, or marriage, sexuality, gender and more – but without mentioning God Himself. While we'll have to wait a decade or two to see how that approach plays out for us, Professor Carlisle gets his feedback in a much more immediate fashion – a colleague uses a time machine to send the professor one hundred years into the future. Upon arriving in present-day America, Carlisle sees that morals founded on anything but God have no foundation at all, and are just dismissed as opinion. While the film has a serious point, the time travel duck-out-of-water angle allows for some comedy too. However, Carlisle isn't as shocked by modern-day technology as he is by modern-day spiritual malaise. He's surprised to meet someone who works on Sunday and doesn't attend church regularly. And when he's taken to a movie theater, he finds the film shocking, and not because of the violence or sex. As the time traveler runs from the theatre he shouts: “Stop the movie! You must stop this movie! The man on the screen just blasphemed the name of the Lord! There must be some mistake – you must stop this movie, this is an abomination!” Cautions Only caution I could think of is one use of the word "gosh." Conclusion This is a solid movie with an important and powerfully presented Christian message. From simply an entertainment perspective, it gets a 7, but its deeper point means this is a cut above most other Christian fare. Because there isn't much action, and maybe a few too many philosophical discussions, this won't keep the attention of younger kids. But for mid to older teens, it could be a fantastic one to watch and discussion with parents. You can watch the trailer below, and rent the film online at various places. ...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Come Back, Barbara

by C. John Miller & Barbara Miller Juliani 182 pages / 1997 This is the true story of a prodigal that came back. Barbara Miller, seemingly out of the blue, tells her parents that she is not going to church and doesn't want any part of the Christian life anymore. As her parents look back, they can see signs of her stubbornly self-justifying attitude much earlier, and they spend time trying to see what went wrong – more specifically, what they did wrong. Of course, such a question is futile, and in seeking to place blame and guilt, especially on their wandering child, the Millers were, as they admit, approaching her with an attitude of shame instead of love. By God's grace, this story continues with her parents' journey toward recognizing that any straying child has been sinned against herself, including by her parents. This movement toward humility, toward the acknowledgment of their own need for God's grace, leads toward other necessary changes – a life of persistent prayer, the willingness to seek their daughter's forgiveness, the ability to show unconditional love for an often self-centered child, and the willingness to give up control over a child who is daily rejecting her parents' upbringing. What makes this story especially compelling is the fact that Barbara answers each chapter of her father's story with her perception of what her conflict with her parents looked like from her point of view. Too often, parents of prodigals can not understand what their outreach to their children looks like to them – how easy it is to for any child to see through our confident or indignant exterior to our need for control or our smug sense of superiority. At the same time, her responses also show just how great is the power of humble unconditional love. Although you could read this book in an evening or two (and you may well do so), don't stop there. Read it again, a chapter at a time, with the study questions at the end as a guide, and incorporate some of the Bible passages quoted in the questions into your own devotions. It will reward the effort. This review first appeared on ReallyGoodReads.com and is reprinted here with permission....

News

Saturday Selections – July 31, 2021

Unequal results aren't proof of injustice The impartiality that God calls us to is that of equal treatment (Lev. 19:15, Deut 1:16-17, James 2:1-7) not equal outcomes. Parenting should humble you The opening lines of this article are a real kick in the pants: “Mom’s the worst sinner in the family,” my 4-year-old repeated to house guests after our previous gospel conversations about repenting of sin. Apparently. And you know what? There was a time in my life that would have been mortifying. Now, I hear it and think, Yup. Sounds about right. Transgeneria: identifying as a tree The woman said she identified as a tree, and, unbelievably, her doctors thought it was a delusion – they didn't take her claims seriously! Why is it always someone else's fault? The blame game - we all play it. Responding in love (not anger) when your child confesses their porn use "...chances are that your child was already nervous about telling you, and when we react in anger, the usual result is they stop being honest with us when they mess up in the future. It’s important that your reaction be void of anger and full of grace." Why wokeness is a Christian heresy This isn't long, but it's worth reading slowly. Doesn't adaptation prove evolution? (1 min) Does the ability of an animal to adapt to new circumstances disprove that it was designed? Or does it actually show how well it has been crafted? ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The General

Comedy 80 min / 1927 RATING: 8/10 The General is equal parts comedy and action, with just a dash of romance thrown in as well. Johnnie Gray has two loves in his life: his steam engine “The General,” and his girl Annabelle. When the American Civil War begins Johnnie, like every loyal Southerner, lines up to enlist in the Confederate Army. But unbeknownst to poor Johnnie, train engineers aren’t allowed to sign up, as they are more valuable as engineers, not soldiers. Try as he might, he just can’t join the Army, and when he finally returns to Annabelle without successfully enlisting, she thinks it’s because he’s become a coward. She sends him away, telling Johnnie she will only see him again when he’s in uniform. Johnnie leaves, heartbroken, and returns to his other great love, his steam engine. But poor Johnnie is in for even greater heartache – Northern spies steal his General and take off with it down the rails toward the North. In an instant, Johnnie goes from being sad and lonely to determined and resourceful. He steals another train and chases after the spies and the stolen General in one of the most brilliant, madcap, action-packed sequences ever caught on film. I watched this film with teenagers and people in their twenties, thirties and forties and they all loved it. If you watch only one silent film in your life, make sure it’s The General. The film's copyright expired long ago, which means all sorts of companies have been free to publish it and sell their own copies. However, not all have done a good job. In the worst versions, the soundtrack doesn't match the action onscreen – it's just random classical music. You can get a glimpse of how a good soundtrack adds a whole other dimension by watching the Kino version's trailer below. Watch it once with the sound, then watch it again with the sound off. It's odd, but a good soundtrack really matters, even for (and actually, especially for) a silent film. So be sure to track down one of the good versions! ...

Theology

On the Regulative Principle of Worship, and elements vs. circumstances

Many moons ago, in the days of Pine, Lynx and dial-up modems, there was an online discussion group known as Ref-net. I can’t say I was among the first participants of this e-mail forum, but I’m quite sure I got in while it was still made up mostly of university students. We were exploring what it means to be Reformed Christians in cyberspace. All sorts of ideas were up for debate, including public worship. RPW in the HC Through the Ref-net I met a friend from South Africa who introduced me to the "Regulative Principle of Worship" (RPW). What is the RPW? While, you can find it the Three Forms of Unity – though I had never really noticed it before – and it is most clearly stated in Heidelberg Catechism Answer 96 where it declares: “We are not to make an image of God in any way, nor to worship him in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word.” Worshiping God only as He has commanded: this is one of the rudiments and distinctives of Reformed worship. I became involved in a number of discussions about Reformed worship on the Ref-net. These ranged from general wrangling about the RPW as such, to specific polemics on applications of the RPW to questions like psalm-singing and “days of commemoration.” One of the objections I heard to the RPW in general was that it was impractical. If we’re to worship God only as he has commanded, then where has God commanded us to worship at 9:30 AM? Why do we sit in pews when God hasn’t commanded that? In these and many other ways, no Reformed or Presbyterian church really follows the RPW. To the lurkers it must have appeared as if this objection had just detonated the RPW into oblivion. Elements vs. circumstances However, this gotcha moment didn’t last very long. It was quickly noted that the RPW comes with an indispensable distinction. When it comes to public worship, Reformed theologians have often distinguished between elements and circumstances. Elements are the things God commanded in Scripture for public worship, things like preaching, singing, the reading of Scripture, prayers, etc. Elements are governed by the RPW. Circumstances are the incidental things which surround the elements. Circumstances include things like the time of worship, whether one sits on pews or chairs, what temperature the room will be, and far more. Circumstances are not governed by commands from the Bible, but by wisdom and discretion informed by the Bible. It’s true that this distinction doesn’t appear in the Heidelberg Catechism. Since the Catechism was written for children, you shouldn’t expect it to. But Zacharias Ursinus (its main author) does use this distinction in his theological commentary on the Catechism. It was also employed by Puritans such as John Owen and Jeremiah Burroughs. Not surprisingly then, it becomes part of the Reformed confessional heritage in Westminster Confession 1.6, speaking of circumstances in worship “which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” But is it biblical? The historical pedigree of this distinction is sound, but the most important question is whether it’s biblical. Certainly in the New Testament we see believers worshipping God in a variety of places – homes, synagogues, and even the temple. We see believers worshipping God at different times: evening, late evening, and morning. This sort of variability observed in Scripture is what undergirds this distinction. Outside of the elements commanded for worship, God grants liberty to his church to order the circumstances wisely. Debate continues This distinction doesn’t instantly solve every question in Reformed worship. There are disagreements amongst Reformed and Presbyterian liturgists about what constitutes elements and circumstances. Probably the most well-known example has to do with musical instruments. Some, such as myself, would contend that musical accompaniment (done judiciously) is circumstantial. Others would maintain it has the character of an element and, since it is not commanded in the New Testament, it cannot be justified by the RPW. Note: both sides fully affirm the RPW. However, they differ at the application of it, specifically when it comes to defining elements and circumstances. And no, it’s not a matter of “strict” RPW versus “loose” RPW. You either hold to the RPW or you don’t. While those disagreements can be quite intense at times, we do well to note the broad consensus existing amongst confessionally Reformed churches. There’s unanimous agreement that things like the time of the worship services and the type of seating are circumstantial. Whether you worship in a custom-built church building or use a school gymnasium – God-pleasing worship in Spirit and truth can happen regardless. Conversely, we all agree that what matters are the God-commanded elements. Without elements like the reading and preaching of Scripture and prayer, you simply don’t have Reformed worship. You have something less than authentic Christian worship. Because of our love for the Saviour and what he’s done, we want to follow his Word carefully when it comes to the content of our worship. But we’ll also be careful about imposing our own opinions where God has granted liberty to be different. For more on Reformed worship, be sure to check out Dr. Bredenhof's book "Aiming to Please: a Guide to Reformed Worship" (Amazon.com/Amazon.ca).  And be sure to watch his interview with Focal Point host Chris deBoer below. ...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

The Wright Brothers

by David McCullough 320 pages / 2015 Match an astonishing story with a superb storyteller and what more could we ask for? David McCullough clearly had fun delivering a story that, if it weren’t true, would never be believed – the Wright brothers seem simply too good to be true. These two former journalists, now bike builders, simply decide one day to get into the plane building business. They begin by firing off a letter to the Smithsonian Institution to ask for all the information that can be had about flight because they are determined to succeed where all others have failed. McCullough gives us the measure of these two men, by highlighting just how audacious their goal really was. At the time many thought human flight was an impossibility, and based this conclusion on the decades of failed experiments that preceded the Wrights’ interest. And while the two brothers are not poor, they don’t have the resources some other experimenters have been able to muster. So how could the Wrights manage what they did? McCullough credits it to determination, brilliance, patience, curiosity, and, did we mention determination? At 320 pages this might seems a bit on the big/intimidating side. But with 50+ pages devoted to the footnotes and index, it isn’t nearly as large as it seems. Who should read it? Anyone with an interest in aviation, or underdog stories, would love it. But I would most like to see this in the hands of young men and older teens. This would be a wonderful book to inspire them to investigate, experiment, study, dream, and work hard. That’s what the Wrights had going for themselves, and look at how far it took them! To be clear, this isn't a specifically Christian book. Their father was a church bishop, and a man of principle and dedication, but he didn't seem all that worried about his boys' irregular church attendance. While the two brothers were always very strict about taking the Sabbath rest, there isn't all that much in here about their relationship with God. So a fascinating biography but not a spiritual one....

News

Saturday Selections – July 24, 2021

Was Jesus copied from an Egyptian deity? (4 min) Christians are sometimes scared to investigate the outrageous claims against the Bible that are so prevalent on the Internet. We seem to think that the professional way they're being presented (maybe in a full-length documentary) means there must be something to do them. But don't be afraid, and don't be surprised to discover how little substance such claims have. Banning hate speech against animals – the next stupid thing? PETA wants 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. The loss of flight doesn't explain evolution (10-min read) Creationists know this world is broken, groaning and wearing out (Is. 51:6, Rom. 8:20-22). So we aren't surprised when species lose abilities such as the ability to fly – that's not evolution; that's devolution. School shutdowns highlighted that parents are the educators "Over the last decades, our societies haven’t spent a lot of time reflecting on the primacy of parents in their kids’ lives. Instead, the state has increasingly displaced many familial roles and acquired a taste for routinely leaving parents on the sidelines, particularly with respect to education. "Yet when government backed away and could no longer offer schooling, it sent kids home.... This isn’t shocking. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. None of us would have preferred instead to institutionalize our kids for a year or two in some alternative residential location to keep them 'safe' and ensure they continued their government-offered education." Why heaven on earth doesn't work (10-min read) In the US there have been at least 119 attempts to create utopian communities. Though this is a secular article, it shows that the reason these communes always fail is because they don't have a proper understanding of Man's fallen nature: "What utopian (and especially socialist) communities seek is essentially unachievable in light of human nature: They want a triumph of exhortation over incentive, of intentions over results, of wishful thinking over actual performance." The woke guide to gender (3 min) A satiric take with a serious point: the logic that claims there isn't a line dividing the sexes is the same logic that would say there isn't a line dividing people from dogs. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

And then there were none

Drama 1945 / 97 minutes Rating: 7/10 The film is based on the Agatha Christie mystery of the same name, one of just three English novels to sell oner 100 million copies (the other two are the first Harry Potter title, and The Hobbit). However, as popular as the book was, the film improves on it, with a new conclusion the author added because she thought the film's original wartime audience would appreciate a happier ending. The story begins with 8 guests invited to a mansion on an isolated island. They are all strangers to each other, and none knows their host, Mr. Owens, who has yet to arrive. The only other people on the island are the two servants, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. After dinner Mr. Rogers puts a record on, as he has been instructed by the absent Owens to do, and on it is a voice accusing everyone present, including the servants, of being murderers who have escaped any punishment for their crimes. That's quite the shock to them all, and all the more so when one of them admits he is indeed a murderer, and then, after taking a drink, promptly keels over and dies. He's been poisoned, and it seems their "host," Mr. Owens, has invited them here to exact his own form of justice on them all. But how has he done it? After all, it's clear there is no one else on the island. That's when the remaining 9 realize that one of them must actually be Mr. Owens. From then on it is a murder mystery and not so much a whodunit as a whoisdoingit, as others are also killed, though almost always off screen. Cautions There are a lot of mysteries on TV today that revel in the darkness, and the gore, and the violence of murder. Another sort is about the investigator methodically, and sometimes brilliantly, putting the pieces together so as to bring the bad guy to justice. We should stay clear of the former because it presents evil as good, while the latter can be enjoyed. While And Then There Were None is gore-free, and has the violence taking place off-screen, it isn't clear for almost the whole film long whether there even are any good guys. So one caution would be that while this isn't dark like some of today's murder shows, it also isn't a heroic tale like Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes. It is somewhere in the middle, and that might be too much in the wrong direction for some...though I would not agree. The other caution would be that the only character to quote Scripture is a hypocrite. But she isn't the only one. Conclusion Director René Claire demonstrates that is possible to "tell and not show" violence and still keep things suspenseful. Though this it is tame by modern standards, the suspense means it is still only for only adults, and only those who appreciate a good mystery. The copyright for And Then There Were None was allowed to expire, so it is now in the public domain. That's why you can watch it, for free, in black and white below. A colorized version is also available for free, here. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - July 2021

Is it in the Bible? Many common phrases either have their origins in the Bible, or are direct quotes from the Bible. But some phrases are only thought to come from the Bible. Out of the ten phrases below can you tell which are straight from the Bible, and which aren’t? Answers can be found at the bottom of this page. God works in mysterious ways Fly in the ointment The lamb will lie down with the lion How the mighty have fallen God helps those who help themselves Can a leopard change his spots? Pouring oil on troubled waters A house divided against itself cannot stand To the victor goes the spoils Pride goes before a fall Christians did better during the pandemic In a June 15 article in Scientific American, psychologist David H. Rosmarin outlined that in the midst of the loneliness caused by Covid lockdowns, there was a group whose mental health actually improved: In the past year, American mental health sank to the lowest point in history: Incidence of mental disorders increased by 50 percent, compared with before the pandemic, alcohol and other substance abuse surged, and young adults were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than they were in 2018. Yet the only group to see improvements in mental health during the past year were those who attended religious services at least weekly (virtually or in-person): 46 percent report “excellent” mental health today versus 42 percent one year ago. As former congressional representative Patrick J. Kennedy and journalist Stephen Fried wrote in their book A Common Struggle, the two most underappreciated treatments for mental disorders are “love and faith.” The psychologist takes these findings in a secular direction, proposing that his collegues consider encouraging essentially a faux form of spirituality in patients, for their mental health’s sake. What he’s managed to miss, Christians can see clearly: that this demonstrates how our God knows us, and knows what we need. In giving us a day of rest where we can gather – even if only in a virtual sense – God, every week again, reminds us of Who remains in charge, and gives us the opportunity and encouragement of being a hand and foot to one another. There’s real comfort in knowing that God remains in control, and also in experiencing the fellowship of being with His people. On the need to read right Encouraging our children to read for reading’s sake is a popular notion, but akin to encouraging them to watch TV for TV watching’s sake. If there’s no quality to the content, then our goal shouldn’t just be to have them consume more of it. As Katherine Patterson put it, “It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading.” “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” - Ray Bradbury “The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can’t.” - Mark Twain “I believe we should spend less time worrying about the quantity of books children read and more time introducing them to quality books that will turn them on to the joy of reading and turn them into lifelong readers.”–James Patterson “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – attributed to Groucho Marx “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.” - Albert Einstein We read to know we are not alone.” – William Nicholson (putting the words into C.S. Lewis’ mouth, in his play Shadowlands) How your phone is hindering you When teacher Julie Holland Griggs’ class was studying Fahrenheit 451, she decided to run an experiment. She had her students: “…make a tally mark each time they got a notification on their phone. Grand total for today: 1,687 notifications. That’s 1,687 interruptions to learning caused by cell phones. One of the central ideas of 451 is that constant, mindless distractions prevent people from developing authentic relationships and suppress deep thought. Hmmm...” Griggs is a highschool teacher in Alabama, but when she posted about the experiment news of it spread to some pretty far corners of the world. A teacher in Iceland, Hrönn Árnadôttir tried it out on his 7th graders, and by day’s end his 20 students had received 1,963 notifications, or an average of 98 per student. Most of them were not personal messages – just notices from Snapchat, etc. – but the lure to check it remains nonetheless. Then, when it was lunch time, the students turned to chat with each other via their phones, rather than face to face. Going really old school in school Even as our schools are getting decked out in technology – with laptops and tablets replacing textbooks and binders – can a case be made for the efficacy of chalk and slate? As Carol Wilson has described it, the process of education is about: Inputs – the teacher presenting Understanding – the student taking in Demonstration – the student shows they understand Retention – the student uses the information in different ways, so as to remember it One reason big classes can be hard to manage is this third step, demonstration. Just consider that if a teacher was to call on students in oral discussions, if they had a class of 30, each student might only have to offer an answer every few days. If a student kept their head down, the interval might even be weeks. Then the teacher migth not know until quiz time, or when an assignment comes in, whether the class understood the day’s lesson. To remedy this – to allow for more instant feedback, from more – Carol Wilson suggests a return to the slate, relaying how a class might look with the tool in hand: Material to be taught has been presented, and the discussion is in progress. The teacher asks a question, and this time everyone writes an answer on his board. …the students turn their boards at the request of the teacher, and in a matter of seconds he knows who gets the point and who does not. Then the teacher very quickly makes an appropriate comment to each child, usually taking up his most pressing mistake, but not forgetting praise where due, either. Here, again and again, in a short time many crucial knowledge transactions take place. These boards are highly versatile for all kinds of classroom work: dictation of sentences, spelling lists, sentence diagraming, math problems, vocabulary sentences and tests, as well as all kinds of comprehension questioning and interpretation… Her suggestion was first made 42 years ago, in the October 1979 edition of the Biblical Educator, but even as we’d update her individual chalkboard to whiteboards instead, might the merits of this old-school approach remain? You might be a Dutch Calvinist if ... you can sing "Ere zij God" even though you can't speak Dutch you’re suspicious of the environmental movement but reuse plastic margarine containers your post-church Sunday lunch has cake as the entree and soup for dessert you can quote Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism you've ever had an advocaat headache You consider hagelslag on bread a major food group You’ll sugar coat your food, but not your words you've got more lace on your windows than on your laundry line your closet is divided into Sunday clothes, and everything else Source: As adapted from items seen on the Internet Answers to "Is it in the Bible?" No – though the idea seems to be expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. No – but while it isn't a direct quote it probably has its origins in Ecclesiastes 10:1, which reads: “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench.” No – the closest the Bible comes to this phrase is in Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25, where a lamb and a wolf are paired together. Yes – David uses this phrase in 2 Sam. 1:19,25 as he laments the death of Jonathan. No – and in one important sense the Bible teaches the very opposite. Yes – in Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” No - it is very old though, appearing in writings from the 1st century AD. Yes – Jesus uses this phrase as a defense against the accusation that he was casting out demons using the power of Satan. No – this was said by New York senator William L. Macy No – though it is an abridgment. The phrase comes from Prov. 16:18 where it says: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” ...

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. 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 16-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...

Magazine, Past Issue

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. Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier 48 minutes / 2014 Rating: 8/10 This whole episode is a series of Star Trek and Star Wars reference (along with some quick 2001, Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes, and even Back to the Future references) that the kids won't really notice, but mom and dad may enjoy spotting. There are the silly/clever jokes for the parents that they'll only get, like an actual wooden bridge acting as the captain's bridge, and a crew member using a floating piece of wood to record his diary...aka his log. Such dad humor abounds! Larry and Bob are basically Kirk and Spock, and the lesson they need to learn is sharing. That's a lesson that many a kid can benefit from, so parents can appreciate the leap off this episode offers to have some good discussions on the topic. There's more action than normal, with giant robot fights, but nothing too scary. One language concern: a character's use of the phrase "holy guacamole." Tomato Sawyer & Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue 49 minutes / 2008 Rating: 7/10 This time Bob and Larry offer their own take on Mark Twain's Huckleberry Fin. It's another good spoof, though the moral of the story – to help others – is more than a bit heavy-handed this time. How so? Bob and Larry play America settlers who need to stay on their plot of land for 5 years to be able to claim it and as our story begins they have just a few days to go. Then an escapee prisoner, Big Jim, arrives – he's been framed for a crime he never committed and he needs their help to find his mama. And that would mean leave their land claim. Thus Bob and Larry (or rather Tom and Huck) face the dilemma of helping Big Jim or keeping the land they've been working 5 years for. But Christians don't have to casually abandon everything they are doing and working towards to help someone in need; they can work through their options and possibilities. So why, for example, couldn't they bring Jim back to their land claim and help him find his mama after they secure their land? It's not unChristian to try for a win/win situation. That said, it is just a cartoon. 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....

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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?"...